When, over at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole yesterday blew the proverbial e-gasket over the forthcoming guest editorship of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme by P J Harvey, it was clearly not an isolated incident, but Del Boy forming the advance guard of right-wing froth and rant merchants massing ready to jump on the hated Beeb.
And so it proved: the appearance of John Pilger, Rowan Williams and Julian Assange on the same programme sent both Delingpole’s regular berth, the Maily Telegraph, and the one where he is occasionally given houseroom, the Daily Mail, off the deep end. “BBC Radio 4 Today criticised for 'left-wing tosh' chosen by guest editor PJ Harvey” howled the Telegraph.
The source for that “left-wing tosh” quote? A Twitter feed (singular). This set the tone, as the Mail joined in: “Radio 4's 'worst ever' Today programme edited by PJ Harvey slammed by listeners, MPs and even BBC staff over left-wing rants” it thundered, repeating that one Twitter quotation and magnifying it into “Listeners slammed the 'left-wing tosh'”.
Then the Mail moves to personal attack mode on Ms Harvey: “Grunge musician who inspired Nirvana given control of Today ... She is noted as being one of the most influential artists in the early 90s grunge movement – with Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain citing her first album as one of his favourite works of all time”. Cobain means drugs and Very Bad Things, so readers know what to think of Ms Harvey.
What both Mail and Telegraph managed to miss was the theme chosen by Ms Harvey, that of censorship. Pilger and Assange know all about that, via the former’s investigative journalism, and the latter’s association with Wikileaks. By the most fortunate of coincidences, the Mail and Telegraph have also been in the vanguard of those condemning Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
So no wonder they are lining up to kick the BBC over Ms Harvey’s guest editorship of Today, while other news sources see it rather differently: the Independent proclaimed “PJ Harvey's Today programme: 'A radical and refreshing take on the format'” while the HuffPost noted “PJ Harvey Edits Today Programme, Julian Assange And John Pilger Cause A Stir”.
And what’s wrong with provoking discussion? One might form the impression that the Mail and Telegraph want to tell their readers what to think. It’s also not a coincidence that neither leapt in to condemn the guest editorships of Barclays Bank’s CEO or the former head of MI5. Greed may or may not be good, but for the right-wing press it sure isn’t bad. And secrecy is clearly A Very Good Thing.
Anyone objecting can expect the full smear treatment. No change there, then.