BBC Radio London marked the occasion of Remembrance Sunday by inviting satirist Henry Naylor to plug his new play, Echoes, which is a celebration of jihadi brides.
Today’s jihadi brides, says Naylor, are just like the pioneer women of the Victorian Age. To back up this argument he advanced the theory that Victorian women had no prospects whatsoever, unless they happened to be Queen, so they went to countries like India (in the days of the British Empire) to find a husband. Which is exactly like being a cheer-leader for the so-called Islamic State (Isis), in his view.
His play kicks off, he says, with a character saying that women are forced into becoming jihadi brides by Nigel Farage.
Naylor says (two minutes into his interview with Harriet Scott and Tim Arthur on BBC Radio London at 10:58 am on Sunday) that jihadi brides have no choice but to support terrorism, because of the 4 million people “on the streets” who are “saying offensive things about Muslims” who are led by Nigel Farage. He says he’s researched them by going online and getting into the mind of a 15-year-old girl. That’s a hell of a trick to pull off, especially for a 49-year-old white man, of a different race and, dare I speculate, a much more privileged background. In his wisdom, he declares that they are all very clever and ambitious (the jihadis) but they’ve been denied any of the opportunities exclusively offered to white Christian women.
I’m not sure, but I think he might be making some rather sweeping generalisations there.
Obviously, I’m not the right gender, class or race to comment on these matters. I wouldn’t dare and besides, it would be quite an insulting conceit. That doesn’t seem to stop Naylor steaming in. But he’s seemingly untouchable because he’s got all the right prejudices.
He’s made prejudicial assumptions about women, based on their class, their race and their colour. Normally, you’d expect a BBC presenter to pick up on such clear examples of racism, sexism and snobbery. But neither Scott nor Arthur were going to challenge him.
For example, his argument that terrorism is all the fault of Nigel Farage and the protest voters of Ukip is a bit thin. When did the voters of Ukip ever take to the streets en masse?
Besides, why would the suicide bombers and terrorists of the last decade be motivated by events that hadn’t happened yet? That’s exactly what he said though. Ten years ago, people took up terrorism because they knew that several years in the future, there would be a popular protest vote for Ukip.
He makes some even more absurd claims in the interview. Which is weird because looking at his Wikipedia profile, he’s got an immensely successful track record. He’s won tons of awards, so we must assume the man’s fairly intelligent. So what’s happened to him? What drove him off the rails into Johann Hari fantasy land? If he can lose his marbles, can this happen to anyone?
I suspect that he’s suffering from Award-Winning Left Wing Comedian syndrome. He makes one unsustainable assertion after another. Normally, someone like that would get pulled up by a fact checker, but not Naylor. Everything he says is accepted and fawned over. Which is cruel,because without any checks and balances anyone can wander off the cliff of sanity. Naylor’s interview is revealing, not for his myopic worldview, but as a study in how fragile the human mental condition is.
For example, in the interview, he claims to have watched a Live TV news broadcast as a studio blew up around BBC broadcaster William Reeve. (I can’t find any evidence this ever happened. If it did, it was never televised live. That would be the sort of event everyone would remember.) Even more fantastically, he claims that he then saw his long lost flatmate in the live BBC News TV footage, who just happened to be the cameraman. Who walked from behind the camera and dusted William Reeve down. Too good to be true that story. There’s nothing about it on YouTube or Google. If it happened, it would pass into legend, especially in a self-referential organisation like the BBC.
Naylor’s story gets more fantastic. He then explains how he then phoned up some BBC fixers, who arranged for him to be sent out to Afghanistan, so he could see the war for himself. I don’t move in these sort of circles, but surely that’s a bit far fetched isn’t it? What sort of privileged social class does this man belong to, if he can just pick up a phone and demand to be taken to a war zone to research his new play for the Edinburgh Comedy trade show (or Fringe Festival, to give it the proper corporate brand name).
That’s always the chance that he might be a Jeffrey Archer style fantasist.
Why would any sane person not only make up such a story but also pretend to have personal involvement?
If he was lying, that would give him a left wing fantasist rating of 8.9 on the Johann Hari scale.
He also claims – in the interview – to be the first person to discover that British forces took a beating at the hands of the Afghans in previous years. He discovered this through visiting Afghanistan and talking to locals. I thought that Britain’s past military defeat was well documented. I’m pretty sure there are books about this. And documentaries. It was even mentioned in a Sylvester Stallone film. Maybe Mr Naylor is confusing real life with that time he watched Rambo II.
Maybe that’s what happens to any sane rational human being if nobody ever questions even your maddest assertions.
Sadly, the presenters of the radio show fell down on this duty. The hardest question they put to him was ‘which theatre is showing your play?’ The follow up question was something like, “that’s a really nice theatre, isn’t it?”
Do you think I’m being too hard on this Mr Naylor? He’s an award-winning satirist after all. Are his assertions about the lack of opportunities for woman, and particularly jihadi brides, correct? Can Nigel Farage be blamed for the rise of Isis?
Is it Ok to ask questions of award-winning celebrities like Henry Naylor?