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To think that Jeremy Paxman was bloody rude on Britain's Great War?

(44 Posts)
ziggiestardust Mon 03-Feb-14 21:47:46

Watching now on BBC1, and he's doing a bit on Conscientious Objectors. He's not only referred to them as 'cranks', but was quite pointed and rude to a surviving member of one of their families:
"But don't you think he needed to do his bit?' Etc?

I think that's rather inappropriate, especially given that I think a number of them have since been pardoned.

And conscripting people into war has since been condemned, and rightly so.

ziggiestardust Mon 03-Feb-14 21:50:42

"...during the course of the war, the British Army ordered 306 conscientious objectors be shot at dawn. In 2006 the British government pardoned them; just in time."

Source from

SilverDragonfly1 Mon 03-Feb-14 22:46:43

YANBU. Conscientious objectors did 'do their bit'- they did red cross type work on the front lines, volunteered for all sorts of unpleasant medical research that could help the soldiers and prisoners of war (there was a BBC article just the other day about those who agreed to be starved over long periods so that the effects on their bodies could be observed), worked on the land so everyone could eat and all sorts of other things. They were just as brave and patriotic as the enlisted soldiers, but refused to kill other human beings.

Mimishimi Tue 04-Feb-14 01:03:17

Onward Christian soldiers ..... sad It's about priming the population to scorn the next batch of conscientious objectors to another 'Great War'. Did not one of them ask in response if he has personally joined up to fight current wars and why ever not?

NadiaWadia Tue 04-Feb-14 01:24:51

YANBU I would have been interested in watching this series .... but couldn't bring myself to do so as it was with Jeremy Paxman. He often comes across as a bully with a hectoring manner.

ziggiestardust Tue 04-Feb-14 07:12:53

It's actually been quite an informative programme other than Jeremy Paxman heaping patriotic scorn upon an undeserving family member hmm

I honestly can't believe editors at the BBC didn't pick that up tbh. I am quite shocked.

TheGirlOnTheLanding Tue 04-Feb-14 07:23:38

He wasn't exactly hiding his own feelings was he? Very rude to the conscientious objector's descendant, and equally rude to the Govan men about the Red Clydesiders' motives. That's his usual style though, so I wasn't surprised. It's a shame so many copy it though: the female co-presenter of C4 news earlier was incredibly rude, to the point of not letting her interviewee finish a single sentence, earlier in the evening. I find it frustrating when instead of being able to hear someone's view or reasons for something, all you get to hear is the journalist's own agenda.

ithaka Tue 04-Feb-14 07:34:10

I am still enjoying the programme. I didn't know about the rent strikes - that private landlord scum hiked up the rents while the men were away fighting meaning the women & children were evicted. A real argument for regulation of the housing market that is relevant today - left to its own devices, the private market will be immoral to the point of evil.

It was a great story as it was women's activism that ended it. I had never heard of Mary Barbour - a great female role model for my daughters. History does not celebrate these heroines enough.

DrNick Tue 04-Feb-14 07:36:13

i think he was being devils advocate

important to judge them in a history show by feelings at the time. not be rose tinted

sashh Tue 04-Feb-14 08:15:11

important to judge them in a history show by feelings at the time. not be rose tinted

Utter rubbish.

Thymeout Tue 04-Feb-14 08:27:48

No. It was an extremely relevant question.

They are heroes now, because of the way feelings about war have changed. But the vast majority of the country regarded them as shirkers and cowards at the time.

HettiePetal Tue 04-Feb-14 08:48:31

Yes, you are being extremely unreasonable.

Rightly or wrongly, conscientious objectors WERE seen as cranks and cowards back then. We can't understand history if we continually look back at it from our own modern perspective.

Asking the family whether they thought their relative should have done their bit was putting the attitude of the time to them so that they could respond with their modern perspective. It highlighted the change in attitude - the same family would have been bitterly ashamed of them 100 years ago.

JP's manner doesn't always do him any favours though & I think he often plays up to his image - but I think you've missed the point here.

Dawndonnaagain Tue 04-Feb-14 09:00:59

Utter rubbish.

No it's not. Context of the period is essential for understanding.

grumpyoldbat Tue 04-Feb-14 09:11:21

I think the fact that the people of the time had such low opinions of them shows just how brave the really were. It takes a lot of courage to go against the prevailing opinion. Add in what many did volunteer for as an alternative and yes they were brave. The opinions of their time don't make them less so.

Secondly even if we did subscribe to the view that they were cowards effectively berating their descendant is despicable behaviour. I'm sure everyone of us has at least one ancestor who has done something we disapprove of, we don't deserve to be held accountable for their actions.

nennypops Tue 04-Feb-14 09:21:16

YABU. He was quite validly putting to them the point that was made at the time and which needed to be answered. He wasn't suggesting that that was his personal opinion, and it was perfectly clear that it was not.

harryhausen Tue 04-Feb-14 09:24:20

I agree with HettiePal.

Actually, I don't normally like Paxman but so far on this programme I think he's told the stories well and drawn me in. He's also written a hefty book on the subject.

People back then didn't love war. The exact opposite. They were all horrified and terrified by national conscription for the first time out if desperation. People were totally desperate for the war to end. Of course in that environment, if you'd lost 10+ sons and your dh - you'd find a conc objector pretty galling.

Paxo put this idea to the families so they could answer and put forward their ancestors viewpoint. Perfectly right.

FairPhyllis Tue 04-Feb-14 09:26:23

When he said 'cranks' he specifically said he was talking about the extreme conscientious objectors - like the Richmond 16 - who wouldn't do any form of war work like work as a labourer or as medical personnel.

yegodsandlittlefishes Wed 05-Feb-14 00:06:19

DH's relative was an absolutist, he was one of the 16. He was not a crank, and he certainly did his bit in WWI. How much resolve do you think it takes for a man (fed on bread and water and in some cases tortured) each forced into a uniform he had not chosen to wear, be taken behind enemy lines in order to be court marshalled (because they could only court marshal men who were in the army, it was illegal otherwise!) He did his bit for his fellow man. He was willing to give his life to NOT fight a war he saw as dishonourable and avoidable. He would do absolutely nothing to help in such a war, even if it meant his own countrymen would kill him. He did it because he believed WWI was not a just war, and that it was avoidable if TPTB had negotiated with Germany. (N.B. he was not anti war, he did what he could in the war effort for WWII and would have fought if he could have). He believed that hundreds of thousands of ordinary men (like my own relatives) were being duped to join up in their droves as Pals to become canon fodder, by an army which promoted people into power based on class and connections over competence and ability. The battles of the Somme Paxman went on to describe exposed that as the truth, even if he doesn't put the two together. What Paxman missed out, lied about even, was that England did not all think WWI was a just war, far from it! There was a great deal of hushed up civil unrest, not just in Ireland, there was a good deal in England as well.

The prison the 16 were sent to, Dyce (in Aberdeenshire) consisted of tents unfit for use where they were made to dig rocks out of massive holes and then move them back and refill them.

squoosh Wed 05-Feb-14 01:27:39

'Rightly or wrongly, conscientious objectors WERE seen as cranks and cowards back then. We can't understand history if we continually look back at it from our own modern perspective.'

I'm afraid you're the one missing the point. He was calling them 'cranks' from his 21st century point of view. His view is that they were cranks.

squoosh Wed 05-Feb-14 01:28:34

I found the whole programme to be a bit simplistic to be honest.

squoosh Wed 05-Feb-14 01:38:52

'He wasn't suggesting that that was his personal opinion, and it was perfectly clear that it was not.'

Well maybe you need to re-watch it 44 mins 14 secs where he says 'to be honest the extreme conscentious objectors have always struck me as cranks'.

Clearly it is his personal opinion.

yegodsandlittlefishes Wed 05-Feb-14 07:34:17

Exactly. Absolutists were not understood then, but there is no excuse for using a programme such as this to propagate his own personal opinion, and at the very least he should get his facts straight. I'm very disappointed.

Pigeonhouse Wed 05-Feb-14 10:17:54

I missed that bit of the programme, but he's certainly been insanely rude to people he interviewed in other documentaries. One that had my eyebrows up was in his Empire series, him haranguing an elderly Indian man, trying to browbeat him into admitting that the British Empire had been good for India. I think he can't distinguish between appropriate haranguing (incompetent or fraudulent politicians) and inappropriate.

His 'interview' with Dev's grandson on the 1916 Rising was very simplistic and it's simply untrue to claim that the graves of those executed for their role in the GPO are uncomplicatedly nationally 'revered'.

Anyone interested in knowing more about COs in WWI should read the second volume of Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy, The Eye in the Door.

NeoFaust Wed 05-Feb-14 10:26:36

Let's be clear -there were conscientious objectors who did their bit. Quakers, for instance, would not take up arms - but many put on uniforms and carried stretchers, winning awards and commendations for bravery for the care they showed to the wounded on both sides.

But others just sat at home and contributed nothing but petty, empty rationalisations for their own cowardice.

yegodsandlittlefishes Wed 05-Feb-14 10:42:35

*But others just sat at home and contributed nothing but petty, empty rationalisations for their own cowardice.'

No, they didn't. One thing those 16 men were not was cowards. They must have been very strong to NOT join up with their brothers and friends. Cowards caved in, put on the uniform and signed up, then changed their minds. Every fit man of a certain age was called up (excepting those in essential occupations). If they had their conscript papers, they turned up to the desk or they were found at home and dragged there. The army did everything they could to make men fight.

My relatives joined up as Pals, they didnt need to be asked. My uncle volunteered in WWII. My Dad still said that the Richmond 16 were just as much heroes as the brother he lost.

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