I’m quietly impressed by the way that modern conservatives manage to reconcile the sort of contradictory realities that would send wiser, more reflective individuals into an intellectual death spiral. For example, they’re quite capable of trumpeting their support for what they define as traditional family values, while at same time aligning themselves with insatiable shaggers like Trump and Johnson.
Their attitudes to culture are similarly, shamelessly incoherent. A conservative, one would assume, appreciates the canon, all that tradition holds to be best in literature, music, art and so on; not least because such works provide us with a link to the past, to the history of our own civilisation. At the same time, though, most conservatives are in thrall to market forces; logic dictates that what sells is by definition right. The recent appointment to the role of Culture Secretary of the preposterous Nadine Dorries, with her visceral suspicion of anything “elitist”, embodies this trend. And, of course, modern conservatives really, really hate the BBC.
In the Telegraph, Ben Lawrence dares to tackle the cognitive dissonance head-on, arguing that what is popular (Strictly Come Dancing, for example) is not necessarily good and that the Beeb must justify its special status by daring to be on the side of the elites.
You could argue that, in its old-fashioned Reithian approach, the BBC did always patronise its viewers. However, I think there is a crucial difference in the way we used to be talked down to. Indeed, doesn’t a bit of pedagogic paternalism now seem rather refreshing? ... It sort of goes like this: fearing that it may lack working-class cred, the Corporation is now giving the public what they think the people want, and perhaps in the case of Vigil they have got it right. But otherwise, it feels like the equivalent of Sir John Gielgud donning a flat cap and trying to speak with a Cockney accent (actually, I am sure Gielgud’s accent would have been flawless, but you know what I mean). In other words, it is shrinking people’s horizons … And who is to say that a binman might not want to watch a profile of Stockhausen?
At least it’s a coherent, considered view. But then the bloody readers – few of whom, I suspect, would watch a Stockhausen doc either – go and spoil it with the usual gammony whines about lefties and the licence fee. And Nadine Dorries breathes a sigh of relief.