The BBC does JFK.

The Beeb showed this JFK documentary today on BBC World (satellite TV). For the most part it revisits the events of that day which many of us vividly remember. [For the record: I was in Miss Pruitt’s third grade class in Cooperative Elementary School, Spartanburg, SC, USA when the school PA system broke in with a frantic radio announcer delivering the tragic news.]

I found most of this programme informative if predictable. To its credit, mention is made of Kennedy’s weak civil rights record–yes, the Kennedys were a pretty segregated, class-concious bunch. Did it surprise me to have the final segment become a Bush-bashing exercise? Not really. (It’s the last segment called “How Is JFK Remembered?”) These students having learned of JFK (this legend of Camelot) at the knee of their baby-boomer parents have been force-fed the same formula the Beeb has been passing on to us. It was just too tempting for the Beeb producers to not let this wonderful backhanded comparison of Bush and JFK fly. What a gift. Unfortunately, one of the students did not realise how close Bush and JFK were in the tax-cutting department. (Do BBC producers know that Kennedy cut taxes and that Reagan and Bush have followed a similar policy?) Americans, a simple majority at least, are ever grateful that Bush has not said “now hand me your wallets.” What wisdom our student discussion group displays. What rich historical perspective they bring. If only the producer could have found a few favorable Bush-JFK comparisons, a little balance would have lent it credibility. Unfortunately, it is steeply slanted. Interviews of key players like McNamara, Sorenson (gratuitous anti-Bush comments aside) and Cronkite are a dime a dozen, so great is interest in all things Kennedy. After watching “Kennedy: Legend and Leader”, you might wish to read up on some of those less than legendary bits of the JFK story the Beeb left out. Here’s one by Christopher Hitchens. Maybe Hitchens is too harsh, but it’s ok to take in more than one perspective, even when one is dealing in legend, some of which are of greater importance than others.

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10 Responses to The BBC does JFK.

  1. jim says:


    Big Read – After last week’s effort when John Sargeant was commissioned by the BBC to turn “Catch 22” into a saga of US military aggession, this week we have Jo Brand on “1984”.

    She sees totalitarianism only in the UK/US alliance. No mention is made of today’s more obvious intolerent movements of al-Qaeda & Islamic fundamentalism. As some sort of feminist I would have thought that Ms Brand found their attitude to women objectionable.


  2. PJF says:

    Kind of ironic really, seeing as George Orwell would dismiss Jo Brand with utter contempt. There was a guy who took a bullet fighting real fascism. And he knew what a vile and stupid bunch these self appointed “intellectual elites” were (are).

    “There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” – from Notes on Nationalism – George Orwell


  3. Andrew Zalotocky says:

    Jim, it seems pretty clear that much of the anti-war “left” are now anti-American first and leftist second. Their one unquestionable axiom is that Amerikkka is uniquely evil, and this takes precedence over all other principles (such as feminism and anti-fascism). They’re becoming more of a hate group than a political movement.

    On Kennedy, I think Hitchens is probably right to suggest that had Kennedy lived his presidency would have been remembered mainly for Vietnam. All together now: Hey hey JFK, how many kids did you kill today?

    You may find this comprehensive debunking of JFK assassination conspiracy theories (including that Oliver Stone film) of interest:


  4. Barry Meislin says:

    And then there’s this on the JFK-GWB2 nexus:

    Decide for yerselves (realizing that this is not exactly the Beeb’s mantra).


  5. Paul says:

    Jo Brand is a classic feminist. So mind-blowingly hideous that no man would ever go out with her, and thus she feels bitter.


  6. DumbJon says:

    Note also that the Brandoid can’t even have read the book nearly as closely as she pretends to.

    She claimed that 1984 is set in a US dominated Britain – not really, Britain and the US have both been absorbed into Oceaniana (the Anglosphear by any other name). Even if the US did exist, Orwell gives us no reason to think any one part of Oceaniana is a satellite of any other part.

    Similarly, Brand claimed that in the book extramarital sex is frowned upon – a clear attempt to make Ing Soc sound like the Daily Mail. Actually, all sex is frowned upon. It’s a duty and a necessarity to produce the next-generation, but no one should enjoy it – hence (as even Brand noticed) the Junior Anti-Sex League. But marriage (or lack there of) is not a factor.


  7. john b says:

    I might have not been reading the Daily Mail too closely (it’s only every now and then that I find myself on a tube with nothing else to read but an abandoned copy therof…) – but I don’t recall it containing any joyous celebrations of the delights of marital sex.

    Not that I rate Jo Brand as a literary critic (I’d assume this went without saying, but one never can tell).

    Back on both the Kennedy and the BBC, one of the best hypothetical treatments of the case I’ve seen was (oddly enough) in BBC scifi-comedy Red Dwarf.

    Armed with a time machine, the crew prevented Lee Harvey Oswald from carrying out the assassination; JFK was hounded from office in disgrace over the combination of Vietnam, corruption and sex scandal (LBJ plus Nixon plus Clinton, if you will). From his prison cell, JFK begged his rescuers to take him back in time to 1963, when he shot himself from the grassy knoll.

    Well, it’s more plausible than any of the other conspiracy theories, at least 😉


  8. Patrick Crozier says:

    Just to give the BBC some credit (I know I’m getting a reputation for this sort of thing) last night on BBC2 they did air a savaging of Oliver Stone’s JFK.

    Oswald did it pure and simple.


  9. DumbJon says:

    Just for john b I’ll retroactivly change my comment to ‘make Ing Soc sound like a generic social Conservative’ before adding a ‘What he said’ to PC’s comment about the assassination documentary on BBC2 on Sunday night, with the only caveat that if you’re trying to debunk a conspiracy theory then it doesn’t look good to help perpetuate another one while doing so, for example claiming the Rosenbergs were ‘Soviet sympathisers, executed as spies’. If the Beeb still has doubts over the Rosenberg’s guilt then it has no business ridiculing anyone else’s conspiracy theories.


  10. john b says:

    The Rosenberg statement is literally true, although admittedly misleading…