The Reverend Bigot, I Presume?
When socialists have engaged reactionaries and fascists in debate before now, our critics on the left-wing of capitalism’s political apparatus have opposed us and, on occasion, tried to break-up our meetings. We have always insisted that the best way to effectively oppose reactionary ideas is to give them critical, public exposure to the socialist viewpoint.
Preventing free speech is neither democratic (and socialists are democrats–indeed the democrats) nor an effective way of preventing the spread of dangerous ideas and political illusions. While the left have been correct to assert the view that giving repugnant ideas exposure can sometimes assist them gain credence, it does very much depend how those views are conveyed. There has been no better illustration of this process than the recent Witness programme for Channel Four entitled “Dr Paisley, I Presume”, first shown at the end of April and then repeated due to popular demand in mid-May.
This was a programme in which one of Britain’s foremost bigots and racists was made to look the complete and utter fool many us already know him to be. It was entertaining, intelligently done, and merciless.
The focus of this programme was, of course, the Reverend Ian Paisley, or “Dr” Paisley to you. Dr Paisley was filmed—”fly-on-the-wall” documentary style–on a trip as a missionary to central Africa. The programme, though a one-off, took as its reference point the recent spate of serial documentaries previously commented upon in this column, such as BBC1’s Hotel about The Adelphi in Liverpool, or its series about Unijet’s holiday reps. Just like these programmes, it was not an overt assassination–it was much more subtle than that. It was the filming of a slow and painful suicide.
It’s a jungle out there
It would be a very brave or foolish person who would voluntarily submit themselves to the intrusion of a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary camera crew. If you have as many personal foibles and outrageous opinions as the Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley, then you would have to be very brave or exceedingly foolish. (It is likely, incidentally, that Paisley is both of these things, remembering that there is no intrinsic merit in bravery anyway as any failed kamikaze pilot could tell you.) Realising this, it is probable that most of the people watching this programme anticipated what was delivered by the programme’s makers–Paisley’s self-inflicted crucifixion. In truth, this must have been one of the easiest jobs in television.
How could it be otherwise when the object of this documentary, followed around by a journalist of Jewish origins at the head of the camera crew, would only address him as “the Jew” or “the Israelite” while insisting that everyone refer to himself at all times as “Dr Paisley”? And how could it be otherwise when Paisley communicated via walkie-talkie with this Jewish journalist with the opening line “Germany calling! Germany calling!”? The fact that he went on to explain such behaviour with the comment that “there is a little bit of the racist in all of us” did nothing more to help his cause. Neither did his patronising and self-serving attitude towards the Africans he met assist him much either.
But where this documentary departed from those like Hotel and Reps was in the attitude engendered among viewers towards the victims of this arrogance and foolishness. It was possible to feel a great deal of sympathy towards the victims of the profit-hungry Britannia group who run Liverpool’s Adelphi, but Paisley’s victims were of a different type. The most pathetic victim of all was Paisley’s right-hand side-kick, the quintessential hen-pecked husband married to the Racist Reverend (only metaphorically speaking of course). Rarely outside of the Cabinet Room of Number Ten Downing Street has such a pathetic sycophant been given such timely exposure. Tending to Dr Paisley’s every whim and desire without apparently one questioning thought entering his head, here was a man who had found his true vocation in life as arselicker-in-chief to the Bullshitter General Persuviant.
This man (who we shall not name for fear of detracting attention from his under-exposed and misunderstood master) is in need of help and socialists are, naturally enough, here to help him and those like him. There are people all over the world just like this man, whose life’s ambition has been to turn themselves into human clones of Dolly the sheep. But luckily for them all, socialists have the wherewithal to reverse this terrible affliction and make these people truly human again. We have, one might say, the technology–and it is our duty to use it wherever and whenever it is needed. Let the Free Presbyterian Church be one of our starting points.