Celebrity Big Brother

Anyone been following this in the U.K.? There have been 30,000 complaints now to Channel 4 and Ofcom about the rampant racism going on in the show, and now their sponsors have pulled out too. Frankly, I am appalled that Channel 4 are so happy (and actually proud) to make money out of this. It really does not reflect well on Britain at all. One of the benefits of living somehwere as multicultural as London is that you tend to forget how bigotted a lot of people can be… But I still choose to believe that the majority of Britain has turned a corner and are not really like that any more. Please… I hope not.

Anyway, maybe no one else out there procrastinates by watching CBB, but really, I have to have something to chat about in the staff room at work, that’s my excuse. :slight_smile:


If it makes you feel any better, the coverage of this round here seems to be of the “well duh” variety. Its reality TV! (an oxymoron if there ever was one) It reflects on nothing but itself and whatever is lowest in human nature; that’s its function after all. As for celebrity reality TV: it exists on the far reaches of Hyperreality* and is essentially a black hole of meaning. I certainly wouldn’t be judging an entire nation by it.


*Hyperreality: “The simulation of something which never really existed.” - Jean Baudrillard

P.S. of course they could all just be celebutards, or perhaps celebritards?

I haven’t seen the coverage (I don’t have a television) - nor was it it covered by the BBC radio.

However, i can say that I know how it feels to be judged by the actions/opinions/behavior of 299 million or so people. It all goes under the (usually derisive) term, “american.” Here, btw, we not only put bigots on television, but when someone actually tries to do something about bigotry, they’re promptly eliminated. :astonished:

It’s worth remembering what a very special place London is - few places in the world can lay claim to as many different sorts of people living together so peacefully (relatively); really a modern miracle; it has happened quite rapidly as well. I attended university in the UK 15 years ago and neither london nor oxford (aside from the bengali’s on the edge of town back then) seem nearly as muticultural as they are now. I wouldn’t be suprised if London feels something like an island within an island.

It may well be that a londoner in the future (or now?) will have more in common with a montrealer or new yorker than with many of his/her countrymen.

Shock sells. Almost as well as sex. The unfortunate thing about TV is that if they can shock people, people will watch it. Even if those people don’t like or agree with what’s going on, they’re still watching it, even if it’s just staring at the screen in mute disbelief. As long as the TV is on that station, that station is making money.

Kevin Lygo, Channel 4’s Director of Programmes, has claimed that the racism row saved the show from being dull. It’s better to be offensive than boring, apparently.

The channel is in more hot water over racist comments made on another reality show. An 18 year old Shipwrecked contestent called black people “really bad”, lesbians “sinister”, and claimed if it was up to her she’d bring back slavery. Mr Lygo must be so excited. Apparently the teenager takes back some of her earlier comments later in the series, and her parents have issued a statement apologising for her ‘naive’ behaviour. She’s had a sheltered upbringing apparently, but as racism is something that has to be learned it does make you wonder.

As for a harmonious, tolerant Britain, I’m not sure that’s coming any time soon. I live 35 miles outside London and encounter racist (and sexist, and homophobic) attitudes in my work place all the time. I work in a department of 10 people, and 7 of them are openly, proudly prejudiced. I call these colleagues out on it, and have the p1ss ripped out of me for being an uptight PC idiot. It gets depressing after a while, I don’t mind telling you.

I suspect tolerance has to be learned, too.


I know what you mean. What can be worse, however, is when people adopt pc language, but still - often unknowingly - are racist bigots at heart. Perhaps the depiction of racism, etc. on television - by holding up a mirror and “objectifying it,” and even exxagerating it - will come to horrify the society it purports to reflect? Not much cheer to offer you I’m afraid.

I really hope that isn’t true.

I’d like to think that people aren’t naturally afraid of or hostile towards people who seem different by dress, accent or language. I don’t think the kind of competitive aggression that showed up on CBB is natural to civilised society.

I’m pretty sure that this is learned behavior.
I think this is why so many people objected when it was aired.

An important point is that JG said these things when she thought she wasn’t overheard. Ick. Hallmark of a true bully.


Disclaimer: I am cynical, and an evolutionist.

I am inclined to believe the opposite is true. Tolerance is a learned behaviour, and intolerance is a natural human response. I think intolerance is a side effect of natural grouping behaviours which served their purposes long ago. Humanity’s laudable widespread efforts to eradicate intolerance; the acceptance that all people are born equal; and that those of other race and gender should have the same opportunities is an extremely new concept, when looking at the grand history of the human race.

Before the arrival of organised society, grouping had a powerful function. People who looked and acted alike would form clusters of protection for each other, and within that group, hierarchies would naturally form based on various aptitudes, in order to best protect the unit from outside dangers – be they natural forces or other humans.

When humans begin forming massive organisational structures, it became impossible to know all of the individuals within a unit, yet we were expected to accept these all as part of the group. This was less difficult in ancient times, when civilisations were formed around similar individuals, and belief systems were imposed upon the population by force. Modern society opened up the ability for a civilisation to be formed of many different “types” of people. Additionally, as the “group” became more and more massive, the human mind began to form artificial differences between groups that would otherwise have been considered “like” in older days. Sub-cultures erupted, and a natural fear/loathing between them took hold.

We are all now taught at an early age to accept others, no matter what they look like or believe in, but this is a psychological imposition on a biological system which is still not geared toward that. It takes effort to be accepting of everyone you see, depending upon how well you have learned to be accepting. Some do not find it difficult at all, while others who grew up in areas that still feature segregation and prejudice might have a hard time adjusting to tolerance. Some might go there whole lives struggling with it.

So in that light, the objection you noted is a positive sign that this learned tolerance is strong enough to overcome the intolerance of those who were never taught to be tolerant.

What is natural to civilised society, and what is expected are two different things; one could even say opposing forces. Our nature is still rooted in many tens of thousands of years biological evolution. Civilisation could be seen as our conscious, psychological effort to overcome to the tribal mindset. It is a testament to the collective willpower, and any failings on a micro and macro scale within any civilisation are a testament to the inherit weaknesses. These forces are self-serving. A tolerant society breeds tolerance from generation to generation, while an intolerant society can breed the opposite and create a tendency for empire aspiration and insularity.


Once again, I’m impressed by your ability to cogently make your point, and I completely agree. Thanks for saving us all from another of my somewhat snarky tirades. :laughing:

Given your interest in the subject, you might be intrigued by The Robot’s Rebellion, which is an extended argument for the possibility that rationality can offer escape from the genes and memes that control our impulses. Quite refreshing.


Thanks, that looks interesting. I’ve put it on my list of things to check out. I am a big fan of Dawkins, and this looks like a complementary philosophy to his system of ethics.

We are all just fortunate that I bit my tongue and refrained from exploding in the Marketing Thread. Ha. Now there I have some derisive things to say; and that is another topic we agree upon.

I like that; I was going to have my gravestone marked, “Read a lot; learned nothing”, but now I am thinking I might use, “Here lies a cynical evolutionist”. (Working in education is tough; there aren’t enough atheists.)

Anyway, I’m not so sure that racism or segregation are exactly biological; even in an anthropological context I believe they are learned. My three year-old, who has been to numerous playgroups and nurseries in SE London (which has a fantastically diverse community) most certainly does not and cannot make racial distinctions - yet. I think it’s more to do with exposure, and which group you come to associate yourself with. It’s true that individuals need to feel part of a group; in the past, this has sometimes been community or even ethnicity based. Conservatives of all types still like to play this card. In England, this can take the form of, “They should go back to their own country,” (no matter that the “they” in question were born in England).

Certainly, though, by the time children reach the playgrounds of primary school, the lines have been drawn. In my own school, there is a clear pecking order among the children, from Afro-Caribbean, to Eastern European, to African, to Asian, and so on. But this is learned, from parents. It is not evident in younger children who have not the language to learn this. I firmly believe in the Sapir-Whorf hyphothesis that language determines reality; “different” is created by the word.

Anyway. Big Brother is so passe now. :slight_smile:

All the best,

Now there’s a scary thought.

I’m not sure the issue is so clearly divided as it might seem. It’s quite possible for both views to be right, even complementary. Let me first say that I’m quite convinced by the argument that it takes nature AND nurture in the sense that nature provides predispositions and nurture gives them expression (while culture often exploits them, as is the case with BB.)
I agree with Keith that small children do not naturally descriminate - after all they have little trouble seeing a stuffed animal as a friend, much less the dark skinned girl next door. They pick up their cues from their parents and neighbours and learn who is “usâ€

I’ve always hated that term: “tolerance”. It implies that you are putting up with something; something that is bad, but which you are stoic enough to abide. I prefer “acceptance”. The strange thing about England - and America, and Australia and so on for that matter - is that we are a country of immigrants. The original Brits - Britons - were of the same stock as the Bretons in France. They were the same tribe, in fact, until the Channel came along 10,000 years ago. And these were Celts - dark haired and short-ish. These came from Central Europe somewhere, I believe (before that, of course, Britain was inhabited by giants - yes, I know my Brut). I - along with many men in the area from which I come - am over six foot and fair, so I’m hardly an original “Brit”; more likely I come from the Viking or Anglo-Saxon stock that came in much later, in the 3rd-5th centuries CE. Or probably even from some Eastern European stock that came along sometime after that. The whole idea of “Englishness” is a joke. There was an amusing program on recently called something like “How British Are You?” where they took lots of “I am British! Foreigners go home!” types and analysed their DNA. Most of them were devastated to find they were a good 50% Eastern European. Ha. It always amuses me that the patron saint of England - St. George - was actually Turkish.

Anyway, I really am waffling now. I had a point to make, but I forgot it long ago. You are right that we benefitted from decent food, though. When I was a boy it was all meat and two veg. These days I would be lost without rice, pasta, chilli, stir-fry, Indian food, and so on. The great thing is that the most famous Indian dishes in England - Balit and Tikka - were both invented by Indian immigrants in England, adapting Indian cookery to what was available in England. There’s a message in there somewhere, but I’m too tired and too drunk to work out what it might be.


Of course I’m a foreigner in Britain so I quickly notice its Britishness. Nobody queues like the Brits. There’d be blood for sure if there were Quebecers in your queues.

Odd coincidence, I’m currently making a Mulligatawny, using Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi recipe. How global can you get ? Mulligatawny was inventented during the raj for brits who thought every civilized meal begins with soup.

and so it goes,


I’m with Amber on this one. It is a source of interest to me that while we are quite happy to allow our scientists to be wrong … for Newton to show that Gallileo didn’t get it right, for Einstein to show that Newton didn’t get it right …
But woe betide anyone outside a charmed inner circle who says that Rousseau, Descartes and Locke—who between them constitute the foundations of the accepted concept of what it is to be human—were talking a load of rubbish. Once a great philosopher, always a great philosopher and watch out if you try to say otherwise!
I’m lucky, I’m in China, so I can say so without attracting opprobrium … never mind the fact that Marxism is deeply rooted in those three!
And I’m also in there with Eiron.
Two groups of people here who I want little to do with are the vast majority of expats, who live a ghetto life … like the American woman in Beijing who told my wife “Beijing has become a city one can live in now, because there’s Walmart across the road and Starbucks round the corner!”
And the other is those expats, very often young, who try pretend they are totally integrated in the local culture. They’re not … you see them here in Xiamen, for instancebargaining furiously to save a ha’penny on a couple of pounds of vegetables, missing the point completely that the Xiamenese don’t bargain. They don’t realise that the people in the market only bargain with them precisely because they know that foreigners think you have to bargain!
Bargaining has as much a community as an economic function, and in a city like Xiamen, the community has changed too much except for the very elderly, and generally people are sufficiently prosperous to make the economic side simply not worth it. I was talking to someone the other day who pointed out that in Xiamen, over 50% of residents are from elsewhere in China and not local.
My friends are all Chinese, they know I cherish my Englishness and enjoy their Chineseness … we have no problems with the differences. I’ve been here living in this community for 6 and a half years, and I am treated as one of the community … there are those friends from outside Xiamen who tell me that I am more Xiamenese than them, but there is no way any of us is under any illusion that I am anything other than English (At 6 foot 2, blond and bearded, they’d be hard put to!) … well there are those who don’t know me and who think I must be American or Canadian because there are far more of them around and locals can’t tell the difference.
I would look for a word even warmer than Keith’s “acceptance”, but I don’t know what it is.
End of ramble … it’s been an interesting thread to procrastinate in! :smiley: