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Saturday 25 September 2004
BBC and PC, the risks of Iraq and others
Sir: It is incredibly disappointing to hear that the BBC has decided not to air the cartoon series
Popetown (report, 24 September). What is even more disappointing is that the reason for doing so is that it might offend Catholics.
BBC succumbs to PC madness in climbdown over Vatican cartoon
Sir: It is incredibly disappointing to hear that the BBC has decided not to air the cartoon series Popetown (report, 24 September). What is even more disappointing is that the reason for doing so is that it might offend Catholics (I used to be a Catholic myself). I never thought I'd use this Daily Mailesque comment, but this is political correctness gone mad. Surely it is the right, if not the duty, of a public service broadcaster to show programmes that question powerful organisations such as the Catholic Church, whether this be in the form of a satirical cartoon or a documentary?
The Bishop of Portsmouth went so far as to state that "any attempt to belittle or diminish [the Pope's] status as leader of the Catholic Church is totally unacceptable". If I am not mistaken Britain is a liberal democracy where heresy was removed from the statute book centuries ago and televisions are still manufactured with an off button. Criticism of the Pope and his worldwide organisation is, on the contrary, totally acceptable.
Bush and Blair's meaningless war on terrorism has generated a media environment where criticism and satire of the type that I had hoped to see in Popetown are no longer acceptable, and it is a very worrying state of affairs when a supposedly independent body like the BBC can be cowed by government and church alike.
St Samson-sur-Rance, France
Sir: It seems to have escaped the notice of the Rev Dr David Gosling (letter, 20 September) that almost all the large and growing congregations in the Church of England, as in the other denominations, are evangelical.
He rightly identifies the doctrines of the New Birth and faithfulness to the Scripture as the determining characteristics of evangelical Christianity, and if he considers these to be innovative or un-Anglican I would refer him to the Collect for Christmas day in the Book of Common Prayer - "Grant that we being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit."
The problem with the Church of England is not Conservative Evangelicals, but rather those who having deserted the authority of Scripture have no gospel and nothing to offer except total confusion over matters such as sexuality.
"If the trumpet shall make an uncertain sound, who shall prepare for battle?" (1 Cor 14:8)
The Rev RICHARD HINDLEY
The risks Britons run in war-torn Iraq
Sir: Although I sympathise fully with the families of kidnapped civilian workers in Iraq, I feel that the coverage of such stories disregards one very important fact: these contractors choose to go and work in a war-torn country because they earn very good money for opting to do so. One only has to look on the internet to see the wealth of jobs offering huge "danger money" salaries in return for doing what we would see in this country as a very regular job. You take the money, you accept the danger.
It should also be remembered that thousands of young men and women in our armed forces in Iraq are facing the possibility of being killed, injured, or indeed held hostage on a daily basis. And they do it for a mere fraction of the money that civilian contractors earn to be there. A quick search through the websites of the many American security companies operating in the country will illustrate that an ex-soldier can earn up to 10 times their previous salary by returning to Iraq as a civilian bodyguard.
I'm sure Tony Blair, like myself, does feel genuine sympathy for the family of Ken Bigley. But I hope that he also considers, like myself, the situation of the soldiers whom he decided to send to work in Iraq - the people who put their lives on the line every day for a small proportion of the wages civilians can earn, at the whim of government policies.
Sir: I was surprised to hear a 10 Downing Street spokesman saying there would be no negotiations with Ken Bigley's kidnappers as this would mean dealing with terrorists. Surely the Prime Minister has already done precisely that during the Northern Ireland peace process. Sitting round a table with some very violent men was the right thing then and it brought an end to decades of turmoil. As for the Americans, the CIA has probably trained more of the world's terrorists than it has caught.
Sir: There is an Indonesian saying, "When you are confronted by a tiger, don't behave like a lamb." Why? Because behaving like that only fuels the killer instinct in the tiger. We should have paid heed to that advice when confronted by the IRA.
And now, when confronted by kidnappers in Iraq, we're making the same mistake: although Tony Blair may be standing firm, the media are behaving like sheep. If we deprive the kidnappers of publicity and never give in, then they will eventually stop wasting their time on kidnapping.
Steyning, West Sussex
Mental illness on TV
Sir: It was with some disappointment and a lot of anger that I read Deborah Orr's column, "Reality - or just mocking the afflicted?" (18 September). As the partner of Elaine, mother of Lucy, both of whom were featured prominently in My Crazy Parents on Channel 4, I must take great issue with the way the film was characterised by Ms Orr.
After eight months of working with director Morgan Matthews, and assistant producers Elodie and Melanie, on the documentary, as a family we can reassure your readers that it was anything but "a piece of vile voyeuristic 'reality television' posing as a documentary".
At no time was director Morgan an intrusion into our lives, and we could ask for filming to stop whenever we wanted. As for the sub-text that we were somehow duped, mocked or "afflicted", the last thing those of us coping with mental health issues need is to be patronised or insulted by the press.
R J HEWIS
Sir: Deborah Orr's article about our mental health series My Crazy Parents completely missed the point of the project and misrepresented the aims of the dedicated production team who made the films.
Deborah seems to be arguing that it is impossible for television to tackle such serious issues as mental illness, self-harming and depression without exploiting the people featured. This could not be farther from the truth.
Television is far more constrained in the way that it portrays people than newspapers and I would not want it any other way. This series was made with the complete consent of the participants (all of whom had seen the films before they transmitted) and the advice and support of MIND - my experience of newspapers' handling of these kinds of issues is rather less consensual.
I have been making and commissioning films of this kind for 10 years and I feel passionately that they can achieve an impact greater than almost any other medium. The support number and website for My Crazy Parents (that Deborah described as a "figleaf") took more calls and requests for information than any other programme I have worked on this year - and that means that hundreds of people now realise that they are not alone in their experiences: television can do that.
Commissioning Editor, Education
Channel 4 Television, London SW1
No Guantanamo here
Sir: Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman and Robert Marshall-Andrews, the Labour MP, should not confuse the detention of asylum-seeking terrorist suspects in UK prisons with that of those imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay (report, 21 September).
Whilst this detention infringes the ideal boundaries of a free society, those so detained are free to depart from the UK. They have legal representation and the conditions they are submitted to here are as humanitarian and respectful of their status as possible. This is the antithesis of Guantanamo Bay, which is in breach of international law, the Geneva Convention, decency and common sense.
DAVID RICHARD TOBIN
Hunting folk in town
Sir: I have lived and worked in the countryside all my life. I am delighted that the Countryside Alliance and pro-hunt brigade have taken their deplorable behaviour to town. Perhaps now you urban folk will understand the true meaning of anti-social behaviour and how it works in the countryside.
For decades these arrogant, loud-mouthed bullies have blighted the lives of peace-loving country dwellers. They are no strangers to lawlessness, and their reaction to a democratic decision to ban hunting, as demanded by the majority, comes as no surprise.
The issue has been debated and discussed by all sides of the argument for many years; there is no more to be said, even by those with very loud voices.
Saltburn, North Yorkshire
Sir: The eight men who broke into the House of Commons and disrupted proceedings on the most outrageous and unjust piece of legislation ever to curse Britain are heroes.
This issue over the proposed hunting ban has been rumbling on for seven years now, and for seven years hundreds of thousands of pro-hunt supporters have demonstrated peacefully and patiently argued the logical and just reasons why hunting should be allowed to continue.
But last week we finally demonstrated that we had had enough of being told how to live our lives by the weasels in Parliament who do not even want to understand how this Bill will affect ordinary, decent country people and animals. There is real, deep anger out there and if this is what it takes to make people listen then it has proven that democracy no longer exists in this country.
Sir: Rather to my surprise I have survived to the point at which I am eligible for a free bus pass. I consider myself a typical representative of Middle England - pay my taxes on time, no criminal record, tried my best to raise my children with decent moral values and a respect for the law.
Since last Wednesday my thoughts have been preoccupied by previous generation of Britons who have not shirked from fighting to preserve our basic freedoms when under threat, many of whom lost their own lives in the struggle. I have also been impressed by the many sensible, analytical articles in the press highlighting the obvious fact that the Hunting Bill is driven by a handful (yes, in national terms, a handful) of MPs and "antis" bent on the punishment of a "class" whom they have a desire to understand or accommodate.
Until now I have not hunted with hounds. However, this morning I have sent off my subscription to the local hunt and am trying to cope with what lies ahead. I am terrified; not in the slightest of any policemen, court or "chippy" MPs, but of falling off my horse. The bus company may yet be spared the task of subsidising my travel!
Sir: Toby Litt (23 September) asserts the right of critics to criticise. Emboldened by this, I wonder why the old clever clogs should have answered a question about the importance of grammar with a reply about colons and semi-colons. Not to know the difference between grammar and punctuation is like being unable to distinguish between a shed and a greenhouse, as he might say.
Wadhurst, East Sussex
Reforms for Haiti
Sir: David Usborne correctly states that Haiti is especially vulnerable to flooding and landslides because it has been largely deforested (report, 22 September). It is true that reforestation programmes are essential, but for such programmes to be effective they need to be implemented as part of an extensive agrarian reform, to relieve pressure on farmland and provide alternatives to charcoal production. This, and not the envisaged free trade zone expansion backed by the current government and the international finance institutions, should be at the heart of development plans in Haiti.
Director, Haiti Support Group
Sir: Geoff Webb (letter, 23 September) asks why his wife should be offered a 10 per cent discount once the insurance company knew she was married. Simple, simple, simple: they knew then that the little lady would have firm and sound male guidance to keep her away from those silly feminine errors. Obvious when you think it out. Now dear, watch that old lady. Careful, the light's about to turn red. Turn left here, I said left.
Sir: Donald Rumsfeld says that the Iraqi elections may only be held in part of the country. Does this presage a cunning plan to hold the November US presidential elections only in Texas and South Carolina?
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