Amanda Goodall is one of a growing number of academics who are actively putting the brakes on the corporatisation of higher education by making arguments in the interest of their disciplinary and intellectual allegiances, and with reference to the ethos of the academy. On BBC Radio 4’s Start The Week, hear her explain how important it is that academic leaders aren’t merely professional managers but leading scholars in their own right. Evgeny Morozov, about whom I’ve talked before and to whom I was introduced last week (he was prepossessing, I wasn’t) was there too.
And probably the best thing I’ve heard all the long year was the My Lai tapes on Archive on Four:
“Robert Hodierne reveals the truth about the infamous My Lai massacre of 16 March 1968, based on the transcript of a Pentagon enquiry conducted by Lt General William Peers. The findings of the investigation were so uncomfortable for the US Military that they were suppressed. Some 400 hours of tape show that US soldiers raped and murdered hundreds of civilians in not just one but three villages in an orgy of killing that proved to be a turning point in the Vietnam War.”
In the course of the programme you will hear original material excerpted from the thousands of hours recorded in the course of Lieutenant General William Peers’ inquiry into the massacre. Most interestingly for me, this is a story of the effects of demonisation on the proclivities of soldiers in their dealings with civilians. It is also a story of the mendacity of leaders in hierarchical organisations when under pressure, what it means for subordinates to speak out in such circumstances, and the vulnerability of women in wartime.
And you absolutely have to – must – watch Jonathan Dimbleby’s roadtrip round Russia. Matt said it was “alright” and that he “didn’t learn anything”, and indeed this is above all a social and contemporary history of Russia. You look with your eyes and see that many roads in Russia are unpaved, there is no focal point for Russian commemoration of the gulags, the Volga is enormous, most of Russia is like the horrible fens, Muslims and Christians get along very well in a city in a semi-autonomous region whose name I forget, hundreds of young conscripts die or are badly injured at the hands of fellow soldiers, the inside of a working steel mill is majestic, the admirers of Stalin are banal and the Urals, piddling – why bother dividing continents with them when they couldn’t even divide a country?
The BBC is one of the best things about this country. It produces programmes for thinking, responsible beings. Without it we’d be treated as mere consumers.
Which brings me neatly back to where I started.