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November 01, 2008


People in the Sun

Well, you're right about this being complicated. We have a man whose TV character we've grown to feel sorry for. And we have a show "of its time," which portrayed the non-British as idiots. And we have an up-and-coming many people just don't get. And we have an older presenter who, although you refer to his persona as ironic, at least from what I remember, was the epitome of cool to the point of arrogance.

And we have people who read the Guardian and agree with you on most issues in the world, including the need to save lives in the Congo and to save politicians from themselves, yet now disagree with you here to the point of virtual violence.

It's not easy to understand it all, I admit.

When I played in a band, I used to get upset that empty-headed pop stars were being idolized while we were getting nowhere. But then I realized the Spice Girls meant a lot more to kids than did our hedonistic anger at the world. The forces of the free market, if you will, showed me that as much as Congo needs to be saved, every once in a while popular culture takes center stage for a reason, because people look at all the players in this sad little drama, and see themselves. And when they see Jonathan Ross with his expansive suits making fun of the old man, they feel as if they were the ones who made that call, because they pay the hated TV License fee, and it affects the way the see themselves, because now they're fools for paying and evil for contributing to this bad joke.

It's complicated, you're right.


Thank you so much, Simon, for this. I really appreciate the depth to which you have gone in explaining the whole thing. You didn't even mention that the granddaughter has admitted to having an affair with Brand! I have been as befuddled as you about the incredible number of people who have been incensed at this affair, especially since most of them had not heard the original broadcast. There is a bit of mass hysteria going on here, perhaps. A bit of herd mentality creeping in.

I also wonder if the pent up anger in people about the other, much more important, things that are going on is simply not as easy for people to express, or to complain about, or do anything about. People have no easy way to complain about the terrible atrocities happening in the Congo, or about the money markets, or about political things -- indeed most things like this just happen around us -- much less get any satisfaction from their complaints. Some write to newspapers, but most just talk amongst themselves about the mess of the world.

However, jumping on this particular bandwagon, and causing Ross, who was being paid £6 million pounds to denigrate the 'much loved' Sachs, to be suspended -- now THAT is something they can do and perhaps it makes them feel less helpless in life. Perhaps even the media has some underlying enjoyment of this as well -- because by their action they have made something happen, thus they feel less powerless.

There have been a huge number of earthquakes in Pakistan the past few days that are now causing countless people to have to live out in the cold with no shelter and no belongings. Would that the media focused their energy on that and 35,000 people sent money and clothes and tents and blankets and toys and and and... You get my drift!

Instead we get television shows and films and music and even news programs, not to mention newspapers and magazines, that seems to support and legitimize bullying and -- much worse than that -- violence. We live in a society that seems to glorify war and horrific acts of people against people. We can't seem to stop the madness.

So you write The Secret of Life, bringing some gentle reminders to people that we CAN do something to change the world, by focusing on ourselves, and looking at our behavior and how we treat others, and thinking about our effect on others -- and hopefully making changes in ourselves that will, cumulatively, change the world. Peace, love, kindness, justice, truth, caring, transparency -- all of these have to begin inside each person and cannot be forced upon another. But, because We Are All One, when one of us does this, it affects the whole.

Thank you for following the insistence of your heart/mind/spirit to bring this to your readers. Especially, thank you from me, as you helped to clarify my own thoughts about it.

Sue Ann Edwards

Hahahahahaha! Thank you Simon, this is funny!

A "Tempest in a teacup", probably Earl Grey, huh? Lemon, no cream.

Drama, ALL drama and all the hub-bub being fueled by those of us who feed off of it.

Conflicted people cooperating in a joint venture expressing conflict.

Conflicted on the inside attracts/creates conflict on the outside.

Alexys Fairfield

Hi Simon,
I heard about this story last week and thought it was a bit convoluted. Didn't Sasha Cohen anger some people when he did the film Borat?

I think the lines of humor are somewhat blurred. We have shows in the U.S. that make fun of celebrities, presidents, prime ministers, etc. No one is sacred. That's not to say it is right though.

I think a comedian should think about whether his act will have a harmful effect on the party before they do their act. I don't know if it will make the comedy less funny or more respectful?

I say bring back Benny Hill. LOL.

Great post. :D


Hi People – Thanks for your comment on this. We both agree that it’s complicated, which may help to explain its fascination. You make a very good point about Manuel, Sachs’ character in Fawlty Towers, being someone we’ve grown to feel sorry for. Could that have contributed to the public’s extreme reaction, I wonder? They made the same sort of point in another BBC radio program, the satirical panel game News Quiz: “People have seen Andrew Sachs being bullied, punched, having his eyes poked, and being tripped up and slammed in the face with doors year after year since the seventies and this is the last straw.”

Yes, well ‘Manuel’ did have a rough old time in Fawlty Towers and the show *has* been repeated frequently for three decades. The person who made that comment on the News Quiz intended it as a joke but who knows? ‘Sachsgate’ has been such a bizarre event that there may be some truth in it…


Hi Linda – Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I think that you too have hit on something important when you talk about people being able to make a difference here: a kind of antidote to impotence. That may be at least a part of what’s going on.

There’s nothing impotent about the Mail though. They know exactly what they’re doing, which may explain why I feel so strongly about this – in spite of myself. They’re gunning for the BBC, which they perceive as having a left wing bias, and they intend to attack it by getting the license fee reduced. They’ve already started their campaign in the wake of ‘Sachsgate’. I guess I see the BBC, for all its faults, as standing for truth – or at least attempting to *articulate* the truth – whereas the Mail stands for cynical manipulation. Truth against lies, if you like.

But of course, I have to try not to get too hot under the collar about this or I’ll be getting all caught up in the drama the same as the Mail readers. On the other hand, it *is* important. Those Pakistani earthquakes got pretty much squeezed out of the news altogether, but we’re more likely to hear about them from the BBC than we are to read about them in the Mail.


Hi Sue Ann – 'Conflicted on the inside attracts/creates conflict on the outside.' Thank you - that pretty much sums it up! Eckhart Tolle would call it a ‘pain body attack’ (and to judge by my previous response, I’ve got one coming on myself!)


Alexys – Many thanks for your comment. We have those kinds of shows over here too, and it didn’t seem like anyone was sacred here either, not even the Queen. But now it seems like maybe Andrew Sachs is.

I think humor is a balancing act. It seems to be inherent in our physical existence. It is the gap between our aspirations and our perceived reality: the extent to which we fall short of perfection (or the perfection we wish to portray). Because it focuses on these perceived shortcomings, it always runs the risk of causing offense. It seems to me that this offense can be balanced out if it’s funny enough and also sometimes (as an added bonus) if it points out the hypocrisy of the person involved. But the balancing act is a difficult one and you rarely get everyone agreeing that it’s been achieved.

I got the impression that Sasha Cohen offended a large proportion of the USA! Benny Hill is a strange one: highly regarded by many outside his native UK but critically damned within. It’s interesting that in these post-feminist times, the ‘Carry On’ films are now considered to be ‘OK’ but Benny Hill still isn’t. Maybe we should just all go ‘Baa!’ and have done with it…


Oh dear - sad to say, but I found this tale funny, Simon. Because it seems I have heard it all before, with different characters and plot eg the way it pushed the real news out of the way.

Many people want to find something to be upset about that requires no real thought.


'Funny' is a perfectly reasonable response, Robin! I guess many people read the newspapers for things to get upset about every day. It's just another kind of addiction. Thanks for your comment!


Your reply made me realize how, as an American, I really appreciate the BBC and I don't begrudge the fee we pay to it. Compared to the television programs in the USA, we have got real quality here. As a new grandmother, I even see the value of the children's CBeeBees station -- where there are no advertisements at all and the shows are really well thought-out and well put together. We are lucky to have the BBC and also to live in a country where we can debate things so liberally!

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