The BBC’s Chief Commissar for Political Correctness (whom I imagine as a tall, stern young woman in cruel glasses issuing edicts from an austere office) was hard at work again last week.
On University Challenge, Jeremy Paxman referred to a date as being Common Era, rather than AD. This nasty formulation is designed to write Christianity out of our culture.
One week on, and his paper has decided this observation is worthy of the front page lead:
The article by Chris Hastings begins:
The BBC has been accused of 'absurd political correctness' after dropping the terms BC and AD in case they offend non-Christians.
The Corporation has replaced the familiar Anno Domini (the year of Our Lord) and Before Christ with the obscure terms Common Era and Before Common Era.
'Jettisoned'. 'Dropped'. 'Replaced'.
But skip to the statement from the BBC - inevitably relegated to the very last paragraph of the story - and we're told:
The BBC said last night: '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.'
So the BBC uses both. Indeed, Hastings' article proves BC and AD haven't been 'jettisoned' when he points out:
The terms are not confined to religious output and have also been used in news bulletins. Some reports add to the confusion by switching between both terms in the same item.
He goes on to quote several people unhappy with the BBC, who seem to believe BC and AD have, indeed, been 'dropped' (probably because that's what Hastings told them when he asked for their reaction). But he also gets a quote from Today and Mastemind presenter John Humphrys who says:
"I will continue to use AD and BC because I don't see a problem."
Despite this Hastings believes his story is true and he knows what's behind it:
This is not the first time the BBC has caused controversy over its use of alien language to promote a politically correct, Europhile agenda.
It's not clear why CE and BCE are deemed 'alien' or 'Europhile'. It's not as if the terms are new - the Mail on Sunday includes a box which dates them back to the mid-nineteenth century. It also says they are becoming 'particularly common in the United States'.
In the article, Simon Schama says he's been 'familar' with BC and BCE 'since the Fifties'. And, as Hastings points out, it's not even as if the BBC has only just started using the terms - one example he highlights dates from March 2010:
Last year, Northern Ireland correspondent William Crawley referred to the construction of the Temple of Solomon in about 950 BCE.
So Hastings has the BBC quote denying the terms have been dropped. He has a prominent BBC presenter saying he's going to keep using the BC and AD. And he has his own evidence saying BBC journalists are 'switching between both terms'.
Yet Hastings still writes the article in this way, and the Mail on Sunday still splashes it all over the front page.
UPDATE: James Delingpole has a comment piece on this in the Mail's RightMinds section. He apparently sees this 'news' as evidence of a:
Marxist plot to destroy civilisation from within
No longer will its website refer to those bigoted, Christian-centric concepts AD (as in Anno Domini – the Year of Our Lord) and BC (Before Christ)...All reference to Christ has been expunged
If only the BBC website didn't prove him wrong.