Saturday 23 May 2015

Hugh Sykes: A Twitter History

As you're probably aware, one of my favourite BBC reporters is BBC veteran - and 'voice of the BBC' - Hugh Sykes.

His latest tweets take you right to the heart of the BBC's mindset. (He's presently banging on about immigration, re-tweeting various pro-immigration points).

In fact, Hugh's tweets should probably form an integral part of any A-level English/Politics syllabus. Pupils ought to be encouraged to work out where old Hugh's - and many of his BBC colleagues - sympathies lie, politically-speaking. 

(A rather easy question, I'd say. Please check them out for yourselves though.)


Being the BBC's oldest reporter, Hugh Sykes has covered many of the most momentous news stories.

He was there in 2348 BC, recounting the heart-breaking story of how a vulnerable 969-year old pensioner called Methuselah fell victim to a devastating flood. His BBC colleague Roger Harrabin blamed it all on global warming, while another of his BBC colleagues, home editor Mark Easton, hinted it was caused by Tory cuts and the bedroom tax, suggesting the OBR (Office for Biblical Responsibility) had fallen short, and, for good measure, implying that the problems, if truth be told, all began under the rule of Margaret-daughter-of-Cain.

Hugh, however, rightly, blamed it all squarely and unequivocally on the West - especially the pre-Obama Americans, under King Bushus the Second. The flood was caused by their foreign policy errors, said Hugh firmly. God was angry. As was Hugh.

God then sent out some ravens, a dove and a rainbow. Chris Packham from Springwatch looked unimpressed, making it very clear that the two sparrowhawks dozing on Noah's ark should have been sent out instead, adding "Phwoah, sparrowhawks!" whilst rubbing his legs in the manner of Gog from Shooting Stars with Gog and Magog. God, looking uncannily like Bill Oddie, appeared less than amused. He wanted reed warblers instead.

Hugh was also there in Iraq in around 539 BC, criticising the actions of the coalition forces who had gathered together to bring about the fall of Babylonian dictator Belshazzar.

Another BBC reporter present at the King's final feast, Mark Mardell, embedded with the Babylonian army, entered Biblical fame as being the man who ate all the pies. Even the ill-fated Belshazzar didn't get a look in when it came to the food. Mark didn't even need to claim the meal on BBC expenses but, sadly, burst soon after in such a spectacular way that many feel his story deserved at least a couple of verses in the Bible. (Instead, it was left, as usual, to the Monty Python team to properly recreate this moment in one of their Monty Python and the Meaning of Life features).

Back in the BBC's CGI-enhanced ziggurat, universal BBC pundit Abdel Bari Atwan stood up for the much-misunderstood Belshazzar and, with eyes very much a-bulging, told Gavin Esler that Jewish exiles were obviously, somehow, responsible for the writing on the wall. He then recalled his past joy on learning that the Israelites had been made to sit down and weep by the rivers of Babylon and how he looked forward to it happening again.

After having a brief rest-break back at Broadcasting House, Hugh went to Israeli-occupied Judea in the 2nd Century BC to report on the goings-on of right-wing Jews who were failing to pay attention to the editorials in Haaretz urging them to lie down like lambs before the might of the peace-loving Seleucid Empire. Hugh tweeted Haaretz link after Haaretz link, criticising the Maccabees.

His BBC colleague, Jon Donnison, also tweeted a fake mosaic of a child apparently killed by the Maccabees (but in fact killed by the Parthians). He didn't ever really apologise for it. The BBC then got a bit nervous and dispatched him to Australia - preceding Captain Cook by some 1,900 years. As there were no Westerners there at the time, only alcoholic Aborigines, Jon went mad and declared himself a prophet of some entity called Al Ar - the first of many to come over the next 600 or so years.

Fast forwarding to the 7th Century AD, we find Hugh reporting from the Arabian peninsula. Someone there called Caliph Mohammed, the last of that line of loons to declare himself a prophet of Al Ar, is busy destroying false idols, marrying a little girl and massacring Jews, and his followers are sharpening their swords in preparation to conquer the known world, and blow up buses and marathons. Hugh reports back home to Anglo-Saxon England [pah, says French scribe Marcus de Roche on the BBC's Dateline Winchester at the mere mention of 'Anglo-Saxon England'!] that this new religion, which says it wants to create an Islamic State, is a religion of peace. He strongly implies that the Venerable Bede is an Islamophobe for saying otherwise. Their swords are the swords of harmony, Hugh tells us. We have nothing to fear from them. And the West, he adds, is to blame for anything that goes wrong, from henceforth to eternity.

As the Middle Ages progress, Hugh is found reporting from across the new lands of Islam. Everything is lovely to begin with. His BBC colleague Jeremy Bowen criss-crosses the empire from Spain in the West to Persia in the east, getting his underlings to decorate their poorly-written manuscripts with luminous marginalia - drawings of Jeremy himself eating every delicacy that the lands of the Caliph have to offer. And the Jews are thinly dispersed throughout those lands, which is even better for hungry Jeremy. 

Happy days for Jeremy then but, alas, not for Hugh, who's still pining to bash the West. Thankfully, the crusades then come along, and Hugh finds himself in his element.

Things get so bad at this time that King Richard the Lionheart feels the need to send a minstrel to BBC HQ to protest in song about the BBC's evident hostility to the crusades. As the West moves in on Saladin Hussein, Hugh is found in Baghdad, making the broadcasts of his life, expressing anger and sorrow at every misplaced crusader arrow while suggesting that Saladin Hussein is putting up a brave fight. The King's chief minstrel, Sir Alistair of Campbell, a famous bastard, protests by issuing a dodgy parchment claiming that Saladin could launch catapults at London within a short medieval measurement of time. The BBC contradicts that and Lord Hutton of Campbell, a lickspittle, says the BBC should be hung, drawn and quartered. However, as ever, no one actually ever dares to hang, draw or quarter the BBC, they carry on regardless, banners flying. Hugh gloats on Twitter. His fair colleague Julia MacFarlane, spotting that, lets down her long locks from the window of a tower in Broadcasting House as a 're-tweet'.

When the Mongols invade the Muslim lands, the BBC is thrown into a deep panic. What should they call the Mongols? Isn't the word 'Mongols' offensive? Sir Jeremy of Clarkson then mutters 'Mongol' on an unbroadcast section of 'Top Horse' and lands himself in deep bother. As the Mongols enter Europe, the BBC adapts its reporting to reassure BBC tithe-payers that Mongol mass migration will actually help boost the economy, and, anyhow, the Mongols are now part of the EU and have the right to settle here. When Sir Nigel of Farage suggests that the Mongols are bloodythirsty barbarians who have slaughtered untold millions, the entire guild of Dateline London denounces him as a Little Englander and a racist. The Tuscan Lady Polly of Toynbee rides naked through the streets of Salford in protest at his comments. (The people of Salford immediately start earnestly praying for the Black Death).

We next find Hugh in Constantinople in 1453 AD, reporting that the weak Western-backed regime of Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos has been overthrown by the peace-loving armies of anti-Western Ottoman sultan Mehmed II. Hugh blames the West for failing to understand the peace-loving motives of the Ottomans. As does Dowager-Baroness Shirley of Williams, a noted noblewoman of the day (whose mother, Dame Vera of Brittaine, wrote the most tedious book I was ever forced to read at school). Hugh then prays aloud on Twitter for the coming of one who shall be called Rageh, who will one day present a major three-part BBC documentary extolling the virtues of the Ottoman Empire. Jeremy Bowen notes that Mehmed - formerly a doctor in medieval London - is young, dynamic and popular.

As Barbary pirates raid the English coast, grabbing slaves, around the time that the great Arab poet Sheikh Spier was writing his famous plays, Hugh was tweeting like crazy about 'scare stories' from Ye Daily Maile. Ye BBC News website avoided Hugh's ire by studiously downplaying such stories, again and again.

As the 17th Century rolled on and the BBC's Nicholas Witchall found himself being called "a horrible oik" by King Charles I - before (after the Civil War) reporting, with barely disguised glee, on Charles's execution in 1649 - Hugh found himself posted to Ottoman-ruled Hungary. 

Hugh reported on the three million or so enslaved Hungarians dispersed throughout the Muslim Empire and, after interviewing five of them, found them to be intensely relaxed about it. (Many reporters beyond the BBC found the exact opposite). Hugh left BBC Radio 4's listeners with the distinct impression that the Christian bands who gathered in the Hungarian marshes to resist Erdogan's conquering Turkish army were, as he tweeted, "worse than Farage". (And so they were.)

As the forces of enlightenment gathered in 1683 to conquer Vienna on behalf of Islam, Hugh, inevitably, was there, present and correct, as the forces of reaction won an improbable victory against the forces of progress.

In a nuanced report for Broadcasting House, Hugh noted that all the Austrian generals had all previously been members of the Bullingdon Club and that the peace-loving Ottoman forces fought their battles to the accompaniment of multifaith choirs. 

Various of Hugh's colleagues in the late 17th/early 18th Centuries tweeted their snide disapproval of the rise of the Tory Party, and Hugh duly re-tweeted every single one of them. Disapproving tweets about the Whigs, in contrast, were conspicuous by their absence. Defenders of His Majesty's BBC countered criticism that the BBC was anti-Tory by citing a former His Majesty's Master of the BBC, Sir Richard Sambrooke of The Pollietequernique of Cardiff, as proof that the BBC wasn't biased - except (stretching academic credulity to the limit in most people's minds) maybe being biased in favour of the Tories and against certain continental alliances. 

As George I floated down the Thames to the accompaniment of Handel's Water Music several thousand BBC journalists, including Hugh, posted arch comments showing their disdain for the occasion. And when George II was given a fireworks display to the accompaniment of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, Hugh, Julia, Steph, Jon et al collectively reached for their handkerchiefs before fainting in disapproval. Charles Moore then wrote an article in the newly-founded Spectator criticising the BBC. 

The French Revolution broke out next. "Bliss is was to be alive", pronounced Hugh on Broadcasting House. His BBC colleague Paddy O'Connell, full of the spirit of Wolfe Tone, called it "the Paris Spring". Nicholas Witchall broke a rib laughing at the execution of the King. The BBC News Channel sent hundreds  of reporters out to central Paris, at tax payers' expense. Ben Brown, presenting live for the BBC, waved his fan and swooned seventeen times. James Naughtie asked a 25-minute-long question to Robespierre about how "we" won the revolution. Sarah Montague then asked him the self-same question, albeit less long-windedly. Jeremy Bowen then described the Jacobins as being "moderate" and, writing in The New Statesman, said he'd seen no evidence of what Zionist blogs like BBC Watch call "the guillotine".

Then it all went pear-shaped. The reactionaries won.

Hugh was deeply puzzled by the rise of Napoleon. Yes, obviously, Bonaparte's praise for Islam was progressive, but was Napoleon being sincere in his sucking-up to Islam? Prancing Beau Nikki Campbell staged a dandyish coffee party at Mrs Miggins's to try to find out, and Mo Ansar attended. And when Napoleon declared himself a monarch, Hugh collapsed and went into a coma for much of the 19th Century.

As the Ottoman Empire entered its 'Sick Man of Europe' phase, British PM Benjamin Disraeli rallied the United Kingdom behind 'radical conservatism'. With Disraeli, being a Jewish Conservative, the BBC entered its 'mad phase', nearly dying of fury. They prayed in unison for the coming of a new messiah, John Reith - gaining confidence with the advent of his loinkilt-clad precursor, John Logie Baird the Baptist.

The BBC's Yolande Knell spent forty years in bed during the Victorian Era, wearing mournful black weeds over her short, tight, clingy blue dress (the one she wears when reporting from the beaches of what Victorian BBC reporters like to think of as 'the approaching Zionist entity'). Hugh, despite apparently having seen it all by now, enthusiastically 'likes' Yolande's reports on Twitter - even though most sane people find them deeply biased and depressing. 

As for the 20th Century, well that's far too heavy for a frothy post like this. Hugh never ceased tweeting though. 

And long may he continue to do so. He makes blogging about BBC bias so much easier.

Update: I'm getting the impression Hugh didn't reckon much to my efforts here:


  1. Great stuff, Craig. The Barbary Pirates bit rang especially true.

  2. written in the Charter of the Old Testament 3rd century BBBC (of the special relationship between the BBC and its chosen peoples of the Labour party) “Go forth and educate, indoctrinate and entertain.” And they saw that it was good.

  3. Blimey,
    I love
    stacking that
    adds so
    much to


    From... [slight pause to compose oneself]... Islington.

    Always enjoy these 'I don't have to read this to know I am too busy and important to read it... but really I have and can't resist pretending I am above it all' snarks.

    I bet he parsed (a word I only recently learned) every word.

    Reminds me a lot of the trolling teams who mosey around BBC critical blogs; getting all high on the horse on matters of grammar, spelling and style when it suits, and then mighty defensive when their own abilities are found wanting or they need to quickly find a squirrel to point jab a finger at.

    I do declare y'all got under his skin a tad.

    Which is nice.

    More seriously, it was a satirical insight into how he and his colleagues come across as supposed impartial professionals, and he hasn't a single word of excuse or explanation or counter to make.

    Keep it up, Hugh. Just what's needed.


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