Friday, 3 August 2012

Jeremy Paxman was 'offensive'

The BBC Trust has admitted that comments by Jeremy Paxman in which he called the Book of Genesis 'religious hogwash' were indeed 'offensive'.  Paxman had also described those who hold a literal belief in the Old Testament as 'stupid people'.

Paxman's comments were made during a Newsnight programme in which he interviewed Richard Dawkins about his book The Magic of Reality:  How We Know What's Really True.  The programme was broadcast in October last year.

In a scripted introduction to the item Paxman said that from 'our earliest years we learn to suspend disbelief'.  He then added, 'And that apparently is also how we condition impressionable brains to absorb religious hogwash.'

In another section Paxman said of Dawkins, 'Even with him setting them up as Aunt Sallies the myths remain the better stories carrying an imaginative charge that makes nonsense easier to understand than fact.  Fairy tales of whatever world religion retain an untarnishable beauty more easily followed by a small and impressionable Tasmanian child for example.'

During the live interview Dawkins said he thought Genesis was a wonderful story 'as long as you don't think it's true.'  He then said that the problem was that 40% of Americans did think it was true and they 'probably think Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt as well for that matter.'  Paxman then asked him, 'Do you really care that there are a lot of stupid people around?'  Dawkins replied that he did care that children were being misled by 'those stupid people'.

Richard Dawkins is renowned for his rudeness towards Christians but on this occasion it seems that Paxman actually outdid him in rudeness, which was quite an achievement.

Paxman's comments led to a viewer complaining to the BBC but initially the complaints unit cleared the programme of causing any offence.  However after an appeal the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee concluded that the item breached BBC Editorial Guidelines on harm and offence and ruled:
Although Mr Paxman's use of the terms 'religious hogwash' and 'stupid people' was not intended to cause deliberate offence, particularly to those with religious views and beliefs, the use of the terms was offensive to some of the audience and there was no clear editorial purpose for their use in the context of this Newsnight item.
The Trust decided some Newsnight viewers were:
 ... unlikely to have expected Jeremy Paxman's typically robust and confrontational interviewing style to extend to the use of the terms 'religious hogwash' when introducing the story of Genesis and 'stupid people' when talking about those with a literal belief in the Old Testament in the context of the item about religious myths.
It is right that Jeremy Paxman has been reprimanded for his rudeness.  Moreover it shows the value of making complaints and of pursuing them.


  1. So Nelson,just to keep it simple for you and actually try and get a direct answer to a question for once.

    Do you believe the bible is to be taken literaly?

    Do you believe everything in the bible actually happened?

    Do you believe the old testament teachings should be implementated in every aspect of your daily life?

    1. I notice that you ignored the key point of this post, which was that Jeremy Paxman breached the BBC's own guideleines.

      Now as regards your questions, the tone of your opening sentence says it all. You are not really interested in the teachings of the Bible, only in getting an argument. I have no intention of entering into a prolonged and, in your case, rather pointless correspondence. However I will address these matters concisely and there it will rest.

      1. The Bible is to be taken naturally and in many cases that it literally. However, Revelation describes the streets of heaven as being made of gold. I do not believe that they are literally made of gold. Rather it is teaching that heaven will be beautiful beyond what human minds can comprehend or human words express and the gold and precious stones represent that beauty, as best we can understand it.

      2. The Bible deals with the past, the present and the future. Not everything described in the Bible has yet happened.

      3. Old Testament law includes the moral law (Ten Commandments), ceremonial law etc. The ceremonial law was abolished at Calvary, almost 2000 years ago, but the moral law still stands. Moreover the Bible teaches in Romans 3:23 that we all have sinned and fallen short of that moral law ... and as we look at the world around us and look into our own hearts, who can doubt it? That is why Jesus Christ died for sinners at Calvary.

      And there the matter will rest. However if you want to give me your name and address I will be happy to send you some literature dealing with these questions more fully.

  2. I am sure you would Nelson. Actually the first part of your post was incorrect. I would actually be a believer though not in the literal word of the bible. I was simply interested in your belief (if correct) that the bible and its content where the literal rules by which people should live their lives. I do not take it literally and some of the "rules" are somewhat harsh and silly. So I was not interested in a an argument but simply to try and get a direct answer to the question. I find in some of your posts you dont answer answer the questiosn but rather dance around them. As for Newnight, thats his view to which he is entitled. If he broke the BBC rules then the BBC will I am sure point out the errors of his way. Personally I have always found him to be a little on the ignorant side anyway.


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