The other day, I went to be interviewed in the Savoy hotel. Sitting in what the Savoy now calls the Thames Foyer was Alice Thomson of the Times, a terrifying interviewer because she is so charming. She made me play the game, which she claims I invented, of offering her interviewee a series of choices which one must make (e.g. tea or coffee, town or country). Alice offered me ‘Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough’.
I felt I had to break the rules and say ‘Neither’. There is now a small but growing number of people, myself included, who are fed up with the latter. His early days were wonderful — he was an adventurous zoological and ethnographic broadcaster and then a great controller (the first) of BBC2. But in recent times his role as a National — even Global — Treasure has gone to his head.
Now the exotic creatures he presents to us have all become unpaid, co-opted actors in his unending propaganda melodrama against the growth of the human race. What I long for is a human version of Life on Earth, devoted to the ingenuity, beauty and majesty of our endeavours. Come to think of it, that is exactly what Attenborough himself did when he commissioned Kenneth Clark to present Civilisation more than 50 years ago.
Today’s equivalent would show us the wonders of scientific discovery, industrial development, engineering, computing, AI, markets, trade, supply chains, medicine, transport, media, languages, nature conservation — the millions of things that human beings, and only human beings, can do for the planet they inhabit.
This article is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator Notes, available in this week's magazine.