Sunday, 29 March 2020

Viral Open Thread



New gone viral Open Thread for all your comments on the BBC's bias and other relevant matters.

Emergency measure

Opining on the way the government is handling this pandemic is above my paygrade. How do I know which experts are the stablest geniuses? 

We’re seeing a stream of contradictory and confusing advice. For example, I can’t drive a short distance to take my normal daily walk in a virtually deserted open space, despite the fact that it’s impossible to stick to the requisite social distancing if my allotted hour’s exercise must be taken in my immediate vicinity. Andrew Marr was on the case this morning, and it seems that the ‘logic’ for this rule is the possibility of having a driving accident which could divert essential resources from the virus.  

However, I assume we can drive to the supermarket. Which creates another contradiction. Can we confine our shopping to the ‘immediate needs’ principle, while going out shopping as infrequently as possible? Surely it’s one or t’other. It can’t really be both.

The Labour Party’s newfound cry for ‘unity’ seems absurd in the light of their recent electoral disaster. They behave as if their support for the government is some sort of altruistic act.  From such a position of weakness, it’s ludicrous for the Labour Party to pretend that supporting the government amounts to a concession on their part.

As for Jeremy Corbyn’s delusional assertion that Labour’s economic policies were right all along, well, the illogicality of that apples-and-pears comparison shows that his grasp on reality has departed. If it was ever there in the first place. It’s beyond satire. “Of course, I’m a human, (!) of course I make mistakes”. 

Some Labour MPs can’t put their destructive criticism and accusations of governmental negligence on the back-burner. Negativity shines through all those cries for unity and togetherness. 

The Doctor

Take Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is currently doing night-shifts in an NHS hospital. She couldn’t resist complaining to Sophy Ridge about the government’s failure to provide adequate PPE for ‘the front line’. Sure, that’s a genuine cause for concern, but wouldn’t it be more productive for the BBC  and the media in general to investigate the reason for any alleged delays rather than just endlessly disseminate criticism of the government. 

They could send Greg Wallace to visit-a-factory-in-a-hairnet to find out if something in particular is holding things up.  One of their investigative reporters could ferret out the source of blockages twixt manufacturer and recipient. Perhaps un-sequester John Sweeney for the task? 

The Sweeney

I’ve learnt a new word: Furlough: ‘leave of absence, especially that granted to a member of the services or a missionary’ Am I the only person who hadn’t heard of the word before this crisis, and might something similar be applied, in this emergency, to the BBC?

Inappropriate invitation


I’m sorry they brought in Richard Horton to harangue the token Tory on last week’s Q.T.

I can just about accept the BBC’s justification for inviting Emily Thornberry onto the panel despite the fact that she seems more and more odious with each media exposure, but even though there seems to have been a change of heart.......
"It was during this period that The Lancet began publishing numerous articles advancing this poisonous political agenda, through allegations of medical and health-related abuse of Palestinians. This activity took place under the aegis of Richard Horton, who has held the position of Editor in Chief since 1995[5] and who frequently generates controversy by using the journal to gain visibility for his pronouncements on major social and political issues associated with progressive liberal agendas.
....The Lancet has an appalling record of inappropriate political advocacy when it’s supposed to be a medical journal.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Open Thread


In a time of uncertainty, (and as the old one has reached an unprecedented 200 comments) here is a new open thread. Keep safe.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Open thread


No-one knows how long this situation will last, but underneath the BBC’s negativity, I sense a spirit of togetherness. It seems unhelpful to focus on finding fault with the government’s handling of the emergency. We need reassurance and encouragement.  

Walking in the lovely chilly sunshine while it’s still allowed. This wonderful place is called Upton Towans. Not many people around and plenty of space to social-distance.

Stay well.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Strategy for a deadly contagion

Alerted by a comment from MB including an H/T to Guest Who and two responses form Sisyphus.
(Yes, Farrow and Ball is posh paint with names like “Elephant’s breath’.  Posh in a Samantha Cameron kinda way, (ideal for one’s shepherd’s hut) but I think the brand might have already been superseded by other, even posher, more subtly-coloured versions, like the one you can get in Aga shops) 

See! I do read the open threads. Honest. I thought I’d like to expand on the topic of Marina Hyde, who seems to be one of Gabriel Gatehouse’s favourite paint-stripperers.

Venomous Guardian columnist Marina Hyde is no stranger to this blog, and before you say anything else, here is one I baked previously.
"I’m reminded of that phrase “It takes one to know one” because I recognise the habit of using excessively emotive and disparaging language to express 'passion' in the most effective way possible because I do the same thing myself in my own bloggeringly amateurish way.
(I might have said ‘startlingly offensive’ rather than ‘effective’.)
The piece in question today is Ms Hyde’s current torrent of Boris-bashing in the Guardian. Here we have a much better example of ‘it takes one to know one’ because it seems that Marina Hyde is accusing Boris of being a flippant, verbose, lying,…….. journalist. 

Why, she even plagiarises ‘spaffing’. All this without realising that she could easily have been outlining her own characteristics and then complaining about them, the difference being that Boris’s rhetoric is humorous, while, well …… you know.

The point I’m trying to make is that as she goes to town on Boris’s inept, incompetent, ineffectual mishandling of the current crisis, she has not offered a single constructive suggestion. So, does she think that Jeremy Corbyn would have handled the situation any better?

Come on! Negativity, negativity, negativity. How helpful is that, Gabriel Gatehouse?

I don't know if Boris is handling this situation well. After all, everyone seems to agree it's unprecedented. Constructive criticism is one thing, but unadulterated Boris-bashing is simply nasty

Stan and Ollie


Thursday, 19 March 2020

Double standards


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Brendan O’Neill has written a sharp piece about ‘the problem we don’t like talking about.’
I urge you to read it, as well as the responses below the line. 

I’ll try to summarise, which is very cheeky and presumptuous, but I’ve learned that not everyone (especially me) has the time and patience to click on every link.

O’Neill is concerned that the conviction of Hashem Abedi for the murders of 22 attendees of Ariana Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena hasn’t engendered an appropriate amount of media coverage. Although his brother Salman was the actual suicide bomber, Hashem Abedi was equally responsible for the crime.


Where is the debate? asks O’Neill, where is the concern that ISIS-inspired extremism has fuelled such atrocities?  He identifies the media’s gross double standards, comparing the ‘Don’t look back in anger’ approach and the therapeutic style ‘deradicalisation’ strategy prescribed to treat violence and terrorism motivated by “Islamism” with the unadulterated ‘blame’ we attach to ‘far-right’ acts of terror, which must somehow be defeated.
"The very use of the term ‘radicalised’ reduces them to passive creatures who have had something bad done to them, probably by a twisted preacher on the internet. Apparently, they need our help. Fascists must be defeated, but violent Islamists must be cared for, put on the couch, pitied.
It’s a powerful piece, but it leaves me with one or two unanswered questions.

 1) Why do people like Brendan glibly condemn Tommy Robinson in such a reflexive and out of hand manner? (However, I now see Brendan has cautiously re-framed that condemnation - I suppose I'll have to search again for 'people like him' distancing themselves from Tommy Robinson )  After all, Robinson, (aka S Y-L ) has made an admirable effort to study the ideology that’s at the very heart of the problem. In other words, his Luton accent and his volatility are not enough to make him into a mere racist thug.  In fact, it’s his fearless, perhaps innately pugilistic quality, (lacking in many a lesser, more easily intimidated critic of Islam) that has protected and prevented him from being utterly intimidated and silenced by ‘the system’. 

2) The murky distinction between the ’ism’ in Islamism and Islam proper is problematic. In some ways, it’s a mirror image of the ‘good’ (anti-Zionist) Jew and the regular Jew. After all, when push comes to shove, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew.  Are we now saying the only good Muslim is an ex-Muslim? I kind of think we really are.
See the comment from Geoff W 18th March 2020 at 8:51 pm (I don’t think I can provide a direct link) but arguably the way forward hinges on some sort of future enlightenment within the religion. But, isn’t there a built-in super-injunction (within Islam itself) against reform?

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The Doctor

When I heard Dr Rosena Allin-Khan complaining ‘Asa-NHS-Doctor’ about shortages of equipment, then saw her reciting the same script at PMQs I couldn’t help thinking that five minutes ago she was campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn to be our PM. Does she think he’d have handled the situation any better?

BBC slims down


Saturday, 14 March 2020

"Don't Panic" New Open Thread



New Open Thread.

At a time when new posts seem comparatively rare here's a clean sheet. Your comments are still very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

2nd Open Thread of March



If Emily & Co. can have an award, then so can you. Thanks for your support and comments, and here's a new Open Thread. 

Big fat Adventure


What else can I say about Miriam Margoyles? 
I watched her show last night, mainly because I was too tired to change channels. Having put my feelings about her nonsensical Israel-bashing to one side with great fortitude, determination and goodwill, I found it quite entertaining. She seemed genuinely interested in exploring her feelings about her own obesity. 

It was only the first episode, and I’m not sure I’m sufficiently hooked to stick with it, but when Lucy Mangan (Guardian) wrote: 
“Margolyes seemed to pull her punches slightly throughout” 
I didn’t quite know if she was referring to the comparative absence of Margolyes’s trademark toilet humour, but I do agree with this observation:
“The segment where a psychologist researched the matter (which included one of his volunteers walking around town in a fat suit and returning to say nothing of any import whatsoever) was banal in the extreme.”
They really should have left that on the cutting-room floor.  Margolyes might eventually come to the conclusion that although not all obesity is equally undesirable, some obesities are considerably more undesirable than others. 

I understand that Margolyes has been on the receiving end of a lifetime of insensitive and hurtful remarks, which may have contributed to her feelings of self-loathing. Perhaps an element of self-loathing might partly explain why the silly woman keeps signing her name to insensitive and ill-informed letters to the Guardian that hurt, insult and denigrate the Jewish state.  Have a loud, flatulent raspberry.

Monday, 9 March 2020

For the sake of diversity

Sayeeda Warsi, Twitter:
"Monday morning class for racists - it’s 2020 people
- If you take a negative characteristic of an individual and impose on a whole community that’s racism
- personal anecdotes are not justifications for racism - it’s still racism"
There is quite enough already online about the Trevor Phillips fiasco - not so much the above quote from Sayeeda Warsi’s Twitter thread  - I was thinking more about the negative observations about the Labour Party's suspension of Trevor Phillips below articles about the topic in The Times.

Islamophobia? Looks bad for the Labour Party? With my reputation (!) 

Instead of going over all that again, I want to pick up Nick Robinson mentioning “A letter from Tommy Robinson that was found in Darren Osborne’s van, referring to Muslims as ‘a nation within a nation.”

Oddly, the above clip from the BBC Politics Twitter timeline excludes that particular reference. That set me thinking. Was there really such a letter? Or was it another of those disingenuous memes? You know, like letterboxes and watermelon smiles.
I found two or three reports in the Independent referring to: “letters beginning with the phrase “dear Darren” ... “signed off” by Tommy Robinson." This, and this written by Lizzie Dearden, a reporter who has ‘history’ with T. Robinson.


This report, illustrated with a suitably aggressive-looking shot of her ‘subject’, refers to ‘emails’ that Osborne had downloaded, and later to an “email from Mr Robinson to Mr Osborne”. So, had Tommy Robinson been personally corresponding with Osborne and specifically inciting him to ‘act’? 

We all know that ‘clicking’ on something can trigger a flurry of unsolicited ‘personal’ messages, or let’s call them personalised messages, and we should also understand that receiving an automatically generated round-robin is not quite the same thing as being actual pen-pals with an individual at the head of the organisation that generated it.

So why did Lizzie Dearden and co make it seem otherwise? ‘Signed off’ is slightly different from just ‘signed by.” The Independent's journalists must have been aware that they were giving the impression that Tommy Robinson was specifically inciting Osborne to kill Muslims.

Nick Robinson said (to Trevor Phillips) that inflammatory messages from Tommy Robinson were ‘in a letter found in his (Darren Osborne’s) van’, and I put it to you that there was indeed a letter, but it was written by Osborne himself. There is even a photo of him sitting in a pub, pen and paper in hand - allegedly setting out his ‘manifesto’. It’s in the actual BBC reportFinsbury Park: what led Darren Osborne to kill? (Dominic Casciani)

Personal correspondence, generic emails, incitements to kill, self-penned manifestos - easily conflated, if you've a mind to, and you know it will pass unchallenged.



There is a considerable dollop of irony in the fact that in all the reports, even the ones that have massaged the facts to suit their agendas, a large portion of the blame for triggering the unhinged Mr Osborne to carry out his nasty deed has been laid at the door of the BBC’s own dramatisation “Three Girls.” 

But Nick forgot to mention that. It might have been awkward because it would have drawn attention to an uncomfortable truth about the "negative characteristics" of certain individuals. Or, to echo a certain Naz Shah (did she really say that?) you need to shut your mouth for the sake of diversity.

Update:
In this post (about the Robinson bros.) I was more concerned with the way Nick Robinson managed to shoehorn Tommy Robinson into his attack on Trevor Phillips than on the substance of the Labour Party’s ridiculous attempt to save its reputation. (As if!!) and I wanted to highlight the annoying phenomena of memes that have gone viral despite being disingenuous and context-lite.

The topic of Trevor Phillips and Islamophobia has been examined from every angle, inside, outside and upside down by The Times, the Spectator, Spiked and I daresay the Guardian and the Independent too. All the arguments have been made so eloquently and articulately by others that it seemed presumptuous for me to try to go over it all again, again.

I would have posted this update below the line (in a comment,) but it's easier to embed the links to some of these excellent pieces here. There are some good responses. (Unfortunately, the Spectator pieces are behind a paywall.)

 In defence of Trevor Phillips

Trevor Phillips’s fate should terrify us all

Why Labour wants to smear Trevor Phillips

Labour will regret its shameful treatment of Trevor Phillips


Here is a rudimentary list of some of the arguments one hears and reads, which one must put to oneself to test their strength and /or validity. 

1.) A phobia is an irrational fear.
2.) The ‘good Muslim’  is an ex-Muslim.
3) A ‘good’ Jew is an anti-Zionist Marxist
4.) Your ‘race’ is your race is your race. (Said Goebbels)
5.) Islam is a political ideology masquerading as a religion.
6.) Lumping disparate things together is racist.
7.) Arabs are 'Semitic' too.  (Gnomes are humans too) (Don’t be silly)

One can get lost in contradictory arguments about Islamophobia and antisemitism plus the concomitant false equivalences. The themes go round and round and trip over themselves on the way back. These days, in the end, it all boils down to ‘feelings’. Points mean prizes; facts mean feelings.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Bringing people together

If you saw this on Politics Live a few days ago, you might not have seen the comments that appeared below the Tweet featuring it on the BBC News politics Twitter feed.

Sadly, vitriolic commentary is not unusual nowadays, but the comment: 
“Horrible woman.i (sic) don't want to see her on our tv screens.” 
kind of epitomises the noxious nature of some of the discourse on social media.  Firstly, demanding the ‘no-platforming’ of people with whom one disagrees is intolerant enough, but the trend for scatter-gunning vile insults without feeling any need to explain, or offer any reasoning at all is nothing more than reverse virtue-signalling. Call it ‘iniquity-signalling’.

If there was an actual reason behind that Tweet, what could it be? Bile-spouting Tweeters displaying smiling selfies on their timelines seem absurdly oxymoronic to me. I bet a grinning selfie adorns the timeline of whoever wrote “the genocide in Gaza” on some godforsaken thread somewhere.

As Melanie Phillips said, the rise in antisemitism in Europe, the US and the UK is not something to ignore or take lightly.
I thought it was quite remarkable that Rachel Sylvester’s in-depth article about Lisa Nandy in The Times and Nandy’s interview with Laura Kuenssberg on the Beeb glossed over both irreconcilable anomalies in Nandy’s campaign for leadership of the Labour Party concerning two pledges she was, let’s be kind and call it ‘dragooned into’ signing her name to. The first was the issue of trans rights versus women’s right to privacy and single-sex spaces. Two incompatible positions.

The second was about her support for the Palestinians’ “Right of Return” (She’s chair of Labour Friends of Palestine)  - that’s the ‘rights’ of about five million people, refugees and their descendants from the1948 war (of the intended annihilation of Israel) to return to their former ‘homes,’ while at the same time insisting she supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Computer says no.
"When an irresistible force such as you/Meets an old immovable object like me/You can bet just as sure as you live/Something's gotta give/Something’s gotta give/Something's gotta give."
Neither Sylvester nor Kuenssberg showed any interest in what happens when an immovable force meets an intractable problem, and despite Nandy’s (very possibly sincerely meant) promises of ‘bringing people together’ , the fact is, sometimes there’s just no room for mister in-between.




Torn

I thought Andrew Marr had been slightly chastened by the fallout from his disastrous ‘get Boris’  fiasco. (That, and perhaps the conspicuous dearth of A-list politicians whom the Beeb had managed to lure onto the Marr show.)
However, the perfect storm of Covid-19, the floods, and internal governmental political mini-eruptions (Sajid and Priti) have led to a kind of wartime spirit. We must come together.

Both today’s interviews of Rishi Sunak (on Sky and on the Marr show) were still angling for the same ‘gotcha’  - albeit a minor one - over whether the emergency means Sunak is going to ‘break fiscal rules’.

Needless to say, despite how many times Sophy narrowed her eyes and/or Marr leant forward in his chair, the mild-mannered chancellor wouldn’t budge. “Wait for Wednesday” was the message.

I wonder if anyone can explain why the BBC keeps inviting John McDonnell onto their flagship programmes. They must be really desperate. Who still cares what he thinks?

I’m always torn between the overlap between the two main political Sunday morning shows. I wish they wouldn’t do that. So I’ve yet to catch up on some of the colourful Sky interviews I missed. Namely Layla Moran and Cherie Blair, who looked suspiciously like a Spitting Image of herself. (I hear that programme is coming back soon so perhaps it was a prototype)

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Out Of Office Message (from Craig)


Hello all. Just to let you know that I won't be around the blog for a while. Events, dear boy (and girl). But Sue will be posting when she can, and Open Threads will be popping up regularly. So please bear with us and please keep on posting your comments. There's a lot of BBC stuff going on at the moment. However, as Jimmy Young once of the BBC used to say, TTFN. 

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Open Thread


Rooks have Returned, Aleksey Savrasov. 1871

Edward Thomas, Thaw
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
Well, we can hope!

Thanks for all your comments.

Rogue narratives


The way the left has managed to sledge-hammer dumb ideas into the narrative. (e.g., Boris the racist and the liar.)


See Dawn Butler? With an intellect almost equal to that of David Lammy, she thinks uttering “Letterboxes” is conclusive proof of the Prime Minister’s racism. She hasn’t even got the ingenuity to add ‘picaninnies' and ‘watermelon smiles’.

While we’re on the subject of sledge-hammering home rogue narratives, don’t let’s forget Tommy Robinson,’ convicted fraudster’ and ‘far-right extremist’.

You’ll probably know that Tommy’ Robinson’s hair-trigger temper catapulted him into yet more trouble the other day. You’ll have seen the video.



The BBC reported it like so. "Tommy Robinson charged with Center Parcs swimming pool assault"

He had punched a weirdo in the face (drawing blood) following an incident at a center parcs family resort (whatever that is). Tommy says he was trying to perform a citizens' arrest on a middle-aged ‘man’ for squeezing Tommy’s 8-year-old daughter on the bum whilst she played in the children’s swimming pool. A weirdly creepy scenario, at best.

The police turned up. Rather than arresting the man or confiscating his phone, they arrested Tommy for ‘common assault’. Needless to say, he got exceedingly het up.

I’ll put this up, just for balance. Ex-police detective Jon Wedger. 



Missed opportunity, retrieved

I was hoping that  Oliver Dowden’s suggestion that “The BBC must reflect nation’” was going to be one of the topics on Politics Live’s agenda. When I saw Melanie Phillips on the panel I thought she might be up for it.  Apparently, it was on the list; but they ran out of time.

They had a satisfactorily robust, if brief, airing of “Labour’s antisemitism problem” with special reference to Rebecca Long-Bailey’s awkward non-response to Andrew Neil’s persistent questioning on his show yesterday evening. 


I think R L-B’s goose is cooked.

Gratifyingly, Neil focused on the incident that passed her (and Sophy Ridge) by during Sky’s leadership hustings.

I mentioned this annoying omission in an earlier post. It certainly makes a change to see this kind of thing not being allowed to pass unchallenged.

War with the corporation

I daresay we’ll be hearing more about Oliver Dowden’s “opening salvo in a Tory war with the corporation” today.  

Is Dowden’s intervention the beginning of a revolution or a damp squib? The responses (tweets) indicate that the divide between left and right is deeper and more entrenched than ever. 

Not that it would be an improvement if the BBC’s ultra-woke, left-wing activism were ‘balanced out’ with the equivalent opposite, which is exactly what left-wing fanatics assume “the Tories want”, such as equal quotas of Neo-Nazi and white supremacist spokespersons to counterbalance Ash Sarkar and, say, Kerry-Anne Mendoza each time they're on air.

Several tweeters believe that without its right-on, woke, left-wing activism the BBC would suddenly turn into a racist cesspit. Someone’s nightmare of a future Tory-led BBC included wall-to-wall reruns of  ‘Till Death Us Do Part” as if Alf Garnett was presented as a role model.  

It was a comedy. Remember them?


Sunday, 1 March 2020

Questions and Answers


I came a cropper yesterday on the Priti Patel/Sir Philip Rutnam story, but I'm returning to the fray today regardless.

The BBC's involvement in the story intrigues me, because they have been absolutely at the heart of it.

Here's what we know: Sir Philip's resignation was choreographed in tandem with the BBC. On resigning, he contacted the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg. BBC cameras and the BBC's political editor were then present to film his resignation speech. A BBC staffer even held an umbrella over Sir Philip's head to protect him from the rain.

Today, the BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw entered the fray, unhelpfully for Priti Patel, piling on more pressure with 'breaking' news. BBC News "has been told", he said, that Priti was formally complained about while serving as a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions. The complaint "is believed to have been made by a member of her private office".

So what's going on here? And what's the BBC's role in all of this? 

The BBC are obviously being used - by Sir Philip for starters, and also by that person who "told" them about the DWP complaint - but is that in any way wrong if it's a neutral journalistic scoop? After all, who'd look a gift horse in the gob?

Is being fed stories like this, even if the feeding is very obviously being done by people on a mission to bring down Priti Patel, actually part and parcel of proper, decent journalism?

Or is it not neutral journalism at all? Might not the BBC itself be on a similar mission?

********

Meanwhile, Charlie's comment at the top of the latest Open Thread prompted me to check out who the BBC has invited on to discuss this story since it first broke yesterday morning. 

Using TV Eyes to track them down, but only checking Radio 4's politics programmes and the BBC News Channel, here are the results. 

The colour coding is simple: Those in red were pro-Sir Philip/anti-Priti. Those in blue were pro-Priti/anti-Sir Philip. Those in green were neither one nor the other. 

Broadcasting House - Lord Kerslake
The World This Weekend - Jonathan Powell; Lord Butler
PM - Dave Penman; Yvette Cooper; Crispin Blunt
BBC News Channel - Lord Kerslake; Owen Jones; Cindy Yu; Sir Anthony SeldonYvette Cooper; Sebastian Payne

Of course, the Government isn't putting up people to speak on its behalf, but - still - this is quite an unbalanced list, don't you think?

So What Robin Aitken's Saying Is


Peter Whittle's So What You're Saying Is interviews are reliably good, and this week's is excellent. It involves Robin Aitken, the former BBC man responsible for three books about BBC bias: Can We Trust the BBC?, Can We Still Trust the BBC? and The Noble Liar. 

The one bit I'll highlight in advance concerns the aftermath of Robin's recent appearance on The Moral Maze. Having listened to it and heard his complaints about the lack of diversity of opinion in the BBC's output as a whole, a woman who works on one of the BBC's longest-running drama staples - he didn't name which, so I'll guess EastEnders or Casualty - got in contact with him. She was asking for his help. The problem is that everyone who writes for the show shares the same socially liberal, left-of-centre outlook, and she couldn't think how to help them start creating sympathetic conservative characters or write convincing expressions of a conservative points of view. She hoped Robin would come to talk to them for her.

It's promising that someone of influence in BBC drama sees there's a problem and wants to do something about it, but it reveals how far the BBC has to go to bring in fresh thinking and burst the BBC bubble.

Tom Bateman not keen on "right-wing nationalism"

Presumably attracted by this story, “Vandalism in Jish”  Tom Bateman channels the message that “Israel is a racist endeavour” on the Today Programme.


"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a rare denunciation of the attack, saying he “strongly condemns the graffiti and property damage in the village of Jish. We will find the lawbreakers and bring them to justice. We will not accept any attacks on our citizens.”


I'm going to wait for BBCWatch to clarify some of the ambiguous material in this report, ( I’m sure they will) so I ought to leave this (mainly) as a transcription. (Some of the names are phonetic approximations)  

Mishal Husain.
“18 mins past seven. Israel will have its third election in a year on Monday. Testament to the deadlock in the political system with Benjamin Netanyahu unable so far to get the majority he needs for his tight wing bock. But going into this election, the Arab-Israeli parties are claiming to be making significant ground. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.
(Arabic chanting)

Tom Bateman:
“In the winding streets of the village of Jish …..is this your friend?”
Laughter
“Everyone is your friend!…..  “The mayor gets stopped; men lean from windows above. ‘Hey, Mister President’ shouts one passer-by. These hills of Northern Israel are suns-drenched even in the winter but the Arab-Israeli residents here recently came under attack.
(shouting)

“Abu Ali shouts down from a window ‘three of the group came down from the street, I called the police. (Background noise) “In Jish Jewish extremists slashed hundreds of tyres and warned Arabs against assimilation. The police are investigating but have made no arrests. The Mayor, Elias Elias gives me a sigh. He has lived here all his life”
“Fifty Eight” 
“Fifty Eight. So you were born ten years after the state of Israel was created?
‘Ahah’
‘You’ve seen the history. You grew up with the history - what’s it like being an Arab-Israeli?’
(He answers in Arabic) Bateman translates: 
“We live here for better or worse, he says. We don’t have the same rights as the others. But we try to preserve our community, our heritage, our existence. And we will stay here.”
(Guitar strums)
I meet Eyob Farrah(?) on the beach in Haifa, a mixed city of Arab and Jewish Israelis. He sings satire about fellow Palestinian citizens of Israel as he prefers to be called, who will vote. He says they will only end propping up a rival government to Mr Netanyahu, that won’t help them either.
(Singing) 
“They pass so many racist laws like
 all the things already done before
They pass the laws ….(unintelligible
The drinking ……(unintelligible
Bateman: 
“Deep anger among many Arab Israelis. There were new laws asserting Jewish sovereignty by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing nationalist government, and recently the Trump plan, offering to swap hundreds of thousands of people in Arab-Israeli towns into a Palestinian state in return for Israel getting the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.”
(Music) Bateman:
“In one of Haifa’s cafe gardens, as she and her friends sip lemon and mint, Yara (?) chatted to me. Like her, most Arab-Israelis look set to vote on Monday, maybe even a boost to the 60% that turned out in September’s election. 
Girl
“I represent the Arabs that want a future in this country. I want to see that we belong. I don’t think that the Arabic Party is going to be able to achieve a lot of rights for us, more than we have already, but I do believe that we all have got to go and vote to try and stop the deterioration of our situation here.”
New voice.
"My name is May Beyti(?) and I live in Nazareth and I work with her and I’m Palestinian, from the West Bank,..
“You’re not able to vote?”
"No. I don’t have the vote. As a Palestinian who’s married to an Israeli citizen with two daughters who are Israeli I don’t have the right to drive, I don’t have the right to work easily, I don’t have the right to have a bank account, to travel with my daughters and my husband through the same borders. We travel differently, so all I care about is to have a normal life here”

I don’t know the laws and rights concerning Palestinians married to Israeli citizens who reside in Nazareth, but it sounds as if the lady who ‘hasn’t got a vote’ in Israeli elections isn’t an Israeli citizen.
(Maybe she is entitled to vote for Mahmoud Abbas, should the Palestinian Authority decide to hold elections.)  Nor do I know why she can’t drive, travel freely or have a bank account - could this be something to do with the PA?  Maybe Tom Bateman could fill us in. (He wouldn’t want to give the impression that the Israeli government practises ‘apartheid’, surely?)

Bateman: 
“The ice-cream sellers outnumber the political canvassers overlooking the Mediterranean coast here. After all, this is the third election in a year. Its ingredients have been similar to the last two. Mr Netanyahu warns that his main rival Benny Gantz will have to rely on the support of the Arab parties to win. A security risk to the Jewish state he suggests, while the joint list of Arab parties is aiming for an increase up to sixteen MPs in the 120 seat parliament but the sentiment for many of their supporters is likely to remain. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always wins.

Somehow I get the impression that Tom Bateman isn’t too keen on right-wing nationalism. Or on Israel, really. What d’you think?

Going for woke


Jodie, waving her sonic screwdriver around 

It's the Doctor Who season finale tonight. If you won't be watching you won't be alone. 

The season's viewing figures are now well below any other season since the show came back from its long hiatus in the mid 2000s, and as this series has gone on the ratings have kept on falling. Apparently, the figures are now back to the low they reached just before the programme was axed in the 1980s. 

It's just one of those things that the last two episodes have been the best of the season by some margin, but the damage was done with that string of truly terrible episodes earlier in the season and, unfortunately, they used up their supply of good faith. People switched off, and even word-of-mouth that the series has picked up again probably won't encourage many to switch back on. 

What's the problem? Well, there's all the heavy politically-correctness for starters, made worse by the fact that it has sometimes been accompanied by actual preaching. (Who wants to hear Doctor Who lecture the audience as if they are in a classroom? Listening to Doctor Jodie in full flow reminds me of what Queen Victoria is said to have said of Gladstone, "He speaks to me as if I were a public meeting"). But many also cite awful scripts, a Doctor lots of people find unconvincing, unengaging companions, and poor acting (particularly from the companions). 

The BBC is, of course, doubling down. The first female Doctor can't be seen to fail, so she's getting the now-standard third series. As is showrunner Chris Chibnall. And Piers Wenger, controller of BBC drama commissioning, is quoted as saying:
I worked on Doctor Who myself and produced it for many years and I can honestly say I don’t think it’s been in better health editorially. The production values have never been better.
I think someone's been on the Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. 

To end: a funny video. There's a lot of truth in it.

Mixed Bag



At least in my head, I like to think of this site as being something of a 'blog of record' as far as certain BBC-related matters go, so having missed most of the last two weeks I'm feeling the need to fill a few gaps.

Your comments are proving very helpful in helping to plug them, so thank you.

******* I *******

First, there's that anonymous 'whistleblowing' Guardian piece by a BBC insider.

I saw mixed reviews for it here on the Open Thread.

It took me a while to figure out exactly where the piece was 'coming from', but the fact that the writer twice uses the word "reactionary" - once about Danny Lockwood, the other time (literally) about 'people like us' - and then proceeds to call the leavers of the ERG "far-right" left no room for doubt that the writer is a BBC left-winger. And although it puzzled me initially that the BBC Anon sounded queasy on the question of Brexit and was against both Mark Francois and Anna Soubry, reading the longer, unedited version of the piece at The Fence (where Tom Watson and Chuka Umunna came in for snippy criticism), I think it's safe to confidently assume that the writer is a disgruntled BBC Corbyn admirer instinctively defensive of Jeremy Corbyn's fence-sitting over Brexit. (Or am I wrong?)

Still, there was some fascinating stuff in the piece, including all the bits about the grid used by producers on all BBC political shows to ensure 'diversity':
A whiteboard would be marked up with a clumsy grid system. The grid would revolve around a set of key identities such as “woman”, “northern” or “poc” (person of colour). These would then be cross-categorised with political stances such as “Brexiteer”, “Tory” or “progressive”. Our task [as BBC producers] would then be to ensure that any proposed panel contained a complete balance of all these attributes.
If 100% accurate, how 'very BBC' and patronising is that?

I don't doubt for one moment the counting bit of the grid, especially the “woman”, “northern” or “poc” (person of colour) bit. The BBC, despite rejecting the 'number-crunching' of News-watch (and my massive 2009-10 interruptions survey), are total hypocrites in this respect. They put The Count from Sesame Street to shame when it comes to counting things like "women, Northerners and pocs".

Plus, if 100% accurate, it would mean that the BBC uses the labels "Brexiteer", "Tory" and "progressive" in production meetings - and, if the BBC really does label people that way, that would speak loud volumes about the "progressive" outlook of BBC producers.

The writer also writes about the "boozy familiarity" between BBC journalists and "a handful of MPs, deeply entrenched in London’s literary and intellectual circles, [who] treat the BBC like a university common room". These MPs are "slick and power-hungry" Remainers:
Off-camera, a highly influential Westminster social circle revolves around trips to various holiday homes in continental Europe, where various MPs and the journalists who are supposed to report on them have long been playing just as hard as they work.
It's hardly proper whistleblowing though, is it, if the BBC Anon doesn't name names?

******* II *******

The grid may be repellent to opponents of identity politics, but there's no doubt that some people gain from it.

Yesterday's The Times included an interview with regular BBC Politics guest Helen Lewis (formerly of The New Statesman, now at The Atlantic).


She singles out blog favourite Rob Burley, Editor of Live Political Programmes for the BBC, as being responsible for "a seismic change in the inclusion of women in line-ups".

I don't doubt it.

Rob, however, is forever busy in having to fend off people on Twitter comparing his carefully counted and tick-boxed programmes to Loose Women.

Having counted himself, Rob says it works out, over time, at about 50/50 as far as the balance between men and women goes.

(Question: What is it for pocs and us Northerners?)

Male-female-wise, the BBC is just like Is the BBC biased?, the most woke BBC bias blog in the world, only beaten by The Conservative Woman.

******* III *******

It's been an interesting week for Rob.

I do like him, and I understand why he's severely drawn back from being the BBC's chief musketeer on Twitter: I'm assuming too many unreasonable Corbynistas, venom-spouting spider-sporting FBPE types, and Carole Catwalladr cultists - fringe fanatics, all of them, who speak for barely a minor fraction of the public.

Even a rare, admirable, charming (if choosy) BBC engager-with-the-public like Rob must get worn down by totally irrational complaints about BBC bias from 'the other side', despite temptations to continually shoot half-witted fish in tweet-sized barrels.

('Our side', of course, is perfectly reasonable in our complaints, so 'complaints from both sides' can go and take a running jump!)

On which subject, BBC Two's Politics Live came under fire from Guido Fawkes for seeming to accept without question, or any basic journalistic probing whatsoever, what an Extinction Rebellion girl said.


There's no 'seeming' about it though. As this YouTube clip shows, Jo Coburn, seeing protestors wearing miner's hats made of cardboard, simply took it on trust that the protestors surrounding the XR girl were miners and ex-miners, despite them protesting against 'their mines' and livelihoods being extended and wearing cardboard miners hats.

Apparently, they weren't either miners or ex-miners, just climate activists pretending.

Free-range egg on the BBC's face it seems, alongside fried fake news sandwiches.

To rhyme in cliché: 'So/think/before you blink/Jo'.

******* IV *******

Meanwhile (if a bit late in the following day) here's an intriguing nugget from Andrew Billen's Times interview yesterday with David Cameron's deputy chief of staff, Kate Fall:
I was also surprised to learn that Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor at the time, recommended the editor of BBC News at Ten, Craig Oliver, to succeed Coulson as director of communications. “Look, the head of comms at No 10 has nearly always been an ex-journalist, from a paper or from broadcast. I don’t think that is a huge issue.” And Robinson recommended him? “Yes, apparently.”
Who knew Nick Robinson was such a man of influence?

*******V*******

A blog well-wisher really didn't enjoy Tuesday's Newsnight complaining that they had an item about Cyril Smith and David Steel and had Harvey Proctor on to comment. "Never mind that his story had nothing to do with it. And Maitlis kept pushing him towards her POV about the police. And I noticed that the ex-policeman was a cuddly 'John' and the ex-politician was a formal 'Harvey Proctor'". That's our Em!

Still, it might earn the programme another award. Newsnight won 'Daily News Programme of the Year' at the Royal Television Society TV Journalism Awards last week.


I love this photo of the triumphant team, firstly because of Emily Maitlis's theatrical pose and, secondly, because of the total lack of diversity on display. What would Geeta Guru-Murthy say about such "a white crowd"?

*******VI*******

Talking of triumphant people, Samira Ahmed - fresh from her equal pay victory over the BBC - is definitely smiling a lot more on Newswatch. Good!

This week's BBC editor on 'we got it about right' duties was Richard Burgess, UK News Editor for BBC News. He was defending the BBC over that perennial Newswatch complaint about BBC reporters getting blown about and soaked while reporting in the middle of a storm, preferably getting drenched in sea-spray. I think Mr Burgess put up a good defence and, here at least, the BBC did get it about right.

*******VII********

Never mind coronavirus, nothing was going to stop Mishal Husain from going to Paris to interview Asia Bibi for Today. What would Greta say?

The BBC's man in Moscow loses his appetite


I've a suspicion that the BBC's Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg might be regretting sending out this tweet:



Here's a selection of the 1.3K replies:

  • Does the BBC have a maximum testosterone requirement? 
  • Did you cry?
  • Are you okay?
  • I'm so sorry this happened to you.
  • Imagine being this fragile.
  • I'm so sorry chocolate in different shapes happened to you. And they say that reporters aren't heroes.
  • Jesus. White chocolate isn’t that bad. Calm down.
  • Please show us on the doll where the evil confection hurt you.
  • Not to mention they are....WHITE 😡.
  • I'll bite the bullet for you then.
  • I would give them a shot.
  • Awww, did it hurt your widdle feelwings? Do you need your binky?
  • The Virtue Signal is strong with this one.
  • What’s it like being the softest most beta male alive?
  • One like = 1 prayer for Steve. Come on guys, let’s show our support in this trying time!
  • What's life like, walking around in abject terror of random objects?
  • Steve, you are shouting at chocolate. 

Saturday, 29 February 2020

The "Dave" Leap Year Open Thread


Dave,  the new BBC Stormzy, welcomes you to a fresh, daffodil-filled Leap Year Open Thread.


Thank you for your support, help and comments.

Sides



It's turning into quite the day for culture warriors. (What's new?)

My Twitter feed (which I keep as wide-ranging as possible) has divided very sharply.

If you believe one camp, Sir Philip Rutnam represented the rotten heart of the Civil Service, presiding over disaster after disaster at the departments he ran. If you believe the opposing camp, he was the epitome of a decent public servant, a kind man of scrupulous integrity.

One camp says that Sir Philip was bullied, the other that Priti Patel is the one really being bullied.

One camp says his exit's an excellent thing, a win for a government seeking to drain the swamp, while the other says it's a bad thing and that it will actually harm the government, especially Priti Patel.

Basically, one side says 'Priti bad, Sir Philip good' and the other side 'Priti good, Sir Philip bad'.

Everyone said what I expected them to say, on either side, until I came to Spiked's Tom Slater, who - breaking the template of all my expectations -  tweeted:
I worked with Sir Philip Rutnam for 40 years. He was always impeccably neutral, diligent, intelligent, kind and of course loving. He was a giant among functionaries. No one had a bad word to say about him, nor could anyone resist his charms. Patel should be ashamed of herself.
I don't know either of them, so I'll just say that I'm inclining towards reserving judgement, with my natural pro-Priti instincts being balanced by Tom from Spiked's testimonial in favour of Sir Philip.


For those who are interested, here's BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall and his take on things. He's strongly leaning to the side that thinks this is very bad for Priti Patel:

  1. Can’t recall a resignation of a senior official quite like this. Potentially most serious is the oblique reference Rutnam makes towards the treatment of other staff...court case has the potential to be an embarrassing and long running sore for Patel and the govt.
  2. Patel isn’t the first politician (not Home Secretary) to have had difficulties with Rutnam. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we were bound to end up here. Things appear to have stepped up several notches with the incumbent.
  3. Sedwill will also have to oversee a replacement as Permanent Secretary. Patel will have to do her best to try and secure a replacement to her liking. For that person will be very powerful. One thing is for sure, she can’t afford to lose another Perm Sec/more officials.
  4. Am struggling to understand the dual view, held by a some, who maintain a) Ruttnam’s resignation doesn’t matter because the public isn’t paying attention but b) think it’s a strategic triumph because it signals to the public Patel is super tough on Home Office issues.
  5. Am told that Rutnam is not typical Home Office. More of an economist, in some ways not a natural fit there. But also, that there’s no way he would be bringing an action like this if he doesn’t think he’ll win. Depending on the details which emerge, could be devastating for Patel.
  6. Source also tells me that though though some in Home Office were wary of Rutnam, this whole thing (and the way Home Sec has handled it) has potential to unite the dept against her. With little Spad support (denuded by Number 10) next few months promises to be v tricky for her. 

Update: Please see the comments below for proof of where I went embarrassingly wrong here! To quote Wallis Simpson: D'oh!

Hey Big Humphrey



One of the joys of blogging is being introduced to things you are completely unaware of by readers. 

I knew of the once-famous poet Stephen Spender (friend of Auden, whose collected poems I treated myself to a month back. Over 900 pages!) but I knew nothing of one of his brothers, Humphrey Spender (1910-2005) until Arthur T introduced me to him this weekend, telling me that, having studied architecture, Humphrey became a photographer working on the Mass Observation project

I've been reading up on him and looking at his remarkable photos of Bolton, Lancs (aka Worktown) and The Potteries. 

I was going to add some of those photos of Bolton to this post but Bolton Council has their copyright plastered all over them. So here instead are a selection of Humphrey's varied paintings, which I very much like. 





And while on the subject of being introduced to things, Saturday Night is Music Night, so here's Pentangle's theme to 1960s BBC series Take Three Girls (the first drama to be broadcast in colour), which Charlie and MB were discussing yesterday. I'd never heard of it.