Monday 16 May 2016

Mind your language

Despite the media’s exasperating habit of picking up and running with real “gaffes” and inventing fake ones, I still think the BBC is making a brave effort to portray both EU campaigns even-handedly. To the best of its ability.

The EU referendum has brought about some strange cross-party alliances, which supports the theory that there is but a cigarette paper’s difference between soft left Conservatives and centre-left (old) New-Labourites. Now the biggest divide seems to be between Corbyn’s hard left and all the rest.

A good example of this was Lord (Norman) Lamont and Charles Clarke on this morning’s - no, that’s this afternoon’s -  Daily Politics. They agreed on almost everything. 

I’m easily distracted. I mean, people always have something to say about women’s outfits and hairstyles, and I did wonder for a moment if Charles Clarke’s parents were ever offered the chance of an ear-pinning operation on the NHS. Distinctiveness is just what the BBC is after.

Oh well. While we’re on the subject of trivial distractions, Lord Lamont’s eyebrows are less significant now he’s a Lord, and I think they’ve been trimmed, which is a good thing.

Jo Coburn seems to be letting her hair grow, and do you think she has had it lightened? 
Jo is remarkably unstylish for a BBC babe, but perhaps that’s insurance against being dismissed as a mere babe. Like wearing specs even if you don’t need them to denote intelligence, as in strip cartoons, where the heroine eventually takes them off, and the hero says “But hey, you’re not a swat! You’re beautiful!” and they kiss.

Jo Coburn doesn’t do anything like that, and today she was relaxed and  percipient.

The answer to the quiz was that Newquay might be the venue for a space station, being that it already has an airport with a runway.

What if you accidentally got on the wrong plane? Last time I was at Newquay airport the procedure seemed a little amateurish, so it could happen. What if, instead of Stansted, you ended up on the moooon?
Dear Mr, Porter, whatever shall I do? I wanted to go to Birmingham and they’re taking me to the moon. Send me back to Newquay as quickly as you can, Oh! Mr. Porter what a silly girl I am!

Anyway Chas and Norm got along fine, opining on the economic interests of the UK, even though they are from different sides of the divide and Jo was on the side of the BBC.

The topic of the government’s proposal to ban extremists was more up my street. Obviously the definition of ‘extremism’ is key, and it was agreed that there are already sufficient laws in place to tackle incitement to violence; they decided that if extremism stops short of actually inciting violence it can be seen as ‘opinion’, which is tricky. 
Banning it would be problematic, said Lord Lamont, “to suppress it would be wrong”. However he did mention Sayyid Qutb, and:
“Brotherhood has set up an office in Cricklewood, North West London. Doha’s Al Jazeera channel is a critical Arab media outlet for the Islamists.”

Jo Coburn introduced the EU into that subject and neither guest seemed to know whether we’d be safer in or out.
Natalie Bennett appeared. She looked exhausted, but as she has achieved everything she set out to do, non, je ne rerette rien. 

Next up, Max Mosely’s “soapbox”. Needless to say I’m not a fan. His voice is as sinister as his persona. He resisted making a meal out of the obvious comparison between his and John Whittingdale’s misadventures with the press. Very gracious I’m sure.

The most grating part of this particular Daily Politics was of course inviting Rachel Shabi to opine on the ‘antisemitism in the Labour Party’ enquiry. She’s just about the last person in the world I’d have liked to see addressing that, because when reporting for the Guardian her attitude to Israel  frequently crossed the notorious line separating anti-Israelism from bigotry.

We hear that Miss Chakrabarti has been briefing us. She’s launched an enquiry to look at Islamophobia as well as antisemitism. “While it was triggered by allegations of antisemitism, we’ll look at all aspects of racism, including Islamophobia” she has announced.
“It would be a nonsense to just focus on one area, given this opportunity”

In other words, the whole exercise is a nonsense. 

Shami has joined the Labour party herself so that everyone knows she’s acting in the Labour Party’s interests.  Luckily she hasn’t been asked to launch an enquiry into any other party then. Just imagine if she’d launched an enquiry into antisemitism in the Conservative Party (to which Rachel Shabi believes the enquiry should more properly be directed) and had to join the Conservatives, or UKIP.  She’d be facing an insurmountable moral dilemma then.

“This looks like a robust review.” Is there a problem with antisemitism in the LP?” 

“There is a problem with antisemitism in society.” 

“Do you think there’s a particular problem within the LP itself?” 

“I think there’s a particular onus. We tend to expect progressive parties not to be antisemitic, whereas we don’t have that weight of expectation on the Conservative Party.”

Jo Coburn mentioned the importance of language, with regard to anti-Zionism and antisemitism. 
“Criticism of the Israeli government, illegal occupation of occupied territories, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and anti-Jewish sentiment”
(Does she think Gaza is occupied?)

“Do you think there are people who use that as a proxy for antisemitism?”

That’s an ideal question to put to Shabi. I don’t think.

“I don’t think antisemitism is the same as anti-Zionism, but I do think, obviously people who are Jewish aren’t ... there are going to be things said about the occupation that aren’t pleasant to hear....”

Charles Clarke went on to dispense words of wisdom about language, waving his hands about expressively and evidently knowing very little about antisemitism. He was very moved by Naz Shah’s apology though, and strung together several ‘verys‘ for extra emphasis. 

I must say that Naz Shah didn’t actually “talk about deporting Israelis to America” as Jo Coburn said. Shah retweeted a wretched map, and endorsed the idea in a jocular and very silly manner. Just to be more accurate. 

I mean, if we’re talking about the importance of language, and being very very very careful about it, we might try not inventing fake gaffes.


  1. ....I still think the BBC is making a brave effort to portray both EU campaigns even-handedly. To the best of its ability.

    Some Beeboids less able than others.....

    Rachel Shabi again? I see the BBC has found a good useful Jew to have on speed dial. Is there an equivalent defender of Israel doing the BBC rounds who isn't Mark Regev - or even Israeli - and can be presented as an...ahem...independent voice?

    1. Just trying to think.
      I suppose they could have approached Jonathan Sacerdoti, but then he’d be too open to the Mandy Rice Davies formulation.
      Daniel Finkelstein is a possibility. Melanie Phillips? (As if!)
      Maybe they should have approached Luciana Berger? (I don't know what she thinks about Israel, but she must be an expert on antisemitism by now)

    2. Sue - I think you just signed this blog's death warrant. I wouldn't want to hang around any blog that can't see the BBC's coverage of the EU Referendum is far, far away from "even handed". I can't imagine Craig, who has been diligently setting out the bias through detailed analysis agrees with you. Why on earth would you say that?

    3. “I still think the BBC is making a brave effort to portray both EU campaigns even-handedly. To the best of its ability.” I said

      I think you’ve been triggered by the mere sight of the phrase “even-handed”, an unfair response, particularly to a post about language’.

      There is little doubt in my mind that the majority of the BBC’s political pundits and flagship programmes are biased in favour of ‘remain’, but I still think it’s doing its best to fulfill its remit. “Making an effort”.

      I saw the latter part of last night’s Newsnight, and I agree that Evan was very far from even-handed, and the panel in the studio appeared extraordinarily unrepresentative of the general public. (I should probably watch it all to find out if they explained how the panel was chosen.)

      Even though (what I saw of) Evan’s hectoring was directed at the ‘out’ side, Douglas Carswell and his team were given time to make their case.

      Compare that with the BBC’s reporting of Israel/Palestine, where one side of the story is entirely absent.

      I will very probably be voting ‘out’. Many of the arguments that are influencing my decision have reached me through the BBC. I don’t claim to monitor all the BBC’s output, but I have heard many ‘out’ campaigners express their arguments on the BBC. If the polls are anything like accurate, and it’s a big IF, the BBC’s pro remain bias hasn’t been an out and out success.

      Don’t forget, life goes on after the referendum. Whatever the outcome, there’s a lot of readjustment and ‘coming to terms‘ in store for us all.

  2. I thought there was something quite sinister about the way Rachel Shabi casually mentioned that there were going to things said that weren’t pleasant to hear. In other words, as it appeared to me, Labour have every intention of continuing their anti-Zionist agenda. We learn that Charles Clark was moved by Naz Shah’s apology. He seemed to suggest that whole affair was little more than a bad choice of words. Labour really isn’t sorry at all.

    I too picked up on the “occupation” of Gaza. Was this a simple slip up, or was it as I suspect, indicative of the usual gross ignorance one so often hears from people like Rachel Shabi?

    1. "Occupation" of Gaza has been standard BBC belief for years. We used to have endless debates with a BBC producer using the name 'John Reith' about that, and he maintained that it was correct because of Israel's various checkpoints. He also maintained it was correct to say "Israeli blockade" rather than "Israel's and Egytp's blockade", because Egypt kept up their wall only because the Jews controlled US foreign policy, and Mubarak was in thrall to US aid money. IIRC, he also once claimed that Israel could prevent the Egypt from opening up their own end on a whim.

    2. Thank you for expanding on that. I was unaware of the existence of "John Reith" or the BBC belief that Gaza was occupied. It would appear from what you have said Rachel Shabi is guilty of far more than ignorance. She is however exploiting the general ignorance of many on the anti-Zionist left by perpetuating this kind of misinformation.

    3. Terry, just to be clear, it was actually Jo Coburn who made that remark, but of course Shabi didn't correct it.

    4. Terry, the BBC is doing the exploiting. Shabi is merely a tool.

  3. OK Sue, if that is really your view...I think I am about ready to walk away from this site. :) "Even handedly"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable!

    1. (If you're the same anonymous as above) see my reply above.

    2. As a matter of interest, is it possible to add a site feature that prevents the prevalence of anonymous posters, like BBC spokespersons and those who deal in 'belief'?

      That way those remaining (no EU analogies) can know whose views to care about and whose no longer matter.

    3. Dunno. I’ve asked people to tag their comments if they don’t want to sign in with a moniker. The whole comments system leaves a lot to be desired. We might eventually have to go back to Disqus.

  4. Newsnight tonight was pretty disgusting. Their 'ordinary voters' panel seemed to all be young and disproportionately ethnic. Then, at the end of the show, Evan Davis asked 3 of them whjat their thoughts were. They were all in favour of remaining, and then that was it. No asking if any of them were in favour of leaving. No chance for the leave side to respond to them. The usual BBC stitch-up.

    1. Davis displayed his own pro-EU, anti-Leave bias as well. I didn't last past Sweeney's segment, so didn't see that closing segment. Did he ask the three who gave skeptic remarks at the beginning, prompting Davis to say that Remain had some work to do, or three others?


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