Monday, June 06, 2011

Sneering at the British working class (still)

Plus ca change ...

Working class people have been demonised and their culture is under attack according to a new book that looks at the cruel stereotypes that have crept into popular culture. Chav-bashing and laughing at the working classes has become a socially acceptable past time, according to author Owen James.

He says the rich love to hate them and blame them for their own misfortune with jokes such as one about the closure of Woolworths leading to the privileged wondering where 'chavs' will go to get their Christmas presents in the future.

A YouGov poll from 2006 asked professionals working in TV whether Vicky Pollard was an accurate representation of the white working class with 70 per cent saying yes. Prime Minster, David Cameron also at one time claimed that Shameless was his favourite programme.

In his book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Classes, Mr Jones says have become a society in which working class people have become invisible or despised, according to the Observer. He said: 'The 1980s saw a dramatic assault on all aspects of working-class life, on unions and council houses and communities and with it, working class pride. 'Its been replaced by middle-class pride and the working classes have come to be seen as something to escape from.'

The Only Way is Essex is the must-see show of the moment. A fortnight ago it won the You Tube audience award at the Baftas. Its mixture of reality TV and scripted show gives a stereotypical one-sided view of Britain's chavland, according to Mr Jones who describes the characters as 'grotesque caricatures of working class life.'

In the Brentwood based show, the characters are not poor. They have money and are successful with aspiring dreams of wealth.

Historian, Dominic Sandford says the show represents an image of 'working class people bettering themselves and still being tasteless.'

Essex resident, Laura, a 26-year-old insurance broker who works in Brentwood, studied geology at Manchester University. She is happy to describe herself as working class but says The Only Way is Essex is not representative of Brentwood. 'If you go into the Sugar Hut (nightclub), you'll see all the girls dolled up to the nines, but it's not what the rest of us are like. 'At university I used to say I was from East Anglia, because if you said you were from Essex, people would say, 'Where's your white stilettos?' 'Or, 'Do you dance around your handbag?' There was a really sneering attitude.'

She says no TV programme that is currently on show presents the reality of working class life. 'There's not, is there? There's nothing. There's just these ridiculous people getting fake tans and boob jobs.'


'Be Prepared' for equality... The Scouts look to recruit more gay leaders and members

Britain's best-known youth movement is going gay-friendly. The Scout Association has revealed plans to boost its number of gay members and leaders in a bid to banish the perception that homosexuals cannot sign up. The half-a-million strong movement has released a video as part of the campaign - which will also let Scouts attend gay pride parades in uniform.

The move has been praised for dragging the group into the 21st century. But some have slammed it for 'steering the organisation' away from its original Christian values.

Wayne Bulpitt, the association's UK chief commissioner, filmed a video offering support to an anti-bullying campaign led by gay rights charity Stonewall. In it he stated: 'Bullying is wrong on every level, not just for the person being bullied, but for the bully too. 'In Scouting we believe that all young people, irrespective of their sexuality, gender, race, creed or background, have an equal opportunity to develop and to be themselves.'

Scouts spokesman Simon Carter said the campaign was designed to move the group away from its reputation as being 'austere and militaristic'. He said: 'There was an assumption that being gay meant you couldn't be part of the movement. 'That was never the case and we are keen to make it clear that we accept people of any particular orientation.

'We have had youth members and adults attend Pride events and plan to do so again this year. 'It shows that we are not just taking about it but are demonstrating our support publicly.'

The association, which ended its ban on' female members in 1991, has created a series of advisory documents on gay issues for members and adult leaders. They are aimed at counselling young people about informing others about their sexuality.

It states: 'Coming out is a major decision in your life. You may decide to tell your family, a friend, your teacher or a Scout leader. 'There is nothing wrong with being gay and being a Scout and the person that you tell should be supportive and non judgemental to what you are telling them.'

Leaders are advised to treat such conversations as confidential, but to have other adults 'within hearing or sight', and to be prepared to pass on details for specialised support organisations. A second leaflet, called Gay Adults In Scouting, reassures prospective leaders and volunteers they will not be turned away on the basis of their sexuality.

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green leader, welcomed the move and urged the Scouts to go further and lift their ban on atheists and agnostics.

But it has also been slammed for 'diluting' the group's original Christian theme. John Cormack, of the Scottish Christian Party, said: 'My reaction to this is one of dismay and I suspect many other people will also be deeply concerned.

'Sexual morality is an area where the parents should be taking the lead, not the Scouts. This is a huge step-change away from the Christian founding ethos of the Scout movement.'


Prime-time smut, vile obscenities on Radio 4 and a smug British elite who sneer at the silent majority

When the BBC executives talk about Sandi Toksvig, they like to use phrases like ‘much-loved’ and ‘much-admired’. The trouble is that when presenters like her become well-established and popular at the Corporation, they think they can get away with anything — as long as they can use ‘wit’ as an excuse. Presumably that was the rationale behind the BBC describing a particularly crass ‘joke’ she used on Radio 4 as ‘a delight’.

No doubt some people will have found her controversial scripted comment on the increasingly tedious programme The News Quiz funny rather than offensive.

Certainly, her typically Left-leaning quip (and the programme is built on them) got an easy laugh. I’m afraid I have to repeat it to make the point, so here it comes: ‘It’s the Tories who have put the “n” into cuts.’ Not especially witty, I agree. But it’s what happened afterwards that I find truly offensive.

When a listener complained about this reference to what was once an unacceptable four-letter word, the BBC’s response was so feeble and complacent it might have been issued by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

To me, there’s a direct link between this row over Toksvig’s gag and the news that TV chiefs are to be ordered to crack down on what is aired on our TV screens before the 9pm watershed. A report to be published today, commissioned by the Prime Minister, will make Ofcom confront the conveyor belt of smut on our screens. At long last.

Don’t forget, it was Ofcom that disregarded public outrage over the sleazy dance routines performed by the stars Rihanna and Christina Aguilera on The X Factor last year, and ignored 4,500 complaints.

It was Ofcom that outrageously tried to shift blame to this newspaper after it published images from the TV programme to highlight the fact it was anything but family viewing. It is Ofcom that, so often, lets decent, ordinary viewers down.

Do you think the producers of The X Factor or the bosses at ITV feel any shame for what was broadcast to the young children who watch the show with their parents early on a Saturday evening? I doubt it.

But then the images we witnessed on that show — just like Sandi Toksvig’s cheap and degrading joke on the radio — reveal much about the attitudes of those with power in the world of broadcasting. You can bet they chime perfectly with the unelected members of Ofcom, who boast six-figure salaries and an anything goes attitude to standards.

The issue here is about how we judge what is acceptable. It raises the question of whether the broadcasters ever stop to consider the long-term consequences of the pervasive coarsening of image, word and thought we have witnessed over the past ten years.

When Colin Harrow, a retired newspaperman, complained about that News Quiz joke, his objection was rejected by the BBC and the BBC Trust. The reasons given are revealing. The (then) commissioning editor Paul Mayhew-Archer acknowledged that he knew the joke might cause offence, but still thought that no reason to cut it.

Referring to the once taboo c-word, he said: ‘I was also aware that as a society our tolerance of “strong” language keeps shifting. Ten years ago, the single use of the word in a film would automatically earn it an X certificate. This is no longer the case. For good or ill, the word does not seem to have quite the shock value it did.’

Doesn’t it? If someone called you that word wouldn’t you take offence? If a yobbo shouted it at your wife or girlfriend, wouldn’t you be outraged?

People have been using expletives in private for years. But such words become acceptable only because educated people such as Mr Archer decide it’s OK for them to be used in public.

What’s more, the context is all important. What a yobbish football crowd yells at Wayne Rooney cannot be compared with something that is broadcast to a nationwide audience in the middle of the evening.

It is simply not true to declare that the expletive has lost its shock value. It is a term of abuse. And — witty or not — Sandi was deliberately invoking it to abuse the Conservative Party, in that leery, sniggering, News Quiz style.

Of course, a presenter will try to get away with a ‘joke’ they are proud of. The responsibility lies with those with the power of veto who should have the courage to say: ‘Sorry, old girl, that’s too near the knuckle.’

A broadcaster making a slip of the tongue (as Jim Naughtie memorably did on the Today programme when referring to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt) is one thing, but to choose to allow the taboo to be broken (even if obliquely) in a pre-recorded programme, and then defend the decision by saying that times have changed . . . it’s disingenuous, devious and dishonest.

If, as a society, we have become more tolerant of foul language, sick jokes, tawdry TV images, uncontrolled behaviour and pervasive sexualisation of young children, that is largely because broadcasters and film-makers and others in our creative industries have been pushing back the boundaries for years.

A shift happens only because of a collective push. It’s as if the callow men and women in positions of responsibility within broadcasting are so desperate to appear cool and right on they don’t dare to say ‘No’.

Ofcom has said that its own research shows that the c-word is still highly offensive and that it would investigate any complaint made to it. I’d be happy about that if I thought the promise had any meaning. But given their track record, can we believe it?

It seems to me that the kind of people who serve on this quango have so much in common with those who run our broadcasting institutions that the two are virtually interchangeable. This is a self-satisfied liberal elite that regards any sort of censorship as the ultimate evil.

There has always been a gulf between what is acceptable to the chattering classes and what is experienced by what used to be called The Silent Majority.

I once had a fierce argument with a good friend who had enjoyed a privileged upbringing, private education, brilliant university career and richly rewarded professional life, who told me I made too much fuss about what was suitable to be seen on TV, even by children. He genuinely believed pornography was fun, and that there was no proven connection between grotesque violence on screen and real-life crime. And so on.

Over the years I’ve met so many like him — knee-jerk liberals with no knowledge of the real-life consequences of such slackness of thought. They sneer at those of us who worry that the refusal at the top of society to set any limits filters right down to those who are the most impressionable and most likely to be corrupted by crude images and words. They accuse us of that most embarrassingly uncool sin: moral panic.

As if it’s prudish to point out that when little girls watch famous singers dress and dance like hookers —as I witnessed for myself at a Rihanna concert — it has a direct influence on the way they value themselves.

As if it’s reactionary to suggest that when respected broadcasters see nothing wrong in tacitly approving the crudest of expletives, another chunk falls out of the wall of decency.

That’s why I hope today’s report — presented by Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union — is really tough on the broadcasters, and kicks Ofcom where it hurts. Its proposals should force the watchdog to consult regularly with parents who are, after all, in the trenches every day fighting to keep a vestige of innocence in their children’s lives.

I want the glorious Mothers’ Union to take on the chattering classes — and win.

People like my friend and his peers within the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 form a Left- leaning media establishment as set in its ways as any squire in the shires. Labour and Lib Dem voters to a man and woman, they may see themselves as progressive, but the irony is that these privileged, blinkered people have presided over a dumbed-down, coarsened culture for so long that it’s those bold enough to challenge them who are the true radicals.

We are the ones demanding change. Revolution, if you like — with a manifesto based on respect for taste and human dignity. We should take the fight to the enemy, starting with the TV watershed, and presenters and producers who think that anything goes.


Tree pruning correctness

Every two to three years, Eddie Sales trims and prunes the crape myrtles at his church, Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church. But this year, the city of Charlotte cited the church for improperly pruning its trees. "We always keep our trees trimmed back because you don't want to worry about them hanging down in the way," said Sales, a church member.

The church was fined $100 per branch cut for excessive pruning, bringing the violation to $4,000. "I just couldn't believe it when I heard about it," Sales said. "We trim our trees back every three years all over our property, and this is the first time we have been fined."

The fine will be dropped if the church replaces each of the improperly pruned trees, said Tom Johnson, senior urban forester for city of Charlotte Land Development Division.

"When they are nonrepairable, when they have been pruned beyond repair, we will ask them to be replaced," Johnson said. "We do that for a number of reasons but mainly because they are going to come back unhealthy and create a dangerous situation down the road."

Charlotte has had a tree ordinance since 1978, and when trees are incorrectly pruned or topped, people can be subject to fines, Johnson said.

Trees planted as a result of the ordinance are subject to the fines if they are excessively trimmed or pruned. These include trees on commercial property or street trees. They do not include a private residence. "The purpose of the tree ordinance is to protect trees," Johnson said. "Charlotte has always been known as the city of trees. When we take down trees, we need to replace these trees."

Individuals who would like to trim their trees should call the city foresters to receive a free permit to conduct the landscape work. Foresters will then meet with the person receiving the permit and give instructions on how to properly trim their trees, Johnson said.

The state Division of Forestry recommends that anyone trimming trees should be certified by the National Horticulture Board, but certification is not required to receive a permit.

On private property, fine amounts are based on the size of the tree improperly pruned. For small trees such as cherry trees or crape myrtles, the fine is $75 per tree. Excessive cutting can increase that fine to $100 per branch. For large trees such as oaks or maples, the fine is $150 per tree.

Because there is a widespread lack of understanding on how to prune crape myrtles in the Charlotte area, Johnson said, residents found in violation regarding these trees are asked to simply replace them, and the fine will be lifted.

Sales said trees found in violation at the church must be cut down and replaced with new trees by October, but the church plans to appeal. Sales doesn't know how much it would cost to replace the trees. "We trimmed back these trees in the interest of the church," Sales said. "If we were in violation, we certainly did not know we were."

Typically during the course of a year, Johnson said, about six private residents are found in violation of improper topping or pruning. "We are trying to be pro-active and not trying to fine people excessively," Johnson said.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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