Saturday, 4 April 2020

Silly new open thread

This is silly, I know, but......

We are not amused

I know it’s all wrong for someone who co-hosts a blog about BBC bias, but I confess I haven’t watched the BBC for quite some time. I gather Craig is going through a similar phase.

At mine, the family TV is nearly always tuned to other channels. Sky, despite the ads. Al-Jazeera, for some unknown reason. The Parliament Channel. Channel 4. The one exception is BBC 4. *This household can tolerate snippets of Katty Kay and Christian Fraser interspersed with Jon Sopel and - if I remember correctly, Gary O’Donoghue. *In short bursts.

Katty Kay’s appearance is fascinating; eyes heavily eye-shadowed at the outer corners and those flared, flyaway eyebrows, I assume she’s trying to mimic a cat, as I guess one would if one went by the name of Katty. (What sort of name is that?) Miaow. Recently she’s gone for a more natural appearance and her hair even looks as though it could move. So, all good.

While I’m feeling catty, Jon Sopel still reminds me of Private Pike. It’s the wobbly head and the petulant, whiney voice. When he wears a scarf the resemblance is uncanny. 

So, by way of fulfilling a strange sense of obligation, I decided to switch on HIGNFY last night to see if Labour’s catastrophic trouncing had made any impact on the ‘humour’. I have left-leaning friends who loyally tune in, week in, week out, in the hope that this time it might be entertaining. (The residual effect of the long-lost memory.)

What I saw was even worse than anyone could have thought possible. Beyond one’s wildest dreams awful. As the panel and the chairperson were self-isolating, they were filmed in their own homes. The panel members chose to be filmed in front of bookshelves laden with books, (Hislop had tomes, Merton had paperbacks) while Steph McGovern (chair) chose to pose in her kitchen.

A decorative frame (hideous) surrounded each animated vignette, underlining the separateness of the contributors while eliminating any potential camaraderie and bestowing a deadening effect upon the whole enterprise. As if it wasn't laboured and unfunny enough in the first place. Surprisingly, Helen Lewis seemed amused, as did the chairperson. I think the other one was Miles Jupp. 

Or were those toothy grimaces actually signs of hysteria?

Known unknowns

They laughed at Donald Rumsfeld, but all we have with regard to this Corona Virus is a bunch of known unknowns.

I haven’t changed my mind;  I still feel it’s 'too soon to know'.  Meanwhile, I’m obeying the rules on the principle that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’m not doing it to ‘save’ the NHS. I’m with Margaret Ashworth

We don’t know how long the pandemic will last.
We don’t know what the fatality rate is. (We never can know)
We don’t know how long the incubation period is. Speculations vary - a lot.
We don’t know if survivors have immunity; if they do, we don’t know how long it lasts.
We don’t know of a treatment or a cure. 
We don’t know how to make a vaccine.
We don’t know if the remedy is worse than the disease.

We’ll never know if the deaths ‘with’ coronavirus were ‘from’ coronavirus. Even if they weren’t, it’s reasonable to assume that coronavirus hastened or contributed to the death;  it’s unknowable.

The scarcity of tests. Unless there was a way of testing every single person in the world, (every day) we can never rely on the accuracy of statistics. Even if more tests become available, a-symptomatic and incubating cases will slip through the net.

As long as the disease is rampant a ‘negative’ result is only as good as the day of the test; presumably, those with immunity can still transmit the virus through touch, maybe not person to person, but from contaminated surface to person (?)
It comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing: once in the body, it tricks cells into replicating itself. For a minority this means a hospital stay or worse. Tom Whipple traces the viral journey
A convincing article by Dr Matt Strauss explains why ventilators aren’t really much help, and may even be harmful (Someone kindly  tell Jeremy Bowen)  

We haven't found an effective treatment and we haven't so far invented a vaccine. At the moment, it seems we’re truly stuffed.

Guest post

This is a guest post by Arthur T

Friday, 3 April 2020

But what about Gaza?

What if every item of BBC news had to include a comparison with “Gaza”? That seems to be what Jeremy Bowen has in mind.

Today programme. (2:28:47) 
“….someone usually on this programme to talk about the Middle East” 
says Mishal Husain as she introduces Jeremy Bowen and his 'choice of poem' at 8:28 am. 

“G’morning to you and y’now I’m gonna be as cheerful as possible because this is a very hard time and it’s miserable for so many and people are dying. Y’know, we’re gonna get through it. 
Um. There have been some comparisons made with this fight against the virus and the war, and I think that’s valid - without the bullets - now, a reason why this is so shocking is because usually in this country and most other developed countries we have pretty secure - most of us - and stable lives and in wars that mass security gets taken away I’ve seen it all over the world many times, and that’s what the virus is doing; now - it’s not a competition of course, but man people around the world never have that kind of safety and security that usually we’re used to. Untimely death is always part of it for them. 

And so think about all that and the fact that, you know, we have the NHS and many countries don’t, and figures I’ve seen lately - forty ventilators in Gaza for two million people - three ventilators in the Central African Republic for five million, so it’s a time to count our blessings, I suppose is what I’m saying. Now this poem………

Jeremy Bowen, your agenda is showing. Why on earth did you shoehorn that particular statistic into your ‘cheerful’ intro? (I suppose it cheered you up to do so)

Is there a new rule that every item of BBC news has to include a comparison with “Gaza”

BBC Watch has been monitoring the BBC’s agenda-littered reporting of Israel / COVID-19 related issues, which invariably includes snide anti-Israel innuendo. For example, just examine the emotive language in one passage of Jonathan Marcus’s report. One could easily omit the gratuitous insinuations, without compromising the accuracy of (e.g.,) the following report.
“But the densely populated Gaza Strip presents an altogether more worrying case. The population there is isolated; the Palestinians are under effective blockade from both Israel and Egypt, who say it is a necessary security measure against militants
There has been a long-running debate between Israel and the international community as to its abiding responsibilities for the territory. Israel’s troops have left and it insists that it is no longer responsible for events there, which is now the job of the Hamas rulers. 
But if the pandemic sweeps through Gaza this may become a very difficult case to argue given the grip that Israel still retains from outside. 
No wonder there have been calls from Palestinian experts and humanitarian agencies for the so-called Israeli “blockade” to be lifted, and for Palestinians in both the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Israelis to make common cause to fight the pandemic.”
Here’s a suggestion:
“But the Gaza Strip presents a worrying case. The population there is isolated; the Palestinian residents are under effective blockade from both Israel and Egypt, which is a necessary security measure against Palestinian terrorism. 
There has been a long-running debate between Israel and the international community as to its responsibilities for the territory but Israel is no longer responsible for events there; this is now the job of the Hamas rulers. 
There have been calls from Palestinian experts and humanitarian agencies for the so-called Israeli “blockade” to be lifted, and for Palestinians in both the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Israelis to make common cause to fight the pandemic.”

Contrary to the BBC’s insinuations, it has been widely reported on the pro-Israel press, (not the BBC) that Israel has continued to supply goods to Gaza including medical supplies, throughout the epidemic and the ubiquitous references to the density of the population do not give a true picture of reality in terms of ‘comparative densities’.   
and yet:
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar threatened to kill all of Israel's Jews if Gaza does not get enough ventilators. 
“If ventilators are not brought into [Gaza], we’ll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis," he said, as reported by Times of Israel and Arab media.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

In it together

Firstly, something has gone wrong with the Spectator link on our sidebar.

Having unsuccessfully attempted a series of fixes, neither Craig nor Sue have managed to reinstate it. So, for the time being, I’ll just have to link to Rod Liddle’s piece here, (£) and hope you’ll bear with me while I refer to it now.

I usually enjoy Rod’s stuff even when I don’t agree with all of it, but I was sorry to see him begin with what looked like a long list of tedious complaints about plod. The same stuff that Hugo Rifkind dragged out the other day, you know, drones filming antisocial ramblers in the Peak District and the abominable black Lagoon.

Times subscribers pointed out below the line that the black lagoon affair was merely the police’s way of deterring people from immersing themselves in the existing toxic swamp. I suppose if you did, you’d be irradiated AND (assuming you weren’t one already) simultaneously turned into a Person of Colour.

That, and the curtain-twitching snitches that were salivating at the prospect of seeing their neighbours acquiring criminal records for going outside on non-essential errands.

However, I was relieved to discover, halfway through, that Rod wasn’t having another gratuitous go at plod and Boris after all. In fact, he was quite supportive of the government’s ‘human’ if slightly wobbly navigation through the storm. 
“The truth is we do not know. We don’t know and the experts don’t know. The epidemiologists are captured by their own paradigms and see only one small margin of what is a very large picture. Further, they change their tune with every day that passes. Fair enough — that is how science works. It is not pristine — it is practised by fallible humans, however admirable its methodologies. And science is never, ever, certain — something new always comes along, so we should always have our doubts.
However, Rod does dent his ‘no-one knows’ thesis a little when he vehemently dismisses Jonathan Sumption’s  proposition that the ‘cure’ for this pandemic may be worse than the disease by describing it as “the pompous meanderings of a glorified lawyer.”

But then back on track:  
“the epidemiologists see only a small sliver of the bigger picture, Sumption — and I for that matter — can see only the occasional pixel.
To my mind the government seems to be navigating reasonably well between the imperative demanded by the scientists — who have skin in the game — and the rest of us, who also have skin in the game.”
We don’t know what’s going on, and it seems almost reckless and deluded to act as though we do. I haven’t watched much BBC, as others in the household keep switching to Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and even al-Jazeera, but I sense that the BBC has reined in its continuous carping at Boris just a bit. Or has it? At least, someone somewhere said they thought Laura Kuenssberg was holding back.

Let’s remember, Jeremy Corbyn might have been PM and thank the Lord for small mercies.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Viral Open Thread

New gone viral Open Thread for all your comments on the BBC's bias and other relevant matters.

"Palestine" and other non-coronavirus musings for April fool’s day 2020

Part One: Jeremy Corbyn

“Under his dull, dismal leadership, Labour has become a byword for animus against Jews and every strain of conspiracy theory that proceeds therefrom.”

“Every Labour MP returned in December, every Labour activist who knocked on doors or delivered leaflets, knowingly tried to elect an antisemitic government out of sentimentality and tribalism.”
This taints the whole lot of them as far as I’m concerned. Including  Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.  Might as well throw in the contenders for the leadership and deputy leadership while I’m at it.
“Decorbynisation cannot be a trim job; the diseased roots must be hacked out. As well as reforming the complaints process along the lines proposed by Lisa Nandy, Labour will have to rid itself of the fallen redeemer and his sullen apostles. Expel him. Expel everyone who nominated him. Expel everyone who voted for him. Burn it down and salt the earth.”
I love that expression: ‘salt the earth’. It reminds me of “Quick! Get rid before it lays eggs” if you see what I mean.  Yup. Sanitise all the surfaces, wash your hands to two verses of The Red Flag and mind you don’t catch your keffiyeh in the door on the way out. 

Part Two: Sarah Champion.

I have a long memory. Certain things, such as my longstanding awareness of Jeremy Corbyn’s petty-rebellious antisemitic antics are etched in the hard-wired department of my brain.   

I well remember Corbyn, (alongside characters like Andy Slaughter, Paul Flynn, Grahame Morris and a clutch of Muslim Corbyistas like Zara Sultana lobbying furiously and viscerally against Israel and for “Palestine”, but I won’t be joining the anti-Corbyn brigade when they cite Sarah Champion as some kind of martyr for being demoted by the dear leader for (belatedly) naming and shaming the ‘Pakistani grooming gangs’ that had been operating in her constituency (Rotherham). 

 Some people regard the article in the Sun that got her into trouble with Corbyn as an ‘act of bravery’  - but it took her long enough to get round to writing about a crime that had been going on under her nose for some time and the true nature of the crime had already been pointed out by others as they expressed sympathy with the victims. 

I’m afraid I well remember Ms Champion sitting at the head of the table presiding over a 99.9 % Asian council committee meeting castigating Israel with great gusto at the time of Israel’s 2014 incursion into Gaza. Where Ms Champion is concerned, I believe a large dollop of opportunism is involved as articles on this blog can testify.

Part Three: Lovely Poem

Today Programme

“That was lovely,” said Nick Robinson, choking back emotion.

Part Four: "Palestine"
There’s no sport, due to the lockdown, but sports commentators are still in full swing, so Rob Bonnet interviews 10-year-old skateboarding whizz, Roxanna Howlett, from Exeter. Roxanne is a versatile skateboarder and she has travelled widely through her sport.


"Well, I hear that you travel a lot with your skateboard. Where’ve you been” (as if he didn’t know)


"Palestine, Sweden, Berlin, Amsterdam, America

"Goodness me, you’re the best, well-travelled ten-year-old I think I've ever met. That’s fantastic! What about Palestine? What was that like?

It was amazing, actually. It’s quite a poor country.

What did you do there?


We met up with the State Pal, they’re a charity and they help children from all around the world


How much equipment did they have in Palestine?

They didn’t have very much it was quite bad to see but they had brilliant skate parks

Good to know Rob Bonnet has such a keen interest in …. “Palestine”.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Emergency measure

Opining on the way the government is handling this pandemic is above my paygrade. How do I know which experts are the stablest geniuses? 

We’re seeing a stream of contradictory and confusing advice. For example, I can’t drive a short distance to take my normal daily walk in a virtually deserted open space, despite the fact that it’s impossible to stick to the requisite social distancing if my allotted hour’s exercise must be taken in my immediate vicinity. Andrew Marr was on the case this morning, and it seems that the ‘logic’ for this rule is the possibility of having a driving accident which could divert essential resources from the virus.  

However, I assume we can drive to the supermarket. Which creates another contradiction. Can we confine our shopping to the ‘immediate needs’ principle, while going out shopping as infrequently as possible? Surely it’s one or t’other. It can’t really be both.

The Labour Party’s newfound cry for ‘unity’ seems absurd in the light of their recent electoral disaster. They behave as if their support for the government is some sort of altruistic act.  From such a position of weakness, it’s ludicrous for the Labour Party to pretend that supporting the government amounts to a concession on their part.

As for Jeremy Corbyn’s delusional assertion that Labour’s economic policies were right all along, well, the illogicality of that apples-and-pears comparison shows that his grasp on reality has departed. If it was ever there in the first place. It’s beyond satire. “Of course, I’m a human, (!) of course I make mistakes”. 

Some Labour MPs can’t put their destructive criticism and accusations of governmental negligence on the back-burner. Negativity shines through all those cries for unity and togetherness. 

The Doctor

Take Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is currently doing night-shifts in an NHS hospital. She couldn’t resist complaining to Sophy Ridge about the government’s failure to provide adequate PPE for ‘the front line’. Sure, that’s a genuine cause for concern, but wouldn’t it be more productive for the BBC  and the media in general to investigate the reason for any alleged delays rather than just endlessly disseminate criticism of the government. 

They could send Greg Wallace to visit-a-factory-in-a-hairnet to find out if something in particular is holding things up.  One of their investigative reporters could ferret out the source of blockages twixt manufacturer and recipient. Perhaps un-sequester John Sweeney for the task? 

The Sweeney

I’ve learnt a new word: Furlough: ‘leave of absence, especially that granted to a member of the services or a missionary’ Am I the only person who hadn’t heard of the word before this crisis, and might something similar be applied, in this emergency, to the BBC?

Inappropriate invitation

I’m sorry they brought in Richard Horton to harangue the token Tory on last week’s Q.T.

I can just about accept the BBC’s justification for inviting Emily Thornberry onto the panel despite the fact that she seems more and more odious with each media exposure, but even though there seems to have been a change of heart.......
"It was during this period that The Lancet began publishing numerous articles advancing this poisonous political agenda, through allegations of medical and health-related abuse of Palestinians. This activity took place under the aegis of Richard Horton, who has held the position of Editor in Chief since 1995[5] and who frequently generates controversy by using the journal to gain visibility for his pronouncements on major social and political issues associated with progressive liberal agendas.
....The Lancet has an appalling record of inappropriate political advocacy when it’s supposed to be a medical journal.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Open Thread

In a time of uncertainty, (and as the old one has reached an unprecedented 200 comments) here is a new open thread. Keep safe.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Open thread

No-one knows how long this situation will last, but underneath the BBC’s negativity, I sense a spirit of togetherness. It seems unhelpful to focus on finding fault with the government’s handling of the emergency. We need reassurance and encouragement.  

Walking in the lovely chilly sunshine while it’s still allowed. This wonderful place is called Upton Towans. Not many people around and plenty of space to social-distance.

Stay well.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Strategy for a deadly contagion

Alerted by a comment from MB including an H/T to Guest Who and two responses form Sisyphus.
(Yes, Farrow and Ball is posh paint with names like “Elephant’s breath’.  Posh in a Samantha Cameron kinda way, (ideal for one’s shepherd’s hut) but I think the brand might have already been superseded by other, even posher, more subtly-coloured versions, like the one you can get in Aga shops) 

See! I do read the open threads. Honest. I thought I’d like to expand on the topic of Marina Hyde, who seems to be one of Gabriel Gatehouse’s favourite paint-stripperers.

Venomous Guardian columnist Marina Hyde is no stranger to this blog, and before you say anything else, here is one I baked previously.
"I’m reminded of that phrase “It takes one to know one” because I recognise the habit of using excessively emotive and disparaging language to express 'passion' in the most effective way possible because I do the same thing myself in my own bloggeringly amateurish way.
(I might have said ‘startlingly offensive’ rather than ‘effective’.)
The piece in question today is Ms Hyde’s current torrent of Boris-bashing in the Guardian. Here we have a much better example of ‘it takes one to know one’ because it seems that Marina Hyde is accusing Boris of being a flippant, verbose, lying,…….. journalist. 

Why, she even plagiarises ‘spaffing’. All this without realising that she could easily have been outlining her own characteristics and then complaining about them, the difference being that Boris’s rhetoric is humorous, while, well …… you know.

The point I’m trying to make is that as she goes to town on Boris’s inept, incompetent, ineffectual mishandling of the current crisis, she has not offered a single constructive suggestion. So, does she think that Jeremy Corbyn would have handled the situation any better?

Come on! Negativity, negativity, negativity. How helpful is that, Gabriel Gatehouse?

I don't know if Boris is handling this situation well. After all, everyone seems to agree it's unprecedented. Constructive criticism is one thing, but unadulterated Boris-bashing is simply nasty

Stan and Ollie

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Double standards

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Brendan O’Neill has written a sharp piece about ‘the problem we don’t like talking about.’
I urge you to read it, as well as the responses below the line. 

I’ll try to summarise, which is very cheeky and presumptuous, but I’ve learned that not everyone (especially me) has the time and patience to click on every link.

O’Neill is concerned that the conviction of Hashem Abedi for the murders of 22 attendees of Ariana Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena hasn’t engendered an appropriate amount of media coverage. Although his brother Salman was the actual suicide bomber, Hashem Abedi was equally responsible for the crime.

Where is the debate? asks O’Neill, where is the concern that ISIS-inspired extremism has fuelled such atrocities?  He identifies the media’s gross double standards, comparing the ‘Don’t look back in anger’ approach and the therapeutic style ‘deradicalisation’ strategy prescribed to treat violence and terrorism motivated by “Islamism” with the unadulterated ‘blame’ we attach to ‘far-right’ acts of terror, which must somehow be defeated.
"The very use of the term ‘radicalised’ reduces them to passive creatures who have had something bad done to them, probably by a twisted preacher on the internet. Apparently, they need our help. Fascists must be defeated, but violent Islamists must be cared for, put on the couch, pitied.
It’s a powerful piece, but it leaves me with one or two unanswered questions.

 1) Why do people like Brendan glibly condemn Tommy Robinson in such a reflexive and out of hand manner? (However, I now see Brendan has cautiously re-framed that condemnation - I suppose I'll have to search again for 'people like him' distancing themselves from Tommy Robinson )  After all, Robinson, (aka S Y-L ) has made an admirable effort to study the ideology that’s at the very heart of the problem. In other words, his Luton accent and his volatility are not enough to make him into a mere racist thug.  In fact, it’s his fearless, perhaps innately pugilistic quality, (lacking in many a lesser, more easily intimidated critic of Islam) that has protected and prevented him from being utterly intimidated and silenced by ‘the system’. 

2) The murky distinction between the ’ism’ in Islamism and Islam proper is problematic. In some ways, it’s a mirror image of the ‘good’ (anti-Zionist) Jew and the regular Jew. After all, when push comes to shove, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew.  Are we now saying the only good Muslim is an ex-Muslim? I kind of think we really are.
See the comment from Geoff W 18th March 2020 at 8:51 pm (I don’t think I can provide a direct link) but arguably the way forward hinges on some sort of future enlightenment within the religion. But, isn’t there a built-in super-injunction (within Islam itself) against reform?

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The Doctor

When I heard Dr Rosena Allin-Khan complaining ‘Asa-NHS-Doctor’ about shortages of equipment, then saw her reciting the same script at PMQs I couldn’t help thinking that five minutes ago she was campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn to be our PM. Does she think he’d have handled the situation any better?

BBC slims down

Saturday, 14 March 2020

"Don't Panic" New Open Thread

New Open Thread.

At a time when new posts seem comparatively rare here's a clean sheet. Your comments are still very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

2nd Open Thread of March

If Emily & Co. can have an award, then so can you. Thanks for your support and comments, and here's a new Open Thread. 

Big fat Adventure

What else can I say about Miriam Margoyles? 
I watched her show last night, mainly because I was too tired to change channels. Having put my feelings about her nonsensical Israel-bashing to one side with great fortitude, determination and goodwill, I found it quite entertaining. She seemed genuinely interested in exploring her feelings about her own obesity. 

It was only the first episode, and I’m not sure I’m sufficiently hooked to stick with it, but when Lucy Mangan (Guardian) wrote: 
“Margolyes seemed to pull her punches slightly throughout” 
I didn’t quite know if she was referring to the comparative absence of Margolyes’s trademark toilet humour, but I do agree with this observation:
“The segment where a psychologist researched the matter (which included one of his volunteers walking around town in a fat suit and returning to say nothing of any import whatsoever) was banal in the extreme.”
They really should have left that on the cutting-room floor.  Margolyes might eventually come to the conclusion that although not all obesity is equally undesirable, some obesities are considerably more undesirable than others. 

I understand that Margolyes has been on the receiving end of a lifetime of insensitive and hurtful remarks, which may have contributed to her feelings of self-loathing. Perhaps an element of self-loathing might partly explain why the silly woman keeps signing her name to insensitive and ill-informed letters to the Guardian that hurt, insult and denigrate the Jewish state.  Have a loud, flatulent raspberry.

Monday, 9 March 2020

For the sake of diversity

Sayeeda Warsi, Twitter:
"Monday morning class for racists - it’s 2020 people
- If you take a negative characteristic of an individual and impose on a whole community that’s racism
- personal anecdotes are not justifications for racism - it’s still racism"
There is quite enough already online about the Trevor Phillips fiasco - not so much the above quote from Sayeeda Warsi’s Twitter thread  - I was thinking more about the negative observations about the Labour Party's suspension of Trevor Phillips below articles about the topic in The Times.

Islamophobia? Looks bad for the Labour Party? With my reputation (!) 

Instead of going over all that again, I want to pick up Nick Robinson mentioning “A letter from Tommy Robinson that was found in Darren Osborne’s van, referring to Muslims as ‘a nation within a nation.”

Oddly, the above clip from the BBC Politics Twitter timeline excludes that particular reference. That set me thinking. Was there really such a letter? Or was it another of those disingenuous memes? You know, like letterboxes and watermelon smiles.
I found two or three reports in the Independent referring to: “letters beginning with the phrase “dear Darren” ... “signed off” by Tommy Robinson." This, and this written by Lizzie Dearden, a reporter who has ‘history’ with T. Robinson.

This report, illustrated with a suitably aggressive-looking shot of her ‘subject’, refers to ‘emails’ that Osborne had downloaded, and later to an “email from Mr Robinson to Mr Osborne”. So, had Tommy Robinson been personally corresponding with Osborne and specifically inciting him to ‘act’? 

We all know that ‘clicking’ on something can trigger a flurry of unsolicited ‘personal’ messages, or let’s call them personalised messages, and we should also understand that receiving an automatically generated round-robin is not quite the same thing as being actual pen-pals with an individual at the head of the organisation that generated it.

So why did Lizzie Dearden and co make it seem otherwise? ‘Signed off’ is slightly different from just ‘signed by.” The Independent's journalists must have been aware that they were giving the impression that Tommy Robinson was specifically inciting Osborne to kill Muslims.

Nick Robinson said (to Trevor Phillips) that inflammatory messages from Tommy Robinson were ‘in a letter found in his (Darren Osborne’s) van’, and I put it to you that there was indeed a letter, but it was written by Osborne himself. There is even a photo of him sitting in a pub, pen and paper in hand - allegedly setting out his ‘manifesto’. It’s in the actual BBC reportFinsbury Park: what led Darren Osborne to kill? (Dominic Casciani)

Personal correspondence, generic emails, incitements to kill, self-penned manifestos - easily conflated, if you've a mind to, and you know it will pass unchallenged.

There is a considerable dollop of irony in the fact that in all the reports, even the ones that have massaged the facts to suit their agendas, a large portion of the blame for triggering the unhinged Mr Osborne to carry out his nasty deed has been laid at the door of the BBC’s own dramatisation “Three Girls.” 

But Nick forgot to mention that. It might have been awkward because it would have drawn attention to an uncomfortable truth about the "negative characteristics" of certain individuals. Or, to echo a certain Naz Shah (did she really say that?) you need to shut your mouth for the sake of diversity.

In this post (about the Robinson bros.) I was more concerned with the way Nick Robinson managed to shoehorn Tommy Robinson into his attack on Trevor Phillips than on the substance of the Labour Party’s ridiculous attempt to save its reputation. (As if!!) and I wanted to highlight the annoying phenomena of memes that have gone viral despite being disingenuous and context-lite.

The topic of Trevor Phillips and Islamophobia has been examined from every angle, inside, outside and upside down by The Times, the Spectator, Spiked and I daresay the Guardian and the Independent too. All the arguments have been made so eloquently and articulately by others that it seemed presumptuous for me to try to go over it all again, again.

I would have posted this update below the line (in a comment,) but it's easier to embed the links to some of these excellent pieces here. There are some good responses. (Unfortunately, the Spectator pieces are behind a paywall.)

 In defence of Trevor Phillips

Trevor Phillips’s fate should terrify us all

Why Labour wants to smear Trevor Phillips

Labour will regret its shameful treatment of Trevor Phillips

Here is a rudimentary list of some of the arguments one hears and reads, which one must put to oneself to test their strength and /or validity. 

1.) A phobia is an irrational fear.
2.) The ‘good Muslim’  is an ex-Muslim.
3) A ‘good’ Jew is an anti-Zionist Marxist
4.) Your ‘race’ is your race is your race. (Said Goebbels)
5.) Islam is a political ideology masquerading as a religion.
6.) Lumping disparate things together is racist.
7.) Arabs are 'Semitic' too.  (Gnomes are humans too) (Don’t be silly)

One can get lost in contradictory arguments about Islamophobia and antisemitism plus the concomitant false equivalences. The themes go round and round and trip over themselves on the way back. These days, in the end, it all boils down to ‘feelings’. Points mean prizes; facts mean feelings.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Bringing people together

If you saw this on Politics Live a few days ago, you might not have seen the comments that appeared below the Tweet featuring it on the BBC News politics Twitter feed.

Sadly, vitriolic commentary is not unusual nowadays, but the comment: 
“Horrible woman.i (sic) don't want to see her on our tv screens.” 
kind of epitomises the noxious nature of some of the discourse on social media.  Firstly, demanding the ‘no-platforming’ of people with whom one disagrees is intolerant enough, but the trend for scatter-gunning vile insults without feeling any need to explain, or offer any reasoning at all is nothing more than reverse virtue-signalling. Call it ‘iniquity-signalling’.

If there was an actual reason behind that Tweet, what could it be? Bile-spouting Tweeters displaying smiling selfies on their timelines seem absurdly oxymoronic to me. I bet a grinning selfie adorns the timeline of whoever wrote “the genocide in Gaza” on some godforsaken thread somewhere.

As Melanie Phillips said, the rise in antisemitism in Europe, the US and the UK is not something to ignore or take lightly.
I thought it was quite remarkable that Rachel Sylvester’s in-depth article about Lisa Nandy in The Times and Nandy’s interview with Laura Kuenssberg on the Beeb glossed over both irreconcilable anomalies in Nandy’s campaign for leadership of the Labour Party concerning two pledges she was, let’s be kind and call it ‘dragooned into’ signing her name to. The first was the issue of trans rights versus women’s right to privacy and single-sex spaces. Two incompatible positions.

The second was about her support for the Palestinians’ “Right of Return” (She’s chair of Labour Friends of Palestine)  - that’s the ‘rights’ of about five million people, refugees and their descendants from the1948 war (of the intended annihilation of Israel) to return to their former ‘homes,’ while at the same time insisting she supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Computer says no.
"When an irresistible force such as you/Meets an old immovable object like me/You can bet just as sure as you live/Something's gotta give/Something’s gotta give/Something's gotta give."
Neither Sylvester nor Kuenssberg showed any interest in what happens when an immovable force meets an intractable problem, and despite Nandy’s (very possibly sincerely meant) promises of ‘bringing people together’ , the fact is, sometimes there’s just no room for mister in-between.


I thought Andrew Marr had been slightly chastened by the fallout from his disastrous ‘get Boris’  fiasco. (That, and perhaps the conspicuous dearth of A-list politicians whom the Beeb had managed to lure onto the Marr show.)
However, the perfect storm of Covid-19, the floods, and internal governmental political mini-eruptions (Sajid and Priti) have led to a kind of wartime spirit. We must come together.

Both today’s interviews of Rishi Sunak (on Sky and on the Marr show) were still angling for the same ‘gotcha’  - albeit a minor one - over whether the emergency means Sunak is going to ‘break fiscal rules’.

Needless to say, despite how many times Sophy narrowed her eyes and/or Marr leant forward in his chair, the mild-mannered chancellor wouldn’t budge. “Wait for Wednesday” was the message.

I wonder if anyone can explain why the BBC keeps inviting John McDonnell onto their flagship programmes. They must be really desperate. Who still cares what he thinks?

I’m always torn between the overlap between the two main political Sunday morning shows. I wish they wouldn’t do that. So I’ve yet to catch up on some of the colourful Sky interviews I missed. Namely Layla Moran and Cherie Blair, who looked suspiciously like a Spitting Image of herself. (I hear that programme is coming back soon so perhaps it was a prototype)

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Out Of Office Message (from Craig)

Hello all. Just to let you know that I won't be around the blog for a while. Events, dear boy (and girl). But Sue will be posting when she can, and Open Threads will be popping up regularly. So please bear with us and please keep on posting your comments. There's a lot of BBC stuff going on at the moment. However, as Jimmy Young once of the BBC used to say, TTFN. 

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Open Thread

Rooks have Returned, Aleksey Savrasov. 1871

Edward Thomas, Thaw
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
Well, we can hope!

Thanks for all your comments.

Rogue narratives

The way the left has managed to sledge-hammer dumb ideas into the narrative. (e.g., Boris the racist and the liar.)

See Dawn Butler? With an intellect almost equal to that of David Lammy, she thinks uttering “Letterboxes” is conclusive proof of the Prime Minister’s racism. She hasn’t even got the ingenuity to add ‘picaninnies' and ‘watermelon smiles’.

While we’re on the subject of sledge-hammering home rogue narratives, don’t let’s forget Tommy Robinson,’ convicted fraudster’ and ‘far-right extremist’.

You’ll probably know that Tommy’ Robinson’s hair-trigger temper catapulted him into yet more trouble the other day. You’ll have seen the video.

The BBC reported it like so. "Tommy Robinson charged with Center Parcs swimming pool assault"

He had punched a weirdo in the face (drawing blood) following an incident at a center parcs family resort (whatever that is). Tommy says he was trying to perform a citizens' arrest on a middle-aged ‘man’ for squeezing Tommy’s 8-year-old daughter on the bum whilst she played in the children’s swimming pool. A weirdly creepy scenario, at best.

The police turned up. Rather than arresting the man or confiscating his phone, they arrested Tommy for ‘common assault’. Needless to say, he got exceedingly het up.

I’ll put this up, just for balance. Ex-police detective Jon Wedger. 

Missed opportunity, retrieved

I was hoping that  Oliver Dowden’s suggestion that “The BBC must reflect nation’” was going to be one of the topics on Politics Live’s agenda. When I saw Melanie Phillips on the panel I thought she might be up for it.  Apparently, it was on the list; but they ran out of time.

They had a satisfactorily robust, if brief, airing of “Labour’s antisemitism problem” with special reference to Rebecca Long-Bailey’s awkward non-response to Andrew Neil’s persistent questioning on his show yesterday evening. 

I think R L-B’s goose is cooked.

Gratifyingly, Neil focused on the incident that passed her (and Sophy Ridge) by during Sky’s leadership hustings.

I mentioned this annoying omission in an earlier post. It certainly makes a change to see this kind of thing not being allowed to pass unchallenged.

War with the corporation

I daresay we’ll be hearing more about Oliver Dowden’s “opening salvo in a Tory war with the corporation” today.  

Is Dowden’s intervention the beginning of a revolution or a damp squib? The responses (tweets) indicate that the divide between left and right is deeper and more entrenched than ever. 

Not that it would be an improvement if the BBC’s ultra-woke, left-wing activism were ‘balanced out’ with the equivalent opposite, which is exactly what left-wing fanatics assume “the Tories want”, such as equal quotas of Neo-Nazi and white supremacist spokespersons to counterbalance Ash Sarkar and, say, Kerry-Anne Mendoza each time they're on air.

Several tweeters believe that without its right-on, woke, left-wing activism the BBC would suddenly turn into a racist cesspit. Someone’s nightmare of a future Tory-led BBC included wall-to-wall reruns of  ‘Till Death Us Do Part” as if Alf Garnett was presented as a role model.  

It was a comedy. Remember them?

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Questions and Answers

I came a cropper yesterday on the Priti Patel/Sir Philip Rutnam story, but I'm returning to the fray today regardless.

The BBC's involvement in the story intrigues me, because they have been absolutely at the heart of it.

Here's what we know: Sir Philip's resignation was choreographed in tandem with the BBC. On resigning, he contacted the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg. BBC cameras and the BBC's political editor were then present to film his resignation speech. A BBC staffer even held an umbrella over Sir Philip's head to protect him from the rain.

Today, the BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw entered the fray, unhelpfully for Priti Patel, piling on more pressure with 'breaking' news. BBC News "has been told", he said, that Priti was formally complained about while serving as a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions. The complaint "is believed to have been made by a member of her private office".

So what's going on here? And what's the BBC's role in all of this? 

The BBC are obviously being used - by Sir Philip for starters, and also by that person who "told" them about the DWP complaint - but is that in any way wrong if it's a neutral journalistic scoop? After all, who'd look a gift horse in the gob?

Is being fed stories like this, even if the feeding is very obviously being done by people on a mission to bring down Priti Patel, actually part and parcel of proper, decent journalism?

Or is it not neutral journalism at all? Might not the BBC itself be on a similar mission?


Meanwhile, Charlie's comment at the top of the latest Open Thread prompted me to check out who the BBC has invited on to discuss this story since it first broke yesterday morning. 

Using TV Eyes to track them down, but only checking Radio 4's politics programmes and the BBC News Channel, here are the results. 

The colour coding is simple: Those in red were pro-Sir Philip/anti-Priti. Those in blue were pro-Priti/anti-Sir Philip. Those in green were neither one nor the other. 

Broadcasting House - Lord Kerslake
The World This Weekend - Jonathan Powell; Lord Butler
PM - Dave Penman; Yvette Cooper; Crispin Blunt
BBC News Channel - Lord Kerslake; Owen Jones; Cindy Yu; Sir Anthony SeldonYvette Cooper; Sebastian Payne

Of course, the Government isn't putting up people to speak on its behalf, but - still - this is quite an unbalanced list, don't you think?

So What Robin Aitken's Saying Is

Peter Whittle's So What You're Saying Is interviews are reliably good, and this week's is excellent. It involves Robin Aitken, the former BBC man responsible for three books about BBC bias: Can We Trust the BBC?, Can We Still Trust the BBC? and The Noble Liar. 

The one bit I'll highlight in advance concerns the aftermath of Robin's recent appearance on The Moral Maze. Having listened to it and heard his complaints about the lack of diversity of opinion in the BBC's output as a whole, a woman who works on one of the BBC's longest-running drama staples - he didn't name which, so I'll guess EastEnders or Casualty - got in contact with him. She was asking for his help. The problem is that everyone who writes for the show shares the same socially liberal, left-of-centre outlook, and she couldn't think how to help them start creating sympathetic conservative characters or write convincing expressions of a conservative points of view. She hoped Robin would come to talk to them for her.

It's promising that someone of influence in BBC drama sees there's a problem and wants to do something about it, but it reveals how far the BBC has to go to bring in fresh thinking and burst the BBC bubble.