13 August 2011

Horrible historian David Starkey has also got it in for the Scots, Welsh and Irish

Editors of TV current affairs programmes believe, probably correctly, that guests who can be relied upon to say outrageous things are a sure-fire recipe for making their shows more entertaining - and may even help to increase their ratings.

In reporting on this week's riots, BBC's Newsnight brought quite a few such 'experts' to our screens, including former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie and historian David Starkey.

Last night's performance by Dr Starkey (which you can watch in full HERE) set Twitter alight for a quite a while, with accusations ranging from claims that "he's a 'racist" to "he's bonkers".

I tweeted that I don't think he's 'bonkers' because it's difficult not to be impressed by the way he's managed to carve out a niche for himself as an all-purpose rentamouth. Like Mr MacKenzie, he can always be relied on to say controversial things that will shock, irritate or amuse a substantial proportion of any audience that happens to be watching.

For Starkey himself, an important spin-off of his 'celebrity' status is that he presumably sells far more history books than most professional historians.

Horrible historian?
As for how good a historian he is, I have no idea, as I've never read any of his books.

I also have no idea where he gets the idea that the English "don't make a great fuss about Shakespeare" (Question Time, 23 April, 2009), unless he went to a very different school than the ones most of us attended.

Nor am I convinced by his glib dismissal of Robert Burns as a "deeply boring provincial poet".

Whether or not his performance on last night's Newsnight exposed him as racist about black members of our community, the above clip shows that he not only thinks that it's jolly funny to make racist-sounding noises about the Scots, Welsh and Irish among us, but that he also revels in the boos and laughter his calculated insults attract.

Most depressingly of all, such 'entertaining' episodes inspire the editors of Question Time, Newsnight and other current affairs programmes to inflict him on us again and again and again...


jorge said...

Unfortunately, David Dimbleby is also on record for openly showing his disdain for the Scots on air. Neither he, nor Sharkey, have any awareness of the diversity of political and social attitudes and cultural backgrounds which exist in Scotland. Nor are they interested in any kind of debate as to what "Englishness" means now. They would simply prefer everyone in the UK to be English in the way that they are English. Those that aren't are well, just inferior. That ignorant way of thinking has a name.

Anonymous said...

Starkey's no racist - just stirring it up is all!

Max Atkinson said...

Jorge's news about Dimbleby, for which thanks, doesn't surprise me at all. I've questioned his 'neutrality' in previous blog posts, and think that he should have been pensioned off long ago.

As for whether or not Starkey's a racist, I don't really care, but agree that his forte is 'stirring it up'. As I said in the post, that's the niche he's so successfully created for himself - and without which I doubt if TV editors would be so keen to inflict him on us at such regular intervals.

Jon said...

As a Scot, it's not really the insult which bothers me. I've lived in England 11 years, and happily engage in such banter. There's an element of truth to it, after all.

More importantly, there's a wealth of material in Morris dancing, the "chaps" movement, morning dress, broadsheet columnists complaining about Americanisms, Little Englanders, etc, to make exactly the same points about the English that he makes about the Celts.

So in my experience, people taking Starkey's line of humour are easily ridiculed. His style is blustering insecurity, a little man finding self-esteem in past giants. It begs to be mocked. Unfortunately people seem to go for po-faced political correctness instead. That's equally easy to mock, even if it is better intentioned.

But the real shame is the wilful ignorance. England is no longer the heart of a world-straddling British Empire. If it ever becomes the capital of a superpower again, it will not be in Starkey's great-grand-children's lifetime. If he wants to do well by them, he would stop wishing it were 1850 and deal with the present reality.

Anonymous said...

Starkey is right: Niggers and Muslims cause most of the troble in Btitain - aided by their Labour supporters.