Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Marxist attacks Marr

Yesterday Marxist academic Priyamvada Gopal appeared on a special edition of Start the Week to debate the British Empire. Also involved in the discussion, hosted by Andrew Marr, were Marxist historian and apologist for communist mass murder Eric Hobsbawn, black historian and campaigner for slave reparations Robert Beckford, left-wing historian and Guardian columnist Linda Colley, and right-wing historian Niall Ferguson.

Bear in mind the weight of opinion on the programme while reading this hysterical, ranting, pompous email (nicked from Lenin's Tomb) which Dr Gopal is now circulating to friends and colleagues:
Open Letter to Andrew Marr, Presenter, Start the Week on Radio 4, the BBC.

Dear Andrew,

This is an open letter that I am going to ask the people--many of whom are prominent academics-- I have copied in to circulate as widely as possible, to draw the attention of people to the egregious manner in which you dealt with the follow-up this morning's show on 'The Legacy of Empire'. I am appalled and shocked at your biased introduction to the evening phone-in. You use dismissive words like 'blarney', 'aggressive', and 'too much heat' to describe an impassioned discussion of a painful and traumatic legacy that didn't fit the genteel upper-class British converation over 'tea and cucumber sandwiches'model. This then set the tenor for the phone-in that followed.

But worst of all is the patent attempt to bring in a 'positively disposed to Empire' Indian woman to neutralise what you saw as the 'aggression' of the Indian woman you had invited to be on your morning programme. It is obvious what that is trying to accomplish and completely unworthy of someone in your position. It is, after all, an old colonial strategy: pick the good native to neutralise the bad one quickly 'The British empire was good on the whole,' she announces, to Andrew Marr's relief. What this
person's credentials are to opine on Empire and India other than 'being' of Indian descent and 'married to a white man' are completely unclear. Is everyone of British descent qualified to discuss the Norman Conquest, the Magna Carta or even the Normandy landing? She tells us that the Empire means a lot to Indians because her grandfather salutes her white husband(!). Empire is 'anachronistic' for young Indians, apparently. Each of her questions/comments to callers betrayed, I'm sorry to say, as a teacher, ignorance and little other than a desire to smooth over any rough edges from the morning. As though there were no connection between sectarian violence and the Partition! And as though a critique of Empire precludes a critique of the Indian state which often works with what it inherited from the colonial state: please see the work of most people copied in on this letter. We find it possible to do both self-criticism and a critique of colonialism, and what is more, to see the connections in a complex historical and political frame. Next time, at least find a scholar of/on India--rather than a young woman from the office next door- if you want some damage control done. That is, if you are bothered about being serious at all rather than getting an agenda through.

I realised from your mode of operating today and how you handled the programme (including the nervousness about real debate as opposed to some facile smorgasbord 'point of view' dance) that your own pro-colonial biases are pretty apparent. Nevertheless, I would have expected a more general *show* of fairness (and that favourite BBC buzzword 'balance') from someone in your position. Apparently not. Several have written to me condemning the shameless plugging of Ferguson's racist text and the way in which the whole programme was not about the legacy of empire, but that text and its release this week. People will be interested in the following nuggets from the text the BBC wishes to launch as a definitive account of Empire:

'Like attracted and continues to attract like; those who are drawn to 'the Other' may in fact be atypical in their sexual predilections'

'When a Chinese woman marries a European man, the chances are relatively high that their blood groups may be incompatible, so that only the first child they conceive will be viable'

'Human beings do seem predisposed to trust members of their own race as traditionally defined'

We are supposed to react to this kind of thing with a lack of forcefulness or passion, and just to the whole Oxbridge boys back-slapping tally-ho routine. And if we don't, a nice native will be found and then wheeled on to say 'No, no, guys, it was all great really!.

I regret coming on at the last minute. As an academic with serious interests in the matter, I thought I'd be participating in a real discussion, not a book plug, a sham and an apologia for the past. (Those of you who are simpy copied in to this letter should know that the original programme had three white scholars, two of whom are pretty openly pro-empire, and one token black man, until the BBC were told at the last minute that they should ferry in an Indian woman so they could look 'balanced' and 'fair'. Then they didn't like what they heard: the pliant Oriental woman they had hoped for didn't turn up, so they quickly ferried one in for the evening to recover lost ground.

Nevertheless, I shall take some heart from the scores of emails that have flooded in to me thanking me for challenging Ferguson's biases and egregious theory. You really think that we should take two centuries of exploitation, war, famines and immiseration and do some sort of clinical 'balance sheet'? Well, we did. And as Robert said, it came out negative. Doing another 20 pro-empire programmes with a gaggle of Indian women willing to echo what you want them to say aren't going to change that, but do go ahead and give it your best.

I told Victoria I would be happy to come on again. Allow me to withdraw that offer firmly and unconditionally. I'm an academic, not a paid monkey.

Shame on you!


Dr Priyamvada Gopal
University Senior Lecturer
Faculty of English
Cambridge
The range of acceptable debate on Gopal's course at Cambridge must be pretty narrow. Imagine the hissy fits if a student dared to disagree with her strident left-wing views.

4 Comments:

Anonymous JuliaM said...

"You use dismissive words like 'blarney'.."

Such shocking dismissal of genuine ethnic minority terminology...

..to be sure, to be sure!

7:10 pm  
Anonymous Clematis Fraud said...

Completely O/T, DfH. Cast your eyes over this cool little thread on the R5L MB. This is your cut-out-and-keep guide to Melanie Phillips:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbfivelive/F2148566?thread=3152304


I never fail to be amazed at the strangulated prose of one contributor.

e.g.: "On the contrary Jack - it's not a question of "political" viewpoint - it's a question of what Philips percieves to be a fault in society, when such fault is NOT one that can be ascribed to [a one-sided] political ethos. If that were so, then Philips (and the rest of us) would ALL be in permanent conflict. Yet Philips misleads by assuming that those holding a different political ethos to her own are SOLELY responsible for multiculturalism - and, worse, many (any?) of its present [as currently percieved by her] failures; that is simply untrue."

He ends with:

"If the commentary panel in the studio couldn't fathom that [elementary basic] out - I'd happily have told them."

And I suspect their eyes would have glazed over. What the fucking, shitting hell is he talking about? Why can't he just write in normal sentences like anyone else?

Right: let's read this carefully.

It seems that "it's a question of what Philips percieves [sic] to be a fault in society".

Clear?

Hold on: one minute later, "it's" (I am not too sure what "it" means in this context) no longer a "fault in society" but "those holding a different political ethos to her own [who] are SOLELY responsible for multiculturalism". And she is wrong to think this (assuming she does). Or something.

Still clear? Thought so.

Oh, and he also manages to describe her as "dim-witted" and "intelligent" in one message earlier in the thread.

Read the whole thread. I think he is ill and needs a damned good Fisking. Or a good psychiatrist.

Heh.

11:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a painful and traumatic legacy" - the Empire. And to add insult to injury poor Dr Gopal finds himself forced to live in Britain. How sad, if only he were free to return to post-colonial India and breathe the clean air there.

I seem to have missed the bit where he explained how and why he is forced to live here. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

3:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its not HE its SHE, you dumb.....

6:58 am  

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