Saturday, 27 August 2016

A smorgasbord for a Saturday evening

It's a while since we've had a proper 'smorgasbord' post.

A 'smorgasbord' post is all I can manage today, so please prepare for a whole load of utterly random stuff.


Shaun of the (Dead) BBC

Today's Dateline London was one of those editions where a single right-winger is allowed onto an otherwise entirely left-liberal panel (which is always preferable to those editions that have an entirely left-liberal panel - and, unfortunately, Dateline now appears to be regressing in that respect). 

Today's lone right-wing Daniel was Alex Deane, and the left-liberal lions roaring around him were Abdul Bari Atwan, Eunice Goes and Michael Goldfarb. 

The result was both fun and thought-provoking, and well worth watching (and Daniel did good). 

They discussed Syria, Trump 'n' Farage, and the burkini ban.

Presenter Shaun Ley gave the following three introductions (one to the entire programme, the others to the final later topics):

President Erdogan of Turkey has certainly bounced back after the coup attempt. This week he appeared to have the United States eating out of his hand. After a Turkish excursion into Syria to deny the group that calls itself Islamic State its only border crossing the US obligingly instructed Kurds to get out of the way if they wanted to go on receiving American support. Mr Erdogan is not the only populist politician basking in American adulation. Nigel Farage - one of the prominent voices in the successful campaign to get Britain out of the European Union - appeared at a rally with Donald Trump, telling his supporters the Establishment can be beat. Even as in Syria some women were celebrating liberation from Islamic State by taking off their burqas those wearing burkinis on the beaches of France were being ordered to take them off,
Second topic:
Let's move on to another populist leader - like President Erdogan perhaps! Donald Trump received some international aid of his own this week. Nigel Farage, who was instrumental in the campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, joined Mr Trump in Mississippi, where he suggested they were soul-mates battling the Establishment. 
Third topic:
Now, it was Churchill who promised to fight them on beaches - French beaches in the Second World War - but he certainly didn't have this in mind: The modern-day battle on the beaches (as Eunice was suggesting there) - and, yes, there has already been a punch-up in Corsica - is over the burkini ban - swimwear that covers almost all the entire body. Photographs of a woman being instructed to remove hers by four male police officers was deeply unsettling for some. Others insisted Islamic dress was provocative - a perhaps surprisingly statement when the French are unmoved by the sight of people sunbathing in the nude. On Friday the bans were thrown into doubt when the Council of State - France's highest administrative court - suspended the ban at Villeneuve-Loubet, pending a detailed judgement later in the year.
Were I some A-level student presented with those statements blind and asked to 'discuss' them, I'd say:
(1) that the speaker didn't approve of the US backing Turkey at the expense of the Kurds. 
(2) that the speaker called Turkey's president a "populist", and then called UKIP's Nigel Farage a "populist", and twice linked them together, and didn't sound complimentary about either. And then Trump.
(3) that the speaker really didn't approve of a 'burkini ban', given: 
(a) his pointed contrast of the liberated women of Syria with the burkini-wearing women being "ordered" about by the French
(b) his sardonic reference to Churchill's 'We will fight them on the beaches' speech to make the 'burkini ban' sound ridiculous, and...
(c) his mocking of those who argue that the burkini is provocative by sarcastically saying "a perhaps surprisingly statement when the French are unmoved by the sight of people sunbathing in the nude".

A pretty mosque, Brexit Street, Thornaby-on-Tees

Over at Biased BBC David Vance posted a piece sent to him by a reader concerning the History section of the BBC's educational resource BBC Bitesize (a widely used tool in UK schools) - specifically the component in The Middle Ages section called The Islamic world in the Middle Ages

The B-BBC reader's complaint was that the BBC was projecting an extremely rose-tinted view of the medieval Islamic world whilst simultaneously mocking medieval Europe:

I would ask you (especially as it won't take you very long) to read the whole eight pages of the BBC Bitesize revision module and I think you'll agree that the B-BBC reader has a very real point. 

Take this, for example:

There's no mention of the term 'dhimmi', nor of those non-Muslims religious communities being 'second-class citizens'. And there were many times - as even Wikipedia admits - that non-Muslims were persecuted under Muslim rule. 

I would have hoped that the BBC would have encouraged nuance at the very least in their schools' history study guide instead of sounding oddly like proselytisers.  


Oh, and the lefty BBC-haters are going mad for an LSE study that doesn't even mention the BBC. 

The LSE study found that the UK newspapers have posted lots and lots and lots of negative headlines about Jeremy Corbyn. 

Avoiding the possibility that some if not most of those negative headlines might have arisen because Mr Corbyn isn't really up to much, they say that the media is being soooo unfair to Jeremy.

The foreword to this LSE report comes from Nick Couldry, head of the LSE's Department of Media and Communications, and the report's lead author Bart Cammaerts. And if you're wondering who they are and where they're coming from, well,....:

Of course, the fact that a pair of Corbynistas have produced an LSE study proving massive media bias against their hero might be taken as automatically self-destroying their findings. But that's to succumb to the ad hom fallacy. Their findings, in fact, appear fair enough - except that, as I said above, they (fatally) choose to magic away the possibility that their magical leader might have deserved most of those headlines.

Academic studies of BBC bias are always to be questioned. Stick to blogs, folks! (h/t Michael Gove).

That said, they are probably right that the media is heavily biased against the Bearded One.


RS Thomas, appearing on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In

Meanwhile, I  was sitting in my sunlit garden this afternoon looking at the sky, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, the bees, and a very colourful green-and-red fly that looked in shape just like the kind of fly people itch to swat but was so green-and-red that no one would ever want to do it harm. 

All was well with the world and I was happily reading the Collected Poems 1945-1990 of that English-hating Welsh vicar and semi-fascist (well, at least as far as us English were concerned) RS Thomas. 

He was echoing my mood, talking about a view from his window, writing that "these colours/Are renewed daily with variations/Of light and distance that no painter/Achieves or suggests". I thought, yes, that's true. (Sorry, M. Monet).

And now I feel I ought to add an "I suppose"....

....which is just typical of me as a blogger (these days). 


No need for a caption here. See above. (Not Camilla B)

I've not had the time to monitor much of the BBC's reporting of Theresa May's proposed audit on inequality, especially racial inequality, but I heard the coverage on this morning's Today and watched this evening's BBC One evening news bulletin and both followed a basically similar pattern. 

On Today, we got two main segments - at 7.16 at at 8.10. The first was an inter-BBC discussion between Simon Jack and Ellie Price. It gave Mrs May a favourable review. Ellie talked about "how important to her this obviously really is" for Mrs. May, and Simon said:
And she does have some form on this because, of course, when she was Home Secretary there was the racial profile of the stop-and-search and she made some progress there. So she's on quite firm...on quite familiar territory.
(Some might say Simon's use of the word "progress" there was telling).

The interviews after 8.10, with (a) Simon Woolley of the campaign group Operation Black Vote (and the Equality and Human Rights Commission) and (b) Danny Dorling, the left-wing geography professor, also welcomed the move, whilst stressing that there's a heck of a lot to be done. Prof. Dorling, however, also complained about the effects of Tory cuts on making the problem worse.

On BBC One tonight Elaine Dunkley's report followed a fairly similar trajectory. It started with Elaine at the Notting Hill Carnival, talking about how multiculturalism is being threatened by unfair treatment of ethnic minorities. Three 'vox pops' attending the Carnival said, yes, the problem is very real. Mrs May's Downing Street speech was recalled before Elaine said that Mrs May would "have her work cut out". Then a lady from a campaign group Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (picture above) denounced the effects of Tory cuts. 

I suppose you could call that balanced in that in both praises the (new) Tory government for doing what it's now about to do and damning the (previous) Tory government for partly causing the problem in the first place - except that both BBC programmes seemed to be acting in full support of Mrs May's new strategy. 

Critics of that strategy from people who aren't from the pro-multiculturalism/anti-cuts Left seemed conspicuous by their absence...

...well, at least in the little bit of the BBC's coverage that I saw and heard today.


Ellie Price of the BBC. Impartiality personified

During her 7.16 chat with Simon Jack on Today, Ellie Price let slip a turn of phrase that hit me as being 'very BBC'. Talking of Mrs May, she said: 
And this is a prime minister, of course, who's going to be laden with the legacy of taking Britain out of the EU.
"Laden" is a rather loaded word (appropriately enough), and it's not a positive one:

She could have said something along the lines of "...who's going to be busy with" or "who's going to be strongly engaged with" the legacy of taking Britain out of the EU but she said "laden with" instead.

Am I reading too much into that?  


Ayatollah Khamenei and his friend Jeremy (in their younger days)

In a questionable editorial decision, this morning's Today chose to invite in comedian Jake Yapp to mock ITV for switching off all their channels this morning in a Team GB-related stunt to encourage children to go out and do some exercise...

The BBC mocking ITV for doing something noble doesn't strike me as being on the part of the BBC.

The one upside is that Jake, as ever, was funny. I like Jake. He does all the voices:
You're watching ITV One, the home of Saturday morning children's entertainment, with Ant and Dec ready to go live...fifteen years ago. 
Today though the channel's a bit different on Saturday mornings. It's time for all you kids to go completely wild for...Murder She Wrote. 
Man: Hello Angela Lansbury.  
Angela Lansbury: Hello dear old male friend with who I have a romantically ambiguous history. Oh dear, it looks like you killed someone. Oh well, it never would have worked out between us. 
As Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (is he still alive?) would say, lol!!


Naga O'Brien

Talking of being still alive, Clive James was on last night's Newsnight, still being alive. 

Last night's Newsnight marked the debut of Naga Munchetty. She was wearing James O'Brien-style intellectual glasses, but, thankfully, wasn't James O'Brien. 

Clive was talking to Steve Smith of the BBC. Clive was funny. Steve asked him about his affair, among other things. (A time and a place please, Steve!)

And Clive admitted that he'd outlived that famous maple tree - the subject of a beautiful, moving poem of his which I (among many others) quoted (in full) this time last year

The point of the poem was that that newly-planted maple tree would outlive the dying Clive and be a source of joy to his children. 

Unfortunately, the famous tree has now died while (not at all unfortunately) Clive is still going! 

He's planted a new maple tree.

Oh, I do like Clive James. I even bought his Collected Poems in my recent poetry-buying splurge on Amazon. Whether they are all as good as Japanese Maple I'm yet to find out.

Presumably all his widely-mocked royal stuff will be in there too. (I've got a thing for the poetry of William McGonagall too, by the way).  

Of course, Ted Hughes, while Poet Laureate, used to get mocked for his royal poems....

....which gives me the chance, finally, to post my own sub-Private Eye Ted Hughes parody from my early Twenties (long, long ago):
The Corgi 
Slipped, a stone god, from entrails
Bloodied like lizards' skulls.  
Scarred black, the moronic silence
Raises a gloved hand of guts and carcase
Waving like a holocaust.    
Caton Moor, black, black.
A beefeater's hat,
Pouring down blood. 
A wound on earth, slitty-eyed. 
Pass, Raven (of the Tower of London). 
Happy birthday, Your Majesty! 


  1. You have succeeded in finding the only photograph in existence in which Khamenei is smiling. It must have something to do with Jeremy’s razor sharp wit.

  2. Naga Munchetty has a hard lacquered look and the voice to match. Forced, clenched, it creaks, it cracks and breaks. Never could stand it from the days when she was on a lunchtime programme on BBC2. What to make of topping out with serious specs and then six inch high spiked heels on the floor. I don't know; is she serious, is she journo or glossy, glassy celeb?