This overheated, slightly contrived debate on the relationship between race and politics could have been so much more interestingHow is it being young, black and right-wing? Channel 4 tries (and fails) to find out
The debate that ran through Young, Black and Right-Wing (Channel 4) was captivating. Presenter Zeze Millz was on a mission, she said, to ask some tough questions about young, black politics in Britain: what drives a black person to reject systemic racism? Has the Left lost touch with black communities? How much of a barrier to success is racism? It was fibrous, challenging stuff, putting some right-wing voices front and centre on Channel 4 of all places: a supposed lefty-liberal fortress.
But the manner of the debate drove me nuts. As part of the government’s new media bill there should be a law, making people who describe themselves as “outspoken” the very last to speak. Because without that you end up with a finger-wagging donnybrook such as in Young, Black and Right-Wing, a series of people shouting at one another while simultaneously conceding that they respected the other’s right to shout back.
To give the programme-makers credit, this may have been intentional – part of the subject was how in modern discourse people move to entrenched positions with astonishing speed and vigour. But if the past decade has taught us anything it’s that entrenched positions are great for Likes and follower numbers, less so for engaging television – the steady demise of Question Time amply proving the point.
So when Millz spoke to one Hannah, who she had “come across on TikTok,” for an explication of why class is more deleterious than race in Britain today, they ended up having a shouting match until Millz walked off.
It was so completely unproductive… that Millz brought Hannah back in part four, this time to expound her extreme Christian views on the evil of abortion. Hannah, we were told, has 25,000 followers on TikTok “and rising”.
The reliance on one TikTok-er without a surname fuelled the suspicion that Young, Black and Right-Wing had set out with an agenda and then struggled to find interviewees to voice it. It was a suspicion deepened later on in the programme when the production team were shown opening on-camera interviews with a clapperboard that gave the series’ title as “Young, Black and Tory”. Did the interviewees know their interviews were going to be used in a programme where “Tory” was changed for “Right-Wing” before broadcast?
That feeling of producers trying to find a hornet’s nest to poke meant that large chunks of Young, Black and Right-Wing were like watching GB News – indeed, its second part was all about the sort of people who go on GB News by dint of having built up a small social media following and being prepared to say something extreme. Then everyone got really angry, daft pronouncements such as, “black pupils are more likely to go to a top university than white pupils,” were allowed to go unchallenged, and Millz moved on. The process, I would say, did a disservice to the debate.