Friday, July 04, 2008
Some years ago a column I wrote in The Independent inspired a letter from an academic in some super-soft discipline, probably media studies. He enclosed a questionnaire. He wanted to know how I had come to write the column. The questionnaire was laughable, designed solely to produce one outcome - my exposure as the hired lackey of some mighty corporation. I replied, telling him his methods were a disgrace to the academic community, insisting, nevertheless, that I be sent a copy of his research as I would, of course, sue if it contained any suggestion that I had been corrupted and pointing out that I quite fancied the idea of a quick twenty grand. This memory came back to me while driving up the M11 on Wednesday half-listening to The Moral Maze, an amiably earnest R4 show which doubtless will be dumped or tweaked by the marketing whizz now in charge of BBC radio. I began fully-listening when Ellis Cashmore appeared as a 'witness'. Cashmore is 'professor' of Culture, Media and Sport, surely the Andrex of academic disciplines. You can listen to him on the website - it's the programme about celebrity - he appears at about twenty minutes. You may need a new laptop as these machines don't take kindly to being flung across the room. The gist of what Cashmore said was contained in his line 'Cultures are no better or worse than each other'. Right then, Prof, here's my time machine and, woosh, here we are in Tiananmen Square during Mao's Cultural - geddit? - Revolution. You, being an intellectual, are about to be stamped to death for the entertainment of the peasants. Luckily, I am on hand to, first, console you with the thought that all cultures are equal and, secondly, to operate the time machine and whisk you off to Germany in the thirties. I, having a Jewish mother, am being dragged off by Brown Shirts, but, luckily, you are on hand to console me with the thought that all cultures are equal. Sadly, you cannot operate the time machine.... Who are these people? What are they for?
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 11:22 am