BBC Gaza Appeal

Up until Monday evening, I was comfortable in the assumption that the BBC’s decision not to air the DEC’s Gaza appeal was being sufficiently fought by various journalists, politicians, pundits and the public. I figured that every intelligent, non-partisan person could see that the BBC were being completely idiotic in their decision, and hence felt no need to actually do anything about it myself.

On Monday evening, however, one of my (intelligent, non-partisan) friends vehemently defended the BBC’s decision. This completely bowled me for six – as said above, I figured that any reasonable person could see that the BBC were wrong. My friend said that the Gaza crisis was “man made”; a result of a conflict rather than a natural disaster and therefore the BBC would be compromising its impartiality.

I kept crying Vietnam at him (the BBC aired the DEC’s Vietnam appeal, which read: “No politics. No boundaries. Send us money now. We'll rush your aid to the people of Vietnam”) but he maintained that the BBC’s decision was right. In addition to Vietnam, I believe the BBC has aired appeals for Darfur, Burma and Congo – all results of “man made” conflict. With that in mind, is it not hypocritical to veto the Israel/Palestine conflict?

Yes, this conflict is particularly complex but the point is, the politics shouldn’t matter in this case. The DEC appeal is purely humanitarian with no political overtones. It aims to take food, water, shelter and medical aid to children who are dying in Gaza. Humanitarian aid is inherently impartial. If anything, the BBC is compromising their impartiality anyway in wishing not to offend Israel.

A number of journalists and public figures have spoken out against the decision including Jon Snow (a personal hero) and Rageh Omar. I also give kudos to actress Samantha Morton who said she will refuse to work for the BBC again if it does not reverse its decision. Unfortunately, most BBC workers don’t have the same luxury. Many of them are reportedly furious about the decision but cannot speak out about it. I do bits and pieces of work for the BBC (e.g. I’m scheduled to guest on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine shower later today) and as a freelancer, I’m grateful for the income they provide, but I feel kind of dirty now.

At least I, unlike in-house journalists, can speak out about the decision. I truly believe that the BBC bottled it. They got it severely wrong and are stubbornly refusing to back down. I just wish I had the courage, like Tony Benn, to read out the appeal address while on air later today. In lieu, I will add my complaint to the thousands already received by the BBC. I won’t rely on other journalists and members of the public to fight the decision. I will add my voice to the dissent and I urge you to do the same:

WATCH THE APPEAL: www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2009/jan/26/dec-gaza-appeal

DONATE TO DEC: www.dec.org.uk or call 0370 60 60 900

COMPLAIN TO THE BBC: www.bbc.co.uk/complaints


Look at me – I’m sooo clever

I’ve always lived by the ‘No regrets’ dictum. I believe that things happen for a reason and that even the bad things in our lives make us stronger. One thing I have questioned a few times, however, is my choice of degree at university. I studied Computer Science at university and while it introduced me to some of my friends for life, I have wondered if I would have been better off studying something that made more sense to what I actually wanted to do, perhaps an English or Journalism degree.

Today, while cleaning up my hard drive, I stumbled across my Final Report. Fellow CS graduates will know just how much headache and stress was induced by the dreaded Final Report (the words ‘Final Report’ should actually be boomed by one of those deep, film-trailer voices instead of rendered harmlessly on your screen). Basically, we had to plan and develop an innovative piece of software during our final year at university, accompanied by (cue booming voice) the Final Report. This report had to take examiners through the planning, development and testing phases of the software. It, along with writing the software, was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in an educational or professional setting. It sapped my spare time and squeezed every grey cell in my body. Since then, nothing has challenged my intelligence, ability, discipline or tenacity in quite the same way.

For that reason alone, I don’t regret my degree choice. While I’m sure an English or Journalism degree would have been difficult, I doubt it would have challenged me in quite the same way.

Plus, this way, I can say: Behold my Final Report! Come and witness my superior intellectual capacity! I write not just measly words but transcendent code!

In short, look at me – I’m sooo clever.

(BOOMING VOICE): The Final Report


PS. For those of you who actually click on the link, I'm PROUD of my geek roots, okay?


Imperfect Love

Today I cancelled two meetings and one talk, refused a commission and fell behind on several others. This stuff is pretty important to me – not least because it pays my bills – so I’m pretty pissed off that the flu is KICKING MY ASS.

But anyway, this isn’t meant to be a moan about being ill (though I am really ill so any sympathy is very welcome) or an exercise in self-importance (though the flu could have chosen a less important week to kick my ass)... in classic tangent fashion, it’s actually about marriage, or, at least, about relationships.

Last Thursday, a friend commented that he had never been envious of anyone’s relationship, bar one couple – a couple whose marriage fell apart after the woman was unfaithful. I didn’t really give it much thought – people cheat, marriages end.

Today, I read a piece in the Guardian, in which Charlie Brooker is talking about kinda-maybe-sorta wanting a wife and very astutely makes the following observation:

“In the face of love's potential destructive fury, you're left with three options:
1) Pull down the emotional shutters and try to avoid it.
2) Find someone you admire or like, rather than love, and try to make do, rendering both of you miserable in the process.
3) Throw caution to the wind and gingerly place your fragile, beating heart in the hands of another human being and hope they don't crush it in their fist for giggles.”


While reading it, I realised that I, like my friend, don’t know one couple whose relationship/marriage I envy. I don’t know one couple that makes me think, “That is what love is meant to look/feel/be like”.

Maybe that’s ok. Real relationships are messy and imperfect – my one certainly is – but I’m still surprised and perhaps saddened by the fact that I don’t know a single couple whose relationship is wonderful and amazing. Is this because I fraternise with pessimists and misanthropes? Is it because I’ve been brought up in a culture of arranged marriage? Is it because I’ve been fed impossible ideals by a diet of unrealistic romcoms? I don't think so.

I have happy, optimistic, laidback friends; I know people who have had non-arranged marriages and who are miserable (as well as people in arranged ones who are relatively happy); and as for the impossible ideal, I know there’s enduring, all-encompassing love – I just don’t know anyone who has that in their relationship. That been-together-fifty-years-and-still-haven’t-run-out-things-to-say type of love seems to have died in modern times. Do you agree? If not, please convince me. If so, it’s kinda sad, don’t you think?


Free (free) Palestine

Right, this’ll be a quick one because The Untouchables is on Film4 in seven minutes.

Exactly one week ago, I added ‘Attend a protest’ to my to-do list for 2009. I didn’t know what protest I would be attending or when (I gave myself a deadline of 31 Dec 2009) but I knew I wanted to go to one. It may be a weird thing to have on a to-do list but I had never been to a protest before and wanted to experience the energy and excitement felt by a collective who was making a stand for something it believed in.

A few days after the post, I learnt about the Gaza demonstration in London and decided to attend. I have to say, even this cynical young Londoner was amazed. The turnout was brilliant and the passion and intensity among the crowd was electric. I went there naively expecting a majority of brown faces but there was such a wide mixture of people. The Israel-Palestine conflict is seen by many as a Jews vs. Muslims issue but, even though there were a few people shouting “Allahu Akbar”, religion didn’t become the issue as Muslims, Christians, Atheists and even Jews marched side by side to protest the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

A number of people threw shoes at the gates of Downing Street in tribute to Muntadar al-Zaidi* and there was a scary moment when a bunch of protesters set fire to a banner a few feet away but things calmed down pretty quickly. All in all, it was a very worthwhile way to spend an afternoon. In fact, I may have to stop myself from attending more in case it becomes a sort of Tyler-Durden-group-therapy** kind of addiction.


* If you haven’t already, do upload a picture to
www.thankyouforthrowingyourshoe.com. It’s a collection of images of people all across the world (including yours truly) holding up their shoe in tribute to Muntadar al-Zaidi.

** Technically a Jack-group-therapy kind of addiction if you’re the type that does technical.