How would you like to live in a country where every citizen has to carry identification papers, where all the newspapers are censored, as are all letters abroad, where general elections have been abolished; where there is a one-party state, where bombs are regularly blowing up houses, factories and the railways, and where the government has bankrupted the country because of its 'disastrous' foreign policy?
In this country the social system is at least as authoritarian as the political system. It is shocking for an unmarried couple to sleep together - no hotel would admit them - and a disgrace to have a baby out of wedlock. A homosexual act incurs a jail sentence. Violent young criminals are birched, older ones flogged and murderers hanged.
What country am I talking about? Zimbabwe? North Korea? Burma? No, this was the Britain I was born into in 1943.
Hardly surprising, then, that I should welcome in 1964, the first year that I was allowed to vote, the election of a Labor government. After years of elderly men in frock coats and walrus moustaches pontificating publicly about matters that did not concern us, while privately they were entertaining prostitutes and conducting financial deals based on inside knowledge; we were offered a choice between a creature who looked like a skeleton called the 14th Earl of Home (who incidentally had been Chamberlain's handmaiden at Munich) and a resurgent Labor party that offered us the 'white heat of technological revolution'.
Anthony Jay, one of the co-authors of the marvelous comedy program "Yes Minister" admits to being one of those who fell for the Labor advertising copy in today's Sunday Times. "We were not just anti-Macmillan," he says, "we were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place – you name it, we were anti it." We were wrong.
Anthony Jay left the BBC in 1964. He has changed, but the BBC has remained the same.
Think 'Tesco' and the knee-jerk response is not 'providing the range of goods, the competitive prices, the food quality, the speed of service and the ease of parking that attract millions of shoppers' but 'exploiting African farmers and driving out small shopkeepers'. The police, the armed services, the courts, political parties, multi-national corporations, the church, senior doctors, anyone who owns anything, and farmers (unless they are victims of Tesco); these are the villains of the media liberals.
As more and more cases of media dissembling are uncovered (and the latest concern British adventurer Bear Grylls whose Discovery Channel 'Born Survivor' series featured dealing with "perilous situations" in the wild - now these 'perilous situations' are reported to have been faked for the cameras), as more examples of media dishonesty are uncovered, it is becoming apparent that there is no need to pay attention to what these people tell us.
The BBC pretends to be balanced, but as Anthony Jay tells us, "we achieved political balance by pitting the most plausible critics of government against its most bigoted supporters." The same tricks are used today. Everything is editorialized, and every editor is part of the same cohort, described by Jay as "they are that minority often characterized (or caricatured) by sandals and macrobiotic diets, but in a less extreme form are found in The Guardian, Channel 4, the Church of England, academia, showbusiness and BBC news and current affairs. They constitute our metropolitan liberal media consensus, although the word 'liberal' would have Adam Smith rotating in his grave. Let’s call it 'media liberalism'".
Clearly these people have their place - Zimbabwe, North Korea and Burma.