Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Life as a Heretic...

I have never really been religious. This may have something to do with my family background. My parents weren't religious in more than a ritualistic way. A few of my grandparents were religious. My father's mother was deeply religious. My father's grandmother was, I am told, religious. I knew her but I didn't get to know anything about her religious life. Other family members were more secular. My father's father, for instance, preferred the mystical joys of fishing and an occasional nip of alcohol over the supposed joys of a more traditional religious nature.

Over the years, my college years in particular, I occasionally attended temple, occasionally did the Pesach thing, and occasionally attended Quaker meetings, the last more for political reasons I suppose, than anything else. I emerged from the Vietnam era as a skeptic, governmental discourse and later Watergate taught me that governments lie, a pacifist, an anti-imperialist, and a socialist and I found kindred spirits in silent Friends meeting houses, Jewish radicalism, the kibbutz movement, the CCF, Niebuhr, and Anabaptist conceptualisations of the world and the state (my attempt to come to grips with the nastiness of humankind and, in particular, the Holocaust).

Given this I suppose it was a surprise to some in my family that I would matriculate into a undergraduate Religious Studies programme at college in order to concentrate on Biblical Studies. I think that at the time I was motivated by a sense of mission to teach superstitious fundamentalist types about the real nature of the Tanakh, the Bible, the Christian Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament, in a college or university, preferably a research college and university setting in the future, my own little version of Eden or utopia. I very quickly learned the truth of what one of my Biblical Studies told me at one point during my undergraduate career, however, that trying to convert a true believer with empirical history and textual analysis talk out of his or her metaphysical beliefs is akin to banging your head up against a brick wall (a maxim that applies to true believers of all stripes, varieties, and flavours, by the way).

A funny thing happened on my way to a career in academic Biblical Studies. Biblical Studies opened up a world of hermeneutics to me. It helped me to understand that all is interpretation, that all is discourse, and that all is ideology. Hermeneutics, in turn, led me into the worlds of social theory, intellectual history, the sociology of knowledge, and the history of ideology. It led me, in other words, to become as skeptical of academic discourse as I was of discourse that the Bible was the very world of god. As a result I came very quickly to realise and recognise that academia, just like anything else, was, in part, a meaning system grounded, again at least in part, in ideologically created rather than empirical reality and that academic discourse told us as much if not more about the person uttering it than about what that academic was talking about. And that is how I became an academic heretic. I have remained one ever since.

Most academics, just like most of the religious faithful in general everywhere, do not like to be confronted with the possibility that their discourse and their practises, practises they are intellectually and emotionally attached to, are largely socially and culturally constructed. Most academics truly believe that what they do is important, they rationalise that what they are doing is critical for human life or the planet in some way, shape, or form, and that what the do is real. They, of course, make it real via the process of festishisation, transcendentalisation, or universalisation. When someone like me suggests that academic knowledge is as socially and culturally constructed as religion, another type of meaning system, a type of meaning system some academics do see as constructed (hypocrisy?), they react in ways similar to those who maintain the absolute truth of religious claims react to those who raise questions about the absolute truth claims of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, they turn critics into dissidents or heretics and oftentimes ostracise them. And while academia may not be as centralised as the Catholic Church nor have an authority system as top down as Catholicism, it does, like Protestantism, have a conception of what is in the mainstream and what is not. And it is ideologically centralised enough, thanks in large part to socialisation processes that turn academic wanna bes into full fledged practising academics, to make such categorisations stick.

Needless to say most history programmes, to focus on one academic discipline, are reticent to hire anyone who doesn't fit into their little socially and culturally constructed disciplinary boxes. One must be an American historian, a European historian, a World historian. There is nothing to fear in the historical profession apparently save comparative history. They are reticent to hire anyone who doesn't fit into the ideologically constructed boxes that exist like matryoshka dolls within these socially and culturally constructed boxes. One must specialise in American gender history, American diplomatic history, American religious history, and so on. There is nothing to fear except generalisation and comparative history. And they are reticent to hire anyone who doesn't believe in the transcendent nature of primary documents (in reality historians always interpret primary source materials through the lenses of economic, political, cultural, geographic, or demographic causality), the transcendent nature of doing research in primary source material, and the transcendent nature of the structure of history itself. There is nothing to fear except interdisciplinarity, comparative history, and generalisation. Historians, in other words, are wary of those who engage in "philosophy", the term many historians often use to categorise questions that are reflexive (many are also wary of social theory, and comparative history) and use this term to turn valid questions about the human origins of historical knowledge and historical practise into something irrelevant and heretical. Again, this is not unlike how religious authorities turn questions of a similar sort about religion toward irrelevance and heresy as well. This is how meaning systems, meaning systems with notions of insiders and outsiders, mainstream and non-mainstream, right and wrong, orthodox and heresy, good and evil, function and work.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

All the Same Old Cliches: Love It or Leave It...

Ever since I was a teenager I have periodically heard that old right wing cliche, America, love it or leave it. This idea, the idea that there are real Americans and unreal Americans and that America is for real Americans only, of course, has a long history. This history ranges from the anti-Masons and anti-Mormons of the early nineteenth century through the anti-Catholics and Know Nothing anti-immigrant movement of the mid and late nineteenth century, the anti-Jehovah's Witnesses movement and attacks on Germans during the World War I era, the incarcerate the Japanese fervour of World War II, the anti-counter cultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the anti-immigrant movement of late twentieth and early twenty-first century, and the xenophobia over Islam in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

In the wake of 9/11 and the revival of aggressive American nationalism that followed it that cliched refrain of America for real Americans has been heard very loudly indeed once again from "real" Americans, generally conservative Christian Republican Americans, of course. Such "real Americans" have once again urged those "unreal" Americans critical of American foreign policy, American imperialism, and the American military-governmental-industrial-university complex to love America or leave it. Frankly, I, an American who is critical of American foreign policy, American imperialism, and the American oligarchy controlled by the one half of one percent, am really tired of this cliche and I think it is time for those whose mantra or rosary bead chant it has become to put up or shut up.

Those who want to cleanse America of its socialists, its war critics, its critics of capitalism, its political and economic dissidents, its Americans knowledgeable of real history need to establish a multi-billion dollar if not a multi-trillion dollar fund to fund resettlement grants for those who they want to love America or leave it. They need to set up a department in the State Department to aid those they are forcing to leave to resettle in places like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. They need to establish a department in the Internal Revenue Service that will refund all of the taxes those whom they want to cleanse from their real America have paid over the years. Until they do all of this I for one cannot take their little cliched mantra seriously whatsoever.

Alternatively there is another solution to the problem of "real" and "unreal" Americans. "Real" Americans can all move or stay in the South, "unreal" Americans can all move or stay in the North creating, in the process, two different nations in an American version of the religious cleansing of India and Pakistan during partition in 1947. This would allow the Confederate States of America to make the states rights Articles of Confederation its charter and create a White evangelical Christian oligarchic theocracy in its holy lands. And it would allow us in the United States of America to create a nation that looks more like Pierre Trudeau's or even better Tommy Douglas's Canada than Rick Santorum's or Newt Gingrich's.

Can I get an amen?

Rick Santorum, Grand Inquisitor?

Republican politicians are at it again. Once again self-proclaimed Republican Christians are questioning the faith of those whose faith doesn't match theirs. I call it the "I'm OK you're not OK, but if you want to be OK become like me" syndrome. Needless to say this arrogant and self-righteous ethnocentric syndrome has a very long and not only Christian history indeed.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, self proclaimed Catholics both, in particular, have been at the forefront of the only good and real Christianity is a "conservative" Christianity, whatever that is, movement. Santorum recently said, according to a article in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/21/rick-santorum-obama-christianity_n_1291645.html) that the only "real" Christianity is a conservative Christianity claiming that there is no such thing as a "liberal" Christianity and that "liberal" Christians, like those who belong to the United Church of Christ and US President Barak Obama (the bloke with the Hebrew first name), haven't been real Christians for years.

I don't know exactly what Santorum means by this. I don't precisely know who he believes Jesus was. But the Jesus I imagine he thinks Jesus was is somewhat similar to what Bruce Barton believed Jesus to be when he re-imagined Jesus as a good 1920s capitalist salesman. Remember the era when Barton wrote "The Man Nobody Knows" (1925) was the era of "the business of America is business". Santorum's Jesus, I suspect, may be similar to Barton's but his Jesus is a Jesus reimagined by a late twentieth and twenty-first century conservative Republican for a late twentieth and twenty-first century America. I imagine Santorum's very masculine Jesus to be a capitalist CEO who urges the nation-state of Israel to go to war to protect his nation's "interests", his nations economic interests, who urges that torture be used against Israel's enemies in the prosecution of that war, who urges that laws be enacted in which women will be forced to suffer an invasive procedure before they have an abortion, who accuses latter day Pharisees of being commie nazis, who urges Israel to deport its swarthy illegal immigrants, who supports Israeli "anti-terror" campaigns even when they involve Palestinian who believe he is the messiah, and who believes that only he and his "real" followers, read Santorum, can cast the first of many stones because they and they alone are true Christians.

As someone who imagines himself to be one of the true Christians in America, as did Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, Newt Gingrich, Pat Robertson, and Franklin Graham--wow the ideological company you keep Mr. Santorum--one can't help but wonder whether the Pennsylvanian Santorum might, at some point, lead a holy and grand inquisitorial crusade against such evil commie/nazi/liberal in his midst as those Lancaster Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonites who promote such nasty liberal ideas as mutual aid and pacifism, practises which are, ironically, consistent with the Christian Bible, the New Testament, Santorum claims to follow.

What worries a non-Christian and non-religious person like me about men like Rick Santorum is that they seem to have not only an inquisitorial mindset when it comes to "the Church" but also a theocratic mindset when it comes to the United States. I fear the Santorum's of this world not only because of their arrogant and self righteous claims of absolute truth but because I fear they will, if they come to power, try to turn, in this case, a pluralistic America, into an America which mirrors their own very parochial ideological mindsets because for them the only real American is an American who believes just like they do just as the only real Christian is a Christian who believes just like they do. For people like Santorum and Gingrich there seems to be no room for disagreement about either church or state. It is, to paraphrase a good old American proverb, either their way or the you're on the highway to hell highway. Those Christians like Santorum, Gingrich, and Joseph McCarthy, another conservative Catholic politician, do love to demonise their political others don't they?

Where is Dorothy Day when you need her?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Idiocies of Criticism Continued or Soap Opera as Demonic...

The forces of critical ahistoricism and criticism as theodicy, as good versus evil, are at it again thanks to "Downton Abbey". On the World Wide Web and on Facebook sites like PBS and Salon the everyone is a critic brigade have been criticising "Downton Abbey", which just finished its second series on PBS, for being a "soap opera", for being, in other words, unrealistic, for being, in still other other words, bad. Unfortunately many of these posters who criticise "Downton" for its soapiness and lack of realism know nothing or next to nothing of either soap opera history or film or telvision realism.

Soap opera, of course, as historical analysis of the "genre" has long made clear, has a longer history than television or radio. Soap operas are twentieth century versions of nineteenth century serial melodramas like Charles Dickens "Little Dorritt". Soap opera is simply drama, melodrama, supported commercially on commercial radio and television by corporations like Proctor and Gamble, hence the name soap opera, as the excellent article on Soap at the BFI's Screenonline site (http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/519828/index.html) makes clear.

Most posters, unfortunately, don't use the term soap opera historically. Rather they use the term "soap" normatively much like newspapers and fearmongers use the term cult, namely as a term of demonisation as though issues of genre were issues of theodicy, of good and evil. They use the term "soap", in other words, in order to bash soaps over the head for their supposed lack of realism. These ahistorical and aesthetically problematic uses of the term, however, avoid the issue not only of soaps historical pedigree but also the issue of what constitutes valid criticism and symbolise, as a result, how pathetic "criticism", and I hate to classify some of this discourse as such, and historical analysis, again I hate to use this term for this type of analysis, is today in so many quarters thanks to the World Wide Web turning everyman and everywoman, regardless of education, background, or compentency, into a potential "critic".

I suspect that many of those who criticise soaps for their lack of realism are the same people who don't criticise the real unreal films and TV shows out there in juvenile lala land, namely, action adventure and science fiction, for their total lack of realism. The difference between melodramas like "Downton Abbey" and stuff like the latest Rock action adventure crap Hollywood is whoring to us is that misdiagnosis of spinal injuries and flim flam men trying to take advantage of a situation for personal gain may not be probable but they are certainly possible whereas most of the things that happen in an action adventure film and in television or science fiction film and television are neither probable nor possible and hence not realistic at all. About the only thing that can be real in such film and television action adventure and science fiction film and television is emotion but emotional realism in action adventure and science fiction is a very rare thing indeed. But when it happens, as it did in Joss Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", and "Firefly" it is one of those wonderful rare occurrences that makes, at least for me, American television still worth watching.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened in My Class Forum...

A funny thing happened to me in my class forums last week. I presently teach part-time at two colleges: a small state college and a somewhat prestigious private technical institute in the "great" state of New York. In the first week of class I have each class I teach watch Louis Theroux's documentary "The Most Hated Family in the America" (1 April 2007, BBC 2).

In the "Most Hated Family" BBC documentarist Louis Theroux and his crew travel to Topeka, Kansas to spend three weeks with the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, the Calvinist church that believes it and only it interprets the Bible correctly and that America has fallen from its covenant with God due to its "fag enabling" and is now being punished by God though deaths associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Louis, who has spent many a "weird weekend" in the US with groups ranging from white supremicists in Idaho to Southern wrestlers, to fundamentalist dispensationalists in Dallas, has described Westboro members in an interview with BBC News as the "most extreme people he has ever met, quite a statement for someone who has, as I mentioned above, spent a lot of time with American extremists. Louis would spend three weeks with the Westboro Baptist Church and return for another visit with church members several years, a visit which also resulted in another documentary on the church, "America's Most Hated Family in Crisis" which aired on BBC 2 on 3 April 2011.

I show my students "The Most Hated Family in America" because I want them to understand cultural history, how culture can be brought to bear in order to understand human life, human society, and human culture, all of the things that constitute history, and how most humans, through culture and ideology, create their own reality. I also show it to students because I want to teach students how social scientists and practitioners of the humanities even, when faced with a group like the "most hated family in America" need to check, at least initially, their ideologies and prejudices at the door in order to understand a group like the Westboro Baptist Church as they understand themselves, Clifford Geertz's going native.

Many students, just like Louis Theroux, have a difficult time doing this. For most students their initial reaction, like Louis and most of Louis's viewers one presumes, is that they hate these people and that the Westboro Baptist Church is a church of brainwashed cultists, something Louis asks one of the leaders of the church Shirley Phelps point blank. One of the differences between the reactions of my American students to Westboro as opposed to those Brits who watched Louis's documentary is, I suspect, that many Brits see Westboro as yet another example of the idiocy of Americans.

One of the problems with students describing Westboro Baptist Church as a "cult" is that few of them know what a "cult" is in sociological discourse. For most of them a "cult" is something to be feared, something to be hated, something to be made fun of, something that brainwashes. They use the term "cult", in other words, in the same way that most newspapers use it, sensationally. It is difficult if not impossible for most of my students to escape this normative and ideological use of the term "cult".

Scholars have tried to escape this prison house of ideology. Sociologists, for instance, have developed a more descriptive typology of religious groups: church, denomination, sect, and cult. A church is a religious body that has a monopoly on religion in a particular environment such as the Catholic Church in Mediaeval Europe and Wahhabi Islam in Saudi Arabia. A denomination is a religious group that exists in a pluralistic religious environment though there may be an ideological perspective in which some denominations are labelled "mainstream" such as Baptists, Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Roman Catholicism, and Orthodox Christianity in the contemporary US, while others are not such as the Hutterites and the Amish. A cult is a new religious movement or an old religious movement in a new religious economy or environment such as the Unification Church and Buddhism in the US. A sect is a religious body that originates out of a church or denomination in the hope of returning their religion to the way it was in the good old primitive days by purifying it of the perceived accretions that have become a part of it since its origins. In this typolological schema the Westboro Baptist Church is clearly a sect rather than a cult since Westboro is a primitive Baptist and Calvinist Church that believes that it and only it is teaching the Bible as God and Jesus intended.

When I told all this to my students the reactions were fascinating at least to me. My private school students in my War in Afghanistan class, or at least some of them were able to generalise from Westboro to the Taliban in Afghanistan recognising that Mullah Omar's Afghan Taliban are a sect given that they believe they are attempting to purify Islam of the post-Mohammadian elements that are perceived as having entered the religion in the wake of the death of the prophet Muhammad. My public school students in my Comparative Modern History course weren't able to do this or at least they didn't seem able to do so. And it is this, this literalism of far too many of my students, this inability of far too many of my students to engage in systematic analysis, and this tendency of far too many of my students to be unable to make connections, which is, in my opinion at the heart of the problems associated with education and learning today and which raises questions about what students are learning or not learning in the US before they come to college and whether everyone should be forced to partake or are qualified to partake in a liberal arts education. I am also, by the way, concerned that transformations in our communications forms are manufacturing young people who are not particularly interested in reading much more than a text message and can't comprehend messages they read which are longer than a text message. But hey, its simply easier for politicians, pundits, and parents (no mote in their eyes right?) to blame teachers, teachers who work basically 24-7, for the problems of youth isn't it?

Interestingly, this literalism and this inability to make connections is not only a problem among students. Many historians, given their historical aversion to theory, often fall into the same trap as many of my students. This aversion to theory and typologies generated out of theory is, in my opinion, one of the fundamental flaws and one of the fundamental problems with the historical profession itself and is why, on one level, I find the historical profession to be the most dismal of academic disciplines. Wish it were that more historians would replicate the work of their celebrities and grasp that theory, sociology, and cultural anthropology could and can add to our understanding of human life, human society, and human culture. This understanding of human life, human society, and human culture, at least in my not so humble opinion, should be and must be what history is about. The only way we can fully grasp human history is by ridding the historical discipline itself of its aversion to theory, its tendency to write history narrative without theory, and its nefarious tendency to teach history via little nationalistic boxes replicating, in the process, even if not intentionally, nationalist ideologies of exceptionalism.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Critical Pasttime of PBS Bashing...

I recently ran across a bit of (admittedly nostalgic) PBS bashing by Entertainment Weekly's wizard of criticism Ken Tucker (http://watching-tv.ew.com/2011/07/31/downton-abbey-season-2-pbs-sherlock/comment-page-5/#comment-253896). There were a number of things that Tucker and other posters who responded to Tucker's brief article (see the comments below Tucker's article), said which I take exception to.

One poster bashes PBS for cutting Sherlock wishing instead that it was shown on BBC America. Well, BBC America, unlike its mummy the Beeb, has commercials. In the past, because of this, BBC America CUT Dr. Who so that it fit into its time slot. So who is to say they wouldn't cut Sherlock too? Another poster urges PBS to follow the BBC funding model? LOL. Yeah like Boehner and those Ebenezer Scrooge type Republicans who control the US House of Representatives are going to support a “tax” in the form of a license fee to fund “commie/nazi" PBS. Dream on. Perhaps the Tea Party will come to the rescue of public television. NOT. Still Another poster bemoans the blitzkrieg of Carolina themed specials on Carolina PBS affiliates during their fund drives. Why do they do that? Uh, to get money from Carolinians so they can continue to operate because more and more of the money that supports PBS comes from individuals during fund drives.

The main problem with Tucker's article on PBS, an article which criticises PBS's increasing toothlessness in the face of right wing attacks, and many of the posters who support him, of course, is this issue of funding. One of the fundamental problems that PBS has had over the years has involved the US government and its significant impact on PBS funding or rather the lack thereof. PBS, when it was founded unfortunately, was made a prisoner of the vagaries of federal funding and, as a result, increasingly became prisoner to the vagaries of Democrat and Republican politics. The defunding of a PBS Democrat LBJ set in place actually began almost as soon as PBS came into existence. Nixon and Agnew (well really their speech writers) made PBS into one of those liberal east coast establishment straw men along with those unlawful and disorderly hippies and those practitioners of that dixiecrat states rights rhetoric that they could use to demagogically manipulate those Archie Bunker types who were its target demographic and, as a result, gain a foothold in the solid Dixiecrat South. Jesse Helms, one of those good old North Carolina Dixiecrat boys turned Republican after Johnson's Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts brought a second reconstruction to the South in 1970, picked up the anti-PBS ball in the 1990s transforming it into a holy crusade against his unholy trinity of gays, lesbians, and recreational drug use when he saw, or did he only hear about it second hand, PBS's adaptation of Armistad Maupin's tales of gay, lesbian, and straight life in the drug soaked San Francisco of the 1970s, Tales of the City, to cut PBS funding.

I mention Tales of the City and Helms because what Tucker forgets in his diatribe against PBS is that PBS, in the good old days of public funding, used to do not only food programmes, documentaries, and news programmes, but also drama and even some comedy thanks to their fiction series' Wonderworks and American Playhouse. In the 1970s and 1980s PBS was slowly but surely becoming an American version of the BBC (or the CBC) until it ran up against what should be the real villains of Tucker’s moralistic piece, the US's right wing hallucinators in the US government who have cut and cut PBS's budget since the 1970s forcing them to beg for money during its periodic fundraisers. It should never be forgotten, as Tucker seems to forget, that it was PBS which did the first dramedic adaptations of Jean Shepherd's tales of Indiana (the Jean Shepherd of Christmas Story fame). It should also not be forgotten that PBS is not entirely toothless. As Tucker notes Frontline and Independent Lens continue to offer intelligent and critical takes on American and the World. But PBS's critical approach to America and the world is not only, as Tucker seems to forget, Frontline and Independent Lens. He seems to forget about anthology programmes like Wide Angle, Global Voices, and P.O.V. and he seems to forget that as of January 2012 Bill Moyers is back on PBS with his critical and insightful Moyers and Company with its hard hitting critiques of right wing hallucinations about politics and economics.

So while there is some truth in Tucker's criticisms of PBS, like Tucker I really do hate that Mystery is no longer distinct from Masterpiece, my Thursdays just aren’t the same without it, there is still great stuff on the network, despite the cuts in funding and what seems like almost neverending fundraisers on the affiliates of the network. Shows like Frontline, Nature, Nova, Wide Angle, Global Voices, and Masterpiece, are great television, great television that again and again puts the rubbish that dominates American over the air TV to shame.

That PBS continues to put on great shows like these despite the attacks of those right wingers who live in fantasy worlds, despite cuts in funding, and despite criticisms of Tucker and his readers is itself a miracle. Like Tucker I do remember when there were no fund drives on PBS thanks to sound or sounder financial solvency. Like Tucker I remember An American Family. Like Tucker I remember when local PBS stations ran Fawlty Towers, Python, Dr. Who, Blackadder, and Blake’s 7. But unlike Tucker I also remember why those days golden days are, I fear, gone forever, just like they are gone for the CBC that baby BBC to our North. I mention the CBC here because its recent history may indicate which direction PBS may have to move in order to remain financially violable in an America dominated by neo-liberal fantasists and demagogues. The CBC now offsets continuing losses of government funding thanks to neo-liberal ideologues and demagogues with advertising revenue. Perhaps this is (sadly) the solution to PBS's woes, more adverts.

Tucker and some of his readers, by the way, are not the only "journalists" to engage in what is increasingly becoming an international past time of PBS bashing. The Daily Mail and its online cousin, The Mail Online, that right wing defender of all things not "left wing" public television and defender of all intricate British things from simple minded Yanks recently accused PBS of cutting two hours from Downton Abbey and of illegally profiting from unlicensed Downton Abbey jewelry knock off sales (Chris Hastings, "Downton Downsized...By Two Hours Because American TV Executives Fear Its Intricate Plot Will Baffle U.S. Viewers, the Daily Mail, 7 January 2011, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1343388/Downton-Abbey-cut-2-hours-TV-executives-fearing-plot-baffle-US-viewers.html#ixzz1mGZJ8NqW) and of illegally selling Downton Abbey jewellry knockoffs (Sarah Nathan and Daisy Dumas, “PBS is Forced to Pull ‘Unauthorised’ Downton Abbey Jewellry Line After Show Producers Object”, the Mail Online, 25 January 2012 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2091664/PBS-forced-pull-unauthorised-Downton-Abbey-jewellery-line-producers-object.html).

The first claim, that PBS cut Downton by two hours because of American ignorance is, as Jace points out in his "In Defense of Downton Abbey (Or, Don't Believe Everything You Read)"(Televisionary, 3 January 2012, http://www.televisionaryblog.com/2011/01/in-defense-of-downton-abbey-or-dont.html) false. As Jace notes first series episodes of Downton Abbey were reworked in order to fit the show into the Masterpiece time slot. The second accusation, that PBS was making money off of illegal jewellry sales, was, as the PBS ombudsman noted (Michael Getler, “The Daily Downton”, PBS Ombudsman, 24 January 2012, http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2012/01/the_daily_downton.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+pbs%2Fombudsman-blog+%28ombudsman-blog%29).), false as well noting that PBS had linked to jewelry sold by a third party.

All of these false accusations made by the Mail Online about a nefarious PBS and ignorant Americans not to mention the Mail Online's offensive against the BBC's revived Upstairs Downstairs as a copy of Downton Abbey (see, for example, Paul Revoir’s “Upstairs Downton...or How the New BBC Period Drama Series Echoes Its Hit ITV Rival”, the Daily Mail, 31 January 2012 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2094106/Downton-Abbey-Upstairs-Downstairs-How-new-BBC-series-echoes-ITV-rival.html#ixzz1luEyJRUc) raise questions about the motives of the Mail. The Mail has long been known for its bashing of British public television as a bastion of left wingers. Now that PBS's profile has been raised by the success of Downton Abbey in the US apparently American public broadcasting has come into the Daily Mail's anti-"left" wing rifle sites along with the BBC.

By the way, the accuracy of the Mail's aim at the BBC is just as bad as it was for PBS. The Mail Online's claims that the revived Upstairs Downstairs is mimicking Downton Abbey has it the wrong way around. Actually Downton is in so many ways a remake of the original Upstairs Downstairs. But then factual accuracy has never the Daily Mail's strong suit. The Mail's strong suit has been for some time anti-left wing demagoguery. And perhaps that is why the xenophobic and anti-left wing Mail Online is, according to an article by Will Oremus, the most visited newspaper site on the World Wide Web (Will Oremus, "The Worlds Most Popular Online Newspaper: How the Daily Mail Took the Title from the New York Times, Slate, 3 February 2012, http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2012/02/daily_mail_new_york_times_how_the_british_tabloid_became_the_world_s_most_popular_online_newspaper_.html). The moral of this story? Ideologically inspired fantasy, like sex, apparently sells.