Tuesday 18 February 2014

Chris Huhne, climate change, toddler victims of the government's benefit reforms, Kim so-fat and Alex Salmond (not at all fat) & the EU

Despite my pledge to let it fester...

Last night's Newsnight, presented by Radio 5 Live's Victoria Derbyshire, opened (as it ought to have done) with the subject of the floods.

The introductory seconds of the programme, however, included a clip of disgraced Lib Dem ex-minister Chris Huhne denouncing right-wing 'climate sceptics' in the Tory Party (in his capacity as a Newsnight 'talking head'.)

[Chris Huhne was, you may remember, released only last year after being sent to prison for perverting the course of justice and, from the moment of his release, Newsnight has been at the forefront of the BBC's attempts to rehabilitate him back into the community (along with the Guardian.)]

Curiously his attack stood unattacked, as no right of response from those right-wing Tories was granted in the course of Laura Kuenssberg's subsequent report on the issue (and, yes, Laura has now finally arrived back on the BBC). 

Curious indeed.

The other 'talking head' in Laura's report was another Laura - Laura Sandys MP, one of the leading 'greens' in the Conservative Party (retiring in 2015), who expressed further criticism of 'climate sceptics'. 

So far, so BBC. 

(If you're of the Steve Jones persuasion, that's good; if you're of the Bishop Hill persuasion, that's bad).

The following Victoria Derbyshire interview did, however, balance a 'climate sceptic' with a 'climate non-sceptic'. 

We heard from Kevin Anderson of Manchester University, who Vicky introduced as a "professor of energy and climate change", and from Andrew Montford, who Vicky introduced as an "author". 

Hmm, so Kevin Anderson is an expert and Andrew Montford merely an author, eh? 

My 'bias by authority' antennae began twitching slightly at that point. 

They twitched even more when, after asking Prof. Anderson a couple of questions, Victoria turning to Mr. Montford (aka Bishop Hill) and began her first question to him with the words:
Andrew Montford, you're not a scientist, you have been writing sceptically about this for a while now
which seems to me to have been a less-than-subtle attempt to paint him as a non-expert in the field - as opposed to the scientist (expert) Prof. Anderson. 

Andrew Montford, however, responded - as if in passing - that "Kevin isn't a scientist either. He's an engineer", and Kevin didn't demur from that statement either. (His subject really is Engineering.)

Still, despite Vicky's question's seeming (at several points) to urge Kevin Anderson on, both guests got to make their points. 

Now, if you believe that 'climate sceptics' are no more deserving of either airtime or respect than flat-earthers, deniers of the germ theory of medicine, creationists or moon-landing 'debunkers', then you'll probably find this kind of blatant bias acceptable, maybe even right and proper. 

Next up came a one-sided report about people adversely hit by the government's benefit reforms

It was undoubtedly one-sided in that everyone was (in some way) 'aggrieved' about the reforms. We heard from a charity leader, and from two benefit claimants who have had their benefits 'sanctioned', for various reasons. Everyone of them was feeling down.

The background music chosen told us to feel anxious too, and the sorry-sounding plight of the two hard-hit benefit recipients was presented without counter-balance. (I could almost hear Iain Duncan Smith fuming about BBC bias as the report preceded.)

Still, if people who deserve our sympathy are being adversely hit by the government's benefit reforms, then such cases should be brought to our attention...

...and a supporter of the government should immediately be invited on to put the other side - the case for the defence.

Such a government supporter was indeed then summoned for interview by Newsnight - namely, Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi. 

However, he was put up against a further critic, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams. (Quite why she was needed after such a one-sided report may be questioned).

Still, things could still balance out if Mr Zahawi was treated fairly and allowed to put the other side of the argument without too much interruption. 

That didn't really happen though. Debbie Abrahams was given a gentle devil's advocate treatment by Victoria Derbyshire while Nadhim Zahawi (standing, as he was, 'in the dock') was given a surprisingly emotional grilling by Vicky, with talk of poor benefit-sanctioned Zak and his "toddler", and a remarkable grilling of the Tory MP over his father's experiences of being on benefits. 

Balanced it certainly wasn't - and, as further evidence of that, Debbie was interrupted on just two occasions while Nadhim interrupted ten times - i.e. five times as often.

I can hear BBC supporters at this point saying that this is just an example of the BBC holding power to account on behalf of vulnerable people (regardless of which party is in power) - i.e. the argument that it may not be balanced but it's 'ultimately' fair. 

I'll leave you to judge the truth of that.

Next, North Korea.

The U.N. has spoken, and Newsnight leaps into action.

North Korea is perpetually fascinating - and horrifying.

Those digital channels which broadcast endless programmes about the Nazis know that pure evil fascinates audiences. The North Korean regime is pure evil too.

I've noted before that, almost alone among foreign news stories, stories about North Korea seem to generate large numbers of hits on the BBC News website or the Telegraph website - or any website, presumably.

Why? Well, here's my best guess...

We laugh and we simultaneously chill and thrill at the spectacle of the young Mao-suited Fatso and his applauding, glitteringly-be-medalled lickspittles: The god-king communist leader, descended from the smiling, mass-murdering Great Leader (teeth, fancy suits) and his curly-haired, porn-loving son (grey Mao suits, fancy shoes), waddling along, looking at some new construction (probably built by prisoners from his vast gulag), surrounded by adoring, note-taking, diminutive generals (each with more medals than Michael Phelps). Mountains, earthquakes, heavens dances at their birth. Ha ha.

Young Kim's fatness (in a land of famine) seems disgusting yet absurd - and the funniness of that absurdity tends to blunt the edge of our disgust.

His attractive but probably-soon-to-be-machine-gunned-to-death wife also arouses our interest (disgust? concern?). Will she live? Will she die, like 'the excellent horse lady' ex-girlfriend of Young Kim, recently machine-gunned to death.

An uncle (by marriage) is denounced as 'scum' and butchered. His Rosa Klebb-like widow (aunt to Young Kim) lives on. How fascinating!

Whole families imprisoned for the supposed failings of one individual member of that family, like something out of an ancient barbaric myth.

Almost perpetually drunk, porn-fixated proles (a la 1984).

To describe it is to at once recoil and revel in its evil and totalitarian glamour...and, yes, we've probably been here before.

The BBC's blessed United Nations concurs, as of yesterday. It has compared North Korea to Nazi Germany. It has excoriated the North Korean regime's ongoing crimes against humanity.

Newsnight duly runs the UN flag up its pole and salutes - and who can really object to that, in this case?

Enough laughter, more action. Something must be done. Etc.

Scotland and the EU. That was the next subject. The BBC's Matthew Price reported. Will Alex Salmond's independent Scotland even get into the EU? We heard from Pia Ahrenkilde Hansem, EU Commission spokeswoman, equivocating publicly but being very emphatic privately (according to Matthew) - that if Scotland votes 'yes' to independence it will be out of the club and find it hard to get back in. Matthew cites Alex Salmond doubting that will really happen. "But", said Matthew. But, he said, European anti-separatist nations - like Spain, under the Partida Popular, will make an independent Scotland wait and sweat. Still, said, Fabian Zuleeg of the pro-EU think tank the European Policy Centre [fancy Newsnight talking to a pro-EU think tank!/sarc], Scotland won't be kept out indefinitely. And Matthew ended outside a building that "maybe, just maybe" could "eventually" be Scotland's embassy to the EU.

I doubt either Scots Nats or Eurosceptics would have reckoned must to that report.

Finally, David Bailey. A plug for the photographer's retrospective. I'll say no more about that.


  1. :) deniers of the germ theory of medicine, creationists or moon-landing 'debunkers' garner more of my sympathies theses days. At least they are thinking 'outside the box.' But the wrong people are constantly painted by projection regardless : refusing to submit to scientific method ( questioning ) sounds a lot like 'denial' to me. Not that things are that simple - as a bit of exploration would reveal.
    But painting the North Korean government as cruel - doubtless authoritarian survivalists - neglects the history of interference with Korea : war, partition, genocide.
    Korean War - PART 22, Bombing of North Korea, 6.25 전쟁 ...
    This episode details the UN bombing campaign over North Korea and the results for the people on the ground. The majority of civillians killed in the Korean War were killed in North Korea by air attack.
    youtube.com/watch?v=31wy85JcWPA A few years later
    Vietnam Protesters Mark Anniversary of Border War with China ...
    Vietnam war: Forty years after the end of the US bombing campaign. Forty years ago, ... The role of U.S. war veteran Merril E. Newman in the Korean war has made him a target in Pyongyang, where memories of the conflict are emphasized.
    Which leads us to the U.N.'s selective outrage
    UN report on North Korea targets both Pyongyang and Beijing ...
    The UN report on human rights in North Korea released yesterday marks an acceleration of the US-led campaign to destabilise and ... Serbian Hitler" prior to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that rained death and ... following the 1953 termination of the Korean War, ...
    Odd isn't it that NATO is not in the news over deaths in Iraq,Iran, and more.
    1222 days ago, the U.N. introduced cholera into Haiti.
    713,241 have since taken ill. *
    8,695 have died. *
    The U.N. has yet to apologize.
    Tell the U.N. to take responsibility.
    * Estimates based on data from the Haitian Health Ministry. For an explanation, click here.
    That idea of projection being used to hide one's own sins is put to excellent utility.

  2. Yes VD was desperately bad wasn`t she?
    Like you. I cannot recall a talking head like Huhne as a gargoyle to trail what would soon pass for "news analysis" getting his soundbite played-when he was not even to be featured in the programme; not even ON the bloody show!
    Well worth enquiring why-like you, I reckon it was to get a level on when and how Huhne might get his Daily Politics sofa spot by way of license-funded rehab.
    Similarly, I noted VDs frankly weird harping-on about the Tory MPs benefits experience whilst his dad was on the dole...as if she could not believe that he would not emote-but could only resonate at Zak and the dog shit on a nice white carpet(again....weird is the word).
    This sorry show is as far removed from news and current affairs as it is now possible to be...and to think it was the spawn of Tusa, Hanna and 24 Hours types..they must weep and/or spin at what the BBC has now become.
    These two vignettes above show that the Katzshit has now hit the fan...and when our "Professor of Energy and Climate Change" was a mere engineer with a bike?...well the moment was as tumbleweed plugging the hull of the Costa Concordia...
    In any world of accountability, VD would now be in the salt mines of the BBC...but they`ll all swing together nonetheless.
    A real MacAlpine of a programme.


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