Opiate of the masses

TV has become a branch of the pharmaceutical industry doling out heavy sedatives

This article is taken from the May 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

In his former role as a Vice President of Pepsi Cola, the recently appointed BBC Director-General, Fizzy Timmy, promoted weight gain, hepatic steatosis, cirrhosis, heightened cholesterol and triglyceride levels, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, type 2 diabetes, expanded belly fat, heart disease, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer and an exciting gamut of dental and gingivitic problems.

Alongside Fizzy Timmy’s roster of ills, the achievement of the Corporation’s highest earner Gary Lineker is modest: hardened and narrowed arteries, cardiovascular disease, scurvy. As an ambassador for Walkers’ Crisps (including the excruciatingly embarrassing Salt and Lineker) he should surely have done better than that.

Nonetheless this smiley duo gives us a loud hint of the direction the BBC is going in. Junk food and junk drinks breed junk telly: “reality” shows which have nothing to do with quoteless reality; formulaic cop drama upon formulaic cop drama; educationally subnormal ninnies the height of whose ambition is to be on camera, grinning and gurning; blokeish former footballers, legends of course, who did their talking with their feet and now find talking with their mouth taxing — not that this buccal truism may ever be aired in public. It would be like mentioning skin colour. It must be understood that joshing and banting are as essential to these bi-ped minor gods as breathing.

An increasingly authoritarian government is bound to welcome suppression of possible dissent or deviation

The debasement of a once sometimes intellectually inquisitive medium and its replacement by a marketing man’s idea of what the people want will delight the dependent who feed off the accessible — a word which means: comprehensible not only to the couch potato but also to the couch itself. Television has gradually become a branch of pharmaceuticals which doles out heavy sedatives. That dismal and frivolously irresponsible process is just about completed by yet another trahison des clercs, the annulation of BBC Four — an act of pusillanimous dereliction which makes picayune savings.

No matter, it gets its well-named brownie points by pushing its reeming tongue right up the rectum of whatever ministerial mediocrity is at Kulchur this week. An increasingly authoritarian government is bound to welcome suppression of possible dissent or deviation, a commodity no longer to be found on mainstream channels and, lately, rarely on BBC Four.

The last proper D-G was Alasdair Milne. He had never marketed fizzy drinks, never given a toothy display of snack food satisfaction. What he had done is make programmes. He had also made mistakes — banning Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle was unwise, but his triumphs were many. 

He was deposed by the Mendips Camorra or Somerset Shitocracy of aspirant grandees: the ridiculous William Rees-Mogg, father of the gruesome period piece Jacob, and the vindictive royal groupie and BBC chairman, Marmaduke Hussey.

The Prime Shit’s “relationship” with the generously funded Miss Arcuri is an embarrassment

Mogg, a man with a reliably cloth ear, had commissioned from John Birt and Robert Maxwell’s future gofer, Peter Jay, a series of articles about something called “a bias against understanding”, a hideous exercise in management jargon which Milne correctly described as “balls, actually”.

Birt was duly appointed D-G. He wasn’t of the establishment, but was its creature. He was the first of a succession of populist D-Gs who occasioned the characteristic stance of the BBC employee — looking furtively over her or his shoulder, scared stiff of stepping out of line, desperately making sure the doxa is respected. This fearfulness extends to people on the highest rungs. They look up not to the heavens but to here-today, gone-tomorrow politicians who must be appeased. The current bunch of sawdust Caesars are thin-skinned and exigent.Tim 

The Prime Shit’s “relationship” with the generously funded Miss Arcuri is an embarrassment. Whilst the BBC should be working out how much mayoral subvention does one get for a single fuck of two and a half minutes’ glorious wheezing, it is apparently pretending that the act in all its fubsy horror hardly happened. 

Fizzy Timmy is keen not to displease The Shit. Or indeed the Shit’s minions: The Pyramid Salesman, The Fireplace Salesman, The Patriotism Salesman. Two titans of breakfast TV were shown a yellow card for laughing at the preposterous Robert Jenrick’s flag-and-majesty themed sitting room of his ever expanding house in Vincent Square. What else were they expected to do? Their reaction was that of sentient unfizzy humans.

My own reaction to that near tragically little-ingerlish sitting room was Stephen Dedalus’s “let my country die for me”.

The BBC’s cowering before the gruesome nationalism that has been let loose is a sign of some sort of collective psychosis. The Tory MP for Grimsby Lia Nici speaks for a constituency which stretches far beyond Humberstone Fitties and the birthplace of Duncan McKenzie to Cornwall, to The Marches, to Fylde: “If people are not proud to be British, or of our flag or Queen, they don’t have to live in the UK. Perhaps they should move to another country they prefer.” 

Thankfully I got my retaliation in before Lia uttered her clammy threat and have for fifteen years lived in a republic.

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