Today Saturday the 4th of June, I wanted to hear news of the relief of Raqqa and the city’s population which has been trapped by ISIS gangs for months. Conditions are so bad, it is reported, that some refugees have drowned their children. There is no food or water, and, as is usual with ISIS, reports abound of men been executed and women raped. The Syrian army, backed by Russian aircraft, is slowly advancing to take key strongholds around Raqqa before attacking the city itself. It is no ordinary battle. The troops know if they are captured by ISIS they will be horribly tortured before being killed. This is the Syrian army the BBC never loses an opportunity to revile for its cowardice and cruelty.
Apart from a bare mention of this horrible event, (Raqqa is the Belsen of our times), and a few lines running along the bottom of its TV screens, at 2 pm today, Saturday, the BBC had given itself itself up entirely to adolescent fantasies about Muhammed Ali. The first half hour of its news was taken up with grovelling interviews by rich white middle class men of some of the boxer’s black friends.
Watching this column of unredeemed fools today on TV is hysterically funny. In reality Ali had no time for self flagellating white men mouthing off about integration, only contempt as his interview with Michael Parkinson demonstrates.
At times the coverage became almost hysterical, as if some fantastic religious event had taken place in which, on mention of Ali’s ascension to heaven, the dead rose, cancers vanished and the paralysed cast away their mobility frames. It was not just the BBC. A newspaper cartoonist drew a picture of an open door through which beamed bright celestial light. The caption read, ‘Farewell Ali’. When I turned on the news a few hours later it was still going on. As for Raqqa it had almost entirely vanished from the papers.
Should we expect a trade in relics to begin soon with fragments of Ali’s boxing gloves or slivers of Nelson’s Mandela’s toe nails being sold as cures? What should we make of this cult of negritude, the hysterical worship of all things black? Is our society like some disgusting old Roman Emperor so besotted with a handsome dead athlete, once miraculously light on his feet, that we have no time for people being starved and murdered on the edge of our empire?