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Thursday 05 May 2005

Those Suave Brits

There was a general election today in the UK, and the BBC is currently doing their peculiar frantic election coverage. The UK has a much saner system for counting votes than we have in the United States: voters make marks on little bits of paper, which are then counted locally. The drive toward opaque, computer-driven voting in the United States is justified on the basis that computerized votes can be counted faster: they don’t seem to have a problem with this in Britain.

Anyway, once the ballot papers are counted, the vote totals for each district (for the purposes of a general election, they call ‘em ‘constituencies’ there, since Britain is full of overlapping political jurisdictions, and I don’t think that parliamentary constituencies necessary correspond to any other boundaries) are read out by sweaty fat guys in ill-fitting suits. The BBC have cameras all over the country in order to put these guys on TV.

This takes a while, and since it’s still early in the counting at the moment, there’s a lot of time to kill in between announcements. If you’ve ever seen Monty Python’s election sketch, you’ll have the general idea: a remote shot from some election headquarters, followed by lots of strangely frantic commentary and shots of the swingometer.

Much of this involves panel discussions and talking-head shots with people who I don’t recognize but who are probably quite famous and important people in the UK. It’s very difficult for an American to really judge how important a British person is from his or her appearance: there is a distinct tendency in that country for people, even when they’re on television, to look like they’ve just rolled out of bed.

At the moment, they’ve got Boris Johnson on. Mr. Johnson is a Conservative MP and editor of The Spectator: but he looks like he’s just come from sticking his finger in an electrical socket. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that he’s wearing mismatched, gaudy socks. No wonder Americans look so blow-dried and made-up to Brits.

But none of this is actually my point. My point is this: the BBC are also holding a different kind of political party, i.e. an affair where there are drinks and hors d’oeuvres and politicians. A moment ago, they cut to this shindig, where it appears the BBC have hired a George Bush impersonator.

That’s a little strange for what’s supposed to be news coverage, but that’s not the half of it.

The only thing that made this guy a George Bush Impersonator and not just some guy with bad hair is that he speaks with a Texan accent and uses a lot of malapropisms.

He refers to Condoleezza Rice and ‘her Uncle Ben’. In case you live under a rock, Condoleezza Rice is the Secretary of State of the United States, and also an African-American. Uncle Ben, also African-American, is the mascot for a line of rice products and related foods.

He refers to the ‘prime sinister’, ‘Barry Blair’, and the ‘chandelier of the exchequer’, ‘Charlie Brown’; to ‘Charles F. Kennedy’; to ‘Michael Howard the duck from the convertible party’. (Tony Blair is the prime minister, and the UK’s analogue to the American Secretary of the Treasury is the Chancellor of the Exchequer; Charles P. Kennedy leads the Liberal Democrats; and Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservatives, is not a duck.)

In the end, he comes on to the interviewer, saying ‘you’re hot; I looked you up on the web’. You can see the whole two-minute thing in glorious Quicktime by clicking on the image of the BBC interviewer giggling at this jackass:


American TV news is uniformly horrible, but you would never, ever see anything like this presented during a news broadcast. You might see it on Saturday Night Live, but even there it wouldn’t be so crude, insulting, and badly-done.

You might think of this the next time someone complains about ‘freedom fries’ or any other instance of Americans pointlessly knocking some other country. And you might think of it, too, the next time you see the BBC reporting on the United States.

Posted by tino at 20:48 5.05.05
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