BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN
‘An inquiry into this period in Britain’s shameful history.’
And so Jon Snow began the Channel 4 News lead story on the evening of Monday 27th February. Keme Nzerem’s report on the abuse of children shipped throughout the Commonwealth under the Child Migrant Programme was indeed harrowing. Though uncomfortable to watch, the reporter deserves credit for sensitively handling a difficult subject.
But surely Mr Snow had made a mistake, muddled his words, mixed up his adjective and noun? Surely he’d meant to say ‘shameful period in Britain’s history’, hadn’t he? Difficult to argue with that – it was indeed a shameful period. That must have been what he meant. Mustn’t it?
I gave Mr Snow the benefit of the doubt. Or at least I did until later on Monday when, upon the announcement of the death of Martin McGuinness, he issued the following Tweet:
At this point I’d like to make it very clear that this article isn’t intended to be a trolling hate piece. Mr Snow is entitled to his opinions, however much we may (and I usually do) disagree with them. I am intrigued, however, as to his motivations.
Mr Snow is well-known as a controversialist. A seasoned pro, he will have understood exactly what he was doing. The Tweet was very cleverly written. In the true sense of the word, McGuinness did indeed lead an ‘extraordinary’ life, and it is quite possible to describe the loss as ‘great’ – McGuinness was one of the most significant figures throughout the duration of Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’.
But I’m going to make an assumption. I think Mr Snow meant the Tweet to be interpreted in exactly the way so many people interpreted it: as an expression of sympathy for one of the most vicious and bloody terrorists of our time.
Channel 4 has always revelled in provocation. From its early ‘Red Triangle’ films (which, although almost unbearably tantalising to spotty teenage youths, never quite managed to deliver on their promise) to its alternative queen’s speeches to, well, to its flagship news programme, it has always ploughed a different furrow. Channel 4 News has become increasingly Mail-esque of late (albeit coming from the opposite end of the political spectrum), but at least you know what you’re going to get at 7:00 PM, even if it is littered with errors and amateurish misidentification of terrorists. Like reading the Guardian or Telegraph, look at it with your eyes open and you’ll sometimes find some excellent journalism*. Jon Snow, with his challenging questions and often contentious standpoints, was always the perfect fit to anchor it.
I really don’t understand it. I’ve never met Mr Snow but he’s clearly an incredibly intelligent chap and I have heard he is an affable, friendly character in ‘real life’. Unlike a certain capital-based mid-morning radio presenter I could mention, he doesn’t seem to adopt an attitude of sneering disdain (one might even say hate) with members of the public who hold different views to him. When he ventures out of the studio, he appears to like ordinary people.
So why does he hold his own country in such apparently low regard? Like every nation, there are stains on Britain’s past. There are periods in our history that can rightfully be called ‘shameful’. But our history as a whole? Sorry, Mr Snow, I’m not having it.
The good done by our forefathers far outweighs the bad. There is much to be proud of, and grateful for, in our collective past.
Perhaps I’ve got it wrong? Perhaps it really was a simple slip of the tongue on the night of February 27th? I certainly hope so. You don’t really dislike your country so much, Mr Snow. Do you?
*Okay, The Guardian might be stretching things a bit.
Matthew Corrigan is a Regular Country Squire Guest Writer and author whose excellent novel OSPREY shines a satirical light on a dodgy politician with a flying wind turbine scam. His books can be found here