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Home > Media

Mark Thompson: Insane, quite clearly

26 March 2005

Jeremy Paxman - who, as far as we can tell, is incapable of being wrong - was in the news this week for launching what has been described as 'a scathing attack' on Mark Thompson, the director-general of the BBC.

This is particularly amusing considering that just a handful of days ago, following Paxman's last scathing attack - the one where he described Health Secretary John Reid as the Labour 'attack dog' and went on to declare that there is 'a sort of Scottish Raj' ruling the country - which of course there must be, if Paxman says so - it was none other than Mark Thompson who stepped in to defend him.

Thompson pointed out at a Parliamentary Committee, and quite rightly, that the public enjoy Paxman's 'rather adversarial approach'. He went on: 'You have to strike a balance between proper discussion and scrutiny in the traditional British adversarial way... and the danger of overstepping the mark into negativity and rudeness.' This was last week.

This week Thompson finds himself embroiled in a whole vipers' nest of negativity and rudeness, from which he has emerged transformed, like a cross between a low-rent Mike Tyson and Emu, without the restraining influence of Rod Hull. The transformation was kicked off on Wednesday evening thanks to a mailout from TFT-pal Holy Moly detailing a leaked email correspondence from January of this year between Paxman and another - at the time - unnamed BBC employee.

The correspondence began with this from Paxman: 'I've got to interview Mark Thompson tomorrow. Is it true that he once bit you?' Turns out it was true. The unnamed BBC employee has since been identified as Anthony Massey, and in his reply he detailed the events surrounding the impromptu oral attack. It happened in 1988 when Massey was working with Thompson on the Nine O'Clock News.

'I went up to his desk to talk about some story... Before I could say a word he suddenly turned, snarled, and sank his teeth into my left upper arm (leaving marks through the shirt, but not drawing blood). It hurt. I pulled my arm out of his jaws, like a stick out of the jaws of a labrador. The key thing is, we didn't have a row first, or even speak, and I had never had any dispute with him before. He was recently arrived in the newsroom, and I hardly knew him. He just bit me in the arm for no reason without any warning or preamble. I don't think it was personal. Something turned in his brain...'

At which point in the correspondence Paxman responded, and quite rightly, that Thompson 'is quite clearly insane'. A scathing attack? Hardly. Merely a rational appraisal of the actions of a man who is quite clearly insane. If that hasn't convinced you however, Massey also mentioned 'several other good Thompson stories'. Apparently, 'he has a bit of a reputation for mindless violence against innocent bystanders.' One of these stories features Thompson attempting to strangle a video editor who had botched a lead story link-up. Thompson had to be dragged off the man's neck apparently. We weren't there, of course, so we can't say for sure that it happened, but - of course it fucking happened. The man is a maniac. The video editor by the way, went on to have a nervous breakdown. A direct consequence of Thompson's throttling? Well, if anyone has the right to answer that question yes, then it is we, the loyal we, the humble put- upon licence payer. And so we do. Then we add in passing that Mark Thompson is a bastard.

The BBC's response to all of this has been to attempt to pass it off as a boyish prank, putting the whole thing down to 'a pretty robust atmosphere in the newsroom. There was a lot of horseplay,' they said. 'There was some high jinks going on and Mark leant forward and did something like a biting gesture.' Horseplay? High jinks? Is this really how they talk at the BBC? And people have the nerve to suggest they're out of touch. They go on: '[Thompson] thought it would be quite funny and it would defuse things but clearly it was hugely misinterpreted.' In other words, blame Massey: that humourless berk wouldn't know a boyish prank if it bit him on the arm.

Well, we say shame on the BBC and their cowardly twists and turns. The least they could do is own up. Thompson *is* clearly insane. Perhaps because of some trauma as a youth, perhaps merely because he has the Phil Mitchell gene. We shall probably never know for sure, but what is absolutely crystal is that the man is a Sutcliffe-in-waiting. But the BBC in its ever-impeccable judgement stands firm behind its bastard helmsman. For shame.

More power to Paxman then, who comes out of the whole thing smelling of Van Helsing, the stake of his no-nonsense plain-speaking stuck firm in the vicious heart of Thompson's rampaging Nosferatu.

Well, that's the BBC for you. Apparently the whole place is full of fucking headbangers.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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