They don’t like it up ’em. Lance Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army was right. The squeals of indignation and bafflement from the liberal left over the protest by Christians and traditionalists (including the Prime Minister) against Cadbury’s removal of the term “Easter” from its seasonal chocolate eggs demonstrated the new order of things. Suddenly, in an inversion of recent experience, it was Christians who were offended and secularists on the defensive. What a turn-up for the book. You would think we were leaving the European Union, or something.
The liberal left took refuge in contrived derision, claiming the incident was too trivial to be taken seriously. Nobody actually said “This is political incorrectness gone mad,” but that was the tenor of the reaction. This, from people who have spent the past decades professionally taking offence at affronts real and imagined of microscopic significance, lacked conviction. Nobody knows better than the PC left that the more trivial an issue is, the more important it is to police it, if social control is to be maintained. Now the boot is on the other foot and it is likely to remain there.
Christians have become the one sector of society against which it is legitimate, even meritorious, to discriminate. They have seen their religion marginalized, its symbols and festivals airbrushed out of British culture, and suddenly they decided they had had enough. At first Cadbury owned up to its motives: “We invite people from all faiths and none to enjoy our seasonal treats.” Clearly, it feared the word “Easter” would offend people of other faiths, so it had to be downplayed. But what if that offended Christians? Who cares?
As the backlash against both Cadbury and the National Trust gathered strength, supported even by the Prime Minister, the company changed its tune and added the words “this Easter” to its web-page headline “Join the Cadbury egg hunts”. On this issue Cadbury had previous: last year the company was criticised for removing the word “Easter” from the front of its Easter eggs’ packaging and re-labelling them “Milk Chocolate Eggs”. Undeterred, this year the traditional “Easter Egg Trail” was changed to the “Great British Egg Hunt” with the complicity of the National Trust.
This apparent storm in an eggcup signals a cultural change. Post-Brexit there is a new mood of zero tolerance for PC aggression. Next winter it will go ill with the first local council that bans a school Nativity play, carol service or religiously themed Christmas decorations. Winterval is over. Post-Brexit and post-Trump the PC Terror no longer commands the field in the culture war. The assorted cranks and social justice warriors who have so long imposed their deranged dogmas on the public are at last being seriously challenged.
So are their court jesters, the right-on leftist stand-up comedians. Viewed objectively, most stand-up comedy is as funny as root-canal treatment sans anaesthetic. The new generation of comedians, fostered by the BBC, regards didacticism – preaching the PC message – as more important than entertainment. Now Marcus Brigstock, having ventured beyond the safe space of a BBC studio with its audience of metropolitan liberal clones into real England on tour, is dismayed that when he launched into his 20 minutes of anti-Brexit abuse, people walked out every night, an experience he described as “unsettling”. The same reaction is reported by others of the liberal “comedy” community who have journeyed north of Watford.
Clearly those misguided audiences have been influenced by “fake news”. That term is much in circulation post-Brexit and Trump. When the liberal elites fabricated and spun news unchallenged, that was bona fide information. But now, new platforms have enabled conservatives to expose everything the liberal establishment tried to suppress or misrepresent, so that is called “fake news”, being disseminated in a “post-truth” (i.e. post-liberal monopoly) society. If you are concerned about being deceived by fake news, most liberals would direct you to the BBC, the iconic purveyor of impartial information.
Take the corporation’s coverage of Brexit in the six months following the referendum. Statistical logging by News-watch of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s Business News segment from 24 June to 22 December 2016 illustrates Auntie’s impartial coverage of Brexit issues. Of 366 guest speakers on the programme, 192 (52.5 per cent) had a negative view of Brexit, just 60 (16.3 per cent) were pro-Brexit and 114 (31 per cent) were neutral. So, three times more Brexit pessimists than optimists were invited onto the programme by the BBC. Most significantly, only 10 (less than 3 per cent) Business News interviews were conducted with supporters of EU withdrawal.
That’s more like it: the good old-fashioned tell-the-plebs-what-to-think style of news-mongering, denying the oxygen of publicity to the untutored, if majority, Brexit view. When 70 MPs wrote to Lord Hall, BBC director-general, complaining about extravagant bias in Brexit coverage, he majestically replied: “Impartiality has always been the cornerstone of BBC News. It remains so today.” The director-general added: “We go to great lengths to ensure that we balance our coverage and address all issues from a wide range of different perspectives. It is one of the reasons why the public trusts the BBC more than any other source of news.” It’s the way he tells them.
More aggressively, Nick Robinson, former BBC political editor, wrote in the Radio Times: “The referendum is over. The duty we broadcasters had to ‘broadly balance’ the views of the two sides is at an end.” That sounds as if the pestilential 2.9 per cent of Leavers, with their potential to utter fake news about the EU, may soon be eliminated from the Today programme’s output. Robinson’s claim, though at least more honest than Lord Hall’s insult to listeners’ intelligence, reflects the smugness engendered by yet another renewal of the unreformed and unreformable BBC’s charter. Everyone who values access to the truth has a duty to work in the coming years to ensure that charter renewal is the last. The BBC is not fit for purpose.
The significance of these and similar recent events, from Easter eggs to floundering comedians, is that Brexit is not an event but a process. Departure from the EU will not mark the end, but the beginning, of the long-abused British public’s reclamation of its country. The political class, deprived of its EU cover, will have to take ownership of its own domestic misrule. Then it will be judged by a public which increasingly looks like a hanging jury.