Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Open Thread

Pickle your knees Open Thread for July.

"How can white women not be Karens?"

It might be that the BBC actually united the nation yesterday, given that pretty much everyone objected to this tweet and held the BBC in contempt for it:

It took about 24 hours, but the BBC finally deleted it - 'cancelled' it so to speak. 

For quiz fans though, and because I like setting quizzes, here's a 'Karens' quiz. 

Name the following:

(a) Scottish actress who played a Doctor Who assistant. 
(b) Associated with Out of Africa.
(c) New Haven-born singer and drummer who died aged 32.
(d) South African-born actress who played the wife of Arthur Rudge in a British sitcom.
(e) Country against which the Karen National Union fought a decades-long war.

Answers to follow later.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Lewis Goodall's NHS 52 Birthday Message

If you're clapping for the NHS at 5 o'clock tonight, Newsnight's hyper-political policy editor Lewis Goodall remains in campaigning mode and wants you to remember something else too
If you’re planning to clap for NHS staff as part of the NHS 72 celebrations remember some of those you’re clapping are facing huge costs to pay for the privilege of caring for us. The govt’s free visa scheme hasn’t been extended to all. Nursing assistants, cleaners, porters and virtually all carers are not included. I’ve interviewed a dozen or so people, all of whom are facing costs of between £2000-7000 to get their visas extended for themselves and family. It affects tens of thousands of people. Many of these people have kids who are UK citizens. We’re unlikely to deport them. But pay they must. They’re likely to be BAME. Their more senior doctor, nurse coleleafues [sic] have been exempted (often in specialised jobs which won’t ever come into contact with Covid patients). Full information in report above and thread below. As I say, worth remembering during the pictures of clapping and the inevitable gushing tributes.
As you'd expect from him, Lewis puts Sir Keir Starmer to shame there. 

Lewis, as we know, though now a BBC journalist, can never leave govt-bashing alone - not even for a day. Govt-bashing is his first, his last, his everything. 

(Pub quiz question: Who had a UK number one single with You're the First, the Last, My Everything?)

I don't think Sir Keir will hold it against him though when he comes to appointing his next director of communications.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Art of Persia

Samira Ahmed's three-part series Art of Persia, broadcast on BBC Four, was superb - though I'd say it was as much a history of Persia/Iran as it was about the art of Persia/Iran.

What a history though! And what art and architecture! What austerely beautiful landscapes! What magnificent camera work!

And Samira made for an enthusiastic, agreeable presenter. 

It was filmed over six weeks between March and June last year. 

It had taken three years for the BBC to secure visas from the Iranian regime but, as Samira wrote in the FT, the regime then proved to be very helpful, granting them "generous access".

She calls this generosity "an important olive branch". 

Indeed, she sees the series as a form of "cultural diplomacy", going beyond "the news headlines about the Iranian regime" and "offering the chance to make a connection with the Iranian people and gain a new perspective on the world. One that is less western-centric". 

I very much enjoyed it and marvelled at the clear, unashamed love of the Iranian people for their culture and history - very much including their pre-Islamic history. They won't be toppling statues from their past any time soon.

But Sue pointed out something she'd read: that the programme hadn't mentioned the regime. 

That was before the final episode, but when the final episode came I was surprised when it pretty much ended in 1979, with the bulk of its final section laying out the case against the last Shah of Iran and explaining why, through his un-Persian/un-Iranian folly, he helped bring about his own destruction and paved the way for the revolution. Of post-revolutionary Iran and the theocratic regime of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei and their attitudes to their country's heritage, there was literally just one, short, three-clause paragraph, and absolutely nothing critical of their rule. 

This left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Yes, you're the BBC and you've been granted a huge favour by the Iranian regime, allowed in to glory in the country's past, to talk to its friendly people, and to go where no BBC presenter has gone before; you're allowed to see site after site, visit city after city, and look at rarely-seen hidden-away artifacts; and you show it all in the most glowing light, but you don't utter a single word of criticism of the rule of the Iran's latest rulers - the Islamist regime of the supreme leaders. Why did history stop in 1979 for this BBC series? Why such a slating for the Shah and no slating whatsoever for the cruel, despotic clerics who displaced him? Ah, because this is "cultural diplomacy", that's why, and the sharing of an "olive branch" with that regime. 

Oddly, it's only in her FT article that Samira Ahmed gives us the kind of information I think ought to have been in the series itself: 
After the 1979 revolution, there was a mood of purifying zeal. At Persepolis, Islamic revolutionaries turned up with bulldozers. But local people and the mayor of nearby Marv Dasht convinced them to turn back. In 1988, then president Ali Khamenei, now Iran’s supreme leader, visited the site and acknowledged its importance as national heritage, but also declared such places symbols of tyrannical monarchy (it is no coincidence that the Pahlavis, overthrown in 1979, keenly associated themselves with Persia’s historic kings). In recent years, protesters have gathered at Pasargadae, one of the last remnants of Cyrus’s capital city, adopting him as a figurehead of resistance to the regime.
Cyrus the Great was the king who freed the Jews from captivity in Babylon and allowed them to return home. Ayatollah Khamenei is an antisemite who wants to expel the Jews from their homeland. Things don't always get better.

British Masters

The BBC tells us that Twitter is dropping the term 'master' from its programming code "in favour of more inclusive language" ('master' being the main version of the code), and The Daily Mail tells us that estate agents in London and the south and dropping the term 'master bedroom' for similar reasons. 

By coincidence, I was just catching up with a BBC Four programme - a repeat from 2011. The series, about 20th Century British paining, is called British Masters and in it presenter James Fox celebrates the "uniquely British take on modern art" of a group of British painters and calls them collectively "one of the finest artistic movements in all of Western culture". 

I do hope it's title doesn't see zealots at the BBC remove it from the iPlayer. (You'd think not, but you never know at the moment.)

Anyhow, one of the masters featured in the programme was William Coldstream, who gave the public what it apparently wanted - realism. Here, for example, is Bolton

Friday, 3 July 2020

"We all care enormously about our audience, work hard and don't get paid the same as Gary Lineker!"

So here in the North West we have North West Tonight, usually presented by Roger Johnson and Annabel 'A Spot of' Tiffin. 

And now one of them has to go. 

Roger appears on BBC Breakfast and reads the news for Andrew Marr from time to time. Poor Annabel doesn't. 

And, truth to tell, we (as a family) rather like Annabel Tiffin, not least because of her Carry On Up The Khyber-style name. 

More on Lewis

Are Newsnight's staff now playing a game of Dare on Twitter? 

You may already know that Emily Maitlis deleted a tweet today - one quoting, as if she were backing it, some attack on the Government for being anti-democratic by a controversial Sky hack from February. 

But I've just seen another Lewis Goodall tweet disappear before my eyes too. 

He was using the Portuguese government to attack the UK government, in a heavily loaded way - as is his way. 

And now that tweet has gone. 

It's all somewhat toned-down stuff down now on a similar theme instead - and, for him, surprisingly balanced.

If only I'd screen-grabbed it. 

What I remember was it calling it "stinging" from "our oldest ally" and adding an extra twist of bias - a turn of phrase that I can't quite recall because I was WhatsApping someone at the time but thought was the absolute cherry on the even-more-absolute icing of the absolutely biased cake. 

(Is there a Twitter equivalent of Newssniffer?)


He keeps on doing that. 

Many of the tweets he doesn't delete inhabit the borderlands of BBC impartiality, but his repeated post-something-ultra-biased, please-the-Twitter-mob, get-the-applause, and-then-delete-it-without-saying-anything behaviour is especially naughty. 

(What do his fans make of their enthusiastic responses vanishing too (collateral damage, friendly fire)?)

I think he's playing a game.

He's very canny, but one day he'll badly come a cropper. 

Hopefully soon.

And then Sir Keir can make him his director of communications, and all will be well. (You still heard it here first).

A Day in the Life

It's been an interesting 24 hours or so for the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan. 

Last night she appeared on Radio 4's News at Six saying:
Dr. David Starkey's long been known for stirring up controversy. This isn't the first time he's used racist and offensive language. His latest remarks came during a 50-minute online video with a right-wing commentator Darren Grimes, who describes his website as "a safe-space for racist and homophobic views". 
She then got involved in a self-congratulatory, 'high-fiving', group hug with some of her peers on Twitter:
Scott Pack: Very interesting BBC radio news report on Starkey latest racist rant. Instead of their usual stance of saying 'comments that some have viewed as racist' they straight out called them racist and 'laced with bigotry' and had to warn listeners before they played his words. I applaud the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan for her honest and straightforward reporting. Great to hear. 
Rajini Vaidyanathan: Thank you. Calling out racism for racism should be obvious. It’s basic. Thanks to my editors today who let me call it as it is, without hesitation. 
Jess Brammar: Just heard BBC Radio 4 bulletin refer to David Starkey’s comments on the riots in 2011 as racist (not “racially charged” or “controversial” etc) and it’s very refreshing to hear it called what it is. 
Rajini Vaidyanathan: That’s what it was. That’s why I said it. 
Unfortunately for her, Darren Grimes then announced (today) that he's started legal proceedings against her and the BBC for what she said about him there:

The BBC swiftly issued a 'clarification':

Darren's response is:

What an extraordinary thing that BBC 'apology' is! Why on earth is it quoting Pink News to clarify what Darren Grimes's website did or didn't say? 

Update: Within the last ten minutes I've found that I'm not alone in being puzzled by that bit about Pink News in the BBC response. Douglas Murray has just tweeted:
Source of BBC lie becomes clear. They used Pink News as a source. Had to issue correction. Error built on error. Malice on malice. Reminder of a reliable rule of thumb: the media who pretend to care about ‘fake news’ tend to be biggest purveyors of it.
My other thought here is that the need for 'high fives' on Twitter is driving BBC journalism ever deeper down the drain. 

A Spike in representation?

It's a funny old world. 

In years gone by Sue and I would share our astonishment at Spiked's unwillingness to say a bad word about the BBC. 

Yes, they might sharply attack the mainstream media in general from time to time, but the BBC - for some reason - seemed off limits. 

I always put that down to Spiked people being regularly invited onto BBC programmes - as, indeed, they were. 

But Spiked, praise be!, has seriously fallen out of love with the BBC in recent months and joined the ranks of the anti-BBC partisans. 

It’s time to defund the BBC is one of their latest headlines and Calvin Robinson's piece is one of those pieces Sue might have had in mind when she says that posts like ours are becoming so widespread as to pretty much render us surplus to requirements. 

I could have written much of it myself, and rather wish I had,

Indeed, one bit echoes an aborted post I did sketch out on 23 June but didn't publish. 

But I'll publish it now, for what it's worth.

It came after the departing Lord Hall announced another £100K of the licence fee would be spent on "increasing diversity on TV":

But I think the thing that might strike most members of the public on reading this is that the BBC's new commitment is absurd and flies in the face of what they actually see - the evidence of their own eyes (or, if you listen to Radio 4, ears). 

Just look at the question of representation: 

There's no need for the BBC to commit itself to ramping up BAME representation because BAME people aren't under-represented on screen. 

If anything, BAME people are significantly over-represented on screen. 

The extent of this is fully revealed if you look at the Diamond reports of the Creative Diversity Network, which monitors the kind of diversity the BBC is talking about on the five main UK broadcasters from a position of advocating for increased diversity of the BBC variety. 

Its findings (from 2019) confirm the impression many people hereabouts have instinctively felt - that if you tune into BBC TV, you'll see more BAME people than you'd expect to see if you think in terms of the population:

The BAME population of the UK is now around 15%, so - as these figures show -  BAME people are actually over-represented on broadcasters like the BBC in almost every area. 

The figures for children's programmes and religious programmes are especially unsurprising: 36.7% for children's programmes and 44.1% for programmes about religion. 

So the BBC doesn't need to chuck £100m at making BAME people even more over-represented. 

Dig a little further into those Creative Diversity Network findings and you find that people over the age of 50 are the ones most under-represented on screen, and that men fare worse than women.

The obvious conclusion is that the BBC needs a lot more non-BAME, over-50 men on screen to better represent the population. 

The change from major to minor

Even my beloved BBC Radio 3 has become absolutely diversity-'of-a-certain-stamp'-obsessed. 

Listen, as I do daily while working from home, to Radio 3 Breakfast and Essential Classics, and you'll hear vastly more female composers than you would have done ten, five, even two years ago, and likewise vastly more black composers.

Every day, every programme, in go the ticks.

Very few programmes now pass without their large quota of black composers and female composers. 

I love exploring unsung composers though. It's what I do. There are so many of them. And huge numbers remain unsung.

The BBC has been particularly keen recently on promoting Florence Price - a black, female US composer. Radio 3 keeps on playing her. She was Composer of the Week earlier this year. And she's an appealing composer. If you like Dvorak in New World Symphony mode, you'll love Florence Price's colourful, charming knock-offs of his style with black, ethnic touches - spirituals, etc. She's a refined, top-of-the-Fourth-Division composer, and I like her music. It's nice.

But, of course, by being so heavily promoted, she's knocking out vast, vast numbers of other dead, white, male composers who have never had their due, and aren't getting it now on BBC Radio 3.

I could list hundreds of them for you that I think are better composers than Florence Price (black, female)...or Dame Ethyl Smith (female), or Amy Beach (female), or Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (black) - other current BBC favourites for reasons of identity politics. 

They haven't a chance at the moment.

That said, I do like a bit of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor - best known for his popular cantata Hiawatha (cultural appropriation?): a black man who forms part of the great flowering of British classical music around the beginning of the 20th Century. He's not quite up to the quality of Parry or Stanford or Bantock - the precursors of Elgar and Vaughan Williams (the great heroes of the early 20th Century English musical renaissance) - but he's worth hearing, and I occasionally get a pleasant glow from hearing his very nice, pleasant, minor pieces...which is no bad thing for me because BBC Radio 3 is now shoving parts of his collected works at me several times a week.

But why not listen to something more rewarding instead? Endless Florence P and Samuel C-T and William Grant Still (another pleasing black echoer of Dvorak and recent Composer of the Week) are certainly PC, tick-ticking choices, and the BBC is giving their music endless plugs, but where are my hundreds and hundreds of much better composers? 

They mostly aren't being broadcast, that's where. 

And I chuckle at the almost daily, sometimes twice-or-more-daily doses, of Clara Schumann and Cecile Chaminade and Fanny Mendelssohn - those feminine shadows of much greater composers. 

Cecile was, for almost a century, the epitome of ephemeral, minor salon music for the piano and the ultimate 'minor composer'. Was that 'history' being sexist? Now, thanks to identity politics and box-ticking, she's an unavoidable presence in the ears of Radio 3 listeners, yet her music remains, to my ears, what it always has been - charming, but, in terms of being interesting, not a patch on the piano works of hundreds upon hundreds of less boring composers. 

That said, some of the present-day female and BAME composers tick-boxed off daily on Radio 3 in the morning are proving highly rewarding to listen to - and, my goodness, BBC Radio 3 are making us sure we know their names. I've particularly picked up on Errollyn Wallen this week. She's both black and female, so double ticks all round for the BBC. 

It's a form of gerrymandering.

Thursday, 2 July 2020


The Boy with Two Hearts is not only a tale of a family in crisis, but a love letter to the NHS, which provided hope and reassurance as they sought asylum in the UK and fought to save their loved ones - BBC blurb
Jane Kelly of The Conservative Woman, The Spectator and The Salisbury Review poses a question:
BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week is the adventure of a family from Afghanistan travelling through Europe to the UK to use the NHS. The premise of the book is not challenged in any way & I wonder who in the BBC metropolitan bubble selected it?
The BBC's Hugh Sykes replies:
Someone with a heart (and a heart in better health than Hussein's).

Lewis lays down the law

I just knew that blog favourite Lewis Goodall would be straight onto the David Starkey story, and he hasn't disappointed:

He's never once tweeted about the no-less-racist remarks of another academic in the spotlight of heavy, public controversy in recent weeks, Priyvamvada Gopal....

....though he did feature in a Twitter thread involving her a couple of years ago, opining:
Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the Burka, it says a lot about what’s wrong with British society that Boris Johnson’s father and sister have both (with ease) been able to write columns defending him in the Sunday newspapers this morning. And we just think that’s normal.
He's never been shy about expressing an opinion. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Evan Davis slips into archaic language

If you were listening to Radio 4's PM tonight, you'll probably have heard the following from its ultra-woke presenter Evan Davis:
5:39pm: So far so good on the prospects for the Oxford vaccine for the Covid...for coronavirus - one of the great white hopes for getting out of the crisis caused by the disease, but there is no timeline on its delivery.  
5:47pm: Charlie Whelan, who used to work for Gordon Brown, has tweeted I used the phrase "great white hope". Amazing, isn't it, how one slips into archaic language, however aware we might try to be. Good of him to point that out. Now let's move on...
Oh Evan!

The phrase itself was coined to describe certain white boxers who challenged a run of hard-to-beat black champions, such as the unfortunately-named Gerry Cooney

As a bonus fact, Mr Cooney was given that epithet by Don King.

I'm very sorry, I think we've lost the line

The BBC has a special kind of gremlin. It’s not just any old gremlin - it’s an anti-Zionist kind of a gremlin whose task is to sabotage Israeli spokespersons while they try to reply to adversarial questioning framed in (default) Palestinian terms. 

This morning I managed to catch Jeremy Bowen (scroll to 2:37) Beebsplaining the Israelis’ (impliedly bad-faith) annexation proposals “which the Palestinians are not going to accept, as you might expect” […] “would be a milestone, a real milestone because it would be the moment when the two-state solution is buried forever.”

Only now we’re told that Netanyahu is ‘dithering’. “When it comes to decisions like this,” says Bowen, “[Netanyahu’s] been quite well-known to dither” an interesting turn of phrase I thought. At least ‘dithering makes a change from ‘swaggering’. Anyway, I had the impression that Jeremy Bowen doesn’t think much of the annexation plan. When he’d finished Nick Robinson announced that he was about to speak to Sharren Haskel, a member of Israel Likud foreign affairs committee. 
Good morning to you. 
Good Morning. 
We just heard there that your Prime Minister is hesitating. Are you one of those urging him to move on? 
Hello? Sorry you cut out, I couldn’t hear the question. 

Now, I’ll repeat it - I’m sorry about the quality of the line. We were just hearing there that Presid - - Prime Minister Netanyahu is hesitating about declaring Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank - what much of the world regards as annexation. Do you think he should, and will, proceed? 
Yeah, um, absolutely. I think we should have done it many years ago when we realised that the Palestinians are refusing to negotiate, refusing to accept any kind of deal, refusing to come to a compromise with Israel has been happening for decades now. And so sovereignty is what Israel needs to create more stability, to create better security in the area and to actually create a better prosperity for Israelis and for Palestinians in the area where ‘sovereignity’(sic) will be applied. 
Well what you call sovereignty and what other people insist is annexation, will mean that a large number of Palestinians are then directly under Israeli rule, will you give them citizenship of your country and full democratic and legal rights?……
I’m very sorry, i think we’ve lost the line to Sharron Haskel… let’s just see if we can get that back, no, I’m afraid it doesn’t look as though we’ll be able to get that line back to Sharren Haskel but thank you to her for joining us.

It’s 14 minutes to nine. We can return now to Israel and to the Likud member of the Knesset we were talking to, Sharren Haskel, morning to you again, I’m sorry your line went, the question I was asking you Sharren Haskel was whether after you declare sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, what many people call annexation, will the Palestinians in those areas be given full rights as Israeli citizens. Would you treat them as full Israeli citizens? 
SH (gurgling through a snorkel from the bottom of a very deep well)
Absolutely, we are going to apply probably around sixty(?) per cent of area C, so Area As are under the jurisdiction of Palestinians, Area Cs are under the jurisdictions of Israelis. Fifty(?) per cent of the areas of Israelis will have sovereignty and will no longer have a military government if I would call that so - it means that if Israelis and Palestinians, specifically mainly around the Jordan Valley will be able to finally coexist and live side by side and will be able to develop businesses, the economy, will be able to share roads, schools, electricity suppliers, things like that (muffled) is going to be one of the first signs that finally Israelis and Palestinians will have to learn how to live together….. 
Many of your critics, I just want to give you a chance to respond, and this is….I just want you to respond to the critics - this looks like the Bantustan plans that were in apartheid South Africa, which is why the British Prime Minister has condemned the plan, that’s why the EU has condemned the plan, which is why the leaders of many Jewish communities in Britain have condemned the plan. 
Well, I think that most people who try and make this assumption, that this is an apartheid or anything like that, know very little about Israel about its history about the jealousy(?) and really that’s what’s happening here. I’m talking with many of the local (muffled) we are sharing the same roads obviously the plan of Oslo accords that basically pushed through the international community on Israel is what actually created the situation between Israelis and between the Palestinians. Beforehand there was pretty much free movement between the two people  -  once we started separating it this is where the terrorist attacks after the Oslo accords. Suicide bombers started arriving in cities like Tel Aviv, like Haifa,….

..Jerusalem, so, to be honest, we see it as one way to create stability and coexistence between us and the Palestinians 
Sharren Haskel we’ll have you back later on when we’ve got a rather better line and we did, of course hear from the representative of the Palestinian Authority earlier in the programme.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that transcription of Sharren Haskel’s gremlin-rich dialogue, but I think we got the gist.  Anyway, as soon as I was able, I consulted BBC Sounds - by the way, the BBC has made locating specific parts of the contents of the Today programme virtually inaccessible now that they’ve axed ‘Running Order’ along with all the detailed info they used to provide. Nevertheless, I found the interview he referred to (back at 7:21am) where he interviewed Husam Zomlot.  

Nick Robinson
Today is the day when Israel could begin to annex large parts of what most of the world regards as the illegally occupied west bank, dashing hopes of the so-called two state solution in which an independent Palestinian state lives alongside Israel in peace.
Most, but crucially not all. Donald Trump has given Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a green light to declare Israeli sovereignty over areas which already have large Israeli settlements.
We’re joined now by the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, Husak - Husam - Zomlot. Good morning to you. 
Good morning thank you for having me. 
Good to talk to you this morning. Could you explain to people what this would actually change, after all the Israeli settlements are there, Israel has long claimed sovereignty over them, what if Mr Netanyahu went ahead with what you call annexation, what would actually change? 
Well, actually your question is the right question, I’m afraid it won’t change much about the already ‘on the deathbed’ peace process with us, the Palestinians, I mean who are Israel and the Palestinians, because Israel has already destroyed this long ago, long before this proposed illegal annexation as you mentioned, the moment we signed the peace agreements in 1993 we were busy, the world was busy, building the Palestinian State institutions, only 22% of the story for Palestine as granted the international framework, as Israeli agreement and signed commitments and fair, what Israel has been demanding two states, yet Israel was busy in the last 25 years building these illegal colonial settlements, jeopardising any possibility for a Palestinian state, preempting a two state solution.
What this does now, this illegal annexation is actually changing the nature of Israel from a temporary occupier as old agreements, to a permanent occupier, and therefore we are into the situation of apartheid and segregation system and open-ended conflicts. Second, its relationship to the region and it endangers stability in the entire Middle east. The King of Jordan was clear that this will lead to severe confrontations, and thirdly it makes mockery of International legality, international rules and it will be a question of who’s next, it’s not only gonna be Netanyahu and Trump and All this was done…

And these are all points I’m going to make to an Israeli spokesman later in the programme. Could you not, Mr Zomlot, say it’s no point having a history lesson about what has gone wrong, this could be just a recognition of reality and the push that is needed to say, let us deal with that reality and work out what can be saved of any hope of a peace process. 
Seriously Nick, I mean that if reality and de facto control of annexation is to be taken international affairs you’re talking about the rule of the jungle and I assure you there are hundreds of Netanyahus there who want to operate such political circus and want to grab land and want to assure to be reelected and dodge criminal charges and wreak havoc everywhere at the expense of future generations and future possibilities. No, sir. Do you like…..who was very pioneering and championing the establishment of international rules after the second world war for this particular purpose. That international relations is not convened based on power, based on vested interests and land-grab, but it is convened based on rules and we.. 
One last word, if i may Mr Zomlot, I’m sorry to rush you but we’re a bit short of time, now I’d like your view on this - this is the first day when Mr Netanyahu could do this but there are lots of people speculating that he might not, that divisions in the Israel cabinet mean that he is reluctant to go ahead. What’s your sense of it? 
Well, I think - I think it’s a matter of time for him - he might delay it a bit because of some pressure internally and outside, and from the region, but I believe the calculus for him remains to be net gain, he wants to do it for his personal gain, he wants to do it for Trump and the base of Trump, this is feeding the beast of ultra nationalism, of racism; he wants to do it for strategic purposes, he is anti two-state solution, he is anti peace ideologically, he looks down at peoples’ aspirations, and of course, he wants to do it as a political diversion, so far all that came from the world, was not really tantamount to changing his calculus. 
Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian mission to the UK. We’ll be speaking to a Likud member of Parliament later at half past eight.
I found Nick’s interviewing tone a little more respectful than it was when speaking to Sharren Haskel, and the questioning of Mr Z was far from probing. But for anyone with the slightest interest in, or familiarity with, the Palestinians’ habit of ‘projecting’ their own malevolence onto the enemy, I’d suggest that ultimately Nick allowed old Zomlot enough rope - as the saying goes, with which to ‘expose’ himself in all his malevolent glory.

Working with children

I do like videos like these. 
First comes Sky:

Then comes the BBC:

I'm awarding the BBC first prize there. Christian Frasier handled the situation far more charmingly than Mark Austin.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Very personal

"Not fast enough for my pixie boots"

Exasperated cries of "The BBC says trees are racist" went up this weekend after BBC One's Countryfile took its knee to Black Lives Matters and broadcast a piece about racism and the British countryside from an unbalanced, BLM-supporting angle. 

Though Countryfile has ostentatiously gone out of its way in recent years to prove that it is hitting all the right targets and ticking all the right diversity boxes (first young female presenters, then Asian presenters, then black presenters, then disabled presenters), this was still a clear and dramatic gear change bias-wise: an in-your-face gesture of empathy/sympathy towards the controversial, highly divisive, identity politics-driven agenda of Black Lives Matter - albeit delivered by a very nice-seeming young black man. 

What intrigued me though was that Countryfile veteran Ellie Harrison introduced it by describing it as "a very personal investigation". 

That's BBC language I recognise. It's 'distancing language'. And I'd suggest it hints that certain brave souls at the BBC weren't entirely happy with it. 

If so (and it's hardly a big, consequential gesture anyhow), I wouldn't blame them in the slightest. 

Yes, Countryfile has become over-politicised in recent years (in predictable directions), but why would the regulars on the team, both in front of and behind the camera, feel wholly comfortable with having such toxic, inflammatory stuff broadcast 'in their name'? 

I know I wouldn't.

All fool's day

And I haven’t finished yet!
Camera has just posted a new article about the latest of the BBC’s grossly biased annexation related offerings.

Paul Adams presents us with an embarrassingly crass and one-sided view. In sanctioning this grossly selective version of events, the BBC must have abandoned all pretence of impartiality. It has given up. Is this its death throes?

To be specific:

Not a word about the way Jordan originally acquired the “Palestinian” land.

Not a word about the Arabs’ ongoing violence against Jewish Israelis from1948 to the present day.

 The only reference to Palestinian violence is as a predicted  the promised ‘threat’ in response to annexation - “fallout”

Not a word about the extra land allocated to the Palestinians in exchange for areas that are to gain Israeli sovereignty.

Not a word about Jewish presence Judea and Samaria, but “for centuries it’s been home to Palestinian Arabs, as many as three million of them today. And it’s long been seen by most people as the heart of a future Palestinian state.”

Most people! Most interpretations of international law! Land the Palestinians want for their state!

Not exactly facts, though, are they? Aspirations, at best, but is it really up to Paul Adams to present his personal prejudices on behalf of the BBC? It must be some kind of joke. Pinch, punch, first of the month or something. No, that’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

What would Jeremy Bowen say?

Denis MacEoin, The Arabic/Islamic expert with a surfeit of vowels in his name, has set out (on the Gatestone Institute website)  the first instalment of a two-part analysis of Israel’s plan to extend Israeli law to disputed lands. 

The proposals are part of the ‘Plan for Peace’ currently being received with shock, horror, righteous indignation and anguish from the usuals.

I know that this blog may not be the ideal platform to drone on monotonously about an arguably minority interest topic, but since Jeremy Bowen, who isn’t currently on location, and may not even be on duty, has been Tweeting approvingly about Tom Bateman’s recent article about “Palestinians in despair” I will go ahead.

What I’d really like to watch on TV one day is a conversation between Mr MacEoin and Mr Bowen.  

Since the entire BBC contingent’s default position on this and all other Israel-related matters is based on whipped up emotion rather than ‘scholarship’ (or even comprehension) and the Beeb’s powers-that-be are satisfied with its correspondents superficial, agenda-driven reporting, it would be good to hear what Bowen had to say for himself.  Because his grasp of the whole Israel - Palestinian conflict is shallow and the BBC’s ‘that’ll do’ approach to it won’t do at all.

In this article Denis MacEoin gives an example of a common misconception put out by (and I’d even say created by)  BBC reporting - and which it gets away with ‘because it can’.
“…….. it is common today to find references to Palestine as a mainly Muslim Arab state that was supposedly "stolen" by Jews, or promised but not given to those people who describe themselves as Palestinians. That is an immense misconception, albeit one that seems to influence political and legal thinking internationally, especially among people who would like to believe it.

The following extract concerns the annexation plans that are causing the Palestinians such despair:
“It is not surprising, therefore, that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), with its existing and locked-in bias against Israel, should condemn Israel for its plan to extend Israeli law to disputed lands, in line with the US peace plan revealed in 2020. The rejection of the US plan by the UNHRC and others ignores the reality that it is one of the most balanced documents drawn up in favour of peace and the creation of a viable State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza. 
Plans designed to bring about peace between the state of Israel and the Palestinians have been multiple, yet none has succeeded -- in all instances because of Palestinian rejectionism. The worst case was President Clinton's offer to the head of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, that would have required the Israelis to hand over about 90% of the lands to help create a State of Palestine. Arafat seemed to agree, then walked away and, from 2000-2005, waged against the people of Israel a campaign of terrorism known as the second intifada. 
Peace plans and treaties only work when both sides sincerely want to make them do so, and then can require one or more generations of young people who learn the benefits of an end to violence. Sadly, that is still a remote hope. Today's Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews and glorify -- and handsomely profit from -- violence against them. 
There is every reason not to feel hopeful about yet another plan for peace. Even if the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank could be persuaded to act in its own self-interest (and there is little sign of that), the intransigent Islamist terror movements in Gaza -- Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- would most likely still not be brought around in the manner advocated in the plan as the only way to improve the lives of the Palestinians living there.”

What would Jeremy Bowen have to say to that?

Don’t speak ill of the dead

Nick Robinson speaks to Facebook’s Steve Hatch (1:51) about its new ‘no tolerance of hate speech’ policy. 

Reaching for the best example of Facebook’s algorithms ‘encouraging hate speech’, Nick Robinson cites Facebook’s current “most popular post” 
“It was a post that said George Floyd was a horrible human being and that racially motivated police brutality is a myth.”
and  (interrupting the response)
“Forgive me, but my point to you was that this was not just ‘a’ post it was an M & S post …..the “top post in the United States!!” On the day of something that triggered riots!!! 
“The top post that your algorithms had chosen to make was one that described a man that had just died - under police - er - control, as a myth - that racially motivated police brutality existed!!!
The BBC has descended into pure parody. Oh, Meggie Foster or Sarah Cooper - please, please do that; with appropriate facial expressions of course.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Flaming June Open Thread

I'm hoping Eric never did a Justin Trudeau. This is one that statue that mustn't fall.

As Google Blogger has forced an update on us and I can't work out how to 'bump up' the previous open thread, here's a brand new one.

Thanks for your comments.

The Man in the Light Grey Suit

I'm still making the prediction that Newsnight's policy editor Lewis Goodall will eventually quit his BBC job and become Sir Keir Starmer's director of communications. 

If that happens, you heard it here first.

Though probably only noticed by those who watch Newsnight and largely lauded to the skies by left-wingers and pro-EU types (with spiders) on the noisy, minority echo chamber of the 14% of the population who get involved in Twitter, Lewis has led the forensic charge against the Tories for months - and done so far more effectively and fiercely than the official opposition.

He's a skilled journalist, some of whose reporting (such of that over coronavirus, dementia and care homes) has been excellent. 

But Lewis is pretty much a give-no-quarter kind of journalist as far as this Tory government goes - and that's not what traditional BBC journalism is meant to be about. 

Every story is mined for possible attack lines. 

And he is pretty much all about attack, attack, attack.

And he does seem to have a personal grudge against Dominic Cummings. 

And his Twitter feed must make the BBC's impartiality tsar David Jordan scream like that nervy chap in the Munch painting every time he comes across it. 

See what you think. I've transcribed and annotated a Twitter thread of his tonight. To me it seems typical of his opinionated BBC Newsnight reporting: 

NEW: as per @SebastianEPayne scoop from earlier today, Sir Mark Sedwill resign as Cabinet Secretary (and National Security Adviser) in September. That will make him the shortest serving Cabinet Secretary in the history of the post, with less than two years in office.

Thoughts on Sedwill
-another senior civil servant bites dust (following Home Office/FCO)
-v unusual for a Cab Sec to serve such little time. Will add weight to those who argue that service is being/risks being politicised. 
-not least re timing- before Brexit/middle of pandemic.

-Sedwill fried to get close to Cummings, it worked for a while but in the end, Sedwill crossed him and he couldn’t survive it. Despite Barnard Castle, Cummings writ is as strong as ever. 

-It’s clear that No 10 intends to pin some blame for a poor Covid performance on civil service, as part of “failings of British state”. But we shouldn’t forget that the momentous Covid decisions (eg lockdown timing) were political, not administrative.

Ergo if govt is effectively engaged in an exercise looking at culpability, it can’t look only at civil servants/behaviour of the public, which occupies much of their activity at the moment, without looking honestly at ministerial action, something which publicly is largely absent

Everything has to be looked at in the round, something other countries have already started on, with mini-inquiries to report back before the autumn, looking at every aspect of policy. It’s something the govt seems very reluctant to emulate at the moment.

In sum though, it’s clear that Sedwill came to be seen as a barrier to reform, a check on what Mr Cummings, Mr Gove and others, want to do- a new “blob”. And with these particular political actors, we know what happens to the blob...
Fwiw don’t think Frost is the story is here, which some getting worked up about. Frost was a civil servant, in FCO for yrs and NSA job was only created in 2010 with 4 holders. The far bigger story is Sedwill potentially being forced out after little time in middle of a pandemic...

Especially in terms of this administration’s history with other senior civ servants and what it says about their relationship with brakes on power; something no govt wants (Blair didn’t like his cab secs either) but which has proven a major theme of the Johnson/Cummings period.

It is, simply, without precedent for a Cabinet Secretary to serve such a short period in office.

Don’t mention the Jews!


A Jew meets an Irishman.
“Are you Catholic or Protestant?” asked the Irishman
“I’m a Jew” replied the Jew.
The Irishman thought for a moment, then:
“But are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?
An absurd version of that joke occurred on Sunday Morning Live because Justin Welby thinks Jesus could have been BAME.
“Are you black or white?" the Archbishop asked Jesus.
“I’m a Jew,” said Jesus
“Please don’t mention that,” said the participants of Sunday Morning Live, ”but was He a black Jesus or a white Jesus?”

One of our paragraphs is missing

I've seen a few tweets in recent days complaining about a BBC News website piece that said:
This discrimination also extends to transphobic preferences in the dating world: from cisgender gay men not wanting to date trans men, to the routine fetishisation of trans women. 
Clicking into the report, by Shrai Popat of BBC News, it was clearly the woke BBC reporter saying that rather than her merely indirectly quoting others. 

I concluded that this was typical of the kind of activist reporting that many are noting is spreading like wildfire among younger reporters who work for mainstream media organisations. 

I wasn't going to blog about it, but I saw another tweet suggesting that the BBC has taken fright and sneakily deleted the offending passage: 
Looks like BBC News has deleted this passage from this piece.  On one level, this is welcome. Depressing to see national broadcaster legitimising this regressive bullying attitude,  But simply deleting it—with no note to say this ‘news’ piece has been changed—is also a v bad choice.
The edit was so surreptitious that Newsniffer has failed to catch up and still shows the earlier versions with the offending passage still included and not the stealthily-edited version. Still, nonetheless, Newssniffer proves the dodgy edit. 

This kind of journalism is going to tie the BBC up in knots if they're not careful.

In the Thick of it

Watching Ed Miliband on the Marr show this morning brought to mind a show that was supposed to be satire but turns out to be ‘not’.  In ‘The Thick of It’ media strategies are hastily cobbled together to divert the public’s attention from The Party’s crazy mixed-up, contradictory policies, gaffes and incompetences.

This morning we got a peep into the way it works in all its Thick of It glory. Ed was tasked with reconciling bendy-knee Starmer’s contradictory messages in an attempt to restore the Party’s credibility. 

Neatly rationalising (leftsplaining away) the inconsistency in sacking someone for “telling the truth” (as the left still insist is what has happened) and not wishing (AsaJew) to be seen to be giving Israel a free pass, he finessed with a  convincing justification for sacking R L-B with a deft: “Why single out Israel and not the UK when the UK also trains US police?” (nice one) 
Then, bravely attempting to keep the antisemites onside, he came out with an impassioned: ”I’m one of the biggest critics of the Israeli government.”

However, this embarrassingly transparent example of toeing the ‘the party line’ was poorly thought through. Making unrealistic demands on the public - a big ask - that it must apply nuance and thoughtfulness to the sacking of R L-B on the one hand while jumping on the laziest most un-subtle bandwagon of an excuse for slamming Israel with a nuance-free, trigger-happy sledgehammer, on the other hand, was desperate ‘In the Thick of It” style, almost satirical, inconsistency gawn mad. 

Of course, Andrew Marr nodded along sympathetically throughout.

P.S. Guido has it, so I felt obliged to upload it.

Summarising the problem

I think this comment from Cui Bono on an earlier thread needs a post to itself, as it provides a splendid - and, in my opinion, correct - summary of the double standards at play in recent BBC reporting:

Anyone who had been blinded to BBC bias must surely have had the scales fall from their eyes over the past few weeks. It has simply been too obvious to ignore.

1. A police killing in Florida receives weeks of coverage sympathetic to the BLM cause.

2. The Jihadi terrorist murders of three gay men in Reading is buried after exactly three days.

3. The BBC is outraged by large groups of people going to the beach due to the risk of Covid 19 cross contamination.

4. The BBC completely ignores the risk from Covid 19 cross contamination posed by massive BLM protests. Indeed the BBC encourages said protests.

5. The BBC suggests that President Trump's rally will spread Covid 19.

6. The BBC ignores the risk of Covid spread from US BLM protests.

7. The BBC gloatingly mocks President Trump because of a low turnout at his rally.

8. The BBC fails to report that the Democrat Mayor had imposed a curfew forcing people queuing for days to attend the rally to go home. They also fail to mention BLM protestors actively preventing people from reaching the venue.

9. Today they have a BAME Labour MP complaining about a spike in Covid 19 in the Leicester community. A quick Google search tells me that a large BLM protest took place there on the 6th of June, but the BBC does not see any connection.

10. The BBC and other outlets were very quick to blame the stabbing attacks in Glasgow on poor living conditions for asylum seekers in the hotel in which they were staying. Again a quick Google search shows us a hotel in which any reasonable person would be quite happy to stay.

Just a few off the top of my head, but everyone I know, including people who would not normally have any interest in politics, is talking about these things and they are angry at the double standards at play in reporting and also in policing in this country.


As far as that mask-slipping, Israel-bashing, Rebecca Long-Bailey-supporting, Sir Keir Starmer-defying statement by Black Lives Matter UK goes, I'm wondering if Dominic Farrell's prediction will prove right here?: 
And I bet MSM will put an internal ‘D Notice’ on what is a significant story given recent events. It does not fit their agenda. 

Meanwhile, on another channel...

A relative of Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat carried out a car ramming terror attack, injuring an Israeli policewoman. Israeli police then shot him dead. 
Well, that's one way of putting it. Sky News, however, put it like this: 

The Israeli government has already responded:

Nothing could be plainer, and Sky should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

Moving on

When it was first mooted, I was quite enthusiastic about the idea of Times Radio providing an alternative to the increasingly tired and tiresome BBC Radio 4. But then the names of the presenters came out and it turned out to be mostly BBC presenters and familiar BBC guests, mostly from the 'mainstream centre' (as they like to see themselves). I suppose it could still be better than BBC Radio 4, but I can't see it being much more broad-minded.

Still, one of its new presenters, John Pienaar, has given an interview to The Sunday Times and said something he wouldn't have said while at the BBC - especially at the moment:
I wouldn’t describe Britain as a racist country. I grew up strongly believing that part of Britain and part of Britishness meant a kind of a leaning towards tolerance. I thought the British character recoiled from extremism. I still kind of believe that.
That's good to hear. 

What matters?

Ed Husain, writer and think-tanker, tweets this morning:
There was another stabbing in a Jewish neighborhood in London last night. Second time in weeks. 
Not in the morning news/BBC headlines. No mayoral indignation.  
Is it because Jews don’t riot and attack the police?  
Stop this balkanisation of identity. All lives matter.
Meanwhile, to the surprise of no one, the "largely peaceful" Black Lives Matter UK further reveals its hand:
As Israel moves forward with the annexation of the West Bank, and mainstream British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism, and Israel’s settler colonial pursuits, we loudly and clearly stand beside our Palestinian comrades.  

Saturday, 27 June 2020

The Annexation Trigger

After being treated to decades of spiteful, passive-aggressive anti-Israel spin from Middle East editor Bowen and his subordinates, anyone with a smattering of political and historical knowledge of ‘Middle East affairs’ could rattle off a pretty good case against the BBC.

Last night Yolande Knell treated us to a mawkish, innuendo-laden report on the BBC World Service impliedly blaming Israel for interruptions to Palestinian children’s cancer treatments during the coronavirus crisis - although most obstacles seemed to stem from the P.A.’s latest strategy of refusing to ‘cooperate’ with Israel in answer to the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank. I wasn’t certain what message she was trying to send to be honest, but I predict a whole lot more mileage will be extracted from that situation ‘going forward’.  

Although criticism of Israel-related reporting is but one factor in a bias-related bigger picture, many bias-watchers regard the BBC’s left-wing/anti-Conservative bias as their chief bugbear and therefore their main target, but in a way, the BBC’s anti-Zionist bias is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of bias. 

Regrettably, the BBC’s Palestinian-advocacy reporting style has a wide reach. Compare the BBC’s uncritical regurgitation of the Palestinian narrative with the overtly hostile, ‘arms-length’ or even non-existent representation of the Israeli perspective that is routinely dished up by the BBC’s Middle East correspondents. Bog-standard, superficial and shallow reporting, served with ‘half-a-story’ contemporary and historical analysis.

Given that both Britain and Israel are democracies, this attitudinal imbalance is hard to explain. If ‘Palestinianism’ is rooted in (Islamic) religion-based antisemitism, surely a largely secular - or at least a not very religiously observant country like post 60s Britain would see Israel as a natural ally, while instinctively filing overtly racist,’Yahud-hating Palestinians’ as ’other’.  

As non-racist Brits, shouldn’t we at least find the Palestinians’ intractable refusal to accept Israel’s existence a little problematic? Since the opposite seems to be the case, the obvious conclusion must be that this demonisation of the Jewish state stems from the ‘oldest hatred’.

However, the word ‘Annexation’ has triggered a new wave of anti-Israel angst. 

Mark Regev has been Israel’s UK Ambassador for over four years. Here’s a link to his ‘goodbye interview’ It seems like only yesterday that he was merely Israel’s ‘spokesperson’ and his very appearances on the BBC would send the haters into paroxysms of fury.

Palestinians: Is It Really about 'Annexation'? Khaled Abu Toameh offers another perspective on Trump’s plan for peace. He says that the Palestinians’ opposition to annexation encompasses twin objections; the religious one and the political one. According to Islamic clerics and scholars, Israel has no right to exist anywhere in the region, so with that in mind, any legality (or otherwise) appertaining to ‘annexation’ is but a trivial detail, therefore irrelevant to the ultimate objective - eliminating Israel altogether. 

Mahmoud Abbas, whom the BBC persists in regarding as a ‘potential partner for peace’ claims that annexation would destroy any chance of a ‘two-state’ solution, ending all hopes of peace with Israel. According to officials, the plan would irreversibly deprive the Palestinians of their right to establish an independent and sovereign state on the (unsustainable) pre-1967 armistice lines. 

The BBC, being determined to see such disingenuous role-play as ‘the voice of reason’ takes Abbas’s words at face value. But the P.A. is actually with the clerics. Neither strand really wants ‘a state’, or is capable of forming one. Their idea of peace is simply ‘no Israel’. 

True to form, the BBC’s Tom Bateman puts the customary BBC spin on the matter. I don’t know if that was Bateman’s own headline, but whoever penned it is clearly hostile to Israel and sympathises with the Palestinians. Israel annexation: New border plans leave Palestinians in despair

Getting to grips with the complexity of Netanyahu / Trump proposals or analysing the long-term potential is of little interest to Tom Bateman whose job is to promote the BBC’s agenda, which disregards the welfare of the Palestinians. Stuck with their appalling leadership, encouraged to kill Jews by Abbas’s outrageous ‘pay for slay’ policy, and ensuring that the existing stalemate is prolonged indefinitely.

At the present time, while old allegiances in the region are shifting, the BBC’s current anti-Israel animus has been triggered bigly by the word “annexation’. An emotive concept indeed, but what does it mean? That terrible word alone evokes expansionism; land-grab; occupation. But this isn’t the idea at all. 

I don’t claim to be an expert on the legality or otherwise of Trump’s plan for peace, but one thing I have gathered from my research so far is that the idea of ‘annexing’ parts of the West Bank appears considerably less ominous than Israel’s detractors would have us believe.

Here is another piece explaining Trump’s “Deal of the Century”   Israel has the right to annex parts of Judea and Samaria   by Eli Vered Hazan:
“So before explaining what annexation is and why it is imperative, it is important to emphasize a few things: France and the United Kingdom are vocal opponents of the agreement. The United Kingdom, which controls 17 territories, spread over thousands of miles across the globe, is criticising a territorial process in which there is a deep connection between a country and its citizens. France maintains control over 13 colonies thousands of miles away and even uses some of them for nuclear experiments, yet opposes our connection to our historical homeland. Not only that, Turkey illegally invaded and took over Northern Cyprus but threatens Israel over the mere potential of Israeli sovereignty. All of them claim that for Israel “it is not the same”. In fact, they are right – it is not the same.
and from Melanie Phillips
“Under international law, annexation has a precise meaning: the forcible incorporation by one state of the territory of another state. This does not apply to the disputed territories, which never belonged in law to any other state. 
Israel has the only legally grounded claim to this land, including the never-abrogated duty given to the British in the 1920s to settle the Jews throughout what is now Israel, the disputed territories and the Gaza Strip. 
Far from being an illegal annexation, extending Israeli law to these areas actually implements international law after some nine decades during which it was flouted and then ignored by Britain and the world community. It is those who oppose the sovereignty proposal who show contempt for the law.”
If it’s too easy to tar her with the “She would say that” brush, legal expert Eugene Kontorovich, lays out the situation fully in this article: Don’t Buy the ‘Annexation’ Hype (WSJ is behind a paywall, but I will post it in full over the fold.)

I didn’t want to display my ignorance by spouting nonsense about something I know very little about, so I did try to digest as much of the document as I could, and I dutifully watched the interesting (to me) video below. In the end, it seems that the specifics of the annexation plan is still a work in progress.  Also, at the end of the day, the legality is never the main and ultimate clincher when it comes to Middle East policy. Emotion is the real game-changer; hearts and minds and so on.

Even if the annexation ploy turns out to be just one strategic move in a long-term game, and the objective is a genuine, just and lasting peace, the BBC is never going to give us a fully-rounded picture because it is ideologically and ‘institutionally’ opposed to it and not entirely convinced of Israel's right to exist.

Legal situation fully explained overleaf.