Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Great British Insert Here For Ratings Boost

Last time I was in Scotland I was quite taken aback at the presence of the Union Jack in the most unlikely places.  There I was on a trip to Asda only to spy that all the potatoes were ceremonially wrapped up in patriotic plastic bags.  I guess you're just immune to this if you live in the UK but I'd never seen anything like this before.  By all means put a little logo on the produce so I know I can be environmentally friendly and buy locally grown food.  However, that's not much good if said British potatoes are grown in Kent or Suffolk.  That being the case I might as well buy Irish potatoes or even Norwegian ones. No, the enormous Union Jacks all over the potatoes were there to make me buy them as a patriot.  I know this because the Union Jacks were huge and took up most of the front of the see-through potato bags.  They were most definitely  appealing to my sense of national pride.  How were they to know that I had blogged repeatedly on the theme of British shame?  Well, they weren't to know that because even by my terrible standards these were posts with particularly poor visitor counts.
Where are they from?  I just can't work it out;.
 You're probably already used to going snow-blind from seeing the word "British "plastered everywhere but I'm most definitely not.  The prevalence of Union Jacks is the kind of thing you only really notice if you're not there very often.   I am here to to tell you as an infrequent visitor that something is definitely happening.  There is clearly a pattern to this and I would bet it could be measured by the number of column inches devoted to poppy arguments.  Now, I'm not Noam Chomsky with his giant intellect and his resources of eager graduate students so I'm not going to do that.  Instead, I turned to the world of TV to see if something is going on that can be measured.

British week on TV.  Every week is British week. Hey, it's Royal baking week!
 I watch TV through an app called Zattoo.  It lets you stream TV channels from France, Germany, Austria, Italy and UK to your computer or tablet.   All in all it has a lot of stations.  Around 12 of these stations are what we used to call "council telly":  BBC1-4, ITV1-4, C4, More4, C5.   It is remarkably easy to search in the app for keywords like "Britain" and "British".  This is exactly what I did for the two week period spanning 26/10 - 9/11.  In total there are 110 vain-glorious hours of TV fun with the word "Britain" or "British" in the title.  That's 110 hours over 35 separate shows in a fortnight.  I make that about 8 hours a day of dutiful viewing. I doubt you even get that much in North Korea.
  1. Great British Menu
  2. Rory Bremner's Great British Views
  3. Black and British: A Forgotten History
  4. Little British Isles with Alison Steadman
  5. British Touring Car Crashes and Smashes
  6. The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance
  7. Secrets of Great British Castles
  8. The Great British Bake Off
  9. A Very British Pornographer: The Jack Kahana Story
  10. Sailor, Ships and Stevedores: The  Story of British Docks
  11. Messages Home: Lost Films of the British Army
  12. Birth of the British Novel
  13. The Great British Fake Off
  14. A Very British Murder with Lucy Worsley
  15. Secret Britain
  16. Little Britain
  17. Fabric of Britain: The Story of Wallpaper
  18. Good Morning Britain
  19. Castles: Britain's Fortified History
  20. Britain's Busiest Airport: Heathrow
  21. Britain's Greatest Bridges
  22. Countrywise: Guide to Britain
  23. Books That Made Britain
  24. Britain's Classroom Heroes
  25. Britain's Benefit Tenants
  26. The Untold Battle of Britain
  27. Britain's Natural World
  28. The Choir: Gareth's Best in Britain
  29. Britain's Whale Hunters: The Untold Story
  30. Britain's Pet Secrets with Ann Robinson
  31. The Daily Mirror's Pride of Britain Awards
  32. Britain's Ancient Tracks with Tony Robinson
  33. Britain's Body Image Secrets with Ann Robinson
  34. Britain's Adoption Scandal - Breaking the Silence
  35. Millionaire's Mansions: Designing Britain's Most Exclusive Homes
If you're a fan of Top of the Pops you'll know that BBC4 are repeating it week by week but with a 35 year delay so that we are currently reliving the heady days of New Pop from 1981.  Taking that as my cue I decided to search the Radio Times for a similar two week period spanning 31/10/1981 -13/11/1981.    If you're under 25 you won't believe me but there were only 3 TV stations back then and two were the BBC.  How did we live?  It was bloody horrible, I can tell you.  An example of the horror is that there wasn't a single magazine that listed both BBC and ITV shows (a magazine is kind of like a website but printed periodically on paper and available for purchase in retail emporia).  The upshot of this indignity is that I was only able to search BBC1 and BBC2 because I couldn't find the listings online for ITV.  Here's what I found.
  1. Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance
Yup, a single show with the word "Britain" or "British".  There were still plenty of shows about British life but they didn't bang on about it the way we do now. For example, plucked entirely at random, there was a show about self-help and mutual aid in Britain called "The Self-Help Society".  Does that sound exciting?  No, it really doesn't.  As I said already, life in 1981 was bloody awful but it was probably the highlight of the week back then.  In fact, I can picture it now -  Family Entoure huddled round the flickering box, feet warmed by brown slippers, sipping cheerily at hot cocoa, ready to lose ourselves in the fascinating history of mutual aid in Britain. Nobody would watch that now. Nah, that sounds way too dreary.  Hang on, I've got an idea.  What about "The Great British Self-Help Society with Tony Britton"?  Yes, that will lure them in.  Just append the word "Britain" to every single thing and plaster the entire country with Union Jacks.  That'll sort it out.

Something is going on, isn't it?  To this distant observer, Britain comes across as a country that is completely self-obsessed.  It's obsessed with its army, with its soldiers, with its military history, with its role in the war,  with its darkest hour, with its finest hour, with its bulldog spirit, with its role in the other war, with its lost empire, with its dead kings and queens, with its role in that other war and the other one and that other one that came before all the others.  Most of all, it's obsessed with cultivating a sense of specialness, a sense that it is not at all like its neighbours.  Britain is an arrogant teenager blissfully unaware of the feelings of others, completely lacking the power of human empathy.  Simultaneously, it is that annoying old pensioner in the post office banging on about how the past was better when they had the birch.  That bit in the middle of life where you do all your best living and loving are just the lost years for an army nation like Great Britain.

On reflection, Brexit was inevitable. This has been brewing for years and years. Leaving the EU was always inevitable because we're not like them others over there in any way at all.  We're special, right?   We have choirs and countryside and an army that we revere.  We have teachers and books and ships and bridges and  friendly violent criminals that were kind to their mums.  Nobody else has any of that.  Not France, not Germany, not them bloody Austrians. And we  have a language all of our own that nobody else can speak.  You heard me, nobody else can speak our language like wot we do. Queen's English, gertcha.  And we eat food but we ain't eating none of that foreign muck. British food, see.  British.  British. British. Capiche?

Over and out,


PS Something really is going on.   But what?  Is it chicken or egg? I really don't know cos I don't live there any more.


  1. If you live here it creeps up on you, and after a while you start to notice it and it creeps you out.

    You don't notice it to begin with. It's like, I suppose, old age. You don't wake up one morning and think... Oh, I'm old. Bugger me, when did that happen?

    So the insidious march of nationalism and enforced patriotism is going on quietly all the time. Yes. Carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts even... All British with the flag draped over them, like they were little soldiers on the queen's business. I've noticed them in supermarkets, and to be honest, I studiously avoid them.

    I hadn't really been aware of the tv thing. I've never been a tv fan. I used to watch the occasional programme, usually a "who done it" or David Attenborough, but a few years ago I realised that I'd forgotten how to switch the set from DVD and on to television; I remembered that all the while Jimmy Saville and others had been abusing children, the world's greatest news gathering organisation had failed to notice this piece of news in their midst, and that whatever anyone says, the BBC was solidly for the britnats against the Scots...

    At that point I remembered that I was helping to find them and decided that I had better things to do with £145, than subsidise the likes of Bruce Forsyth's gigantic salary for being a pathetic has-been seaside entertainer.

    So I had no idea that "Britain", or "British" had crept into every second programme.

    It seems to me that your average psychologist might suggest that such obsession with nationality indicated a lack of self confidence that that was quite frightening.

    I've always been aware that Brits thought themselves better than everyone else. Their royals are far more regal than the Dutch or Scandinavian ones. Image the indignity of the queen riding a bike to Marks and Spencer and doing her own shopping? To which I quietly reply, imagine not having to pay for thousands of servants to do everything for her massive family.

    It struck me growing up that when someone else went to war it was always wrong. To invade another country was unacceptable, and the Brits would be pointing and wagging their fingers. But how, I wondered did the Brits come to own a quarter of the globe at one point. I mean, did folk like native Americans, or Australians, Zimbabweans, etc, just get on the phone and ask them over to take their country and run it the proper British way?

    Nope, I thought not.

    It's something I loathe. I don't like it when the Scots do it either. No, we're not better than other people, not the Scots, not the English, not the Brits!

    1. In fact if you've travelled abroad (and managed to get your backside out of the boozer or off the pool lounger), you will see in so many cases, that the roads are better, the trains are better, the hospitals are better, the busses better, the internet connections better...

      I could go on.

      And often in countries that we'd have considered well behind us in economic development.

      But never forget: we have clout!

      Yes, maybe 4 years ago that grand old Etonian came to Edinburgh and lectured us on why we should stay with Britain.

      At that point there were no bribes about building warships (which they later cancelled) or keeping civil servants jobs (which they later moved to Croydon), or having our parliament made permanent (which they later decided would be illegal).

      No, at that point he appealed to the Brit spirit in us.

      We had clout. We were an important country. People looked up to us, or feared us, depending whether we were allies or foes. We had the 4th largest military spend in the world. We sat in the inner sanctum of the Security Council. We were a major player in the, erm European Union. And so on. That wouldn't happen to us if we were only Scottish.

      Never a mention that our education systems were poor, that our NHS was miles behind other European countries, that at that time half a million people were being fed by food parcels, that the debt was already spiralling out of control, that the difference between the haves and the have nots was greater than in any EU country, that the pensions were lamentable (thanks to Mrs Tahtcher) or any of the mass of corruption and deviance which we now know was/is rife.

      We were proud to be British, and so we should be. Who would throw that away? Surely only an idiot. And anyway, it would break his heart if Scotland left, because he had a great granddad who owned an estate at Inverness and a father in law who had massive hunting estates.

      I've lost the track of where I was going with this... but I expect that you can extract some (if not much) sense from it.

      It's nationalism. It's very often, and in this case almost certainly, thrust on people in overpowering quantities, in order to make them forget how bloody awful the place is.

      Yes, life is shit for you plebs, but imagine if you weren't British how mush more awful things would be.

      As Prince Charles once said without a hint of irony: "One always thinks that one was so privileged to be born British". Well, that sums it up.

    2. I do actually consider myself lucky to be born British in the sense that I was lucky to be from Western Europe. On a global and historical scale most born in the UK today will still lead privileged lives. It's just disappointing that a lot of opportunities have been thrown away on their behalf by a rising tide of complacent nationalism. The lack of critical thinking leaves me in a state of real despondency sometimes.

  2. The takeover of inferred patriotism is quite insidious. Where did all this come from? How do we measure it? I just chose TV as a random example because it was easy to search and compare.

    Does anyone remember when Dubs International had a hit with "Dub be good to me"? It was an early hit by Fatboy Slim. Anyway, the singer was called Lindy Layton and a minor scandal erupted when it transpired that she had been a session singer on an army promotional video. Very uncool. I just can't imagine that happening today. Nobody would make a fuss because the army is now a force for good. They'd probably even donate some of the profits to a military charity and make a huge point of it. Something has really changed. Maybe it's all the wars we're waging, maybe it is a natural cultural shift, maybe it is some kind of crude social engineering. I really have no idea but it is a little scary, to be honest. A critical eye on the military is important for democracy, in my view.

    There might be something in this to do with a lack of self confidence. That is certainly the best reason I've heard so far. Why do we lack confidence, though? What's going on?

  3. It's the establishments reaction to the probability of losing their place in the world. As they see it they are special, and only special people make the rules and run the place. A desperate attempt to brainwash the masses. They are putting little flags on everything - makes me want to puke.
    They are still going to lose. They have no idea what they are doing so they are going back to an upstairs downstairs mentality. Puke again.

    1. I do hope you are right that this is something that will end. I'm afraid that I'm not quite as optimistic. It's difficult because my view is from a distance and based on maybe about 10 days a year in the UK. I can't claim to be an expert but it seems to me that this is a growing phenomenon - Union Jacks everywhere, British this, British that, poppy mania etc. I'm guessing it is further amplified in England. My main port of call in England is London but that is quite different from Brimingham or Bristol. It is all quite toxic.

  4. I don't live there either. It will only reduce when we get independence, then they will put little wanglander flags on everything and expect us to buy their stuff. They are desperate
    not to lose their Scottish cash cow.

    1. I think they'll put huuuuuugggeeee flags on everything!


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