Saturday, 28 January 2017

More on James O'Brien

Last night's Newsnight, presented by left-wing 'shock jock' James O'Brien, was a Trump special. 

JO'B was as 'impartial' as ever, making an ostentatious show of presenting his anti-Trump/anti-Brexit guests as "experts" (a word he kept on using in that respect) before giving them all ample chance to showboat their anxieties/rage about Trump/Brexit with as little challenge as possible. 

In contrast, pro-Brexit and/or pro-Trump guests got the fully sneery JO'B treatment. 

It's BBC impartiality James, but not as we know it (though, alas, actually, very much as we know it).

First up came, Dr Leslie Vinjamuri (no fan of President Trump), introduced as "an expert in the transatlantic partnership" and asked "this must, professionally, be a fraught time for you?". JOB's questions questioned the importance of the 'special relationship', in the usual BBC way. ("Well, it was a global agenda in one sense. In another sense, the American media seemed a lot keener to ask questions about Mexico and Russia than they did about the other half of the so-called special relationship"; "In the great scheme of things, for all of his Scottish ancestry and what have you, how high up on his to-do list will be giving Britain something?")

Then came Dan Hannan, repeatedly (and sneeringly) called "an arch-Brexiteer" by JO'B. JO'B interrupted him quite vigorously and chose to take advantage of Dan's mention of the "English-speaking" nations to sneeringly imply racism on Dan's part. ("The English-speaking democracies?"' "English-speaking? English-speaking, or would we allow non-English speakers in as well?"). It was classic JO'B.

"In a moment we'll be talking to the foreign affairs expert, Anne Applebaum. But first joining me now from Florida is the veteran Republican political strategist Roger Stone, himself a long term confidante of Donald Trump", said JO'B introducing his next guest. 

Mr Stone received the usual JO'B treatment, getting a hostile grilling (for being right-wing) and having it made personal. Here's a flavour:
  • And, sort of, the law of truth as well. You are a veteran of the dark arts of politicking. You seem to revel in the rascal-ish nature of the profession. So when, for example, you put it out that Ted Cruz' father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one imagines you doing it with a wry smile and a sort of thumbs up to the gallery. Donald Trump has a slightly different relationship with the truth. When he spoke today at the press conference about being in Scotland the day before Brexit, the calendar in his own Twitter account reveals he did not go there until the day after. Does he in his own mind believe it when he says these things, even though all of the evidence contradicts him? 
  • Which is why I haven't asked you about it! I've asked you about the stuff that has happened. On the record. Today. So when he says that he was in Scotland on the day that the result came in...I begin your pardon...the day before the result came in and he predicted it all and then his own Twitter account reveals he landed in Scotland the day after, does he believe it when he says it. 
  • No, I'm interested in well well be right about that...when he says it wasn't raining during the inauguration but people can actually feel the raindrops landing on their head, I'm just intrigued to know whether or not, psychologically, as a long-term confidante, he's sort of gaming everybody or that, somehow, he puts himself in a position where he has persuaded himself that what he wants to be true is true? 
And the interview ended in a way that, regardless of who's being interviewed, always strikes me as unprofessional - i.e. where the interviewer gives himself the final come-back at his interviewee's expense. and then adds a final sneer before giving thanks:
But not on the dates for arriving in Scotland. Roger Stone. Congratulations on the morning suit and many thanks indeed to you. 
And then it was straight onto anti-Brexit/anti-Trump Anne Applebaum and JO'B introducing her by repeating her 'expert' credentials:
I'm joined now by Anne Applebaum, the foreign affairs expert and columnist for the Washington Post. 
The interview was gentle and ended with JO'B saying (of Mrs May and Mr Trump):
Well, hey, they held hands! Anne Applebaum, thank you very much indeed. 
And finally came a tag-wrestling match with James O'Brien and Simon 'Drama' Schama on one side and pro-Trump prof Ted Malloch on the other.

Impartial BBC interviewing it wasn't. Typical James O'Brien on Newsnight it was

For fans of transcriptions, here's one of the final segment:

JAMES O'BRIEN: The historian Simon Schama is here, alongside Ted Malloch, who is widely tipped for a role in the Trump administration - possibly as Ambassador to the European Union. You don't have any news for us, do you Ted, tonight? 
TED MALLOCH: Maybe next week. 
JAMES O'BRIEN: OK. We'll start with you Simon. You've taken to social media and coined the rhyme 'Theresa the Appeaser'. Anything in today's events to appease your fears? 
SIMON SCHAMA: No, not particularly. I spectacle of them holding hands, actually, which doesn't in any rational way speak to your question, James, did turn my stomach somewhat actually. 
JAMES O'BRIENWe don't know that it didn't turn hers! But the fear that she is cosying up to a regime that may prove to be, as an historian, may stand comparison with other 20th-century horrors..are you stepping back? 
SIMON SCHAMA: No, I think scary authoritarian regimes, not to inaccurately paraphrase Count Leo Tolstoy, are scary and authoritarian each in their own way. I think this is starting to look incredibly scary and authoritarian. Particularly, actually, banning the possibility of the Environmental Protection Agency delivering data to the public. All sorts of things, I think, are serious. But the most worrying part of all, which doesn't speak to the authoritarian issue, but something loopier, is President Trump's contact or lack of contact with reality. Today, he doubled down on this extraordinary assertion that between three million and 5 million illegal immigrant votes were cast. It is absolutely... and this was actually delivered to a reception in which...the first reception he had from Congressional leaders...were treated to an harangue on this entirely fantastic story, which has absolutely no evidence whatsoever. 
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): OK, hold on!
SIMON SCHAMA: He is starting an investigation into an election he won! 
SIMON SCHAMA: This is beyond absurd. 
JAMES O'BRIEN: There are three adjectives there that I will pick up on: 'absurd' is the first, but 'scary' and 'authoritarian' are the other two. Do you recognise what Simon Schama describes? 
TED MALLOCH: None of the above. Where would you like me to start? 
JAMES O'BRIEN: Well, let's start with the voter fraud allegations. He's sort of alleging that the Democrats managed to swing 3 million illegal votes, but not put any of them in the places that would have swung the election.
TED MALLOCH: So, let's have an investigation, and if there's hard evidence - and there's supposedly some people who have some evidence - then if there's more investigation...
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): There's one (indecipherable)...
SIMON SCHAMA (interrupting) The evidence comes from Greg Phillips, the conspiracy theorist! 
TED MALLOCH: We'll see what evidence there is.
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): We have the investigation and come to the conclusions afterwards?
TED MALLOCH: No, then you obviously state the conclusions. That's what investigations are. We have an investigation into Russian hacking and then we find out the truth. Hopefully we have imperial evidence into these things that we can look at, rather than dismissing them out of hand at the beginning. Why not look at them? Even on the liberal left, you are willing to look at actual facts?JAMES O'BRIEN: Empirical evidence. I mean, obviously it's a bit of a... 
TED MALLOCH: I'm a social scientist, so I prefer data. 
JAMES O'BRIEN: Clearly. Except when climate change is on the table.
TED MALLOCH: Yeah, well, there are people who have different points of view on climate change. 
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): Thought we were talking about empirical data a minute ago! 
TED MALLOCH: We are! But there are about 10%, I'm told, of hard scientists who have some questions about some of that data. 
JAMES O'BRIEN: Of course. Let me just draw the conversation out, if I may, and look at whether or not you feel, as somebody who clearly Donald Trump holds in high regard, that we are in some sense - whether you're worried about it, like Simon Schama, or whether you're not, like you - at a pivotal point in Western history? 
TED MALLOCH: I think we are at a turn in Western history. Obviously we have had a change from one regime to another regime, so you have that. But you also have a more national-orientated and more populist-orientated political caste coming into play, and that's not just in the United States. It's in many countries around the world. So if that's the case then maybe a new order is beginning to appear. 
JAMES O'BRIEN: Nationalist, populist, they are not new ideas, are they? 
TED MALLOCH: Well, in this form, this time, yes. Frankly, are there any new ideas since Plato? We could have that debate. 
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): But we're not. Nationalism and populism rarely lead to harmony. 
TED MALLOCH: Lead to harmony? Well, there are different kinds of nationalism, different kinds of populism. 
SIMON SCHAMA  (interrupting): Well, 'America first', you know, let's take that slogan. It takes a jaw-dropping ignorance of history...
TED MALLOCH (interrupting):  So do you know who used the term first? 
SIMON SCHAMA: ...if you know your history...Pardon?
TED MALLOCH (interrupting):  Do you know who used the term first? 
SIMON SCHAMA: Well, it was....Wilson? 
TED MALLOCH: Woodrow Wilson!
SIMON SCHAMA: Fine. I know. But it was reprehensible when Wilson used it...
TED MALLOCH (interrupting): Ah, I see. 
SIMON SCHAMA (crosstalk): It was unbelievably reprehensible...
TED MALLOCH (crosstalk): Maybe when Lindbergh used it it was more reprehensible.
SIMON SCHAMA (crosstalk): And how! Lindbergh was an appeaser. Lindbergh was soft on the Nazis. It is an irony that Trump has moved Churchill back into his office, who would have detested and did detest everything about the slogan and what 'America first' stood for. 
TED MALLOCH: But he nonetheless needed America to help save Britain at a certain point in time. But Trump is probably not intellectually connected with that wonderful litany we've just talked about in terms of intellectual history...
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): What is he intellectually interested in?
TED MALLOCH: He is interested in, clearly literally, putting America first, re-establishing America's place in the world, America's economy. That is the thing to underscore. He really got elected on a platform that said the middle class has suffered for at least 15 years. So it's not just the last eight years. But it has suffered and it needs to come back...
SIMON SCHAMA  (interrupting): So why's he proposing a tax cut that will benefit, hugely and disproportionately, the top 1%? 
TED MALLOCH: You know about supply-side economics, it's worked before. 
SIMON SCHAMA  (interrupting): No, it hasn't worked before. We could have an argument about that.
TED MALLOCH: I'm an economist. It's worked before. It worked for John Kennedy, it worked for Ronald Reagan and it could work this time. In four years we could have a balanced budget under the best circumstances. 
SIMON SCHAMA: We had a balanced budget under Bill Clinton actually...
TED MALLOCH (interrupting): Newt Gingrich was the head of the Congress and they did it together, if you recall. 
JAMES O'BRIENI'm interested in the distinction between 'literally' and 'seriously'. It has been a recurring theme in the programme. You taken seriously, but you don't take him literally. You have always taken him literally? 
TED MALLOCH: No. I think you could take him either way and people obviously have in this very campaign. 
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): But he's President now, he is not campaigning. 
TED MALLOCH: That's true. There should be some difference, you know. When you're president you step up your game...
JAMES O'BRIEN (interrupting): Have you seen any yet? Have you seen any yet? 
TED MALLOCHWell, In five days, I think we are beginning to... I actually think we saw some of it today, in the meeting and the summit with Theresa May. 
JAMES O'BRIEN: Ted Malloch, thank you. Simon Schama, are you seeing any cause for cautious optimism?
JAMES O'BRIEN: Or a dilution of your pessimism? 
JAMES O'BRIEN: Ted Malloch, Simon Schama, thank you very much indeed. 


  1. Meirion Jones and Greg Palast, call your office.

  2. Can only put on record my thanks to you Craig for the transcript.
    Came late to the interview-so a joy to see Mallochs wonderful forensic dealings with the Slagg Brothers.
    Malloch is a real star in the making. Intellectually superior to anybody I`ve seen him swat off on Radio 2, Radio 4 and now the BBC.
    Trump has chosen wisely. Hope to God that Malloch is the liberal cyanide tablet we`ve long needed this side of the Atlantic.
    More Ted More!

  3. It's just nice to see them all implode, the worlds be drifting ever left for a while and I'm not sure they can handle it when it starts drifting the other way. End of the world it isn't though.

  4. I saw that interview; also saw him on a programme with Andrew Neil - was it This Week? He made me laugh - he's so languid, yet quick and sharp, effortless and deadpan witty. He's has an answer for anything they throw at him. Easy peasy. I'd love it if Trump sent him to Brussels.

  5. Schama on voter fraud: "... were treated to an harangue on this entirely fantastic story, which has absolutely no evidence whatsoever."

    Well here is irrefutable evidence -

    Well worth subscribing to this YouTube channel.

  6. Sorry about that link; this is a bit easier:


  7. That headline #sawwhatyoudidthere

  8. Saw Ted Malloch with Andrew Neil on This Week & was impressed. Here Schama & Co. were clearly outclassed - and they knew it!