Tuesday, 28 August 2007

John Sweeney isn't MY BBC! He produces populist dross.

I only normally watch ITV whenever there is football on and given that Channel 5 reception is non-existent in our sheltered corner of BT9 that leaves me with the BBC and Channel 4. The latter has already gone to reality show hell in a hand basket, so realistically I’m forced to subsist on the terrestrial offerings of our national broadcaster.

This can be a particularly dispiriting experience whenever we have the offerings of John Sweeney masquerading as the Corporation’s cutting edge investigative journalism. Sweeney is best known for screaming at some Scientologists and that incident was in fact the zenith of his output.

Last night we were treated to an appalling documentary, Weeekend Nazis, in which the intrepid Sweeney uncovered the startling revelation that there are some people with unpleasantly extreme political views in Europe and that some of them like to partake in war-games in the British countryside

The reporter’s style is unrepentantly demotic and his voiceovers could be lifted directly from Chris Morris’s character in the Day Today. “If you go down to the woods this weekend ……. You could be in for a big surprise!” boomed Sweeney portentously at the programme’s opening.

What really damns the journalistic merit of such a documentary though, is the lamentable lack of context and complete rejection of a sober, considered delivery. Sweeney’s target in this case, was a predominantly World War 2 battle re-enactment festival called War and Peace.

Very little information was provided regarding the size or nature of this event or how representative the unpleasant side of proceedings Sweeney highlighted was. Without this information and lacking any subjective assessment from the programme’s makers the viewer was forced to conclude the worst. That this was a non-story and at worst an eccentric event had attracted a tiny fringe devoted to glorifying abhorrent politics.
Perhaps there was a story here. Certainly an event attracting David Irving deserves to be examined closely and there was a strong suspicion that many attended because they found themselves drawn to Nazism’s image and imagery. It was certainly not a story that could be drawn out with Sweeney’s cack-handed approach. Someone with Louis Theroux’s flair for investigating subcultures would have made a fascinating documentary about this, Sweeney should be sent out to bully plumbers for Watchdog or something equally suitable for his limited talents.

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