Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Dr Johnson’

No, We Don’t Need Patriotic Media!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 24th June, 2017

IMG_2519A UK government Minister, Andrea Leadsom, has urged British broadcasters to be more patriotic in their coverage of Brexit. US President Donald Trump would doubtless approve, but her intervention deserves to be greeted with a giant raspberry. The right wing of the Conservative Party loathes the BBC, in particular, and would like to force it to go commercial by threatening to abolish the licence fee that funds it. Actually, the BBC has leant over backwards to be as even-handed as possible over Brexit since last year’s EU Referendum, infuriating Remainers by giving particular prominence to Nigel Farage and the rump of UKIP. But what Ms Leadsom apparently wants is what the government already enjoys with the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Sun, etc, namely out-and-out champions of Theresa May’s “red, white and blue” Brexit, involving leaving the European single market and Customs Union and other bodies and instruments that have bound us to our EU partners for the past four decades. Hard Brexiteers, of whom Andrea Leadsom is by no means alone in the Cabinet, believe we need a Britain Stands Alone (from Europe) type of Brexit. The centenarian Vera Lynn will probably be brought out of retirement to sing again of the White Cliffs of Dover. But the plain fact is that opting for Hard Brexit is actually unpatriotic, as it will hit the UK economy, and therefore the living standards of ordinary Brits, hard. But don’t let’s get into an argument about true patriotism. I rather side with Dr Johnson, who declared that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” And, yes, that includes you, Ms Leadsom.


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The Agony and the Ecstasy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 17th July, 2008

Walking down Fetter Lane in the City of London earlier today, I thought I was dreaming as I heard a — clearly live — performance of Chopin, brilliantly played. But no, my senses were not deceiving me. Round a corner, in New Street Square, the gifted young Polish-Canadian pianist Berenika Zakrzewski was playing in the open air a grand piano, as part of the City of London Festival. Dozens of City workers, caught as unawares as I had been, stood around and bathed in the ecstasy of it all.

I had to tear myself away, to go to the Summer Party of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), on whose governing board I sit. Their headquarters in the Arab-British Centre overlooks Dr Johnson’s house in Gough Square, one of those curious nooks and crannies of 18th century London that have survived unscathed. As a backdrop to the event, slides of CAABU’s work were being projected, and I was jolted by a shot of Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, whom I had last seen in that very room but a few weeks ago, and who is still in pain from the obscene and vicious beating he received at the hands of the Israel Defence Force when he crossed back into the West Bank from Jordan on his return from collecting the Martha Gelhorn Prize.

Politicians from all three main political parties are represented on CAABU’s Board, and the organisation’s work has never been as much in need as it is now, when there so much misinformation and fear in Britain about the Arab world and the agony some people on both sides of the Israel/Palestine side are suffering. I have recently been called ‘naive’ and even ‘anti-Semitic’ by some critics for my highlighting the injustices borne by many Palestinians as a result of some Israeli government policies, but that will not silence me. Just as accusations from some Islamic militants that I am a ‘closet Zionist’ because I champion the work of liberal and artistic Israeli Jews will cut no ice with me. I am pro-people and pro-peace (which is why in my student days, shortly after my first visit to the Middle East, I became a Quaker). And I judge people accordingly.

This is also why I am such an enthusiastic supporter of the work done by the Argentinian-born Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim, who has taken Palestinian citizenship to further his concern for peace and reconciliation in the region. I have only met him once, but was deeply impressed. Similarly, with the legacy of the late Soviet Azerbaijan-born cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who is the one 20th century figure I never met who I would invite to one of those fantasy dinner parties one is sometimes asked to construct.


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