Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Returnees


As is my way, I was reading my way through the comments at Biased BBC the other day and saw a comment from one of the newer regulars asserting "unbelievable pro Jihadi bias by the BBC". 

Duly alerted - though sceptical about such an outlandish-sounding claim of bias - I then listened to the programme in question: The Returnees, on Radio 4, presented by the BBC's Gordon Corera...

...and I've been mulling it over in my mind (on and off) ever since.


Why I've been mulling it over rather than bursting straight in with a post about it is because I found it quite hard to take it all in. There were so many trees in the programme that I found it very hard to see the wood.

Please listen for yourselves and judge for yourselves. 


I think the wood is now in view for me - and, hopefully, clearly so: 

The Returnees didn't adopt a 'nothing to see here, move along' approach to the problem of British Muslims who went and then fought in Syria but it did adopt a heavily liberal approach to the matter. 

The programme presented us with: 

The 'framing' case of a 'nice' returnee who had fought in Syria but, being interviewed for the programme by the BBC, made all the right noises about not disliking us and not wanting to attack us.

We then heard from a series of experts - anti-extremism activists and academics, former MI6 officers, continental European academics, senior British police officers - all of whom, in one way or another, argued for the liberal position......

.....and that includes the generally admirable Shiraz Maher and even the police's Helen Ball. 

We heard Helen Ball saying the UK government was being "over cautious". 

We heard Shiraz Maher saying he argued (at the highest levels of the British government) for a more flexible approach towards 'returnees', and agreeing with the BBC reporter that politicians were playing politics with the issue.


We heard a former MI6 officer praising the highly liberal Danish (Aarhus) model of dealing with returnees.

We heard from Preben Bertelsen of Aarhus University, the man behind the highly liberal Danish model, saying it was "not religion" (ie Islam) and much more about alienation and disenfranchisement and the like. and stressing the need for help (including psychological help) for the returnees.

We heard from an East Jutland police superintendent backing Prof Bertelsen's approach.

We heard the BBC's Gordon Corera describing the 'success' of the Danish approach.

We heard Daniel Koehler, director of Germany's GRIDS, who uses family and friends to help returnees, and who talked of returnees he encountered being "traumatised", "disillusioned", "shocked".

We heard from a very disgruntled Muslim mother of one of the returnees - one who's received a stiff jail sentence. 

And we heard from left-wing lawyer Gareth Peirce, representing that Muslim returned, frothing about "the hunter and the hunted" (with the authorities cast as the former and the returning jihadis as the latter).

And the 'nice' returnee's concluding message? That we could learn from what they've seen and they could tell their fellow Muslims what they've seen.

We could face this for another two generations, warned Gordon Corera.


"Unbelievable pro Jihadi bias by the BBC"?

That is overstating it, but it was strongly biased, and the bias was in favour of a liberal approach to returnees for Syria.

No one (absolutely no one) argued for a tough approach. 

No one even argued against the Danish model...and - Googling around - I've learned that the Aarhus model has plenty of critics in Denmark.

The UK government's all-over-the-place, self-contradictory approach was criticised, but criticised 'from the Left' (so to speak), and contrasted with the 'more successful' (liberal) European models of dealing with Muslim radicalisation.


Whether we'll face this kind of thing from the BBC for another two generations is another matter entirely. 

Hopefully not, in so many ways.

More snapshots

Frankly, given its size and range, every post about the BBC is a 'snapshot'. But 'snapshots' caught over time can (I think) be highly revealing.

Regular readers will know that ITBB has been monitoring both Newsnight and The World Tonight in respect of possible bias over their EU referendum coverage - and I think we're showing some concrete evidence for a pro-Remain bias on both programmes (especially The World Tonight). 

(David Keighley, incidentally, takes both stories further at The Conservative Woman - a site whose focus on BBC bias is growing ever stronger). 

I've not had time to properly catch up with all of this week's editions yet but I grabbed the first 'snapshot' of both programmes' coverage (since our previous posts) on Tuesday. 

That was the night (as per an earlier comment here at ITBB) that Newsnight focused on the opinion polls about the EU referendum.

As per Newsnight....A Remain camp-aligned polling organisation is worried about the discrepancy between Leave-inclined internet polls and Remain-inclined telephone polls. Christopher Cook's report, which may or may not be right, suggested that there's a problem and that, all in all, the scale of the Remain's side's lead may be being underestimated. Whether wrong or not, that certainly would be great news for the Remain camp.  

And that same night's The World Tonight featured a 'balanced discussion' on Brexit between two young people - both of whom, despite their youthfulness, sounded like fully-fledged adult politicians (for good and for ill). One was pro-Leave, one pro-Remain, and the presenter was that nice Shaun Ley. 

Given the pattern of pro-Remain bias I've been laying out in the past few weeks, I was (as you'd expect) listening for signs of bias. 

Confirming that bias, the starting point of the segment was pro-Remain Conservative minister Nicky Morgan's warning that Brexit would bring woe for British youth (i.e. that this speech was considered worth reporting and focusing on).

Shaun quoted some of her warnings in his introduction:
Now, the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has made a pitch for the youth me....In a speech she delivered today, ahead of the European Referendum, Mrs Morgan - who's supporting the campaign to remain in the EU - suggested the opportunity to become global citizens for young people would be put at risk if Britain votes to leave. She urged them to take part in the referendum and to lobby parents and grandparents not to gamble with young people's future. 
And, further confirming that bias, Shaun's questions (otherwise reasonably balanced) included the following - both making the same anti-Brexit point:

To the pro-Remain lass:
Let me ask you first of all then what you make, Jane, of this argument from Mrs Morgan that if's there Brexit you'll be the first to suffer, She says, "When we experience economic shocks, the likes of which we could suffer if we leave the EU, it's young people who suffer first".
To the pro-Leave lad:
Although she did say...or she said, in this speech, that one student she knew of had been told that his graduate offer was at risk if the UK didn't stay in Europe because the firm was considering shifting jobs out of Britain.
It's not a huge imbalance, but it is a clear imbalance.

And, added to the helpful-to-the-Remain-side choice of angle, it's yet more evidence (to my mind) that there's a genuinely significant problem with pro-EU bias at The World Tonight.

[Wednesday's editions of both programmes remain to be reviewed. So the picture may keep changing.

As they might say on Twitter: #snapshots.]

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

'Good fences make good neighbours'? Not according to Tom Heap

Quentin Letts's "hunky" Tom Heap

Like Quentin Letts of The Daily Mail, I do like a bit of Countryfile on a Sunday night. I really do. (And, like Quentin, I ignore all sneerers about the programme). 

So I didn't really want to go to town on Countryfile regular Tom Heap over his pro-EU-biased Costing the Earth edition on the possible consequences for the environment of a British exit from the EU...

But it was so biased I felt it had to be done.

(News-watch's David Keighley had also written a powerful critique of it - and he's escalated the matter well beyond the blogosphere).

Reflecting on that though, some of Tom's pieces on Countryfile are exemplary in offering contrasting views, allowing viewers to make up their own minds and not appearing to come down on either side of most arguments - such as last week's piece on offshore wind farms v birds

Others are less exemplary, such as the one on gypsy/traveller sites we looked at last year (which fairly obviously took the side of the 'travellers') or his Panorama on genetically modified foods (which seemed to be pro-GM food against the likes of the Soil Association and Greenpeace) - a comparison which shows that things aren't black-and-white here. 

What then to make of today's Costing the Earth entitled Beasts of the Border?:

If you to listen to it all the way through you will hear a variety of people - academics, hunters, social democratic politicians, environmental activists, scientists - all of whom believe that the fences being erected across parts of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans to stem the flood of migrants are wrong - wrong for wildlife and wrong for human beings.

They believe the fences are wrong not just because of the wildlife dying on its barbed wire but because the fences don't work in keeping out the migrants and the fences evoke the dark past of Europe not the hopes of its present. 

Everyone spoke out against the fences, and Tom Heap's narrative didn't challenge them or contradict them once. It only reinforced them. 

It was one single hymn sheet, and every last person sang from it. 

I'm not exaggerating about that. That's exactly what this programme was like.

And I have to say that I did expect someone from Slovenia or Hungary (or wherever) to be invited on - if only for the sake of appearance - to put the other side of the argument. I was sure some 'sop to BBC impartiality' would pop up to defend the fences and the governments that erected the fences, or to argue that the fences are working. 

But no, not a bit of it. No such voices came. It was 100% one-sided from start to finish. 

If anyone thinks I must have missed something (or am suffering from confirmation bias), please listen for yourselves. You won't find a supporter of the fences - or a point in favour of the fences - anywhere, no matter how closely you listen. (Or a critic of the flow of migrants either for that matter). 

It was quite powerful though. I really had to stop myself from getting sucked into it. 

In fact, come to think of it, this Costing the Earth would make for a powerful pro-EU, 'no borders', pro-migrant propaganda piece, if a campaign group was canny enough to take it up and run with it in a big way. (The pro-EU message was a definite undercurrent - if only explicitly from the contributors).

That's not what the BBC is supposed to be about though, is it?

And that's another black mark against Tom Heap (in my book).


Anna Holligan

There's something I heard on Radio 4 the other day that's been worrying me.

I'm not a foreign reporter and I can only guess how foreign reporters might feel when confronted with something harrowing, but I've also become deeply cynical when a BBC reporter seems to be using something harrowing to make a point. 

I was listening to this week's Sunday on Radio 4 and heard BBC reporter Anna Holligan being interviewed about the terrorist attacks in Brussels. As the discussion neared its close she began spontaneously talking about an experience she'd had this past week. 

She'd interviewed a distraught mother who didn't know whether her daughter had survived the attack on the airport, and it turned out that the young woman hadn't survived it. 

That must be distressing for a reporter, but...

Anna - who must have subsequently checked social media sites for the murdered woman - then recounted how the murdered daughter had made a comment on Facebook following last November's Islamist atrocities in Paris. She said she'd found what the daughter wrote to be "so poignant".

What the poor young woman had written, which Anna chose to highlight, was (in its entirety):
The ignorant spreading of anti-Muslim sentiment and propaganda does nothing but benefit ISIS. 
I'm pretty sure Anna Holligan meant us to take that as a reason not to engage in "anti-Muslim sentiment and propaganda" but, instead, I took it as, alas, proving that however good-hearted, liberal-minded, trusting and well-disposed towards Muslims you might be (whether you're a random victim of terrorism or a BBC reporter), your good will (or naivety) still won't protect you against the kind of people you seek to 'understand' - the fanatically-religious Muslim terrorist.

Whatever way you look at it, that is poignant.

Still keeping tabs on 'Newsnight'

Dan, Emily and Lord

Regular readers (bless you) will know that I've been monitoring Newsnight since the start of the year to try and determine, once and for all, if they have a pro-EU bias - especially in light of this June's EU referendum.

I left it a couple of weeks ago or so (on the 8th March) with a list of guests showing (Remain/Leave-wise) the following 'balance':

28 Pro-Remain
17 Pro-Leave
7 Questionable 

What's happened since?

Well, this is the follow-up list:
Joint interview: Angus Dalgleish, scientist (LEAVE), Khuloud Al-Jamal, scientist (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Will Self, author (REMAIN?); Munira Mirza, London Deputy Mayor (LEAVE)
Interview: Bert Koenders, Dutch foreign minister (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun (LEAVE?); Alastair Campbell, spin doctor (REMAIN?)
Interview: Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish deputy prime minister (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Anne McElvoy, Economist (REMAIN); Tim Montgomerie, The Times (LEAVE); Jonathan Freedland, Guardian (REMAIN)
Interview: Michael Fallon, Conservative (REMAIN)
Joint interview: Daniel Hannan, Conservative (LEAVE); Lord Falconer, Labour (REMAIN)
Interview: Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher (REMAIN)

Now, that might confuse you a bit - and it's rather confused me too. 

My criteria has always been that the interview must include something about the Brexit and be focused on the issue - i.e. the rights and wrongs of a Brexit.

So....the Trevor Kavanagh/Alistair Campbell spat doesn't really count as they were focusing on a media-spin doctor spat, and the 18/3 discussion focused on party political matters (Tory splits) rather than on whether we should leave the both of those have been placed in brackets and italics as not really counting.

The Will Self/Munira Mirza discussion (14/3) probably shouldn't count either - except that Munira made some pro-Leave points during the discussion. Its actual focus was on what constitutes 'the elite' in Britain these days rather than whether we should stay in the EU or not. 

The debate between the scientists  was well-balanced (and was focused on the issue itself too)..

...but - as you will have spotted - the rest of Newsnight's coverage has been dominated by continental voices (from Holland, Poland and France) being allowed unchallenged airtime to plead the case for the UK to stick with them and not leave them/bring about disaster.

So striking out Will Self, Trevor Kavanagh, Alastair Campbell, Anne McElvoy, Tim Montgomerie and Jonathan Freedland as 'not eligible' (with their probable 4:2 bias in favour of Remain)...

...that leaves a further 3 (Angus Dalgleish, Munira Mirza, Daniel Hannan) arguing for Leave...

...and a further 6 (Khuloud Al-Jamal, Bert Koenders, Mateusz Morawiecki, Michael Fallon, Lord Falconer, Bernard-Henri Levy) arguing for Remain.


I hope I've reasoned that out enough - and provided sufficient evidence - to prove that I'm not just engaging in a 'confirmation-bias'-fuelled orgy of statistical flim-flam here. 

(And you've got a couple of weeks to check these latest episodes out on the i-Player to see for yourselves). 

Newsnight is continuing to include both pro-Remain and pro-Leave guests, and staging some set-piece joints interviews with people from both sides.

It is, however, continuing to give the pro-Remain side the edge by giving unchallenging single-person interviews to continental European people who want the UK to stay in the EU. The Dutch, Polish and French interviewees made strong points in favour of us remaining with the EU - and none of them got contradicted by their Newsnight interviewers either. 

The 23/3 edition, with poor pro-Brexit Dan Hannan the joint filling (with anti-Brexit Lord Falconer) between slices of anti-Brexit Michael Fallon and anti-Brexit Bernard-Henri Levy was particularly loaded in favour of the Remain side.


So, for what it's worth, my update is:

34 Pro-Remain
20 Pro-Leave

...and plenty more Questionable (though tilting heavily towards Remain).

The trend remains pretty clear.

Still keeping tabs on 'The World Tonight'

Here's a riveting post...

...especially for those of you who have been panting with anticipation for my latest 'Keeping tabs' post on the EU referendum coverage from Radio 4 grown-up answer to NewsnightThe World Tonight. 

So, what happened last week?

I think this music might set the mood for what's to come....

Given the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Tory splits following the resignation of IDS, the conviction of Radovan Karadžić, Donald Trump saying something that didn't hit the spot with some people, the recapture of Palmyra, etc, the EU referendum rather slipped from focus this week, so only one edition of The World Tonight covered it.

The Monday 21 March edition featured an joint interview with Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail and former Channel 4 political editor Elinor Goodman. They were on to discuss Tory splits, comparing how things are now with how things were back in the John Major years. 

Though Mr Oborne is known to be pro-Leave and I presume Ms Goodman to be pro-Remain, they stuck to talking about personalities and party politics, so that results in a...

Bias conclusion: n/a

Yep. Bias conclusion: not applicable. And you ploughed though this post for that

If you did: Thank you. 

And as a reward here's another piece from that deeply troubling Nazi Era opportunist Carl Orff (was he? wasn't he?)... 

Known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns and the propagation of antisemitic disinformation

We can’t write about everything the BBC doesn’t report. We’d be here all day. But there’s one thing that the BBC hasn’t reported that I think is worth mentioning, because it’s in the Times, the Independent and the Express. Not that that’s a very good reason, but it concerns the Labour party and antisemitism, topics I think the BBC is interested in, especially if it can find a way to sensationalise them. 
Like, putting it on The Big Questions. Having it on the Daily Politics. Getting Laura Kuenssberg to tell us what to think about it. 
Labour rocked by antisemitic claims as frontbencher warns party could 'lose soul' “
and the Independent has:
 Over-zealous attacks on Israel 'anti-semitism by proxy', says Labour MP Chris Bryant”
Antisemitism threatens soul of Labour, shadow minister warns” 
Labour risks losing its reason to exist if it allows “antisemitism by proxy to prosper in our midst”, a frontbencher has warned. 
Chris Bryant, the shadow Commons leader, called for the British left to be “vigilant about antisemitism” after a spate of allegations about party members. His remarks, made in The Times today, are likely to be viewed as a caution to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, that he must do more to stamp out what MPs and peers have identified as a growing problem in the party.”
That’s from the public bit of the Times piece, the rest is behind the paywall. 

Oddly enough, the Express and the Independent have illustrated their articles with some bizarre visuals. The Express has a series of weird pencil drawings labelled “Remembering the Israel-Gaza conflict.” Goodness knows what that was supposed to add. The Independent has a slideshow entitled “Gaza Conflict” featuring photos of injured Palestinians, some of which are of highly questionable origin. Like, allegedly “staged”. Goodness knows what that was supposed to add. (Well, we do know, don’t we)

So, in the Times, Chris Bryant’s actual article is presented under the ‘opinion’ label, within a feature called “Thunderer”. P 24.
“John McDonnell was absolutely right to say last week that there is no room for people with antisemitic views in the Labour party” 
he begins.
“A belief in equality and determination to fight religious and racial prejudice is at the heart of what Labour stands for.” 
He lists a number of well-known Jewish Labour MPs from the past, like Sydney Silverman, Manny Shinwell and Leo Abse. (Didn’t mention Kaufmann, though) 
“... that’s why we on the left need to be so vigilant when it comes to discussing the Middle East and the State of Israel.”
Then, in a giant font:
 “People let their concern for the Palestinians lead to total attack on Israel.” 
However, this is where he starts to wobble.
“Of course, the Israel (sic) is not blameless. Benjamin Netanyahu is a right-wing bully. The Israeli settlements are illegal and must stop.” 
“All too often the Israeli government has made it impossible for the Palestinians to build homes, develop infrastructure or even have access to basic utilities”
Hang on a minute, Chris, old bean. “People let their concern for the Palestinians lead to total attack on Israel” did you just say only a moment ago? What are you like?
 Has Chris Bryant been reading some of that ubiquitous “anti-Israel” propaganda? Reading it without even knowing that it is what it is? 
I won’t transcribe the rest of it, but here’s the final paragraph.
“What we cannot allow is antisemitism to prosper in our midst. the moment that happens the Labour party will have lost its soul and its very reason to exist.”

I can see how he’s got his knickers in a twist about the lost soul and all that. If “the determination to fight religious and racial prejudice is indeed at the heart of what Labour stands for”, he’s stymied from the get-go. In other words, if he can’t mention the antisemitism that’s at the heart of the eternal Israel-Palestine conflict for fear of committing a form of racism inaccurately called “Islamophobia”, we’re never going to get anywhere.  Neither is John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party, or the BBC.

Ignorance is at the heart of much of the anti-Israel rhetoric that can be seen in the comments in the Independent, the Express, and probably behind the Times paywall .
So, who’s perpetuating all this ahistorical anti-information? Why, the BBC. The trouble is, they don’t really know that that is what they’re doing.  Unknown unknowns as Donald Rumsfeld so rightly stated.

Lumpy bump

What do we think of the recent dramatic and lavish  productions on TV? Let’s talk about The Night Manager. Everybody else is.

It has caused quite a stir. An interesting thread on Harry’s Place, and Nick Cohen’s article in Standpoint Magazine explore John le Carré’s politics as well as his writing style, his (irr)relevance to present-day global politics, his attitude to the West and possible antisemitism. Did you spot his cameo performance? I did.  The Alfred Hitchcock moment.

There’s no doubt that it was a gripping series, a feast for the eye, fast-paced and full of suspense.

The press has lavished praise on the production.  A piece in the Mirror, headed: 
Disaster for the BBC as £20m spy epic The Night Manager's final episodes leak online” 
proved unnecessarily pessimistic.  It beat the Queen.

The Guardian has published several articles about it, including ”An “explosively Oedipal climax’, “Did Pine pull it off?”  etc etc. 

The Huffington Post was quite interested in the mystery of the quick-drying trousers, and the Times TV critic Andrew Billen had to reconsider, after giving the first episode the thumbs down. 

It’s true, the first episode really wasn’t up to scratch.  Apparently you can’t watch it online so I won’t easily be able to revisit the opening scene, which I agree didn’t bode well.  A woman sashayed across a hotel lobby with a loping gait straight out of the ministry of silly walks. What is going on? Is it a comedy? (The Mirror has some fun with it, which  needed doing. Well, someone had to.) 
No. Not a comedy. It was a supposedly glamorous, aloof, beautiful, sophisticated woman 
“Sophie, beautiful mistress to the scion of a family of moneyed Cairo thugs, Freddie Hamid.”
Sorry, but this role was badly miscast and (for me) nearly scuppered the whole project. People have also been wondering if Olivia Coleman was right for the part. The jury’s out on that. Sometimes she came into her own, so to speak. Making her pregnant might have been a plot-strengthening device, but the pregnancy itself was unconvincing. She didn’t even waddle, get tired or have to find the little girl’s room every ten minutes. Also, the bump looked lumpy, like a bag of socks.

Apart from that, Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Tom Hollander and Elizabeth Debicki were outstanding. I think the director, Susanne Bier pulled it off and the team made some good decisions.  If you were in the mood for suspending disbelief and watching Tom Hiddleston’s clean-cut, good-looking James Bondism, what better way to spend a Sunday night. 

A hard act to follow. I wonder what’s in store for us next Sunday? 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Mahmoud’s £8 million Palace and other deserving causes

Did you know you were contributing to Mahmoud Abbas’s £8million palace? No, neither did I. Nor did I know that I was contributing to the wages of murderers, including Amjad and Hakim Awad, the Palestinian cousins who killed Ehud and Ruth Fogel and three of their children in an unimaginably bloodthirsty manner. 

I know OMG the Daily Mail is not the most reliable source, and I understand that it puts a sensationalist spin on any gossip, rumour or scandal it lays its hands on, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard murmurings about this, and I’m glad at least someone has managed to set it out in no uncertain terms, so that it reaches a wider audience. Even if only to make people think, and ask a few questions.

On Broadcasting House yesterday morning, the papers were reviewed by Digby, Lord Jones, amongst others. He mentioned the MailonSunday’s article about foreign aid and he did say it features a petition one can sign, but he failed to tell us, specifically, that Palestinian criminals were amongst the beneficiaries of our cash. He said things like:

“We’re a generous country; I think every Brit would be proud of that.” [...]”The underlying message is that we’ve ring-fenced 0.7% of our GDP” [...]  “I’m sure lots of it is going to good things, but when we gave £5.9million to the Americans? We paid £13,00 for a rich Texan businessman to fly to London for a summit?” ...[...] “It doesn’t mean don’t give money to the developing world. What it does mean is just look  more carefully at where it’s going”  

Oh well, maybe he thinks the Palestinians are a more deserving cause than the recipients he cited, which do disturb him. Maybe he didn’t want to offend any pro-Palestinian listeners. Maybe he didn’t notice. Who knows.

Update: There are currently 136,887 signatures on this petition (11am; 29th March 2016)

Sunday, 27 March 2016


The 8.10 spot is the heart of Radio 4's Today programme. 

That spot on Wednesday's programme - the morning after the terrorist atrocities in Brussels - began with Matthew Price in Brussels. 

(As per Sue), Douglas Murray predicted, immediately after the terrorist attacks, that, after the initial shock, next would come "the sentimentalists await(ing) the arrival of this atrocity’s cutesy hashtag or motif and hope it will tide them over until the piano man arrives at the scene of the attack to sing ‘Imagine there’s no countries’". 

His specific prediction was for social media, yet BBC Radio 4's Today leaped straight into doing that very thing too. Matthew Price focused throughout the programme - as well as at the start of the 8.10 spot - on just that:  the candles, the flowers, the chalked messages, the banners proclaiming 'unity against hatred'....
6.08 And in the centre of Brussels where I am at the Place de la Bourse there are still candles burning... 
6.08 Some of the images that you see both here in the centre of Brussels, with those candles... 
6.09 Le Soir carries a photograph of people gathered where I am at the moment in the Place de la Bourse writing message of solidarity in chalk on the pavement. That's something we'll turn to later on in the programme as well. 
6.14 It is light here. It's drizzling as well, but the drizzle isn't putting out the candles. 
6.35 Here in the centre of Brussels there are a handful of people who are gathered contemplating the scene outside the city's Bourse where candles have been lit and people have written messages of commemoration in chalk on the paving stones. 
7.09 I'm outside the magnificent Bourse on the steps of which people stood yesterday evening and where they started a very simple act of commemoration - not just lighting the candles which are still burning here this morning, despite a little drizzle; they started writing in chalk on the paving stones message of unity, messages of support for one another and support for those caught up in the murderous attacks. 
7.35 There's a scene of reflection in the centre of Brussels this morning. Candles have been lit and thoughts written in coloured chalk on the pavement. One here in vibrant blue says "Love is our resistance".  
8.10 It is rather a sorry sight here, just across from me in central Brussels this morning. There's a light drizzle falling on the flowers and the candles....and that drizzle is starting to fade the vibrant colours of the words chalked into the paving stones. Most of those words are messages of hope: "We are united", "Brussels, my beautiful city". and the like, but one that stood out to me - also scratched on the pavement in chalk: "J'ai peur" - "I'm afraid".
8.12 Just walking through to part of the pavement where a couple of Belgian flags - the red, yellow and black - have been lain out and, on top of them, candles have been lit, people putting down bunches of flowers..
8.13 And now that you're here, how do you feel? All these messages being written onto the pavement in chalk? 
8.59 Well, there are more people gathering here in central Brussels. We're just off the Grand Place, the magnificent medieval square in Brussels, and outside the Bourse. And someone has hung a banner up on it this morning saying 'Unis contre la haine.' More people are stopping on their way to work, contemplating the candles and flowers left on the paving stones in the drizzle here. 
....and his longest interview with a member of the Belgian public during the 8.10 spot was with a woman who repeated "All we need is love...All we need is love" and said "We are angry, but we have no one to be angry at".

That last message led onto the next one, as next came an interview with a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman called Asmah. 

She knew one of the Paris terrorists and recalled him as being "normal" and "kind". He'd got involved in "small criminal acts", she said, and the jails in Brussels had let him down. More generally, she put the problem of "radicalisation" down to "a problem of identity" in Europe, with such "young people" being made "schizophrenic" by the authorities who oblige them to keep their religious beliefs to themselves. Much as she likes Belgium for being multicultural, she blamed the country for "forgetting its history" and said it wants them [Muslims] to stay in the "shadows of society". 

Among Matthew Price's contributions here were:
But what is it about the community? What is going on? 'Community' is probably too big a word. It's not the community, it is individuals within the community... 
Why are some people getting left behind? What is it about this society perhaps that fuels some radicalism?
He next talked to Major Serge Stroobants, a "Belgian security and defence expert and representative for the Institute for Economics and Peace". Major Stroobants, who agreed with Asmah about the causes of "radicalism", pretty much ticked off every box here. He really did blame alienation, Western foreign policy and Israel. 

(Here Today went straight to another of Douglas Murray's predictions: "Meanwhile other people will change the subject over to the question of Belgium’s unacceptably interventionist foreign policy. Others will get onto Israel-Palestine". And indeed they did). 
It's a lot of young people [said Major Stroobants], young men but also young girls, that do not feel a sense of acceptance within our society, that do not feel they fit in the society, and that just creates a sense of frustration. This creates a feeling of emptiness inside them that the recruiters and the radicalisers are really happy to fill. But this is not only the problem of our society, it's also a problem of the situation all over the world. I mean, interventions in some types of conflicts, the situation in the Middle East, the conflict between Israel and Palestine, are also fuels for radicalisation, 
Then Sarah Montague took over, talking to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu from the UK Counter Terrorism Policing Network. She was soon asking him about Donald Trump (who he obligingly condemned) and the risk of a backlash against British Muslims. ("Are you nervous, given what's already been said since the attacks in Brussels, of a spike in hate crimes?", she asked)

This interview made a couple of Douglas Murray's other predictions pretty much come true;
(1) Meantime someone will hopefully have said something which a lot of people can condemn as ‘inappropriate’.  [Here Donald Trump].
(2) At around the same time the Corbynite-wing of the Labour party will get onto their favourite subject which is not dead bodies in airports but people who have been looked at meanly on a bus while wearing a headscarf.  By at least tomorrow the story of a savage ‘backlash’ (consisting mainly of stares and horrible things written on social media) will be being talked-up by all mainstream Muslim leaders.  By Thursday no one will be talking about the victims. [Here Sarah Montague and a p.c. PC rather than the Corbynistas].

Matthew Price is another of those BBC reporters who uses his Twitter feed (@BBCMatthewPrice) as part of his reporting. After the initial shock, much of his Twitter reporting from Brussels has also focused on images of chalked messages - especially chalked hearts - on pavements. He did, however, also link to an extended article about "the links between the Middle East's wars and terrorism in Europe" from a Canadian journalist which makes many of the familiar points about how Western foreign policy (recent and not-so-recent, from Sykes-Picot to the recent invasions to our support for Israel) is largely to blame for the anger and alienation of young Muslims in Europe and the rest of the world, He then moved on to tweeting (negative stuff) about Israel.


More on these themes can be found here:

Kathy Gyngell: According to the BBC, Brussels outrage is all our fault
Raheem Kassam: Enough With The Teddy Bears And Tears: It’s Time To Take Our Civilization Back


Gavin Esler began this week's Dateline London with an Andrew Neil-like statement, calling the perpetrators of the Brussels atrocity "losers":
Well, within minutes - quite literally - of news of the Brussels atrocity politicians and commentators were alive with blame: It's all the fault of Western policy in the Middle East, or the Belgian authorities, the failing European Union, immigration and migrants who fail to integrate, and so on. We'll touch on some of these points in a moment but can we begin by laying the blame where it belongs: with the band of losers who actually carried out the attack?
He then rather spoiled the effect by immediately employing the BBC's favourite 'alienated and disenfranchised' explanation for such people's terrorist actions:
What lessons can we now learn from the bombings and the reactions to them? I mean, these were...You could almost have written the script beforehand in a way: that they were people on the fringes of society with very little stake in that society, which they obviously hate.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Fine Line of Duty

“The terrorist is still alive, the dog” warns a Hebrew voice on a video. Two minutes later an IDF solder shoots Abdel-fattah al-Sharif in the head, according to Gregg Carlstrom’s report in yesterday’s Times, as well as assorted pro-Palestinian sources.
“An Israeli soldier has been arrested for fatally shooting a Palestinian man in the head when he was already incapacitated after carrying out a stabbing.”

The video has been widely disseminated. From this armchair it looks as though everyone present on the scene is behaving oddly and callously.

“That terrorist is still alive, the dog! Don’t let him attack us!” one medic is heard saying after apparently seeing the Palestinian moving. 
“It looks like he has a bomb on him,” shouts another voice. “Until a sapper comes, nobody touches him!”

There is an interesting below the line  debate on Harry’s Place, following Marc Goldberg’s article about the incident in which he is highly critical of the soldier and cites Israel’s declining moral values.
Obviously Marc Goldberg and many other idealists would prefer it if Israel could permanently occupy the moral high ground, no ifs, no buts. Who wouldn’t? 
However, the demand is that Israel must never do anything morally questionable under any circumstances. Were it possible to satisfy such uncompromising standards, it would simply be ‘bye-bye Israel’.
As it is, we’ll have to settle for the fact that the soldier has been arrested, and that Israeli spokespersons have issued statements  “including from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it a violation of the army’s ethical code.”

Awkward, isn’t it? It could turn out like previous occasions, where the Israeli government’s initial expressions of regret are viewed as admissions of guilt. This enfeebles any extenuating circumstances that might come to light thereafter. But if the Israeli authorities don’t immediately condemn this kind of incident, it looks even worse. 
We mustn’t completely lose sight of the fact that these Palestinian young men had just stabbed a soldier.

Strangely enough, the Palestinians don’t even bother to pretend of any kind of regret about their citizens murdering unarmed Israeli civilians. In fact they’re out and proud, and no-one in the Times, the Guardian, the BBC is in the slightest bit interested.

This report on the BBC website is almost unforthcoming in its robotic, staccato presentation. Uninformative is better than overtly hostile I suppose. Maybe the BBC is afraid to open its mouth. (only joking) 

It’s odd that this incident echoes the new series of “Line of Duty”, in which an armed policeman shoots and kills a disarmed criminal. We’re given to believe that as the story unfolds, this is not the cold-blooded execution it appears to be. We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out, no?

Friday, 25 March 2016

Craig's Out of Office Good Friday message

Veterans of our curious little blog might recall, a few years back, that I mentioned my family's Good Friday walk to Morecambe's Bronze-Age barrow to witness our local Methodist church's annual carrying and placing of a cross atop that ancient man-made mound. 

I found it moving.

Four generations of my family again saw that very cross today, gleaming in the inevitable Morecambe sunshine against the distant backdrop of the Lakeland hills. 

I found that moving too.

And then we all started drinking.

The toddlers drank huge amounts of milk and orange. Their dad drank pale ale, while the rest of us older-and-wiser menfolk drank liver-defying quantities of red wine (the blood of Christ) in remembrance of our Lord and Saviour (not that anyone mentioned Him.) And three generations of our womenfolk honoured the Blessed Virgin by consuming government-guideline-defying units of New Zealand sauvignon blanc (without mentioning Her either).

We then collectively read Rabelais and died of alcohol poisoning. (My last words were: "I'm not bloody Oliver Reid you know").

All of which reminds me that at least two BBC Radio 4 programmes discussed the date of Easter this week: Monday's Beyond Belief and Tuesday's Making History - and specifically the question of why Easter is 'a movable feast'. 

The BBC bias angle was especially blatant on Beyond Belief. All three guests, responding to Justin Welby's suggestion that the date of Easter be fixed, strongly rejected Archbishop Justin's proposal. Not one of them defended it. Ergo: #bbcbias.

That said, I learned a lot from both programmes. 

It turns out that the Western Church bases the date of Easter on the Gregorian solar-based calendar whilst tracking the lunar-based Jewish calendar in the light of Passover, and that this results in complications. The date of Easter can fall between 22 March and 25 April as a result. The Eastern church, however, still follows the Julian calendar and seems to be much less tied to Passover whilst continuing to use an anti-Semitic liturgy. An academic - linking to official Catholic belief - dates the resurrection of Christ to Sunday 5 April 33 AD. (Others are less sure - to put it mildly). And what about 'Missing Wednesday', the day the New Testament seems to miss? Plus there's 1928 UK legislation in force to fix the date of Easter which has never been acted upon. 

Food for thought...which is all I can manage at the moment, except to give you a Bach Easter chorale:

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Blame game

I don’t know how many Jeremy Corbyn lookie-likies I’ve seen recently, but it’s more than a few. One was disguised as a postman, one was a highways workman in a hi-viz gilet, one was an estate agent; goodness only knows how many more there are out there. Corby’d have no problem finding a body-double if things got nasty. Saddam used to have several, didn’t he?


Ever since we boycotted Peter Oborne by ditching the Telegraph in exchange for The Times I’ve had misgivings about their anti-Israel correspondent, Gregg Carlstrom. He shows his true colours on Twitter.

To which Richard Millett replied:

As Adam Levick says, avalanches of post-terror, blame-Israel/ blame Europe rhetoric can spew out all over  the place and go unreported and unchallenged by the media. As soon as an Israeli says anything that looks rude or insensitive the press has a field day.
Gregg Carlstrom has to castigate Israel for saying “we told you so” about terrorism, which he calls ‘an ugly ritual from the right’.

Oh well, if Carlstrom thinks telling the truth is an ugly ritual, that might explain his ritualistic attempts to prettify Israel’s enemies.


At the risk of mirror-mimicking people who divide Jews into Good and Bad (Good, being anti-Israel and bad being ‘Zio’) I admire "Good" Palestinian Bassem Eid. 

“We know that journalists today, either they became pro-Palestinian or they became pro-Israeli, and I don’t think that the media right now is benefiting the Israeli Palestinian conflictin any way or another. In my opinion, the media, unfortunately, right now, became as a part of the conflict, rather than to be a part of the solution of the problem.”

Prescient posts

Craig and I are always complaining about the limitations of this website. One day we’ll get round to doing something about it. It seriously needs a re-jig I know. 

In the olden days (when Biased-BBC was magenta) one of the best features was the ‘unread comments’ facility. You could see, instantly, if anyone had added anything new, even to virtually defunct threads. None of that cumbersome scrolling through on the off-chance.

HaloScan is defunct as well, which is a bit of a shame, because there was some good stuff on there, much of which is permanently down the memory hole. (AFAIK)

This blog, however, makes accessing all the comments as awkward as possible, and if someone did stick a belated something or other  on the end of an ancient thread you’d never know. But now you can. (Just this once) A US based reader has H/Td this November 2015 thread, Takeaway messages, which in turn links to the previous one: Islam for dummies, and this comment.

Note that these posts were written Before Cologne. B.C., one could say. They address the BBC’s relentlessly PC approach to immigration and its sentimental, sanitised  portrayal of Muslim immigrants. The BBC can only see Muslims as victims and non-Muslims as racists.
This particular FOOC by Tim Whewell was about  the district of Brussels called Molenbeek, otherwise known as ‘Jihad central’.

Both threads attracted a healthy number of comments. Do check them out.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Je suis #

Currently top of the “most Popular“ list in the Spectator’s sidebar is Douglas Murray’s article : “A terrorist attack has happened in Europe. Let the standard response begin...”
Not the snappiest of titles but the illustration makes up for the lack of directness:

It was a busy day in our household yesterday so we didn’t have much time to keep an eye on the BBC. When we did switch it on, we plumped for Sky. Lack of directness, in this case anyway, was not one of Sky’s shortcomings.

BBC Watch was keeping an eye on the BBC website, where something funny was going on in the editorial decision-making department. To use the actual “T” word or leave it out? “Brussels blasts” was one solution. "Brussels explosions" was another, and “deadly #BrusselsAttacks” yet another. Finally they gave birth to: “Brussels terror attacks” Phew. Glad they got that out at last.

Today they’re mostly featuring the virtue signalling. Jenny Hill, Matthew Price and various reporters who’ve been enthusiastically dishing out warm welcomes to refugees on behalf of others have now turned their energies towards all the hashtag stuff, the candles, the messages and whatever daft symbols of empathy and solidarity they can dream up to show they care. The Dianafication of #terrorattack.

The search is on for a Muslim ‘good news’ story to represent Good Islam, Douglas Murray reminds us. Look out for the best one.

There are plenty of ‘experts’ ready to analyse and agonise. Who’s to blame? Channel 4 had Matt Frei interviewing a French expert who announced it was the fault of the security services cracking down indiscriminately on people merely because they were living in impoverished neighbourhoods, and, of course the resultant oppression and disenfranchisement. Naturally that would cause one to blow oneself up, non?

There is something inherently Spike Milliganish about blowing oneself up. It’s an enigma - like spontaneous combustion, and quite unlike blowing other people up. It seems like a blunder, so tragic as to be comic.  

Only devout followers of a religion, who believe they’re off to Paradisio would do such a thing. It’s the absolutely daftest thing one could ever dream up. It’s the phenomenon which fits the  epithet “you couldn’t make it up” most perfectly of all.