Wednesday 8 January 2014

Leni Riefenstahl was a film-maker too

As this year is 'The Year of Newsnight' at 'Is', I'd just like to echo Sue's concerns about last night's edition of the programme

Yes, that Paxo interview with far-Right Holocaust denier Alain Soral really did simply introduce him as a 'French writer and film-maker' (as did the accompanying caption), with Jeremy Paxman merely adding that Soral is Dieudonne's friend. 

Astonishingly, Jeremy Paxman didn't even ask Soral about his own use of the quenelle at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin - a sick provocation if ever they was one. 

Why on earth not? 

If Soral had to be chosen (and why did 'Newsnight' choose such an inflammatory figure?), that question should surely have been put to him straight away.

That interview gave free range to Soral to spout his poisonous words. There were no incisive challenges from Jeremy Paxman. No opposing guest was there to set viewers straight either.

As 'Newsnight' viewers weren't told anything about Soral's past (his former far-left activism, his somersault to the far-right, his penning of Jean-Marie le Pen's presidential election speech, his past antisemitic smears, that disgusting use of the quenelle, his Holocaust denial, his pandering to the most nasty and reactionary strains in Islam, etc), how could those BBC viewers help but see him as just the friend of a comedian who disapproves of 'Zionism'?

All in all, a new low for 'Newsnight', and another complaint is winging its way to the BBC.

I don't blame Jeremy Paxman for this though. I blame Ian Katz.

This, of course, is the sort of thing which reminds us why we blog about BBC bias.

Update: That 'Harry's Place' piece which Sue linked to (written by Raphael) is damning of the BBC and 'Newsnight', and is a 'must read'. 

As Raphael also notes, 'Newsnight''s angle on the story was the 'free speech' one, as you can see from Raphael's transcription of the segment's introduction:
Now a French comedian has managed to short-circuit his country’s professed commitment to free speech. President Francois Holland, with support from both Right and Left, today encouraged local authorities to ban performances by Dieudonné M’bala-M’bala – usually known just as “Dieudonné”. It’s being done on grounds of public order because his alleged antisemitism has tested to destruction Voltaire’s supposed belief that ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ Before we talk about the limits of free speech, Hugh Schofield reports from Paris…
Raphael's closing paragraph makes a point the BBC should be forced to answer:
What exactly went on during the editing process at BBC Newsnight that allowed a Far Right Holocaust denier to be presented credibly as a “writer and film-maker”, and allowed to promote his own antisemitic views unchallenged?
Why indeed.

Further Update: Harry's Place has just posted a second piece about last night's Newsnight, amplying my point about why the BBC chose not to question Soral about his use of the quenelle at the Holocaust Museum in Berlin. It's another 'must read'.

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