Friday, July 13, 2007

The Dismal Twelfth

During yesterday's TV broadcasts, BBC Northern Ireland seemed to be doing its best to dress up the annual Belfast Twelfth of July parade as a fun-filled carnival. Presenters, Joe McKee and Clifford Smyth wittered inanely as fat, tattooed, corner boys swung their drums and beer bellies along the wet Belfast streets to the whining strain of flutes. Lord Mayor, Jim Rogers was there, spouting delusional rhetoric about how Catholics and ethnic minority people could enjoy the parade. As if to underline his foolishness, the Ulster Special Constabulary Lodge marched by.

The Ulster Defence Regiment was also represented. One banner displayed an army checkpoint. Others showed images of churches and unionist political leaders and announced their adherents as 'Bible and Crown Defenders' from various regions. Vans draped in union flags crawled by, sheltering geriatrics. "There's a great atmosphere here," said Clifford Smyth, attempting to convince himself that his trite comments had any bearing on reality.

Impartial BBC reporter, Helen Mark, talked to bystanders about how it's all wonderful for Northern Ireland. A DUP counsellor spoke of the parade as one of Europe's best folk festivals. Tourists from various nations were paraded before the camera to impart positive sound-bytes, although this tactic backfired somewhat when a man from Slovakia said that it all reminded him of the communist parades of his youth.

To listen to the voice of the BBC, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole spectacle was akin to a Notting Hill style knees-up. All rational and objective analysis went out the window.

It was much the same over on UTV where, amid last year's recycled, cost-cutting graphics, tourists were similarly thrust before cameras and children danced on bouncy castles. "What's really nice is that for the first time in Hollywood, King Billy is leading the parade," said the announcer as a portly gentleman in a wig and period dress perched himself atop a white horse.

Back on BBC One, Sarah Travers strutted out onto a virtual, techno-set to preside over a montage of lobotomised reportage. The tone was jovial, light-hearted and filled with cliche.

"At times it seemed more like Glastonbury," said one BBC commentator, as the camera roved across a field hosting predictable, political speeches from the backs of lorries while church bands played from beneath rain-blasted tents. Here is a world where balding, municipal officials, draped in sashes, mouth Biblical platitudes while women with bad haircuts make the sandwiches and praise The Lord.

At the heart of this empty spectacle, the Orange Order was reconfigured as a family-friendly, tourist interest with the local, broadcast media as its unquestioning cheerleaders. The emperor wasn't wearing any clothes but no one on TV was prepared to admit it.


tawdrey said...

The same in liverpool TGWA. Clearly everyone is loosing touch with reality here. The catholic kids I teach even go to join in "cos it's a great day out." Sure why not create another great day for all. We could have the BNP banners flying high, some fabulous klu klax klan outfits and some "tar and feathering" face painting for the kids. Fabulous.

Sean O' said...


I agree with you wholeheartedly. The local media are willfully complicit in the current attempt to rebrand these bigoted organisations.

Watching the live coverage on BBC yesterday I was only slightly enraged when Joe McKee reminisced that the Twelfth was always a family event when he was growing up. I took up the presenters' invitation to place comments on the BBC website ( I submitted my memory of the Twelfth being a 'murder-of-a-family -event' (i.e. the Quinn family from Ballymoney in 1998) when I was growing up. Needless to say my comment did not pass the Stalinist censors at the BBC. I revisited the site later on in the day and was surprised (well, not really) to see that out of the 20 or so comments published, every one of them was glowingly positive. I then tried a change of tack and submitted the following comment:

Reading through the published comments it would appear that you can only get by the BBC's editorial filters by employing the words 'great' or 'brilliant' when describing this programme. It was the same amateurish sectarian twaddle as usual I'm afraid.

You can have a look at the site to see how the BBC's blue pencil got to work on that one. Honestly, you couldn't make it up some times.

Liam Mac Uaid said...

The Republicans have to take some responsibility for allowing the BBC and ITV to get away with this rebranding of an explicitly militant sectarian event as some sort of "festival". You cannot pretend that loyalism is anything but reactionary and sectarian. It is a political ideology much more than a culture. There would not have been too many Fenians at the bonfires when the drink started flowing.

The Great Wee Azoo said...

I used to email the BBC and complain about their coverage of The Twelfth, but since I kept getting the same replies, I gave up. They weren't listening. Here's an email they sent me some years back. I imagine its content remains somewhat unchanged for today's complainers:

"Thank you for your e-mail regarding the live and edited highlights coverage of the 12th of July parades on BBC ONE Northern Ireland.

I am sorry that you were unhappy that we broadcast coverage of the event.

BBC Northern Ireland strives to represent all communities and traditions in Northern Ireland with programmes which reflect our cultural, linguistic and sporting diversity. Within this remit, the Twelfth of July is a significant cultural event for many viewers and listeners.

BBC Northern Ireland has also reported extensively on the issues surrounding the parades on both television and radio, including two special programmes. The protests and violence have been reported and discussed at length, with representation from the broadest range of views across the community. In the totality of our coverage we have also been mindful of the fact that the vast majority of the parades on the Twelfth of July have been peaceful.

Our news programmes throughout the day, including the special evening programme, continued to report on the wider news context. This included reports on overnight violence, attacks on people and property and Loyalist paramilitary activities.

We realise that it is difficult to schedule coverage which will please everyone in our vast and diverse audience. However, we hope that our efforts to cover the cultural aspects of the day alongside challenging news coverage of the wider context, provide a full picture which enables our viewers and listeners to make up their own minds on a controversial subject.

I hope that this clarifies our position on the matter."

JC Skinner said...

Bunch of wankers. But Auntie's NI office has always been a bastion of bigotry.
I'd have thought the 'fuck micky bo' flags on top of some of the bonfires, or the UVF commemoration banners from some of the lodges, or indeed their getting lost and wandering home through Ardoyne to annoy the locals, might have helped people realise that the OO parades are still the hatemongering shite they always were.

ian said...

I have heard it said that the 12th is akin to those big street parties they get in Brazil. Maybe they should roll with this - clear out the beer bellied corner boys and instead have parades of the comely young ladies of Northern Ireland, clad in bikinis, bowler hats, and sashes.

King Brian said...

Perhaps it's the BBC's way of making up for years of pimping for the IRA, Yessir Afatrat, Soddam Hussein, The Clintons and all the other leftie scum...