BBC commits shocking anti-semitic libel

BBC commits shocking anti-semitic libel


norman lebrecht

October 10, 2021

This is a publicity shot for the new BBC4 series, Paris Police 1900.

In case you can’t make out the small-print caption, here’s what it says:

French period crime drama. The French Republic is in turmoil as rumours spread about the release from Devil’s Island of Dreyfus, the notorious Jewish spy.

Notorious Jewish spy? Dreyfus was an innocent officer who was framed on a phony charge and sent to Devil’s Island in a case that split 1890s French society. Dreyfus was cleared and repatriated after the real spy was exposed. He was readmitted to the French Army and served with honour in the First World War. A French President eventually apologised to his family (see Genius and Anxiety, p135). The Dreyfus Affair has been chronicled in numerous books, films and a Salzburg opera.

To describe Dreyfus in a BBC publicity document as ‘a notorious Jewish spy’ is antisemitic and anti-history. It betrays a shocking ignorance at the BBC, akin to calling Hitler as ‘a successul German populist’. Every educated adult in western Europe knows that Dreyfus was a victim of antisemitism, not a traitor, but this information has not penetrated the upper echelons of the present-day  BBC.

Sue Deeks, BBC head of programme acquisition, said in a press release reprinted across the media: ‘Paris Police 1900 is a stunningly cinematic look at the darkness beneath the glamour of La Belle Epoque. Historical figures and true events provide a fascinating backdrop to an intriguing murder mystery which will keep viewers gripped to the very end.’

Not gripped.

Furious, and frustrated at the BBC’s incompetence.

The BBC director-general Tim Davie needs to issue an on-screen apology.

Copy to Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.



  • Genius Repairman says:

    I hope they do issue an apology.

  • Akutagawa says:

    This is absolute nonsense. The story is set in 1900. Dreyfus wasn’t formally exonerated until 1905. Therefore, in the eyes of large parts of the French population AT THE TIME, Dreyfus was still indeed a notorious Jewish spy. This is what the historical present tense is there for in English. Honestly!

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Ever heard of innocent till proven guilty?

      • Akutagawa says:

        Yes, of course I’ve heard of that concept. However, Dreyfus was found guilty in the first trial of 1894, found guilty again but pardoned in the second trial of 1899, and only exonerated in 1905. Therefore, a large section of the French population AT THE TIME would still have considered him guilty. All of this information is freely available on the internet, so I’m really not sure what your point is.

      • V. Lind says:

        Who? Dreyfus had been “proven” guilty — i.e. convicted. But the re-investigation was well under way by 1900 — Dreyfus was back in France in 1899 — though it did take longer to complete the exoneration.

    • John Borstlap says:

      If ‘a notorious Jewish spy’ had been put in inverted commas, a lot would have been prevented. But in the way as it is presented, it is indeed an antisemitic slur. Very stupid.

      • Akutagawa says:

        Really? I’m not a fan of Hitler comparisons, but as Mr Lebrecht mentioned him in the original post, imagine that the BBC made a series about, say, Austria in the 1930s, and the blurb for the first episode goes something like “Vienna, 1938. Crowds line the street as national saviour Adolf Hitler makes a triumphant return to his homeland”. I’d expect the majority of intelligent readers to have to know that Hitler wasn’t actually the saviour of Austria, in exactly the same way that I’d expect the majority of intelligent readers to know that Dreyfus wasn’t actually a spy. Using inverted commas in this context is just dumbing down, to my mind.

        And one final thing before I go and do something more productive today. Mr Lebrecht describes this as an antisemitic libel. This is not so, at least in English law, as it is not possible to libel the dead.

      • Hayne says:

        It’s ok. They’re the BBC. They know better…

      • cancel cancel cancel says:

        In speech marks it spoils the plot though. If they hadn’t put in the Dan Brown explanation people would say “who is Dreyfuss, why are you so elitist to assume everybody knows this historical period?” It would have been possible to put it as “reports that a notorious Jewish spy has been released” and leave out the name Dreyfuss. That way it is clear you are talking about reports of the time, not providing “historic explanation” of who Dreyfuss is to us now, which people desperate to be offended will read it as. But we are not (mostly, presumably) in Iran- you can’t be “notorious” for being a “Jewish spy” in the present here and now, therefore it is clearly not meant in the Borat sense you have taken. NL you can’t complain about woke the whole time and then go this hard assuming the worst possible ill-will and declaiming and denouncing wildly just like the worst crt’ers. What will you have left when, God forbid, something emerges that actually warrants a response like this?

    • Undoubtedly, at the time there were large parts of the french volk who resented his wealthy family and immediate rise in the french military. just like nazis in their time which seems to be perpetual for some.

      • V. Lind says:

        Fine to protest in this way and demand an apology. But the CAA seems to be condemning the series on the grounds of this blurb. That demonstrates either malevolent overkill or a massive ignorance of how things work. The people who made the series, which seems to be perfectly well-intentioned, would have absolutely nothing to do with writing a blurb on a website. That would have been a job for someone pretty junior in pr. Quite possibly an intern. Yes, someone senior should have caught it, but it is all too evident these days that editing is a lost art.

        The CAA should reserve its comments about the series for when it has seen the series.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    What else can one expect from this crowd. Loathsome.

  • Brian Ward says:

    Competence and accuracy are not longer basic standards. Today on Facebook the National Portrait Gallery described Imagine as John Lennon’s first solo album. General ignorance and copy written by lazy junior staff with no fact checking is now the norm from our institutions.

    • V. Lind says:

      Two points: in one sense, Imagine was the first, his previous post-Beatles albums having been tied up with the Plastic Ono Band.

      But the other point devolves from your first sentence and your last one. The uneducated, the ones we so abhor today being snowflakey and victims of triggering and “unsafe” if they see a movie they don’t like and all that — they are not the first generation. The over-indulged, spoiled, child-centrically-raised types that did not pay attention in class but demanded good grades because they were the customers: they now ARE the institutions. They are the editors who cannot edit because they learned no grammar. They are the teachers who could to teach grammar if asked to because they, too, learned none. They are the administrators in education departments who abolish the teaching of grammar because they do not get it.

      The over-indulged, the uneducated, the unwilling, the unable to reason, are no longer a threat, They are the establishment. Dumbing down has won. Oh, there are still vestiges of what used to be basic knowledge around, but, as we see daily, they are fighting a losing battle. The old standard-bearers — academics, editors, teachers — are fewer with each passing day. You only have to look at the contempt with which a BTL comment noting a grammatical or spelling error in the article under discussion is met to know how far the rot has set in.

      • Akutagawa says:

        Might I suggest very gently that the main reason why comments noting grammatical or spelling errors attract contempt is that very often they’re simply a consequence of otherwise intelligent people typing stuff in a hurry on their smartphones, one prime example being

        “They are the teachers who could to teach grammar if asked to because they, too, learned none.”

        which you yourself wrote in the comment above. I presume you mean not rather than to…

        • V. Lind says:

          I did, though I just typed it into the box — I do not use a smart phone. My typo, though, and I ought to have re-read the post.

          I was talking about articles, not the comments, when I was critical of grammar. As an occasional subscriber to the Spectator, I am increasingly appalled by the grammar contained in often thoughtful pieces, which presumably are not banged out on a phone and are reviewed before submission.

          I constantly read “reigned in,” used to mean curtail or something similar, which is not a typo but a misapprehension of what the term really means and from what it is derived. The other day I read of “dire straights,”” another example of misapprehension (and the lack of that sense readers have of something being not quite right, followed by looking it up).

          The Spec used to be one of those publications that was a stickler for grammatical correctness. But I wonder if those at the top know the difference any more.

          Does anyone left in the editing of anything understand the difference between the verbs “to lay” and “to lie”? And it is no use explaining to them that one is a transitive, the other an intransitive, verb. You hear smart-a&se spokespeople talk of “parsing” (or, more often, “not parsing”) the statements of others, but it is doubtful any of them could parse a simple English sentence, or define “parse.”

          Very few people can make a simple plural nowadays — those dratted apostrophes keep appearing. And the whole question of “its,” “there,” “your” and other such problems are minefields for editors and teachers these days.

          At their best, articles are failing to communicate effectively, at their worst, they are failing to communicate at all.

          Music education? A luxury in countries where the formerly laughed-at basics of “reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic” are failing so spectacularly.

        • John Borstlap says:

          When in a hury I may type with my gloves already on on my way out but wgo iz to blaim ne for not cumonacating cleerly?! Th poent is to get acros what y wntdyst say


      • John Borstlap says:

        I know of ‘prestiguous’ conservaties in Europe where teaching staff is openly advised by the board, consisting not of musicians but of managers and jurists, to not ‘make learning playing an instrument too difficult’, the students first of all must have fun studying. I know of a conservatory in Holland where the director at a staff meeting during entrance exams instructed the teachers to lower their standards so that more students could be accepted, ‘to saveguard their salaries’. Nobody protested.

  • James Weiss says:

    Why was his religion referenced at all? If he had been Roman Catholic would he have been called a “notorious Catholic spy?” Of course not. That’s why it’s anti-Semitic. Dreyfus was French. Jewish was his religion.

    • SVM says:

      Have you not heard of Guy Fawkes, a Catholic arrested and executed on charges of terrorism? “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”…

      But I agree that the BBC’s wording was clumsy — how about “accused of being a spy”?

  • V. Lind says:

    It has been corrected already:

    So either someone read this or noticed themselves.

    Either way, I agree that there ought to be an apology for something that many may have seen. and why specify in the first place? Even “notorious spy” would have been incorrect. While the public was divided into “Dreyfusards” and “anti-Dreyfusards,” the latter spearheaded by anti-Semitic forces, the actual treason charge had nothing specifically to do with Jewish interests.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      It remains uncorrected on a myriad other sites. This kind of damage is impossible to undo.

      • V. Lind says:

        I was only aware of the one you illustrated. Radio Times’ listing does not use the term. What other sites? it is streaming widely, but all sites I checked merely said that the series was set as anti-Semitic feeling was on the rise.

        Yes, bells cannot be unrung, as defence lawyers clearly know. It is unforgivable that the BBC should have made such an egregious mistake, but I wonder how much damage will have been done — it seems to have been fixed promptly, and, to be perfectly honest, the vast majority of the viewing public ill never have heard of Dreyfus.

        • I believe the word you are looking for is “w”ill….tsk tsk tsk

          • V. Lind says:

            You got me. I have arthritis in both my hands and sometimes my fingers do not press adequately on all the keys. Nonetheless, knowing this, I ought to review my submissions more closely before posting them, and all too often I do not — I get into an enthusiasm wherein I feel as if I am in actual dialogue with someone and just press send as soon as I have finished a thought.

            Most of us know the difference between typos and grammatical errors.

          • Ashu says:

            [Mist of us know the difference between typos and grammatical errors.]

            Yes, typos are slips of the finger which anyone can make, whereas grammatical errors are the violation of linguistic shibboleths that expose the guilty party’s failure to live up to the arbitrary narrow standard of the three-degree elite.

        • Ashu says:

          [and, to be perfectly honest, the vast majority of the viewing public will never have heard of Dreyfus.]

          In the world we live in, there are many other no less important things to know. You live in Toronto, a representative global city. Look at the ethnic and cultural composition of the viewing public around you. Why should Canadians of non-European background, who now own Canada at least as much as you do – for that matter, why should any of us – know more about this event in the history of France than you know about events of corresponding magnitude in the histories of their ancestral homelands, events which have played as significant a role in shaping the world you live in as the Dreyfus affair?

    • Michael Varcoe-Cocks says:

      Even the correction is misleading! He hadn’t just been “arrested”! He had been convicted and exiled to Devil’s Island for life, reduced after a retrial to 10 years. At the time of the programme’s story 1900 he had returned as a convicted spy (the most serious crime against a state), released after a pardon, not an acquittal and not under “arrest[…]”. I’m downloading the series and will watch with interest how it deals with the conflict between the pro- and anti-Dreyfusards in 1900, 5 years from eventual exoneration. Thanks, NL, for this useful bit of PR for the BBC!

    • John Dalkas says:

      Is this edited version on the above page really better:

      “French period crime drama. The French Republic is in turmoil as rumours spread about the release from Devil’s Island of Dreyfus, arrested for spying.”

      It sidesteps the key fact Dreyfus was Jewish while still implying he was a spy as opposed to an alleged spy.

      And is “crime drama” the best way to characterize the Dreyfus affair or just click bait? Sounds to me like noone’s home at the BBC.

      • V. Lind says:

        I don’t think the series is about the Dreyfus affair. It is set in that time and place, and I gather anti-Semitism, of which the Dreyfus affair was a focal point, is an issue in the storyline.

      • Mystic Chord says:

        How ludicrous to remove the reference to the fact that Dreyfus was Jewish. It’s central to the context and development of this rather excellent drama.

    • Michael James says:

      The notice has been improved but it should have read ‘convicted’ for ‘arrested’ and indicated that the case was intensely controversial. Mentioning that Dreyfus was a Jew would have been informative in that context, since the anti-Semitic movement is central to the story.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    I’m struggling to understand why I am presented with this story on “The #1 classical music news site.”

    • Longtime SD reader says:

      This is not just a prominent classical music site, but it is also the personal blog of its proprietor. Mr. Lebrecht is a member of the UK’s Jewish community and very occasionally posts on issues relevant to Britain’s Jews within UK arts and politics more generally. These asides are fairly infrequent and are often an interesting glimpse into the concerns of this community, so why complain.

      • John Borstlap says:

        On top of that it is important to know that ‘Jewishness’ is an important factor in classical music life since musicians from Jewish background have contributed so much to it. Not because they were Jewish, but because they were very talented individuals.

    • V. Lind says:

      You must be new here.

    • Althea T-H says:

      Agreed. It seems ‘Off Topic’ to me: unIess the crime drama is a piece of musical theatre?

  • David K. Nelson says:

    The Dreyfus Affair aroused reaction from persons of influence from around the world, and my understanding is that many French remained touchy about this even after the case against him had crumbled.

    One such celebrity to criticized the French over this was Mark Twain, in a memorable quip about French justice in his article about whether Satan should be given a fair trial.

    But another was Edvard Grieg, who in 1899 used his position as a celebrity to roundly condemn the attempted revival of a court-martial against Dreyfus, refusing an invitation to perform in France in protest. As a consequence in 1903 – note the date, N.L. — he faced a torrent of abuse as he prepared to conduct a concert of his music in Paris. Debussy was particularly harsh about Grieg in 1903, perhaps feeling that only other French had the right to get involved in the matter. It was about that time that Debussy sneered (in print) of Grieg, that he “looked like a talented photographer.”

    I do not know how much the BBC hierarchy knew or knows about any of this, but I’d be prepared to assume that in the year 1900 and for at least a few years after — maybe well after 1905 for all I know — the phrase “notorious Jewish spy” would have been met by nods of approval in many corners of France, even as evidence to the contrary had been exposed and was accumulating and eventually prevailed.

    Perhaps oddly, in his two volume survey of the violin and piano literature, Abram Loft gave Grieg’s involvement in the Dreyfus Affair as a good reason to perform his three sonatas for violin and piano: “A personality of such moral fiber could scarcely keep from making itself apparent in some degree” in the music.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed Debussy was of the opinion that foreigners had no right to make judgements about French concerns. He not only compared Grieg to a ‘very talented photographer’ but also compared the image of Grieg’s conducting, seen from behind when sitting in the auditorium, to a sunflower as one sees at provincial railway stations, due to G’s wide-outstanding hairdo.

      In his reviews, Debussy often used hilarious descriptions of Great Performers to put them down as showy ego trippers, like Nikish’ mop visually following the moods of the music (up and down), or comparing the technique of another conductor to the gestures of a toreador, or audiences expecting a piano virtuoso to take the instrument between his teeth. Nobody was safe from his irony.

      Debussy however, had no specific opinion as to the Dreyfuss affair itself.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    The nasty phrase forms part of an account of what the *rumours* said, which the BBC might claim exonerated it from anti-Semitism, but the sentence can also be read as the BBC offering information to the reader that the rumours were about someone who in fact was a “notorious Jewish spy”. This might be due to linguistic incompetence rather then anti-Semitism as such, but the BBC should have been on its guard.

  • ben dominitz says:

    I could not agree more. That the publicity text emphasizes the word “Jewish” adds insult to injury and is obviously deliberate.

    • V. Lind says:

      Anti-Semitic feeling in France at the time is a central concern of the series. Dreyfus and his conviction — which, as far as I can see just one episode in — forms only a contextual background to this crime series — was the most significant controversy in France regarding a Jewish principal.

      The treason of which he was wrongly convicted had nothing to do with his Jewishness. The vigour with which he was prosecuted and the opposition to re-opening his case was entirely to do with it.

  • MDP says:

    Oh, Norman, not so nice when ‘libel’ is directed towards a cause you care about, is it? A lesson to be learned that you could carry forward into your reporting of others.

  • CSOA Insider says:

    I am speechless at such ignorance on the part of the BBC. Thank you for publishing this important post. Everyone needs to remain vigilant against antisemitism and every form of racism.

  • Herbie G says:

    At least Akutagawa introduces his contribution by saying ‘This is absolute nonsense’. I appreciate his honesty. To legitimise the description of Dreyfus as a Jewish spy, as he does, because he was found guilty of that in the period of the documentary is indeed absolute nonsense. Supposing that a programme was made this year about ‘Jimmy Savile, outstanding entertainer and supporter of children in need’, or ‘Timothy Evans, notorious child murderer’ or ‘Harold Shipman – the GP who cared’. Imagine the outcry.

    No doubt the BBC will promise a full enquiry (taking at least six months), they will commission their own report (which will not be disclosed to the public, whose licence fees funded it – cf. The Balen Report), they will say that ‘lessons have been learned’ and finally apologise for any offence caused, which was untintended. Nobody’s job will be on the line, of course.

    What can we expect though? We live in a country where Cressida Dick was appointed as Metropolitan Police Commissioner AFTER masterminding the operation in which her officers shot an entirely innocent man, Jean Menezes, eight times on a crowded commuter train. After the Couzens scandal, the handling of the vigil for Sarah Everard and the Carl Beech scandal, all on her watch, she is still there and has the support of the Home Secretary, the mayor of London and the prime minister; if ever there was a Post Turtle, it’s Cressida Dick.

    If that’s a token of how our country operates, does anyone seriously believe that the BBC grandees, with all their arrogance, care a flying fig about whether what they churn out is the truth or a pack of scandalous lies?

    In 1963, when it transpired that the Secretary of State for War was sleeping with a prostitute who also shared her favours with a Soviet naval attache, the prime minister resigned. He knew nothing about this until it became public knowledge because the minister concerned had publicly denied it. There was no evidence that any sensitive information had been passed to the prostitute. Yet the prime minister resigned because he was a man of honour and he accepted that he was accountable for the conduct of his cabinet members. Cressida Dick and the BBC show how times have changed in the last 60 years; how honesty, honour and integrity among public servants are faded relics of a bygone age.

    • Stuart L. says:

      The Prime Minister at the time – Harold MacMillan – did not resign as a direct result of the Profumo Affair.

      Some months after the resignation of Profumo himself he had an operation for prostate cancer and, given the lack of support from his cabinet colleagues for his continued leadership, decided that it was time to go using his poor health as an excuse.

  • Alank says:

    Knowing the BBC, I am surprised he was not referred to as a “Zionist” spy.

  • Freewheeler says:

    Hmm. Maybe he did do it after all?

  • stanley cohen says:

    Even those thick headed individuals at the BBC must have heard of Emile Zola whose headline “J’ACCUSE!” rocked France to its foundations. But then again maybe they didn’t ‘do’ literature for their GCSEs.

    • V. Lind says:

      i think you could stand outside Broadcast House with a clipboard and ask those exiting for lunch to identify Zola and get about one more or less correct answer in 20. But then I am an optimist.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I always thought Zola was a gipsy woman from Greece. But well, I’m no longer working at the BBC.


      • Herbie G says:

        V. Lind, as you seem to be SD’s resident apostle of punctiliousness, to the point of correcting someone else’s otherwise articulate contribution over a misplaced apostrophe, you should know that the building is called ‘Broadcasting House’ and not ‘Broadcast House’ as you seem to think, which makes no sense at all.

        You make a good point but, exercising your own Beckmesserish exactitude, asking someone to identify Zola seems pointless as the question itself identifies him. Asking about what Emile Zola was famous for is something else – and I think the suggestion that one in 20 BH employees would get it right is very optimistic. You seem to be mistaking the BBC for a cultural organisation. I think one in 20 of their staff these days might identify Emile Zola as a record-breaking runner who supported the South African slaver government by defying a ban on their athletes taking part in international sporting events.

        • V. Lind says:

          I said I chose that number because I was an optimist. Of course I doubt that many people could identify Zola — and I suspect the number who could identify Miss Budd is also diminishing.

          And there was nothing particularly “articulate” in pronouncing the Rosenbergs innocent. It is simply an assertion. (I happen to agree with it in large if not entire part, but that is an issue for another forum).

          My bad about Broadcasting House — I have been there often enough and should have been more careful. We tended just to say BH.

          But there is a difference between a “misplaced apostrophe” and the absolutely rampant inability to form a simple English plural that I am seeing everywhere. Yes, there are occasional complications in English, such as words ending in “y,” but when did people decide to ignore the general rule, “just add s,” which covers the vast majority? And, just for the record, the apostrophe is NEVER right. NEVER.

  • Reb Tevyeh says:

    Norman, any apology forthcoming?

  • Save the MET says:

    The entire “l’Affaire Dreyfus” was among the leading examples of Western European political antisemitism propagated at the end of the 19th Century. Even today it is sickening how a patriotic French army officer was taken down by the French military establishment. Every few years a television reenactment, or documentary hits the small screen regarding Dreyfus and frankly none that I’ve seen have handled it well. The event was religious bigotry at its’ very worst and frankly if they can’t get the legend correct which speaks to the entire affair as a kangaroo event, meant to destroy another human being for his/her religious beliefs, than they are not fit to air the show and should withdraw. Can you imagine what would happen if they did a reenactment of Jesus in front of Herod and described him on a masthead as a false king on trial for his sins; there would be international outrage. If a network thinks these stories are worth retelling, then there has to be not only historical context of the time period described, but the eventual exoneration of the man needs to also be described as well. By the way, virulent antisemitism still exists in France today and the result has been the relocation of many French Jews to Israel and elsewhere, far from France. Shame on the BBC.

  • Diarmuid Ó Sé says:

    The BBC’s comments were clueless and bound to give rise to complaints of anti-semitism. They could have clarified that he was believed at the time to have been rightly convicted, but they didn’t. Of course, we not know that the charges against him were utterly false and it is impossible not to see the Dreyfus case in the context of all that happened in the 20th century. Climbdown urgently needed.

  • Diarmuid O Se says:

    …’we now know’, of course, in my comment. The Dreyfus Affair is notorious and you would think that a major broadcaster would be aware of that.

    • V. Lind says:

      Of course they should be. But the BBC, like all institutions, is peopled by staff who have been schooled since political correctness started to drive out common sense, let alone actual education.

      But even the BBC, which to its credit is running this highly regarded French programme, which as far as I have seen so far is tackling the anti-Semitism of the period in question quite critically, should have taken care in writing its little tagline. If they were not familiar with the context of the series, they should have researched it.

      There are still a lot of very clever people around the BBC. But I suspect hiring standards for the website may not be as stringent as editorial hiring policies were in the past.

      • Diarmuid O Se says:

        I fear you may be right. This is a matter of general knowledge of fairly recent history, the kind of information which is not obtained by staring at screens and clicking on them all the time.

        • V. Lind says:

          I watch University Challenge every week, and listen to Brain of Britain. (Also Only Connect and a few others, but the first two are basically general knowledge quizzes).

          No point in denying it — when it comes to the maths and science questions, I am usually left in the dust. Though last night on UC I got Planck — before the student did. Why, given I last studied physics in my third year of secondary school?

          Because I had a classical education — my field was English Lang and Lit, with minors in classics, philosophy, French, history. I studied with aware and curious people — both profs and other students. I was in extra-curricular activities, so mixed with students in other fields. None of us had TVs, though most of us liked radio, and we all read voraciously.

          As a result, we became informed — not experts in much outside our own fields, but aware of contexts and other things — times, places, cultures of learning. We knew — and, I find, doing these quizzes, know — stuff outside our comfort zone.

          What dismays me about a lot of young people, some of whom are now not so young and in positions of authority — is their utter lack of reference. A UC player last night missed a question on the musical Cabaret — fair enough, but he had never heard of it. Nor had he heard of South Pacific, a follow-up question. I have never seen or heard the latter, nor read Michener’s book, but from the question immediately recognised that was what was wanted. I come from an era where we just knew things, despite their being outside our line of interest.

          I don’t know what has happened to education, though I know some of the attitudes to child-rearing that have spilled over, first into schools and now into universities. It is not an encouraging picture. Most importantly, it has reduced the conversation between people to the here-and-now, and that seemingly has led to the sort of knee-jerk responses to incidents rather than any examination of contexts.