Sunday 22 February 2015

Into the bear pit

I do!

Talking about the authors at Biased BBC, the blog's editor, David Vance, was on this morning's The Big Questions

The opening 'big question' was a very BBC question: "Is it always better to talk to terrorists?"

Here's how Nicky Campbell framed the question (in a decidedly one-sided fashion):
Yesterday's terrorists often turn into tomorrow's statesmen. From South Africa to the Middle East and Northern Ireland, people who were once on 'most wanted' lists agreed to sit down at peace talks and eventually came to hold high political office. But a report to be issued next week shows that these routes to negotiation and peace are threatened. Once armed groups have been blacklisted by governments even aid agencies wanting to negotiate with them to get humanitarian help to their victims can actually be breaking the law. Is it always better to talk to terrorists? 
David Vance believes it's never right to talk to terrorists. It's an absolute moral principle for him.

Alongside him in opposing talks with Islamic State were sensible Emily Dyer of the Henry Jackson Society and foppish Telegraph writer Tim Stanley.

Against them were ranged community cohesion professor and Israel-basher Harris Beider, abusive Israel-bashing Huffington Post blogger Dilly Hussain (an even-less-calm version of Mehdi Hasan), nice liberal rabbi Jonathan Romain (a Sunday favourite), education researcher Roshan Doug, and charity worker Andy Carl. 

Julie Hambleton, who lost family in the Birmingham Pub Bombings, was in the audience and provided a powerful call to reality. 

That's quite balanced (if slightly tilted to the 'pro-talks' side), but...

David Vance found himself on the receiving end of fierce opposition, with people constantly talking over him, the audience heckling him and, strikingly, Nicky Campbell repeatedly registering his disagreement - and giving him a much harder time than anyone else. (David, however, was completely undaunted. He knows how to handle himself in a BBC bear pit.) 

Moral conservatives rarely get an easy time during a BBC-hosted discussion programme.  

Typically for a BBC audience, they only applauded one side of the argument (the pro-talks-with-ISIS side) and only heckled the other side of the argument (David's side) - despite some highly contentious (and absolutist) remarks from the 'pro-talks' side. 

Nicky Campbell, who many people like (and others don't), didn't strike me as taking a straight-down-the-line position during this segment of the show. I thought his questions were overwhelmingly slanted towards the 'pro-talks' side - in number and in their emotional content.

The whole thing - as ever - was full of heat, and rather less light. The heat, of course, meant it was very good value for money for the programme's producers. 

The other 'big questions' (if you were wondering) were 'Does faith have any place in schools?' and 'Does Satan exist only within us?' 


  1. I only just realised that Santa is an anagram of Satan, and if you misread it, therapist becomes the rapist. (I’m always misreading and spoonerising things)

  2. Tim Stanley is an anagram of 'laymen tits' (which, arguably, he is).

    Dilly Hussain is an anagram of 'inlaid slushy' ('ll have to think a bit longer about).

    Nicky Campbell is an anagram of 'my black pencil', which tells you all you need to know about Nicky Campbell.

  3. I like to think that Satan doesn't only exist within me. I prefer to think that Santa exists within me. And Santa (speaking from inside the left ventricle of my heart, where I left him some mulled wine and a mince pie) agrees.

  4. 1 Silly Sad Hun is an anagram of Dilly Hussain.

  5. I was at school with Jonathan Romain 45 years ago: I thought he was an idiot then, and he's done nothing since to disabuse me.

    I'm sure someone can come up with an apt anagram.

    Hector Plasm


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