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Radio review: The Silence of the Liberals, You're Doing It Wrong, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

16 March 2018


The journalist Nick Cohen presented The Silence of the Liberals (Radio 4, Monday of last week)

The journalist Nick Cohen presented The Silence of the Liberals (Radio 4, Monday of last week)

I HAD not seen the description “authored documentary” attached to a BBC radio programme before. Last week, it was used with reference to The Silence of the Liberals (Radio 4, Monday of last week), Nick Cohen’s examination of left-wing tolerance in the face of the sexist and homophobic practices of immigrant communities.

It is fair to say that Cohen’s personality was all over this programme. But, if one were inclined to believe Cohen’s analysis — that the liberal Left is not just evasive when it comes to censoring cultural traditions of intolerance, but is downright obstructive to organisations that are campaigning for change — then the BBC’s “authored documentary” epithet might be regarded as just the kind of thing that he is complaining about. “The views expressed in this documentary are not the views of the Corporation, etc., etc.”

The title of the piece is provocation in itself: the implication that we are all off to the moral slaughterhouse if we do not hold the line that Peter Tatchell, interviewed here, would have us hold, of universal human rights. We heard from organisations such as Tell Mama and One Law for All — both of them run by progressive Muslims — which campaign against gender discrimination in their own communities.

These are bodies that receive no support from left-wing politicians, who have in the past been content to rail against apartheid and Pinochet, but will say nothing about human-rights abuses in Iran.

The silence of the liberals, Cohen argues, is born of a resurgent and reformed Orientalism: that contemptuous, colonial attitude towards Eastern cultures which Edward Said famously nailed 40 years ago. Today, Orientalism presents as something like a patronising indulgence of the cultural eccentricities found in less enlightened peoples. Ouch! No wonder nobody from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party wanted to talk for the programme.

Sometimes, it is your job to be patronising: by definition, when you are a father. Yet the extent of one’s indulgence as a parent is rarely easy to regulate, and easy to criticise. You’re Doing It Wrong (Radio 4, Wednesday) was the comedian Adam Buxton’s take on the challenge of parenting.

The good news is that we all did it, are doing it, or are going to do it, wrong — but in different ways, depending on which generation you belong to. In the old days, you left your baby in the garden for long stretches so the darling did not get obsessively attached. The last time I looked, it was all about controlled crying: in other words, leaving your baby for long stretches (garden optional).

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is back for a new series (Radio 4, Mondays). This is an adaptation of Douglas Adams’s sixth book; if you are like me, and thought there was only one book, then this is not for you. Listeners will need to bring to this a huge dollop of good will, earned from previous outings, to cope with the over-complicated narrative, the Tolstoyan dramatis personae, and the predictably nerdy humour. You’re better off with the original and a large Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.

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