The Black Lives Matter movement and the BBC are the two main targets of anti-awakening cultural warriors.
A few thousand Millwall supporters started the argument and the two questions then came together in the unlikely figure of Reverend Geraldine Kennedy, Dibley’s vicar.
In every football match since play resumed in June, the teams have taken the knee, to symbolize their solidarity with the Black Lives Matters campaign. On Saturday, a small contingent of supporters were allowed to enter the pitch for the first time since the lockdown. The knee grab went without incident or comment on all courts except The Den, where Millwall fans booed the gesture by their own players and those of visitors to Derby County.
Then, in the usual absurd movements of Culture Warfare, the chorus of critics widened to include Dawn French. In one of three planned Christmas specials from The Vicar of Dibley, the main character, played by a Frenchman, will deliver a sermon in which she discusses the murder of George Floyd at the hands of American police officers and expresses her sympathy with Black Lives Matter before to take the knee.
Cue, scene right, a defense of Millwall supporters and an assault on the BBC for awakened, left bias. Paul Embley, the firefighter and activist, was quick to suggest that Millwall fans might have argued that the Black Lives Matter organization is a political enterprise which, in addition to promoting racial equality, has a series of subsidiary goals such as the destruction of capitalism as we know it. “What started as a one-time act of solidarity turned, as usual, into a long moral conference,” as Mr Embley put it. The idea that these Millwall supporters were talking more broadly about Black Lives Matter is fanciful. Mahlon Romeo, Millwall’s right-back, was closer to the target, when he said his fans had “disrespected me,
Derby County Director Wayne Rooney called the supporters’ behavior “shameful and foolish”, which it was. Taking the knee before football games is not a statement in defiance of a free market and none of the players in Millwall or Derby County are going to take it from a distance as such. The meaning of Black Lives Matter is lower case than upper case. Footballers say black lives are important.
This is exactly what Reverend Geraldine Kennedy also says. Note that it is not, as all critics jump to suggest, “the BBC” that says black lives are important. It is not Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer, the writers of the Vicar of Dibley, who say so. It is not, despite her public declaration of support, Dawn French who says so. She spoke fondly of the racist abuse she witnessed during her marriage to Lenny Henry, but there is no need for us to present her credentials as a victim of racism or suggest that she won. the right to speak, because it is not she who speaks.
The sermon is delivered by Reverend Kennedy and the best question to ask is whether the Vicar of Dibley has the character to express these feelings. It certainly is. You have to have a hard head to the standard of Laurence Fox to then assume that this is the sanctioned vision of “the BBC”.
BBC Managing Director Tim Davie has issued a new policy that staff need to be more careful in making public statements of support for political organizations, which is fair enough.
The staff of a broadcaster financed by a compulsory license must indeed seek to be neutral. Management should not, however, control the scripts of a drama that needs to stay or come across whether it makes sense as a drama.
There is something more sinister lurking in this made-up row and the stakes are laid out in The War Against the BBC, a new book by Patrick Barwise and Peter York. The case for reducing or even shutting down the BBC is enhanced if right-wing pundits can establish that this is a conspiracy of liberal elitism. This is the narrative of low-level populism, a false claim that the elite imposes a vision on the people.
The players from Millwall and Derby were happy enough to take the knee and Reverend Kennedy is good in character to preach to us that we should all treat people the same.