It is said that one of the most common early warning signs of impending mental breakdown is burgeoning paranoia. Some recent programming at the BBC suggests that this is as true of institutions as it is of individuals. We are thinking of “The State Within,” a three-part mini-series that aired at the end of last month. As Brendan Bernhard noted in The New York Sun, the film “eagerly depicts an America sliding into totalitarianism.” It’s a matter of enlisting melodrama in cause of hysterical anti-Americanism. Mr. Bernhard explains:

After it is announced that the plane was blown up by a Muslim suicide bomber carrying a British passport, the governor of Virginia rounds up 200 British Muslims vacationing in his state. A panicked young Muslim couple—secular, attractive, the woman three months pregnant—is shot dead fleeing a road block. … [I]t’s a left-wing Disney Land: reckless neo-cons, mephitic corporations, redneck governors, the death penalty, and Muslims being rounded up like, er … Well, let’s go to the British ambassador, as they say on CNN.

“Where does it end?” demands Sir Mark, ambushing the chair of the Security Committee, Madeleine Cohen, in the Senate. “The detention of all Muslims in America? Sikhs? Catholics? Jews? I’m sure you’re aware of the Reichstag Decree of 1933.” “Are you accusing me of being a Nazi, Sir Brydon?” Ms. Cohen (a Democrat) asks. No answer. Enough simply to plant the thought. At moments like these, you realize this is not a film protesting American totalitarianism; it’s one that eagerly, pantingly, desires it.

The fate of the BBC is one of the greatest cultural tragedies in Britain. An institution that used to embody British virtues now routinely traduces them. In the opening months of World War II, the BBC helped secure the destruction of the German warship Admiral Graf Spee, which was cutting a wide swath through British shipping, by falsely reporting that the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the battleship Renown were operating near the German ship. In those days, the BBC was on the side of Western culture. The Brits have a new aircraft carrier called Ark Royal, the fifth warship to bear the name. It is an emblematic irony that in the opening days of the Iraq war, sailors aboard the Ark Royal turned off the news feed from the BBC because they found it indistinguishable from enemy propaganda. In their cultural offerings, as well as their news reporting, the BBC has joined the ranks of the paranoid commissars of political correctness.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 Number 7, on page 2
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