Isn’t it frustrating when a bully forces his victim into a corner, making him look like a an evasive gibbering idiot by battering him repetitiously with the same question, when the question is designed to trick him into making an incriminating admission? Only it’s not really incriminating at all, it just appears to be, because the jury has already made up its mind that it will be.
It’s the Jeremy Paxman technique, where Paxman spots a weakness and composes a question with only a yes-or-no answer, which cannot be given without appearing to be an admission of guilt.
The BBC is content to rest its case on a cheap trick, which is that once the question has been put, no further explanation however reasonable, will look convincing; if it’s offered instead of the requisite answer it looks like obfuscation, and if afterwards, whether the answer was a yes or a no, it will look like what it has now become - the defensive splutterings of a wrong-footed person. If you’re ever in such a position you might as well confess at once, because you’re damned either way. Answer yes and you’re guilty, no, and you’re a bloody liar. Paxo is triumphant and the court passes a unanimous verdict; guilty as charged.
The famous Michael Howard interview was lauded by conservative-haters and Michael Howard-haters who found the tactic innovative and refreshing. Paxo devotees could bask in a silly little victory, even though they must surely have realised how underhanded and sneaky the method used to obtain it actually was.
Jeremy Paxman isn’t always able to bring off this kind of bullying; he was trounced by Stephen Lennon because the BBC researchers or the man himself were so complacent that they hadn’t bothered to get the facts together. I’d say when he attempted it with Gorgeous George it was only a partial success.
Cornering people into into a position where they’re made to look guilty might be an okay tactic for counsel for the prosecution but not necessarily for the BBC. That is not to say that investigative journalism has no place on the BBC, but exposing an injustice is not a matter of superficial trickery.
If the BBC rests its whole case against Israel on the fact that more Palestinians than Israelis have died in a particular period, it’s because they’re lazy, complacent and biased. They get away with it because as far as they are concerned the case has already been made and won, not least by the BBC itself, and Israel is indisputably the baddie.
Shoving Gill Hoffman into a corner in which he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t was very stupid. With the BBC in its present, unaccustomed position of distrust, it seems quite a bad time to making a embarrassing show of blatant bias. But Mishal Husain was on a roll.
This time it’s the death toll. The fact that there were many fewer Israeli deaths during both the recent, and the past hostilities evidently bothers not only Mishal, but the BBC as a whole. If that weren’t true, then why would they tack the death count from Operation Cast Lead onto every Israel-related article on the BBC website?
It’s the killer blow, or it would be without the context, and without the context is how it is reported, and without the context is precisely how Mishal Husain wished it to be presented in her interview.
Mishal spotted a weakness. She knew that Mr Hoffman would feel uncomfortable about the Palestinian victims, at least the civilians and especially the children. But she wanted to make him seem callous and ‘Israeli’, so she went in for the kill.
How many Israelis have died? she asked, again and again. Her victim would have been wiser to have straightaway answered “none,” which would have given him the chance to put his case with more confidence, having obfuscated for too long. If he’d answered ‘none’ straight away he could have fitted in a subsidiary question too. Something like “Would Ms Husain be happier if the Israeli government took away all the bomb shelters in Israel to even up the score? Yes or no? Yes or no? Yes or no-you-haven’t-answered-my-question.”
I can’t predict how she would have dealt with that, but I hope it would have dealt a blow to her satisfied smirk.
However, if we were to accept, for arguments sake, that the moral high ground rests solely with proportionality, how about the number of Arab states that surround Israel, you know, the ones that the Arab Spring has liberated, nay, unshackled, who share the common goal of annihilating Israel and who call for ‘death to Jews?‘
Perhaps the disproportionate argument only applies when actual deaths have occurred. Maybe numbers only count when people have actually died, and intent to kill is not enough to justify taking sides, only the ‘accomplishment’ ?
If so, how many British citizens have died from foiled terrorist plots? None? Then why take precautions? Let’s wait until the numbers justify the action; we should set plotters like the two Abus, Hamza and Quatada, Richard Reid and Abdulmuttalab free until mission accomplished. Only when there’s a sufficient death toll should we spring into action, and mete out some punishment.
How many westerners have died from Iran’s threats? Let’s wait and see whether their nuclear ambitions are peaceful, and if not, we’ll concede the point, death toll provided.
On the other hand, if the disproportionate numbers theory holds good as a moral calculator, what about tacking the statistics of the unequal Arab and Israeli populations in the Middle East on the end of all BBC reports concerning the region, as reminders of that disproportionality, the way they do with death tolls.
The number of German civilians and soldiers who died in WWll far exceeded the number of British and American forces killed. Does that mean we were in the wrong?
As for tactics. The BBC has used the cheapest tactics it can find in their vilification of Israel. The most obvious is the number of sympathetic journalists it has embedded in Gaza. Their tweets (which the BBC insists they declare are their own personal views, and not those of their employer) reveal the very things we must overlook, because the disclaimer says so.
But of course it’s not only their tweets, their tactics leave us in no doubt. Every time they report, from Gaza, about ‘life in Gaza’ they do so with barely concealed affection. Individuals are named, Abu here, Ali there, Mohammad somewhere else, they’re all fawned over as though their particular suffering has a unique nobility. It’s unimaginable that such an approach could ever occur over on Israel’s side of the border.
This morning Jeremy Bowen surpassed himself. He gathered together a saccharine gallery of innocent victims and the icing on the cake was Dr. Mads Gilbert. Dr Mads gained notoriety during Operation Cast Lead. As many people pointed out then, he truly lives up to his name. Don’t you think Jeremy could have mentioned that Dr Mads is a very active anti-Israel activist indeed?
The device of showing as many dead or injured children as they can rustle up, a task made easy by such unfortunate tragedies being brandished before the cameras, and ushers beckoning cameramen and reporters into hospitals with the enthusiasm of a hustler to a brothel. Come in, come in, get your propaganda here.
Then there’s the figures. The veracity of the figures is always disputed for some time after the event, but the BBC takes Palestinian figures at face value, while appending every Israeli statement with the ever-present “Israel says.” Not only does the BBC attach the death toll to each M.E.-related item of news, but it conceals the numbers of Hamas combatants within the total by quoting “Israelis and Palestinians”.
Toll of articles by me.
Pro Israel - several. Pro Palestinian - none. There, I’ve answered. Guilty as charged.