Willing slaves of the maze

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The Independent Online
Hello, this is Radio 4 and welcome to this morning's edition of The Media Morass! Yes, this is the radio chat show that attempts to keep media types amused and interested on the way to work of a Friday morning, and this morning we are going to be discussing the vital question: is Radio 4's The Moral Maze cruel to the participants? Bob?

Hi. I'd like to say straight off that it cannot help but be cruel. The very conditions in which the poor Moral Mazers work is cruel. They get up very early in the morning, they come to Broadcasting House, they are cooped up in a tiny subterranean studion with no windows, they are forced to listen to Roger Scruton's so-called reasoning process, they have to look at David Starkey before 9am, they are force-fed BBC coffee - yes, I say it is cruel. And I love it!


I'd just like to ask one simple question: if the programme is cruel, why do they not ask for help? The programme goes out live. Why do they not just say, on air, how dreadful it all is, and ask to be rescued?

Well, Tessa, that shows a degree of navety I would not have expected even in you. In the same way that when a chicken is first released from a battery farm it crouches in a small corner of the open air, unable or unwilling to believe in freedom, so these people on The Moral Maze are conditioned to love their slavery. They show all the symptoms of imprisonment. Just listen to the way Edward Pearce and David Starkey peck at each other, like battery chickens ...

Yes, but they enjoy it, surely? Rabbi Oscar Scarlett?

Hello there, yes, I'm Rabbi Oscar Scarlett, and I'm the new rabbi that Radio 4 is trying to bring on as the replacement for the other rabbis as they outlive their usefulness, so hi, everybody! ...

Thanks, rabbi, but do you have anything to say about The Moral Maze and cruelty?

Cruelty maybe to rabbis? Yes, actually, I do think it's cruel the way they all look to Rabbi Hugo Gryn to finish off the programme with a Jewish story. The strain on him each week to come up with a good Jewish story must be terrific. That's probably why he doesn't come up with a good Jewish story each week.

Well, it's the same pressure with Rabbi Lionel Blue on the Today programme.

And it was the same with Rabbi Milton Shulman on Stop the Week with Robert Robinson and all those Goldberg stories.

Milton Shulman wasn't a rabbi.

Wasn't he? He sure talked like a rabbi.

I just wonder if expecting rabbis automatically to be clever and witty isn't a subtle form of anti-Semitism ...

Perhaps if we could get back to the subject of cruelty ... Let me ask this. Does anyone have anything to say about the cruelty of The Moral Maze team to witnesses? Do you feel that after the players have bullied each other - Starkey and Pearce each other, Buerk everyone - they then unite to turn on each witness? Have you noticed the way they will never listen to witnesses, above all the way none of the participants in The Moral Maze ever changes their mind about anything?

Yes, it's very like the way old lags team up against a newly arrived prisoner in the nick.

The point I'd like to make is that nobody on The Moral Maze ever has any interest in coming up with answers. They just like questions. What we have here is a cell full of interrogators, with not a single captive among them! Is that cruelty? Is it maybe mega-cruelty, all Gestapo officers without a single prisoner to question?

I'm not sure Rabbi Hugo Green would like that metaphor ...

He's not called Green. He's called Gryn.

Oh? I thought all media rabbis were named after colours. Lionel Blue, Hugo Green ...

Any comment on that, Rabbi Scarlett?

None, except that nobody has yet pointed out the one startling feature of The Moral Maze, and that is that everyone, but everyone, on the programme has their name spelt wrong. You don't spell Burke Buerk, you spell it Burke! Daley should be Daly, Pearce should be Pierce, Gryn should be Green, Starkey should be Starkie ... Now that smells very odd to me.

How do you mean?

It suggests very strongly that all the people on The Moral Maze are fictitious. Made up, with made-up names. Played by actors. It's a soap opera. It's not real. There is nothing there.

And what about this programme The Media Morass?

This doesn't exist either. Or if it does, it shouldn't.

Well, that seems a good place to end for today. This programme, incidentally, is being discussed on tomorrow's Medium Wave Midden. Until next week, goodbye!