Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018 | Last Update : 06:02 PM IST

Is diversity perversity?

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Dec 9, 2017, 1:53 am IST
Updated : Dec 9, 2017, 1:56 am IST

I can sort-of-sympathise with some idiot researcher dealing Shashi Kapoor obituary mistaking Rishi for Shashi and including the clip.

Shashi Kapoor
 Shashi Kapoor

“Divided we stand
United we fall!”
From Tripod Proverbs
by Bachchoo

Suppose, gentle reader, just suppose, you switched on your TV or accessed your digital platform and came across the Falsetto TV Channel which announced: “Farrukh Dhondy, sometime raconteur, boulevardier and flâneur was run over by a Coca Cola truck and is, as a happy consequence, dead. Here are some highlights of his short and undistinguished career.” And then Falsetto Channel displayed clips, firstly of Salman Rushdie receiving the Ayatollic Literature Prize for his service to religion with shots of Kevin Spacey and other famous people in the audience applauding the well-deserved award; and the next clip portraying my second-cousin-twice-removed (each time by the police) Rustom Immoralearningswallah, from his own website dirtydealings.com — you may conclude that this is a just tribute to my heaven-ascended soul.

There will undoubtedly be fans and creditors who will point out to Falsetto TV that the clips they displayed were not of the above-mentioned Farrukh Dhondy, but of renowned and talented Sir Salman Rushdie and of the less well-known Rustom Immoralearningswallah, but better known in Mumbai, before emigrating to Ontario, as Russi Bhadwa.

Falsetto TV can be forgiven. It operates with three staff from the small island of Carriacou in the vicinity of Grenada in the Caribbean and is bound to mix up one writer with another and one cousin with someone not so often removed.

But suppose the BBC, reputedly the greatest purveyor of truth, had done all that has been described above? Wouldn’t the earth shake and people start believing that Donald Trump is right when he says that the most reputable channels peddle untruths? Well, it’s indisputably true that the BBC and its most prestigious and authoritative news outlet, News at Ten, which goes out every day of the week, would pay no attention to the death of raconteurs, boulevardiers and flâneurs.

Still, earlier this week they did announce as a premier news item the death of Indian actor Shashi Kapoor.

The News at Ten followed this announcement with clips from the star’s career. Only they weren’t. The first clip showed Amitabh Bachchan, a totally different huge superstar — and the second featured Rishi Kapoor, Shashi’s brother’s son.

News at Ten paraded each as though they were displaying the acting talents of the late Shashi.

We all make mistakes as most of us are human. But if we are not, if we are God on earth, as Jesus Christ was, we don’t. And surely if any institution on earth is an avatar of the deity it is the BBC? And when all is told, should it beg for pardon?

I think it should. News at Ten, obeying the political injunction to represent all the communities of contemporary Britain under a policy called “diversity” (as a classified diverse person, I won’t go into the politics and absurdities of its semantics and categorisations here!) obviously believed that the death of a Bollywood star merited a mention.

If, shall we say, Donald Trump was hit by a Coca Cola truck and died, the programme would certainly feature his death, but would it show Ronald Reagan shaking hands with Margaret Thatcher or a clip of JFK being shot in the back of a car as illustrations of Mr Trump’s illustrious career? Of course not — that would be absurd.

The researchers assigned to find clips of Mr Trump’s speeches, rallies, rants or whatever would know what they were doing and would never mistake Ronald for Donald or a bullet from the grassy knoll in Detroit for death by Coca Cola.

Why? It’s the BBC culture, stupid! (I mean “gentle reader” but was parodying an American saying.)

A few appointments ago a gentleman called Greg Dyke was made the director-general of the BBC and when asked by a reporter for his first impressions of it, he said it was “hideously white”.

Having worked for decades in the British TV industry myself, I can say he was right at the time, but I can also add that things have changed. The adjective, in several redoubts of the BBC, should no longer apply. There are excellent pockets of “diverse” (read black or Asian) talent in several areas of the BBC, but in others, and on present evidence in the news departments, the adjective “hideously” can justifiably be altered to “patronisingly”.

How did the Shashi Kapoor obituary go so desperately shamefacedly wrong? What would have happened to the perspective of News at Ten if they had announced the death of Laurence Olivier and shown clips of John Gielgud? Yes, the tumbrils would roll, but this Kapoor fellow is only some Asian Johnny whom none of our viewers have heard of but we have to do the damn item because of political correctness and this wretched diversity tosh...

I first came to Britain in 1964 as a student. Even in the pubs in London and Cambridge patrons who wanted to be friendly would ask me my name and say they found it difficult and ask if they could call me “John”. They could, I would say, but 50 years on, things have progressed. Britain is today an irreversibly multi-ethnic society and its institutions are struggling to keep pace.

I can sort-of-sympathise with some idiot researcher dealing Shashi Kapoor obituary mistaking Rishi for Shashi and including the clip. He or she (destined to progress in the BBC hierarchy and even control the news in a few years with their Oxbridge pedigrees) could have hit the wrong key on the computer and come up with Shashi Tharoor, Indian MP and writer, caught up today in a possibly undeserved web of controversy? Kapoor — Tharoor? Do they sound the same?

What’s worrying is if the BBC, with its journalistically investigative remit, gets Shashi and Rishi wrong, can the world have any confidence that this great broadcaster has any insight, any televisual understanding or penetration of the British communities that are producing ISIS volunteers, jihadi brides or home-grown terrorists?

Is diversity perversity?

Tags: salman rushdie, donald trump, shashi kapoor