Friday 7 December 2012

No slogans against the BBC?

Following on from earlier posts, here's another example of the sort of thing Sunday gets up to (15/1/2012 edition) and which seems to demonstrate quite a few BBC biases in just a few questions. I will include my own initial reactions, placing them inside those [] kind of parentheses. Please see what you make of it and have a listen to the whole interview.

Scenario: a debate in Jerusalem, Trevor Barnes hosting.
Dr Jonathan Spyer, senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Research Centre (Tel Aviv) 
Bishop William Kenny, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham [Catholic]
Dr Albert Agazarian, "Palestinian University of Bir Zeit"
Questions from Trevor
"Bishop, to what degree do you think certain unfortunate statements recently by Pope Benedict and, possibly, received Vatican attitudes towards Muslims are likely to influence the treatment that Christians are likely to receive?" [Ed S. will like that dig at the Pope! Pope Benedict to blame for Muslim violence against Christians?!?]
"Jonathan Spyer, one of the things that characterised the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings was that there were no slogans against Israel [Eh!!????]. It was a home-grown thing. Do you think that's likely to change when revolution settles into government?" 
"Professor Agazarian, is that how you would read things?" [Not much of a question. The Palestinian prof attacks Israel]
"Jonathan Spyer, do you think that increasing religious extremism in the region, from extremist Jewish settlers here burning cars and defacing mosques to islamist violence elsewhere [quite an attempt at equivalence!!!!! - also one precise, the other vague], is likely to make the mosaic of religions more monochrome?"
[No question to Professor Agazarian. He is just next to speak. He attacks Zionism].
"Bishop, do you fear that in the long run the Arab Spring might result in a less diverse religious landscape, you know, mono-religions, with Christianity of the margins?"
"[to Bishop] But there is an irony here, isn't there, perhaps an uncomfortable one, in that many Christians did comparatively rather well under some of the repressive governments, Syria perhaps being the obvious example?"
"I mean, against a background of an exodus of indigenous Christians from this area, do you think that what we're likely to see in the future is one particular kind of Christianity - namely a rather right-wing, conservative, American, born-again, fundamentalist Christianity [Booooooooo!!!!]? Professor?" [The prof says the equivalent of 'over my dead body!' in response.]
"[to Jonathan Spyer] Nobody would have expected this. How are the religions, the religious minorities and Christianity in particular likely to adapt to it?"
[Professor Agazarian re-enters without a question.]

Sue: Yes, on first glance that Sunday excerpt is grim. I agree with your asides 100%. However it's quite a subtle form of bias in that the questions start from the default PC pro-Islam premise.
In whose opinion were the Pope's statements (can't remember what they were) 'unfortunate'?  Unless he'd retracted them, with an apology, their unfortunate-ness could merely be a reflection of Trev's/the BBC's considered opinion. Stuff mildly critical of Islam no doubt. 

The biggest stinker is the 'no slogans against Israel' remark. For oh, so many reasons.

Trevor Barnes seems far too content to opine without the vital in-depth up-to-date scrutiny of Israel's position/the Islamisation of the world. They all seem content to rest upon their broadcasting laurels, and too bloody lazy to familiarise themselves with the unfolding picture.

Of course this was January, before the Arab Spring lost its glow. Before Jeremy B's enlightenment etc. Maybe they'll catch up.

Craig: Slowly but surely they do seem to have been catching up. For example, the penny seems to have finally dropped with them about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (nearly two years late, but never mind). 

The Pope's "unfortunate" statements about Islam came in his Regensburg lecture of 2006. That's not  quite as "recently" as most of Sunday's listeners (in early 2012) probably suspected. It was a speech in favour of dialogue between faiths. During the course of the lecture, Pope Benedict quoted from a dialogue between a Persian scholar and the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (1391-1425), specifically citing Manuel's "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Plenty of vocal types across the Muslim World spat the dummy completely out of the pram as a result of the Pope's use of this medieval quotation. Benedict later expressed regret for any offence his words (or more precisely the old Byzantine emperor's words) had caused, maintaining that his intentions had been misunderstood. They certainly do seem to have been taken out of context and it looks to me as if his critics made a mountain out of a molehill. (Is that the same mountain that Mohammed must go to if it won't go to him, by any chance?) He has never fully apologised. (And why should he?)

Perhaps Trevor's use of the word "unfortunate" reflects the the point of view of those vocal Muslim critics of the Pope in the sense of a reporter reporting how others see how or perhaps it represents his own/the BBC's own point of view - which would make it a point of view shared between the BBC and those vocal Muslim critics. Perhaps though the unfortunate-ness of a speech in favour of inter-faith dialogue actually raising tensions between certain specific faiths (Christianity and Islam). With the apparent insinuation contained in the words "received Vatican attitudes towards Muslims", however, it certainly sounds to me as if those words reflect Trevor's own considered disapproval of the Pope's choice of words. It seems as if he was solely blaming the Pope and the Vatican for all the fuss. If so, this suggests that Sunday has a received attitude of its own - that the offended Muslims weren't in any way to blame for taking offence out of all proportion to the cause and in disregard of the context. This could well be your default PC pro-Islam premise in action. 

The sentence "one of the things that characterised the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings was that there were no slogans against Israel" came as a surprise to both of us because we had both seen ample evidence at the time that there were slogans against Israel, certainly in Tahrir Square in Egypt at the time of the overthrow of Mubarak. [Commenters at Biased BBC had posted many a link to such evidence]. That is surely simple naivety on Trevor's part. (He should try getting his news from sources other than the BBC from time to time maybe!)

I still think that "do you think that increasing religious extremism in the region, from extremist Jewish settlers here burning cars and defacing mosques to Islamist violence elsewhere?" is a dubious attempt at moral equivalence, made worse by going into specifics about examples of Jewish extremism whilst remaining resolutely unspecific about Muslim extremism. Moreover, burning cars and defacing mosques is one thing, violence against people - including killings on sectarian grounds - is another (and something far worse). 

Also, note again that the terms "right-wing" and "conservative Christianity" (and the people who are associated with them) again become bogeyfied (how's that for a new word?) during the course of a Sunday interview. Are such people so bad?

The other possible bias here could be the way that Trevor Barnes felt free to put challenging question to the Israeli academic and the Roman Catholic bishop whilst not putting any such questions to the anti-Israel Palestinian professor. 

Wonder what anyone else thinks of this interview?

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