Saturday 17 January 2015

Peering over rose-tinted glasses

Talking about anti-Semitism, and clicking on what looked like an interesting discussion on Woman's Hour....

There was a Woman's Hour discussion this week between journalist Angela Epstein (worried about anti-Semitism in the UK) and Dr Jonathan Boyd of Reading University (nowhere near as worried, and rather more worried for other minorities, apparently - and I think we can guess who he means).

I thought it might be interesting, in the interests of disinterested blogging, to quote all of presenter Dame Jenni Murray's questions here, following her sceptical-sounding introduction (where she sounded, as ever, like a professorial version of Jo Brand).

The sceptical question (posed in the light of the CAA report) was: "But how justified are Jews in the UK for fearing for their safety and that of their children?"

(For those who confuse Dame Jenni Murray with her champagne-guzzling non-dame partner-in-feminist-crime Jane Garvey, Dame Jenni's the one who always appears to be peering over her glasses in every photo, forever prompting the thought (in me): So why, in the name of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon Him), is she wearing glasses in the first place?)

Given Sanchia Berg's report on this morning's Today, casting doubt on the CAA report, and David's recollection of Gavin Esler, on the News Channel, talking to someone from the Jewish Chronicle who was also dismissing the same study, I was interested to see if the good (BBC) Dame tried to do the same here?

Please see what you think:
(1) - (to AE) Angela, what sort of concerns for your children do you have?
(2) - (to AE) Is it a Jewish school and does he wear a kippah?
(3) - (to JB) Jonathan, if I can bring you in here. Last year the Anti-Defamation League described the UK as one of the least anti-Semitic countries in the world. How do you account for the latest poll?
(4) - (to JB) How would you compare this country with others, from your own experience of living here?
(5) - (to AE) But to what extent, Angela...I mean, all right, we accept that what happened in Paris last week was horrific and was frightening, but to what extent have you been just an anxious mum worrying about her children going to school on their own, just like any other mother? We all worry about our children.
(6) - (to JB) Jonathan, you're also a parent. What concerns do you have for your children?
(7) - (to AE) Angela, what about friends and relatives? I mean, we have seen a lot of French people are leaving France for Israel. What about here?
(8) - (to AE, interrupting) Dinner party parlance, or serious stuff?
My view: The discussion was a valuable one and both guests had interesting points to make, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing, but, on balance, I'd said that Jenni Murray's questions were clearly biased towards the sceptical side. (I'd cite questions 3,5 and 8 in evidence.)

It seems as if the BBC's given its staff another hymn-sheet and many of them are already singing from it. 


  1. I would say Jenni Murray doesn't have an original or perceptive thought in her head. She is a wind-sniffer, always sniffing which way the wind is blowing...
    She's very conventionally middle class but panders to radical feminism.

    In terms of the Sharia threat to Jews in the country she knows she is supposed to couch everything in terms of perceptions and not reality on the ground.

    Never expect her to ask "What are Muslim children actually taught in Islamic schools in the UK about Jews?"

  2. Dinner party parlance, or serious stuff?

    OR serious stuff? When Baroness Warsi said negative feelings about Muslims had passed the dinner table test, the BBC went into overdrive. Now it's not a big deal? Double standard again.

    I think this might be yet another incident where there's not actually a directive from on high to take this angle, but a case of a particular story or issue making the rounds, either because "events, dear boy, events" or because there is, as James Harding has admitted, an effort to make sure there is some editorial consistency around the BBC. What I mean is that there is obviously some sort of in-house discussion of what's important and various editors take their lead from that. Since the BBC is so gargantuan, with so many channels and so many programmes on so many media, it becomes overbearing and overwhelming almost immediately if one is paying attention to BBC output as a whole, as BBC observers tend to do, and not so noticeable to most people who sample only a narrow spectrum of BBC broadcasting. That doesn't make it right, of course.

    The problem is that the groupthink makes all the different presenters and journalists take the same angle on these stories. We're seeing that here, I think. The BBC bosses probably think that kind of editorial consistency is a good thing, when it's really a negative aspect and an invitation to suspicions of deliberate bias. It's especially problematic due to the outsize influence the BBC has on the day's news agenda and on public discourse.

  3. I would just like to say that I haven't seen or heard anthing of Nabila Ramdani on on any of our TV or radio stations over the last 24 hours. Is this is a record?

    Dan Read

    1. She must be exhausted after such a marathon. Probably had to cancel a few appearances to rest up before doing her guest spot on The Archers.

    2. I think the way things are going a sympathetic airing on Desert Island Discs is inevitable...

      Kirsty Young: And that was your final record choice - Charlie Brown - He's A Clown.

      Nabila: (darkly) Yes, I enjoyed that very much. A song about a foolish cartoon character.

      Kirsty Young: And so we come to your luxury...what luxury would you like on the island.

      Nabila: A sharp knife...

      Kirsty: I am afraid that is an object of practical utility.

      Nabila: Are you sure you are not deploying a racist stereotype in saying that?

      Kirsty: Er, no.

      Nabila: Well then, if you insist of denying me the knife, I choose a video player so I can watch all my appearances on TV news programmes...that will pass the time even if I am there for ten years.

      Kirsty: True...and your book? You already have the Bible and Shakespeare of course.

      Nabila: Well it has to be...

      Kirstly: (Eagerly, in full PC mode) The Koran?

      Nabila: No, I was going to say "The Incredible Lightness of Being" .

      Kirsty: (Enthusiastically) Oh - that's very interesting!

      Nabila: Of course it's the Koran idiot! That's what we call a joke in Algeria!!!

      (Cue squawking gulls).

    3. I've heard credible rumours that she's going to be replacing Samantha on 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue'. The kindly old archivists have already been warned to keep their innuendo to themselves.


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