Saturday, July 12, 2014

Listening to the BBC is (sort of) an act of resistance.

As someone who with a knowledge European WWII resistance, I know that one of their activities was Covert listening to BBC broadcasts for news bulletins and coded messages.

The BBC opened its studio to the first members of the resistance who fled France's occupation by Germany in 1940. This was when the service called "Radio Londres" began and would become the daily appointment of the French people for four years. It opened its transmission with : "Ici Londres ! Les Français parlent aux Français..." ("This is London! The French speaking to the French..."), now a very famous quote in France. It was the voice of Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle, who on 18 June 1940 made his famous Appeal of 18 June, inviting his compatriots to resist and rise against the occupation.

There was a similar service for the Belgians Radio België or Radio Belgique. Radio Belgique was listened to by a majority of Belgians despite its being banned, far more than officially approved stations (like Radio Bruxelles) which broadcast German propaganda.

The BBC would regularly transmit hundreds of personal messages, of which only a few were really significant. A few days before D-Day, the commanding officers of the Resistance heard the first line of Verlaine's poem, "Chanson d'automne", "Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne" (Long sobs of autumn violins) which meant that the "day" was imminent. When the second line "Blessent mon cœur d'une langueur monotone" (wound my heart with a monotonous langour) was heard, the Resistance knew that the invasion would take place within the next 48 hours. They then knew it was time to go about their respective pre-assigned missions.

Even after the war, the East German propaganda machine was foiled by people who could access western media, particularly in Saxony.

Where I am going with this is that when one is faced with a media which is clearly biased, listening to other sources of information is an act of defiance.  But it isn't just listening to any source of information, but one which is reliable and trustworthy.

In some ways, the BBC World Service is beginning to follow the US media, but it hasn't gotten as corrupt as its US bretheren.   Still, it is another voice and another source.  It also has a history of being a trusted new source.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched the 1969 French film, L'armee des ombres with Lino Ventura and Simone of the best films about the resistance ever made! There is a sequence about having to transport and deliver a banned radio that really brought home how dangerous it was to listen to the BBC in France during the Occupation. The title in English is Army of Shadows and I cannot recommend it highly enough!