Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Mr Jeremy Paxman's Contempt For His Boneheaded Colleagues Cannot Quite Excuse The Painful Populism of the BBC
In general, I am not in favour of the television journalist, Mr Jeremy Paxman, a gentleman who reads the news with the impatience of a man astride a bike of wasps, but I must confess I have been warming to him in recent weeks. On BBC2's Newsnight (English edition, which I receive by spinning the coat-hanger aerial in the general direction of Mountbenger or Cappercleuch) he alone has stood out against gimmickry; the most idiotic example of which is Ethical Man, an unfortunate reporter who has been required to spend the last year considering the merits of windmills and self-composting toilets, as part of the programme's attempt to make the imminent ecological catastrophe caused by Global Warming interesting to its viewers.
Last night, in what was a new low, Ethical Man was dressed like a pantomime scarecrow, with a false moustache, a stick, and a breathing impediment - as if reporting from the future. There were several peculiarities about this idea, not least the fact that the elderly only appear on television when they are part of the "live studio audience", which they do, presumably, in an effort to keep warm now that public libraries have been turned into amusement arcades. More bafflingly, this futuristic old man was dressed in the style of a 1950s gentleman, clothed by Veitch of Peebles, when in all likelihood he will be wearing a tracksuit and baseball cap in a material not yet invented, but flammable, machine-washable, and guaranteed to make the wearer invisible to Closed Circuit Television Cameras.
Happily, Mr Paxman dispatched this item with unconcealed contempt, before going on to destroy the reputation for competence of Mr David Miliband, a square-jawed lad with hair of jet, who was discussed as a future Labour leader only because he had not been exposed to the public glare for long enough to dispel the illusion. Well, now he has.
But I digress. My point - and I make no apologies for recycling it - is that global warming will only increase, as long as it is treated only with hot air. BBC reporters currently attempt to trap daytripping ecologists by asking whether they would be prepared to ban £1.99 flights to the dark corners of the continent, as if aviation was the only industry currently using electricity. Due to an administrative error, I currently receive 153 channels on my Ferguson 18" television, and I can confidently state that at any given time, 152 of them are unwatchable. (At least 93 of them seem to be showing a programme in which a Liverpudlian hairdresser goes into dark rooms and pretends to commune with ghosts - an entertainment I can get for the price of a bottle of milk stout at the bar of the Tontine Hotel on Tuesdays and Thursdays). How much energy, I wonder, would be saved, if broadcasting was restricted - as it was in the 1970s - to three channels which closed down at 10.30pm with a sonorous rumble of the National Anthem? Increasingly, public buildings are illuminated at night, thus decreasing the visibility of the stars, and adding nothing to the sum of human enjoyment. And, as cars do nothing but harm, could they not be replaced by rickshaws, thus giving welcome employment to the unfortunate 2.6m who remain jobless in our booming economy?
There are a few other suggestions I could make, but as a wearer of Clark's excellent Polyveldts, with their everlasting polyurethane soles, I am confident that my "carbon footprint" is smooth, if not invisible.
On a separate note, I am still on a course of sedatives after observing a late night discussion programme in which Mr Andrew Neil (the erstwhile saviour of The Scotsman), Mr Michael Portillo (a former MP) and Ms Diane Abbott (Widow Twankey), entertained the pop singer Miss Lily Allen, representing that ungrateful demographic, Young People. I have seen happier car crashes, and I remain tormented by the fact that Mr Neil was not only tieless, but had undone at least two, if not three, buttons on his shirt, allowing a generous view over the Himalayan hummocks of the torso of the ageing boulevardier. If this is current affairs, I remain happy to live in the past.