Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Telegraph | News | BBC says Humphrys was 'misguided and inappropriate'

Don't you just hate the word "inappropriate"? It is a prissy, priggish word. It has become the modern equivalent of the religious word "sinful" but without the notion that, as none of us are without sin, we must not rush to judgement of other sinners.

Whenever one speaks the truth these days, it's "inappropriate." Whenever one challenges authority, it's "inappropriate". Note that the BBC is at pains NOT to say that John Humphreys' remarks were "untrue." No, unspecified elements of his speech were just "inappropriate". Note also that they accept his remarks were not biased and that he did not seek to be "contemptuous" or "dismissive" of ministers in general (God forbid).

Despite the fact that he was speaking in a private capacity; that he has made similar remarks - unchallenged - before in the august presence of ministers and not least that he was speaking nought but unvarnished truth, he has effectively been slapped down in public by his employers.

At what point in our history did our employers acquire the right to control our opinions, or the expression thereof, outside working hours? At what point did it become any of their damn business what we say or do when not in actual production?

What is truly "inappropriate" is for any commercial employer to seek to modify the thinking of its staff or restrict the expression of their thoughts. The payment of a salary entitles an employer to the performance of contractual tasks to the best of one's ability during working hours. Nothing more. Companies these days also expect "loyalty", a rather feudal notion - but minus the "noblesse oblige" bit. I would argue that they are entitled to as much as they give in that respect; usually precisely nothing.

The BBC should shut up and let Mr Humphreys say what he has to say on his own time. At least, when off air, he occasionally says something interesting.

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