It’s always refreshing when mainstream-media bigwigs are actually honest about the prejudices that guide their institutions. So one could only applaud when Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, admitted the other day something that is already obvious to anyone who watches or listens to the Beeb – namely, that the folks who run the shop are as quick to broadcast works that mock Christianity as they are to forbid the mockery of, shall we say, certain other faiths, and that the main reason is, quite simply, fear.
Thompson actually gave three reasons for the BBC’s all-religions-are-not-created-equal policy. First, he said that the BBC treats Christianity differently from other faiths because, as “an established part of our cultural-built landscape,” it is “pretty broad shouldered” – whatever that means. Second, certain other religions have a “very close identity with ethnic minorities” who may feel that an attack on their beliefs is “racism by other means” – whatever that means. Third, and obviously most decisive in determining the Corporation’s policy, Christians and adherents of at least one of those “other” religions have, shall we say, rather divergent ways of reacting to insults to their religion. “Without question,” Thompson said, “’I complain in the strongest possible terms’ is different from ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write.’”
Thompson said that this distinction “definitely raises the stakes.” Yes, and it also separates the men from the boys. When the most powerful media organization in the U.K. is run by someone whose readiness to admit his utter lack of courage would seem, from all the evidence, to reflect the fact that the concept of courage isn’t even on his radar, it doesn’t bode well for the future of British freedom.
Another point that was important to Thompson was that, as he put it, “for a Muslim, a depiction…of the Prophet Mohammed might have the emotional force of a piece of grotesque child pornography.” He added that “secularists” fail “to understand…what blasphemy feels like to someone who is a realist in their religious belief.” I would humbly submit that Thompson himself fails to understand something rather important – namely, that when the head of an outfit like the BBC starts thinking and talking in such terms, he has become nothing more or less than a sharia puppet.
Another thing Thompson apparently fails to understand is this: when it becomes the duty of citizens in a secular democracy to edit what they say or write in order to avoid committing what the adherents of some religion or other might consider blasphemy, then secular democracy, individual liberty, and freedom of expression are, in practice, no more. I wonder if it has occurred to Thompson at all that for more than a few freedom-loving people in his own country and elsewhere, the fact that a man in his position could follow such an outrageously pusillanimous policy might well, to coin a phrase, “have the emotional force of a piece of grotesque child pornography”?
I further wonder what kind of emotional force this story has for a person like Thompson. Here’s what happened: David Jones, creator of a popular children’s character in Britain and, apparently, a perfectly respectable man of sixty-seven, was going through security at Gatwick the other day when, according to the Telegraph, “he spotted a Muslim woman in hijab pass through the area without showing her face” and, in a “light-hearted aside to a security official who had been assisting him,” said: “If I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen.”
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