This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Complaint to the BBC

Complaint to the BBC - Comments

Corylus's Avatar Comment 1 by Corylus

That's the spirit, Paula!

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 17:46:31 UTC | #897564

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 2 by Steve Zara

Brilliant. This needs to be said, and I love the phrase 'cheap publicity for the religion industry'. The way religion ambulance-chases is sickening.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 17:50:36 UTC | #897565

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 3 by Rich Wiltshir

Excellent response, and superb leadership on this theme, Paula. Many thanks.

This is my post to the site:

Where's the news in this piece?
There is no level of education, information or entertainment in an article which reminds us that religious institutions will strive to leach off the innocent victims of any tragedy.

It's quite disappointing to see the globe's premier news media being hijacked by the publicity machine of institutions that will turn the huge sorrows and life-long agonies of the suurviving children into a fund-raising opportunity for their vulgar activities.

I can understand the desire to maximise column inches for a reporter who may have no other stories to relate, but religious marketing serves no honourable purpose.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 18:13:26 UTC | #897573

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 4 by Peter Grant

Tweeted it thrice, reblogged it twice and liked it at once :D

http://atheiststoned.tumblr.com/post/14021767492/complaint-to-the-bbc-paula-kirby

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 18:26:07 UTC | #897575

jel's Avatar Comment 5 by jel

I saw this as one of those rolling news items under the main news today, while sat in the pub, and it immediately made me angry. Well done Paula but I don't hold out any hope for Auntie to stop this terrible habit.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 19:05:29 UTC | #897588

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 6 by Marcus Small

Please stop publicising their tawdry efforts to turn a genuine human tragedy into religious propaganda.

I suspect that the local clergy are ask by some reporter if they are praying, to which the response would be yes.

I do find it a bit cringey though.

If you are going to pray ' do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing on the street corners to be seen, rather go into your room, close the door and pray.'

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 19:40:45 UTC | #897598

Layla's Avatar Comment 7 by Layla

I agree it's a complete non-story but:

There isn't a single detail in this new report that adds anything above the fact that the religious scavengers are now, predictably, swooping in to feast on it in their own macabre fashion.

That just made me laugh because it's so over the top. Religious people saying prayers gets translated into "religious scavengers feasting"? Prayer might be a waste of time from our perspective but they're doing it because they care about those that have been killed, they want to show their concern, they want to express their sadness, they want to rally together and comfort each other and feel better about life after a horrible tragedy. I feel like your description is kind of like the equivalent of seeing a report about people leaving flowers at the site of a tragedy and describing it as "pointless littering of the ground by swarms of the morbid".

I would urge you to avoid turning these tragic human stories into cheap publicity for the religion industry. Please stop publicising their tawdry efforts to turn a genuine human tragedy into religious propaganda.

I didn't see any propaganda anywhere in that report. They probably reported it so that people can attend the service for them.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 19:48:26 UTC | #897600

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 8 by ZenDruid

The only thing the media needs to report is when and where memorial services would be held.

That people pray for victims, in itself, is not news at all.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 19:56:12 UTC | #897603

HardNosedSkeptic's Avatar Comment 9 by HardNosedSkeptic

I agree with you about this Paula. It’s a habit that has annoyed me for a long time as well. And they don’t just do it on their website either – they do it in their TV and radio news broadcasts also.

I think it’s fair to say that it’s not just the BBC who indulges in this practice. Other news vendors do it as well. Here is a recent example from the Sky News website. So maybe we should consider making this a more general campaign, rather than one targeted just at the BBC?

Well done for sending in your complaint Paula. If you get a reply will you post that as well?

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 20:07:29 UTC | #897608

danconquer's Avatar Comment 10 by danconquer

Comment 7 by Layla :

I didn't see any propaganda anywhere in that report. They probably reported it so that people can attend the service for them.

Hmm... I'm really in two minds about this! I mean, what if a group of people were to hold a séance? What then? Would the BBC report a séance in such matter-of-fact tones in their headlines just "so that people can attend"? Possibly not.

Bah, anyway... Poor BBC. They do walk a difficult tightrope... Under siege from the tabloids and Conservatory Party (slogan: 'Say No To Glass Warfare') politicians as a communist-atheist outlet "attacking Britain's Christian traditions"... And now accused of precisely the opposite on RDF...

My heart tells me that I agree with the basis of Paula's complaint... But then my head asks "Yeah, but what if thousands of people did plan to hold a séance?"... Surely the BBC should report that simple fact? If thousands of people take part in a vigil or a march after a killing, we all know that the vigil or march in itself will not make any practical difference... But the fact that a few hundred or thousand people take part in a particular ceremony is, in itself, perhaps justification for the BBC to report it?

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 20:17:20 UTC | #897611

Corylus's Avatar Comment 11 by Corylus

Paula is a word-smith. She knows what she is doing.

For the non-Brits, it is quite accepted that furious, florid, but flawlessly grammatical, language be used in complaint letters to media outlets.

This gets them read - and quoted. Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells is many things, but rarely ignored. They get read and published in a fit of condescension ... and then they get quietly thought about, by the readers if not the original recipients.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 20:43:33 UTC | #897616

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 12 by Paula Kirby

HardNosedSkeptic: If you get a reply will you post that as well?

Yes, of course! But I don't anticipate anything very meaningful.

danconquer: But then my head asks "Yeah, but what if thousands of people did plan to hold a séance?"... Surely the BBC should report that simple fact?

I see your point. But a seance would be newsworthy, for the simple reason that it's not the norm. If groups of spiritualists always held a seance in the wake of a tragedy, then it would cease to be news. And of course religious people are going to pray in the aftermath of an event like this. It doesn't need to have a special article devoted to it every single time. It's not news. The seance would be - or at least, it would be the first or second time it happened, but once it became the norm, there would be no more reason to report it. Praying after tragedies has been going on a very long time. It's not news. It certainly doesn't need a special follow-up article devoted to ensuring we're aware of it each time it happens.

Compassion is not limited to the religious. Concern is not limited to the religious. Shock is not limited to the religious. News reports carry brief interviews with concerned neighbours expressing their shock, but I can't remember the last time I saw a headline that declared, 'Neighbours concerned for suffering family', and a whole article devoted to more detail about it. Yet time after time, the BBC and other news outlets present people praying as though it were something newsworthy that we really needed to know about.

Layla: Religious people saying prayers gets translated into "religious scavengers feasting"?

No, not religious people saying prayers: religious people parading in front of the cameras before the bodies are cold, to make sure the world knows they are praying.

Imagine for a moment that every time there was a tragedy like this, a representative of Tesco, say, wriggled in front of a camera to say how much all the staff at Tesco grieved at the tragedy, and that they all sent their thoughts and sympathy to the victims, and that, as a token of their concern, they were sending the survivors £1000 in Tesco Clubcard points. Imagine that the interview took place with the person in Tesco uniform, in a Tesco supermarket. Imagine that this always happened, regardless of whether the victims shopped at Tesco or not. Would you see that as no more than a simple expression of genuine compassion on Tesco's part, or might it just possibly be seen as an advertising ploy on their part?

And if the BBC, say, always created a special news article to tell the world about how Tesco was reacting to the tragedy - but never did the same for any other individual or organisation - might it be reasonable to suspect them of bias?

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 20:51:08 UTC | #897618

Wendy Farts On Her Bible's Avatar Comment 13 by Wendy Farts On Her Bible

Excellent!

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:00:31 UTC | #897621

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 14 by Rich Wiltshir

@ comment 7, Layla

I didn't see any propaganda anywhere in that report. They probably reported it so that people can attend the service for them

Sadly Layla, I see lots. There's reinforcement of the centuries old assertion that church is good, preacher is good. There's the added publicity for the priest; it's another picture in his scrap book, another line on his CV, another 'as seen on tv' argument for others to go to church and see the famous cleric.

'No such thing as bad publicity,' is at play here, too. The advances of reason, science and intelligence-led attitudes to life and it's circumstances are hard fought yet (for many) remain brittle against the log-jam of supernatural gobbledegook that lingers in the stone towers and silly frocks of clerical officers.

I always challenge street preachers; yesterday's confrontation was with a bunch who stood under a High St tent offering shelter from the rain and prayers for christmas. They were bemused and generally speachless at my challenge because I guess, they're used to being ignored or gaining polite interactions.

That the buffoons can be challenged is an observation I'd like to share with their potential victims; it' not making a dent in religoon dogma, it IS reminding folk that religoon dogma is nothing but dents, is starting to tumble!

Apologies if this is a rant.

Rich

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:12:11 UTC | #897625

Layla's Avatar Comment 15 by Layla

Comment 12 by Paula Kirby

The Tesco analogy is funny but that would be seen as an advertising ploy because Tesco is solely a money making enterprise, the church serves as a focal point, meeting place, etc in the community already and clergy play a role helping people cope with the things life throws at them so it's not the same.

No, not religious people saying prayers: religious people parading in front of the cameras before the bodies are cold, to make sure the world knows they are praying.

Parading in front of the cameras before the bodies are cold to make sure the world knows they're praying? They're doing it publically to show their respect. That's what some people have been brought up to believe is an appropriate response to an event like this - join together with the rest of the community and express publically your collective feelings of sadness.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:20:40 UTC | #897628

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 16 by Paula Kirby

Rick Wiltshir: Sadly Layla, I see lots. There's reinforcement of the centuries old assertion that church is good, preacher is good.

I see propaganda in the very fact that every time there's a tragedy, they wheel out a vicar talking about how his church will pray for the victims. The fact that the church is brought in every single time sends out the message that the church is needed in order to get people through tragedies; that the church is relevant at such times; that somehow our concern would not be adequately expressed until it had been expressed through prayer.

Of course I don't dispute that the church does seem relevant and necessary to some religious believers at such times, and that they find comfort in such rituals. But that's a minority sport in the UK these days, so why do the media keep plugging it every time a tragedy occurs?

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:26:51 UTC | #897631

Graxan's Avatar Comment 17 by Graxan

That's excellent work Paula. It's good to see someone crystalising my own thoughts in a written complaint. I love the BBC, but find the amount of religion bias in their programming to be irritating. In particular I dislike the even weight given to the relious in discussion programs like on Ernie Ray's 'Beyond Belief' on Radio 4, who are allowed to voice their nonsense as fact. Drives me mad... Anyway keep it up!

Pete

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:31:42 UTC | #897633

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 18 by Paula Kirby

Graxan: Anyway keep it up!

I will - but please join in! :-)

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:42:26 UTC | #897636

Layla's Avatar Comment 19 by Layla

Comment 16 by Paula Kirby

Of course I don't dispute that the church does seem relevant and necessary to some religious believers at such times, and that they find comfort in such rituals. But that's a minority sport in the UK these days, so why do the media keep plugging it every time a tragedy occurs?

Probably because even though nowadays nobody really participates much in the church, it's still pretty much the only game in town for public services of an emotional-social type nature. It's the way we did things traditionally in Britain and so it's just kind of hanging on, numbers dwindling, until the day something truly supercedes it.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:45:01 UTC | #897640

cnocspeireag's Avatar Comment 20 by cnocspeireag

Paula, I'm surprised that you have respect for the BBC and use it's news output as your main way to keep abreast of developments. I must say that I used to, but real news coverage for the BBC (I listen to R4) was replaced some time ago by 'news lite'. If you want any professional coverage, let alone analysis, I find the BBC useless and a trawle through those bits of the international media not hiding behind a Murdoch paywall the only option.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 23:17:30 UTC | #897658

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 21 by Rich Wiltshir

@ 19 by Layla

The instruments and organs of religion rest solely on foundations of manipulations in history. This is why it's

"still pretty much the only game in town"

I've been pondering the forthcoming festival of bigots, the imposition of myth on infant minds. What three gifts does religoon offer us? Guilt, shame and subservience.

I admire the process of your thoughts on this posting but question the premise

"until the day something truly supercedes it."

Religoon has harnessed instincts of generosity and community and compassion to feather it's own nest. People are realising and releasing themselves from the blinkers.

This is a great time to be alive, to watch the wings of humanity pump fresh and reasoning blood into the wings of intelligence have been constricted UNTIL NOW. Vision supercedes blindness. Bloody wonderful,

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 00:02:22 UTC | #897670

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 22 by kaiserkriss

Paula, Thanks for putting in such fine words my EXACT thoughts earlier today when I read a story on the BBC( probably the same one) and almost vomited. It is not only the BBC that is guilty, but in fact most news outlets.

As if some mumbling by self appointed do-gooders will actually help the victim. Do they actually believe that or even think that far? Probably not. As for the survivors of the victims, some real comfort in the form of quick justice for the perpetrators would do more than these phony displays of compassion.

Layla: I think you are giving too much credit to these shamans. Of course it is their style of propaganda. We as a society, and you as well have been so brain washed into accepting this BS as acceptable behavior that we have become almost immune to its insidiousness and nasty agenda and message; keep the sheeple in line by constantly repeating the mantra. jcw

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 01:25:54 UTC | #897692

DLJ's Avatar Comment 23 by DLJ

This comment (comment 7, from Layla) got me thinking: "Prayer might be a waste of time from our perspective but they're doing it because they care about those that have been killed, they want to show their concern, they want to express their sadness, they want to rally together and comfort each other and feel better about life after a horrible tragedy."

... and this... "until the day something truly supercedes it."

I've often thought that secular society has simply not done enough to beat the religios at their own game.... or maybe we just haven't been doing it overtly enough.

You've probably heard of SPIN (situation, problem, implications, next steps). Well, comments above have highlighted the SP and I, so at the risk of counter-scavenger accusations, may I propose a next step?

Imagine a BBC update headlined... "Local atheists first on the scene providing practical assistance". Then later... "Local atheists co-ordinate post-traumatic support groups".

The problem with this approach is, of course, the Tesco analogy but see how "the church" does it? They have a label (the church) that is not consciously matched to e.g. Tesco so the self-promotion is entirely covert... indeed, so covert that the BBC do not see it.

I live in Singapore and work in Muslim counties like Malaysia and Indonesia. The term "atheist" when I use it to describe myself often elicits raising of eye-brows whereas "free-thinker" very often gets a "me too" response. I think it's because the former sounds hard and anti-something but the latter sounds soft and pro-something.

So try this headline out loud and see if you feel a Tesco-analogy... "A spokesperson from SOFT (the Society of Free Thinkers) has said that post-trauma units are arranging events to help the families of the victims, see the BBC website for dates and locations"

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 09:24:36 UTC | #897737

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 24 by the great teapot

What annoys me more is the BBCs tendancy to group religion and ethics together. Why not science and ethics or sport and ethics. obviously ethics not up to a category of it's own unlike the belief in talking sky daddies. I could have it the wrong way around of course, perhaps they thought "Where can we put this religion shit, oh I know, we can put it in the ethics cupboard no one will ever find it there"

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 10:13:09 UTC | #897741

paulmcuk's Avatar Comment 25 by paulmcuk

To play devil's advocate, would an equally useless, non-religious gesture get reported by the BBC? For example, a "vigil of contemplation and support". My hunch is that it would - probably more so than the dull and predictable prayers. In fact, other non-religious responses do get covered. Floral tributes, memorial Facebook pages, a minute's silence and other such pointlessness are regularly mentioned in the media.

So while I understand the concern that such stories help prop up religion's claim to be the #1 provider of solace in grief, I'm not unduly concerned. I think back many years to the Hillsborough disaster and the enduring image is that of the field of flowers and scarves at Anfield. No doubt prayers were held too, but who remembers that?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 10:34:14 UTC | #897743

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 26 by Tyler Durden

Comment 15 by Layla :

The Tesco analogy is funny but that would be seen as an advertising ploy because Tesco is solely a money making enterprise...

And the church isn't? Have ya been to the Vatican? :)

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 11:13:51 UTC | #897749

merlinaeus's Avatar Comment 27 by merlinaeus

From my perspective of liberal C of E Christianity, I simply do not recognise anything remotely akin to 'religious people parading in front of the cameras before the bodies are cold, to make sure the world knows they are praying'. Nor do I recognise any 'ambulance chasing' (comment 3) with the implied motive of gaining converts.

I do recognise that, in many instances - and I would guess in this particular one too - that the church offers continuing practical support to stricken people and families long after media interest has died away. Historically, on countless occasions, this is what the church has done, and with the primary motive of caring for others rather than gaining adherents to the faith.

I too find the particular video clip featured in this story a bit cringe-making. But it shows only a fragment of what this church will be doing with and for the family. From the news report, it seems the church will have the responsibility of taking the funerals, so they are automatically in the public eye from that point of view, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if the media had indeed asked the vicar for comment - rather than the vicar deliberately trying to use the tragedy as an opportunity for 'cheap publicity for the religion industry'.

Merlin

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 12:35:00 UTC | #897774

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 28 by Paula Kirby

I think there are a number of points here.

The 'ambulance-chasing' isn't, as I view it, necessarily an attempt to win converts: it is an attempt to pretend they are relevant, that they are needed, that they have something special to contribute at times of trauma. The traumas suit the churches' purposes very nicely. They feed on them.

I agree that it is quite likely that the BBC and other media automatically go to the churches for comment at times like this. That is part of my point: the automatic, possibly unthinking perpetuation of a message to the public that religion has a special role to play at such times, that religion is an especially important and effective tool for dealing with tragedy. And, of course, the churches are only too eager to reinforce that message too. In what way is this not an advert for religion? The predictable one-sidedness of it means it is not just straightforward reportage. Nor does it simply happen because churches are involved in the funerals. For one thing, as I said in my OP, the BBC doesn't just respond in this way when the family concerned were religious. For another, on that basis we might expect to see regular news stories with the headline, 'Funeral director expresses sympathy for victims'. But we don't: 'Prayers are being said ...'

Is it that other groups of people are not equally shocked, equally concerned, equally eager to show their solidarity and support? Is it that religion is our only way of expressing those things? No, of course not. Go to any pub in the local area, get on any bus, stand in the queue at any supermarket checkout, listen in on conversations over the garden fence or outside the school gates, and people will be doing all those things. What's more, they will no doubt be doing practical things to help too, when the time is right to do so: offering pure shoulder-to-shoulder human support that is in no way inferior to the kind offered by men in frocks pretending they are actually accomplishing something by 'wailing to an empty sky', as Bendigeidfran has so eloquently described it elsewhere.

But these things are NOT reported by the BBC to anything like the same extent. Time after time after time, in the aftermath of tragedy, the BBC zooms off to get the church's response. The church's response is always the same, always pointless and meaningless and predictable, but no less eagerly thrust in front of the cameras for that. And no less eagerly reported. There may be an interview with a shocked neighbour too: but it is the church's response which gets the headlines.

And I would argue that the sheer repetition of this formula every time a tragedy occurs has the effect of reinforcing a particular, pro-religious, pro-belief-in-belief message. (Which is why clergy always leap at the chance to do it, of course, despite the instructions from the man they're supposed to follow that they should avoid parading their prayers and good works in public.) If the regular repetition of a formula was not effective at putting ideas across, large corporations would not devote huge budgets to doing that very thing. But the church has no need to do so, so long as the BBC and other media are supine in doing their advertising for them.

I have no objection to religious people turning to religion at times of distress. I do object to the BBC and other outlets focusing on the religious response rather than any other kind of response, and thereby helping to perpetuate the myth that religion genuinely offers anything of any real use that non-religious responses do not.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 13:25:46 UTC | #897785

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 29 by Mr DArcy

The next time the BBC "wheels out a vicar", ( lateral thinking, but Stephen Hawking springs to mind), the reporter should ask his/her opinion about why God didn't prevent the said tragedy in the first place! The said vicar should then be wheeled to the nearest steep hill, and left to fend for himself.

When my son died tragically in an accident, it got some local media coverage. But I made bloody sure no holy man / woman had anything to do with his funeral arrangements!

I share Paula's disdain for these creepy bloodsuckers and their platitudes!

As for the Beeb, well Paula this is a Christian country you know!

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 14:35:59 UTC | #897809

78rpm's Avatar Comment 30 by 78rpm

This Yank is very much impressed with all you Brits' clear thoughts and ability to express them in words. (After all, you did invent the language.)

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 14:40:56 UTC | #897811