Friday, February 29, 2008
Somebody emailed Channel 4 News last night to accuse Jon Snow of treason. The show had used the Afghan Harry story as an excuse to question the role of the media in keeping quiet about the fact that the Prince was on the front line. As Richard Havers comments on my previous post, these were new depths for C4 News. I'll go along with treason if we can make it stick, but, for the moment, let's just see if we can get them banged up on a charge of aggravated hyprocrisy. Every news organisation indulges in deals and compromises. Usually this is self-interest, sometimes it is to protect others, occasionally it is in the interests of the state. The latter is tricky because the state might be behaving badly. But the media make judgments. The case for keeping quiet about Harry was overwhelming so C4 News can, as far as I am concerned, be sent to the Big House. Beneath all this lurks the theme of patriotism. I don't think anybody at C4, nor, indeed, anybody at the BBC would accept patriotism as a justification for doing anything. But, to be honest, the fact that Harry was sent to the front line, the fact that he wanted to go and the fact that we helped protect him made my chest swell just a little. I am a patriot. I don't have wet dreams about Margaret Thatcher, I don't think the British Empire was a damned fine way of civilising Johnny Foreigner, I'm not crazy about Elgar, I find the Royals faintly ridiculous, I don't decorate my home with pictures of horses or hunting scene table mats and I don't stand around in country pubs agreeing with everything in the Daily Mail. But England - not Britain - made me and I'm grateful. This gratitude would, I hope, in 1914 or 1940 have prepared me for death. It certainly prepares me for the odd sacrifice in the national interest. I don't know how widespread this feeling is. I suspect many people of my age or younger regard the word 'patriotism' as so outdated as to be meaningless. I suspect also that our vomit-soaked city centres, our petty bureaucrats, our dodgy government, Ken Livingstone and our 'sleb infested culture convince many more that whatever stirrings they may feel are best disregarded. But, as Tennyson said, 'Tho' much is taken, much abides' and what abides of England - perpendicular architecture, the poetry of Edward Thomas, a certain light, humour, memory - is enough for me, enough, at least, to make me stand up for Harry, England and St George, but not Jon Snow.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:21 am