Today I did the unthinkable and actually made a complaint to Ofcom.
From my past experiences (mainly working for a call centre) I thought Ofcom complaints were the domain of people who didn’t understand phone bills or angry Grannies who saw gay people on the television. However thanks to Northern Ireland’s own radio titan, Stephen Nolan, I actually bothered to take my “faux-outrage” and try to make sure my virtue-signalling was put on file by Ofcom with regards to the BBC.
On Tuesday of this week, Nolan had the pleasure of encountering a, let’s say, “rogue” caller by the name of Janice. You might’ve heard of her. Janice decided to ring in to the Nolan Show and proceeded to wax lyrical about Muslims and how the Daily Mail and the Express have got her clued in about all the insidious unproven conspiracy theories about them. She even stated how she would rather die at home before letting a Muslim doctor treat her. This went on for a solid fifteen minutes before Nolan decided to end it.
After seeing the huge reaction to this exchange, mainly from people expressing their disgust, Nolan went full ratings mode. He opened today’s show with the Janice recording and brought on Mohammed Shafiq, a Muslim broadcaster and CEO of the Ramadhan Foundation. Mr. Shafiq was there to present the highly extremist view that Muslims are just ordinary people who happen to be Muslims.
Naturally this also meant that, for the sake of balance to Mohammed’s radical views, the Nolan Show decided to invite Katie Hopkins to be a guest.
The next few minutes, which crawled like an eternity, proceeded with Hopkins spewing utter vitriolic shite. Her stances including softcore ethnic-cleansing stances along the lines of “why don’t Muslims stay in Muslim countries?” with pretty much no real challenge from Nolan other than the eternal platitude of “well some people disagree”. The biggest blows that Stephen and Katie came to before she eventually fecked off arose when she decided to try and tell Nolan how to do his job (like I’m trying to do, heh).
Naturally as a result of inviting the controversialist, attention-seeking Hopkins on and basically offering the meekest of oppositions to her propaganda, this then resulted in various callers phoning in to defend Hopkins’ comments, as I assume the Nolan Show was hoping under the guise of “a balanced discussion”.
As heaps of abuse were directed at the show’s and Nolan’s Twitter accounts from various listeners, Stephen decided to finally clamp down on the last few callers when they started to go over the line.
I’m not entirely sure if there’s any heed paid towards Twitter mentions on the show, but it was a startling disparity between Nolan’s tone with the callers and his tone with his star guest, Hopkins. Naturally this was all for the purpose of a “conversation” because Nolan was outraged by “what is going on in Northern Ireland” with regards to social attitudes and anti-Muslim sentiment.
This was of course achieved by facilitating the entire environment of allowing callers to hop on and propagate sheer racist lies after being introduced to the topic for the show by Katie Hopkins, who has already been challenged on countless platforms about the propaganda that these callers echoed.
Two callers in particular, Jim and Jill, were a credit to themselves and extended the vital voice of reason.
There was no reference to the statement “even the dogs in the street know” as some sort of citation for bigotry as we heard from one of the other callers. They struck it down for what it was and highlighted the nonsensical nature of some of the attitudes being showcased.
My complaint to Ofcom was not that people had different views to me, before the Free Speech Fundamentalists pile on top of me to fire off that lazy argument.
I’m perfectly open to having a balanced discussion to challenge Islamophobic attitudes as Nolan stated he intended to do. However there’s a responsibility on whoever is facilitating the “platform” for this to actually make sure it is balanced and for the purpose of discussion.
The show opened with an unrepentant bigot, who is widely known for her zealous hatred of Muslims and flirtations with the far-right, and chose to set her as the “balance” against a Muslim citizen. There was no room for reasoning with Hopkins and that is well established. Her entire persona is centred around causing controversy and spewing hateful propaganda and yet the Nolan Show still made the decision to bring her on as a guest despite the result of the conversation being as predictable as the feckin’ tide.
As I said to the show on Twitter, it was effectively like having a Jewish citizen on to discuss holocaust commemorations and choosing a Neo-Nazi to offer “balance”. You do not match the reasonable against the sort of people who flirt with ethnic-cleansing rhetoric to have a measured discussion.
By choosing to hold up well-established propaganda mouthpieces who are not open to persuasion without adequate challenge, this was in effect facilitating the distribution of that propaganda and as a result we saw by sheer luck a citizen like Jill having to step in as the voice of reason amongst a tide of vitriol being directed towards Muslims which Mr. Shariq rather calmly had to sit and endure. To accept propaganda mouthpieces as the “balance” to ordinary citizens, we effectively legitimise the most extremist fringes.
I would beg that the Nolan Show considers foregoing the rating-chasing controversy in future, particularly if they do not wish to set two reasonable representatives of view points against each other. In these grim times with xenophobia holding place in actual government policies in the West, in response to propaganda fed to the masses from certainly publications quoted by certain callers, there is a duty within the media not to allow themselves to be manipulated by bigots who expect to be able to spread their lies and go unchallenged.
Whilst your job obviously isn’t primarily to change people’s minds towards a particular viewpoint, failure to challenge the most extreme views only means the victims of those views have to sit and listen to them be broadcast to the nation. We owe more to our fellow citizens, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, sexuality or background, than to sit back and allow the worst of our society to slander them in the media.
Mr. Nolan is a seasoned broadcaster, a household name and practically the Jeremy Kyle of NI Politics. Whilst I respect this, I would implore that he recognises his position and role in our society and strives to avoid falling into the schemes of those who seek to exploit his show to further poison the same society with views that they know are based on lies.
It is a more valuable service to his listeners than just deciding “we’ll get Queen Gobshite on and that’ll get all the wee chucklefucks ringing in for a good slabber and have everyone tweetin’ about it.” Even the dogs in the street know that.
Photo credit: BBC Northern Ireland