Monday, January 23, 2012

BBC knows ABSOLUTELY no shame

Who pushed the bill to outlaw the Atlantic slave trade through Parliament? Who forced the British ruling classes to look squarely at the gruesome realities of the slave trade? (Graphic images anyone?)

In 2007, the British held a national celebration commemorating the 1807 Act of Parliament that made the slave trade illegal. For its contribution in that celebration, the BBC produced a documentary smearing the man at the centre of that triumph of Christian virtue over barbarism, William Wilberforce.

According to the BBC, Wilberforce is no hero. According to the BBC doyenne Moira Stuart, he was nothing more than a political opportunist and (wait for it)...a Christian and therefore obviously a bigot who's real contribution was nothing more than to make the British feel better about themselves.

Moira, a 30-year veteran of BBC shenannigans, opens her "personal journey" into investigating the "true" history of abolition by saying she is "following the crusade of the man who is said to have abolished Britain's trade in human cargo" (emphasis in the original).

The introductory scenes show a scholarly type fellow in front of a wall of books saying, "If you want to look at a godly Christian nation, doing good things, look at us ending the slave trade."

I guess a challenge like that was too much for the secularist hounds at the BBC. A godly Christian nation? Christians doing good?! Hooo! We'll see about that!

Let the debunking begin! As our presenter Moira Stuart says, "I've discovered that many believe it's now time to re-examine this history". I'll bet you have.

As usual, this high quality smear job roams all over the world looking into the dark, dank and hideous corners of history. All the horrors are present (on a TV programme that children can see!)... tiny windowless stone rooms in a seaside fortress in Ghana that held hundreds of human beings...shackles, whips and torture implements, the famous diagrams showing the packing of people into the cargo holds of ships. All the usual trappings carefully placed with the correct music to engender a powerful emotional response in viewers.

Moira Stuart is careful to let her horror show on her face, and there are some eloquent moments when she is hugged and comforted by the people showing her around. After she has seen the dungeons, we are granted long shots of Moira, gazing soulfully out to sea, sharing her deepest fears, telling us, "I'm angry and I'm in pain..." This, we must understand at the start, is a deeply feeling person, a good woman who fights evil wherever she sees it. Someone who would never lie to us.

Then we get down to the meat of the matter. William Wilberforce has been turned into an icon of British history as the man who stopped this foul abomination, the single voice crying against it, forcing upper class ladies and gentlemen of government to look, and smell the nightmare of enslavement. He is a British hero, who selflessly fought a great evil and, as Moira points out in the first few minutes of the film, was moreover an example of the Christian man doing what he thought best for society.

They pull out all the rhetorical trickery they know to demonstrate that Wilberforce was no hero, but in reality a myopic religious fanatic (and probable racist) who took credit for the work of others. Let's examine a few of the techniques the BBC uses to manipulate a population who now no longer has enough historical knowledge to refute their assertions.

The first is a straw man, the two premises of the programme. A history professor is brought out for the thesis statement that "Britons have made Wilberforce into the national hero and pretended as if the slaves were freed entirely through the efforts of this one very benevolent man. And history didn't happen that way."

History Professor Adam Hochschild then points to an inscription on the plaque under Wilberforce's statue in Westminster Abbey that says, "He removed from the British nation the guilt of the African slave trade." (No, we don't get to see what the rest of it says; no context allowed.)

"That's the key," says Pet BBC Historian, "to why Wilberforce has become such a national hero. He made Britons feel good about it."

"It's comforting to imagine that the slave trade was stopped through the efforts of this one very nice, very benign, very philanthropic, very religious man ... see he's holding a bible in the statue..." (Emphasis in the original.)

Wait a second. Who ever said that? Who? Where? No one has ever said that one man alone ended the slave trade. Wilberforce didn't start the abolition movement, everyone knows that he joined it. No film or book no matter how adoring, would ever try to suggest that it was his efforts alone. This is probably the most glaring lie in the programme and they present it right at the start, obviously confident that the average British viewer is too stupid to catch it.

Moira tells us, "This is the story of my quest to find out why" Wilberforce has been remembered as a hero. She says she wants to examine the evidence and "make up my own mind".

But this is another blatant lie. From the opening sentences of this film, she has made it clear that her mind is already made up from the start, and the biases of the film make it obvious. It is really the story of her "quest to knock a great man off his heroic pedestal, to destroy another icon both of Traditional British culture and to defame the Christian virtues he embodied and, with the same convenient stone, to raze to the ground and sow salt on one of Christian civilisation's great historic claims..."

Remember the other opening quote? "If you want to look at a godly Christian nation, doing good things, look at us ending the slave trade."

Any doubt about where this is going?

She interviews a government official in Ghana (a majority Christina nation, by the way Moira; don't get their religious cooties on you) who tells her what everyone knows, that Wilberforce was part of a great movement manned by many people, including Africans, to stop the trade. But this is supposed to demonstrate that the British are wrong, and probably trapped in latent imperialist delusions, to hold up Wilberforce as a hero.

In Ghana, Moira "discovers" another great coverup by the Wilberforce lobby. He didn't end slavery. Slavery was made illegal in 1833. Wilberforce's achievement was "only" to make the trade illegal. Well! No one knew that! It's all obviously a giant Christian conspiracy to cover up the facts...

facts that anyone can find on Wikipedia...

Now she's armed. She's discovered a big lie. She heads back to England wanting to know "why Britain remembers him as the man who ended slavery when the 1807 bill only stopped the trade."

Having made the discovery of this nefarious conspiracy, Moira confronts a Wilberforce biographer at Wilberforce's house in Hull. All smiles as Kevin Belmonte reads her the legend at the base of the statue in the garden of the house that says, "England owes to him the reformation of manners; the world owes to him the abolition of slavery".

Moira jumps at the chance to call the lie. Gotcha!

"Is that so?" she says.


"Right, because I know that he was fundamental to the abolition of the slave trade but to slavery itself?"

The sadly unenlightened Mr. Belmonte explains patiently that you could not have made slavery illegal in 1833 without having made the trade illegal first. From the passage of the 1807 bill, it became clear that the next step was to take aim at slavery itself. From the first bill, the abolitionists were able to "lay deep foundations to take aim at slavery".

"It took far longer (26 years) than Wilberforce would have wanted, or indeed hoped."

Nevertheless, her response, in a voiceover so Mr. Belmonte could not hear, Moira comes back with "Despite the delay, such monuments reinforce the idea that Wilberforce ended slavery in 1807." Because obviously, people learn history entirely and exclusively from looking at monuments. Who reads books nowadays? (Or Wikipedia.)

But Moira's claws really come out when she addresses Wilberforce's religion. She tells us she wants to get "past the misconceptions" and get to know the real man. We hear that he was born into a well-to-do merchant family and became an MP for Hull at 21 and later for all of Yorkshire.

"But it's clear from his journal that he also believed in God and wanted to make a difference."

About the worst sin an MP can commit in the eyes of the BBC is to try to "impose his religious beliefs through legislation". I was wondering how the BBC would reconcile this axiom with the inescapable fact that the people who drove the abolition movement were Christians who were explicitly motivated by their religious beliefs.

Christians, according to the received wisdom of the publicly funded broadcaster, are to practice their religion privately at home. An MP who bases his work on his religious beliefs is trying to turn Britain into a theocracy. The solution? Demonstrate that the Wilberforce legend is fraudulent and that the man himself was probably a racist.

The real clincher is when Belmonte shows her in the Wilberforce family home in Hull, an embroidered rendition of the famous image of a black slave in chains, praying on one knee to be freed, "Am I not a man and a brother?" ... an image that caught the popular imagination at the time and significantly helped the movement.

Moira's delicate BBC-trained politically correct sensibilities recoil, however, at the image which she sees as evidence of the essential racism of the movement. "The Wedgewood cameo was probably the first campaign logo, found on everything from tea sets to women's brooches, it was popular amongst abolition supporters. But today, it's an awkward and difficult image."

She interrupts Belmonte's description of the contribution made by the image, saying, "What does that say to you?"

He says, "Britain still needs to be aware of the needs of the sons and daughters of Africa."

Getting a little tetchy, Moira jumps in, "It seems a travesty of the African, who has fought for his freedom to be seen in this as a mere supplicant." She ends the discussion, interrupting Belmonte's rebuttal.

After Hull, she returns to London to discover that with Wilberforce in Parliament, "It seems religion was his driving force." (Emphasis in the original.)

She interviews a painfully apologetic churchlady who explains away the kneeling black slave pictured in a stained glass window of Wilberforce in the church he worshipped in after his "evangelical conversion."

Looking at it, Moira says with a disapprovingly arched eyebrow, "No hint of repentance from the point of view of having caused the pain of enslavement in the first place..."

Aaaahhh, here is the crux of the matter. This is the real thesis of the programme. Wilberforce, and by extension all well-intended white Christians, can only redeem themselves of the sin of having been white, privileged and successful, by adopting grovelling white liberal guilt.

Pressing her point with this poor terrified little old churchlady, who is clearly desperate to please this woman (who is famous as the first "African-Carribean" to get a prominent place at the BBC), Moira continues, "It just bothers me that there is a deification..."

"Yes, I think that Wilberforce would have been quite unhappy to have been put in a stained glass window," the poor little mouse responds.

You can watch the rest on YouTube if you like. But I don't think there is any point. It has been admitted by the people who run the place that the BBC has hatred of Christianity, traditional morality and British history and culture written into its DNA.


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