Thursday, 19 July 2018

Open Thread

New open thread. This cat is shocked, shocked, by something s/he's xe's just seen on the BBC.

Unhealthy diet

BBC Watch has published a detailed two-part examination of the connected items on the Today Programme broadcast 16th July 2018. Here and here This was also the subject of our earlier post “imagine”.
Hadar Sela offers a fact-packed synopsis of Chris Gunness’s lies and omissions, so I thought it was worth revisiting the topic in the cold light of three days’ hindsight. (Three days ago is the past, in terms of news broadcasting and the past is another country.)

Heavily biased broadcasting by the BBC (and media outlets of the same mindset) has produced the entrenched anti-Israel feeling that’s everywhere nowadays. Biased broadcasting has had such a pernicious influence that hating Israel is the default position in Corbyn’s Labour Party. This resonates with the current fiasco, with the NEC quibbling over the definition of antisemitism. Rather than accepting the internationally recognised definition, the NEC wants to exclude segments they believe would preclude or limit ‘legitimate’ criticism of Israel. They want to be free to criticise Israel, no holds barred, from its right to protect itself to its right to exist, while reserving the right to boast that they haven’t a racist bone in their body. For some reason, they don’t want to be seen as antisemitic and they don’t want to think of themselves as antisemites.

No wonder so many of them respond to what they’ve absorbed from the ‘news’ this way, with loathing, indignation, and ire. They think railing against Israel is synonymous with virtue and humanity. Being fed on a diet of lies and half-truths gives you acute outrage. The pro-Palestinian pandemic has spread to the anti-Trump protests. Wrong-headed social justice warriors get big thrills from the illusory satisfaction of self-righteousness. 

Considerable damage is done through interviews with the likes of fanatical Israel-hater Gunness when venomous fantasies remain unchallenged. Gunness knows he can get away with it because ‘man-of-all-trade’ anchors such as John Humphrys and Justin Webb are inadequately briefed and couldn’t provide factual rebuttals - had they the appetite to do so.

The BBC evidently considered the item newsworthy because two Palestinians were killed in the incident, and they were children. Teenagers.
 “As was the case in BBC World Service news bulletins, while listeners had heard plenty about two teenagers – or “children” – killed in Gaza, they were not told that the wounded in Sderot also included people in that age group.”
Gunness got away with describing the location of the incident as “a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go” when in fact the location was an “urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network”.

Humphrys let Gunness waste our time with his histrionic invitation to British listeners to ‘imagine’ themselves in a string of invented, dishonest and irrelevant scenarios, which were clearly dreamt up to elicit empathy for the helpless and innocent Palestinians.
But facts and statistics are available,
“in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks.” 
should a BBC researcher supply them. But they don’t, and multiple misrepresentations and factually inaccurate allegations pass by, uncontested. I’m sure even John Humphrys knows that Gaza isn’t occupied, but he let it go when Gunness said it because he very likely feels that ‘everyone knows’ it ‘kind of’ is. 
I’d go further. I think Humphrys is in awe of Gunness. Perhaps he’s wary of triggering an emotional meltdown to the embarrassment of us all.



Just as the Labour Party bows to their supporters in the Muslim community, the media kowtows to the anti-racists who require smelling salts at the merest whiff of Islamophobia. They don’t admit that the Islam-friendly anti-racists who condemn Israel so vehemently are actually racists. Perhaps it was on their behalf that Justin Webb gave the Israeli spokesman Lt-Col Peter Lerner a hammering during his attempts to make a very reasonable rebuttal.  You can almost picture Webb looking around for approval after each ham-fisted interruption.

When Tom Bateman was asked to give an account of what the Israelis were saying -  the word on the street, so to speak - he chose to give the Israeli perspective through the prism of BBC groupthink, and the ‘Israel says’ qualifier was uttered with a discernible air of cynicism.

What made me almost lol was hearing Jeremy Corbyn accuse Theresa May’s government of being ‘divided’.
Heal thyself! was the tacit chorus from the watching nation. The Hodge affair has brought a few of the formerly silent Labour MPs out of the woodwork. I heard Kier Starmer tentatively venture the proposal that the Labour Party could staunch the wound by adopting the full-frontal internationally recognised definition of antisemitism and pretend they meant that all along. Where were all these people when Shami first came up with her whitewash? 

Knock knock

I might as well go proper far-right and link to this comment by ‘namenotnumber’ on the Biased-BBC blog. It’s a list of tweets by Ezra Levant which highlight some of the hypocrisy surrounding the Tommy Robinson fiasco.
The reason I’m doing so is that although there are undoubtedly legitimate technical reasons for the current Tommy Robinson situation, (his imprisonment and so on, which certain admirable people have defended and taken pains to justify) the individual who blogs as “The Secret Barrister” has let himself/herself/xeself down by using some emotive, nay, pejorative language when recounting the background to the affair. 
I can even detect a whiff of  disdain in the first sentence: 
Today the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) heard the appeal of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson).
The fact that TR uses a pseudonym (and we all know what his real name is) dwelling on it in that particular way seems gratuitous and a little bit rich coming from The Secret Barrister who wishes to remain pseudonymous.

Call me an ignorant fool who's indulging in a bit of whataboutery, but although I see (and sympathise with) Melanie's point, I have to say that if Tommy Robinson jeopardised the trial of the “men” accused of grooming and raping young girls by using pejorative language while live-blogging in the vicinity of the court, what does that say about the TSB and the reporter from the Independent he/she/xe praises :
“The excellent Lizzie Dearden of the Independent who provided a comprehensive live-blog of the hearing from the Royal Courts of Justice,”
...who seems to be doing something very similar (and, arguably, influencing TR's trial.)

Now that the police have been instructed to concentrate on hate-crimes far-right extremists like myself are apprehensively listening for the knock on the door. What hate-crime have I committed? I think being far-right is one.
Didn't Gabriel Gatehouse let his agenda hang out on Newsnight last night? If that’s impartiality, I’m a Dutchman.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The BBC in the witness box - a judge rules


It's not been a good day at the office for the BBC today after a High Court judge ruled that the BBC's coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard was an invasion of his privacy. Sir Cliff has been awarded £210,000 in damages. 

The BBC's response to the judgment has been widely characterised as "sorry, not sorry". They are even thinking of appealing. (At what cost to the licence fee payer?)

Here are BBC Director of News Fran Unsworth two major statements today. The first was sent to the world:


The second was sent to BBC staff:


Reading that and then reading the judge's opinion on his BBC witnesses, as laid out here, it seems to me that Ms. Unsworth's comments are rather tinged with wishful thinking - especially as far as the BBC journalist accuracy and honesty goes. (I've highlighted the most damning passages):  







That...

...and particularly the comments about BBC reporter Dan Johnson "twist(ing) matters in a way that could be described as dishonest" and about him "letting his enthusiasm...get the better of his complete regard for the truth on occasions"...

...pulls the rug from under Fran Unsworth's claim that "the judge...was clear that what we broadcast was accurate". 

The judge, in fact, appears to have been "clear" that what the BBC broadcast was far from being wholly accurate.

As for the senior BBC editors involved, Fran Unsworth herself came out best. The judge evidently liked her and found her to be honest, thoughtful and conscientious. But his comments that, during the trial, she'd engaged in "wishful thinking" and "ex post facto convenient rationalisation" still sounds pretty damning. 

Gary Smith - now BBC Scotland's Head of News and Current Affairs - comes off worst. The judge found him to be an unreliable witness at times. 

And Jonathan Munro, the BBC's Head of Newsgathering - a familiar 'we got it about right' BBC defender on the likes of Newswatch and Feedback -  appears to have found that his 'we got it about right' spiel fails to wash with High Court judges. Though Mr Justice Mann liked his thoughtful manner, he found him "overly guarded" (Welcome to our world Mr Justice Mann!) and said he was "almost wilfully failing to acknowledge inconsistencies and refusing to acknowledge the plain effect of some of the emails in the case". (Again, welcome to our world Mr Justice Mann!).

There's an expectation floating around that, in true BBC style, assistant heads will roll over this. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

"The majority of migrants around the world travel and work legally. They are football stars, actors and entrepreneurs"


Nada Tawfik

Talking of BBC pro-mass global immigration reporting, there's an absolute classic on the BBC News website at the moment from BBC New York/UN reporter Nada Tawfik:
In 2016 all members of the United Nations agreed that no one country can manage international migration on its own. Co-operation and a coordinated approach was needed. And now, after six rounds of negotiations, they have come up with this: The Global Contact for Migration. It's not binding, but it's the first time there's a comprehensive agreement that sets out a fairer and more humane approach to the issue. 
Louise Arbour, UN Special Representative for International Migration: If it's well-implemented it's good for everybody. It preserves state sovereignty and their right to decide your migration policies. It will reduce the chaos of irregular dangerous migration. It will increase access to safe legal pathways, for instance to the labour markets that have deficits in human resources and that will need foreign workers.
The majority of migrants around the world travel and work legally. They are football stars, actors and entrepreneurs, and while they make up 3% of the global population they contribute most than 9% to global gross domestic product. But with the rise of nationalism there's been more of a focus on the challenges rather than the benefits.
(Clips of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage juxtaposed with images of children behind bars and migrant vessels in the Mediterranean, accompanied by ominous music)
Amb. Juan José Gómez Camacho, co-facilitator of negotiations: The global migration today is based on believes, is based on perceptions and is based on misinformation, so we need to move it to one that is based on evidence. Once it is based on evidence we all as countries can make all the policy choices that are necessary.
(Image of watchtowers in the US, accompanied by sad music).
The United States pulled out of the vote in the process. The Trump administration said America alone would decide its policy, and Hungary claims the deal encourages migration which threatens their stability and security. Still the UN is taking a victory lap, saying the overwhelming consensus proves that international co-operation on the toughest issues is possible.
The structure of the report, the language used, the choice of images and music and the one-sided selection of talking heads all add up and suggest heavily biased reporting. The remarkable quote used in this post's headline is really quite something though.

Rise and Fall


The reporting of the latest official UK immigration statistics has brought out the usual sharp contrast in angles between various media outlets. 

Contrasting (online) headlines tell a key part of the story:

On one side you have papers like the Times with Net migration rises as more arrive from outside the EU and the Daily Mail with Net immigration to Britain hit 282,000 last year and the Sun with Theresa May has been urged to ‘get serious’ about Border control after migration rose to 280K.

On the other side you have papers like the Guardian with Migration to UK from EU falls to lowest level for four years and the FT with Net migration to Brexit Britain from EU drops to 5-year low and the Independent with EU net migration hits four-year low in wake of Brexit, figures show and the Daily Mirror with EU migration to UK falls to lowest in almost five years

The Daily Telegraph stakes its own angle, however, with Brexodus is not happening, ONS suggests despite EU net migration falling to 100,000.

And where does the BBC sit on this polarised spectrum? Firmly in the second camp. Its online headline on the story went through a couple of changes but the main angle remained consistent. It began as Migration figures: EU migration to UK lowest since 2013, ONS says, changed to Migration figures: Record number of EU citizens emigrate from UK and finally ended up as Migration from EU to UK lowest for four years, ONS figures show.

The sharpest contrast to the BBC's take is the Telegraph's take - and it goes well beyond the contrasting headlines ('Brexodus is not happening' v 'Record number of EU citizens emigrate from UK'). Their respective angles pervade their entire reports. Note, for example, that the Telegraph quotes Jay Lindop, Deputy Director of the ONS's migration division, saying: 
Much has been written about EU citizens leaving the UK, but the fact is there are still more people coming to the country from the EU than leaving it.
while the BBC doesn't. Instead the BBC features its own reporter, Danny Shaw, saying:
...the fact  [the EU emigration figures] have risen so sharply would appear to be further evidence of the impact of the Brexit vote.
And the BBC article's subheadline reinforces the point:


It's almost if all media outlets - including the ones that claim to be impartial - have angles to push and push them vigorously, isn't it?

Monday, 16 July 2018

"Imagine"

I hope I’m not turning into one of those people who think anyone they disagree with shouldn’t be allowed to air their views on the BBC. You know, the sort of no-platforming that Israel-bashers wish upon persons with the temerity to speak for Israel. Mark Regev used to draw a lot of that when he was the spokesman for the Israeli government. The very sound of his name or the sight of his face drew avalanches of indignant letters of complaint insisting that ‘having him on’ was just wrong.
So now here’s a slightly similar complaint about Chris Gunness of UNRWA. 

There were two occasions in one single edition of the Today Programme. (Today) here and here, where Gunness was given the opportunity to vent his spleen.

The first time, at about seven thirty am, took the form of a conversation between Mr. Gunness and John Humphrys, and the second, at around ten minutes to nine, was a repeat of a chunk of Gunness’s agitated rant followed by a conversation between Justin Webb and Lt-Col Peter Lerner.

The reason I object to hearing Chris Gunness's lengthy, emotional and uninterrupted rant is that he has significant 'history', which should really have discredited him in the eyes of both the UN and the BBC.  We’ve written extensively about this over the years, (both myself and Alan formerly of the Biased-BBC website) and we’ve linked to various articles that set out the case against exBBC employee Gunness.

He is incapable of giving an impartial or a rational account of anything to do with the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Not only does he have a visceral hatred of Israel, but he has lied about protecting Hamas’s habit of secreting weapons on UNWRA premises. His favourite mantra is that Israel is guilty of committing war crimes. It’s very tiresome to hear him doing the same old thing, over and over again. The following excerpts are from Tom Gros's Mideast Dispatch Archive, c 2014
“But what the BBC and many other media are failing to tell their audiences is that earlier today – under pressure from Israel and the U.S. – the UN agency UNRWA admitted that 20 Hamas rockets (of the kind used to kill Israeli civilians) have been stored at an UNRWA school in Gaza. This is, of course, not news to people who follow the region closely – Hamas has for years stored its arsenals, and fired rockets at Israel, from hospitals, schools, ambulances, mosques and the like, in multiple breaches of international law. It’s just that journalists for many western news outlets deliberately don’t tell their audiences this. 
UNRWA is the western-funded, Gaza-based, primarily Palestinian-staffed agency which supplies very dubious figures about the number of civilian deaths in Gaza (classifying some militants as civilians) – figures which are then unquestionably accepted and rebroadcast by many in the international media, such as the New York Times, without any regard for UNRWA’s past track record of libeling Israel. 
Today’s statement, which UNRWA took a full 24 hours to release, while robust, is less than fully truthful. 
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness is a British citizen, who previously worked for 23 years as a foreign correspondent and in senior editorial positions at the BBC and has a decades-long record of bias against Israel. Gunness is close friends with the BBC’s notoriously anti-Israel “chief Middle East correspondent” Jeremy Bowen.”


I have previously outlined on this website the concoctions of the well-funded UN body UNRWA which have resulted in defamations of Israel and physical attacks on Jews in many different countries around the world. 
For example, UNRWA has now admitted that their claim that Israel shelled a school in Gaza in January and killed 32 Palestinian civilians is completely false. The shell in question, it turns out, was in response to Palestinian mortar fire at civilians in Israel and killed nine Palestinian adults, none of whom were in the school. Seven of those killed were armed operatives and two were civilians. 
The sensational and false claims of UNRWA led to headlines around the world such as “UN accuses Israel of herding 110 Palestinians into a house then shelling it, leaving 30 dead” (London Daily Mail Online UK, Jan 9 2009 11:59AM GMT). 
The false reports led to anti-Israel riots and attacks on Jews in all six continents of the world.

 A JOINT WAR CRIMES ALLEGATION BY UNRWA AND THE BBC
Now, it turns out that Chris Gunness, the UNWRA spokesman who went on several different international TV networks in January to accuse Israel of “war crimes” on account of the supposed school incident, is in fact a former BBC journalist and a close colleague of the BBC’s notoriously anti-Israel Chief Jerusalem Correspondent Jeremy Bowen. 
In a diary article which Jeremy Bowen posted on BBC online, he states:
“I just broke off writing for a couple of minutes to take a call from Chris Gunness, who is the spokesman for Unrwa, the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees.
“He was ringing to say that Unrwa wanted an investigation into whether Israel has committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Civilians are protected by the laws of war.
“I have known Chris for years, as he used to be a BBC foreign correspondent. He wanted to make sure that we knew he was using the phrase for the first time. He said that the attack this morning on a UN school in Gaza looked as if it was a war crime.”


I revealed Gunness’ close friendship with Bowen in a dispatch in 2009, here
Nor is the BBC finding space in its attacks on Israel this hour, to mention that Israel thwarted a major terror attack this morning involving 13 Hamas gunmen who infiltrated into Israel by underground tunnel from Gaza.

***

I think I can rest my case. Back to this morning.
During the first airing of Gunness’s diatribe, we were treated to a selective description of the incident in which two UNWRA pupils were killed. He did not mention what brought about this airstrike, which, to listeners who may still be unaware of recent events, must at first have appeared callous and completely unprovoked. 

He proceeded to pose a list of hypothetical scenarios, inviting us to ‘imagine”  - “how you’d feel it if this (that and the other) happened in London.” In his eyes, the intolerable provocation that drew Israel’s belated retaliation simply. Hadn’t. Happened. He appears to be blind to it. He’s managed to excise it from his consciousness. A psychological deficiency no doubt; very sad for him and all that, but his inherent unreliability needs to be taken into account, especially if you’re calling upon him to make a credible contribution to the Today Programme.

John Humphrys took it upon himself to put Israel’s case on behalf of a spokesperson for the Israeli government who had pulled out of the interview, making it clear that he was able to do so because he “knew what Israel would say” and “has said”, lest any listener might mistakenly assume his interjections represented his own views.
As well as implying that the Gaza protests were peaceful, Gunness indicated that Gaza is “occupied” both of which he must know to be false. Both misleading implications remained unchallenged by Humphrys.  

Humphrys said that Israel would reject ”an independent and transparent investigation,” which is what Gunness is calling for - because "the international community hates us because we’re Israel”.  Although Humphrys made that claim sound far-fetched and a bit ridiculous, it was probably the most accurate assessment of reality that we heard during the whole conversation.

Next, Tom Bateman was brought in to tell us what the Israelis are saying about the situation, and he took up the offer - literally -  sprinkling his summary of recent events with the qualifier “Israel says”, which is the BBC’s unsubtle way planting seeds of doubt about Israel’s account of an incident and  dissociating their opinion from Israel’s at the same time.

Shortly before the end of the programme - I think it was the penultimate item, they again played a part of Chris Gunness’s speech - the bit in which he invites the listener to “imagine”. It’s a recording, so there was no chance to interact with or further challenge the speaker.However, Justin Webb got to do that with Lt-Col Peter Lerner. Without feeling the need to ask the listeners to imagine anything, he stated that Israel has been subjected to over two hundred rockets and mortars launched from Gaza.
So, let’s use the ‘imagine’ scenario for ourselves. Imagine you’re living in an Israeli town or kibbutz near the Gaza border.  Imagine hearing the chilling sound of a siren at any time of the day or night, knowing you have just a few seconds to rush your family into a bomb shelter. 

That’s enough of that. Justin was keen to put Chris Gunness’s point to Lerner - that killing children “is not a proportionate response”. You cannot allow your ability to defend yourself to be constrained because of your enemy’s cynical exploitation of children was the gist of his reply. If Hamas wanted to protect their children they shouldn’t have placed their facilities in or fired from densely populated areas. They were warned. 

Listen to Peter Learner, listen to Justin Webb’s responses, and note the irritable way he abruptly brought the interview to an end.

Maybe you didn’t realise that hundreds of ‘contraptions’ and incendiary balloons have been launched from Gaza recently, sending families into shelters, scorching acres of farmland and injuring three Israeli civilians. Fire-balloons have scorched 7,500 acres of land in Israel. Admittedly, ”no Israelis have been killed“ or hurt badly enough to satisfy the likes of Mishal Husain when she infamously demanded an unspecified number of Israeli fatalities before considering there was a case for retaliation.

On the BBC’s Middle East web page, there are a series of video reports. One is about ‘terror kites’ and another is titled: “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence” and a there's a particularly one-sided ‘backgrounder’ by Paul Adams called “Gaza, the history behind the anger.

The selective omissions in his narrative are clearly crafted to coax the viewer towards perceiving the Palestinians as victims of a cruel and undeserved injustice. The passive-aggressive undertone implies that Israel is to blame. Here’s a transcription

“What are the people of Gaza so angry about? What would make so many young men risk their lives along the border with Israel? Israel says they are being manipulated and controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s a strip of land about 40 km long and 10 km wide along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel. The question of who controls it is complicated. It’s run by the Palestinians but Israel controls almost all the borders.” 
How did we get here? asks the caption. 
“Egypt controlled it after the 1948 war and the creation of Israel. Then, in another war in 1967 Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank. Pretty soon Israeli settlers moved in there and set up their own communities. They stayed there until 2005 when Israel finally decided to pull them out of Gaza, along with its soldiers. 
Who runs Gaza now? says the caption 
“Well, Hamas have been in charge for the past decade, following fighting with their more moderate rivals Fatah in 2007. The two sides have tried more than once to bury the hatchet, but the deals have always fallen apart, and so Hamas is still in control. 
What’s life like inside Gaza? questions another caption. 
“With a population of about 1.8 million people, it’s one of the most densely populated places on earth. Most of those who live here are descendants of people who fled or were driven from their homes in 1948. Many of them still live in refugee camps and after 70 years they still yearn for their homes across the fence in Israel. They describe the Gaza strip as the world’s largest open-air prison. It’s been under Israeli land, air and sea blockade ever since Hamas took over. Egypt also strictly controls its border. There are shortages of water and power, dangerously high unemployment and very little freedom to travel outside. 
How often do conflicts break out? the next caption wonders.
“Every few years it seems there’s an explosion of violence. Three major Israeli military operations since 2008 triggered in part by rockets fired into Israeli towns and cities by Hamas. Each time Israeli forces have invaded using overwhelming firepower and killing large numbers of Palestinians. Israel regards any attempt to storm the border or break holes in the fence as a red line. The government has repeatedly warned that anyone attempting to break through into Israel to commit acts of violence risks being shot dead, but Israeli human rights groups and the UN have said that the threat of violence does not in itself excuse the use of lethal force.

Context-free and juvenile, with barely a mention of militant Islam. In the BBC’s world, these wars ‘just happen’, most Israelis are ‘settlers’, Gaza is “One of the most densely populated places on earth” where old Palestinian crones waving gigantic keys  “yearn for their homes”. Too bad. Shouldn’t have started the war, shouldn’t have fled, shouldn’t have rejected Israel, shouldn’t have expelled the Jews from majority Islamic countries, shouldn’t have elected Hamas.

And the reporting!  Not just the BBC, of course.  More, the “international community.” No wonder the Israelis think they hate us “Because we’re Israel”. 


Saturday, 14 July 2018

The ayes have it

I’m linking to this HoC Westminster Hall debate (3rd July) UK-Israel Trade, for a reason. Several reasons actually. Firstly it makes a nice change to see MPs debating Israel in a positive way without being shouted down by the massed choir of Israelophobes that usually dominate such debates. 

Secondly, I’m using it to highlight the way memes and tropes embed themselves in the language to be trotted out by the culturally and historically illiterate.

Looking at the list of speakers, certain names leap out - (from the left) habitual offenders in this respect. Predictably they duly chimed in, to the tune of ”occupied territories” “settlements”  “illegal under international law”. It’s dispiriting to witness Israel-bashing zealots citing institutionally anti-Israel organisations like the UN to back up their argument; more so when they are allowed to do so without facing robust challenges by wiser, better-informed and more legally literate opponents.

So let’s have a look at the memes and tropes concerning Donald Trump that have embedded themselves in the language, which are thoughtlessly bandied about by all and sundry.

Ed Miliband gave us a prime example. His explanation for his presence at an anti-Trump demo came simply in the form of a list: Fascist, Misogynist, Racist - there may have been another couple, which have momentarily eluded me.


We heard the same list again from a caller to Any Answers. The term Fascist has suffered extreme mission creep. It now seems to mean nationalist, or, if you like, patriot.  Misogyny is the label most commonly associated with Trump, which I assume stems from that infamous recording resurrected from his pre-politics era. The crudely worded confidences he blurted out to his companion seemed to me to be nothing much more than an inarticulate expression of delight and surprise at the unexpected benefits of power and success. It reminded me of Robbie Williams, half stoned apparently, crying out “I’m rich beyond my wildest dreams”. 

The real problem with The Donald is his limited vocabulary. You can tell he’s struggling with language, falling back on rudimentary words and expressions just as a small child would, but sometimes cutting through the bullshit and shaking up the torpid status quo in the process. 
I don’t think Trump is a racist. Or is Islam officially a race these days? 

The caged children thing is disingenuous. I understand that President Obama’s record is no less disrespectful of human rights, and for that matter, Bill Clinton’s and John H Kennedy's are no less misogynist and so on. This is one occasion when ‘whataboutery’ looks like a valid approach.

Another caller to Any Answers accused the BBC of whipping up anti-Trump animus, singling out John Sopel and Paul Wood. Anita Anand wasn’t happy. “They aren’t here to defend themselves”, she said, “and I’m not going to criticise my colleagues.” 

Friday, 13 July 2018

What they really really want

Eeny, meeny, miny moe, one of us had better say something about the BBC’s coverage of the anti-Trump protests, and since Craig is stricken with sunstroke, (or some other sun-related indisposition) I’d better have a go. 

I was, of course referring to the BBC’s coverage of President Trump’s visit.  Calling it “the BBC’s coverage of the anti-Trump protests”  seemed the most accurate way to describe what I saw today. 
Given the glee with which “everyone” responded to the balloon prank the minute Mayor Khan gave it the thumbs up, the extensive airtime the BBC dedicated to today’s anti-Trump protests came as no surprise.

The BBC is ever so keen to stress that the protests are not about the office of POTUS, but solely about the individual, whom they sometimes call “the incumbent”.  The BBC is anxious to make this particular point at every opportunity, as it keeps the protesters just the right side of the moral high ground (as they see it.) I assume straightforward anti-Americanism isn’t the correct attitude for an impartial broadcaster to encourage.

Several reporters have been telling us what Trump really wants. I wonder how everyone knows what President Trump ‘wants’? No matter. They’re certain that he’s primarily interested in being seen with the Queen or being photographed standing next to her.  That’s what Trump ‘wants’. Fact.

Random demonstrators are plucked from the crowd by Anita McVeigh and Co., to speak for the protesters.

“Why are you here today?” 
“Because Policies. Misogyny! Fascism! Racism! Policies!”

Just, you know, “policies”. Only the BBC seems not to notice the inanity of these responses.

However, Melania went down very well with the Chelsea Pensioners and some kids. She appeared elegant and friendly and she threw or bowled the obligatory ball while wearing a pair of towering heels. And why not? The Duchess of Cambridge does it all the time.

Towering heels make you look ridiculous. Especially coming down the steps from a plane. In fact, they make you look idiotic as soon as you start to move. Think Amal Clooney, ambassador for the Ministry of Silly Walks. 

Since we now know what Trump ‘wants’, perhaps the BBC will tell us what the protesters want, zigazig ah.

What if the protesters are right, and Donald Trump genuinely is so thin-skinned and immature that he takes offence bigly and cuts off our special relationship good and proper, once and for all. No more holding hands with Theresa. Are they hoping to drive us back to the EU?  Is that it? 
What if their antics propel the Labour Party into power? Venezuela?   Is that really it? We should be told.



Untitled post

Reluctantly for me, back to this blog’s original remit. The BBC. It’s Friday 13th; unlucky for some. 

I rarely agree wholeheartedly with TV critiques in, e.g., The Times, (£) but today’s review by Carol Midgley hit the spot. 
The topics addressed were last night’s new drama, BBC One’s ‘Keeping Faith’, and ‘Eat Well For Less.’
Keeping Faith began atrociously, got a bit worse, then suddenly became terrific and ended with me chomping for the second episode. Word has it that this first instalment, which initially had the faux-stylish air of a sanitary towel advert, is not typical of the whole series and I’m glad to hear it. Because initially it was like playing cliché bingo.
Yes indeed. 
I might have mentioned this before, but my nearest and dearest has little time for TV dramas. The opening moments are often enough to drive him into another room to watch the history channel muttering ‘The Archers',  codeword for everything that’s wrong with - - well, dramas.

Obviously, with its atrocious beginning, he abandoned Keeping Faith almost as soon as the titles were over. Actually, the titles were very clever, both the imagery and the trendy 60s, retro, no-caps typography.  Curiosity, or perhaps heat-induced lethargy, led me to persevere with this production and eventually it came good. Some of the dialogue was hard to catch (maybe I need a hearing aid) but it’s well worth keeping faith with. 
(I’ve  swerved sharply several times already to avoid puns with ‘keeping’ and ‘faith’  so can we let that go?)

Eat Well For Less. What can I say?
I don’t know what’s more alarming: that it needed Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin to travel to Blackpool to point that out or that such blindingly obvious stuff makes primetime TV. Probably the latter.
Spot on.
Who is Chris Bavin? I ask that in my best Edith Sitwell (or Edith Evans or both) with the emphasis on “is”. We all know who Greg Wallace is even if we don’t know why he’s on TV all the time. Why?
What is it about sloppy Cockerny enunciation that the BBC finds desirable? It’s grating. 

It’s fair enough to point out that home cooking is best. Perhaps there are generations that don’t know that it’s cheaper, more nutritious and usually tastier than your average takeaway. But they always gloss over all the tedious shopping, chopping and washing up home cooking entails. You’re tired. You’re hungry.  That is surely a large factor in the appeal of the takeaway. That or get a maid.

I'll revert to non-BBC bias mode. This is about another piece in The Times (£)  Times 2, to be precise, “culture” and a long article by Andrew Billen, one of the reviewers I like. It’s about Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the 19 year-old cellist who ‘shot to fame’ after he performed at the Royal Wedding. 

Well, if you didn’t know already, he’s black. I don’t know enough to compare Sheku’s cello-playing with that of other winners of BBCYM. He’s undoubtedly brilliant and inspirational. I can’t tell whether or not there’s a tiny element of positive discrimination in the adulation he’s receiving, but I found the bit about multiculturalism pretty annoying. I don’t care whether players are black, white or any combination, but I do know that this country desperately needs more young orchestral players, period.  If Sheku’s youth or charisma succeeds in attracting young players to take up the instrument, excellent. From any race, colour or creed.

Couldn’t resist.

P.S. I couldn't think of a title for this post so I've just called it 'Untitled Post'

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

How far is far-right?


Listening to the Today Programme this morning I heard Ross Hawkins’s alarming vox-pop cameo, which was clearly designed to advance the absurd hypothesis that the threat of violence from the “extreme far-right” is equal to, if not in excess of, the violence (terrorism) motivated by Islamic extremism. While he was at it, he also managed to belittle Sara Khan, who was in the studio talking to Mishal Husain, who conducted this interview in her ‘impatient-schoolmarm’ voice. (No saccharine tones for Sara Khan this morning.)

I know full transcriptions can be dull, but since you’re here  I’ve made one for you, you might as well read it. (Emphases: italics=theirs; bold=mine)

MH
Let’s start with your own position and the question about how effective you can be when there was so much criticism of your appointment because you were perceived by so many people as insufficiently independent of government. 
SK
Well, I would contest that. I have criticised government in the past when I believed government policy is wrong and the best example I can give actually is my opposition to the government’s counter-extremism bill itself. If I agree with government policy, if I believe that one of their policy is correct then I will support it. That’s the approach I’ve taken in the past and that’s the approach I’ll continue to take in the future. 
MH
But the central government policy in this area is the Prevent policy, which is widely regarded as being stigmatising to Muslims, even a UN special rapporteur said that it could actually end up promoting extremism, by dividing, stigmatising and alienating segments of the population, now the organisation you used to run took money from Prevent, didn’t it? 
SK
 I think it’s really important to make clear that my remit as lead commissioner is not Prevent. I have no remit with Prevent whatsoever. My focus is looking at extremism in this country and I think Ross’s piece is very interesting because it actually highlights the challenge of extremism today and in particular what does modern day extremism look like. 
MH
Yes we’ll come to that in a minute, but the point about your credentials, it is correct isn’t it, that your organisation did benefit from money that came from Prevent. 
SK
So one of my campaigns that “Inspire’ ran was an anti-ISIS campaign called ‘making a stand’; that was one campaign that the Home Office funded over ten years’ worth of work. I’m very proud of that campaign, if I was with Inspire again I would do that campaign again. The campaign benefited Muslim women from across the country. It taught them theological counter-narratives to extremist ideology. It taught them who they can go to for support, and the Home Office, I believe has a responsibility and a duty to support Muslim communities, to support other communities who are facing extremism and how to safeguard their children. 
MH
But some of those who’ve been very worried about your appointment, a Labour MP Naz Shah, the Conservative Peer Lady Sayeeda Warsi, the Muslim Women’s Collective, the Muslim Women’s Network UK, you have a really important job to do and these are all people and organisations that you need to work with, don’t you, and it doesn’t seem as if you’ve had them onside at the moment. 
SK
I would disagree with that I mean from day one I’ve made it very clear that I’m going to engage widely and that’s what I’ve done. Over the…

MH
Which parts do you disagree with, needing to work with them…. 
SK
…over the last few months I’ve engaged with over three hundred people, experts, academics, I’ve visited ten cities, just last week I was in Liverpool at meeting with different faith leaders which included ten Imams from ten different mosques. I’ve engaged with different Muslim women’s organisations .. 
MH
But with… 
SK
…I’ve had a very constructive meeting… 
MH
With the aim of doing what? You’re going about doing these meetings and you are planning to write a report I think, about the evidence you’re gathering..if you need to gather evidence, now, on extremism, does it suggest that we haven’t properly defined what extremism is, as yet. 
SK
Well, government has defined extremism, and there is a definition, now what’s been interesting for me as I’ve toured the country and I’ve spoken to faith leaders, I’ve spoken to women’s organisations, I’ve spoken to ordinary people, is how they see extremism. They have described it to me with crystal clarity. They can see extremism and they know what it is when they see it, so, far-right demonstrations in their cities, the extremism they’re seeing on social media - I was in Leicester for example…. 
MH
Has that, I mean, on far-right extremism, do you think we as a country have underestimated that? 
SK
Well  think we’re underestimating the scale of all forms of extremism and i want to be clear, my extreme - my commission is looking at all forms of extremism, that’s why I’ve been meeting people who specialise in far right extremism, islamist extremism, hard left extremism, I’ve spoken to Hindu and Sikh activists who are concerned about extremism within their own communities, and so looking at that and understanding the scale of that is what I’ve set out to do which is why we want to do a comprehensive study looking at the scale of extremism, the harm it’s causing - we don’t talk enough about the harm it’s causing, the tactics that extremists are using, and understanding the changing face of extremism in 2018. If we don’t understand extremism Michelle (sic) we’re not going to be able to effectively counter it. 
MH
Sara, thank you very much.

Hmm. That got me thinking. I wonder what the government’s definition of far-right extremism is? 

I Googled. 

Demos starts its study on this topic by stating: 
“In tandem with, and partially as a result of national political and social differences, there is no clear definition of far-right extremism.” 

I haven’t read the whole thing because my attention-span has dwindled to negligible, but a quick skim led me to surmise that they believe the far-right extremism of today has much to do with opposition to Islamic terrorism.
(Do correct me if I’m jumping to my own pre-conceived hypothesis.)

Since we’re allowing folks to meddle with internationally recognised definitions of racism and bigotry, and since internationally recognised definitions are evidently susceptible to the pick’n’mix approach, perhaps we don’t need definitive guidelines after all. 

We already tend to thoughtlessly label each other ‘bigot’ ‘extremist’ ‘hard left’ or far-right. Or Zio. 
If I’m not mistaken, the kind of far-right extremism to which everyone, including Sara Khan, the government, the BBC and the liberal consensus appears to be alluding, is vociferous opposition to all manifestations of Islam that are ‘incompatible-with-our-values’ i.e., far-right extremism merely means opposition to the creeping Islamisation of the west.  

All that nonsense about extreme Hinduism and Sikhism, not forgetting that silent spectre in the room, ultra-orthodox Judaism - most of whom appear to be religious fanatics who confine their abusive practices to insiders - and the inflated threat of violence (against whom?) from the far-right - all that bluster seems very much like a smokescreen, set up purely as a cover. Why?  To avoid being accused of that terrible crime, Islamophobia. 

Perhaps they’re correct to fear that “far-right rallies” will whip up unrest, thus endangering the elusive (or non-existent) condition called ‘social cohesion’.  But one has to ask,  which came first, the establishment’s deliberate social engineering project designed to acclimatise the irreligious majority to an unmanageable influx of Muslim immigration by stealth, with the media frantically endeavouring to normalise Islamic religious and cultural practices - or the existing population’s resistance to it? 

I’m saying that the particular kind of ‘far-right extremism’ that these organisations, including Khan’s,  are referring to is a reactive phenomenon. It wouldn’t exist without its cause. 
To muddy the waters further, the problem has been turned on its head; but we’re still stuck with Islamic terrorism now, whether or not Sara Khan and her team are able to shut down the opposition, or if the state keeps Tommy Robinson behind bars in perpetuity. 

Who was it who said “If British Muslims renounced their religion, there would be no more violence; but if they silenced the “far-right” Britain would be Islamic."  I might have mixed up that quote with one about another intractable conflict.

If the government’s definition of far-right extremism is that elastic, I’m a far-right extremist; and so, probably, are you.

A bit of a general rant rather than a take-down of a specific piece of BBC bias this time, but at least you had the transcript. Sorry about the football.  

Sunday, 8 July 2018

gender neutral open thread


Since open threads are feline, here's a Maine Coon who is obviously fed up with the BBC.

A hardline take on the BBC's use of language



The word 'swullocking', I've just learned, is "a near-perfect old dialect word that describes a sweltering, sultry, and all-round sudiferous (sweat-inducing) day"

It's certainly been a swullocking day in Morecambe today. The bay is looking like the Bay of Naples and it's so hot here that a volcano has just this very afternoon sprung up over the sea on the Furness Peninsula and within minutes erupted and buried Barrow. (Our thoughts and prayers, etc). 

Another word that's been on my mind recently is 'hardline'.

As you know, 'hardline' means "advocating or involving a rigidly uncompromising course of action". Its synonyms include:
uncompromising, strict, diehard, extreme, tough, inflexible, immoderate, intransigent, intractable, unyielding, undeviating, unwavering, single-minded and not giving an inch (etc)
It can be a neutral word, but most people don't tend to use it neutrally. They tend to use it negatively, about others. You rarely find it used as a term of praise. 

The BBC has been putting it to quite a bit of use in recent days, especially to describe certain UK politicians. (Can you guess in advance which ones?) 

Just looking at BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning (with help from TV Eyes), the BBC presenters and reporters used the term 'hardline' about Mrs May's Brexiteer cabinet members at least eight times, including such phrases as "hardline critics of the European Union in her cabinet". 

And Uncle Mark Mardell, whilst telling us a tale today, gave us a particularly fine example on this afternoon's The World This Weekend (also concerning Mrs May's Chequers cabinet meeting):
The seven hardline Brexit ministers knew they were in a minority in the oak-panelled room.
Checking TV Eyes again, the other BBC TV uses of the term 'hardline' this past week involve President Trump's immigration policies, a Second World War era Japanese governor, Germany's right-wing interior minister, and - again - Brexiteers (BBC political correspondent Alex Forsyth using the term "hardline Brexiteers" on Friday's BBC Breakfast).

Is there a pattern emerging there? 

Possibly. 

So let's go back to June where there are 118 TV Eyes results for 'hardline'. Are there any Remainers described as 'hardline' by BBC reporters? Any left-wingers? Any pro-mass immigration people? Any EU officials?

Well, put simply: no. 

Working my way through them all, it's lots and lots more uses (throughout the month) of "hardline Brexiteers", that wartime Japanese governor again (a repeated programme), Trump's immigration policies (again and again and again and again referred to as "hardline by the BBC - when they aren't being called "controversial" that is!), "hardline tax-cutting conservatives" in the US, the right-wing Austrian government for its stance on immigration, the populist Italian and conservative Hungarian governments for their stance on immigration, European governments in general who oppose mass immigration, the conservative CSU in Germany (for opposing Mrs Merkel over immigration), a right-wing politician in Turkey (Meral Akşener), "hardline clerics" opposed to women drivers in Saudi Arabia, and Italy's Matteo Salvini. And that's it.

Yes, there's definitely a pattern there, isn't there? Opponents of mass immigration, right-wingers and people who want Brexit to mean Brexit are the people the BBC chooses to call 'hardline'. 

Do you think they're using the word in a neutral sense when so doing? I don't.

Blimey!


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Odds and Ends

Cuddly-Islam, part 1 
By Rebecca Seales
BBC News

Seriously? Srsly? 
A whole page devoted to this inane article on the BBC website? 

*********



Fascists
Oh yes. Trump is a fascist. It’s official.

Deflated
Justin Webb spoke to that poor Leo Murray about his inflatable Trump-in-a-nappy stunt. We used to say ‘it takes one to know one’. Maybe someone should crowd-fund an inflatable Leo Murray-in-a-nappy. (Why bother. Nobody knows who he is.) Dr. Jan Halper-Hayes’s good-humoured response took the wind out of his sails. 

*******

Women’s hour (Cuddly-Islam, part 2)
Splish-splash I was havin’ a bath when I overheard some of this conversation with Kirstie and Katie on the radio.  Did they really avoid mentioning the motivation behind this horrific attack? From what I heard the motivation appeared to be almost incidental. As if it was a natural disaster or something. An act of God.

*******

Labour's new anti-Semitism code of conduct.
I wouldn’t have mentioned this if it hadn’t been included in an early morning radio 4 news bulletin t’other day. 
"Labour has taken some of the language used in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is now widely accepted as the most useful definition and has been adopted by the government, the Crown Prosecution Service, many local councils and many other countries.
But instead of adopting the definition as agreed by all these bodies, Labour has excised the parts which relate to Israel and how criticism of Israel can be antisemitic."
They're keeping the following four back for themselves: (why the American spelling I'm not sure)

  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor. (sic)
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior (sic) not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

The Labour Party needs to be able to still use these terms and memes with impunity. They’re not antisemitic; oh no, they’ve fought antisemitism all their life. (For or against?)

Friday, 6 July 2018

Of Xenophobes, Millard Fillmore and Donald Trump



Meanwhile, we also mustn't let pass a remarkable piece on the BBC News website tonight from Washington-based BBC News editor Jude Sheerin, headlined Is this the US president most like Trump? 

Now, I've got a soft spot for US presidential history and love reading about even the most minor presidents so I knew straightaway that comparing a living US  president to pre-Civil War era less-than-one-term president Millard Fillmore, who almost invariably appears in the darkest reaches of lists of the worst US presidents, was never going to be flattering to the compared modern president. 

And yet that's just who Jude compares Donald Trump to. And his piece certain doesn't flatter the incumbent US president.

Or his supporters.

It's a piece of deliciously poison-penned writing from the BBC man about both the sitting US president and those who voted for him. 

For a flavour of it, it begins: 
Millard Fillmore is one of the most obscure US presidents, but there is plenty about him that may seem uncannily familiar. 
Asylum seekers and economic migrants are flocking to the United States. 
Xenophobes warn these foreigners will fuel crime, drive down wages and destroy the nation. 
As nativism spreads like a prairie fire, an anti-immigrant president from New York rises to power. He has a proclivity for conspiracy theories and appoints his daughter to a key White House role. 
But the year isn't 2016. 
It's 1850. 
It's not Donald Trump. 
It's Millard Fillmore, whose sheer anonymity has made him an in-joke among presidential history fans. 
Instead of Muslim or Central American refugees, it's Germans and Irish Catholics. 
It continues in the same vein.

The BBC's 'Everywhere Correspondent'



Still catching up...

I've previously (and repeatedly) quipped about the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse, now one of Newsnight's main reporters, being the BBC's 'Everywhere correspondent'. 

That was because the BBC kept on - and keeps on - parachuting him into Everywhere to be their instant expert reporter on any major foreign affairs story. 

As I previously said:
....he pops up everywhere, always sounding authoritative, whichever country he's reporting from.
My sceptical note there possibly tells you what I think about Gabriel's reporting: It sounds good and he's a charismatic reporter and he may very well be an excellent reporter but I still have my doubts...

And this week provided another example of just why I have my doubts about Gabriel's on-the-hoof reporting:

Here he was on Monday's Newsnight talking about the German migration situation (which, by the by, he insisted - in true impartial BBC fashion! - isn't a crisis):
The irony of the situation is this: The number of migrants crossing into Germany are tiny compared to what they were. This country no long faces an actual migration crisis. This is political. The parliamentary elections in September, the anti-immigrant AfD party became the second largest in the Bundestag, putting nationalist politicians in Parliament for the first time in more than half a century. 
Now, I'm only a mere blogger and very far from being a high-profile, probably-award-winning BBC reporter with plenty of Newsnight off-camera support and bags of BBC editorial oversight, but even I knew, straightaway, on hearing that that the BBC's 'Everywhere correspondent' had got his facts wrong and that not one of the Newsnight team had spotted his mistake before broadcasting his report. In last September's parliamentary elections AfD became the third largest party in the Bundestag, behind the CDU/CSU and the second-placed SDP. 

Seriously, shouldn't the BBC's 'Everywhere correspondent' have known that? And shouldn't at least one of the many best broadcasters in the world in the Newsnight team that evening have spotted that before sending his loaded report out into the world? 

Nick Robinson v Hugh Sykes


Hmm. 

It's too hot to be following things closely tonight but my social media feed (probably unlike Miranda Sawyer's) is showing a wide range of reactions to matters related to Mrs May's apparent cabinet getaway Brexit plan. 

Besides the ardent anti-Brexiteers I follow, I'm seeing the Spectator calling it Mrs May's "third way", Guido Fawkes calling it the "softest Brexit" and the BBC's Nick Robinson saying that the EU might still reject it in favour of a "softer deal":
Cabinet agreement to Brexit plan matters as it undermines the “we can’t really negotiate because you won’t tell us what you want” excuse used by Brussels. EU27 must now whether to take plan seriously or reject it in hope parliament votes for softer deal.
Now, you - in the light of Guido's claim that this is the "softest Brexit" (a point of view) - may have picked up on Nick saying that a "softer deal" is possible (another point of view) but 'the other side' have been raging at Nick this evening for using the word "excuse".

A representative tweet runs as follows:
How on earth can you be so misleading as to call it an excuse? The EU hasn't been able to negotiate because the UK hasn't presented anything to negotiate. Am sick of this distorting of the facts from the BBC. Licence fee payers deserve better from their public broadcaster
It’s not an excuse though is it? Why use emotive language? No wonder people question your and the BBCs impartiality on Brexit.
Since when does a reason become an excuse? The BBC really has lost its way and become the mouthpiece for the government. 
And even Nick's BBC colleague Hugh 'I hang my views up with my coat' Sykes has joined in the criticism:
What was the EU supposed to do,   g u e s s   what the UK government wanted - which has never been stated until this evening, more than two years after the EU Referendum vote?
So who's right? Nick or Hugh? Or neither? And why do people only pick up on parts of what someone says when getting offended?