I never thought I would find myself agreeing with anything written by Johann Hari, but in today’s Evening Standard he has a piece deploring the rehabilitation of Mary Whitehouse. I agree that she was a dangerous evil old woman, not remotely funny, not a gentle eccentric.
However, there is in the piece something that does not ring at all true, viz –
In an old episode of her favourite show, Dixon of Dock Green, you can see the dark side of the world she fought to preserve. When Constable Dixon stumbles across a woman being beaten black and blue, he reassuringly tells the camera it’s nothing to do with the police.
If that is true, it is appalling. Not actually a mark against Whitehouse (which illustrates why Hari is untrustworthy – Whitehouse cannot be held responsible for every item of content in a programme she allegedly liked), but appalling nonetheless. Dixon of Dock Green was a top-rated show, and one criticised in the 60s and 70s for its rosy-tinted view of East End police-work. So if a sentimental prime-time show really did show domestic violence as accepted by the police (whether it was in reality or not at the time), then the social attitudes endorsed by the BBC in the early 60s were even more alien than I thought… Except, as someone who takes and interest in cultural change, I would have heard about it before now. And the clip would be familiar from dozens of documentaries, would it not?
Is my education very lacking, or is Hari just making this up? If not, where has he got it from? Who else makes the claim? Is there an incident in Dixon of Dock Green or some other contemporary drama that has been so interpreted as to have directly or indirectly given rise to the tale?