Tuesday 25 February 2014

Finger in pie.

There was plenty of mileage for Biased-BBC in the BBC’s reluctance to get to grips with this story, but when they belatedly did so, I think they messed up. 
I happened to turn on Newsnight last night just in time to see Laura Kuenssberg interrogating Harriet Harman in aggressive, more-Paxo-than-Paxo style. Repetitively trying to force Harriet Harman to say “It Was A Mistake.” 

This tactic has become so annoying that this viewer was alienated straight away. I actually began to feel sorry for Harriet Harman; it was that bad.
Has the new editor of Newsnight instigated interrogation lighting? Dramatic, and not in a kind way.

By next day (today) the BBC had elevated this issue to non-stop superstory. The incestuous headline was “Harman refused to say It Was A Mistake several times.” 

I’m no apologist for PIE but I did once have an acquaintance whom I now suspect was a borderline paedophile. And, and, and.. I know a paediatrician.


  1. Nick Cohen has an interesting take on this at the 'Spectator', giving credit to the Daily Mail for their scoop but arguing that it's a scandal with no legs, as (he argues) there's no continuity whatsoever between the positions held by the three senior Labour figures then and the positions they and their party have since held for the last 30 years:

    The paper is condemning a politician for not holding to the disgraceful position she held 30-years ago. As a teacher might say, it has been a good effort by the Mail, but it must try harder. Damning people for changing for the better is never going work.

    His argument doesn't seem to be winning too many people over though, if the BTL reaction is anything to go by.

    Nick Cohen does concede the Mail's accusations of bias against the BBC though:

    Or in the case of the Mail, you mutter, “Where’s the bloody BBC?” Quentin Letts wrote a satire about the corporation, Baldrick from Blackadder, Stephen Fry, Uncle John Prescott and all going wild at an imaginary Guardian report that senior Tories had campaigned for men to have the right to abuse children in the 1980s. It was clunky but had enough truth in it to bite. When Jacob Rees Mogg attended a dinner for a far right group whose supporters wanted Doreen Lawrence to be asked to leave to Britain (along with all other immigrants and descendants of immigrants), Newsnight covered the story. When Labour MPs go to meeting of far right Islamists, the BBC and everyone else stays silent.

    Bias? Of course. 

  2. I remember that episode of 'Brass Eye' (Channel 4) very well. (I loved 'Brass Eye.')

    And I remember the controversy it caused, with a huffy BBC reporter on BBC One's News at Six protesting that the BBC hadn't behaved in the way Chris Morris was satirising.

    Chris Morris was satirising what he felt was the latest manifestation of mass hysteria - and the hysterical reporting that went with it.

    I've some sympathy with that.

    Mass hysteria - or 'scares' - keep coming around. (One of my favourite books is 'Scared to Death' by Christopher Booker and Richard North, which lays out some modern examples). We should be wary of going along with such well-stoked surges of public feeling.

    Hat, Pat and Jack were part of a 'Looney Left' at the time when, in the wake of the '60's social revolution, all kinds of taboos were being questioned.

    The Mail has nailed them to that time, and that spirit.

    Nick Cohen counters, however, that 'that was then and this is now' - youthful follies and all that, not at all relevant in the light of the subsequent careers of the Labour politicians in question. Hat, Pat and Jack are OK now.

    Commenters on his thread are countering in turn that such youthful stupidities aren't so readily dismissed when it comes to right-wing teenage indiscretions.

    The BBC's willingness to join in with Michael Crick's assault on Nigel Farage for his teenage pranks, as if they proved that Nigel is really a fascist at heart, is just one example of that double standard.

    The fact that Nigel Farage is far from being a fascist didn't stop the BBC from enthusiastically adding to the feeding frenzy against the UKIP leader based on an alleged dodgy act when he was just 17 - a case of double standards, as per Nick Cohen, strongly suggestive of BBC bias.

    Still, Laura K's Paxoesque mauling of Hattie on last night's Newsnight really was quite something.

    I've never seen so many enthusiastically pro-BBC comments at Biased BBC about any BBC interview before (all, of course, adding that's it's an out-of-the-blue aberration).

    That backs up your point that it was one heck of an interview.

    Being a natural Sarah AB-like consensualist (seeking to fuse everything, Libby Purves-style, into a harmonious, Ying-Yang whole), I can see why you feel that Laura K was annoying and alienating in her style of questioning, and that Harriet H may well be being unfairly witch-hunted ('smeared'), but I also feel relieved that the BBC gave proof that it isn't completely a Labour-support vehicle and that it (finally) felt bound to give the Mail's powerful allegations their due. (Partisanship on my part?)

    1. Yes I know. Just because I felt sorry for HH, who was being accused of---- far more than she deserved to be accused of, it doesn’t mean I’m defending her refusal to climb down a bit and meet her accusers halfway, which she has more or less done now - and she needn’t have caved in to Laura’s hectoring to do so either.

      She shouldn’t have let the matter develop, and perhaps a cannier politician would have risked heading it off preemptively with a cautious mea culpa - but the chances of the media ‘letting go’ would still have been slim, in which case she’d probably have made matters worse. It worked for Shami.

      I do think the ‘that was then, this is now’ excuse is valid; not for youthful follies thing so much as because of the radical ‘enlightened’ outlook in the 60s that influenced the youth and the intellectuals of that time. They were encouraged to question 50s post war morality, and that led to the ‘anything goes’ zeitgeist, which was the order of the day then. Many people did/tolerated/overlooked stuff they now realise was stupid, and bringing it up and exaggerating it for politically motivated reasons (which seems to be par for the course and we just have to get used to it) just seems all wrong. Of course she has done that sort of thing herself, which makes her a bit of a hypocrite, but that doesn’t make it okay.

      I don’t think she was ever an apologist for paedophilia. I believe her about that. But her tenuous link with PIE is something she should have realised wouldn’t look good, and she could have handled it with more foresight.

      I still think the media has gawn mad, and Brass Eye was the only appropriate response.


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