Michael Buerk’s misogynistic comments about the rape victim of Sheffield United footballer, Ched Evans, this week should come as no surprise. What is far more sinister, in my view, is that someone who has form when it comes to vocalising his contempt for women, should be allowed to chair the BBC’s Moral Maze.
The trailer for this week’s programme aired Buerk pontificating that neither Evans, nor the woman he attacked emerged “with any credibility because she was so intoxicated she could barely stand”. Thus positioning the victim of rape as morally equivalent to the rapist.
As someone who specialises in ethics, I had to stop listening to the programme several years ago, predominately because of the sanctimonious, self righteous, alpha male tones of the two female presenters, Melanie Phillips and Clare Fox. Why they, or indeed Michael Portillo, qualify to make moral judgements of the day, alludes me. Giles Frazer is a theologian at least. For the moral Maze to be relevant in contemporary Britain, it should reflect it. The panel should be made up of different faiths and people of no faith who deal with ethics (academics & practitioners who help institutions navigate the real world on a daily basis).
Michael Buerk and three of the current panellists are out of touch (Portillo, Phillips & Fox) and have a pompous &/or combative approach, which is completely at odds with getting the best out of witnesses. It’s like a blood sport. Listening to Melanie Phillips’ verbal attempts to annihilate anyone with opposing views is worse than watching Benefits Street. Having my finger nails pulled out with a pliers would be preferable to listening to Phillips and Fox in action.
I digress. Buerk sort of apologised but implied that there was substance to what he said. A similar position to that which he took in 2005. In a toe curling mockumentary (supposed to be serious) he made of women, he railed against the plight of men moved to the margins of a woman’s world. Back then he claimed women set the agenda in the media. He claimed it was run by women for women.
Nearly 10 years on there are even fewer female editors and media executives, so there was no need to panic about the “femocracy” Michael. Male domination prevails. Viewers of week-end TV will know that it’s a veritable lads’ fest. Mock the Week is to be renamed “Mock the Women”. I have a game I play with friends (we need to get out more) called “spot the women” on the male dominated panel shows (QI, Have I Got News for You, 9 out of 10 cats, soon to be renamed 9 out of 10 times the panellists are white men…). Sometimes there’s a token female pitted against the otherwise all male panellists, and if she’s an ethnic, that ticks 2 boxes. Actually, if there’s an ethnic male they often don’t bother with the token woman.
Buerk played down his choice of words as “Clumsy”. Not a good enough defence for a highly paid journalist where, words are your craft. Perhaps if he hadn’t referred to Tess Daly as “that pneumonic bird brain from Strictly” a few years ago, he might have gotten away with a gloss over, half hearted apology. But, he did say that about Daly and he referred to other female colleagues as “air heads”. Stooping to such vitriolic sexist epithets isn’t just morally reprehensible, it’s sloppy journalism. Rather than articulate a case to illustrate a point, he uses the short hand of prejudice, effectively conflating any perceived professional shortcomings with gender. What a Buerk.