Archives for August 2011

When is an historian not an historian?

William Crawley | 18:22 UK time, Saturday, 27 August 2011

"His crass generalisations about black culture and white culture as oppositional, monolithic entities demonstrate a failure to grasp the subtleties of race and class that would disgrace a first-year history undergraduate."

That's the damning verdict of more than 100 academic historians responding to this BBC Newsnight appearance by David Starkey.

The academics argue that BBC programmes are wrong to introduce Dr Starkey as an historian when he is commenting on areas beyond his professional expertise.

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has condemned the history broadcaster's views; he said it is "absolutely outrageous that someone in the 21st Century could be making that sort of comment".

David Starkey has defended his comments, claiming that reaction to his choice of words has been "hysterical".

Additional coverage of the Starkey controversy: The Guardian.


After Cloyne ...

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William Crawley | 16:40 UK time, Saturday, 27 August 2011

Here's the RTE interview with Dr John Magee, the former Bishop of Cloyne. Not everyone thinks Dr Magee's belated apology to victims goes far enough to respond to the damning criticisms he faced in Judge Yvonne Murphy's report. Meanwhile, the Irish Catholic Church continues to count the financial cost of decades of mismanagement of abuse allegations. On tomorrow's Sunday Sequence, we'll look at that question with a Fine Gael TD who proposes a solution: he says the church should sell off its treasures to pay for the abuse crisis.

Covering Libya

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William Crawley | 16:54 UK time, Thursday, 25 August 2011

Here's a fascinating edition of Radio 4's The Media Show, presented by Steve Hewlett, which raises some extremely important questions about the ethics of war coverage.


The programme summary: All eyes were on Libya this week as rebels entered Tripoli and battled Colonel Gaddafi's loyalist soldiers. Sky's correspondent Alex Crawford broadcast extraordinary scenes as she rode into Tripoli on the back of a rebel convoy, sending her report using a satellite and laptop plugged into the truck's cigarette lighter. But which news organisations have provided the best analysis and how well informed can viewers really be about the rapidly changing events?

Sky News's Head of International News Sarah Whitehead and the BBC's World News Editor Jon Williams explain the challenges involved. Professor Tim Luckhurst, who has been watching coverage of Libya as the situation unfolds, discusses how well audiences are served by print, radio and rolling TV news. Channel 4's International Editor Lindsey Hilsum, who is currently reporting from Tripoli, discusses how this conflict differs from those she has covered in the past and Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times, who is also in Libya, explains how newspaper reporters can delve further into a story by being less conspicuous than TV crews in dangerous territory.

World Youth Day 2011

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William Crawley | 20:42 UK time, Saturday, 20 August 2011

It's estimated that 1.5 million young people from around the world have travelled to the Spanish capital to greet Pope Benedict and mark World Youth Day 2011. You can watch some of this year's events on the official website. World Youth Day was created by Pope John Paul II and is celebrated every three years in a different country.

At the start of his visit to Madid, Pope Benedict stressed the value of spiritual friendships and encourged young people -- both Catholics and non-Catholics -- to lead "authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy". The culmination of this year's events is the Final Mass on Sunday, concelebrated by the Pope and thousands of bishops and priests. We'll report live from the Mass this Sunday morning.

RightsNI: Human rights from Northern Ireland

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William Crawley | 10:59 UK time, Friday, 19 August 2011

I've just found out about a new blog intended to create a platform for the discussion of current human rights issues in Northern Ireland. It's called RightsNI and its main contributors are practitioners, campaigners, activists and academics. Guest contibutors are invited to contact the blog editors here. If you get a chance, have a look at the blog and let me know what you think.

When is a sentence too tough?

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William Crawley | 13:57 UK time, Thursday, 18 August 2011

Have some of the sentences imposed on rioters been too severe? Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan each were jailed for four years after they posting messages on Facebook encouraging people to take part in a riot. Defenders say the tough sentences reflect the seriousness of the crimes, and will act as a deterrent. Critics say the sentences are disproportionate (and often inconsistent across the country) and could prove counter-productive. What do you think?

Open Thread

William Crawley | 13:50 UK time, Thursday, 18 August 2011

talktalk.jpgI don't often post an open thread, but some of you tell me it's a good idea because it lets you get stuff off your chest without throwing the direction of other threads. It also permits you to make suggestions about subjects we might give some more substantial space to on Will & Testament. Let's see. Expatiate at will (sorry about the pun). Keep it legal. The house rules still apply.

A riot of explanations

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William Crawley | 11:52 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011

"To seek to explain is not to seek to excuse", the Labour leader Ed Miliband told Parliament today in response to Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement that the "fight back" has begun. There are now calls for public enquiries and the twittersphere is full of competing explanations.


We've had religious, moral, cultual and social explanations from every point on the political spectrum. This is what happens when society abandons God, say some; this is what happenes when impoverished people watch the rich get richer and feel increasingly powerless, say others. The riots are about low self-esteem and communities that feel forgotten, still others tells us; and they are a consequence of liberal social values sweeping across Europe, comes the reply. I'll post links, on this thread, to some of the explanations and analyses that have been offered. Let me know what you think of those explanations, and suggest links to any others that should be included.

BBC News coverage: England riots.

BBC News Magazine: The competing arguments used to explain the riots.

Riots: an historical list.

Zoe Williams: The UK riots: the psychology of looting.

James Crabtree: Deep structural problems lie beneath the London riots.

Peter Oborne: The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom.

Melanie Phillips: Britain's liberal intelligentsia has smashed virtually every social value.

Camila Batmanghelidjh: Caring costs - but so do riots.

The Christian Institute: London riots are a sign of moral breakdown.

Christine Odone: Absent fathers have a lot to answer for.

Matthew Parris: After a sunny spring, where did Britain get it so wrong?

Carolina Bracken: Rioters on streets unite in brute opportunism.

Hayley Matthews: The Salford riots and the greed of the disenfranchised.

The Bishop of London calls for prayer at St Paul's Cathedral.


After the PMS crisis

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William Crawley | 08:06 UK time, Sunday, 7 August 2011

Thousands of people across Northern Ireland received cheques in the post this week from the failed Presbyterian Mutual Society. A rescue package underwritten by the Westminster government and the Stormont executive allowed those who invested less than 20 thousand pounds to get all their money back. Larger investers have received 85 per cent of their money, with final settlements dependent on the sale of PMS assets. That's the pay out. But what about the fall-out for the Presbyterian Church itself?

On today's Sunday Sequence, some PMS savers tells us why they fely betrayed by their own church as this crisis unfolded. Former Presbyterian Moderator Dr John Dunlop responds to their criticisms of the church's handling of the crisis. And we also hear from Mark Orr QC, the former chair of the PMS board of directors about what he has discovered, through Freedom of Information requests, about the Administrator's report and the Lord Chancellor's unwillingness to support his own application to become a high court judge.

What do you think? Is this now the end of the PMS crisis as we know it? What are the lessons that need to be learned by both the government and the Presbyterian Church?

The hermeneutics of trousers

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William Crawley | 19:09 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God."


It's a verse from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, which has been offered in evidence to an employment tribunal by a Christian midwife who argues that an NHS trust is wrong to insist that she wears trousers in an operating theatre.

Hannah Adewole's claim that she was disadvantaged on religious grounds has been rejected by the tribunal.

She also points out that Muslim staff at her hospital are permitted to wear hijabs under sterile scrubb dresses.

Is this case an example of faith in the dock or merely evidence that it's August?


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