Let’s give the man more rope

Shooting industry magazine Gun Trade News is the usual anodyne blend of trade information, gossip and thinly disguised PR features; however, it does have one star attraction in the shape of freelance writer Caroline Roddis (pictured) whose monthly contributions delight in skewering the absurdities and bias of much of the media.

In the latest issue, Roddis draws a comparison between artist David Hockney and the BBC’s go to anti-field sports campaigner Chris Packham. She makes the point that whatever both were in the past, they are certainly no longer. Hockney, Roddis accurately points out now produces pictures of such startling infantile naivety as to render a six-year-old ashamed to claim authorship and that similarly Packham has ceased to be what he once was, ‘that bloke off Naturewatch’, and has now morphed into Mr. Angry in his role as head honcho at Wild Justice, although those are our words not Caroline’s.

The item appeared under the headline ‘Oh Pack it in, Chris’. We are not sure if that was Caroline’s choice or the editor’s, but if so or not, there is a case to be made for saying the exact opposite, something along the lines of ‘Oh, do keep it up, Chris.’ Like many others Caroline is exercised by the way in which Packham continues to slander the shooting community, for the benefit of an audience only available to him by virtue of his BBC platform, whose rules on bias he seems to have been granted licence to ignore.

But let’s look at this from Packham’s point of view. He has been in the public eye now for more than ten years since he made his 2009 debut on Springwatch.  During this time his days have been spent trying to afford to wildlife in general and birds in particular the sort of protected status he seems to enjoy from his employers, to which end he has been free to play fast and loose with facts and libel whole communities of hardworking gamekeepers.  He has more than 450,000 followers on Twitter and his appearances on TV regularly garner audiences in their millions.

We do not know to what extent Packham is given to introspection, but were he to be so minded he might just ask himself: What have I achieved? Sure, there have been minor victories, but some like the General Licence fiasco were rather hollow. Scotland has proved more fertile territory and there are always a few left-wing councils keen to divert attention from their failure to empty the bins by banning shooting on what small slivers of land they haven’t yet sold to a supermarket. But in the totality of ten or more years of carping what does it amount to? Very little has changed. And all the while Packham, walks the tightrope trod by all agitators. One where the need to keep one’s balance, in Packham’s case not straying so far in his pronouncements as to make it impossible for the BBC to ignore, becomes exhausting. And for Chris there are big stakes too. Lord Attenborough will not go on forever and if you look closely you can see the Beeb’s nature presenters vying to step into his shoes. And of course, the corporation has a new Director General who has already indicated that he too shares the view that the broadcaster is a bit too left of centre and anti-establishment.

Packham has gone on record saying that he does not enjoy confrontation and that he finds things a bit of a strain; a strain which might have part of its source in recognition that he really isn’t getting anywhere. Ideal conditions for an outburst. Accordingly, rather than trying to silence him we should be granting him more opportunities to peddle the half-truths, fantasies and emotional claptrap that largely comprises what we might call his oeuvre. It is a fair bet that given even more opportunity he will sooner or later (and probably sooner) say something which would result his being pitched off the tightrope.

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