It is quite simply the best programme we have in news. It seeks out the thoughtful and literate and sets them apart from the cliche-spouting, whiny-voiced clones that abound in today's news environment.Which I guess just proves that Fergal himself doesn’t pay too close attention to “the best program we have in news.” How else does one reconcile Keane’s claim with the fact that Justin Webb features so regularly as a contributor to the program?
Webb, of course, will be well known to TAE readers as having produced such “thoughtful” FOOC gems as uncovering the “revelation” that honest and reasonable debate occurs in the US…even amongst Republicans and religious people!
But that barely scratches the surface. As far as clichés go, one barely knows where to begin.
There was, of course, the FOOC feature in which Webb informed us that “Americans know they have short attention spans, but they cannot concentrate for long enough to work out what to do about it.”
Not long after, Webb was pontificating on that non-cliché of American prudery, (mis-) informing his audience that the phrase “Oh my God” is “unacceptable blasphemy” in America. (How one of the most popular shows in American television history had a recurring character whose signature line was a shouted “OH – MY – GOD!” goes unexplained.) He then went on to report, with relieved happiness, that American squeamishness about all things sexual did not intrude upon the birth of his American-born daughter, thanks to the “gloriously un-American” hospital staff.
Just a couple weeks ago Webb had a go at describing Texans, who are, he says “not sophisticated thinkers on world affairs,” although “they are at home with guns.” No cliché in that, is there?
And of course Webb could not miss out on using what seems to be the one of the most used clichés amongst BBC staff, that being the notion that “America is fast becoming a nation of faith not fact.” (Becoming? However religious Americans may be, the notion that they are “becoming” more so than in the past is absurd.)
Webb can’t even resist clichés that are a decade out of date, portraying the first President Bush as an out-of-touch patrician by peddling a long-since debunked myth about Bush and grocery store technology as a fact.
Webb is, on the other hand, honest enough to let us know when one of his long held clichés turns out to be false. Thus, after his visit to Mississippi, FOOC gave us his “thoughtful” reflections in which he revealed to a no doubt disbelieving world – certainly he was astonished - that there actually are white people and black people in America who got along with each other! And, equally astonishing to Webb, religious people are not all charlatans. Some of them actually do good works. Who would have believed it?
Fergal Keane – and the BBC – would have you believe that From Our Own Correspondent is set apart from the normal “cliche-spouting” journalism of today’s news by the “thoughtful” reporters asked to contribute. If that is so, then the BBC needs to explain why Justin Webb features so regularly on it.