Last week the BBC Trust ruled that during one of its children’s programmes in the BBC ‘Learning Zone,’ Florence Nightingale was shown racially discriminating against the travelling Afro-Caribbean cook Mary Seacole. Of mixed race, she called herself a ‘yellow woman,’ and set up cafes for soldiers on the battlefield. She was never a nurse but wrote an interesting book about her time in the Crimea.
On line there is a photo from the programme of two very daft looking but sexy teenage girls who are supposed to represent those two powerful adult women. The crass depiction of Nightingale can be no surprise to anyone who has followed the rise of the Seacole myth over the last few years, lovingly fostered by the BBC. According to this story Seacole was a nurse who was unjustly overshadowed by Nightingale, a victim therefore of racist history. There are now whole housing estates in deprived, i.e. black areas called after her.
The attitude to Nightingale a mystery. A woman who spent her whole life after the Crimean war taking on the war office and reactionary men in government in order to improve conditions for the average British soldier, should be a hero of the Left, and of feminists. Instead she has been vilified, because she came from a wealthy background and became a Victorian establishment figure, and because she had a brief meeting with a woman from the Caribbean.
Of course this situation says nothing about the two women or their real worth but everything about the strange ideology of the left in the UK today, skewed with envy and hatred but also sunk in historical ignorance, unable to fathom the ideas and behaviour of our ancestors, imaginatively or through facts.
After all, for the BBC, racism is the worst crime in the world. ‘In the Committee’s view,’ they go on quite fairly, ‘the programme makers had provided no such evidence.’
In fact, the committee found, while Seacole did make five approaches to join the nursing corps, Nightingale was not personally involved in any of them. It added that children were ‘unlikely to regard the Seacole and Nightingale characters as representing anyone other than their historical counterparts,’ and the programme should have done more to make that clear.
But history is the story invented by the victors, and where history and education are concerned the victors are on the left, and represented by Ofsted and most teachers in state schools. But up against them this time were redoubtable members of the Nightingale Society, including Prof Lynn McDonald and Dr Eileen Eileen Magnello, who argued it was unfair to bolster Seacole’s achievements at the expense of Nightingale for reasons of ‘political correctness.’
Prof McDonald said it had been a ‘long struggle’ against the BBC, which had fought the accusations ‘all the way.’
‘They seemed to think that because Horrible Histories is funny, it doesn’t matter if it is inaccurate and you can just malign people,’ said Prof McDonald. ‘It is thoroughly dishonest. The portrayal of Mrs Seacole was a complete fabrication, and it made Florence Nightingale out to be a racist.’
Her views and the findings of the BBC Trust under pressure, are better late than never, but the propaganda against Nightingale, pitting her against Seacole in a racist battle, has been rumbling on for the last twenty years, and the BBC’s hard-left propaganda has been polluting minds unhindered until now.