Magazine article The Spectator

Truths and Fallacies

Magazine article The Spectator

Truths and Fallacies

Article excerpt

Immigration. Were you aware that this has become a bit of a problem these past ten years? I wasn't, obviously, because like all credulous idiots I get my news from a single trusted source, the BBC, and as a result I've known for some time now that immigration is great, regardless of what the facts and figures are.

I know, for example, that all those warnings by evil right-wing MPs about a potential 'flood' which might 'swamp' Britain were dangerously inflammatory 'dog-whistle' politics; that eastern Europeans have a work ethic that puts our native population to shame; that all the cleverest think tanks tell us that immigration represents a boon to our economy; that we are a nation of immigrants and that this is what has made us great; that anyone who thinks otherwise is 'racist'; and so on.

This week the BBC tried a cunning new variant on this theme called The Truth about Immigration (BBC2, Tuesday). By roping in notionally right-leaning Nick Robinson to present it and by trailing it as some kind of massive volte-face the BBC sought to give the impression that it was saying something new, controversial and daring.

It wasn't really, though. Sure, there were some sops to reality: interviews with dejected native northerners (including a secondgeneration Asian), upset by the Roma gangs hanging around on street corners and dumping rubbish everywhere; ex-Labour minister Jack Straw expressing 'regret' at the way his administration had underestimated the scale of immigration by a factor of ten; scenes of English people at the New Forest show wondering where their country had gone. Underneath all that distracting surface detail, though, here was the same old BBC feigning a critique of Britain's disastrous immigration policy but ending up presenting an apologia for it.

Consider, for example, its predictably lazy analysis of Enoch Powell's 1968 Rivers of Blood speech. According to the programme, this was what for years after rendered all serious discussion of the race and immigration issue politically untenable. What it didn't attempt to grapple with, though, was why this might have been.

Was Powell's speech disturbing, lurid, nightmarish - inflammatory even? Why yes, very likely, but that was rather the point - much as, say, Fiver's blood-drenched visions were in Watership Down. You don't deliver urgent warnings in such a way as to lull your audience into complacency, do you? …

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