Saturday, 17 November 2018

Another November Open Thread

As there doesn't seem to be very much going on news-wise at the moment, here's a brand new Open Thread instead. Thank you as ever for your comments.

Pearls before swine?

To coincide with the launch of memoirs next year, the BBC is working with David Cameron on a multi-part documentary about his premiership. 

It will be produced by veteran documentary maker Denys Blakeway

Matthew Moore, the Times reporter who broke the news, has been taken aback by some of the reaction: 

  • Lots of people seem angry about this. But aren’t heavyweight political documentaries exactly the sort of thing the BBC should be making? Blakeway’s previous docs with Thatcher, Blair etc featured critical voices, as (presumably) will this one.
  • It’s terrifying that a sizeable chunk of of the population seems to think the national broadcaster shouldn’t run in-depth interviews with a man who ran the country for six years, because he made decisions they disagree with. Do people not want to learn stuff?

The sort of thing he means (much more mildly put than a lot of it) is this from ex-BBC-reporter-turned-far-left-Labour MP Clive Lewis:

"The sooner the BBC is democratised the better" isn't remotely sinister, is it? And it comes from a man who has previously admitted, or rather boasted about, presenting deliberately biased reports while working at BBC Look East:
“I was able to use bias in my reports by giving less time to one than the other. 
“I reported on both but the angle and words and the language I used — I know the pictures I used — I was able to project my own particular political positions on things in a very subtle way.” 
I don't think his 'democratisation' process will have political fairness as its top priority. 

'Newswatch' apologies

Ah, so the BBC's Newswatch (with Samira Ahmed) has now apologised to Carole Cadwalladr:

Is that the sound of purring I hear?

UpdateAh, no it isn't. It's the sound of hissing and scratching:

Emily Maitlis's question about democracy

Now this was one heck of a question from Emily Maitlis last night. I never thought I'd hear a BBC reporter ask something like this, but we are where we are now and here it is:
I'm going to say something really unpopular, which is that we keep on talking about, you know, the problem with democracy and the problem with the deficit, but at what point you to say, actually, democracy is not as important as the future economy and stability and prosperity of the country right now? 
The Guardian's Afua Hirsch had been making the point that though she'd personally love a second referendum and to reverse the outcome of the 2016 vote but that "there are real democratic problems with that", and that's when Emily interrupted and asked that question.

It took my breath away. And it took other people's breath away too:

The man who's meant to report the news

'BREXIT TURMOIL' was the caption used throughout yesterday by the BBC News Channel, and the rows at Westminster around Brexit dominated the opening of last night's BBC One News at Ten

Afterwards, the programme moved on to its second big story (a related one): a report from Northern Ireland about post-Brexit threats to security at the border with the Irish Republic. 

This was framed as being a Northern Irish police chief rejecting (Brexiter) claims that such concerns are being exaggerated. From what I saw of the one-sided report (from Chris Page), the BBC appears to have interviewed a Northern Irish police chief and asked him a leading question about that subject and then made his reply their No.2 story. Accuse me of 'confirmation bias' if you will, but I saw 'a message' in that from the BBC. 

Six other stories followed: 

(1) A private care company looking after disable people has got into trouble.
(2) The UN is claiming that levels of poverty in some of Britain's towns and cities are "a disgrace".
(3) The Californian wildfires.
(4) #MeToo-type claims of sexual assault against a Lib Dem peer, focused on an interview with his accuser.
(5) Welsh footballers losing an important match. And 
(6) An American judge ordering the White House to give CNN's Jim Acosta his media pass back. 

The UN story is interesting. If you watched this report (from Michael Buchanan) and particularly if you read the accompanying BBC News website report you might come away thinking that, despite the Government's rejection of his findings, no one else objected to the UN special rapporteur's condemnations here and that they appear to be factually-based. If you read, say, the Daily Telegraph's report though, however, you'll see a much broader spread of opinion and that the debate is open and ongoing.

As for the final story, well, this was Jon Sopel's take: 
It started as a bad-tempered exchange between an angry president and a provocative CNN correspondent, the temperature rising when the White House justified removing Acosta's hard pass, saying he'd laid hands on an intern and released an edited video that had been put out by a right-wing conspiracy theory-rich website - though when this was ridiculed, the White House changed tack, and said it was because he hadn't given back the microphone. This spat grew when the President threatened to take away the credentials of other journalists he thought were rude. CNN took legal action, and significantly, all the other broadcasters here joined in - including Fox News, normally a cheerleader for the President. This was now about press freedom. And today in court, it was Acosta 1 Trump 0. Today, Jim Acosta was able to return to the White House. In this topsy-turvy world, the man who's meant to report the news seemed to be enjoying being the news, while the President, who's never shied away from a fight, bemoaned the lack of decorum in White House news conferences. Jon Sopel, BBC News, Washington. 

Local news

In depressing news, the UK's fourth-largest local newspaper group, Johnston Press, is going into administration

People are noting that it publishes such mighty local names as The Yorkshire Post and The Scotsman and The i, but it actually has over 200 titles to its name, including the mightiest local names of all, namely the Morecambe Visitor and the Lancaster Guardian (the former widely regarded by me as the UK's finest local newspaper). 

I doubt we'll be hearing much about this from the BBC, but Media Guido is surely bang on the mark in saying, "And the BBC is now the nation’s biggest publisher of local news via online. Undermining the viability of independent commercial local news".

Other people have been saying this for years.

Another 'Newsnight' panel

Last night's Newsnight interviewed Conservative MP Rory Stewart, Eleanor Penny of the far-left Novara News, philosophy professor Quassim Cassam, Chris Curtis of YouGov, Afua Hirsch of The Guardian, and Labour candidate Faiza Shaheen of CLASS. Breaking those names down into statistics, we had (1) one centre-right-winger, three left-wingers, a Kantian philosopher and a pollster, (2) three women, three men, (3) three BAME guests, three non-BAME guests, and - most importantly from the point of this blog (4) not one guest who voted for Brexit in 2016 (until the YouGov guy did, which seems unlikely). Yes, Rory Stewart and Afua Hirsch oppose a so-called People's Vote and talk of honouring the result of the 2016 vote, but wouldn't it have been better, impartiality-wise, for Newsnight to have had at least one guest who's been a committed Brexiter from the very start?

Views on 'Newsnight'

Oh. Some people didn't think much of last night's Newsnight:

John Sweeney, Newsnight: The Westminster bubble is seething with Brexit news. But never mind them. They are silly and they are boring. Tonight I report for BBC Newsnight from the Lincolnshire Riviera - well, Boston - the leaviest leave town in Britain on what the real people think.
Sunder Katwala, British Future: This is a very flawed media idea of 'real people' - always choose outliers as more 'authentic' (We are all 'real people'!). So much coverage of Boston - 3/4 Leave. Yet Basingstoke (52,000 voted Leave, 48,000 voted Remain) rarely used to test the mood. The poor people of Boston, Lincs can barely get out of their front doors to go about their everyday lives without tripping over national & international camera crews conducting anthropological studies of why Britain voted Leave. The story of how & why Britain voted how it did may be better explained in the many 52-48 places – from Stratford-upon-Avon to Swansea in South Wales, from Knowsley on Merseyside to North Somerset, from Bedford to Basingstoke's 52k Leave to 48k Remain. If Remain had got 51%, would Newsnight go to 70%+ Remain places like Cambridge to find out "how the real people think"? Obviously not: would be absurd. This Boston, Lincs version is another form of metropolitan othering of Leave places, in an overcompensating bid for empathy.
John Denham, former Labour minister: And Basingstoke would be so much more interesting: had high levels of A8 migration but not like Boston; has working class voters who’ve done badly in past years (but not 52%) and many comfortably off middle class Leavers (who are never talked about in the media analysis).
Sunder Katwala: My colleague Jill Rutter had the right prediction re Steve Barclay being the Brexit Secretary, where I thought it might be Robin Walker. She met him in Wisbech, during her migation research, thinks he is impressive. Newsnight - flagship BBC programme - going with the fairly silly point that "very very few people" have heard of the new Brexit Secretary. Given that people moan about the high profile of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage etc it then seems odd to regard it as a problem for the government to have appointed somebody with a low media, public profile but a solid, relevant professional background. 
Sunder Katwala: Newsnight running a segment on how British politics is almost always binary, as role of oppositions is to oppose (citing the wartime coalition WW2 & Iraq war as rare exceptions). This is not true of many of the most historic votes in parliament:
  • (1) First place, most important decision ever taken by a British govt. A cross-party vote in War Cabinet, not Commons. May 1940: Clement Attlee & Arthur Greenwood back Churchill in a 3-2 vote against Halifax & Chamberlain to reject Mussolini's offer to mediate peace with Hitler. 
  • (2) British entry to Europe/EEC (White paper, Oct 1971 on principle of entry). Heath has majority of 30, so15 rebels can wipe it out. 39 of his own MPs vote against. 69 Labour MPs vote for the government (against a 3-line whip) and 20 abstain. Government majority 112.
  • (3) Repeal of the Corn Laws, 1846. 106 Conservative MPs vote with Prime Minister Robert Peel, 222 vote against him, on third reading. Wins 327 to 229 (majority 98) with Whig votes. But loses an Irish coercion bill and resigns. His party out of office for a generation.
  • (4) The Parliament Act 1911. The two neck-and-neck 1910 elections wipe out Liberal landslide of 1906, so  government needs Labour and Irish votes in the Commons and (finally) grudging Tory 'hedger' votes in House of Lords to finally remove the absolute veto of the upper house.
  • (5) Perhaps most controversially, the 1931 budget. Ramsay MacDonald's Cabinet is split 11-9 on the budget, and submits its resignation. He then forms a National Government with Conservatives and Liberals. They go on to win 554 seats vs 52 for Labour in a snap election. 
Anne McElvoy, The Economist: God no, not Boston Lincs again BBC Newsnight! Broadcasters might occasionally go sometimes go somewhere else that voted for Brexit.  
Alex Stewart, Tifo Football: Sweeney's stuff on Newsnight is an affront to basically everything. I hate people who try to be funny about serious stuff in an effort to lend 'personality' to news. Especially when they're not funny. 
Seán: He's also taken on a weird, cod Peston cadence to his voice. All a bit weird that piece.
Alex Stewart: Did you see him chasing people around yesterday to ask them the same stupid question? Peston would never run.
Seán: I didn't. He's not in good shape. I've seen some of his investigative stuff before and I quite liked it, but I think he's disappeared up his own posterior. Pienaar he ain't!
Alex Stewart: Such disappearances seem to be a theme on Newsnight

Nothing new under the sun

Here's Tim Shipman, political editor of The Sunday Times, making a familiar point:

Some people are never pleased

Oh dear. This week's Newswatch featured a couple of Carole Cadwalladr fans calling for Andrew Neil to be taken off the BBC because of his "misogynistic" 3.15 am tweet about "mad cat woman...Karole Kodswallop". 

Samira looked stern, especially as she informed us that Andrew Neil and the BBC had declined to be interviewed on the matter. 

Guess what though? Carole Catwalladr is now upset at Newswatch itself for showing that very tweet and not inviting her to comment!

"Why is the BBC pushing raw anti-Israel propaganda?"

That indefatigable fighter for Israel and against antisemitism David Collier has the BBC firmly in his sights at the moment for a BBC News website piece 'explaining' an element of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict :

The 100 word-part of the BBC piece is particularly one-sided.

(BBC) wishful thinking

I was reading a review of a new book about China in The Times - 'Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping' by Le Monde's François Bougon - and stopped at the point where the reviewer said that M. Bougon "has discreet fun with those Anglo-Saxon commentators, prominent among them the BBC’s John Simpson, who saw in the new leader a “Chinese Gorbachev". Fancy a Le Monde economics correspondent singling out the BBC's World Affairs Editor to be the object of "discreet fun"!

Anyhow, here's the relevant passage (pp 35-36) from 'Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping'. It beautifully demonstrates the power of (BBC) wishful thinking in action: 
...the intellectuals were not the only ones who mistook their reformist dreams for reality. The journalists were also too quick to dub Xi the 'Chinese Gorbachev'. A veteran BBC journalist, John Simpson, admitted to having felt déjà vu in Beijing on Xi's appointment as Party leader in 2012. During the eighteenth Party Congress in November of that year, which marked the start of the Xi era, Simpson was reminded of Moscow in 1988, when he had been in the USSR to cover an important Soviet Communist Party meeting. Everything in 2012 Beijing reminded him of the moment when Gorbachev made the decisions that would lead to the end of the Soviet regime. And this sufficed to persuade Simpson that Xi Jinping was on the cusp of leading China into a 'radical change' towards democratisation. The liberals had not managed to implement such change in the 1980s, discarded and forgotten after the bloody repression of the Tiananmen democratic movement in 1989. Was it now to be achieved by this young leader, less heavy-handed in style than his predecessors? "Can Xi reform the system, without - like Gorbachev - destroying it?" Simpson wrote in The Guardian a few months later. "He has advantages that Gorbachev lacked, so it's not absolutely impossible. But I suspect things have gone too far for traditional Marxism-Leninism to survive". Also at this time, the fall of neo-Maoist and anti-liberal hardliner Bo Xilai, following accusations of corruption, seemed to attest to the Party's will to reform. 
Since then, however, Xi has defied expectations. Some expected a Chinese Gorbachev, and got a Chinese Putin instead.

Thursday, 15 November 2018


As you may have noticed, there's been a bit of news day. And it's still going on.

Meanwhile, taking a longer view, and working over months rather than minutes, David and Andrew at News-watch have been very busy surveying another BBC series about Brexit - namely Mark Mardell's  Radio 4 Brexit: A Love Story.

We dipped into it (posting about three of its episodes) and found it severely wanting impartiality-wise. But David and Andrew have gone beyond mere dipping and have devoutly drenched themselves in the entirety of the thing.

The stats speak again. This was a series that, statistically-speaking, was sharply biased against pro-Brexit points of view. And the word count has shown what a simple count of the allegiances of the contributors could only hint at:
Although there was only a slight numeric advantage in favour of ‘pro’ EU/EEC contributors, those speakers delivered 64 per cent (13,392) of the words spoken, against 28 per cent (6,009 words) from the ‘antis’, a ratio of 9:4. In addition, of the top 10 contributors by running length, eight were ‘pros’ and only two were ‘anti’. Strong Europhiles such as Tony Blair, Nick Clegg and Sir Stephen Wall had much more space to advance their ‘pro’ opinions than those who were negative about ‘Europe’. 
And that's only for starters: Only six speakers of the 121 contributors who appeared in the series as a whole "made what could be called substantive points against the EU".

The whole series struck me as being a 'masterclass' from the mighty Mark Mardell in how to appear to be impartial whilst being anything but.

It may therefore, perhaps, be taken as a template for BBC reporting as a whole on certain subjects. 

John Simpson has his say

The BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson has contributed his two penn'orth to the day's events. In the later tweet he has a point to make and uses some specific targets to make it:

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

November Open Thread

Here are some fireworks over Lancaster - a city near to the famous seaside resort of Morecambe - to welcome us all to an aging Open Thread...

Thanks for your comments.

Good grief!

James O'Brien

Here's Jimmy, calling for Andrew Neil to be sacked:

Meanwhile, here's award-winning Carole saying that the BBC conspired with the Government and right-wing lobbyists to cover up massive electoral fraud:

Altogether now...

And another BBC Andrew apologises

And another BBC Andrew apologises (for nothing, and to a #FBPE):

Laura Kuenssberg: Seems to be all lining up for Cabinet to sign off a text of divorce deal tomorrow.... but but but, not confirmed yet and we have been here before...
Andrew Marr: Ha! Now the fun begins!
Diana Strasser #FBPE: Definitely not much fun for us EU27 nationals who have to apply to be able to stay in our own homes but as long as you are having fun. :( #StopBrexit #Stopthismadness
Andrew Marr: I wasn’t using ‘fun’ in the sense of, you know, actual fun. Twitter can be a tad literal at times.
Diana Strasser #FBPE: I got that but I would hope for a bit more sensitivity from a senior BBC journalist. There are people who fear to have to leave their homes, people who fear for their jobs, people who 'literally' can't afford Brexit.
Andrew Marr: That’s fair. What’s ahead may be horrible for many. I let reporterly bloodlust go to my head: apologies, Diana.

Choosing an angle

Has anyone ever noticed how much Mrs Merkel looks like Ken Clarke in drag?

Listening to tonight's Radio 4 Six O'Clock News and its coverage of Mrs Merkel's calls for a European army, I was very struck by its angle. 

The angle I've been reading this afternoon/evening concerns lots of pro-Brexit people saying that the likes of Nick Clegg have been proved to be liars, so you'd expect the idea of a European army to be at least acknowledged, in the usual BBC terminology as "controversial" - if only in passing. 

But, no. 

Instead we got Jenny Hill presenting it almost as if Mrs Merkel had finally, thankfully, got off the fence and done the right thing.

For here was Jenny telling us that "an uncharacteristically impassioned Angela Merkel was on fighting form" today and that, "after months of fudging her position on the subject", Mrs Merkel  had "unequivocally" backed President Macron in calling for the creation of a European army ("..albeit one day.."). And Mrs Merkel didn't just back M. Macron; her statement was also likely to "enrage" Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Donald Trump "took aim" at M. Macron "over Nato contributions, the Second World War and wine production". 

So the angle was: Mrs Merkel taking M. Macron's side against President Trump. 

Cast it in that way and the idea of a European army might well appear uncontroversial and might especially appeal to people who don't like Donald Trump.

Cast it, in contrast, as being the latest federalist move from the increasingly unpopular leaders of France and Germany and as something which will inevitably arouse concern among the EU's Eurosceptic voices and reinforce UK Eurosceptic voices then a different audience reaction might very well result.

It really is how you choose to angle it.

A helpful question

BBC One's London local news this afternoon reported on Sadiq Khan's attendance at a memorial ceremony for the Bataclan massacre in Paris today and BBC reporter Karl Mercer interviewed the Mayor. 

How's this for 'message placement' courtesy of the BBC?:

Sadiq Khan: I'm here to pay my respects but also to show solidarity. London and Paris have many links. Last year we suffered four terrorist attacks and 14 people lost their lives. It's really important we show solidarity to our French friends.
Karl Mercer: And there's been much cooperation over those three years, particularly in the field of counter-terror, something you're worried will change come March?
Sadiq Khan: One of the things that many Londoners may not realise is that because we're members of the EU our police and security service have a huge amount of cooperation with our colleagues - European Arrest Warrant, being members of Europol, being able the EU passenger name records. On a daily basis our police and security services check DNA records, fingerprints, wanted lists. The UK Borders Agency checks  the watchlists of most of those coming into our country. If there's somebody who leaves London and they've committed a crime we can get them extradited really quickly. And my worry is if it appears to be the case that we leave the EU with no deal, as seems very likely, what will happen on March 30th? There'll be no deal whatsoever. What I'm saying to our government is that bearing in mind there's a possibility now, a real possibility of no deal, work now on a separate security arrangement so on March 30th our police and security services can still work with the EU.

And that was that.


Update: The evening London news bulletin on BBC One tonight returned to this, with the BBC presenter saying:
Three years to the day after the Bataclan terror attack in Paris which killed many dozens of people - the Mayor of London has been to the ceremony to remember those who died. He was joined by survivors and relatives of Londoners who were killed - and he used the occasion to raise concerns over how security in London might be affected after Brexit.
It featured another short interview with Major Khan, where he said much the same as above. Was he again prompted by Karl Mercer of the BBC?

Whether he was or not, two French politicians featured in his report backing up Sadiq's views and no contrary views were aired. 

Then things got 'very BBC'...

A BBC-on-BBC interview immediately afterwards, between the presenter and a second BBC reporter, London News 'Brexit reporter' Mark Ashdown, began by basically reinforcing Sadiq Khan's points, rather breathlessly. 

Watching it, I thought 'Gawd, this is biased', and then, after thinking that, came the coup de grâce from Mark Ashdown. It almost took my breath away. He actually said:
And the Mayor's right. If all this falls apart, we have no deal, we risk losing all that. Life could become more difficult.
 "And the Mayor's right"??? Really, BBC???

(Is Mark any relation to Paddy?)


One of the things I intended to check tonight, especially following a point made by John in the comments here at ITBB, is whether the BBC would engage in 'bias by omission' by not making much of Mrs Merkel's call today for a 'real, true European army' - an army unlikely to appeal to most UK voters in the event of a second people's referendum vote - and, on so doing, I find that her call is a major story (ranked fourth) on the Sky News website but conspicuous by its complete absence from the BBC News website's front page. 

Even Simon McCoy...

Fans of ITV's The Chase will know that chaser Paul Sinha is often described as "Sarcasm In a Suit" by Bradley Walsh, but maybe it's time that the BBC followed suit and christened its very own Simon McCoy "Sarcasm In a Suit" too. 

As you may know, Simon is the BBC News Channel's main anchor in the afternoon.

And here his is, this very afternoon, being deadpan about Donald Trump:

But he still might do well I think to heed the following friendly words of caution, however much he knows the nation loves him:

All aboard

Meanwhile, a freedom of information request from The Times has forced the BBC to reveal that "more than 2,700 BBC staff were handed pay rises of more than 10 per cent last year, despite the corporation’s claims that it does not have enough money":
The median increase was £4,979, and the total cost to licence fee-payers is £17.8 million a year. The BBC’s total headcount is about 18,200, indicating that about 14 per cent of the workforce were given substantial pay rises.
The top five comments beneath the Times report are all pretty much of one mind:

  • BBC’s latest accounts show £523m in cash!!! Bloated, arrogant state organisation which requires restructuring to remain relevant.
  • Further evidence the BBC has lost touch with reality.
  • The gravy train rolls on. The BBC, financed by a tax for owning a television, needs sorting out. For a start make it a subscription service.
  • 10% - absurd - when so many millions only receive 1, or 2 or at best a 3% pay rise.   The BBC needs to be held more to account.  Perhaps we should all refuse to pay our TV licence, until such indefensible and irresponsible pay awards are checked, and the pay of already grossly overpaid presenters is frozen or reduced.
  • Noses in the trough. Abolish the licence fee and make it s subscription channel. They can then pay them what they like.

Another post featuring Andrew Neil

Hope he's not going to get told off by the BBC for this one as well, as he's only telling it like it is:

He also calls The Mash Report "thirty minutes of self satisfied, self adulatory, unchallenged left wing propaganda" and says The Now Show is "contrived ideological commentary" - and he's not wrong there either. 

Here's the whole exchange:

Simon Pinsa: I would be happy if the BBC were just impartial. When was the last time they had a right wing comedian on the BBC?
legalclaret: Geoff Norcott on the Mash Report last Friday.
Andrew Neil: For three minutes out of thirty minutes of self satisfied, self adulatory, unchallenged left wing propaganda. It’s hardly balance. Could never happen on a politics show. Except this has become a politics show.
Marchal: Like HIGNFY and The Last Leg the show exists so that audiences can applaud themselves at how clever and progressive they are.
Dave P: HIGNFY is on its last legs. Never heard of The Last Leg.
jeff: I've only managed to watch some moments of each but, incredibly, I'd say it was more left wing. It's hard to imagine how broadcasters get away with the continuous overt propaganda.
Andrew Neil: When it comes to so called comedy the BBC has long given up on balance, on radio and tv. Nobody seems to care. And I don’t want right wing comedy, whatever that is. I’d just like comedy. Which is in really short supply. On tv and radio.
Louise Rowntree: Or is it just that liberals are wittier than... illiberals?
Andrew Neil: If you think Mash or The Now Show is funny as opposed to contrived ideological commentary then we have a different sense of humour. Jon Stewart in US was left wing but also intelligent and so funny. Loved it. Mash a pathetic imitation.
Stuart Baggs: You simply do not look hard enough for comedy. In fact it’s clear you don’t look at all. You should look at BBC Sounds. There are absolute amazing non political comedies on there. It’s a shame you make such ignorant comments from within the BBC to be honest. Shocking in fact.
Andrew Neil: I have BBC Sounds. Interesting you don’t name a single show. Give me one. That will make me laugh out loud. I use BBC Sounds to listen to the Goon show and Round the Horne. Brilliant. Anything more a la mode.

A post featuring Andrew Neil

Oh dear...

If you were wondering, the deleted tweet ran as follows:

Monday, 12 November 2018

An op-ed from the BBC's Dave Lee

Here's a video report from the BBC's US-based technology correspondent Dave Lee to mark the launch of the BBC's Beyond Fake News season:

You'll note that the expert 'talking heads' in the piece are Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post and Claire Wardle of First Draft. (Have a guess who part-funds First Draft!). The Washington Post and First Draft played major roles in launching the phrase 'fake news' during the 2016 presidential election, so it's perhaps no wonder that they're now so peeved about Donald Trump turning it back on them. 

Here's a transcript of the report:

Donald Trump: I've just received a call from Secretary Clinton... 
Dave Lee: When Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 there was a brief moment when the phrase 'fake news' meant exactly that. News that wasn't true. But then, before he'd even be inaugurated, this happened:
Donald Trump: I am not going to give you a question. You are fake news...fake, phony, fake...It's all fake news...It's called 'fake news...Fake, fake, disgusting news.
Seemingly overnight, President Trump took the phrase 'fake news' and co-opted it to mean news he simply didn't like or news that he didn't want his supporters to hear. It proved to be incredibly effective.
Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post: It's a question of propaganda. You repeat things and you repeat things and you say them different ways and you say them over time and eventually it starts to sink in, an it's the way propaganda works, and I think that's what we're seeing here.
After seeing how discrediting the media got Donald Trump into the White House other politicians around the world saw an opportunity of their own.
Claire Wardle, First Draft: We were just following the Brazil was a common refrain. We see Duterte in the Philippines. We see politicians in the UK and Australia. All sorts of politicians, as a short hand, say "don't believe that, trust me". 
Studies suggest that among Trump supporters trust in the media is at rock bottom. And, towards the end of 2018, the attacks on the press took on an even more aggressive turn: 
Donald Trump: Fake news is in fact, and I hate to say this, in fact, the enemy of the people. 
Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post: Those words, 'enemy of the people', have really taken it to a new level. and... 
Dave Lee (to Margaret Sullivan): (interrupting) To a dangerous level? 
Margaret Sullivan: To a dangerous level, yes, because I think it turns people against journalism as one of the pillars of our democracy. 
Two years since being elected negative stories that might sink any other politician have simply bounced off President Trump. Yet as November's midterm elections drew near some wondered if crying 'fake news' would still have the desired effect. But with the votes in and Trump declaring a success it was very soon business as usual: 
Donald Trump: When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people. Go ahead! That's enough... 
As President Trump roars into the second half of his first term there's no sign he plans to change his winning, and highly divisive, strategy. 
Donald Trump: You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn't be working for CNN.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Live Blogging 'Doctor Who'

Tim Brooke-Taylor and (in the background) Bill Oddie - i.e. The Goodies.

As regular readers will probably know, I don't really watch BBC drama these days, except for Doctor Who, the ultimate BBC family programme, famously geared for kids - and, even more famously, geared for dads (via the female assistants and the whole sci-fi thing) . 

Yes, I know. I'm nearly 50 and shouldn't be watching such things. But, in my defence, I'm claiming it as my only such sin.


So here I am live-blogging tonight's Doctor Who - 'Demons of the Punjab'

It features (Muslim) companion Yaz travelling back in time with (female) Doctor Jodie, and (black, dyspraxic) Ryan, and (stale, pale, male) Bradley Walsh to Partition India in 1947 to see her marvellous Pakistani granny (introduced as the first Muslim to give birth in the new Pakistan and the first Muslim woman to work in a cotton mill in England) get married.

And Bradley Walsh says he's really looking forward to ticking Pakistan off his to-do list, tourism-wise. (Don't we all? I particularly fancy the northern border with Afghanistan. Very scenic I hear. Check out 

Ah yes, it's a 'jolly hockey sticks BBC romp' with 'sad bits' homing in on the massively murderous partition of India and Pakistan, when Muslims and Hindus slaughtered each other whilst Labour's Attlee government (unmentioned) tried to do the right thing (unmentioned).

(Bad Lord Mountbatten got a mention though.)

So that's the context. And Bradley (speaking on behalf of his Chasers perhaps) is now saying heart-tugging things about us all coming together. And Doctor Jodie (no back end of a bus her) is now talking love. Aw!

Good grief, call me Peter Hitchens, but it's like watching a children's programme on history, with added trendy school assembly moral messages laid on top of it.


Oh, and the Hindu brother - the main flawed human baddie, who spent too much time listening to the radio (hint, hint, social media nowadays?), - turns out to be a mean, murderous Hindu hardliner who wants separation.

(A Hindu. Not a murderous pro-Pakistan-independence baddie Muslim, of course). 

And the murderous armed men who come at the programme's climax and do the murderous deed (too late to warn of SPOILERS?) are Hindus.

(Hindus. Not murderous baddie Muslims, of course).

For yes, it transpires that it's they, the Hindus who kill (our hero) Muslim-marrying Hindu Prem, who are the real Demons of the Punjab and not the aliens, who may look like demons and speak with classic TV sci fi 'alien baddie' voices but turn out to be really, really nice and are only there because they're concerned about the unknown victims of violent conflict in the universe and want to be "witnesses" for them, bless them.

Doctor Jodie and Team Tardis

Interestingly, Britain only got the blame for messing up India, dividing it up, in passing - though it was poor ill-fated Prem (the hero of the story) who said it. I expected much more of that.


Is it rude to the writer of this episode to say that it was an extremely clunky script?

It could even be called 'didactic'. And maybe the BBC intends it to be used in schools. 

Gawd, possibly even more rudely, it's like being whacked over the head by a BBC-branded fish.

Education, education, education.


I know you know, even if you don't watch it, that Doctor Who has had its agendas over the years and has made the odd political point from time to time, and that it's got worse in recent years, but this series really is something else.

It's pure sledgehammer stuff.

Even the last Doctor, Alastair Campbell, didn't have the massive pile of PC poo piled on him that poor (no back end of a bus her) Doctor Jodie has had piled upon her young, attractive, female white face by the BBC.


Well, maybe forty years too late, I'm now at the point where I think watching Doctor Who is something to stop watching...

...but here's my excuse if I don't follow up on that:

As an example of the decay of the BBC, caused by a sub-standard, ultra-social-liberal, identity-politics-obsessed, soggy-left mindset which sits several-parsecs-and-some-beyond-the-next-but-two-galaxies-away (at least) from the views of most of the licence-fee-paying-public, it's a consistent QED-worthy example.

And I'm expecting the viewing figures to fall even further after this episode.


Bradley's still very good though. He's putting his heart and soul in it, ignoring all the dross around him. 

I like Bradley, but I think he's better than this. 


In the CCBGB ('comments could be going better') stakes, I think the BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent James Landale has all won hands down today - with no need whatsoever for a second people's referendum vote to make certain of that. 

Two of his tweets have gone down extraordinary badly with the twittering public, even with people who usually disagree about everything else and throw insults at each agree. 

In fact he seems to have achieved the impossible, bringing the nation together, and even uniting #FBPE types with pro-Brexit types in total condemnation of his 'cheap political point-scoring':

Here's a small selection of the replies:

  • May laid a wreath at Thiepval with Macron on Friday.Today she was at the Cenotaph, accompanied by the President of Germany and watched by the Queen. Find a political grievance somewhere else.
  • This is a pretty shameful agenda you're pushing here, James/BBC. The Royal Family, May and others are in the right place at the Cenotaph - not abroad.
  • Today is not a time for trying to score points. Mrs May was rightly in attendance at our Cenotaph. As you know she was in Europe prior for other events.
  • So she's expected to snub the President of Germany then? And the British people?
  • Your snarky tweets don’t serve you or the BBC very well today.
  • David Liddington? Far left of picture, second row from front. You're welcome.
  • What is your problem? The PM was at the cenotaph where she ought to be.
  • She would have been criticised for not being at the Cenotaph if she were there. I'm no fan of May's but it's asinine to criticise her for being at the Cenotaph.
  • You know full well the PM was at the Cenotaph as every PM before her on Remembrance Sunday. Your remarks are snide. I would say I expect better from the BBC but that is proving harder and harder by the day.
  • James Landale and BBC should be thoroughly ashamed of this tweet!
  • Stop trying to spin a line, for goodness' sake. Now is not the time.
  • Has a PM ever missed the Cenotaph on the 11th of the 11th? BBC News has sunk to a new low!

Now, in fairness to James, he wasn't the only high-profile BBC reporter saying such things (surprise, surprise!): Jeremy Bowen was at it too, earlier tweeting an image of M. Macron and Mrs. Merkel together and asking a question:

Some of the public soon gave him the answer - though not as overwhelmingly, given that his followers are particularly partisan (surprise, surprise!):

  • Dr Alison Statham: This was a reaffirmation of Franco-German unity at the spot where the Armistice was signed, and where Hitler chose to humiliate France 22 years later.
  • Kevin McGregor: I’m glad you said it Alison as I was going to. The fact that Jeremy is such an esteemed BBC journalist I’d have thought he’d have tried to find out the historic background first before commenting.
  • Celia D: UK/France/Belgium ceremony was on Friday.
  • Spurs2257: Together Theresa May and Macron attended ceremonies on Friday I believe.
  • Rosemary: She had to return to attend the British Legion Festival of Remembrance last night in the Royal Albert Hall. A very fitting tribute.

Star BBC reporters, eh? Worth every penny of the licence fee! 


Reading those two James Landale tweets in particular makes me wonder, purely speculatively (in the manner of Norman Smith) if the snarky, sarky style favoured by the likes of Anthony Zurcher, Mike Wendling, Jon Sopel, Dominic Casciani, even John Simpson, plus sooooo many other BBC types on Twitter, has been given official BBC clearance. 

Maybe it's even being officially encouraged, to attract the young and the social media crowd? 

Just a thought. 


Oh, and at the zenith of this phenomenon, shining brightly from his own highest point (or maybe somewhere lower), is Anthony Zurcher. His last six tweets (one's neutral) include these five impartiality-free cracks:

Are you feeling the 'BBC impartiality' there? (Can't say I am).

Maybe he's angling after a job at Saturday Night Live in his home country or The Mash Report here?

It's the way 'e tells 'em! (wink).

The bells! The bells!

Walpole St. Peter's Church (the church said to have inspired Dotty L.)

It's such a shame the BBC is scrapping Radio 4's Something Understood. This morning's edition on bells was a belter, beautifully delivered by Mark Tully - a fine mix of music and words. (Sir Mark seems to guess what things I'll like).

I learned, for example, that Dorothy L. Sayers wrote this in one of her Lord Peter Wimsey novels, The Nine Tailors on the subject of bell-ringing: 
The eight men advanced to their stations, and Hezekiah consulted his watch. 
Time, he said. 
He spat upon his hands, grasped the sallie of Tailor Paul, and gently swung the great bell over the balance. 
Toll-toll-toll; and a pause; toll-toll-toll; and a pause; toll-toll-toll; the nine tailors, or teller-strokes, that mark the passing of a man. The year is dead; toll him out with twelve strokes more, one for every passing month. Then silence. Then, from the faint, sweet tubular chimes of the clock overhead, the four quarters and the twelve strokes of midnight. The ringers grasped their ropes. 
The bells gave tongue: Gaude, Sabaoth, John, Jericho, Jubilee, Dimity, Batty Thomas and Tailor Paul, rioting and exulting high up in the dark tower, wide mouths rising and falling, brazen tongues clamouring, huge wheels turning to the dance of the leaping ropes. 
Every bell in her place, striking tuneably, hunting up, hunting down, dodging, snapping, laying her blows behind, making her thirds and fourths, working down to lead the dance again. Out over the flat, white wastes of fen, over the spear-straight, steel-dark dykes, and the wind-bent, groaning poplar trees, bursting from the snow-choked louvers of the belfry, whirled away southward and westward in gusty blasts of clamour to the sleeping counties went the music of the bells – little Gaude, silver Sabaoth, strong John and Jericho, glad Jubilee, sweet Dimity and old Batty Thomas, with great Tailor Paul bawling and striding like a giant in the midst of them. Up and down went the shadows of the ringers upon the walls, up and down went the scarlet sallies flickering roofwards and floorwards, and up and down, hunting in their courses, went the bells of Fenchurch St. Paul.

The Angel of the Bronx

This week's Radio 4 Profile had a political subject. Usually (though not always) such editions have a reasonably fair spread of views. Not this one though. There was about half a minute of criticism in total in a programme that lasted last nigh on 14 minutes. (It came from a male US conservative.) And the narration was negativity-free too. The lucky lady was 'democratic socialist' US Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Maybe she should recycle parts of it for her reelection campaign? 

Birds of a feather tweet together

Whatever you thought of President Trump's helicopter/rain problems yesterday (with or without ironic quotation marks), I was struck by the instant, almost unthinking downpour of disapproval and disdain that rained down on him from some of the BBC's finest (and John Sweeney)... chronicled by Guest Who at B-BBC in a quite devastating sequence

It really hits home when you see a stream of tweets like this just how like a flock they act...(whether that be of sheep, or of starlings, or of free, fair and impartial BBC journalists I'll let you decide!):