Posted by: owizblog | June 20, 2018

What Hypersensitivity Silences…BBC Radio Scotland, Thought For The Day, 20 June 2018

“This programme contains strong language from the outset…” No, that’s not how it’s going to be on Thought For The Day this morning, or it would probably be my last one!  But those words, after the watershed, mean  “Well, you have been warned, so it’s a matter of personal taste and viewer discretion whether you stick with what follows. Don’t blame us if you get upset…”

I’m actually suspicious of censorship, even, or perhaps especially, self-censorship, on biblical grounds – two biblical grounds. One of them is a snippet from the Letter to the Hebrews, upbraiding its audience for their immaturity: “It’s milk you need, not solid food…” How can we claim to be mature if we can’t process the challenging stuff? Baby food on TV may be as lacking in nutrition as it would be in our diet. We’re not babies.

Here’s the second. “This report contains details some viewers (or listeners) may find distressing…” Am I alone in wondering what sort of people don’t find these things distressing? I also wonder if not risking distress is a good enough reason not to watch. Or listen. And yet sometimes, I don’t…

Yesterday, I came on a sound-clip on the BBC website, entitled “The sound of migrant children separated from parents…”  Obtained by an American investigative media outlet, it seems to contain sounds of the distress of young children, separated from their undocumented immigrant parents.

I didn’t listen to the clip. I couldn’t. I found myself rationalizing that just reading that was enough. I didn’t need to know more. But perhaps that was me being craven, immature, deciding that there were things I didn’t need to know, because I couldn’t bear to listen to them.

Forty years ago, I had to study the Hebrew text of the first chapters of the Book of Jeremiah for my finals. It was a revelation. Our douce translations mask the shocking, even profane, language Jeremiah uses to denounce an unjust, callous society. He doesn’t spare our blushes, let alone our feelings. He treats us as adults.

For adults, some things should be far more distressing than four-letter words.  Too [bleep] true…

Sounds of Migrant Children in Detention Centre



  1. Like you I couldn’t listen. Luckily I heard an extract on a news programme later – I say luckily because we should all hear it. Living in the UK there’s a particular kind of helplessness where we can see the horror from a distance and are unable to do anything to prevent it. I cannot imagine why Americans are not in the streets protesting.

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