Sean Gabb v Esther Rantzen – Tonight on BBC Radio 5


by Sean Gabb

I do intend to write a Director’s Bulletin in the next day or so. This will tell you about all our broadcasting and publishing and general  outreach of the past fortnight – and it has been a lot.

For the moment, though, I’m writing to say that I’m on BBC  Radio 5 his evening – Saturday 4th June at 22:00 BST – to discuss whether  there should be laws to stop children from dressing in provocative ways and  from watching certain kinds of music video. I’ll be up against Esther Rantzen and some Tory MP whose name is still unknown.

It will be a phone-in programme, with the ability to receive  text messages and e-mails. It’s also broadcast on the Web, so it can be heard  all over the world. I’d be most grateful if you could find the time to support  me tonight. If you call in, you will probably not get on air. But the weight of  texts and e-mails can be  impressive – especially if they come from abroad.

Here are the details:

Steve Nolan Show
10pm-Midnight BST, Saturday 4th June 2011
BBC Radio 5
909/693 AM
http://www.bbc.co.uk/5live/
Call 0500 909 693
Text 85058
Email 606@bbc.co.uk

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15 responses to “Sean Gabb v Esther Rantzen – Tonight on BBC Radio 5

  1. C H Ingoldby

    I just heard the news bulletin on Radio 5. A snippet of Esther Rantzen denouncing the evils of push up bras for young girls.

    Let me guess the logic; something bad exists, therefore goverment intervention and regulation is needed. How did the discussion go?

  2. I said everything I wanted, then had the microphones turned off.

  3. C H Ingoldby

    They invited on to their show and then turned your microphone off? Seriously? What did you say that scared them so much?

  4. Well, FWIW I tried phoning in anyway, they phoned me back and said they’d put me on after the news break, but chose that Scottish fuckwit instead, which was a bit disappointing. I’d made notes and everything :)

    They asked me what I wanted to say, and I said that it’s a moral panic, and the BBC dude then asked me what a moral panic is, so that wasn’t very encouraging anyway.

    One minor criticism Sean; although you got a lot of very good points in, when the lady from Mediawatch UK said she hadn’t got a secret censorship agenda you could have retorted that her organisation is the renamed Viewers And Listeners Association founded by one Mary Whitehouse, which has furiously campaigned for nothing but censorship for 40 years.

    Also, it was Ruskin who was disgusted by his wife’s body.

  5. Thanks re the information. I thought it was Ruskin, but couldn’t be sure. And I was wondering about Mediawatch UK, but when in doubt, it’s best not to make a fool of yourself with positive accusations.

    I was booked to do the programme right up to midnight. I was all alone in the umanned Dover studio. As the first newsbreak was announced, I was summarily thanked for my contribution, and the microphone was turned off. That means I heard no more of the programme.

    I had this done to be back in 2004 or whenever when I embarrassed Yasmin Alibhai Brown. Since I avoided being rude to anyone, I can only assume that Queen Esther didn’t welcome the sort of attack I was making.

  6. C H Ingoldby

    So, the discussion continued, but without you?

  7. I’ve just listened to the programme (the relevant part of it). You put your views perfectly calmly and politely, but the response of the other contributors seemed to me to indicate that they didn’t understand you! It may be that they wilfully misunderstood you, but I doubt it. A pretty good illustration of why an argument that is in any way “libertarian” has absolutely no traction with…well, almost anybody who doesn’t read this blog!

  8. I think they turned off Esther’s microphone then as well, so maybe nothing specific to you Sean. IIRC they went to the news, then when it came back it was to the Scotch caller declaring that his “wife was still playing with dolls at the age of 14″ and that he’d seen a 7 year old girl in a porn star tee shirt, oh, disgraceful, something must be done.

    Then they moved on to another subject.

  9. You put your views perfectly calmly and politely, but the response of the other contributors seemed to me to indicate that they didn’t understand you! It may be that they wilfully misunderstood you, but I doubt it.

    My own reckoning from listening was that the Mediawatch woman was just a deluded liar. Rantzen I would categorise as being the kind of person described by GK Chesterton-

    I had thought of calling the next sort of superficial people the Idealists; but I think this implies a humility towards impersonal good they hardly show; so I call them the Autocrats. They are those who give us generally to understand that every modern reform will “work” all right, because they will be there to see. Where they will be, and for how long, they do not explain very clearly. I do not mind their looking forward to numberless lives in succession; for that is the shadow of a human or divine hope. But even a theosophist does not expect to be a vast number of people at once. And these people most certainly propose to be responsible for a whole movement after it has left their hands. Each man promises to be about a thousand policemen. If you ask them how this or that will work, they will answer, “Oh, I would certainly insist on this”; or “I would never go so far as that”; as if they could return to this earth and do what no ghost has ever done quite successfully — force men to forsake their sins. Of these it is enough to say that they do not understand the nature of a law any more than the nature of a dog. If you let loose a law, it will do as a dog does. It will obey its own nature, not yours. Such sense as you have put into the law (or the dog) will be fulfilled. But you will not be able to fulfill a fragment of anything you have forgotten to put into it.

  10. C H Ingoldby

    I just found the link to the show. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00hczgl

    When people use the phrase ‘to send a message’ I get worried. Rantzen repeatedly stated that a law was needed to ‘send a message’. That justifies bad and inadequate laws, laws that don’t actually do any good, because they are ‘sending a message’.

    I thought Mr Gabb did very well, sticking to the central point of government power expanding to cover all parents, not just bad ones and not being diverted from that by the red herrings.

    Incidentially, governments have attempted to regulate peoples clothing on moral grounds in the past. This has always failed and ended up being ridiculed. I’m thinking of the Roman sumptuary laws as well as Medieval attempts in England. I wonder how it would work in practice today? A bureau of clothing inspectors swooping down to make fashion judgements on how enticing a skirt is? The whole idea is ripe for utter ridicule.

  11. A bureau of clothing inspectors swooping down to make fashion judgements on how enticing a skirt is? The whole idea is ripe for utter ridicule.

    I think the aim here is for an “Office of Public Morals” whose remit will be unbounded; not just clothes, or music videos, or whatnot, but any aspect of society will be subject to this mutaween. They’ve basically been seeking something like that for two centuries, but had to make do with particular limited versions (e.g. the Lord Chamberlain censoring theatres, BBFC censoring movies etc). The idea would be a superquango empowered to enquire into and control whatever they wish.

    The implications for somebody wishing to manufacture a “Bollocks To Blair” tee shirt are fairly obvious.

    We’ve been heading this way since the announcement of “joined up government”.

  12. C H Ingoldby

    ”I think the aim here is for an “Office of Public Morals” whose remit will be unbounded; ”

    In practice it is actually quite scary. Semi educated, jobsworth social workers making decisions about taking children away from their families on the basis of a completely subjective judgement about how ‘approriate’ their clothes are.

    The grounds for injustices to occur are very broad.

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  14. Surely any attempt to legislate morality is a mistake because it leads, indeed it invites, the “morality police” to be set up (and who will they be?) and also invites people to spy on their neighbours. We can add Prohibition to Ingoldby’s list, too. If that worked so well, why was it abandoned?

  15. Not sure what “joined up government” means or refers to (been out of the country for so long), but the phrase reminded me of something Mr. Lassange said in a recent interview: “What happens in the West is that there is no border between state interests and commercial interests.” (7:37 on this youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp8rJVWC2a0 )