Thursday, 19 July 2018

Knock knock

I might as well go proper far-right and link to this comment by ‘namenotnumber’ on the Biased-BBC blog. It’s a list of tweets by Ezra Levant which highlight some of the hypocrisy surrounding the Tommy Robinson fiasco.
The reason I’m doing so is that although there are undoubtedly legitimate technical reasons for the current Tommy Robinson situation, (his imprisonment and so on, which certain admirable people have defended and taken pains to justify) the individual who blogs as “The Secret Barrister” has let himself/herself/xeself down by using some emotive, nay, pejorative language when recounting the background to the affair. 
I can even detect a whiff of  disdain in the first sentence: 
Today the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) heard the appeal of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson).
The fact that TR uses a pseudonym (and we all know what his real name is) dwelling on it in that particular way seems gratuitous and a little bit rich coming from The Secret Barrister who wishes to remain pseudonymous.

Call me an ignorant fool who's indulging in a bit of whataboutery, but although I see (and sympathise with) Melanie's point, I have to say that if Tommy Robinson jeopardised the trial of the “men” accused of grooming and raping young girls by using pejorative language while live-blogging in the vicinity of the court, what does that say about the TSB and the reporter from the Independent he/she/xe praises :
“The excellent Lizzie Dearden of the Independent who provided a comprehensive live-blog of the hearing from the Royal Courts of Justice,”
...who seems to be doing something very similar (and, arguably, influencing TR's trial.)

Now that the police have been instructed to concentrate on hate-crimes far-right extremists like myself are apprehensively listening for the knock on the door. What hate-crime have I committed? I think being far-right is one.
Didn't Gabriel Gatehouse let his agenda hang out on Newsnight last night? If that’s impartiality, I’m a Dutchman.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Open Thread

New open thread. This cat is shocked, shocked, by something s/he's xe's just seen on the BBC.

The BBC in the witness box - a judge rules


It's not been a good day at the office for the BBC today after a High Court judge ruled that the BBC's coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard was an invasion of his privacy. Sir Cliff has been awarded £210,000 in damages. 

The BBC's response to the judgment has been widely characterised as "sorry, not sorry". They are even thinking of appealing. (At what cost to the licence fee payer?)

Here are BBC Director of News Fran Unsworth two major statements today. The first was sent to the world:


The second was sent to BBC staff:


Reading that and then reading the judge's opinion on his BBC witnesses, as laid out here, it seems to me that Ms. Unsworth's comments are rather tinged with wishful thinking - especially as far as the BBC journalist accuracy and honesty goes. (I've highlighted the most damning passages):  







That...

...and particularly the comments about BBC reporter Dan Johnson "twist(ing) matters in a way that could be described as dishonest" and about him "letting his enthusiasm...get the better of his complete regard for the truth on occasions"...

...pulls the rug from under Fran Unsworth's claim that "the judge...was clear that what we broadcast was accurate". 

The judge, in fact, appears to have been "clear" that what the BBC broadcast was far from being wholly accurate.

As for the senior BBC editors involved, Fran Unsworth herself came out best. The judge evidently liked her and found her to be honest, thoughtful and conscientious. But his comments that, during the trial, she'd engaged in "wishful thinking" and "ex post facto convenient rationalisation" still sounds pretty damning. 

Gary Smith - now BBC Scotland's Head of News and Current Affairs - comes off worst. The judge found him to be an unreliable witness at times. 

And Jonathan Munro, the BBC's Head of Newsgathering - a familiar 'we got it about right' BBC defender on the likes of Newswatch and Feedback -  appears to have found that his 'we got it about right' spiel fails to wash with High Court judges. Though Mr Justice Mann liked his thoughtful manner, he found him "overly guarded" (Welcome to our world Mr Justice Mann!) and said he was "almost wilfully failing to acknowledge inconsistencies and refusing to acknowledge the plain effect of some of the emails in the case". (Again, welcome to our world Mr Justice Mann!).

There's an expectation floating around that, in true BBC style, assistant heads will roll over this. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

"The majority of migrants around the world travel and work legally. They are football stars, actors and entrepreneurs"


Nada Tawfik

Talking of BBC pro-mass global immigration reporting, there's an absolute classic on the BBC News website at the moment from BBC New York/UN reporter Nada Tawfik:
In 2016 all members of the United Nations agreed that no one country can manage international migration on its own. Co-operation and a coordinated approach was needed. And now, after six rounds of negotiations, they have come up with this: The Global Contact for Migration. It's not binding, but it's the first time there's a comprehensive agreement that sets out a fairer and more humane approach to the issue. 
Louise Arbour, UN Special Representative for International Migration: If it's well-implemented it's good for everybody. It preserves state sovereignty and their right to decide your migration policies. It will reduce the chaos of irregular dangerous migration. It will increase access to safe legal pathways, for instance to the labour markets that have deficits in human resources and that will need foreign workers.
The majority of migrants around the world travel and work legally. They are football stars, actors and entrepreneurs, and while they make up 3% of the global population they contribute most than 9% to global gross domestic product. But with the rise of nationalism there's been more of a focus on the challenges rather than the benefits.
(Clips of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage juxtaposed with images of children behind bars and migrant vessels in the Mediterranean, accompanied by ominous music)
Amb. Juan José Gómez Camacho, co-facilitator of negotiations: The global migration today is based on believes, is based on perceptions and is based on misinformation, so we need to move it to one that is based on evidence. Once it is based on evidence we all as countries can make all the policy choices that are necessary.
(Image of watchtowers in the US, accompanied by sad music).
The United States pulled out of the vote in the process. The Trump administration said America alone would decide its policy, and Hungary claims the deal encourages migration which threatens their stability and security. Still the UN is taking a victory lap, saying the overwhelming consensus proves that international co-operation on the toughest issues is possible.
The structure of the report, the language used, the choice of images and music and the one-sided selection of talking heads all add up and suggest heavily biased reporting. The remarkable quote used in this post's headline is really quite something though.

Rise and Fall


The reporting of the latest official UK immigration statistics has brought out the usual sharp contrast in angles between various media outlets. 

Contrasting (online) headlines tell a key part of the story:

On one side you have papers like the Times with Net migration rises as more arrive from outside the EU and the Daily Mail with Net immigration to Britain hit 282,000 last year and the Sun with Theresa May has been urged to ‘get serious’ about Border control after migration rose to 280K.

On the other side you have papers like the Guardian with Migration to UK from EU falls to lowest level for four years and the FT with Net migration to Brexit Britain from EU drops to 5-year low and the Independent with EU net migration hits four-year low in wake of Brexit, figures show and the Daily Mirror with EU migration to UK falls to lowest in almost five years

The Daily Telegraph stakes its own angle, however, with Brexodus is not happening, ONS suggests despite EU net migration falling to 100,000.

And where does the BBC sit on this polarised spectrum? Firmly in the second camp. Its online headline on the story went through a couple of changes but the main angle remained consistent. It began as Migration figures: EU migration to UK lowest since 2013, ONS says, changed to Migration figures: Record number of EU citizens emigrate from UK and finally ended up as Migration from EU to UK lowest for four years, ONS figures show.

The sharpest contrast to the BBC's take is the Telegraph's take - and it goes well beyond the contrasting headlines ('Brexodus is not happening' v 'Record number of EU citizens emigrate from UK'). Their respective angles pervade their entire reports. Note, for example, that the Telegraph quotes Jay Lindop, Deputy Director of the ONS's migration division, saying: 
Much has been written about EU citizens leaving the UK, but the fact is there are still more people coming to the country from the EU than leaving it.
while the BBC doesn't. Instead the BBC features its own reporter, Danny Shaw, saying:
...the fact  [the EU emigration figures] have risen so sharply would appear to be further evidence of the impact of the Brexit vote.
And the BBC article's subheadline reinforces the point:


It's almost if all media outlets - including the ones that claim to be impartial - have angles to push and push them vigorously, isn't it?

Monday, 16 July 2018

"Imagine"

I hope I’m not turning into one of those people who think anyone they disagree with shouldn’t be allowed to air their views on the BBC. You know, the sort of no-platforming that Israel-bashers wish upon persons with the temerity to speak for Israel. Mark Regev used to draw a lot of that when he was the spokesman for the Israeli government. The very sound of his name or the sight of his face drew avalanches of indignant letters of complaint insisting that ‘having him on’ was just wrong.
So now here’s a slightly similar complaint about Chris Gunness of UNRWA. 

There were two occasions in one single edition of the Today Programme. (Today) here and here, where Gunness was given the opportunity to vent his spleen.

The first time, at about seven thirty am, took the form of a conversation between Mr. Gunness and John Humphrys, and the second, at around ten minutes to nine, was a repeat of a chunk of Gunness’s agitated rant followed by a conversation between Justin Webb and Lt-Col Peter Lerner.

The reason I object to hearing Chris Gunness's lengthy, emotional and uninterrupted rant is that he has significant 'history', which should really have discredited him in the eyes of both the UN and the BBC.  We’ve written extensively about this over the years, (both myself and Alan formerly of the Biased-BBC website) and we’ve linked to various articles that set out the case against exBBC employee Gunness.

He is incapable of giving an impartial or a rational account of anything to do with the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Not only does he have a visceral hatred of Israel, but he has lied about protecting Hamas’s habit of secreting weapons on UNWRA premises. His favourite mantra is that Israel is guilty of committing war crimes. It’s very tiresome to hear him doing the same old thing, over and over again. The following excerpts are from Tom Gros's Mideast Dispatch Archive, c 2014
“But what the BBC and many other media are failing to tell their audiences is that earlier today – under pressure from Israel and the U.S. – the UN agency UNRWA admitted that 20 Hamas rockets (of the kind used to kill Israeli civilians) have been stored at an UNRWA school in Gaza. This is, of course, not news to people who follow the region closely – Hamas has for years stored its arsenals, and fired rockets at Israel, from hospitals, schools, ambulances, mosques and the like, in multiple breaches of international law. It’s just that journalists for many western news outlets deliberately don’t tell their audiences this. 
UNRWA is the western-funded, Gaza-based, primarily Palestinian-staffed agency which supplies very dubious figures about the number of civilian deaths in Gaza (classifying some militants as civilians) – figures which are then unquestionably accepted and rebroadcast by many in the international media, such as the New York Times, without any regard for UNRWA’s past track record of libeling Israel. 
Today’s statement, which UNRWA took a full 24 hours to release, while robust, is less than fully truthful. 
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness is a British citizen, who previously worked for 23 years as a foreign correspondent and in senior editorial positions at the BBC and has a decades-long record of bias against Israel. Gunness is close friends with the BBC’s notoriously anti-Israel “chief Middle East correspondent” Jeremy Bowen.”


I have previously outlined on this website the concoctions of the well-funded UN body UNRWA which have resulted in defamations of Israel and physical attacks on Jews in many different countries around the world. 
For example, UNRWA has now admitted that their claim that Israel shelled a school in Gaza in January and killed 32 Palestinian civilians is completely false. The shell in question, it turns out, was in response to Palestinian mortar fire at civilians in Israel and killed nine Palestinian adults, none of whom were in the school. Seven of those killed were armed operatives and two were civilians. 
The sensational and false claims of UNRWA led to headlines around the world such as “UN accuses Israel of herding 110 Palestinians into a house then shelling it, leaving 30 dead” (London Daily Mail Online UK, Jan 9 2009 11:59AM GMT). 
The false reports led to anti-Israel riots and attacks on Jews in all six continents of the world.

 A JOINT WAR CRIMES ALLEGATION BY UNRWA AND THE BBC
Now, it turns out that Chris Gunness, the UNWRA spokesman who went on several different international TV networks in January to accuse Israel of “war crimes” on account of the supposed school incident, is in fact a former BBC journalist and a close colleague of the BBC’s notoriously anti-Israel Chief Jerusalem Correspondent Jeremy Bowen. 
In a diary article which Jeremy Bowen posted on BBC online, he states:
“I just broke off writing for a couple of minutes to take a call from Chris Gunness, who is the spokesman for Unrwa, the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees.
“He was ringing to say that Unrwa wanted an investigation into whether Israel has committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Civilians are protected by the laws of war.
“I have known Chris for years, as he used to be a BBC foreign correspondent. He wanted to make sure that we knew he was using the phrase for the first time. He said that the attack this morning on a UN school in Gaza looked as if it was a war crime.”


I revealed Gunness’ close friendship with Bowen in a dispatch in 2009, here
Nor is the BBC finding space in its attacks on Israel this hour, to mention that Israel thwarted a major terror attack this morning involving 13 Hamas gunmen who infiltrated into Israel by underground tunnel from Gaza.

***

I think I can rest my case. Back to this morning.
During the first airing of Gunness’s diatribe, we were treated to a selective description of the incident in which two UNWRA pupils were killed. He did not mention what brought about this airstrike, which, to listeners who may still be unaware of recent events, must at first have appeared callous and completely unprovoked. 

He proceeded to pose a list of hypothetical scenarios, inviting us to ‘imagine”  - “how you’d feel it if this (that and the other) happened in London.” In his eyes, the intolerable provocation that drew Israel’s belated retaliation simply. Hadn’t. Happened. He appears to be blind to it. He’s managed to excise it from his consciousness. A psychological deficiency no doubt; very sad for him and all that, but his inherent unreliability needs to be taken into account, especially if you’re calling upon him to make a credible contribution to the Today Programme.

John Humphrys took it upon himself to put Israel’s case on behalf of a spokesperson for the Israeli government who had pulled out of the interview, making it clear that he was able to do so because he “knew what Israel would say” and “has said”, lest any listener might mistakenly assume his interjections represented his own views.
As well as implying that the Gaza protests were peaceful, Gunness indicated that Gaza is “occupied” both of which he must know to be false. Both misleading implications remained unchallenged by Humphrys.  

Humphrys said that Israel would reject ”an independent and transparent investigation,” which is what Gunness is calling for - because "the international community hates us because we’re Israel”.  Although Humphrys made that claim sound far-fetched and a bit ridiculous, it was probably the most accurate assessment of reality that we heard during the whole conversation.

Next, Tom Bateman was brought in to tell us what the Israelis are saying about the situation, and he took up the offer - literally -  sprinkling his summary of recent events with the qualifier “Israel says”, which is the BBC’s unsubtle way planting seeds of doubt about Israel’s account of an incident and  dissociating their opinion from Israel’s at the same time.

Shortly before the end of the programme - I think it was the penultimate item, they again played a part of Chris Gunness’s speech - the bit in which he invites the listener to “imagine”. It’s a recording, so there was no chance to interact with or further challenge the speaker.However, Justin Webb got to do that with Lt-Col Peter Lerner. Without feeling the need to ask the listeners to imagine anything, he stated that Israel has been subjected to over two hundred rockets and mortars launched from Gaza.
So, let’s use the ‘imagine’ scenario for ourselves. Imagine you’re living in an Israeli town or kibbutz near the Gaza border.  Imagine hearing the chilling sound of a siren at any time of the day or night, knowing you have just a few seconds to rush your family into a bomb shelter. 

That’s enough of that. Justin was keen to put Chris Gunness’s point to Lerner - that killing children “is not a proportionate response”. You cannot allow your ability to defend yourself to be constrained because of your enemy’s cynical exploitation of children was the gist of his reply. If Hamas wanted to protect their children they shouldn’t have placed their facilities in or fired from densely populated areas. They were warned. 

Listen to Peter Learner, listen to Justin Webb’s responses, and note the irritable way he abruptly brought the interview to an end.

Maybe you didn’t realise that hundreds of ‘contraptions’ and incendiary balloons have been launched from Gaza recently, sending families into shelters, scorching acres of farmland and injuring three Israeli civilians. Fire-balloons have scorched 7,500 acres of land in Israel. Admittedly, ”no Israelis have been killed“ or hurt badly enough to satisfy the likes of Mishal Husain when she infamously demanded an unspecified number of Israeli fatalities before considering there was a case for retaliation.

On the BBC’s Middle East web page, there are a series of video reports. One is about ‘terror kites’ and another is titled: “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence” and a there's a particularly one-sided ‘backgrounder’ by Paul Adams called “Gaza, the history behind the anger.

The selective omissions in his narrative are clearly crafted to coax the viewer towards perceiving the Palestinians as victims of a cruel and undeserved injustice. The passive-aggressive undertone implies that Israel is to blame. Here’s a transcription

“What are the people of Gaza so angry about? What would make so many young men risk their lives along the border with Israel? Israel says they are being manipulated and controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s a strip of land about 40 km long and 10 km wide along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel. The question of who controls it is complicated. It’s run by the Palestinians but Israel controls almost all the borders.” 
How did we get here? asks the caption. 
“Egypt controlled it after the 1948 war and the creation of Israel. Then, in another war in 1967 Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank. Pretty soon Israeli settlers moved in there and set up their own communities. They stayed there until 2005 when Israel finally decided to pull them out of Gaza, along with its soldiers. 
Who runs Gaza now? says the caption 
“Well, Hamas have been in charge for the past decade, following fighting with their more moderate rivals Fatah in 2007. The two sides have tried more than once to bury the hatchet, but the deals have always fallen apart, and so Hamas is still in control. 
What’s life like inside Gaza? questions another caption. 
“With a population of about 1.8 million people, it’s one of the most densely populated places on earth. Most of those who live here are descendants of people who fled or were driven from their homes in 1948. Many of them still live in refugee camps and after 70 years they still yearn for their homes across the fence in Israel. They describe the Gaza strip as the world’s largest open-air prison. It’s been under Israeli land, air and sea blockade ever since Hamas took over. Egypt also strictly controls its border. There are shortages of water and power, dangerously high unemployment and very little freedom to travel outside. 
How often do conflicts break out? the next caption wonders.
“Every few years it seems there’s an explosion of violence. Three major Israeli military operations since 2008 triggered in part by rockets fired into Israeli towns and cities by Hamas. Each time Israeli forces have invaded using overwhelming firepower and killing large numbers of Palestinians. Israel regards any attempt to storm the border or break holes in the fence as a red line. The government has repeatedly warned that anyone attempting to break through into Israel to commit acts of violence risks being shot dead, but Israeli human rights groups and the UN have said that the threat of violence does not in itself excuse the use of lethal force.

Context-free and juvenile, with barely a mention of militant Islam. In the BBC’s world, these wars ‘just happen’, most Israelis are ‘settlers’, Gaza is “One of the most densely populated places on earth” where old Palestinian crones waving gigantic keys  “yearn for their homes”. Too bad. Shouldn’t have started the war, shouldn’t have fled, shouldn’t have rejected Israel, shouldn’t have expelled the Jews from majority Islamic countries, shouldn’t have elected Hamas.

And the reporting!  Not just the BBC, of course.  More, the “international community.” No wonder the Israelis think they hate us “Because we’re Israel”. 


Saturday, 14 July 2018

The ayes have it

I’m linking to this HoC Westminster Hall debate (3rd July) UK-Israel Trade, for a reason. Several reasons actually. Firstly it makes a nice change to see MPs debating Israel in a positive way without being shouted down by the massed choir of Israelophobes that usually dominate such debates. 

Secondly, I’m using it to highlight the way memes and tropes embed themselves in the language to be trotted out by the culturally and historically illiterate.

Looking at the list of speakers, certain names leap out - (from the left) habitual offenders in this respect. Predictably they duly chimed in, to the tune of ”occupied territories” “settlements”  “illegal under international law”. It’s dispiriting to witness Israel-bashing zealots citing institutionally anti-Israel organisations like the UN to back up their argument; more so when they are allowed to do so without facing robust challenges by wiser, better-informed and more legally literate opponents.

So let’s have a look at the memes and tropes concerning Donald Trump that have embedded themselves in the language, which are thoughtlessly bandied about by all and sundry.

Ed Miliband gave us a prime example. His explanation for his presence at an anti-Trump demo came simply in the form of a list: Fascist, Misogynist, Racist - there may have been another couple, which have momentarily eluded me.


We heard the same list again from a caller to Any Answers. The term Fascist has suffered extreme mission creep. It now seems to mean nationalist, or, if you like, patriot.  Misogyny is the label most commonly associated with Trump, which I assume stems from that infamous recording resurrected from his pre-politics era. The crudely worded confidences he blurted out to his companion seemed to me to be nothing much more than an inarticulate expression of delight and surprise at the unexpected benefits of power and success. It reminded me of Robbie Williams, half stoned apparently, crying out “I’m rich beyond my wildest dreams”. 

The real problem with The Donald is his limited vocabulary. You can tell he’s struggling with language, falling back on rudimentary words and expressions just as a small child would, but sometimes cutting through the bullshit and shaking up the torpid status quo in the process. 
I don’t think Trump is a racist. Or is Islam officially a race these days? 

The caged children thing is disingenuous. I understand that President Obama’s record is no less disrespectful of human rights, and for that matter, Bill Clinton’s and John H Kennedy's are no less misogynist and so on. This is one occasion when ‘whataboutery’ looks like a valid approach.

Another caller to Any Answers accused the BBC of whipping up anti-Trump animus, singling out John Sopel and Paul Wood. Anita Anand wasn’t happy. “They aren’t here to defend themselves”, she said, “and I’m not going to criticise my colleagues.”