*** DEBUG END ***

Radio review: Reasons to be Cheerful, and Archive on 4: The alliance

29 January 2021

Ed Miliband co-hosts the podcast Reasons to be Cheerful (released every Monday) with Geoff Lloyd

Ed Miliband co-hosts the podcast Reasons to be Cheerful (released every Monday) with Geoff Lloyd

AS CAREER progressions go, it is one of the more unexpected: that Ed Miliband, whose adenoidal rhetoric led the Labour Party to defeat in the 2015 General Election, should reinvent himself as a suave, sweet-talking radio presenter.

His regular gig is the podcast that he co-hosts with Geoff Lloyd, Reasons to be Cheerful (cheerfulpodcast.com, released every Monday). The blurb promises an “uplifting” radiophonic experience; the result of a great “banter-based chemistry” between the hosts. In other words, like most podcasts, it is padded out with wittering and self-congratulatory laughter.

But don’t be put off by the first ten minutes of the Miliband-Lloyd offering — which last week covered Miliband’s penchant for tahini, sesame, and butternut-squash soup, and asked whether the former Labour leader resembled a badger. After such niceties were set aside, we got on to an insightful discussion of social-media censorship.

Why the subject should present a “reason to be cheerful” is anyone’s guess, since it requires negotiating between the rock of Trumpist incitement and the hard place of civil liberties. Nobody wants Mark Zuckerberg to be the arbiter of propriety here; on the other hand, there is a widespread feeling that something must be done.

The approach of the expert witnesses was to blame the algorithms, whose determining logic is to create networks that can be exploited by advertisers. Algorithms don’t care that they connect the disaffected to groups who turn disaffection into violence. The oft-repeated defence is that social-media companies are platforms, not publishers. But, says Professor Lorna Woods, they should be treated like public spaces, and thus subject to the same statutory duty of care which regulates a bus stop or a theatre. If a floorboard is loose and causes somebody to trip, you cannot take the floorboard to court; but you can claim against the proprietor for a failure in health and safety.

Had Ronald Reagan had access to Twitter, would his famous speech of 1987, at which he demanded that the Soviets “tear down this wall”, have been delivered not at the Brandenburg Gate, but as a tweet? In the post-Trump era, it is hard to remember what diplomacy used to be like. As described in Archive on 4: The alliance (Radio 4, Saturday), the “holy alliance” between Reagan and Pope John Paul II loses some of its resonance until one remembers that international messaging worked at a rather slower pace.

Nevertheless, the significance of the Pope’s 1979 visit to Poland was not forgotten by General Jaruzelski, who understood it to be the detonator under his regime. The big question — unanswered here — was how co-ordinated the United States and the Vatican were in this period; and to what extent their two leaders, both survivors of assassination attacks, shared the view that they had been saved to carry out a common mission against Soviet tyranny.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

Job of the Week


Organists and Layworkers

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)