PJ Harvey Features Julian Assange On BBC Radio, Stirs Up Controversy

By Tom Breihan / January 2, 2014 - 9:39 am

It didn’t get a lot of press over here, possibly because most of us only have the vaguest idea what it means, but last month, Queen Elizabeth II presented one Polly Jean Harvey with a royal honor, the Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire medal. And thanks, perhaps, to that unexpected jolt of societal legitimacy, the BBC asked Harvey to “edit” the Radio 4 news show Today this morning. And given that this is the lady who made Rid Of Me, perhaps nobody should be surprised that thing played out in incendiary fashion.

As NME reports, Harvey’s version of Today featured segments from journalist John Pilger, photographer John Duley, and former Archbishop Rowan Williams, music from Joan Baez and Tom Waits (whose “Strange Weather” replaced the weather report), and the actor Ralph Fiennes reading poetry. It also had a “Thought For The Day” from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who talked about the Olympics as a “neo-liberal Trojan Horse” that exist to reduce civil liberties. You can hear a few segments from the show here.

The show may not be quite what Harvey intended to present. In her opening statement on the show, which Harvey posted on her website, Harvey said “I hope that the programme you hear, is the programme I wanted you to hear — I have come to realize that a great deal of its content is about censorship in one way or another.”

Still, even in its possibly-edited form, the show has already been enough to cause a fair amount of controversy in the UK. The Daily Mail has already criticized the show for “dedicating much of its output to bizarre music and poetry and a string of left-wing rants.” The article cited Twitter invective from Welsh secretary David Jones and Parliament member Ian Austin, the latter of whom called the episode the “worst ever.”