My dad has what can only be described as an unhealthy paranoia about the BBC. He thinks they're the spawn of Satan.
Like all the best paranoias and conspiracy theories, Dad's has a small toe-hold in reality. There certainly is a Southern England bias at the BBC, which is reflected in its news coverage and even its weather forecasts. But Dad seems to believe that every single BBC presenter or continuity announcer who pronounces their A's long was personally selected by the Director General to promote the corporation's Cockney Agenda.
Dad's fixation with the BBC began in the summer of 1982 during the Falklands War. Every evening, the Newsnight programme would wheel on some recently retired British general and get him to talk military tactics. Dad was convinced this was tantamount to treason. "The Argentinan Embassy will be noting all this down!" he would shout at Peter Snow.
In fact, Dad did have a point: I clearly remember how, during the early days of the war, when one Argentinian bomb hit a British warship but failed to explode, the BBC displayed a helpful graphic showing how the bomb should have been dropped. Next thing our lads in the South Atlantic knew, that was exactly how the bombs were being dropped—with far greater effect.
Ever since then, Dad has been convinced that the BBC's not particularly well-hidden agenda is to undermine British society and betray us to our enemies. He is, for example, the only person I know who believes that the Hutton Enquiry wasn't a shameless stitch-up, totally exhonorated the Blair government, and showed up the BBC and its Cockney Director General for what they really were.
This Tuesday, Dad's BBC paranoia finally tipped him over the edge. My parents and I were watching the comedy quiz show QI, when Stephen Fry asked a question along the lines of, "Why might it be dangerous to have a ship-load of pistachio nuts?" The answer, it turned out, was that large masses of pistachio nuts are prone to spontaneous combustion and can sometimes explode.
"There they go again!" Dad shouted at the telly. "Giving away information of use to terrorists!"
Mum and I thought we were going to die. We were laughing so much, we couldn't breath.
"I hardly think the pistachio nut is going to be the weapon of choice for a terrorist!" I gasped at Dad, still trying to work out out how to get my lungs to take in air.
Dad was adamant: "Mark my words, you'll be watching the news one day soon, saying 'Norm predicted that!'"