Thursday, 17 January 2019

Michael Gove: the speech







Everyone else has done it so we might as well publish the barnstormer we enjoyed yesterday. Funnily enough, the BBC chose instead to feature Tom Watson’s effort, over which the spectre of an enormous  ‘elephant’ loomed.

I have to admit that many of my political and philosophical positions are primarily emotional. For example, I’ve loathed Corbers ever since he hove into view alongside his Judeophobic colleagues, like, say Andy Slaughter and, I don’t know, Chris Mullin. That was long ago. Back when the prospect of such a wrong-headed individual becoming leader of the Labour Party was simply unthinkable.

But I’ve admired Gove, particularly are reading his 2016 Times piece (£) on antisemitism, way before the issue became a hot topic. 

From an emotional angle, admittedly I think the label ‘back-stabber’ is unfair because I can very well understand his misgivings about Boris’s leadership potential and his reluctance to be closely associated with what he foresaw as a potential accident-waiting-to-happen. With hindsight, it may or may not have been a big mistake, but I like to believe it was sincerely motivated rather than malevolent. 
One might consider how Tom Watson must feel, knowing that despite losing an elephantine amount of weight he’s still shackled to another humungous elephant.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Open Thread


Brucie - didn't she do well? .........Praise for Fiona (or otherwise) on the new Open Thread

Not Brexit part 2

Rod Liddle is on top form this week.  I can’t resist nicking most of it - don’t tell anyone. Click to see the video: Liddle’s Got Issues Bias at the BBC. It includes an interview with Robin Aitken.

I suspect that the first thing many of you thought when you heard that a 14-year-old boy, Jaden Moodie, had been knocked off his moped and stabbed to death in east London — the first thing after the wave of utter revulsion and pity at a young life wiped out — was: what is a kid of that age doing out at night illegally riding a moped?
And then you may have checked yourself, feeling slightly ashamed. A mean-spirited question. Who the hell are you to know? East London is a world away, and they do things differently there. And yet, as is often the case, your first response would have been the correct one, surely. A question that none of the authorities or community leaders has the stomach to address. 

Not Brexit part 1

This is another belated point I wanted to make back along, away from Brexit - (I wonder how many Tourettes sufferers have “Brexit” as a tic?) (If I had a tic, that would definitely be it.)

Stephen Daisley is a controversial writer. They say he’s a bit of a lefty, but since I gravitate selectively towards his Middle East pieces I have little to say about that. However, though he has produced some outstanding articles on I / P over the years, the one I read a couple of weeks ago seemed to me to be a bit of a curate’s egg. The real Racism Against the Palestinians.

                     

“I’ve always railed against liberal blindness and hypocrisy on Palestinian extremism as a product of anti-Israel bias. I’m not so sure anymore. I’m starting to wonder if the real bias is against the Palestinians.”  
I wonder if Daisley just means the racism of low expectations. The racism of treating the Palestinians, or Palestinian society, as inferior; a biased value-judgement that assumes merely ‘being Palestinian’  inherently entails intellectual inferiority (to our own superiority.)
“Yes, Palestinian culture has a lot of work to do to catch up on democracy, human rights, minority rights, and much else besides. But none of this is inherent to being Palestinian; these are political and social values and they, and the cultures that espouse them, can change. This, however, is at odds with the underlying assumptions of Western policy on the Middle East in which Israeli misdeeds are aberrations to be condemned and corrected while Palestinian misdeeds are shrugged off, excused or justified. This is just who they are.”
That’s all well and good, but “the cultures that espouse them can change? Can they though? The missing piece of the jigsaw in this hypothesis is, obviously, Islam. That’s the spanner in the rather optimistic forecast that “things can change.” Islam isn’t going to change any time soon. It’s part of Islam's integral Mobius strip that says it can’t and won’t. 
“The sentiment is sympathy but the logic is pure bigotry. We are not friends of the Palestinians. We are not lending them solidarity by indulging their outrages. We are treating them like a savage tribe from an Edgar Wallace adventure, benighted but noble in their own way, wide-eyed grateful to the white man for understanding their backwards customs. There is your racism.”
It’s not exactly racism though, is it? It boils down to what some people might brand “Islamophobia”. In other words, we are indulging their outrages. Islam-shaped outrages - and we're on the way to indulging the Islam-shaped outrages everywhere else, to boot.

Along the way, Daisley cites two significant examples of the way in which Israeli and Palestinian societies differ. 
1) The murderer of British student Hannah Bladon was given a lenient sentence by the Israeli court because he was seriously mentally ill. 

2) The Palestinian court, however, also gave a lenient sentence to a Palestinian who was convicted of the heinous crime “attempting to sell land to a Jew”. He was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labour - apparently only avoiding the customary death sentence for that offence as he also holds US citizenship, and the state department is reportedly working to extradite him.
“If you get your news from the BBC, you might have missed this story, what with it not appearing to merit a single word on the corporation’s website. Happily, there was space on the Middle East page for a puff piece on Kholoud Nassar, ‘a Palestinian Instagrammer in the Gaza Strip [who] wants to show us a different side of life there’.” 

Stephen Daisley knows perfectly well what’s behind it but he doesn’t say so explicitly. To do so would be judged inflammatory and Islamophobic.

Anyway, “Brexit !!!”


Sunday, 13 January 2019

Ways to Change the World

This is about ITV and Channel Four. Turn away now if you’re exclusively interested in bias on the actual BBC.

Did anyone see Rachel Riley and Krishnan Guru-Murthy: the Podcast  “Ways to Change the World” ?



She’s clever and pretty and she’s not afraid to swear at George Galloway on Twitter. What’s not to like?

 The first thing that struck me here was that she was extraordinarily late in the day in becoming - may I use the word ‘woke’? (i.e., alert to injustice in society, especially racism.) I mean, how disappointing was it to discover that she has existed (I assume) within the Metropolitan bubble for at least ten years, yet until the Jewish community got its act together and took some concerted, high profile action, she knew zilch about the media’s relentless bias against Israel or the antisemitism in the Labour party?
But there you go.  Her personality + brains + beauty are invaluable assets for publicly raising awareness; and who knew the glamorous mathematician from Countdown possesses a fully functioning Jewdar? 

What we did hear, loud and clear, was Krishnan G-M’s appalling ignorance. Of course, one expects him to take a pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel stance in accord with Channel Four’s remit, but publicly displaying (and hence perpetuating) his core ignorance of the topic under discussion is (should be) a huge embarrassment to himself.

He tries to expound on the ‘difference’ between anti-Zionism and antisemitism and pretends to be playing Devil’s advocate. But Rachel Riley, as a beginner  - a newcomer to the subject - is ill-equipped to make the strong rebuttal that this particularly foolish “Devil” deserves. 

“I’m having to have so much knowledge that I didn’t have before, to combat it” she declares.

She insists that Israel is necessary as ‘somewhere for Jews to go’ should the need arise, to which Guru-Murthy counters that the Palestinians shouldn’t have had to be “displaced” for this to happen.

“As you know, people on the there side will say it is not racist to say Israel shouldn’t exist because all I’m saying is …. they (are saying)…it was wrong to displace the Palestinians; we should go back to a pre 1948 situation and that means the modern state of Israel doesn’t exist, that doesn’t make me….I’m not hating a people, I’m not hating Jews, I’m just saying that state, you know, is an unjust state … let’s go back to before it existed.”
In the eyes of this particular devil’s advocate, Israel’s Jews are simply interlopers in “Palestinian Land” - and violent and aggressive with it.  Perhaps the Naz Shah remedy would satisfy Mr G-M. Of course, nowadays even the United States is beginning to look a lot less like the safe haven for Jews it might once have been. Antisemitism is rife on campus, and now in congress too.  

It’s pretty shocking that Krishnan Guru-Murphy invites a guest to discuss a frought topic on film and doesn’t even bother to gen up beforehand.

Sarah Baxter has written about this in the Sunday Times. (£)

Riley was inspired to speak out on Twitter after the Jewish community protested against Labour anti-semitism outside parliament last spring. “Jews complaining about anti-semitism in 2018?” she wondered. “This is a bit odd.” 
As she explained on a Channel 4 podcast last week: “There were moments when my mouth was on the floor about Holocaust denial.” With a Jewish mother — and, she laughed, a “Manchester United father” — she was horrified by the level of abuse she received from Corbyn supporters.
“This is what Jeremy Corbyn is inspiring,” she said. “You can’t say anything against [him] without getting shot down.” The hard-left fan site Skwawkbox falsely repeated smears accusing Riley of “meeting” Jacob Rees-Mogg for talks about her “potential political future”, a piece of nonsense designed to discredit her.

By her enemies you shall know her. Riley also attracted the wrath of George Galloway, leader of the so-called Respect Party, after he was kicked out of Labour. He was incensed by her attack on the intellectual guru of the far left, Noam Chomsky, who had previously defended a French Holocaust denier. “Dumbfounding,” Galloway tweeted. “She calls Chomsky . . . an anti-semite and slanders half the Labour Party as the same.”
To which Riley replied with a simple four-letter expletive: “F*** off George Galloway.” If only Corbyn would do the same.”

Ms Baxter also mentioned Fiona Bruce’s debut Q.T. 
Personally, I thought Fi was pretty ineffectual as a chairperson. Rather than facilitating free and fair debate, I thought she took a bit of a liberty in exploiting her position. Rather than letting the panellists get on with it, she kind of ‘joined in’ and took on the argument with each panellist herself. Some would call her approach ‘interventionist’. 

I don’t know if that’s what’s required of a chairperson. I’d prefer the chair to be a non-interventionist with the ability to allocate time between members of the panel fairly, sensitively and intelligently. 

Several commenters online remarked that Melanie Phillips wasn’t given much space. However, she made good use of the window she was given, slapping down the obnoxious comedian, Nish Kumar. No-one knows why he was there. Since this was meant to be a ‘fresh look’ at the programme, how about abandoning the role of rogue, comedy guest altogether.?

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Belated Observations

When this blog was a mere twinkle in the eye, Craig and I got stuck over what to call it. We wanted to have the words “BBC” and “bias” in there, but as someone once said somewhere online, the “Biased-BBC” blog had already bagged the best name ever. Also, we wanted the title to sound less strident than “Biased-BBC” to imply that there was at least some room for doubt. We decided on a question rather than a statement, hoping it would encourage debate rather than produce a straightforward litany of anti-BBC ‘gotchas’. 

However, that was then and this is now. It’s now more or less a given that the BBC is biased, so we are lagging behind with our redundant ‘question’. I suppose we could reposition the ‘IS’ past “the BBC”, but that would be a boring statement of the bleeding obvious - and it would make us even more “Biased-BBC-lite” than we already are. So, for now, we’ll just leave the “is” and the “?” where they are. The status quo rules ok. 

*******

There is only one topic dominating the discourse - imagine what life will be like in the post-Brexit era (will there still be life?) and we’ll be able to settle back in and address the ishoos that occupied us in the olden days. Meanwhile, here’s Charles Moore (£)

Behind the incident of Anna Soubry being called a Nazi by a small group of Leave yobs beside College Green lies a classic Brexit sequence of events. For many months now, Remain protestors have infested that area. Their numbers are small, but they are well trained to insert themselves and their banners into relevant live television interviews, and have been praised by the Guardian for doing so. Never have I seen the BBC trying to exclude them from its shots, even when the protestors’ interventions have made it quite difficult for those being interviewed.
Sometimes BBC interviewers have gestured on air towards the protestors as evidence of strong pro-Remain public feeling. Often BBC cameras have used cutaways of them to punctuate news items, to make the same point. Not surprisingly, the BBC’s behaviour has in turn provoked Leave protests, because the indulgence of the Remain stunts has helped skew the news. As soon as this one looked nasty, the BBC turned it into a major story about hate crime, involving the police, fanned by Mr Speaker Bercow. It is certainly unpleasant and stupid to call almost anyone a Nazi, but the rudeness to Ms Soubry does not reach the threshold of a threat to public order or incitement to violence — not as bad, for example, as John McDonnell’s famous encouragement of those who said they wanted to lynch Esther McVey, or what happens in demonstrations by the Socialist Workers Party.
The wider truth is that College Green interviews are a circus invented by television 30 years ago to make its broadcasts from Westminster seem less boring. Circuses need performing seals, clowns etc. The cause of Remain — via the BBC — is the ring-master.

Excellent points, but one of the btl commenters took issue with the word ‘yobs’, and I do think it was quite naughty of the writer to use that term here as it smacks of the lazy stereotyping that’s routinely bandied about willy-nilly to save the bother of engaging with the actuality.

I must say the BBC’s obsession with Anna Soubry-gate was typical mountain-out-of-a-molehill reporting. That particular incident might have represented a kind of last straw where raucous heckling is concerned, but let’s face it, Anna did not look at all perturbed throughout. She was smiling. As many people have pointed out, this kind of stunt is commonplace these days, and it comes from (the extreme fringes of) all directions. And as Mr Moore says, the media eggs it on something rotten. 

*******

Since when has it become the norm to use the term ‘right-wing” as an insult, let alone "far-right"? Well, not so long ago the term might have conjured up an image of your actual Nazi, mistakenly, since actual Nazism emanated from the opposite direction. But I do see what they mean. They’re picturing your old fashioned misogynist, homophobic, hang-‘em and flog-‘em, sexually repressed, self-righteous, heard-hearted chauvinist pig. Illiberal, intolerant and racist. 
Of course, hardly any of the figures to whom that epithet is addressed are anything like that. The opposite. It’s usually the harshest opponents of a belief system that espouses those particular qualities at which the terms ‘right-wing, far-right and fascist” are hurled. Ironic, eh?

In fact, even dismissing something as ‘right-wing’ is understood to be almost (but not quite) as insulting and damning as being a ‘Zionist’.  You can shut down debate with these terms. Simple as. 

The BBC is bigging up the threat from the far-right for all it’s worth. Did anyone see Wyre Davies do a hilarious report about the couple who named their baby Adolf? Please tell me it was a spoof. Surely. I know it was aired a while back, but I’ve been busy.



******

A friend came round for lunch a couple of weeks ago. We don’t usually talk about politics, but it had just been announced that the responsibility for investigating the persecution of Christians had been handed to the Bishop of Truro, (our patch) and so the topic came up.

“So, who do you think is doing all this persecuting?”  asked someone. (me) 
“Well,” said Mr friend, thoughtfully. “In the Middle East? Hmm, probably Israel.” 
“Oh,” said I, “and you know this, how?” 
“Well,” said he, “In the papers and on the BBC?”
“I think you’ll find,” said I, “that this is not quite the case. Israel is about the safest place that the Christian community can be anywhere in the Middle East” 
His expression revealed the finality and obduracy of his belief  - “I heard it on the BBC” - so I knew I had to let it go.

At the time I was thinking that although I wouldn’t put it past the Guardian, I rather doubted that the BBC has said, explicitly and in so many words, that Israel, in particular, is one of the countries where Christians are being persecuted. After all, facts and figures are available.  (Who needs them?)

No. In my opinion, the Beeb’s relentless demonisation of Israel in general corrals people into the opinion that Israel is inherently racist and malevolent and therefore conclude that Israel must be guilty of persecuting Christians. Say no more. “We’ll lay the foundations; your imagination will do the rest.” In other words, I assumed that accusations of that kind are implicit, not explicit.

But that was before I saw this on BBC Watch, and as one of the btl commenters asserts: “…Christians in Israel are about the safest that the Christian community can be anywhere in the Middle East…” I hadn’t known about Jonny Diamond on TWATO then, but I know now. 



*****

I’ll just mention another item, again very belatedly.  Before Christmas - (around 17th December) I thought I heard Frankie Boyle reporting from Lebanon. Of course, it was actually Martin Patience describing some mysterious digger activity that he could see taking place in the distance, over in Israel. 
It was Hezbollah’s tunnels of course, being de-activated by the IDF. You know, the tunnels? Hezbollah’s attack tunnels that the whole wide world, apart from Martin Patience in Lebanon, are aware of? 
“Israel says,” began Martin Patience - as if not quite sure of the veracity of anything Israel says, or, for that matter, the existence of the tunnels.  Ok, so maybe being physically in Lebanon, one wouldn’t get the full picture. But he’s a reporter. He’s supposed to know what’s going on. Oh well, it must be easy to go to Lebanon and see only the good things like our smiley friend Ade Adeptan of The Travel Show who went there and didn’t notice Hezbollah at all. He must have missed The Hezbollah Museum, a well-known Lebanese tourist attraction. You know, the place where Simon Reeve went the other day. Instead, Ade spent some considerable time admiring a tourist attraction called Moussa Castle. 
 “How long did it take your favah to build this hideous castle?“ Ade Adepitan enquired of Ziad al Maamari, son of Moussa al Maamari who built it all himself. A lifetime’s achievement. 
(I did paraphrase, obvs.)


*******

Talking of venerable Scottish comedians, I liked Billy Connolly’s programme Made in Scotland.
He has mellowed and, I don’t know, matured and gone all philosophical.  Sorry that he’s ill. I have to admit, I used to find his gratuitous swearing a massive turn-off. Also, I’m not that keen on ‘stand-up” where ‘standing up’ is literally off the agenda, and furious pacing up and down the stage is the order of the day. It gets on my nerves and it’s often not pretty. Please be still! 

Anyway, at a certain stage, Billy Connolly discovered that he didn’t need to say anything amusing other than “fuck” to get a laugh out of the audience, and he got lazy. Strutting around swearing is not worthy. Not creative. However - there was a section in his Made in Scotland programme where he said something perceptive about swearing, which I really do get. Swearing can be witty, creative and uniquely expressive. ‘Jesus suffering fuck’ was an example. It’s the word ‘suffering’ that brings the expression to life and lights it up somehow. I appreciate the subtlety of that; the difference between an almost poetic verbal ejaculation and merely startling the audience with an expletive for a cheap laugh.  Poetic swearing is the kind of swearing I applaud.

Sorry I’ve lumped all these topics under the same roof., but I’m in a hurry.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

New Year Open Thread


Happy New Year to you all! Welcome to the first open thread of 2019. Thank you for your comments and support. 


Robin Aitken: How BBC Bias Works


(h/t StewGreen/MB)