Radio review: In the Right, Five Live Investigates, and The Monster Downstairs

05 April 2019

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THERE may be some hardened academics who think otherwise, but most would agree that shouting “Fire!” in a crowded place constitutes a dangerous provocation rather than a social experiment. Similarly, the Canadian opinionista and YouTube star Lauren Southern is pushing her luck when she suggests that, by distributing leaflets in Luton city centre asserting that Allah is a gay god, she is engaging in a “social experiment”.

Southern was featured, alongside other agitators, in Lara Whyte’s intriguing documentary In the Right (Radio 4, Tuesday of last week), about the alt-Right and its feminine side. It seems that, increasingly, the most effective proponents of right-wing radicalism are women; and their voices are being used to soften and rebrand an image that is traditionally associated with the male skinhead.

Southern has now been banned from the UK, but we have some homegrown examples, such as Lucy Brown, a freelance photographer and publicist who took “a journey of self-discovery” that started with the Black Lives Matter movement, and ended with Tommy Robinson.

These are people who dislike the label “far Right”. Yet there is a seductive quality to the culture which Brown was prepared to admit. Why did she wear a Nazi necklace, enquired our presenter. Because it was “edgy, hipster”, Brown replied. The flippant superficiality of her attitude so undermines the persona that she wishes to project — of a thoughtful, intellectually liberated woman — that one can only suppose that she couldn’t really care less what we think of her.

Whoever does the PR for the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) deserves a medal: two substantial programmes were aired in the same week addressing the challenges of being a child of an alcoholic parent. NACOA runs a helpline, and has published some alarming figures about the number of children who have to clean up the mess, physical and emotional. And you cannot help but be moved by the accounts of NACOA volunteers’ telling bedtime stories to children otherwise deprived of any loving domestic routine.

Five Live Investigates (Sunday) took the form of a phone-in on the same subject; and the accounts of deception, shame, and abandonment flowed in. Liam Byrne MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children of Alcoholics, is better placed than some to affect policy in the area; and, last week, there was some financial commitment from the Government in this area.

The Monster Downstairs (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week) was presented in documentary format, and tellingly included an off-message remark by a young woman who was fed up with the labelling of alcoholism as a “disease”. By relieving the alcoholic from any responsibility, the child’s anger turns to guilt. “It’s not your fault,” the counsellor will say to the child: “it’s a disease.” But you cannot be angry with a disease as you can with a person. For some, at least, the more authentic and comprehensible line is going to be: “It’s not your fault; it’s theirs.”

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