Sunday 11 January 2015

Mark Mardell's Glass Bead Game

Mark Mardell is evidently trying to re-position The World This Weekend as the Radio 4 current affairs programme with the most intellectual heft and himself as its profound-thinking presenter, able to present a complex subject in all its complexity yet distill it into a clear, coherent argument.

I'm sure that's the intent behind what's been happening to the programme in recent months. 

Mark Mardell, however, is Mark Mardell and however cleverly he might try to include a variety of voices, his guiding narrative and choice of experts will, pretty much inevitably - and despite his attempts to cover his tracks - reveal his blatant bias.

Today's The World This Weekend was given over to the events in France, and Mark was broadcasting live from Paris.  

We first heard him talking to Professor Andrew Hussey. 

You may remember his name from our post the other day on last Wednesday's Newsnight. He's the author of a book about the banlieues of France called French Intifada [a title that pretty much tells you where he's coming from]. Here he was back on the BBC, appearing as Mark Mardell's expert-of-choice. 

He described the guiding ethos of the French Republic as "a kind of aggressive secularism" that doesn't just conflict with Islam but "with people's identity to a certain point". Mark Mardell then asked him about the causes of radicalisation:
Mark Mardell: What do you think drives people to be radicalised? Is it a reaction to modernity, to colonialism, to the West, or to something else entirely?
Andrew Hussey: All of the above, and something else entirely. It's to do with a very old-fashioned world, actually - alienation - and how people cope and deal with alienation. Radicalisation, which is a complicated process, is one of the easy ways to deal with that.
Ah yes, alienation. Very Jean-Paul Sartre. 

And, as per MM, a reaction to modernity, to colonialism, to the West - i.e. our doing rather than their doing.

Mark Mardell then went to a banlieue. He spotted a street sign referring to the French-Algerian war. He wondered aloud, repeating an earlier point of his, whether colonialism might be one explanation for the past week's events.

He then gave us - as every BBC programme seems obliged to give us - the view of France's aggrieved Muslims. 

One feels picked on because of his beard. Another is sacred and fears being attacked. A third feeling "terrorised" and had his kid beaten up. [The French Jewish community, absent here, have been literally terrorised (by terrorists) and have had their kids butchered]. A mosque president said it's been a "terrible week". At another mosque, a seminar hosted by the Union of Islamic Organisations discussed the causes of radicalisation. The contributor we heard said, "Maybe it's to do with the injustices happening across the world - in Palestine, in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya. Not to say that any of this justifies it." He then talked about  racism, and advocated "a better understanding of Islam". [In other words, it's us again to blame.] 

After a quick trip to the Museum of the Arab World, we got an example of 'BBC impartiality' - an interview with an advisor to Marine le Pen of the National Front. Mark Mardell let him have his say, but - inevitably - put on a part-incredulous, part-unfriendly tone of voice, interrupted him, challenged him, and passed on the charges of the people he'd been speaking too - academics included, he made sure to point out - accusing the NF of being dangerous. 

From his introduction to that interview and his line of questioning, the aim there appears to be to show the danger of the National Front "capitalising" on the past week's events.

An interview with Dutch Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Willem, who survived the massacre only because he hates attending meetings, followed. Mark Mardell did a good thing in interviewing him, but I doubt he'd have objected to Mr Holtrop's bracketing of UKIP with the National Front as one of those groups of people he didn't want saying, "Je suis Charlie", and he did press him over 'those kinds of people' and over the issue of 'the backlash'.

Before the quick closing interview with the BBC's Chris Morris, updating listeners on the progress of the march in Paris, Mark Mardell interviewed two other people - Professor Arun Kundnani, US-Palestinian professor and author of The Muslims are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror [a title that pretty much tells you where he's coming from], and René Girard (spelling?) of the  French centre-right newspaper Le Figaro [the first Le Figaro reporter I've heard on the BBC. It's usually someone from the centre-left Le Monde - as it, indeed, was on that morning's Broadcasting House]. 

This was an extraordinary double interview - another example of 'BBC impartiality'. 

The semi you know articulate you know Professor Kundnani you know - who The World This Weekend had (obviously) decided was the right expert for the occasion - immediately launched into an assault on Benjamin Netanyahu, who he felt shouldn't have been invited, and then an attack on Israel's war with Gaza. The French reporter, clearly taken aback, began defending Israel. Mark Mardell interrupted him to stop him talking about Israel's cautious, principled action over Gaza and asked him to concentrate on Prof Kundnani's point about PM Netanyahu's presence being divisive.

Who, in the name of Allah, invited Arun Kundnani onto The World This Weekend? There are many, many, many thousands of academics who the BBC could have invited on here. Why, FFS, him in particular?

The interview was pushed for time, so both guests got squashed and interrupted, but Mr Girard got squashed more brutally. He was beginning to make some very un-BBC points.

1 comment:

  1. So according to Mardell, everyone else is the problem? He goes in with a preset opinion, and nothing can shift it. He hasn't changed a bit.


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