Television

We all belong to Glasgow

Author: 

Charlotte Seleus

The Glasgow girls, are a group of school students from Drumchapel High School in Glasgow, who in 2005 took it upon themselves to campaign for the release of their friend Agnesa Murselaj, a Roma girl from Kosovo who was detained by immigration police in a dawn raid.

Agnesa’s whole family were placed in Yarls Wood detention centre and faced deportation back to a country where Roma people faced persecution.

A review of Glasgow Girls (15 July, BBC3).

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UKIP: whose favourite party?

In the run up to the May European elections, UKIP have been getting a lot of attention.

In the run up to the May European elections, UKIP have been getting a lot of attention.

A new book, Revolt on the Right, by academic Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford highlighted why the interest in UKIP. The book argues, more or less convincingly, that UKIP is now similar to, and as stable as other “radical right” populist parties around Europe (such as the Freedom Party of Austria, the Swiss Peoples Party or France’s Front National).

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Labour councils and bedroom tax

On 10 February, Channel 4 screened a ‘Dispatches’ documentary on “bedroom tax”.

On 10 February, Channel 4 screened a ‘Dispatches’ documentary on “bedroom tax”.

Many Labour councillors appeared on the programme denouncing the Government’s measures. Some of them even detailed how they were doing the bare minimum required of them by law to implement them. Our main priority is to protect our tenants, they said.

The Labour Party has pledged to scrap the tax on coming to power.

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End sweatshops! Support Bangladeshi workers!

When Rana Plaza, a multistorey building housing garment factories, collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka in April 2013 the focus of the world media was on the conditions of Bangladeshi workers.

It seemed that a turning point might be reached in their fight for rights. But a new investigation by ITV journalists, featuring the campaigning NGO Labour Behind the Label, has shown that little has changed for the better.

A review of Exposure: Fashion Factories Uncovered (ITV, 6 February 2014).

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Why socialists should have nothing to do with Russia Today

Thom Hartmann is a prominent left-wing radio broadcaster from the USA. I first came across him when he interviewed me at a conference in Washington and was promptly told by everyone just how prominent he is. He describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and his nationally-syndicated radio show has an estimated 2.75 million listeners. George Galloway needs no introduction to a left-wing audience in the UK.

Russia Today is a mouthpiece for the Putin state and Russian imperialism, argues Eric Lee.

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Surveying homophobia

A review of Out There (Stephen Fry and Fergus O’Brien, BBC, 2013)

In this two part documentary, Stephen Fry and the director Fergus O’Brien set out to survey what the situation is for LGBT people around the world.

A laudable task, and a good way to use your celebrity. In some ways the documentary lives up to its good intentions to expose homophobia across the world; the interviews with victims and survivors of some of the most extreme consequences of homophobia moved me.

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Thatcher destroyed working-class lives

Workers’ Liberty activists Karen Waddington and Jean Lane appeared on the BBC’s Big Question debate programme on Sunday 14 April, discussing Thatcher’s death.

Karen and Jean were involved in Women Against Pit Closures and other class-struggle activity during Thatcher’s government. The poet Benjamin Zephaniah also appeared on the show.


Nothing changed for me the day Thatcher died. My local authority is still suffering from cuts, and people in my village are still suffering from the devastation caused by Thatcher’s pit closures.

Workers’ Liberty activists Karen Waddington and Jean Lane appeared on the BBC’s Big Question debate programme on Sunday 14 April, discussing Thatcher’s death. Karen and Jean were involved in Women Against Pit Closures and other class-struggle activity during Thatcher’s government. The poet Benjamin Zephaniah also appeared on the show.

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Youth of today: confounding the stereotypes

Derren Brown introduces his two-part Apocalypse program with a comment on the "youth of today". He explains that his subject, Stephen Burrell, is a typical of young men in 21st century Britain. Brown explains "he is selfish, lacks a sense of responsibility and drive, most of all he lacks a sense of compassion to his friends and family...Stephen is, in my mind, symptomatic of a general malaise where people feel, I guess, a sense of entitlement."

Derren Brown's Apocalypse had some lessons in human solidarity.

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Here's looking at you

The idea of “male gaze” flows from a psychoanalytical/philosophical theory brought into wider use by Jacques Lacan, but it is a huge subject and difficult to summarise.

According to this theory, and to put it at its most crude, the “gaze” is the relationship between the subject’s desire to look and the knowledge that one can also be viewed. The idea is that in our desire to look, we realise we can be looked upon. Then we lose some of our ability to govern our own behaviour; this process is tied into the idea of ego. We change our behaviour in accordance with who we wish to be.

The idea of “male gaze” flows from a psychoanalytical/philosophical theory brought into wider use by Jacques Lacan, but it is a huge subject and difficult to summarise.

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Zola's vision of socialism

Au Bonheur des Dames is one of Zola's most interesting novels.

The BBC are now showing a major adaptation of one of Emile Zola’s more neglected novels 'Au Bonheur des Dames' (sometimes translated as 'The Ladies Paradise'). This is a good excuse as any to look again at a great but overlooked work.

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A positive view of Asperger's?

Detective Saga Noren in The Bridge was fairly clearly high-functioning autistic, having Asperger Syndrome or being somewhere nearby on the autistic spectrum.

This portrayal was, I felt, broadly positive. Saga is an intelligent woman, capable in her field of work, with focus and a useful detachment.

Detective Saga Noren in The Bridge was a utopian portrayal of an adult Aspie woman.

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Lines of enquiry

The Bridge was the latest BBC4 programmed Scandinavian crime dramas, which sentenced it to inevitable comparisons with previous successes such as The Killing.

As someone who really rated The Killing, I initially fell into this trap: being dissatisfied by the first couple of episodes, wanting The Killing theme music to kick in, etc. But by about halfway through I think The Bridge definitely held its own, and managed to keep the intensity of drama throughout, whereas I feel The Killing began to tail off towards the end.

A review of Danish/Swedish crime drama The Bridge.

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Intransigence and betrayal in the General Strike

Tim Thomas continues a series of articles on the British Film Institute’s Ken Loach retrospective with a review of Days of Hope, his TV series looking at class struggle in early 20th century Britain.

Jim Allen, author of the reprehensible play Perdition, wrote the script for this 4-part TV production. Allen’s themes, intensely focused on the class struggle, are about intransigence and betrayal in real historical circumstances — here, the history of working-class organisation from the First World War to the General Strike.

The British Film Institute’s Ken Loach retrospective includes Days of Hope, his TV series looking at class struggle in early 20th century Britain.

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Learning disbilities: not out of sight

Like anyone else who watched it, I felt sickened by Panorama’s expose of how people with learning disabilities were tortured by their carers at a private hospital near Bristol (31 May).

As a social worker who works with adults with learning disabilities I review placements like Winterbourne hospital fairly frequently. I’ve never seen anything like the treatment shown by the programme, but my heart often sinks when I walk into these places.

The treatment of people with learning disabilities is worsening as cuts bite.

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Adam Curtis and his “yellow brick road”

Adam Curtis documentaries have become their own genre. When you watch one you get an idiosyncratic TV essay, illustrated with a montage of old films, archive footage and adverts. The films are always fascinating but can also be infuriating.

Curtis says his latest documentary series, “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, is about how the dream of liberation by technology has gone sour. But the programme is more about the idea of self-organising networks and the failure of an ideology of extreme individualism.

A review of “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, a BBC2 series by Adam Curtis.

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Return of the slums?

In this programme, author and journalist Michael Collins reviewed the history of council housing and interviewed some of the people whose lives were shaped by it. He presented it as a social experiment with a legacy of failure, and described the vision of “council housing for all” as “utopian”. The programme nonetheless went some way to redressing Tory and right-wing denigration.

A review of BBC2's "The Great Estate: The Rise and Fall of the Council House".

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Frankie Boyle: not a joking matter

In defending broadcasting comedian Frankie Boyle's “joke” about the eight year old disabled son of Katie Price, Channel 4 essentially had this to say: Price had already exploited her son by putting him in the media spotlight, so why shouldn't we? What a rotten, self-serving argument.

Defending freedom of speech should not stop us saying that making a joke at the expense of a child is wrong.

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Uncovering the truth about human society

In our highly manufactured world, it is useful to be reminded that we are all part of nature and everything in our world is sourced from natural materials. The world we live in is the product of human hands adapting and manipulating the forces of nature. In many respects, this Marxist understanding of ecology is the message of the BBC’s latest nature series 'Human Planet'.

“[The capitalist mode of production] is based on the dominion of man [sic] over nature. Where nature is too lavish, she “keeps him in hand, like a child in leading-strings.” She does not impose upon him any necessity to develop himself. It is not the tropics with their luxuriant vegetation, but the temperate zone, that is the mother country of capital.

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Travellers: beyond the stereotypes

According to the BBC, the documentary series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is Channel 4's most popular programme since Big Brother in 2008, peaking at 7.4 million viewers.

Unsurprisingly, the show concentrates on stereotypes: horse fairs, lavish wedding dresses and bare-knuckle fighting. Despite the title, most people featured are Irish Travellers rather than Roma and the issues facing the community are barely mentioned.

A review of Channel 4's 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'.

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The real Ann Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe has become something of a “national treasure” after her performance on Strictly Come Dancing. She has been praised for her “good nature and resourcefulness”. Voted back week on week showed people were actually warming to her.

But Ann Widdecombe who has been a Tory MP in Maidstone since 1987, is a supporter of “social conservatism” — read social engineering.

She is a dedicated anti abortionist, has opposed every equality measure concerning homosexuality in Parliament and defended the policy of shackling pregnant women to their hospital beds.

Ann Widdecombe is a walking talking advertisement for true Toryism and a mean spirited, anti-feminist, narrow-minded, nasty bigot to boot.

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Religion, race and class in Israel

Two Workers’ Liberty activists — Louise Gold and Rosie Huzzard — who were on a recent delegation to Israel and Palestine reflect on Louis Theroux: Ultra Zionists, shown on BBC2 in early February, and the first episode of The Promise, a drama based in 1940s Palestine and modern day Israel and the West Bank, Channel 4, Sundays.

Two Workers’ Liberty activists who were on a recent delegation to Israel and Palestine reflect on BBC2's 'Louis Theroux: Ultra Zionists' and 'The Promise', a Channel 4 drama based in 1940's Palestine and modern day Israel and the West Bank.

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X Factor toxins

Daniel Randall (Solidarity 3-190) says he doesn’t want to get snobbish about the fact that people like watching the X Factor. Fair enough.

Except socialists should not abandon critical judgement in an effort to be laid back and non-judgemental. The X Factor, and most shows like it, really are toxic viewing.

Socialists should not abandon critical judgement in an effort to be laid back and non-judgemental. The X Factor and most shows like it really are toxic viewing.

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It's all normal out there!

When an event as earth-shattering as the uprising in Tunisia happens, the BBC has its finger on the pulse.

A BBC News Channel presenter turned on Frank Gardner, the security correspondent who was once shot while on assignment in Saudi Arabia, leaving him wheelchair bound for life, and asked the all-important question:

“Frank, there are reports that President Ben Ali has fled the country, how will that change things for the British tourists still there?”

When an event as earth-shattering as the uprising in Tunisia happens, the BBC has its finger on the pulse. The News Channel had a correspondent at Gatwick airport who was “monitoring the situation” for British tourists.

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Market freedom

Author: 

Jordan Savage

The BBC struck a surprising blow against the right-wing of American Republicanism this week, with Andrew Neil’s documentary “Tea Party America” (BBC 2, Monday 7pm).

The hour-long film investigates the origin and growth of America’s “Tea Party” movement.

Tea Party activist Liz Matz sums up the movement’s anti-Obama, anti-Big Government agenda in the phrase: “Progressivism is stateism, and they both add up to Socialism.”

Andrew Neil’s documentary “Tea Party America” struck a surprising blow against right-wing Republicanism.

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Unemployment: no fairy tale endings

Author: 

Cath Fletcher

Out of work? Stuck on benefits? Not any more, thanks to Channel 4’s Fairy Job Mother. This latest contribution to the new TV genre of ‘’austerity chic’’ aims to get people off the dole and into a job. With the help of a spot of life-coaching and a new haircut. Yes, that’s what you need to beat unemployment in the world of Con-Dem cuts.

A review of Channel 4’s 'Fairy Job Mother'

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Buckfast: Scotland's major problem?

Author: 

David McDonald

Violence, religious conspiracy, boozy teenagers. The Buckfast Code certainly provided low-brow entertainment. Unfortunately, it also missed an opportunity to explore poverty in one of Europe’s most deprived “prosperous nations”.

Buckfast remains relatively unknown to the majority of Britain, perhaps because 60% of sales are concentrated in Scotland. A low quality wine costing the same as the average supermarket red; at 15% it is also similar in alcohol volume. What separates it is the 281 micrograms of caffeine per bottle.

A review of 'The Buckfast Code' (BBC Scotland, 18 January) about the cheap, strong wine produced by Benedictine monks, 60% of which is sold in Scotland.

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The X-files: Government shields Nazi scientists' experiments on aliens

Author: 

Ruah Carlyle

This could be a headline in the Daily Sport or, quite plausibly, a plot for The X-files, the hugely popular imported American sci-fi TV series on BBC1. Slickly made and entertaining, it plays on every paranoid conspiracy theory and on every wildest wet dream. It is total bilge!

A critical review of conspiracy sci-fi TV show 'The X-files'.

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Russia: Stalin is back

Author: 

David Kirk

Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed. Joseph Stalin

In Britain genealogists can be found in your local library. In Russia they can end up behind bars. This was one of the many illuminating and worrying facts in John Sweeney’s brave but flawed documentary (Stalin’s back? BBC2, 2 December) about the way Stalin’s reputation is being rehabilitated by the current Russian regime.

A review of "Stalin's back?", a BBC documentary on how the history of Stalinist Russia is being rewritten by Putin's nationalist and authoritarian regime.

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Channel 4 on Israel Lobby: Back the Palestinians, Reject 'Jew Conspiracy' Theories

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Editorial

The plain facts will impart a strong bias against Israel in any simple, straightforwardly honest report of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Today it is a David and Goliath story, with the Palestinians in the David and Israel in the Goliath role. Whether measured by economic weight, by military strength, or by diplomatic clout the disproportion between the strengths of the David and the Goliath is simply enormous.

Channel Four's 'Dispatches' claimed to have uncovered a powerful pro-Israel lobby controlling much of British politics. In reality, it fed into a long history of anti-semitic conspiracy theories.

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Debunking racist myths

Author: 

Bruce Robinson

Bruce Robinson reviews Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo, 26 October, Channel 4. (Still viewable on Channel 4’s website).

Somali-born Rageh Omaar’s programme entered the “dangerous territory” of the purported relationship between race and intelligence. Every few years it reappears in the form of the assertion that IQ tests show black people to be less intelligent than whites and that this is caused by genetic differences.

Bruce Robinson reviews <i>Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo</i>, 26 October, Channel 4.

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