Wednesday 30 September 2015

Say the word

I could write reams about Jeremy Corbyn. His policies, his principles, his hypocrisy, his persona.  His cringe-inducing speech with those awful straw-man jokes and that conspiratorial gesture - a kind of wink and a nod, which he must have thought was endearing (it wasn’t) -  its rambling, unfocused, populist motherhood-and-apple-pie platitudinous vacuousness, much of which turned out to be, in any case, plagiarised

Corbyn’s challenge to David Cameron over Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, a protester who faces the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for a crime he allegedly committed aged 17 was all well and good, but next minute he’s congratulating President Obama for making this atrocious deal with the Ayatollahs, whose human rights record is equally terrible, even if we don’t know the actual names of the individuals hanged from cranes.  

I don’t even like those over-sized jackets that people wear to make make them look vulnerable.  To me they just look stupid.
There. I’ve got that off my chest. Now for the criticism.

If you look at Order Order, you can’t help noticing those Tweets; "Leftie Commentariat Pan Corbyn's Dire Speech"

Jeremy Corbyn was the star of the show at the Labour Friends of Palestine fringe last night. Speaking on a panel organised by the group yesterday was Husam Zomlot, a former PLO ambassador to Britain. Zomlot has some rather eccentric views, to put it kindly, judging by this BBC interview from last year”

As well as attending Labour Friends of Palestine he fulfilled his duty as leader of the Labour party by putting in an appearance at  Labour Friends Of Israel.  
Having spun his fondness for mingling with terrorists and holocaust deniers as “for peaceful purposes only” as furiously and unconvincingly as the centrifuges in Iran, what else could he do?
That he managed to deliver his platitudes without mentioning the word “Israel” in a Friends of Israel meeting was as odd as not mentioning ‘the deficit’ in a keynote speech to the Labour party conference.   No-one shouted out “Say the word Deficit” from the back of the hall at that meeting, but someone did shout out “Say the word Israel from the back of the hall at this one, before being duly bundled out.

Douglas Murray:

“On Northern Ireland, he claimed that he was not in fact an obscure backbencher but was intricately involved in the peace process. Precisely the same claim has been made regarding the Middle East. Rather than admit to having spent decades palling up to the worst anti-Semites and Israel-haters worldwide, Corbyn is trying to claim that he has in fact been involved -- deep undercover, away from the eyes of any respectable negotiator – in a "peace process." Why did he meet with Eisen? Peace process. Why did he meet with Hamas? Peace process. Why did he meet with Salah? "Inter-faith issues." You would have to be a child to fall for this. Unfortunately for the Labour party and the country, many of the thousands of people who joined the Labour party to vote for Corbyn are practically children. Or adults who are at the very least radically unbothered about having as a party leader a man who has supported the violent enemies of the United Kingdom and our only democratic ally in the Middle East.”

What we need from the BBC is some robust direct questioning of Jeremy Corbyn about his relationships with Islamists and terrorists. He claims he doesn’t do ‘irritation’, perhaps forgetting how rattled he got with Krishnan Gur-Murthy. In fact, rather than ‘a nice man’ he seems like an anti-Israel fanatic on of the verge of irritability all the time.  

Monday 28 September 2015

The BBC's war against Israel

Sleeping fitfully last night while  waiting for the moon to go red I heard Kevin Connolly on the BBC World Service delivering the audio version of  this piece, sparked off, he says,  by a new book named “An Improbable Friendship” by Anthony David.

The introduction he was intoning woke me up sharp. I can’t remember Connolly’s exact words, but this paragraph from the article sums it up:
You may be familiar with the history of the 1967 Middle East War - a short, sharp conflict in which, Israel captured land from Egypt, Syria and Jordan in a series of lightning operations.” 
I’m not sure that he actually said “You may be familiar with the history of the 1967 Middle East War”, but no matter, Connolly wasn’t going to be of any help to those of you who are not familiar with it. This may or may not have been entirely a bad thing, for whatever Kevin Connolly’s version of the history of the six day war seems likely to be - and I dread to think what it is -  I’d take a bet that we’re far better off without it.

So, it was “a short, sharp conflict in which, Israel captured land from Egypt, Syria and Jordan in a series of lightning operations.”

No reason, no rhyme, just a topsy-like event; there it was - it ‘grew’.
Let’s be clear, as pre-Corbyn politicians used to say. The six day war was a war of intended annihilation.  It was initiated by the Arabs with the intention of annihilating Israel. How cunning, how devious of Connolly to miss out the fact that Israel was fighting a defensive war.

I wasn’t too keen on this misleading,  emotive insinuation either:
So Israel remains in control of the Golan Heights with its apple orchards and rolling pastures.”
Before the six-day war, Syria’s tanks and artillery were placed high on the Golan, 'apple orchards, rolling pastures' and all. The guns were pointing at, and visible from, kibbutzim below, posing a constant and ever present threat to the civilians living and working peacefully beside the Sea of Galilee. Make no mistake. In the spring of 67 there was a sudden, fierce escalation and a barrage of shellfire landed on Kibbutz Ein Gev.   Israel now controls the Golan for very good reasons. To protect Israelis and allow them to stay alive.
“And the West Bank of the River Jordan, with its huge Palestinian population and its growing number of Jewish settlers, is still under Israeli military occupation.”
Kevin Connolly might not know this. He might not know that the six day war was an intended war of annihilation against Israel, started by the Arabs. He might not know that most of the territory that was captured by Israel was returned (to Egypt) supposedly in return for peace.

If he doesn’t know why the occupation came about, he should damn well go and find out. He seems to think it’s because of unreasonable and unjustified warmongering by Israel, when the exact opposite is the case. 
Of course he does know all this really. He chooses to leave it out. How should I describe the BBC’s war against Israel and what is their intention?

I am mildly curious about one thing. Not for personal reasons, just to clarify something that bothers some of us. Does Kevin Connolly think Israel "has the right to exist?" Does he think it has any legitimacy whatsoever? 
Not that I care what Kevin Connolly thinks, but I am quite interested in whether he and his colleagues who report from the region actually have the authority - the BBC's blessing -  to represent the BBC by reporting everything that happens, and anything that takes their fancy -  solely from the Palestinian viewpoint. 

I suspect that despite the ‘impartiality obligations‘ that the BBC is supposed to espouse, there is an inherent Arabist default position which nothing will budge. No matter how cognitively dissonant  this becomes, what with the ever increasing turmoil in the Arab Muslim world. Muslims fighting, killing each other; followers of Islam changing the face of Europe and making their presence felt in Western democratic countries that they live in, but dislike. How long can this go on and how far can it go?  I say that rhetorically.  Propagandising and emoting against Israel is all the BBC wants to do.

Anyway, this “improbable friendship” theme is interesting. It’s between 98 (and a half) year old Ruth, the divorced widow of  Moshe Dayan and a deceptively youthful looking Raymonda Tawil, the mother-in-law of Yasser Arafat and mother of the fragrant Suha. 

Oddly, that portrait has found its way into the room and it looks as if it’s on the exact same easel as Suha's easel. Not so much a case of the eyes following you round the room, in this case the whole bloody picture follows you halfway round the world.   Is it a BBC prop? How bloody ridiculous. 

Like daughter

Like mother

Now, it’s all well and good that Kevin Connolly has this idea to make a film for the BBC about a heartwarming story of friends across the divide, based on a new book.  But it’s more than a coincidence that as far as I can tell this tale is seen (sigh) from the anti-Israel perspective. If I’m told that the book is less partisan that Kevin’s film, I’ll be delighted to hear it, but I’m doubtful.

Incidentally, another story about friendship and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians didn’t catch the BBC’s imagination at all. Kevin Connolly didn’t choose to make a film about it, which seems a shame, as it involves another of the country’s favourite topics, football. I bet a film based on that would generate as much interest  - and do more good for the ‘peace process’ than, If I may say so,  this indulgent bit of flim-flam.

Ruth Dayan is indeed a sweet old lady, and no doubt she had a tough time being married to a man she said she should have divorced “ten years ago’” (I assume she meant ten years before she did divorce him) “for political reasons”. Kevin Connolly was keen to tease that out.

Moshe Dayan may have been a difficult man. He may have been a terrible husband. But let’s not forget that if it weren’t for Moshe Dayan and his brave brothers-in-arms, Israel would have been overrun by the enemies that surrounded it then (and still do) and Mrs Ruth Dayan may not have lived till 98 and a half to enjoy a friendship with Raymonda, the mother-in-law of that corrupt old rogue Yasser Arafat. 

I had a little look, just to be sure. Just to make sure that Anthony David is as impartial as Kevin Connolly and the BBC would have us believe. 

I went to Google, as you do, and saw that prof. Anthony David collaborated with Palestinian activist Sari Nusseibeh to produce an earlier, autobiographical  book “Once Upon A Country”

A review by Jeffry Goldberg is generous, but clearly states where the author is coming from.
“Once upon a country “ by Sari Nusseibeh with Anthony David.
“This is a rare book, one written by a partisan in the struggle over Palestine who nevertheless recognizes — and bravely records — the moral and political failures of his own people. This is not to say that Nusseibeh is a Zionist. For one thing, Zionists aren’t in the habit of quoting — approvingly — Noam Chomsky, and Nusseibeh catalogs, sometimes at unwarranted length and in exaggerated form, the sins of Israel, particularly the sins of occupation and settlement. And the narrative he presents in this book is undeniably the one devised by Arab, and pro-Arab, historians. There is no doubt that the 1948 war, which erupted upon the establishment of the state of Israel, did not end the way his family hoped it would, and Nusseibeh unpersuasively argues that the Jews were the Goliath in the fight, rather than the David. “

The new book "An Improbable Friendship" hasn’t been reviewed yet, and who knows, it might be full of surprises. But Kevin Connolly’s film tells a decidedly partisan tale, demonising Moshe Dayan, over sentimentalising or infantilising  his ex-wife Ruth just because she’s an old, old lady, omitting the context and background of the six-day war, giving undue respect to the Arafat family.

On the BBC World Service the continuity announcer thought it was sweet that she insisted on including the 'and a half' in that 98 years old, just like children do. Somehow, that says a lot.

Sunday 27 September 2015

A new parlour game for bias spotters

There have been criticisms on various social media platforms (old and new) today from both pro-UKIP and pro-Corbyn partisans alleging that Andrew Marr was biased against their man today. 

So, in the interests of seeing whether they are right of not, let's see how each interview was framed. Here's how Andrew Marr introduced today's set-piece political interviews:
NIGEL FARAGE. UKIP Now UKIP at their annual conference rarely fail to make headlines. They’re not always, it has to be said, the headlines they want to make. Now there’s a split between two rival anti-EU campaigns and a bitter row between UKIP’s only MP Douglas Carswell and its prime financial backer Arron Banks. I caught up with Nigel Farage, the bounceback man of British politics, yesterday afternoon. Could he explain what on earth is going on? --
JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR  Now Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the first Labour radical to storm to the leadership of the party on the back of popular discontent. Keir Hardie, Labour’s founder, and George Lansbury, were at least as far to the left and are still revered in the Labour Party. The trouble is, however, neither of them became prime minister. And that’s Mr Corbyn’s challenge: to take the energy that got him elected leader and use it to win over not hundreds of thousands but millions of people, many of whom have never been on a demonstration in their life. Welcome Mr Corbyn. Thirty years ago almost to the day, just down the coast, Neil Kinnock kicked out the Trotskyists and the Communists from the Labour Party. Are they welcome back in again? --
Now, I wouldn't describe either of those introductions as being particularly helpful to Mr Marr's guests today.

To demonstrate bias though they'd have to be set alongside a fair sample of other interviews. 

If, say, a pattern emerges where certain parties (or factions within parties) persistently receive worse introductions than others, or where 'anti-establishment' interviewees (like Messrs Farage and Corbyn) are repeatedly on the receiving end of unhelpful introductions unlike 'establishment' interviewees, then we might indeed find evidence of bias. 

Quite how an 'Unhelpfulness Index' could be made to work I can't quite say, but I think we can all probably sense when an interviewer's introduction helps (or doesn't help) the interviewee, if we're not wearing partisan blinkers. 

Indeed, a purely subjective rating systems could be used: eg. +++ for 'very helpful', ++ for 'helpful', + for 'quite helpful', = for 'neither helpful nor unhelpful, - for 'quite unhelpful', -- for 'unhelpful' and --- for 'very unhelpful'. 

Using such a ratings system, I'd give both the Nigel and Jeremy interviews a -- (unhelpful) rating. 

As a test of how this thing might go (with any interviewer), here are the introductions to all of this month's other set-piece interviews on The Andrew Marr Show, complete with my own subjective ratings. 

See if you rate them similarly, or whether you think the whole thing's a completely pointless exercise:  
TIM FARRON, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT 20/9Anyway, the Liberal Democrats, in sunshine, are in Bournemouth this week for their annual conference. No jokes about fitting into a phone-box because despite having only 8 MPs the party says it’s signed up 20,000 new grassroots members since the General Election wipe-out. What’s more, the new Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron claims he’s acting as an agony aunt – agony uncle surely – to distressed Labour politicians following Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. Can this really be true? Mr Farron joins us now from the conference centre. Good morning to you, agony uncle. =
Now then, the scenes of chaos along Europe’s southern and eastern borders go on, but EU leaders have been confused and contradictory in their response – opening borders one day, slamming them shut the next. This week they’re going to try to agree a common line, but with Germany demanding that each country takes its fair share of migrants and Hungary putting up more razor wire to keep them out, it’s hard to see what the deal will be. Britain has opted out of that, of course, but should we be doing more to help solve this crisis? I’m joined now by the International Development Secretary Justine Greening. Good morning. =
HILARY BENN, LABOUR 20/9It’s been a roller coaster week, as we’ve been hearing, for the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn said he’d do things differently and he’s certainly proved that when it comes to clothes, media appearances, royal protocol, managing the party, he has a unique style. But is this too disorganised, even chaotic? I’m joined now by one of the most senior members of his team: the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn. Good morning to you, Hilary Benn. -
TOM WATSON, LABOUR 13/9 And here’s a thought: at the time of the next election, Jeremy Corbyn will be exactly the same age that Keith Richards is now. Speaking of which, I had hoped to talk to Jeremy Corbyn this morning. He had other things to do. And, as it happens, the Israeli Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu also bailed out, so at least there is something that the two of them agree on. But we’re delighted to have Mr Corbyn’s new deputy, Tom Watson, who is going to be playing a crucial role from now on. Good morning. Now you don’t know Jeremy Corbyn very well, but you’ve seen a lot of him in the last I guess 24 hours or so. What kind of opposition are you going to be? How different is British politics going to feel as a result of all of this? =
MICHAEL GOVE, CONSERVATIVE 13/9Now then, David Cameron has reportedly warned cabinet colleagues not to patronise Jeremy Corbyn. Far from it. They seem to be talking him up - a threat to the UK’s national and economic security one minister said yesterday. So does the government regard this as a serious change in the political landscape? I’m joined now by the Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Welcome and thanks for coming on. First of all, the second most courteous man in British politics has just won the Labour leadership. You’re probably the most courteous. Any message for Jeremy Corbyn to start with? =
DAVID BLUNKETT, LABOUR 13/9And so to David Blunkett, a man of the left who moved to become a crucial figure in New Labour modernisation. He’s let off both barrels, as we were hearing, against the Corbyn revolution in The Mail on Sunday this morning, warning that disillusion will follow the euphoria as night follows day. The former Home Secretary joins me now from Sheffield. Good morning Mr Blunkett. +
HARRIET HARMAN, LABOUR 6/9Now on Saturday we’ll find out who has won Labour’s leadership election. It has been, by all accounts, a fascinating contest, and for the Acting Leader, Harriet Harman, it will bring down the curtain on 28 years in the frontline of Labour politics as a cabinet and shadow cabinet minister. It’s a long time. She’s been overseeing the process, much criticised by some of the party, of choosing Ed Miliband’s successor and she joins me now. Welcome to you. Twenty-eight years. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first of all how certain are you that all these people who have been joining the Labour Party, paying their £3 for the wrong reasons – Tories, llamas, people’s dogs, hard left Marxists who have very little in common with the Labour Party – how certain are you that all of these voters have been weeded out before the final vote? -
VINCE CABLE, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT 6/9Well, for five years Vince Cable was at the very heart of government as Business secretary, in the coalition. His time as a cabinet minister and an MP came to an abrupt end with a near wipe out in the general election in May. But he’s been busy since then, putting down his thoughts on the economy, Britain’s global future, and the often blustery years inside the coalition. His new book is called “After the Storm” and Sir Vince joins me now. Congratulations on the handle Sir Vince. ++
GEORGE OSBORNE, CONSERVATIVE 6/9And thus to the story of the autumn, one of the biggest and fastest shifts in the public mood I can ever remember. Did a single photograph of a drowned Syrian boy persuade the government and the public we should be accepting vastly more Syrian refugees? Well we’re waiting for the details of exactly how many will be allowed in and how they’ll be picked. To help us with these questions, the Chancellor George Osborne is with me now. Good morning, Chancellor. First of all, before those pictures started to circulate, there was a real sense and the Prime Minister said that bringing in more and more and more refugees is not the answer and then something changed, so do you concede that that picture changed everything? =
Now, of course, that's far too small a sample to prove much - though it does seem to suggest (if you agree with my ratings) that Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn (the two least establishment interviewees) fared worse than anyone else. 

OK, so let's go back to before the show's summer break and check out July:
BARONESS WARSI, CONSERVATIVE 26/7David Cameron says that tackling extremism will be one of the defining themes of his final term as prime minister. In a speech last week, he signalled that the struggle against Islamist terror is similar to defeating Hitler and he called on Muslim communities to work together towards promoting moderate values. The former foreign office minister and Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi has in the past criticised the prime minister for demonising Muslims when he said some of them quietly condoned extremism and she joins me now from Wakefield. Good morning to you, Baroness Warsi. =
JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR 26/7And the Labour Party seems to have gone to war with itself over the choice of its next leader. The surprise success in the race of the left winger Jeremy Corbyn is causing major jitters in the other camps and this morning’s papers suggest all sorts of non-Labour people are flocking to back him. The Communist Party says that it’s about “transforming Labour from a bourgeois workers’ party that serves capitalism into a workers’ party that serves the working class to the cause of socialism.” Mr Corbyn’s with me. Good morning. Would you agree with that quote? Is that what the campaign is really about? --
ALEX SALMOND, SNP 26/7One of the many dramas of the general election was the SNPs' overwhelming victory in Scotland. That big contingent of nationalist MPs is now flexing its muscles at Westminster, frustrating the government over issues including fox-hunting and English Votes for English Laws. Among them is the SNP's former leader, Alex Salmond. When we met in Aberdeen, I asked him: does he accept the case for English MPs to make decisions about matters affecting only England, in principle? +
TIM FARRON, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT 19/7Now I was very struck by something you said this week about the Labour party and yourselves. You said there were parts of the country where the Liberal Democrats could win but Labour couldn’t, and presumably vice versa. And it seemed that you were tip toeing towards the idea of some more general agreement with the Labour department depending on I suppose who leads it.  +
JOHN WHITTINGDALE, CONSERVATIVE 19/7Now when the new Culture Secretary John Whittingdale was appointed in May, there were a few worried faces here at the BBC. Now wonder, you may think, with stories that the former Select Committee Chairman was hostile to the regressive licence fee and he’d been appointed by the Prime Minister to sort out the bloated corporation. Since then he’s been at pains to point out that no decisions have been taken yet. The green paper on the subject, which came out on Thursday, simply seeks to start a debate about the future of the BBC. So let’s talk to the Secretary of State who joins me now from Maldon in Essex. Welcome and good morning to you. =
SAVID JAVID, CONSERVATIVE 12/7Now then, tackling Britain’s welfare bill was at the heart of the Chancellor’s budget last week. “Welfare spending is not sustainable”, he warned, announcing a four year freeze on most benefits paid to people of working age and deep cuts in tax credits. But then, with a flourish, he announced a new national living wage. The immediate press reaction was ecstatic, but second thoughts were rather less so. The Business Secretary Sajid Javid is with me now. Good morning. Could we talk a bit about the numbers to start with? Is 4 billion roughly speaking the amount of money the new minimum wage will bring in by 2020 in your understanding? -
TRISTRAM HUNT, LABOUR 12/7Now the Labour Party leadership contest has taken an unexpected turn with the left wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn clearly doing pretty well, and that is causing consternation in some of the other camps. The Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt says this morning – and I quote – “The speed and rapidity with which we”(that’s the Labour Party) “are beginning to be regarded as irrelevant is really terrifying.” Well he’s with me now. Welcome. Terrifying, strong words. +
STEWART HOSIE, SNP 12/7Can I start by asking about something that your leader has said today, about the ‘English votes for English laws’ proposal in the House of Commons, about which she seems very upset? A lot of English listeners will think, ‘well, that’s just absolute natural justice: you have your own parliament; English MPs should be able to vote on English-only matters’. What is the essence of your trouble with this? --
GEORGE OSBORNE, CONSERVATIVE 5/7George Osborne has had a fair bit of budget experience. He’s delivered six budgets already, but he hasn’t had the chance to deliver stunning moments to match Geoffrey Howe’s budgets in the early Thatcher years or Nigel Lawson’s sensational budget of 1988. And that is for an obvious reason: he has been a Conservative chancellor in a coalition government. Well, no longer. This week, finally, it’s Osborne unfettered and unplugged and he joins me now. A very big moment for you. How different is it going to feel? +
CHRIS LESLIE, LABOUR 5/7Now central to Labour’s problems at the election were the economic arguments where the public just didn’t like their past record and simply didn’t believe their warnings of economic disaster under the Tories. Ed Balls is no longer available for various reasons to discuss all of that, but I’m delighted to say the new Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie is. Welcome Mr Leslie. First of all, I mean you took a huge hit at the election campaign, and one of the big questions I suppose for Budget week is are we going to see a different tone, a different kind of Labour Party as a result? Are you in the mood to you know rethink the old days when you were opposed to every single cut and you were kind of highly critical of austerity? Are there going to be things in short the chancellor will announce that you will agree with, do you think? --
Actually, this parlour game of mine is proving surprisingly tricky to play. I'm not overly confident in some of the above ratings. (It's not always easy to prove bias). 

But if my ratings are correct, what do they show? 

Well, they show that mainstream politicians receive a mix of helpful, unhelpful and neutral introductions. 

As for the 'outsiders', well, the SNP picture (based on just two interviews) is mixed and the only other 'outsider' - the famous Jeremy Corbyn - again scored (by my reckoning) another 'unhelpful' rating. (I don't think Andrew Marr could be accused of pro-Corbyn bias, on this and other 'evidence').

Anyhow, that's more than enough of that for one post. I shall now go and lay down in a darkened room.

Saturday 26 September 2015

Absurdity upon absurdity

This is an example of what people find absurd about the BBC’s bend-over-backwards policy of not offending the Muslims. 

If capitulating to absurdity is allegedly ‘in the name of social cohesion’, who needs social cohesion?

It’s not just absurd that an English hospital would feel the need to keep a uniformed member of the British armed forces - an RAF sergeant  to be precise - out of sight in case his presence offended a member of the public. No, the manner in which the BBC perpetuated the exact same absurdity by concealing the hospital staff’s explanation for this nonsense piles absurdity upon absurdity.

The bit they left out was equally absurd, misleading and even more offensive.

Why would the hospital think a man wearing an armed forces uniform might upset the public? 

Well, could it be that they associate uniforms with some kind of emergency and might be alarmed? Well, not unless the soldier was standing on guard, perhaps with a big gun, like when they stand around airports at times when there’s a severe threat. No. it couldn’t be that.

Could it be something to do with this altercation that allegedly occurred recently between a uniformed person and a member of the public? Say, a drunken soldier had started a fight and frightened the life out of the outpatients department for evermore?
No. That doesn’t seem likely. either.

Even though it was couched in the best PC language the hospital’s misguided actions were clearly because of an understandable fear of (known) behaviour of angry Muslims. 

It’s absurd that some Muslims have managed to elevate into the mainstream their outlandish claim that our ‘foreign policy’ is to blame for their ire against this country. But they have managed it, evidently with the cooperation of the media.
So much so that any unsuspecting Islamophobe who has the temerity to question this bizarre theory is shamed into contrition by the absurdly illogical explanation that we’re hated because we're ‘killing the Muslims’. 
This means that a band of loonies can continue burning poppies for years and years with impunity, or that a couple of savages can think they’re entitled to kill and hack at the neck of an off duty soldier in broad daylight.  

When the BBC reported the hospital’s shameful  treatment of Mark Prendeville they didn’t mention Muslims. Nor did they quote hospital staff saying “they didn’t want to upset people” or they “have lots of different cultures coming in”.”

The BBC chose to leave us guessing. 

Concealing the soldier from the eyes of the public because that public might contain “other cultures’ is an absurdity. 
Concealing from the audience that this was the real reason for this absurdity is outrageous.

What's tending on BBC Trending

The BBC Trending blog, which reports some of the things that 'trend' on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc, can often be interesting; however, following on from the previous post, does it end up giving us a distorted view of the world? 

I've listed all the recent posts below. 

Although there's some variety there (and much that's of interest), it's genuinely striking when you read them en masse just how many of them reflect the prevailing obsessions of the modern Left - especially race, racism, gender and sexism. 

Even ones with headlines you might expect to be about something other than race or gender end up being about them (such as 'So what if you moved somewhere before it was cool?' or 'One man's rant against live streaming and Periscope' or 'Damonsplaining: Matt Damon accused of insensitivity' or ''Smile' tool draws criticism at Apple launch').

And it's not just race and gender (though it's mainly race and gender). Feminism, body image issues, anti-Islam/anti-Arab sentiment, etc. also take their places as recurring themes, as if BBC Trending is acting as an offshoot of the Guardian's Social Affairs unit. 

Plus there are the various positive stories about migrants.

Now, pace the last post, is this bias down to the BBC or is it simply because Twitter & other recent forms of social media (i.e. not so much blogs!) are absolutely dominated by the Left on matters of political importance? 

In other words, is BBC Trending merely reflecting what actually is trending in this strange, unrepresentative world, dominated by left-wing social media activists?

Anyhow, here's the list (all with links) for you to check out:

Following Twitter

One of the questions Samira Ahmed put to Steve Hewlett of The Media Show ran as follows:
The disconnect between the bizarre allegations in the Cameron-Ashcroft story, they're everywhere throughout social media and not on traditional broadcasters. Is that inevitable now, we're going to see more of this kind of gap between what social media's doing? Or are broadcasters going to have to re-think how they cover these stories because, in other words, you're missing part of the story because of the scale of the discussion out there?
Well, Steve Hewlett didn't answer that, so I'll try to instead: I think the BBC should be extremely cautious about social media. It should be especially cautious about getting carried away by the highly unrepresentative bubble that is Twitter.

The power of social media to influence events is becoming ever more apparent - especially the fast-moving forms of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. 

Whether, politically-speaking, Twitter and Facebook are massively amplifying the influence of a small number of people, the 1% (of politically extremely engaged leftists) at the expense of the 99% (the rest of us) is a point that certainly needs looking at. [Of course, they may account for a bit more that 1%, but probably not that much].

This group can, it seems, shame celebrities, journalists and politicians at will; influence politicians; whip up petitions containing tens of thousands of names at the drop of a hat; organise marches and other such outdoor protests: build an unstoppable momentum for certain politicians (such as Jeremy Corbyn); and, generally, give the impression that their views are far more typical of public opinion in general that they in fact are. 

The endless #weloveEdMiliband-type hashtags that kept 'trending' in such huge numbers before the general election, usually in parallel to sundry #sackCameron-type hashtags, vastly outnumbered all the counter-hashtags from the other side. Those tweeting them must have believed they were speaking for a larger part of the nation then they in fact were - thus their sense of bitter astonishment at seeing the election go so heavily against them. 

Something similar happened with the Scottish independence referendum. Twitter wasn't just dominated by pro-independence tweeters but pretty much taken over by them (at least as regards tweets about politics - and BBC bias! - from the UK). Were I to hazard a wildly speculative and completely spurious yet accurate-sounding statistic, I'd say that the 'cybernats' outnumbered the anti-independence folk on Twitter by a margin of 11:1 (not 10:1 or 12:1!). And yet they lost by a margin close to 11%. They were massively over-represented on Twitter. 

The Corbynistas are only the latest crowd on Twitter to become overlords of Twitterland  (and many of them seem to overlap with those pre-election and pro-independence tweeters), thus assuming themselves to speak for a much large section of the nation than they do. They have been out again in force over recent days endlessly berating the BBC for 'bias' over the corporation's "censorship" of the #piggate story.

As many at the BBC seem to think along similar lines to some of the above (if their collective tweets are anything to go by), so the 'BBC bubble' and the 'Twitter bubble' may overlap from time to time, especially on certain subjects, so the BBC will have to be extra careful not to get sucked into seeing what's said on Twitter as speaking for anyone other than people who tweet en masse about politics.

(The 'BBC bubble' doesn't seem, however, to coincide with the ''the BBC is biased' blogosphere bubble' very often for some reason!)

The BBC's media go-to boar

Steve Hewlett, sticking his hand up a senior BBC executive

As no BBC representative was available to discuss Piggate on Newswatch, who did Newswatch turn to instead? 

Inevitably to Steve Hewlett of The Guardian.

I may be the only person left who still thinks of him as "Steve Hewlett of The Guardian" because nowadays, when he appears on the BBC...which seems to be very often, especially when there's an important story 'about the BBC'...he's usually described as an 'independent media consultant' or, more often, merely as the presenter of Radio 4's The Media Show.

On this week's Newswatch Samira Ahmed introduced him as:
Steve Hewlett. He's a former BBC executive and introduces The Media Show on Radio 4.
All right and proper perhaps. However, I have to say - and this may be me simply being forgetful - but I don't think I've ever heard Steve Hewlett described as "a former BBC executive" before. Wonder what role he held exactly? 

It's hard to find out online, though LinkedIn (minus a stunning photo) records him as being a former Panorama editor, so I suppose that must be it.  

Over the years I've looked for a Wikipedia entry on him and none has ever appeared. There is a Wikipedia article about 'Steve Hewlett', but that one's about a ventriloquist from Basingstoke who appeared on Britain's Got Talent - and I'm really not convinced that they're the same Steve Hewlett at all...

....though Steve's contribution to this week's Newswatch, where he basically gave the BBC a completely clean bill of health over its Piggate coverage, could be a sign that I'm actually wrong about that. Yes, he wasn't actually engaging in any ventriloquism but he did seem to be providing a spot-on impersonation of a typical BBC executive appearing on Newswatch exonerating the BBC on all counts, combined with a side impersonation of Frank Spencer:
Look, my estimation, for what it's worth...I'm not sure the BBC did a mischief here. 
At least he didn't say 'whoopsie'.

That said, as ever, much of what he said came across as reasonable and I couldn't find anything much to disagree with him about.

Mmmm - nice!

Piggy in the Middle

Having seen or heard very little of the BBC's output this week, I'm not best placed to judge the corporation's coverage of Piggate. 

On this week's Newswatch Samira Ahmed said that the porcine part of the story had "sent social media into a frenzy" but that "the BBC judged [it] inappropriate to repeat in full".

A clip followed from a report by James Landale, illustrating this:
Lord Ashcroft denies he's settling scores but these early extracts allege that the Tory leader knew about the peer's controversial non-dom tax status earlier than his spokesman had claimed and discussed keeping quiet about it during the 2010 election. Those lurid allegations focus on whether the young David Cameron smoked cannabis at Oxford University and even took part in a bizarre initiation ceremony for a dining club involving a pig.
Samira said there had been complaints from both sides: 
Some viewers felt that the limited coverage given by BBC News underplayed the story...
While I appreciate the difficulties in presenting the story in a way that's factually correct and acceptable to the audience, I think not covering something which has gathered so much other media attention will firstly deny readers of a true, unbiased account of the situation, and secondly draw accusations of bias.  
When the story broke, it was mentioned on the news, but seems to have been censored every since. 
...but opinion on this was divided, with a smaller number of viewers objecting that the BBC had featured the allegations too prominently.
People are asking why BBC aren't running with #piggate? A third-hand unsubstantiated claim in the Daily Mail is not news. It's gossip. 
It is of no consequence, the rantings of a snubbed would-be Cabinet Minister. You virtually gave an advert length of air-time to the co-author on Monday, and on Wednesday you are still pushing it. 'Setting social media alight', etc.! And the BBC claim to be impartial...
No BBC representative was willing to be interviewed by Samira Ahmed about it but a statement was given to the programme:
We have appropriately covered the book serialisation, including some of the allegations, on BBC programmes such as the Today programme, Victoria Derbyshire, the 6.00 pm and 10.00 pm TV bulletins, as well as on the News Channel and online. We provided analysis on the context of the book, looking at the relationship between David Cameron and Lord Ashcroft, and carried interviews about why its allegations are significant, including with the co-author. All media organisations make decisions about how to report on stories. We make sure we report impartially, accurately and fairly.
Inevitably the BBC says it got it about right. Oink, oink.

Douglas Murray's Leftie hell

"Must eat right-wingers' brains! Must eat right-wingers' brains!"

Following on from Allison Pearson's "leftie hell" on Radio 4's Any Questions, Douglas Murray has an enjoyable piece in The Spectator about his own experiences of appearing on programmes like Any Questions and Question Time called In the lion's den.

It begins;
‘I bet you’ve never been spat at,’ a fellow right-winger once said to me, with barely disguised pride. We were speaking the day after an episode of Question Time. I was still slightly bruised from the booing, and this effort to cheer me up worked well. I may have been booed, but at least I had not been used by the audience as a spittoon.
And it's not just BBC audiences that give a right-winger appearing on the BBC such grief:
Coming back from a book tour of the US a few years ago, I asked a fellow right-of-centre pundit why it was such a pleasure being on the American media. She replied, ‘It’s because there the hosts ask us our opinion, allow us to give it and then thank us for coming on.’ If you are a right-winger on the British media, the main motivation of the presenter tends to be ‘How can I expose this person as a liar, racist or some sort of denier?’ Certain presenters behave as though their entire stack of liberal credentials are at stake. Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark is an example of this phenomenon, striking a weird, flared-up-nostrils, ‘What horrible smell has come before me?’ pose before even asking the first question. Another popular presenter’s aim is to try to catch you contradicting yourself. So having been cut off in the middle of your first answer, your second will be interrupted with, ‘But I thought you just said…’
He ends by giving his main reason for still doing it (and it's not the money):
Perhaps I shouldn’t make it sound so unappealing, since at some point I would like to retire and allow a new generation of innocents to get duffed up for a bit. The openings are there, and you don’t have to be very right-wing in Britain to fill the right-wing chair. And although nobody in the studio will be on your side, many people at home will be. The fact that they — not to mention the gods — are on your side should be incentive enough. 
Yes, Douglas, many of us at home are on your side, so please keep at 'em. And thank you.

Friday 25 September 2015

Leftie Hell

Will we see more articles called ‘My Leftie Hell” after last night’s Question Time? Probably no-one will bother. They’re resigned to it.

Like the ‘Any Questions’ that caused Allison Pearson such grief,  Q.T. came from the Cambridge area, and the audience was as surreally leftie as they come. 

On the panel were: Yanis Varoufakis, Ken Clarke MP, Chris Bryant MP, Suzanne Evans and Julia Hartley-Brewer. 

The question: “Should we take more refugees than we can cope with?”  
Note the way the question was phrased. Not ‘should we take in everyone in the whole wide world that fancies an easy life on benefits?’ Just the slightly loaded “More than we can cope with”.

Dimbleby turned to Suzanne Evans first, no doubt expecting her to make the familiar argument against this country taking in all and sundry, which she duly did.  It was greeted with deathly silence. After a suitable pause so we could soak up the hostility in the atmosphere, the chair turned to Yanis Varoufakis whose first words were “The opposite”. The audience erupted with whoops and cheers.
The overbearing Greek ex-finance minister proved popular with the audience. “Borders are an absurdity” he said.

We are all migrants

Suzanne Evans, Julia Hartley-Brewer, and a dully equivocating Ken Clarke unsuccessfully tried to reason with the audience, but the two remaining panellists agreed that we should take in anyone and everyone who wished to come because overall, migrants are of great benefit to the country. 

When it was suggested that their ‘welcome to all’ policy would put an even greater strain on our already over-stretched NHS, Chris Bryant said “If you see a migrant in the NHS it’s likely to be someone who’s treating you, not being treated.” The audience were in leftie heaven.

There is a parallel world. 

Leftie Hell and the BBC constitute one world; the rest of Britain constitutes the other. 

Sorry for the undeserved grilling

The Today Programme has issued a grovelling apology to Ms Hadid, having belatedly found out that the figure of 1200 migrant workers killed during the construction of the Qatar stadium applied to the whole of Qatar and not Ms. Hadid’s ‘vagina  stadium’.

"The ITUC’s figure of 1200 construction deaths which was quoted on this morning’s programme refers to the whole of Qatar, and not specifically to the main World Cup stadium site. We are sorry we didn’t make this clear in this morning’s interview with Dame Zaha Hadid. We are happy to accept there is no evidence of deaths at the main stadium site." 
That’s cleared that up then. 
There’s a whiff of litigation in the air.  Since Ms. Hadid stated loud and clear that she had already successfully sued another party for making a similarly libellous allegation, you’d think the BBC’s researchers would have easily found reports of this case  through Mr. Google.
Hadid, who became the first female architect to receive the Pritzker Prize in 2004, is seeking damages from the New York Review of Books and a full retraction, as well as an immediate injunction on the review.
“Hadid claimed that passage was based on a February 2014 statement taken out of context, before work on the stadium had begun, and that there were no worker deaths at the site.”

Failing to properly check out facts seriously damages the BBC’s credibility, and also forfeits the opportunity to put forward valid, more appropriate criticisms.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Dame Zaha Hadid. A Bad Day for the Today programme.

The Today programme was in trouble this morning for ‘getting its facts’ wrong. The first incident was quite dramatic.

Sarah Montague had the dubious honour of interviewing the good dame, and congratulating her on her prestigious prize. She mentioned the Iraqi-born architect’s reputation for being scary and abrasive.  Then she strayed into dangerous waters. It has been reported that 1,200 migrant workers were killed during construction of the architect’s famous  World Cup Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
At one stage the formidable Hadid was quoted as saying that preventing such things is "not my duty" as an architect. She now says quite categorically that nobody was killed. Not one. Nada. You ought to do your research properly, she said. Check your information before you say anything.

Sarah moved on, perhaps not knowing that she was heading towards other equally treacherous waters.   What about the Japanese Stadium that didn’t get builtShe ventured. You pulled out.
I didn't pull out. Was that because the costs spiraled out of control? No! answered Hadid, furious by now. You have got your facts wrong and I am not going to continue with this interview.

With that she was gone. Gawn! Vamooshed. 

“Sorry. This episode is not currently available on iPlayer.”   Oops. Now (13:02) it is. Better late than never.
The interview was at about 8:30. 

After that hilarious 'Creature Comforts' excerpt from his holiness's speech at the White House, another minor example of (possible) factual inaccuracy occurred when the BBC mentioned the accusation that Greenpeace of sabotaging - 'trashing'  a potentially life-saving GM  crop of ‘golden rice”

A spokesman categorically denied it.  

Today was not a good day for the Today programme.

As the man said, it’s quite something when an interviewee manages to make me feel sorry for Sarah Montague. As in the case of Assad and ISIS, it’s sometimes hard to know which side to come down on. Here’s a witty appraisal of Ms Hadid by the renowned style guru Stephen Bayley.
“The Tokyo stadium resembled a monstrous acrylic cycling helmet. Why? Two of the grand old men of Japanese architecture, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki, damned her design as monstrous and wasteful: conceived with neither respect nor reference to its locality. That, of course, was almost certainly her intention. Global architects such as Hadid do not want to respect their client or his site, but to venerate themselves. 
In any case, the locality Hadid prefers is the backyards of dictators and tyrants. Her latest buildings always win approval from supine architecture and design media, so work very well as salvation-via-design for repressive regimes. She has projects in various stages of completion or disarray in Libya, Iraq, Russia, Qatar, China and Azerbaijan. 
The Qatar case, already soiled by the sordid Fifa shenanigans, is interesting. From the air, Hadid’s 2022 World Cup stadium with its almond-shaped opening and labial folds looks bogglingly like giant pudenda. Someone mentioned this and she said, if you think anything with a hole in it is a vagina, that’s your problem.”

Comments are mixed........

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Any Questions?

Last Sunday I was going to make a comment on Craig’s recent post about Question Time and Phil Burton-Carledge’s ‘forensic’ statistical analyses, which concluded that if there was indeed any partiality, which he tended to doubt, the bias was towards the right. I wrote half a comment but events prevented me from posting.

I was going to say statistics aren’t everything. In fact in the case of AQ and QT, they aren’t anything.

You can take the lists of contributors, over the entire history of those panel shows if you like, and you might also assess the political nature of the  selection of questions, the questions themselves, Dimbleby’s (either one) interruptions, and stick them into categories of your choice, but the conclusion is still a matter of interpretation. Up to you old bean.
 As Craig pointed out, you could put the non-politician guests and celebs (or the Lib Dems) into the left, right or centre column depending on which side of the bed you got out of that day, but the one factor you can’t explain is the audience. 

We’ve heard that you have to complete a questionnaire for the honour of watching Q.T., but the BBC says it does this in order to achieve a broad spectrum, or balance, or whateva, and who am I to doubt it. Apparently they ask how you vote, amongst other things. We must assume they have no choice but to trust that the answer is honest.

So what accounts for the audience’s clearly left-leaning responses? Is it merely that the left are more shouty? More vocal, more aggressive?

If the BBC was genuinely concerned about the criticism it gets, which, (apart from a couple of episodes featuring George Galloway) is always about lefty bias, it really ought to address this problem. Why? It's impartiality stupid.

Allison Pearson was battered and bruised after appearing on last week’s Any Questions. I didn’t listen to that episode, but the scenario she described sounds fairly typical.

I must say I’m surprised that she was even surprised. What did she expect?
Don’t these people ever listen to programmes they’re invited on to? Vilifying conservatives R us, it’s known as. Probably.

 My Leftie hell on Radio 4's Any Questions
Conservative voters, when 'Any Questions' comes from a school hall near you, get your coat on and go - the BBC audience could do with the balance”
Well, maybe you can with A.Q., but you can’t do so with Q.T. You have to apply.
How could it be, when almost all of Cambridgeshire and, indeed, East Anglia, is true blue that the Any Questions audience appeared to be composed mainly of Corbyn fans?”
I don’t know how it could be, but the BBC seems to manage it effortlessly enough. We tend to cluster round those with similar views to our own, confirmation bias and so on. I wonder if the BBC has Any Questions to ask of itself ? Maybe it’s Question Time for the BBC.
"You know, what shocked me most about Any Questions? Me. Faced with all that loathing, I started to think that perhaps I should suppress my own beliefs and say something that would chime better with the self-righteous fans of Citizen Corbyn.

The audience can turn into a baying mob at the wink of an eye. Very few panellists are thick-skinned enough to ignore their answers being greeted with a deathly silence or being booed while others receive loud applause and whoops of approval.
“After the recording, the show’s excellent host, Jonathan Dimbleby, sighed heavily and told me it was a constant problem.
He and the whole AQ team found it immensely frustrating that Tories simply did not show up on the night to add their voices. The producer said it would cost £5,000 a week to pay someone to assemble a politically balanced audience.”

Why? who are they going to hire? Wayne Rooney? 
How hard could it be? Just get hold of one of those lists gleaned from some god-forsaken market research survey, match it to the relevant demographic, region, political proclivity, send out some posh invites and Bob’s Yer Uncle. That’ll be £5,000 please; make the cheque out to me.
Or they could simply vet the audience differently so as to arrive at a more representative group, (don’t ask me how)  - refrain from emotive cinematographic tricks like cutting to Yasmin Alibhai Brown tutting and eye-rolling while others are speaking, try out a fresh, more assertive chairperson, call on the audience’s ‘opinions’ less frequently, or abolish the audience altogether.

No. Ain’t gonna happen. Before people like Allison Pearson are ever going to get a fair hearing on a BBC political panel show, the BBC needs to take a more balanced approach throughout its whole output, comedy, drama, political analysis and news reporting, they need to respect and reflect the views of that overlooked, unrepresented  75%.