Wednesday 22 January 2003
Oh! What a lovely war
'We are creating a war by talking about it. It will be the first time that we have ever had a war simply by announcing it'
I am often told by commuters that, leaving home as early as they do, they suffer dreadfully from not being able to hear such regular classic Radio 4 morning programmes as Start the Week with Andrew Marr, Midweek with Libby Purves, and In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. So today I am going to bring you an experimental taste of all those experiences.
What I have done is feed some samples of those very different programmes into the mighty Independent computer and ask it to simulate one new sample of each programme to tie in with the same current topic, the war against Iraq.
Here's how the computer reckoned Start the Week would deal with it...
Marr: Let's first of all turn to Professor Pankhurst, an expert in war studies, who is giving a lecture at the Goldbarn Institute this week entitled "War? What War? Oh, THAT War!" and ask him exactly what he means by the title.
Pankhurst: Yes, well, what I am trying to do is question the very concept of war itself. You see, we have been talking about the war against Iraq for months now, and yet there is no war. We have not declared war! We are creating a war by talking about it. It will be the first time we have ever had a war simply by announcing it.
Marr: Marina Carter, the expert on medieval art and the author of The Tapestry Revolution?
Jardine: Surely that's not true. All through the 1930s people talked about the coming war. And it duly came.
Pankhurst: Yes, but that's because the Fascist states were programmed to attack us sooner or later. They were states on a war footing. Hitler's book, don't forget, was called Mein Kampf or "My War".
Marr: Talking about books, Justin Fothergill has just published one called By Unicycle Across the Sahara, Armed Only With a Juke-box. Do you think there will be a war, Justin?
Fothergill: Gosh, I don't know. What I do know is that until you have seen a group of nomadic Arabs encountering a juke-box for the first time, and shuffling in the sand to an old Chuck Berry hit, you haven't lived!
Marr: Quite. Quite. OK, let's ask the computer to try Midweek now.
Purves: Hello. With us today we have an incredibly brave one-legged ballet dancer, also a woman who has invented a humane kind of electric chair, as well as Peter Rodway, the first man to sail backwards round Britain and none of this is going to seem very important if we go to war against Iraq. Gosh, I don't know if I could ever declare war against somebody else! Let's go round the table and ask if anyone here has ever declared war. Bruce Cartwright?
Cartwright: As a one-legged dancer, my whole life has been a sort of war, a unilateral declaration of war on social prejudice.
Purves: Unilateral! Very good. Peter?
Purves: No, what?
Rodway: No, I've never declared war, though I was once boarded by pirates, which was a sort of act of war.
Purves: Gosh! What happened?
Rodway: I shot them all.
Purves: Which act of murder takes us, I suppose, on to Irma Wilkins and her humane electric chair...
Hmmm... And now for Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time.
Bragg: Hello. Today, with the help of three people who know much more about things than I do, I am going to ask the question: where did war start? Has there always been war? Are we at war more often than at peace? Which is more normal, war or peace? Is peace a sort of aberration from the normality of war? Is too much peace good for you? All the sort of questions that Andrew Marr should be asking on Start the Week. And I'll turn first to Steve Jones, who can tell me if we are genetically programmed to be warlike...
Well, perhaps a good place to stop, especially as the computer has just put up a message saying: "You haven't asked me to do a version of Loose Ends on the war against Iraq!"
If you want to hear an interview between Arthur Smith and Saddam Hussein, it will be on the website.
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