On Thursday 2nd Jan 2014 the guest editor for the BBCR4 Today programme was the musician PJ Harvey. Despite balancing programmes edited by Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5 and Barclays’ chief executive Antony Jenkins, the PJ Harvey edition was pilloried and vilified by certain newspapers and politicians. I have yet to hear most of the programme so will not comment apart from to speculate that the ‘shock’ that some people experienced may be more to do with the absence of a true diversity of political opinion on the BBC than what was actually said.
However I did catch one very moving and thought provoking section of the programme which I think deserves greater exposure. It was a piece by war photographer and triple amputee Giles Duley with a contribution by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston OBE. These two individuals by virtue of their experiences and injuries deserve to be listened to with a little humility not dismissed as “left wing tosh”. In fact I would make this clip compulsory listening for any politician involved in making decisions affecting military personnel. It should also be compulsory listening for journalists each time they are tempted to write jingoistic, pro war articles without careful and critical analysis of the potential consequences. Patriotism does not mean uncritical support for military action.
The gist of the item is that the MOD and the media, even in the 21st Century, censor the true horror of military injuries. This is particularly relevant to the publicity given to limbless basket ball players ‘making the most of life’ when the reality is that a loss of limbs can be a ‘minor problem’ compared to the other injures likely to be suffered by anyone who steps on an anti-personnel mine. Injuries that understandably, many war veterans have difficulty coming to terms with, especially when the media expect them to be ‘putting on a brave face’ and ‘rising to the challenge’.
I encourage you to listen to the end of this BBC Radio 4 audio clip introduced by War Photographer, Giles Duley (Just click the play button):
Interestingly the Daily Express article linked here does not mention that Simon was talking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Falklands veteran Simon Weston calls for more realistic portrayal of wounded soldiers (Daily Express 2nd Jan 2014)
Here is the Daily Express view on the same day about the same programme from which their previous article was taken: ‘Worst Today programme ever’ BBC Radio 4 show slammed for rants and Assange guest spot (Daily Exress 2nd Jan 2014)
Here is a somewhat more nuanced response to the programme: “Today’s uncomfortable thoughts for the day with PJ Harvey – Musician’s guest edit of BBC’s Today programme drafted in John Pilger and Julian Assange to challenge our prejudices”: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/02/today-thoughts-for-the-day-pj-harvey-bbc-assange-pilger (Guardian, 2nd Jan 2014)