I really don't know where to begin, so I'm just going to start typing....
I'm finding it hard to rise above the red mist which has surrounded me since returning home from work and learning that a British citizen - a Muslim fighting for the Islamic State - has apparently beheaded an American journalist, James Foley.
Other British Muslim jihadists have apparently also been filmed in videos with other prisoners, or posing with decapitated bodies.
That's something which reminds me of the attempt by a pair of British Muslims on the streets of Luton last year to decapitate Lee Rigby (dismissed by some people at the time as a one-off).
We clearly have a problem and yet, listening to tonight's PM....
The news was being projected calmly, almost incidentally. It was the programme's lead story but it was 'moved on from' surprisingly quickly.
We heard a brief, powerful tribute from a colleague who (rightly) urged people not to share IS videos and photos, before being given a sample of opinions from the BBC Asian Network on the British Muslim response to the killings.
The first woman said that people should stop saying it's about Islam, that it's nothing to do with religion and that the killer of James Foley is simply a 'sick' man. The second woman blamed the internet. The next man blamed Western foreign policy and said that Muslims were the victims everywhere. The spokeswoman from Inspire said that, yes, the West may be responsible but it's a monster we all have to tackle.
No comment was made on any of this whataboutery, and no one was invited to comment on it. (Where was Douglas Murray, for example?)
So I will answer from my own perspective: Yes, it is about Islam and religion, and, yes, the killer is sick. No, the internet isn't to blame for this killing. No, Western foreign policy isn't to blame for this killing. And it's a monster the Muslim community should be far more urgently involved in tackling, instead of blaming the rest of us - though, yes, it's a monster we all have to tackle.
Then Eddie Mair talked to a BBC reporter, Secunder Kermani, who's been in contact with some of the British jihadis fighting in the Middle East. (Secunder will be on Newsnight later tonight). He said that they seem surprisingly normal. Yes, they may pose besides decapitated bodies, but they talk about normal stuff too - such as adopting cats, hoping to get married, missing Mars bars and worrying about British press intrusion against their families if their names got out. ('The humanity of Isis', as Lyse Doucet might have put it).
All this is probably true and Secunder Kermani's chats with Islamic State fighters might very well give us helpful angles on them, but still...all of this came across to me as being too understanding. Where was the condemnation?
PM then moved on.
I didn't. I read beyond the BBC and got mad.
Not everything from 'my own side of fence' improved my mood though. I read some disgusting smears about Mr Foley (which my own researches of his Twitter feed suggest to be vastly inflated) asserting that his Twitter feed shows him, ironically, to be of the same mind as his killers - a pro-Iranian [sic (and sick)], pro-Sunni jihadi, Israeli-hating activist-journalist who was happy to see the Christians of Aleppo slaughtered.
Yes, James Foley clearly was the sort of reporter who thought like Jon Donnison about most things in the Middle East - so much so that he even re-tweeted Jon Donnison's own tweets - but that's no excuse for demonising him or engaging in schadenfreude (as some are doing).
I then went back in time to listen to today's The World at One and was more than a little astonished to hear Shaun Ley's interview with BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner begin by discussing the 'controversy' over David Cameron's holiday - as if that was the most important question.
Frank said that the "commendable" appeal from British imams for British Muslims not to go and fight in Syria "wasn't listened to" and that "it only takes one or two charismatic people - and it's all about charisma, Shaun" - to make that compelling that "quite compelling message" that British "bros" should go to protect their "brothers and sisters" out there...
...and, in a bizarre (but classically BBC) anti-Israel twist - as if the events of the past months and years in Iraq and Syria were somehow Israel's fault - Frank Gardner added:
...and, of course, you take that in conjunction with what's been going on in Gaza and the deaths of SO many people and what many people consider to be a rather supine British government attitude, put all that together and it's a very toxic mix.
The Baghdad-born, Kurdish-descended Conservative MP, Nadhim Zahawi, followed. Nadhim is a nice guy, describing them as "pure evil", but he said:
Part of the problem is how do you stop people being attracted to this warped...this rather deformed form of Islam...I'm careful not to overstate the word 'Islam' because I don't think these people are Muslims.
Shaun Ley didn't challenge him on that extraordinary statement. He asked him broad-stroke geo-political questions instead.
BBC Monitoring's Mina al-Lami then talked about "media-savvy" Islamic State's online presence.
Then came Patrick Cockburn of the Independent. Mr Cockburn, a Western-bashing, Israeli-bashing, pro-(Assad)-Syrian reporter of the Robert Fisk variety, followed. He was critical of Western actions and rhetoric. He (repeatedly) bashed the West, especially for not backing Assad. (Surprise, surprise).
It's days like this that make you realise why you blog about BBC bias.
Though, it has to be said, it's also days like this that make you want to scarper and post about anything but BBC bias (and world affairs). [Talking of which...]
I agree with your sentiments Craig, and appreciate your measured approach to the BBC on this site. Personally I've found the BBC harder and harder to listen to on various subjects. On the Middle East since the Arab revolutions it has seemed so off-balance as to be pure propaganda, and is getting worse! I seldom bother listening to the Eddie Mair Show but heard Frank Gardner earlier today on the BBC and was rather frustrated by the line he took. FFS indeed! Ironically I was on my way to give a lecture to about 100 people on my experiences in the Middle East, and my conclusions are not the same as Frank's.ReplyDelete
The only point on which I disagree with you is about Patrick Cockburn. He is the only reason I read the Independent. Many long-term Middle East hands (including myself) end up supporting despotic regimes that maintain basic law/order and basic services for their populations, because we know the alternative is worse, as we see now. Of course Assad has been awful by liberal Western standards, but for me the UK's anti-Assad policy has been completely mistaken. I often wonder if the BBC's Bowen et al had taken a more mature approach to the Arab Spring revolutions (his and his colleagues' reports were instrumental in turning public opinion against Assad very quickly and decisively in 2011), how much better life would now be for most Syrians.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you, Mark. Much appreciated.Delete
I agree that the BBC got the 'Arab Spring' badly wrong. Many BBC journalists seemed to get swept up in the idea of 'people power' and happy visions of easily-won democracies where 'moderate' Muslim Brotherhood-aligned parties would vie [peacefully] with liberal-minded secularists. I think you're right about Assad too.
I was thinking the other day about Libya. Sue always told me that overthrowing the likes of Gadaffi would lead to dangerous Islamist currents and tribal chaos, and so it's proving. The BBC seemed very much 'onside' with that conflict, especially after President Obama climbed on board (gingerly). We hear little about it now, now that it's all gone so horribly wrong.
We've had this discussion a million times before at the other place. The Beeboids want to blame anyone else except the original cavemen, because their mindset dictates it. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: these people were cavemen for tens of thousands of years before Mohammed was a twinkle in his uncircumcised father's eye, and they're still cavemen today. Islam is window dressing. It's not Islmaophobic to say that, because what I'm talking about exists outside Islam.ReplyDelete
But the disgusting Beeboids can't admit it because they think it would be both racist and Islmaophobic. Their priorities and sense of morality are even more twisted than the Elephant Man's spine. So they feel good about themselves for it, and thus there's no stopping them.
During the Cairo protests before Mubarak was ousted, I saw Frank Gardner state live on air the same lie about the Muslim Brotherhood being moderate that Jeremy "What Personal Grudge Against Israel?" Bowen wrote on his blog (until he got caught and deleted it). I don't care how much experience Gardner has on Middle East and "security" issues: he's a proven liar when it comes to this subject.
Aside from all that, what's this about how surprisingly normal the butchers are? I'm sure it's no coincidence that this parallels exactly the scenario of a BBC idiot reaching out to that supposed jihadi tweeter who was a film buff but couldn't remember if he'd seen Schindler's List. Magically and purely coincidentally, the same narrative pops up on a completely different spectrum of BBC broadcasting. Groupthink? What groupthink?