Tuesday 31 March 2015

The BBC admits errors over 'Suffragettes Forever!'

In answer to my complaint to the BBC about an episode of BBC Two's 'Suffragettes Forever!', which (as we noted here) "maligned Margaret Thatcher", the BBC Complaints department has now replied.

This was the complaint: 
I would like to complain about Amanda Vickery's unfair and inaccurate comments about Margaret Thatcher. She said of the Falklands War that Mrs Thatcher "did not shrink from personally ordering the sinking of a troop carrier [the Belgrano] with the loss of over 300 lives’". Then, to make her seem heartless, the shot changed to Mrs Thatcher saying, "Just rejoice at that news, and congratulate our Forces and marines" as if she were saying that in response to the sinking of the Belgrano. This was totally misleading as Mrs Thatcher said those words after the liberation of South Georgia. Plus, the Belgrano was a cruiser not a troop carrier. The lack of factual accuracy and the misleading juxtaposition of that statement with that incident should be publicly corrected and, if the series is repeated, it also should be made explicit to viewers while they are watching.
And this was the BBC's reply:
Reference CAS-XXX
Thank for contacting us regarding BBC Two's 'Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power' broadcast 17th March 2015.
We understand you feel some of the content was inaccurate and misleading to audience members.
We forwarded your complaint to the programme's production team and who are now in a position to respond. They have provided the following:
"The section of the programme on Mrs Thatcher’s role in the Falklands war was meant to show her determination not to focus on “women’s issues” as Prime Minister and her resolve as a military leader and not to criticise her politically or personally.
Describing the Belgrano as a “troop carrier” was a factual error and the production team would like to thank you for pointing it out. We can assure you that the programme will not be repeated in its current form.
The iconic clip in which Mrs Thatcher invites a crowd of journalist to “just rejoice at that” was meant to be the full stop to the point that she was determined to be as dauntless as any male leader in the pursuit of a military campaign. However as it followed immediately on from the reported sinking of the Belgrano it could unfortunately have been interpreted as referring specifically to that sinking and the related Argentinian deaths. That apparent reference will be re-edited before the programme is repeated."
We hope this goes some way to addressing your concerns.
Thank you again for contacting us, we value your feedback. All complaints are sent to senior management every morning and we included your points in this overnight report.
These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.
Kind regards
To their credit, the BBC has conceded both points and promised to re-edit the programme before it is repeated.
Update 18.40pm: And, true to their word, when you click on the BBC i-Player, this episode of Suffragettes Forever! now bears the caption, "This programme has been edited since broadcast. Why?".

And when you click on "Why?" it reads: "This programme has been edited to correct a factual inaccuracy."

And, on re-watching that section of the programme, the inaccurate section concerning the "troop carrier" has been removed, and Mrs Thatcher's "rejoice" statement is now captioned "Surrender of Argentine forces on South Georgia, 25th April 1982" with no misleading lead-in.

So there's an election on?

I've been busy with family (including babies) in recent days so, on returning to the world of blogging, I find there's a general election going on. Who saw that coming?

I was very active during the last election, watching the BBC (naturally), but that's not going to happen this time. There's far too little time to do anything - and, especially, to do it properly. 

However, there are a few small things that might be done over the course of the next month to monitor things. 

So I've chosen three things to follow as 'tests of BBC impartiality' - (a) the party leader interviews on Today; (b) the Reality Check posts on the BBC website; and (c) something else I've not yet decided on (but which must be capable of being monitored from yesterday).

If any of you are able to do similar easy, small-scale studies we'd love to hear your results (whatever way they may go). 


Arriving a day late, one further thing - and maybe my (c) - might be to check the BBC, Sky and ITV websites at the same time every day - say 8.30 pm each night - and compare who's reporting what.

OK, let's give it a go...

Well, tonight Sky isn't making too much of the election at all on its website. They are leading with foreign affairs (Nigeria, Turkey). The general election is merely its fifth story and its take on it (as per its headline) is scrupulously non-committal: Leaders' Day Of High Visibility Campaigning.

ITV News, by way of contrast, is leading with the election and focusing on a topic the Conservatives are said (by pundits) to want the election to focus on, the economy - and on David Cameron's take on it:
The key players in the General Election battle are focusing on business today with David Cameron pledging to create two million new jobs over the next five years if the Conservatives win power on May 7.
ITV's second election story goes with bad news for Labour, reporting a 19% swing (in a poll) from Labour to the SNP:
ITV News poll: Labour could lose 28 seats in Scotland
The BBC are also leading with the election but, in contrast to ITV, are focusing on a topic the Labour Party are said (by pundits) to want the election to focus on - living standards: 
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats welcome pre-election figures showing growth in household incomes, but Labour says it has been the "slowest recovery for 100 years".
Related content
Beneath that is a small-print plug for Plaid Cymru:
Election 2015: Plaid promise cash boost for public services 
The BBC's real second election story, however, is: 
Why is UKIP off to a slow start?
It might (or might not) be interesting to follow this through until the day of the election.

Monday 30 March 2015

Categorising Islam

Oh Good, Nick Robinson is well enough to blog. Best wishes Nick, and I hope you’re back on our screens soon. Norman Smith  doesn’t ring true. He’s like a man who fears he’s gonna be found out at any moment.

Anyhow, Nick Robinson’s blog is welcome, but it’s also quite troublesome. He writes in simple language and breaks up the text into paragraphs of no more than four lines. It must be aimed at those of us with learning difficulties. He poses some helpful questions to assist us with exercising our voting rights. It is rather like those quizzes that are supposed to determine what sort of person you are, you know, psychological profiling for readers of women’s mags. 

Are you Labour or Tory?
  1. Do you care whether Britain stays in or gets out of the EU?
  2. Do you mind if the UK breaks up, with Scotland becoming an independent nation?
  3. Do you have a view about whether we send British forces abroad to fight? Or spend billions renewing our nuclear deterrent?
  4. Have spending cuts gone too far or are more needed to balance the nation's books? Do you think welfare's too generous or that benefit cuts are hurting the vulnerable?
  5. Do you think the country is full or do you fear that politicians might stop the immigration the country needs?
Oh dearie me. 
1)I have mixed feelings about the EU. 2) I felt hurt and rejected when the SNP was so keen to break away from me, but they’ve been so beastly ever since that now I don’t care. 3)This is not an ‘either or’ question. I’d have to answer that with a fit of coughing. 4a) yes; 4b) yes. 5) I don’t think the country is full but I’d prefer it if it was less full of Muslims. I fear that politicians haven’t got a clue about which immigration the country needs.
There; does that make me an irresponsible voter, or are my learning difficulties too far gone for your quiz? 

On the positive side, the government has noticed there’s a problem. 
"Give the authorities the powers to close down ‘extremist’ mosques", Theresa May says.
This is because the horrific antics of IS and the turmoil in the Middle East has caught the attention of our politicians. The trojan horse affair, the ’Asian’ grooming gangs, the Lee Rigby slaughter and various other troubling signs of Islamic discontent seemed to have passed them by until IS started cutting people’s heads off and posting videos of it online. Look at us! they were saying. 
Suddenly people started running off to Syria and we didn’t know whether they should be prevented from going, prevented from coming back, or brought back and given an ASBO.

Now, in order to calm us down the government has invented two separate categories. 

Category a) Extremism
Mainly Islamist extremism, but that would be Islamophobic, so this embraces ALL extremism. (Christian, Jewish, far right, and should they become radicalised, the Womens Institute.) I don’t know if the far left falls into the extremist category but I think they forgot it.

Category b) Moderate Islam.
“We must always take care to distinguish between Islam – a major world religion followed peacefully by the overwhelming majority of one billion Muslims worldwide – and Islamist extremism. Islam is entirely compatible with British values and our national way of life, while Islamist extremism is not – and we must be uncompromising in our response to it.”
The above is an excerpt from Theresa May’s YouGov speech “A Stronger Britain Built On Our Values” 
Oh look. Someone named Dr. Joel Faulkner Rogers, also of YouGov, has pointed out in the Telegraph that the British people ain’t buying it. 
“A clear distinction must be made, Mrs May concluded, between followers of the Islamic faith, which is “entirely compatible” with British values, and extremists who claim there is a “fundamental incompatibility”. Hence the keystone of her new strategy is a proud promotion of “the values that unite us”.
Except they don’t unite us, according to a majority of the British public. As a recent survey by the YouGov-Cambridge Programme shows, a striking 55 per cent of British voters currently think “there is a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of British society”, compared with just 22 per cent – little over one in five – who say Islam and British values are “generally compatible”.Among Tory supporters, this gap increases to 68 per cent who say “clash” versus 17 per cent who think “compatible”. Ukip supporters look almost unanimous on the issue (89 per cent “clash” versus 4 per cent “compatible”) while roughly half of Labour supporters take the negative view (48 per cent “clash” versus 27 per cent “compatible”) and Lib Dems are divided (38 per cent “clash” versus 39 per cent “compatible).”

Having said that, Dr. Rogers returns to the YouGov party line. 
“These figures hardly reinforce the idea of new partnerships and highlight a deeper problem that is unaddressed by a tub-thumping appeal to values: public concerns about extremism andMuslim concerns about alienation are currently locked in a vicious cycle, feeding each other in ways that fuel the atmosphere for extremists and their increasingly sophisticated portrayals of a war between Islamic and Western societies.
If the answer to extremism is united communities, then the first question is “how do we break this cycle?”.

This is reminiscent of “We must learn to live together.” Why must “we” learn anything? Why must “we” break this cycle?  Answer is we can’t, because it isn’t a cycle. It’s Islam. Islam is incompatible with British values. The only kind of Islam that might be compatible is a drastically reformed Islam, one which ditches 90% of the claptrap that makes it so antithetical to British and or Western values. 

Here is what Theresa May went on to say:
“....... extremism is not something that can just be ignored. It cannot be wished away. It must be tackled head on. Because where extremism takes root the consequences are clear. Women’s rights are eroded. There is discrimination on the basis of race and sexuality. There is no longer equal access to the labour market, to the law, or to wider society. Communities become segregated and cut off from one another. Intolerance, hatred and bigotry become normalised. Trust is replaced by fear, reciprocity by envy, and solidarity by division.”

And this is ‘extremism?” No, it’s not. It’s well within standard norms of Islam. At least the standard norms of the kind of Islam that is responsible for Trojan Horse, Asian grooming gangs, Lee Rigby’s murder, etcetera. 
They’ve found no evidence of a specific ‘plot’ to radicalise schools?  It might not be a plot. An organised plot isn’t any more necessary than an organised plot to make everyone under the age of 70 get a hideous tattoo.  Peer pressure? fashion victimhood? stupidity? Who knows. They just do it because it’s become their kind of norm. Radicalising schools is their kind of norm. No plot necessary.
Why is it okay for British Muslims with that kind of norm to go about their business with the protection of Theresa May, the police and the BBC?  
Three Girls and the Five Girls from Bethnal Green Academy.  Headmaster Mark Keary.

The Daily Mail published video evidence that  the father of one of the girls, Abase Hussen was pretty extreme himself. The police, the headmaster of the Bethnal Green Academy, the BBC and the government have chosen to ignore this. Either that or they genuinely believe that flag-burning and screaming anti-American, anti-democracy slogans is part of normal moderate Muslim behaviour, and nothing to do with influencing any offspring they might have to run off to participate in anti-western Jihad.
The academy, rated as ‘outstanding’ in its 2012 Ofsted review, is currently putting on weekly talks for parents giving advice on the issue.
But parents fear this is merely ‘papering over the cracks’ and have called for a thorough investigation. Parents have also started holding their own meetings to discuss the growing problem of Islamic fundamentalism at the school.

Parents, Ofsted, the headmaster, the police are all baffled. Baffled and mystified I tell you. 
I recommend they consult Nick Robinson. He could set it out clearly for them, maybe in the form of a quiz.

Sunday 29 March 2015

The importance of being Jeremy

Someone on the Sunday Politics said Labour’s four point lead in today’s polls was down to the media’s representation of the Cameron/ Miliband/ Paxman programme, rather than the actual debate itself. Apparently some of the people polled hadn’t even seen it. They went entirely by media reports and clips of ‘the best bits’.

If that’s true, and I’m inclined to believe it is, then Ed’s success hinges on ‘that’ remark. 
I can’t remember the exact words, but it was something like “You may be important Jeremy, but you’re not that important.”
Oh the impudence! The flirtatiousness! Cheeky to the headmaster!

I can’t imagine David Cameron being lippy like that! The bit at the end was pretty punchy, too. Paxo said with faux concern “You alright Ed?” a slight pause, then “Yes. Are you?”

I can see Boris doing something similar, but not our straight-laced PM. There’s some sort of lesson there, to do with ‘The Weakest Link’. If the whole election hinged on an episode of T. W. L. hosted by Anne Robinson, more people would probably engage. 
You are the weakest link goodbye. Walk of shame. End of.

You could apply the Ed technique to quite a few other things too. The BBC for example. You may be important Tony, George, Mark, (insert favourite DG) but you’re not that important. Death threats? It happens to the best of us. They’re thinking of setting up a dedicated hotline. Or are they?

What with death threats, and the stress of covering Israel: 
“the corporation aims to be balanced in its coverage of Israel, but that reporting on the country’s conflict with the Palestinians was “tough”.”
Tough shit.

Jeremy Clarkson is a good example of someone who wasn’t as important as he thought he was. Or is it that the BBC underestimated Clarkson’s importance to his fans? Is Jeremy Clarkson the most important person on the BBC? I feel a John Lennon joke coming on. 
“He’s not even the m.i.person on Top Gear!”  (ba boom)

I have been forced to think about this incident. It has divided the country so it’s my duty to come up with a definitive verdict.( As it happens, I watched Stacey Dooley’s investigation into domestic violence the other day. Stacey is famous for her “My hometown fanatics ” film about the Islamification of Luton.The people’s version of investigative reporting. On domestic violence she managed to wangle an audience with Theresa May no less.  May was evasive and all politiciany. Waste of time.)

I must ask myself, did the Clarkson fracas, a workplace version of domestic violence, cross the line? I needed to know more before making my final decision.

  1. Had 36 year old Oisin what’sisname been in the relationship long enough to know that a man needs a hot dinner on the table when he comes in after a hard day’s graft?
  2. Whose fault was it that Jeremy had to work so late?
  3. Was it reasonable to expect the producer to oversee dining arrangements efficiently enough to ensure that Clarkson is kept in the manner to which he had become accustomed?  
  4. We all get ratty when we’re tired and hungry.
  5. Not always to the point of fisticuffs. 
  6. When the star is bigger than the producer there will be trouble.
  7. The BBC is notorious for making bad decisions.
  8. Could it have been handled differently?
  9. Is Clarkson too big to fail?
  10. Does Clarkson hit people often? 

Bored now. I’ll retire to the jury room and think about it.

Oh yes. Forgot to add:

  1. Someone at the BBC must have decided to let the ‘slope’ film go out.
  2. someone at the BBC must have leaked the eeny meeny / n****r outtake.
  3. Someone at the BBC must have approved the insulting numberplate.
  4. Russell Brand is still on our screens.       
  5. You alright Jeremy?

Saturday 28 March 2015

The left, Israel and being Jewish

Nick Cohen has written a piece in the Spectator which I find odd. It concerns the Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström, who has denounced the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia, condemned the Saudi courts for the harsh punishment of blogger Raif Badawi, and, really, criticised a whole raft of medieval practices that Islamic countries are ideologically wedded to. What took her so long?

Sweden used to be the model of laid back liberalism. It was a country full of golden-haired goddesses who liked to live and let live in the most modern and free thinking fashion. Now, its tolerance and free-thinking has attracted a mass influx of radical Islamists and the country is famous because it has become the rape capital of the west.  Sweden has embraced pro-Palestinian advocacy of course.

She’s in trouble for speaking out. Nick Cohen is full of admiration for the plucky Swede.  
“It is a sign of how upside-down modern politics has become that one assumes that a politician who defends freedom of speech and women’s rights in the Arab world must be some kind of muscular liberal, or neocon, or perhaps a supporter of one of Scandinavia’s new populist right-wing parties whose commitment to human rights is merely a cover for anti-Muslim hatred. But Margot Wallström is that modern rarity: a left-wing politician who goes where her principles take her.”

This is all well and good. We admire her for suddenly seeing and articulating the obvious, and we’re full of contempt for those who refuse to see what’s in front of them. Like Nick Cohen, everyone should be horrified that “the Swedish establishment has gone wild.”

We are, we are. However, this next bit is extremely problematic. You’ll see why.
She is foreign minister in Sweden’s weak coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, and took office promising a feminist foreign policy. She recognised Palestine in October last year — and, no, the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and Gulf Co-operation Council did not condemn her ‘unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Israel’. I confess that her gesture struck me as counterproductive at the time. But after Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out a Palestinian state as he used every dirty trick he could think of to secure his re-election, she can claim with justice that history has vindicated her.

I don’t expect every opponent of radical Islam to understand Israeli politics, and I don’t assume Nick Cohen has to be an admirer of Benjamin Netanyahu in order for his opinion on the Islamization of Sweden to count. But I do expect him to have a little more understanding of Netanyahu’s tactics and the desperate predicament his country faces than to declare that Wallström’s ill-advised, premature recognition of ‘Palestine’ has been vindicated by history.  

It’s almost as if Cohen has used her recognition of ‘Palestine’  to excuse her, or to give her more credibility - with the readership of his article, as well as with the Swedish government and the EU. 
I looked at the comments to find out if any of the responses picked up this point. One or two did.
This has a tenuous but valid relationship to the way the BBC presents the Israeli / Palestinian situation.  

That was a ‘leftist’ issue, and so is this.   H/T Harry’s Place  This piece in Tablet (the Jewish, not the Catholic) examines Ed Miliband and his position regarding Jewishness and his attitude to Israel. It opens:
“In a packed conference hall in Islington, north London, the disembodied voice of Omar Barghouti is calling in over Skype. The co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement exhorts the crowd to renew their efforts for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which is holding the meeting. He derides and denigrates Israel, the apartheid state. And then, his rhetoric building up to a pitch, he delivers his killer line: “Balfour is dead, now let’s bury his damned colonial legacy.” A loud cheer echoes around the room.”

It’s a good read. Ed wants to be PM, so some of his ambivalence is understandable, given the state we’re in. (Largely Labour’s doing) There is one jarring note in this piece. It’s in this bit here:
“ Geoffrey Alderman points to three major factors that have driven British Jews to the right. First, the community has been upwardly mobile and become more and more established as an upper-middle-class group in British society, making it naturally more conservative. Secondly, philo-Semitic Tory leader Margaret Thatcher also came to power in the north London constituency of Finchley, appointing several Jews to her cabinet and ushering in an era of market-driven economics that has been kind to the Jewish community. Many Jews living in north London and voting in the upcoming election will be just as exercised by Labour’s planned “mansion tax” on expensive houses as they are about Israel.”
The writer needs to bear in mind that though there may be some truth in the last sentence, without qualification it’s sailing dangerously close to the infamous Tim Willcox ‘mansion tax/wealthy Jews’ remark, which was taken to be an antisemitic slur. Whenever people refer disparagingly to ‘those wealthy Jews’, and I’m sure there are quite a few successful Jewish business persons, they should remember who’s  buying up half of london these days. If we’re talking about money, power, control, lobbying, and wealth beyond the wildest dreams of Mr and Mrs normal, the Arabs beat the Jews hands down.

Apart from that, there is one heroic Labour MP. Michael Dugher, MP for Barnsley East. (Speech at 'We believe in Israel" conference 2015.) Is he the UK’s Margot Wallström?


Please advise

I heard John Douglas on IPM talking about his experiences in Yemen. 
A friend of mine had an identical experience in Yemen. While training Yemenis, not in construction, but in another productive skill, he was taken hostage several times. His release was secured in return for promises to provide roads, mosques and the like. It was - virtually - bartering, the tribal way. Unfortunately the last kidnapping wasn’t benign, and ended up with a very serious gun battle, from which he had a narrow escape. 

Now Yemen is in chaos. At present, the US is backing a military intervention by Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia against a Shiite rebellion aided by Iran.

The Houthis are backed by Iran. Meanwhile Hezbollah’s (Shiite) Hassan Nasrallah calls for Arabs to unite against Israel. 
Mahmoud Abbas, presently in a supposed coalition with Hamas (Shia) has just delivered a speech at the Sharm el Sheikh summit in which he appeared to be asking for the Arabs to unite against terrorism. (ISIL) 

Whatever will the Sunnis and Shia do next? Will they fight each other, unite against the ‘terrorists’, or focus on Israel.  Hatred of Israel is after all the only thing upon which they agree.

If Houthi, al-Qaeda and ISIL cause enough trouble in the region they might even be forced to call upon Israel’s assistance. No, surely not.

What is needed is some clear, well informed, intelligent unbiased analysis of this dangerous situation. Hard to know where to turn.

All the news that's fit to censor?

As noted in the comments of Sue's post, the BBC News Channel's The Papers failed to report one daily newspaper's front page last night. This one:

Every other front page was present-and-correct as usual. Only this one was missing.

And, curiously - unlike Sky News (which isn't censoring it) - this morning's The Papers on the BBC News website also completely avoids either showing or reporting that Daily Mail front page. 

Radio 4's Today also avoided mentioning it this morning.

Looking at Google News, it seems it's a Daily Mail scoop that certain parts of the press are reporting (including The Times) but others aren't.

It's their right to take either option, of course.

However, is it the right of the BBC to choose to vigorously censor the lead story of a major daily newspaper? And isn't that what the BBC is doing here?

Friday 27 March 2015

Everyone is hurting

First the three,  then the five.
 Bethnal Green Academy, what is it like? 

It emerges that teddybear-cuddling Abase Hussen who had no idea how his daughter became radicalised had been indulging in a little light flag-burning and a spot of recreational marching with Anjem Choudary. Apart from that, Abase is the very model of  modern English gentleman. 
“Shamima's sister Renu urged her not to "do anything stupid", adding she is "our baby". Halima Khanom, Kadiza's sister, said: "Everyone is hurting."
Apparently they can’t stop cryin’ !
Sad as it is,  the police caved in to pressure from the select committee and  goodness knows who else, and actually apologised to this family for not preventing their daughter and her friends from running off to be jihadi brides. 

There they were sitting in front of the select committee, all hard-done by and sorry for themselves, while all along they were deeply involved in the radical ideology that tempted their daughter and her friends to follow their dreams. Islamic State ahoy.

I don’t know whether this comes under the category of ‘extremism’ as defined by Theresa May. It’s their ‘norm’ innit.
Either way it looks like deception of a most unpleasant kind.

Rumble in jungle


I suppose we ought to mention the rumble in the jungle. I disagree with whoever it was that declared Paxo the winner.
 I thought he was hopeless. The aggressive approach that’s suppose to ruffle feathers and stimulate passion only creates defensiveness and a kind of special politician’s brand of inhibition. Instead of drawing out potential, it kills it off.  Hell yes.
So after all that evasiveness and defensiveness, we’re none the wiser. Kay Burley got a thorough pasting on the interweb. Yes, she does resemble a cat.

The only thing worth just mentioning - in my humble, not very impressed opinion - was a superfluous debriefing in the BBC’s ‘spin room’.
They interviewed  a small cluster of Labour supporters and Nigel Farage. “What did you think of it so far?” they asked people like Dan Hodges and Kevin Maguire. “Rubbish” came the reply.   “Who came across best?“ Ed’s passion, apparently.
They must have been watching a different programme from the one I watched. 
After the Labour-luvvies plus the Ukip leader had given their verdicts, along came William Hague, and suddenly something went wrong with the sound.  

Thursday 26 March 2015

Why the BBC's biased coverage of Israel matters

The Times reported today that Amnesty International (famously no supporter of Israel) has accused Hamas of being responsible for the deaths of 11 Gazan children at the Al-Shati refugee camp on July 28, 2014:
Misfired Hamas rockets’ killed children in Gaza
A rocket salvo that killed 11 Gazan children and hit a hospital on a Muslim religious holiday was the work of Palestinian militants hitting their own people, a report has found, in a damning indictment of Hamas’s conduct during last summer’s war with Israel.
The explosion at the Al-Shati refugee camp on July 28, which killed the children buying sweets on the first day of Eid ul Fitr, was the result of misfired rockets by Hamas, Amnesty International concluded.
Hamas blamed Israel for the bombing at the time, but a relation of one of dead child said that Palestinian militants went to the scene and tried to hide the evidence of their involvement.
“I saw the body of the rocket [and] I knew it was a local one,” the family member told The Times. “Some people came and hid it on the spot — however, it was really hot.”
He said that he held Hamas, as governors of Gaza, responsible but that no one from the group had ever visited the family or apologised. Two adults also died and another 19 were injured. 
That tragedy was widely blamed on Israel at the time, despite the Israeli government's prompt offering of counter-evidence absolutely refuting the claim.

Amnesty has now endorsed the Israeli government's version. 

As BBC Watch notes, the impact of this one news story - extensively reported on the media outlet that most British people use to get their news, the BBC - was so strong that the CST noted a spike in UK anti-Semitic attacks in its immediate aftermath. 

Did the BBC help create that anti-Semitic zeitgeist?

That's quite a charge, but it's a reasonable one to make.

Please judge for yourselves by watching this short BBC report from Ian Pannell - a report I remember seeing at the time: 

If anyone wants a single concrete example of BBC News being blatantly biased against Israel - and why that matters - I'd say that report provides it.

It's a piece of flagrantly emotional reporting: suffering children, suffering parents, suffering BBC reporter. It's unequivocally one-sided. It amplifies Palestinian claims - and downright lies - without questioning them. It fails to provide any context. It avoids wondering if Hamas intimidation might lie behind some of the claims against Israel. It seeks to undermine the Israeli case by (a) not giving it and (b) featuring Palestinian voices sneering at it.

Its reporter clearly believes that Israel did it. And he didn't hold back on projecting that feeling, did he?

Frankly, it's just an awful piece of reporting - made all the more awful by being so moving.

And, given its prominence, lots and lots of British people will have seen it. And lots of British people would have been appalled by it. And lots of British people will have blamed Israel for it. And some may have gone on anti-Israel protests because of it. And some may even have attacked Jewish targets (here in the UK) because of it.

Re-watching that report now, several months on, knowing what we now know (and which many knew at the time), doesn't this show that the BBC's reporting of Israel is clearly, demonstrably faulty and irresponsible?


P.S. Unusually, the BBC's most Israel-unfriendly Twitter users seem very quiet about Amnesty's report and the media's coverage of it today. Jon Donnison is clearly keeping his counsel. So is Jeremy Bowen. Where are they?

A Dialogue between the Soul and the Heart

By popular demand...

The Radio 4 drama Recent Events at Collington House (Part 1 here; Part 2 here) prompted a metaphysical dialogue between the heart and the soul, here at ITBB

Here, channeling that marvellous Metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell, is a taste of that inner debate:

Heart: I dutifully listened to the final episode of that Radio 4 drama, which was like a collection of all the recent 'issues' pasted together, but with an unusual outcome - the Muslims defeated the secular headmistress. A message of hopelessness I suppose.

Soul: I was surprised at how emotionally involved I got with it. I went red in the face at times. Plus, it went to places that the BBC rarely goes to. It showed how a Trojan Horse-style plot (of the kind which occurred in the West Midlands) might actually work, beginning with personal demands from a single governor that his child should not be taught music because "Music is haram" and progressing through an ever-increasing number of further sharia-inducing demands to a smear campaign against the sitting headmistress (and non-Muslim members of staff), to dogged grievance-mongering, a relentless infiltration of the board of governors and finally a takeover - a takeover which all the nice, well-meaning, PC, multicultural, equality-loving, (BBC-like) members of staff/governors are nigh on powerless to prevent. It certainly was a message of hopelessness - which, at the moment, seems something of a realistic position.

Heart: The only thing I'd point out is that to me it seemed, in terms of drama, it was pretty crass. The good thing was that it ended up on a kind of note of hopelessness and resignation, but it was as if the writer had gathered together a hatfull of headlines and strung them together with little additional creative or literary input:
  • The headmistress hounded out by Muslim parents and governors. Tick.
  • The friendless outsider non-Muslim boy with a worried single mum, radicalised by another pupil. Tick.
  • The radicalised clever Muslim pupil. Tick.
  • The frail chairman, supportive but about to stand down. Tick.
  • The gratuitous divorce in the background, sapping the headmistress's strength. Tick.
  • The graffiti on the wall. The debate about freedom of speech. The Charlie Hebdo/picture of the prophet. Tock.
That's just for a start. At least we were spared a happy outcome, which was indeed a surprise. It clunked.

Soul: Yes, it did clunk. The bit where Mr Nurani did his "I love the Prophet Mohammed more than my mum, dad and kids" speech was nicked straight out of the papers, as was pretty much all of the rest of the plot. Still, it got me hot under the collar about Mr Shah & Co. (the Islamist plotters inside the Trojan horse) and made lots of points that aren't usually made on the BBC, which is something.

Heart: I thought the whole thing was nicked out of the papers, and that's why it couldn't really be described as 'good'. Only in its vaguely realistic ending was it in a way good.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Here's to Andrew Neil, the last surviving right-winger at the BBC!

A recurring joke in the old days at the Biased BBC blog - a joke which, strangely enough, was (by and large) 'funny because it's true' - was that left-wing defenders of the BBC only ever used one argument to counter our charge that the BBC is left-biased: "Yeah, but what about Jeremy Clarkson, Nick Robinson and Andrew Neil?"

It was as if the mere ritual recital of that unholy trinity of BBC names was enough to disprove all of our evidence that the vast majority of BBC staff leaned leftwards rather than rightwards.

The evidence for that assertion (of ours) included (among other things) quotes from prominent BBC types confirming the fact; an internal BBC survey which showed an overwhelming majority of BBC staff identifying themselves as 'liberal' rather than 'conservative'; those figures showing a vastly disproportionate number of BBC purchases of the Guardian compared to other newspapers; those seemingly endless one-sided tweets and re-tweets from BBC reporters; plus, of course, the mass of evidence that we ourselves found in support of that contention.

That was then and this is now though. Jeremy Clarkson is gone (and he's never been a BBC News man anyhow, any more than Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steel or Marcus Brigstocke have ever been). And Nick Robinson is sadly indisposed. So that just leaves Brillo - the last remaining right-winger at the BBC.

Ah yes, but things have moved on and those old-time left-wing defenders of the BBC might now say, "Yeah, but what about Craig Oliver, who worked at the BBC and then became David Cameron's spokesman? What about Jeremy Paxman who outed himself as a one-nation Tory after leaving the BBC? What about Fat Peng? And what about Gobby, who ran off to UKIP?"...

...to which the obvious reply would be (if you don't consider this a straw man argument on my part): Yes, but they've all gone too. So, as I say, that just leaves Brillo as the sole remaining right-winger in the BBC village.

Of course, that 'only rightie in the BBC village' crack implies that there are more right-wingers in the BBC village. It would be highly unlikely if there weren't.

Who though? 

Rod Liddle suspects John Humphrys might be - though he thinks he's very good at hiding it if he is. (Rumour has long had it that there is one Tory on the 'Today' rota. John? Justin?) Deputy political editor James Landale has also been mooted as a Tory. [No one at the BBC - except the late Sir Patrick Moore (and, now, the differently-'late' Gobby) - ever seems to get mooted as a Ukipper though.]

Anyone else?

The BBC Scrutiny Committee

The Guardian and the Telegraph disagree about the House of Commons' European Scrutiny Committee's report on the European debate - especially over the committee's criticism of the BBC's coverage of Europe. 

As for the BBC's own online report on the MPs' findings, well, it chooses to make the report's general findings about "the lack of an EU debate" its focus. The section on the BBC begins a considerable way down the report, presents the BBC top managers' statements first, then gives the committee's view before ending with a statement from a BBC spokesman. It uses (without quotations marks) the sub-headline 'Independence'. 

For those who don't here are some extracts from it: 
78. We remain concerned following that session that Lord Hall did not seem, in our view, to appreciate fully the limitations on the BBC editorial independence imposed by Article of the Charter, the Framework Agreement and the general law. We were glad to note that Lord Hall stated that on “impartiality, I think that is just fundamental. I really do.” However, we were not satisfied with his responses as to the balance to be struck in delivering that impartiality in respect of different views on the EU issue, and we challenged him that few voices were heard from those with strong views criticising the EU among backbenchers, including from the Labour Party.
80. Overall, following our questioning, we were not satisfied that Lord Hall was sufficiently clear about the structure of the oversight he exercised over those who worked under him as Editor-in-Chief. We were also concerned that neither he nor James Harding sufficiently appreciated that the issue of the EU is not only a party-political, but a cross-party issue for backbenchers.
82. We are gravely concerned that despite our clear message in the session that we would have expected that the BBC would give full coverage to the proceedings attended by Lord Hall and James Harding, apart from a broadcast on BBC Parliament after the session and a short summary of the proceedings on the BBC website, there was to our knowledge no news commentary, analysis or interviews on any of the mainstream programmes of the BBC of the proceedings. We note in this context our continued concerns that there was similarly little coverage of our seminal report on European Scrutiny Reform of November 2013. We regard these failures as inexplicable, and in our view they could be construed as a breach of the BBC’s duties under its Charter and Framework Agreement, and particularly in respect of its public purposes. Furthermore, we find them difficult to understand given Lord Hall’s repeated statements of how seriously he took the issue of impartiality, and the steps he referred to in his oral evidence of how attention is paid to the “flow of information” and a “common response”, with many including daily) meetings between editors and senior managers.
86. We are not yet convinced that the BBC’s training adequately equips BBC editors, correspondents, producers and interviewers to devise the questions and coverage to reflect all sides of the EU equation, in accordance with the BBC Charter and its obligations. We were told by Lord Hall that the organisation is “very reflective. It thinks very hard about what it is doing … The culture, I think, is one of questioning”, and on the question of the complexity of the issues in question, we were told that “the challenge is to say ‘this is complex; it matters. Now we, as journalists, must try to get to grips with it”. In our view a good deal more analysis is required.
90. In summary, we still remain deeply concerned about the manner in which the BBC treats EU issues. Our witnesses seemed to be more intent on defending and asserting their own opinions, mindset and interpretation of the obligations under the Charter and Framework Agreement than in whether they had in fact discharged them or whether they had the mindset to carry through their post-Wilson aims. In the interest of the licence fee payers, and the public in general, and in the context of the approaching General Election and a prospective referendum on the EU, and given the fact that the BBC themselves state that 58% of the public look to the BBC for news they trust, we believe that the BBC has a duty under its Charter, Framework Agreement and the general law, and following the Wilson report in particular, to improve substantially the manner in which it treats EU issues.
93. We deeply regret the fact that Lord Hall’s repeated refusals to give oral evidence delayed the session to such an extent that it has not been possible to conduct further work on these issues before the dissolution of Parliament. Our central tenet, regarding the BBC’s coverage of the EU scrutiny process in the House, and EU issues more generally, is that the country’s public service broadcaster must command wide confidence in its coverage of such a sensitive and complex issue. We do not believe that this has been achieved.
Lord Hall doesn't seem to have gone down too well with them, does he?

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Mountain v molehill

I’ve been trying to find out the reaction to Theresa May’s speech about how the government intends to clamp down on extremism. How it went down with the public and so on.

The BBC did air the speech, but so did Sky. Reactions seem to fall into two camps. 

The Islamists didn’t think much of it. Some say they wish to put a knife through her neck, others that they wish cars would run her over. 

Other, less fanatical responses range from ‘too little too late’ to “yeah yeah, all talk and no ‘do’.”
Odd that Anjem Choudary has been invited to address the Oxford Union, which you might think  a bit of an impudent invitation under the circumstances.

While David Cameron is still insisting that ‘extremism’ is entirely different from Islam, even when it’s called Islamist extremism, Theresa May’s intentions seem decidedly pie in the sky.
She mentioned the Trojan Horse effect. Yet the BBC tells us that there is no evidence that such a thing exists. It all seems to hinge on how one interprets ‘extremism’, ‘plot’ , ‘British values’ and the meaning of the word ‘meaning.’

What irritated me yesterday was that David Cameron’s supposed ‘gaffe’ eclipsed every other item of news yesterday. Everyone on the BBC was hell-bent on making an enormous mountain out of what most people will think of as a small mole-hill. It was an obsessive, media-driven, overblown, explosion of substance-free, boring, manufactured speculation about 'what David Cameron meant' when he said something unremarkable about his intentions for the far off future.

With luck one day the media will eat itself, or push a knife through its own neck; or get run over by a truck that it didn’t see coming because it was completely absorbed in its own irrelevant speculation.

There *is* Race!

While we’re on the subject of The Big Questions, last Sunday’s episode was about race. Or was it about racism. The general consensus seemed to be that racism is, and could only be, the powerful discriminating against the disempowered. 

From this principle it was extrapolated that black people couldn’t be racist. It was an impossibility. If I remember correctly that’s the Diane Abbott theory.  Someone could maybe have mentioned Zimbabwe, the Middle East, present day South Africa and so on, but perhaps that’s just semantics, because of course those examples are still power or ‘class’ holding sway over the weak and/or the underclass, albeit in these cases it’s ‘black’ upon ‘white’.

Something that should have been said, but wasn’t, was that there is also the passive-aggressive, guilt inducing racism that comes from incessant victim-mongering, such as was in evidence in that programme. Blacks - or whatever the latest acronym for ‘black’n’asian’ is -  can be racist. And they often are - with notable exceptions of course.

There is another flaw in this kind of discussion. It’s the fact that most of the time everyone is talking at cross-purposes. There *is* race. It exists. DNA and all that. We should be able to acknowledge that, at least without people recoiling in horror at the very mention. People should be able to generalise about certain things where they’re obvious, on the understanding that there are exceptions to the rule. 

If, say, statistics show that one racial group broadly demonstrates unique physical or mental attributes, why should we be afraid to mention it - on the understanding that there are exceptions.  Racial stereotyping isn’t necessarily negative or positive; it can simply be neutral. 

There’s an issue about profiling. I understand that Israel has an effective way of minimizing terrorism in the air through profiling. If security services or airport authorities were prohibited from working along those lines it would put us in more danger than we already are. In fact some politically correct non-discrimination must already be in place, if stories about white grannies being searched while burka’d ladies sail through check-in are anything to go by.

Of course the black citizens who are offended by too many racially targeted stop and search events might see things differently. Some would say it’s up to black communities themselves to overturn the statistics that make them a target, by reining in their own criminal element and generally conforming to conventional norms, which is dangerously close to blaming the victim; and they could justifiably argue that it’s difficult to do all that because of society’s discrimination. It’s a circular argument with little hope of a quick fix. Patience is the only hope.

There is an extraordinary amount of racial discrimination and harassment at our universities in the form of anti-Zionism-come-antisemitism. It’s rising. 

Which brings me to Trevor Phillips.
 “Former Master of the King’s Wardrobe suddenly reveals that ‘The King is in the Altogether’ shock horror.” 
This weird mea culpa, which some people are lauding as wonderful, refreshing and liberating and others are condemning as total disingenuous rubbish - seems to me to be part statement of the bleeding obvious / part racist victimhood whinge. He seems to be making a case for more active  ‘positive discrimination’, and  he lost me near the beginning. The first thing Phillips cites as a ‘truth we’re not allowed to say” is that rusty old antisemitic slur, that Jews are predominantly powerful and rich. Statistics somewhere attest to it, he said. He stopped just short of saying Jews control the world. (In The Big Questions, Lee Jasper of all people brought Phillips to task on that because, he said, “I know plenty of poor Jews”)  There are exceptions you see. 
However I found it bothersome that in his Channel 4 documentary Trevor Phillips didn’t bother to qualify that so-called ‘truth’, even to say that he too knows (or knows of) the occasional poor, un-powerful Jew. He was happy enough to just leave that  particular ‘truth you can’t say’ well and truly ‘said.’

"I know some poor Jews"

As far as I could tell, Trevor Phillips’s  revelations added nothing to the mix. Perhaps he’s reluctantly coming round to the view that pure, unadulterated, non discriminatory equality and universal sameness is a delusion rather than a reality. He’s kind of the last man standing, the only man alive who didn’t know that all along.

Monday 23 March 2015

Meanwhile, in another universe...

The cybernats are not happy bunnies today. 

They are (as ever) very active on the Twitter hashtag #bbcbias, busily tweeting each other messages like the following:
Proof of #bbcbias entire interview subliminally captioned as "SNP Threat" on #bbcdp Impartial and unbiased eh? ”
wow the #bbcbias channel now trying subliminal messages. It's not done in error
@BBCNews @BBCNewsnight @BBCPolitics your bias against the SNP is the REAL THREAT to democracy! #BBCBias
Stewart Hosie interviewed by BBC yesterday surely positive proof of BBC bias? 
More incredible BBC bias. They don't even try and hide it anymore. (Too funny) 
#BBCBias introduce latest series for their  #ProjectDemonizeSNP
If you needed proof of BBC bias toward SNP, here it is @boycottTheBBC @daily_politics @theSNP @afneil 
And what exactly has got their goat today (mixing my animal metaphors)? Well, this:

Now, I think I know what the BBC's trying to say with that caption but I don't think the cybernats would entirely buy that explanation.

Anyhow, you're now beholding an image (above) which is surely destined for thousands upon thousands of tweets and re-tweets from now till infinity...or at least until Scottish independence.

Some bigger questions

I’m not religious. It’s not so much that I do or don’t believe in God - It’s more of an absence of belief. There are more pressing things to worry about, or for that matter, to believe in.

Many British adults with secular tendencies (lefties, progressives, creatives, centre-righties, lapsed Christians, apostate Catholics, cats, dogs and English-speaking parrots) have rejected the religion they know most about (Christianity) because of the prudish, retrograde morality that used to blight people’s lives in the days when ‘high church’ and piety were regarded as ‘good‘ and original sin needed to be exorcised by prayer and penance and doing good deeds.  
Although most secular souls might retain a vague, waffly idea that God is ‘within us all’,  the underlying concept that ‘God is love’ is out. God is love is the baby that was thrown out with the bathwater. Many non-believers have dispensed with the whole thing, bathtub and all. No God; no sky faries.

So, if all the old fashioned religious ideas of what constitutes immorality (being gay, illegitimate, and all the other ten commandment-type sins) can be dispensed with, as well as the concept that God is love, how can it be that another religion, Islam, can persuade so many rejectors of Christianity that Islam, with its God Allah, its prophet Mohammed, its dogma and its worldview is a credible way of life for British citizens, which we must all accommodate? Furthermore, how can we accept, despite all the evidence to the contrary, claims that it is a religion of peace?

The current situation seems to be that you can’t entertain the idea that God is love; you are inclined to reject religion altogether. You are not particularly acquainted with the fundamentals and the trappings of Islam other than a vague notion that the violence and atrocities we hear about in the news are ‘nothing to do with Islam’, yet you are eager to give Islam’s claims of peacefulness, Godliness and plausibility  the benefit of the doubt?  I just can’t make sense of that.

Muslims have inveigled ‘secularist cultural non-Christians’ into respecting and kowtowing to much of the claptrap that goes with their religion as well.
The BBC appears to have overturned a nationally accepted commonality that used to cover everything. Satire, humour, diet, dress, figures of speech, turns of phrase - for fear of offending Muslims.

Is it rational that we are still seriously expected to embrace Islam, absorb it, depict it from the premise that, in its ‘true’ sense, it’s a force ‘for the betterment of mankind’, despite the ever increasing list of Islam inspired violent Jihadi practices and cultural atrocities and taboos that dominate the news, day in, day out? 

How can the BBC give credibility to people like, well, need I give a list of the BBC’s pet Islamists? They must be laughing their heads off (if you’ll forgive the allusion) at our gullibility.

I was going to post something about the Sunday before last’s The Big Questions, the one about apostasy, but matters conspired against. (flu) The lone apostate who set the scene was Amal Farah, who bravely held her own despite the voluble hostility all around. She said “I don’t regard Mohammed as a prophet”, something I think goes for a great many of us. Evidently not the BBC though. It has recently started referring to “Friday prayers‘ in a very familiar fashion, as though praying in a mosque is part of everyone’s Friday. The BBC is not only sucking up to Muslims, but is trying to ‘be like’ them.

Since the topic was amply covered by Harry’s Place, instead of reiterating the points made by commenters and the poster ‘habibi’ I’ll just make a couple of observations. 

First, isn’t it remarkable that supporters of Islam are incapable of shutting up? For representatives of the religion of peace, they all behave with a unique type of belligerence and rudeness. Not in the slightest peaceful.

Mohammed Shafiq is shouty and disagreeable. He admitted he was wrong to call for the murder of Maajid Nawaz for tweeting about the Jesus and Mo T-shirt, which he did in Urdu, so that people in Pakistan, where they kill people for all sorts of minor transgressions, might have been minded to actually carry out that deed. He claimed it was tweeted in the heat of the moment. 
Luckily for him Maajid Nawaz is still alive, so presumably Shafiq believes an expression of regret (for inciting murder) is enough of a concession to re-establish his position as spokesperson for the Muslim community and one of the BBC’s foremost, go-to Muslims.

The Muslims weren’t the only belligerent contributors. Kate Smurthwaite was pretty excitable, and hard to shut up. She looks so like the Queen of Hearts. At any minute she might say “Off with their heads” 

Abdullah al-Andalusa is a convert whose muse is Haitham al-Haddad.  Someone drew attention to a twitter feed in which he announced his forthcoming appearance on the Big Questions. An assortment of prayers and advice on how not to be tricked by Nicky Campbell ensued.  
Razaul Karim You will ne ambushed, you will be asked if you think the apostate should be killed, you will be asked what do you think about the Islamic verdict should one be killed. You have to show they to have corporal punishment, so every nation has boundaries for which they apply the corporal punishment. You have to go on the offensive. May Allah guide you and bless you for your efforts.”

......and very prophetic it was too. He was asked if he thinks the apostate should be killed, but he wriggled out of it by redefining apostasy.  I don’t know if Allah did guide him, but I’d guess not.

One of the reasons I find it hard to accept Islam in the same way that the BBC does, and urges me to do too, is that I know Muslims are encouraged to hate me. The BBC knows this, but doesn’t care. To me it seems as if antisemitism is a minor issue if it’s expressed by a Muslim, whereas from a non-Muslim it’s racist. Unless it’s branded anti-Zionism of course.  

Another programme I caught up with on the iPlayer, which had gone out on BBC3, concerned a beauty contest called something like  “International Miss Muslima”.  
The presenter and contestant was a Muslim version of Stacey Dooley; giggly, conspiratorial and a bit thick. The audience was sucked in, so that they felt sympathetic to her plight, her awareness of the strangeness of ‘foreign’ Muslims, her surprise at some of the differences between what was acceptable to British and non British Muslim women. 
In some ways our heroine was more inhibited by her religion than some of the ladies from Islamic countries. They sang Karaoke in public, for example, whereas she certainly would not.  

Dina Torkia, our presenter, swearing, laughing, flirty, confrontational, wouldn’t stay in a house where a man was staying. She couldn’t. 
When the girls found out that the whole shebang was corrupt, fixed, riddled with ludicrous, farcical conditions and anomalies, our heroine decided that these deceits could be excused because the outcome was good; they chose, albeit accidentally, a worthy winner. She looked decidedly anorexic, and nobly dedicated her win to all the oppressed Muslims, particularly those poor oppressed Muslims in Gaza and Syria.  So there you have it. Another of the BBC’s attempts to sanitise lunacy.