Tune In: Angelina guests Radio 4’s Today programme
Angelina will guest edit today, December 28 on Radio 4’s Today programme. She’s speaking to guests about refugees and survivors of conflict and discussing solutions and how we can help.
We will try and find the show for all of you who can’t find it so come back later to the site!
Here is the full interview!
Angelina Jolie’s Today programme: these testimonies went to a deeper place
Radio 4 guest edit featured warnings of upsetting content, but it was more likely listeners would abandon all faith in humanity
The lasting memory of Angelina Jolie’s one-day Christmas tenure as editor of the Today Programme will be the horrific descriptions of violence: Rohingya Muslim women describing gang rapes; Denis Mukwege, Nobel peace prize-winning doctor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, describing injuries so barbaric that no “common sense of humanity” could survive them.
Every second interview was prefaced with a warning to listeners that they may find it upsetting: but what an inadequate phrase that was. Swear words, natural disasters, sudden, high-pitched noises are upsetting; these testimonies went to a deeper place. The warning should have been: “Some listeners may find themselves bereft of all faith in humanity.” And it wouldn’t have put anyone off: the value of beholding barbarism is only properly understood against its opposite, ignoring it.
Jolie launched the prevent sexual violence initiative after making Land of Blood and Honey in 2012, a film about the Bosnian conflict. Her wingman was William Hague, as incongruous as a house elf, scuttling alongside her down the corridors of the United Nations. Rape as a weapon of war was the focus of much of the programme, with DRC, at its centre. The conventions of current affairs sat oddly in the context; Mishal Husain, interviewing Nato’s supreme allied commander Europe, Curtis Scaparrotti, listened to his description of Rwanda (“the level of distress and … sheer evil was shocking”) attempted a bit of back-and-forth, some classic interviewer-y challenge: “And thus it has been through the ages,” she said. Women are always getting raped in conflict, is it realistic to think we can do anything about it? After a brief exposition about mankind and its responsibilities, Scaparrotti ended up making a social media point; now that communication is so fast and so flat, it is easier to establish global moral absolutes, things we collectively cannot abide. But it was such a peculiar tilt at the topic, effectively asking someone to explain how violence can be bad, given that it is not new.
Justin Webb, meanwhile, tried to add some grit by asking Jolie whether this should be the next direction for the #MeToo movement; his meaning was perfectly plain – isn’t all this casting-couch sexual abuse a bit of a first world problem, when there two-year-olds being raped in front of their teenage mothers? Jolie elected, rightly I think, not to understand the question: it would have besmirched the project to launch into an explanation of why acts of sexual violence didn’t need to be pitted against one another in severity in order to be taken seriously. That awkward moment was smoothed over by his asking whether Jolie would ever run for president, to which her reply: “I go where I’m needed”, had a slightly uncomfortable, saintly ring, but delivered a semi-scoop for the bulletins. She might.
And the news itself was particularly sobering: every half hour, the headlines would break into the most vivid stories about the realities of war, with a Home Office announcement that British boats should stop patrolling the Channel. Refugees might mistakenly think these were rescue boats, and that some civilised nation wanted to help, and therefore they would be more likely to undertake a perilous journey. That juxtaposition – what people might be fleeing, against an international moral order so dilapidated that its only response to displacement is to figure out how to make it someone else’s problem – must have been a coincidence. Jolie didn’t set the news grid. But that made it all the more affecting.