READERS of this paper are probably unaware that TV programmes are broadcast on Sunday mornings. Not, as anyone would assume in this Christian land, church services and acts of devotion, but other stuff deemed suitable for a secular people.
BBC1’s flagship offering is The Andrew Marr Show, an hour-long analysis of news and current affairs which is able to get the key political players into the studio to explain themselves and set out our future.
Given the national crisis enveloping us, I had hoped that Sunday’s edition would throw calm illumination on to the rising confusion. Alas, despite (as it seemed) everyone’s attempts to present nothing other than positive reason, it felt like a diabolical hurdy-gurdy, churning out through some malign agency the same cracked and discarded tunes that long ago drove us to despair, hailing the dawn of the new week with doom-laden hopelessness.
How positive, on the other hand, to see a stirring defence of the doctrine of the incarnation on BBC4 — whether or not that was the intention of the terrific Me, My Selfie and I with Ryan Gander (Monday). Ryan Gander presented a compelling account of the radical difference of our current dispensation, in which every public and private place and event is recorded by people taking mobile-phone snaps of themselves.
He was refreshingly moral: as he said, only a few years ago, we would have considered this behaviour vain, egotistical, hubristically placing ourselves at the heart of everything. And not just for our personal gaze, to be recollected in tranquillity: the whole point is then to broadcast the miserable image throughout the world.
We now define ourselves, he argued, technologically: our popularity is measured entirely by the number of retweets or Facebook friends that we can muster. And the medium invites manipulation. Who knows if people online are actually who they say they are, or whether those are their actual selves or something entirely fictional?
Again and again, he found the possibility of digitally inventing a new persona deeply unsatisfactory, and essentially degrading. Disembodied persons, electronic but not enfleshed, are not real: they’re fantasy and a dead end. Incarnation, indeed.
It is always encouraging to see Richard Dawkins talk about Jesus, and, as he invented the term, it was only right to include him in How to Go Viral: The art of the meme with Richard Clay (BBC4, Wednesday of last week).
The presenter seemed to lap up wholesale all the kinds of errors skewered by Gander. Have philosophers even accepted the value of Dawkins’s concept of the meme, a small bit of cultural stuff with life and energy of its own, analogous to the biological gene? If so, to give as one good example the cross of Christ, when its contemporary manifestation appears to be adding an ironic joke to a photo of cute cats, is to be so broad as to be worthless.