Saturday 23 April 2016

When shall we four (plus Thomas Kielinger) meet again?

This may well be a TL;DR post, but sometimes it's only right to spell things out at length - especially when something is quite so biased a piece of BBC broadcasting as this.

So please belt yourselves in, and off we go!......


It was a funny old Dateline London today.

Naturally, the main topic of conversation was the coming of President Barack Obama to England's green and pleasant land. And, yes, his Countenance Divine did indeed shine forth upon our clouded hills - and the Dateline panel were almost unanimously agreed on that.

That nice Ned Temko thinks Mr. Obama's intervention will make a difference - especially among "more open" young voters. He found the U.S. president's word to be "good" and slagged off the Brexit camp, calling their reaction "desparate and slightly ugly" and describing Boris as "Donald Trump with a British accent" (which he didn't mean as a compliment!). He further insulted Boris as someone "who won the Nobel Prize for hypocrisy" over his own dealings with the EU (or "Europe", as Ned called it). 

Gavin Esler, 'playing devil's advocate', quoted Nigel Farage....though 'playing devil's advocate' in a less than entirely convincing way:
There are those that say...Nigel Farage is one...who said the use of the word 'queue' shows that it was already written by Downing Street. He's doing what David Cameron wants him to do...which is as if there's a kind of 'Union of Existing Leaders' and they kind of all work together!....and it's hypocritical because he would never dilute America's sovereignty in this way.
I think we know Gavin's heart wasn't in it from that, don't we?

Stryker McGuire, who went on to call it "a friendly intervention", then said "But that's just a pretty foolish thing to say" [i.e. what Nigel said] before 'rubbishing' Nigel's claim. "That I would just dismiss out of hand", he stated.

Gavin then used the b-word (which Iain Watson of the BBC was also using, promiscuously, on this morning's Today - around ten minutes in). He said to Nesrine Malik of the Guardian how stuck "we" all were by how "blunt" he (BO) was. Parts of what Obama said "warmed peoples hearts", Gavin said. Other bits were "hard-headed". 

Nesrine of the Guardian called the US presidential intervention "refreshing". It "cut through" all the "hysterical positionings" of our Brexit debate, she said. She called it "helpful advice". She then described the reaction from the Brexit camp as "petty" and "insecure". 

Gavin, dismissing "the trivial froth around all this", then played devil's advocate again, paraphrasing the Boris case over the US's reluctance to cede its own sovereignty to a sceptical-looking Nesrine Malik. "What do you make of that argument?" he asked her, before, yet again, revealing his own bias by completely undermining his own devil's advocacy:
We can talk about some of the trivial froth around this but the key point that is being made is - by some, including Boris Johnson - is that he would never do this. That's why Mr. Johnson said it was hypocritical, because the idea of an American diluting American sovereignty in the way in which the British have by being part of the European Union...I mean, what do you make of that argument given there's obviously fairly profound differences between the United States - a continental power 8,000 miles away - and Britain, an offshore island of Europe...I mean there's that difference? 
"Absolutely!", responded Nesrine of the Guardian. "And it's insecurity and to even pose that comparison is ridiculous". 

Ned chipped in to slag off Dominic Raab as "a discount Boris Johnson" (nice!). 

Well, so far, so staggering biased, with the three Dateline guests and the Dateline presenter coalescing on a common, anti-Brexit, pro-Obama position  - and, frankly, Gavin Esler should be ashamed of himself over that!...

And then Thomas Kielinger entered....

From the years (thirty or so now) that I've been listening to Thomas Kielinger on the BBC I know that he's pro-EU and pro-UK (a Europhile and an Anglophile), so it was good to hear him say that. though he wasn't just playing "devil's advocate" (he said - though I don't entirely believe him), there's "something has to be said in favour of these argument swirling around sovereignty"...

At last, an alternative voice (even if he might actually have been playing devil's advocate a bit)!...

Thomas said that President Obama has "enough of an understanding of how much this sovereignty issue worries people in this country" and that the EU "isn't quite the beacon of democracy" that people in America might believe...and, to stony faces opposite, he continued, "Europe has things to answer for for its democracy deficit" and it has "an imperilled future" due to its economic stagnation.

Gavin's conscience was roused: "Those are fair arguments, aren't they?" he asked the rest of the panel.

Ned said yes, but rather than meeting them started insulting "the level of debate" instead before slagging off the Brexit campaign again. 

"Exactly", chimed in Nesrine within seconds.

"Go on", said Gavin to Stryker, who started arguing against Thomas Kielinger's 'economic stagnation' argument.

Gavin's conscience was evidently still roused against this threefold 'chicken coup panic' among the rest of the panel against Thomas Kielinger's disruption of their consensus and very weakly put the 'they will still want to buy stuff from us' point.

Stryker ignored it and kept on putting the Obama case: "Basically, you're stronger together". He then slagged off the "nostalgia" and "romanticism" of the Brexit "crowd". 

Gavin continued exercising his conscience, arguing (just as weakly) with Stryker that some people ("optimists") are saying things will be better if we leave the EU, "whether you agree with that or not".

Stryker replied that such optimism was a "rhetorical position". 

Thomas Kielinger, still having been relatively quiet up to that point, then decided to intervene in earnest, prompting the following expressions from two of the other guests...

The one thing we forget. If it's so dangerous because the Brexiteers can't describe the world outside Europe once it happens, how can Obama predict that Britain will then be at the end of the queue? That is another prediction....That is Project Fear in a sense.
And then, instead of backing Herr Kielinger's 'devil's advocacy' up (and, as I've said, I think there was quite a bit of 'devil's advocacy' involved in that very-decent German's contribution today), Gavin Esler chose to put this question to him (a question that was a good deal stronger than his own feeble 'devil's advocacy' questions):
You made the case to be very sceptical about Europe. But why is it then that, in response to Obama, we are hearing things like "He is on the way out so he doesn't count so much", "He's half-Kenyan", "He's hypocritical", "He moved a bust of Winston Churchill because he doesn't regard Britain very well" and "This was a speech written by Number Ten". In other words, the substance that you've addressed is not really the substance we've been hearing in the last...
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Thomas Kielinger agreed that the responses to the Obama speech have been "quite amazing", "absolutely, horrendously trivial", "piffle", and that Obama is merely expressing an American viewpoint, and that he's entitled to do so, and that "hypocrisy doesn't come into it, goodness me!", and that Europe isn't too weak so you have to get out...

But, decent to the end, he kept trying to offer an alternative viewpoint (even if it wasn't really his real opinion):
But you have to take this situation seriously: that, come what may, once Britain is out there's a new world. Nobody can predict what will happen. Obama says we are linked to the hip, the two countries, 'We are so friendly', so how can you predict that you will be relegating Britain to the end of the queue?
Nesrine ignored this and said that a neutral viewer of the Obama statement would find the Leave campaign's response "reactionary". She then praised Obama's "beautiful metaphors".

Thomas Kielinger wasn't for being silenced and raised a counter-argument (this time very clearly for 'devil's advocate' reasons) about Britain's power in the EU. 

Ned stuck up for Obama and his trade deal arguments. 

Gavin then put a question to Stryker McGuire, who, Gavin noted, had been critical of Boris Johnson earlier. What was Gavin's question?: Is Boris right to lead the Brexit campaign or should it be someone else whose arguments are "better put"?

Stryker described Boris as "a fluffy magnet for publicity" -  "a bit like Donald Trump", "a figure of fun".

Nesrine said it's been "bad for Boris himself". 

"Let's move on", said Gavin.


If you've borne with me here, you'll have noticed that, without Thomas Kielinger's highly creditable attempts to play devil's advocate, this would have been an out-and-out piece of biased BBC broadcasting.

Gavin Esler, nice as he is, ought to try and learn something from what Herr Kielinger tried to do today. Gavin's own performance (impartiality-wise) was execrable.


  1. Horrendously pro-Remain then, like virtually all BBC programmes at present. We have indeed entered the Twilight Zone (if anyone remembers that)...we're being bricked in by unseen hands...we look in the mirror and see a different face...or someone arrives to tell us we no longer own our house, indeed we never have!!!

    Personally speaking I think I have finally lost any residual respect I had for the BBC. They really don't care about the debate and they really are prepared to twist, lie and divert.

    This media distortion is going to cause all sorts of problems in the future if we vote to Remain in.

  2. A lame duck President who will be long gone by the time any Brexit arrangement with the EU can take place, saying that the US will simply abandon over a century of trade and investment deals (no treaty needed, just business) and strategic partnership just out of spite for leaving the EU, is cutting through all the "hysterical positionings"? Obama's statement itself is hysterical, and not in a good way.

    Yet another instance of Obama openly betraying my country's greatest ally. Siding with Cameron on this is a betrayal of Britain's best interests and national sovereignty. Not in my name, BBC.


    This sounds like a pro BBC post, but bear with me.

    I heard an interesting item on BBC World Service today about how there is a campaign in Somalia against young people leaving the country and heading for Europe, built around a hashtag started by a local journalist. The journalist made the point that Somalia needed young people committed to freedom and betterment to stay in the country in order for it to succeed. Well - yes, that sounds like the BBC doing its job (as I see it) of supporting liberal democracy around the world.

    So far, so pro - but here's my anti-BBC point: it is almost like this viewpoint is censored in mainstream UK based material in the BBC. We only ever hear the voices of the "desperate" migrants in the European theatre, never the voices of those who say they are deserting and thus damaging their home countries in Africa and Asia, when they have a moral duty to stay behind and improve them.

    1. That does sound like decent BBC broadcasting, and there's now a BBC Trending piece about it (proving that it's not ALL about 'social justice warrior' stuff):

      It will be interesting to see if the story spreads wider.

  4. For what it's worth, one of those online Telegraph polls. As of writing, 93% of 12,725 responses agree that the BBC is biased against Eurosceptics.

    With gloriously biased programmes such as Gavin Esler's Dateline, it's hardly a surprising result.

    1. I was one of those 12,725 respondents!


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