My Response to BBC Question Time – 10th May 2012

Posted on May 11, 2012

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written by Robert Pollard

Question Time, the BBC’s flagship political debate programme, often riles me. In the interest of fairness, the Question Time team attempt to assemble a panel of experts from across the political spectrum, meaning we at home have to endure the kind of right-wing zealots whose opinions make me shudder. I get over this by convincing myself that debating a broad range of opinions is good for democracy, and that such debate can further our understanding of a particular issue. Let’s face it, if I were to pick my dream QT panel – Noam Chomsky, Owen Jones, Will Self, Mehdi Hasan and Mark Steel – it would end in back slapping and all round agreement – hardly inspiring debate. However, every now and then my blood boils when a (usually right-wing) Question Time panelist goes too far and that certainly happened last night.

Peter Oborne is a Daily Telegraph journalist and, on the evidence of last night, a complete idiot. He makes attempts to appear moderate – a less vicious and less stubborn version of Peter Hitchens – but when the mask slips his idiocy is laid bare.

Last night, the issue of the Rochdale paedophile ring was raised and Oborne’s response was disgusting. Actually, he did make one good point. In the opening of his response he made it clear that race was irrelevant in this case, which, of course, it is. He said that it would be wrong to point to the fact that the perpetrators were Asian as any kind of root cause of the crime. On that, he is spot on. The days prior to last night’s QT saw certain sections of the British media, and BNP and EDL members, attempting to use the case as further justification for their Islamaphobia. These people attempt to manipulate cases like the Rochdale one to suit their own dangerous bigotry. Oborne’s rebuttal of such nonsense was very much welcome.

But he then descended into the kind of misogyny all too prevalent in British society. Oborne’s focus was on what the victims could have done to avoid being victims – rather than lamenting the abhorrent behaviour of the men involved in the crime. He appeared to place some blame on “the young girls who accepted the advances of these disgusting men,” asking “what does it tell us about what’s happened to our society that we have 13-year-old girls who are happy to give up their affection and their beauty to men in exchange for a packet of crisps or credit on their mobile phone?” Such crass victim blaming deflects attention from the real issue, which is that some men think it is OK to target women and inflict sex upon them. It’s not OK. It’s sickening and immoral and the men are undoubtedly to blame. This kind of view only serves to deflect attention away from evil men who deserve to be castigated by all.

When will people like Oborne realise that addressing the behaviour of men involved in such heinous crimes is the only way we solve such distressing cases from re-emerging? It is typical of many men in this country to look at what a woman was wearing as reason for a rape attack. The idea that women are very often ‘asking for it’ by the way they dress is absurd. Indeed, this notion was casually thrown around the QT room by a reverend last night, to which Oborne appeared to nod back in agreement. It really was vile television.

Oborne is a typical right-winger in that he loathes our participation in the EU and lauds the ‘achievements’ of Margaret Thatcher. These are opinions I strongly disagree with but I can accept he holds them. Last night’s victim blaming, however, is unfathomable and unforgivable and I simply cannot accept it. It is worrying that a well-paid, respected journalist can hold such damaging views and get away with it. I sincerely hope his vile opinions are met with the same apathy and derision I feel when I hear them. If not, such views will trickle down into future generations – a scary prospect for our proud country which, on the whole, appears to be heading towards a more tolerant and equal society. People like Oborne unwittingly stifle progress being made in these areas and that really is indefensible. The lunacy of Peter Oborne appears to know no bounds.

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Posted in: Media, Politics