Platitude of the Day

Platitude of the Day September 19, 2008

It always came on when he was in the shower. As it was too dangerous to leap out of a slippery tub and switch stations for a few minutes, he tried sticking his soapy fingers in his ears and singing “LALA! LALA! LA!’ at the top of his voice. But that didn’t work either.

Platitude of the Day (click the image to visit the site)
Platitude of the Day (click the image to visit the site)
Eventually, Peter Hearty, a university research assistant and life member of the National Secular Society, found himself actually listening to Thought for the Day, and the idea for a satirical website was born.
BBC Radio 4’s daily sanctimony-slot has been the subject of a secularist campaign for years. For 2 minutes and 45 seconds every morning, listeners are subjected to often platitudinous, occasionally downright barking homilies from a pool of over 70 contributors. The fact that every one of those contributors is a religious believer has raised protests from the NSS and the British Humanist Association on the grounds of discrimination. But the BBC has not budged.
Says Hearty,

I thought it might be nice to vocalise what TFTD presenters were saying in a less roundabout way and give anyone who wanted an opportunity to comment on that day’s thought

The result was Platitude for the Day, a sharp, hilarious parody-cum-analysis of that morning’s broadcast, usually published within an hour of its airing. Each “thought” is given a star rating, ranging from 0 (Not platitudinous) to 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous). It is the perfect way to skewer the banality of the majority of the “God-slots”.
The archives stretch back to February 2007, and the site hasn’t gone unnoticed by some TFTD contributors. Not all of them are pleased. Media vicar Giles Fraser, for example, tells us,

This web site is further evidence that the new breed of media atheists are terribly good at saying what they are against, but not terribly good at saying what they are for.

The one Buddhist “thoughter”, Vishvapani, calls Hearty a “corflakes splutterer”.
On the other hand, Abdal Hakim Murad (aka Tim Winter), takes a more sanguine view – perhaps surprisingly so, as his contributions regularly score highly on the platitudometer:

I look at it sometimes. Generally it is humorous and well-intentioned, and I certainly don’t object to it.

Johnathan Bartley of the Christian-secularist think tank Ekklesia supports the opening up of the slot to non-religious contributors, and cites Platitude of the Day in his argument.
Indeed, Bartley and Hearty share the same vision for change – a vision which the BBC has still not been able to see. In the website’s manifesto, Peter writes,

How about we really open up TFTD, not just to the great and the good, but to the people up and down the country who have to make moral choices every day: nurses, teachers, policemen. And I don’t just mean the heads of their respective professions. Let’s have a nurse from a busy A&E ward, or a primary school teacher, or a bobby on an inner city beat. What does the bloke who sweeps the streets think about the war in Iraq? What problems do the family who own the shop on the corner face? The Today programme is full of politicians, bishops and businessmen. They get their say. Let’s hear about a different class of problem, a different set of choices.

Now there’s a thought.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Valdemar

    Excellent stuff! TFTD is a real pain in the ear, just the sort of waffle, cant and special pleading you don’t need when you’re setting off for work. I often want to slap the contributors for their mediocre reasoning, smug arrogance, and general unwillingness to consider that they might be wrong or ignorant. For me, an Atkins diet would be less of that bloody woman on the wireless.

  • Stuart H.

    Another advantage of Platitude of the Day over TFTD – you can talk back! Some days the comments section is as funny as the ‘main event’.
    BTW – over here (Isle of Man) we got humanists on to the local radio equivalent of TFTD 2 years ago, and because that worked they’re opening up the slot to other groups – like Amnesty International for the week including Human Rights Day. We get 1 minute 40 secs, which also makes it shorter and sharper.
    Fully support Peter’s idea for TFTD – ordinary people giving a view over here certainly makes for better radio and bigger audiences, by the station’s own research.

  • Angela K

    Well done Mr Hearty! There is also a ‘god slot’ on BBC Radio 2 every morning that always has me screaming abuse at the wireless. Why Radio 2 & 4, what about the other channels? Radio 3 is mainly free of this bilge but does have ‘Free Thought’

  • I suppose

    Perhaps pointless to not have a clever remark of your own, but this is what I think: Valdemar: “Excellent stuff! TFTD is a real pain in the ear, just the sort of waffle, cant and special pleading you don’t need when you’re setting off for work. I often want to slap the contributors for their mediocre reasoning, smug arrogance, and general unwillingness to consider that they might be wrong or ignorant.”
    Indeed!!!