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Civilising Missions

‘Civilisations is an epic new series spanning 31 countries on six continents, and covering more than 500 works of art. Presenters SIMON SCHAMA, MARY BEARD and DAVID OLUSOGA will explore humanity’s desire to create.’ I confess that I have not seen every episode of the BBC/Nututopia series ‘Civilisations’ but I have a few preliminary or draft thoughts that might be worth sharing. The extra S is clearly intended as a kind of rebuke to Kenneth Clark and the makers of his 1960s series which focused on the achievements of European or Western civilisation. The series famously begins with Clark refusing to define ‘civilisation’ but archly saying he knows it when he sees it, followed by a droll pan to Notre Dame. In its day, ‘Civilisation‘ was ground breaking television that spawned a number of genuinely ambitious series authored by grandees such as Jacob Brownowski. There was nothing so ambitious that the once humble medium of television couldn’t tackle it. Now we have a new, very expensive series with an extra S made in a new age of television by an independent company. It has multiple presenters and a global brief. Not just the Sistine Chapel, but Angkor Wat. Not only […]
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Greene Propaganda

It seemed appropriate this week to post some notes about a rather more impressive BBC DG than the unfortunate George Entwistle.  For the first few years of the Emergency war, propaganda efforts had been confused and paltry. By the beginning of the 1950s, with the arrival of General Briggs, a root and branch reform of both intelligence gathering and propaganda objectives was underway. Briggs had repeatedly stressed the importance of breaking down communist morale through targeted propaganda. Investment in the psychological battlefield was ramped up when it became clear that Briggs’ other proposed strategies had begun to harm the MNLA. For Briggs, resettlement would be a blunt weapon without rigorous food control. The aim was simple – starve the MNLA to defeat or death. The typical resettlement camp was a hunger machine. Each camp was encircled by barbed wire, with just two entrances which were stringently patrolled. The district authorities purchased every kind of food supply in controlled quantities. Food was secured in silos and could be purchased only by holders of ration cards. Rice was rationed. Store holders were required to keep a meticulous record of every item sold. Foodstuffs arrived in the camps at strictly controlled times; supplies […]
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