Friday, 7 October 2011

In the Year of Our Lord

The latest threat to everything we hold dear is the BBC ordering its staff to stop using BC and AD and use CE and BCE instead.

The BBC has been accused of ‘political correctness’ and not surprisingly, the Daily Mail is lamenting the end of civilization (again). Is the BBC really turning its back on 2000 years of Christianity? Tell that to the producers of Thought for the Day or Songs of Praise.

The Mail also reports that the Government has stepped in to protect BC/AD. They just will not let this story go, running another version of it with Andrew Marr getting all worked up, saying he would still use BC/AD - unlike the sinful Jeremy Paxman and Melvyn Bragg who use BCE/CE. Even WH Smith uses BCE/CE alongside BC/AD. What is the world coming to? Just as well Ann Widdecombe was on hand to talk to the Mail to bring us to our senses.

Then the Vatican jumped on the bandwagon, accusing the BBC of ‘historically senseless hypocrisy’ – which of course the Mail reported, with a lovely picture of Jesus to remind some of us of our sins. How many times can you write the same article in slightly different words? Many, many times.

Except that it isn’t true. The BBC said in a statement: ‘The BBC has not issued editorial guidance on the date systems. Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams.’ The advice about which terms to use referred only to the religion section of the BBC website. BBC’s head of religion and ethics, Aaqil Ahmed said ‘For our religion and ethics programming on BBC television and radio we generally use AD and BC”. He added "It is a shame that people seeking to make mischief should cast a shadow over the wonderful celebration of our Christian religious heritage that is Songs of Praise" - a resounding rejection of Christianity if ever I heard one.

The Mail even quotes the BBC at the end of their articles - in the interests of fairness and balance, of course - but then continues to flog the dead horse into a bloody pulp over the following days.

Incidentally, these so-called new terms (CE and BCE) became standard in schools nearly a decade ago. They stand for the Common Era and Before the Common Era. I've long wondered why AD is in Latin (anno domini) while BC is in English (before Christ). Couldn't someone have translated BC, just for consistency? AC for ante Christus, perhaps? Maybe they decided that sounded too much like anti-Christ. (My Latin is way rusty is the -us ending right?)

The story then took another twist. The ever-opportunistic Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, told the Mail that people of other religions do not object to BC/AD but that ‘In reality, we know it is the increasingly ill-tempered secularists, groups such as the National Secular Society, throwing tantrums at the mention of Christianity, not the Chief Rabbi or Britain’s imams’. I work for the NSS and can state categorically that the only time anyone has a tantrum is when the biscuit tin is empty. And that's me.

But even the gatekeepers of All Things Decent slip up sometimes. This article in the Mail's science section (yes, they have one) had the dreaded 'new' dating system in it for a while until the Thought Police spotted it and changed the date to 1045AD. Phew, close one.

The Mail has been reported to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) for continuing to run a misleading story. However, as Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is chair of the PCC, the complaint may not get very far.

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