Wednesday 31 May 2017

BBC election debate audience shocker

This little owl didn't watch it either

I'm not watching tonight's election debate on BBC One. I'm watching Springwatch instead, with one eye on Twitter.

The eye that's on Twitter is finding something of a consensus out there: namely that I made the right decision!

The commonest view is that it's been a ghastly, tedious shambles with a terrible format (and even worse politicians). Its end couldn't come soon enough for most people. One tweet I read said, Twitter before a debate: "There must be a debate, leaders must face public scrutiny!" Twitter during a debate: "This is totally shit." 

Another very common view is that the audience has been wildly biased, even by the standards of BBC studio audiences. Even George Eaton, the political editor of the New Statesman, noticed. His tweet provoked an immediate response from the BBC (who shifted the blame onto ComRes): 

BBC's Own Brand National Treasure gets stuffed

Own Brand National Treasure

You’ll have already read the abundant criticism of Jeremy Paxman’s disappointing performance on Channel 4’s much anticipated Great Political Event. I haven’t got much to add, but I felt that Paxo deserved a mention purely because of his status as the BBC’s Own Brand National Treasure.  

After all, Channel 4 and Sky had gathered together a politically balanced audience and bagged The Great Paxo to eviscerate the leaders of the two main parties. What’s not to like.

Personally I’m not a fan of Paxo’s stock-in-trade repetitive-questioning technique, which proved to be such a hit with Michael Howard’s enemies. Cornering interviewees into making panicky and convoluted attempts to avoid incriminating themselves merely for your (and the audience’s) amusement is a tactic of the bully. Especially if the admission you’re trying to force out is about as deceitful as getting an interviewee to confess to cutting the flesh of his fellow man but not letting him say he’s a surgeon. If you see what I’m getting at. 
I particularly dislike it when other interviewers emulate this unfair tactic; making a spectacle of an interviewee who is already at a disadvantage because you’re ‘at home’ and he’s ‘away’. 

Viz. Mishal Husain’s notorious, “How many Israelis?” question, repeated over and over. Hoping to score a devastating point against ‘Zionists’ by trying to force Gil Hoffman to utter the word “none”, having asked, over and over again “how many Israelis have been killed by Hamas’s harmless home-made contraptions?” But she came off looking biased and cruel, and I’m not the only one who thought this reflected badly on her.

I suppose Channel 4 and Sky thought they were hiring a titan, but Paxo’s failure to deliver proved universally disappointing. Everyone was so looking forward to it as well. 

First of all people were disappointed by his rudeness, which backfired spectacularly, diverting sympathy from interviewer to  interviewee. 
Secondly people were appalled by his ineffectual lines of questioning. He seemed so out of touch. He persisted in a line of attack  that was obviously going nowhere, something that should have been evident as soon as Jeremy Corbyn produced the first answer. 
Q: “Why haven’t you managed to get your radical, hard left policies into the Labour manifesto? “ A: “Simples. We’re a democracy, not a dictatorship. Next! “ 
But cloth-eared Paxo wasn’t for moving on. 

In today’s Times (£) Matthew Parris explains why he believes Corbyn’s affiliation with the IRA hasn’t dented his popularity.

Why Corbyn isn’t being hurt by the IRA issue”

Apathy? Yes. Ignorance of, and boredom with recent history? yes. But crucially:

We hate and fear terrorists, of course, but the English have never warmed to Ulster's orangemen, I have the feeling that though in England knowledge of the Irish Question is hazy to the point of ignorance, there's a deep if vague collective recognition that, over centuries, England screwed the whole thing up horribly: that it was us who started this"

The very same phenomenon applies to Israel and antisemitism. If the Labour Party plans to officially recognise Palestine first thing sharp on the morning of June 9th, or if Emma Barnett receives a few antisemitic tweets after exposing Corbyn's ineptitude, so what? As for Israel, "Britain screwed the whole thing up horribly: that it was us who started this"

We don't know history and we don't like Zionists anyway. Antisemitism in the Labour Party?
We. Ain't. Bovvered.

The BBC's veteran presenter used a similar approach in his questioning of Theresa May. Of course she was at a disadvantage, being part of the sitting government. A P.M. has a lot of policies to defend; Policies with records.
Instead of choosing the government's failure to deal with immigration or the chronic underfunding of everything but overseas aid, Paxman decided to attack May's ability to negotiate a 'good' Brexit on the grounds that prior to the referendum she had campaigned for Remain. "Simples. I'm acting on behalf of the people. Next!"  But Jeremy wasn't listening.

Faisal islam didn't do much better, but the audience managed to get some important points across. Particularly notable was the Irishman who criticised Corbyn for attending a commemoration for an IRA terrorist. Corbyn's well-trodden claim that he wasn't honouring a terrorist but commemorating "all who died" wasn't allowed to stand unchallenged. One point to the member of the audience, nil points to Jeremy Corbyn. There was also the small business owner and disillusioned labour voter who questioned the Labour party's plans for increasing corporation tax and raising the minimum wage. Why, he wondered, should he vote Labour when such policies would damage or destroy his business?

The unsustainable policy of "hammering the industrious to fund the idle" is the fundamental weakness of the Labour party's 'vision', but the birthday boy didn't give the businessman the opportunity to protest at his question being side-stepped, when it so very plainly had been.
I'm sure a lot of small, and not so small, businesspeople wanted to hear the answer to that one.

Monday 29 May 2017

After the Bank Holiday Open Thread

Thank you for staying with us, and please keep on sharing any thoughts you have with us below.

And if you're fancying spending your bank holiday tomorrow in a seaside resort that ought to be more popular than Sandbanks don't forget: There's always Morecambe. 

A Modest Proposal

Via Twitter, I've been watching (yes watching) quite a few snatches of LBC. It's a fascinating channel, with presenters ranging from Nigel Farage and Iain Dale on the Right to Maajid Nawaz and James O'Brien on the Left (though no Katie Hopkins any more of course). You know their views, and they aren't afraid to express them, but they also like engaging with listeners who disagree with them. It's open and healthy and democratic, and it feels like breath of fresh air in comparison to, say, BBC Radio 4 or Radio 5 Live.

Because of the range of views at LBC, and the undisguised nature of those views by the LBC presenters themselves, you don't find yourself repeatedly caught in the claustrophobic atmosphere of so many BBC talk shows where 'impartial' BBC presenters try to pretend that they have no views and yet can't stop them leaking out - a BBC problem made so much worse by the fact that, unlike LBC's presenters, most of the BBC's presenters seem to inhabit a narrow part of the political spectrum and to share a similar outlook on so many things.

Just imagine how much more interesting Radio 4's Woman's Hour would be, for example, if it (flexibly) alternated, presenter-wise, between days when Dame Jenni Murray, Jane Garvey and Emma Barnett were presenting and days when women with a very different point of view, say Kathy Gyngell, Laura Perrins and Jane Kelly of The Conservative Woman, were presenting. How much less stifling and agenda-driven it would feel if that kind of thing happened, and how much more interesting it would surely be. 

While we're waiting for that to happen (yeah, as if!), here's a bit of recent LBC broadcasting (h/t Biased BBC):

And for more on Maajid's theme and a very clear example of the BBC's stifling uniformity of view, just try yesterday's Sunday on Radio 4. 

By-and-large it consisted of lots and lots of talk of love and hope and interfaith harmony, and 'It's Nothing To Do With Islam', and the 'backlash', the 'backlash', the 'backlash', and everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, and (with one exception) the presenter (Martin Bashir) leading this congregation of like-minded people. It proved so unrelenting that I couldn't bring myself to re-listen to it in order to write about it yesterday.

And it was entirely typical, therefore, of Sunday to deal with the issue of Didsbury Mosque by talking to an outreach worker there, taking his every word on trust and sympathising with him about the 'backlash' the mosque has (allegedly) been facing - in other words, by taking the mosque's side. (Listen for yourselves). 

Get Douglas!

The Muslim Council of Britain has complained to the BBC about Douglas Murray's appearance on The Sunday Politics

They are trying to discredit him and influence the BBC. 

Simultaneously, Baroness Warsi has unleashed the 'ad homs of war' (and the racism card) on Douglas in her attempt to influence the BBC:

It looks as if a campaign to keep Douglas Murray off the BBC is underway. It's up to the BBC now to resist it and not to cave in to it. 

I'm not feeling too optimistic about that though. 

Ramadan Mubarak

Please tell me this is a spoof. There are so  many things wrong that I don't know where to start (but how about it's "dan" with an "n" not "dam" with an "m")

"Many Islams exist in the world - this death cult is one of them" - Andrew Norfolk

I would never normally break the Times's paywall, but this is too important an article (from a couple of days back) not to share as widely as possible (and it's one of the reasons why I'm happy to subscribe to the Times).

It comes from the reporter who did so much to expose the grooming scandal in Northern towns and cities like Rotherham, Andrew Norfolk, and it's the kind of informed reporting that I'm starting to despair will ever get much of a hearing on the BBC, despite offering an obviously relevant and highly important point of view. It should be front-and-centre in the BBC's coverage, but isn't:

At first glance, it might seem difficult to imagine two groups of Muslims with so little in common.

Build a prison. In one wing, incarcerate those who serially abuse young girls in the back streets of English towns. In another, lock up the jihadist ideologues who plot mass slaughter in the name of God.

They all claim to be Muslim but while the adulterous, alcohol-swilling lowlifes of Rotherham and Rochdale betray multiple Islamic precepts on a daily basis, their fellow inmates view themselves as soldiers of the faith in its purest form.

Most Muslims would not rush to pay a prison visit. They routinely condemn both groups as despicable criminals whose conduct has nothing to do with Islam.

For Britons whose desire is for all who live on this island to somehow find a way to muddle along together, this is a reassuring thought, so comforting that it has almost become a commonplace. In recent years, no press conference after a sex-grooming trial has been complete without a police officer’s pronouncement that the perpetrators’ ethnicity and religion was utterly irrelevant to their crimes.

Islamist terror strikes are likewise met by politicians and community leaders with statements condemning the attack while stressing the falsity of perpetrators’ claim to have acted in the name of Allah. Monday’s Manchester atrocity was no exception.

Salman Abedi’s bomb brought carnage to a concert whose audience was predominantly young teenage girls. That anyone might view innocent children as legitimate targets intensified the need to distance the act from the teaching of one of the world’s great religions.

In the prison, different attitudes prevail. If they have nothing else in common, Pakistani child-sex groomers and Isis terrorists share at least one attribute. For them, no 13-year-old non-Muslim girl is innocent. Nor is she a child.

One group fails every test of what it means to be a good Muslim; the other finds such certainty in its literalist vision of the righteous path that it condemns most fellow Muslims as apostates. They unite in their contempt for white girls. One eyes an easy outlet for cheap lust. To jihadists, as a symbol of western decadence and immorality there could be no more suitable target than a venue packed with British girls worshipping a scantily clad young American singer.

Targeting children for sex or death is doubtless abhorrent to the vast majority of British Muslims, for whom a truer reflection of Islam was the kindness of fellow believers who came to the aid of the victims and who stood, in defiance of terrorism, in solidarity with fellow Mancunians.

Who, though, gets to define what is or is not Islam, who is or is not a Muslim? Who makes the rules?

How to pray, how to wash, what to wear; there seems barely any element of the faith that is not subject to furious debate long before bigger issues — such as the meaning of jihad and when it is permissible to wage war for the sake of Allah — are confronted.

Consider patriarchal attitudes towards women, however, within different Islamic sects and nations and in different centuries, and you will find a path well trodden. In all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, girls become women — and eligible for marriage — at puberty. Women are either modest, housebound wives and mothers or Jezebel temptresses, shameless objects of sexual desire, born to lure men astray.

One need not travel far from Manchester to understand why some men, schooled in medieval theology or the conservative culture of homelands in south Asia, the Middle East or north Africa, struggle to treat western women with respect.

Near Bury, Greater Manchester, is a former sanatorium that since 1975 has been home to Britain’s leading Islamic boys’ seminary. In 2014, Ofsted hailed its production of “exemplary British citizens”. Its 21st-century perspective is instructive.

A website promoting the seminary’s teaching states that Satan uses women “as his avenue to create evil in society”. She should always remain in the home. If she must venture out, her clothing should conceal her entire body. Unless hidden from view, she will inevitably “attract men like swamps of flies are attracted to uncovered sweets”.

Befriending a non-Muslim invites corruption. To marry a Christian or Jewish woman risks the filtering of “their repulsive qualities into Muslim homes”. Singing and dancing is banned. The music industry is a Jewish-influenced means of “spreading the Satanic web”. We allow such values to be taught in 21st-century Britain.

Girls. Music. Danger. Pollution. In the early 1950s, Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian writer who played a pivotal role in the birth of supremacist Islamist ideology, studied briefly at a college in Colorado. His verdict on western women spat contempt. “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, in the expressive eyes and thirsty lips. [It] lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

American dance music was for Qutb, a hero of the Muslim Brotherhood, what “savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires”. He described his visit to a church dance: “They danced to the tunes of the gramophone and the dancefloor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire.”

Sexuality and freedom, in women, are to be stamped upon. An errant daughter or sister shames her entire family. Cue acid attacks and honour killings.

These are not fringe opinions. In 2013, a study of 38,000 Muslims by the Pew Research Centre found that 46 per cent of Pakistanis and 59 per cent of Bangladeshis believed it was sometimes justified for family members to kill women as a punishment for pre-marital sex or adultery.

More than 80 per cent of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt, and Pakistan said that a wife must always obey her husband. In Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia it was more than 90 per cent.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban outlawed music and the education of girls. There, child marriage flourishes as in so many Muslim nations including Iran, where women are banned from dancing and performing music on stage.

Religious laws that dictate the treatment of women in many Islamic states reached new levels of barbarity in 2014 when Islamic State seized huge swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared its own caliphate.

Its interpretation of God’s rules led to mass public beheadings and to the enslavement of more than 3,000 Yazidi girls and young women.

Rules published by Isis in December 2014 codified lawful conduct with slaves. They included a declaration that “it is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse”.

For millions of Muslims worldwide who believe they follow a religion of peace, such crazed bloodlust is a monstrous perversion of Islam.

As the historian Tom Holland has noted, the truth is less comfortable. Isis argues that its killings and use of concubines is “sanctioned by the Koran and by the sayings and example of Muhammad”.

“To dismiss them as psychopaths is to ignore what is most truly terrifying about them — that their thuggery and greed coexist with a profound strain of religiosity. [Isis] propagandists present it as charged by God with restoring to the world the pristine Islam that existed back in the days of Muhammad and his immediate successors.”

Dewsbury is far from Sinjar but it was no surprise when Baroness Warsi suggested that in her West Yorkshire home town, some Pakistani men “see woman as second-class citizens and white women as third-class citizens”.

They “believe white girls are fair game”, she said. Shabir Ahmed, leader of the Rochdale grooming gang, would have agreed. The 59-year-old kebab shop worker told a 15-year-old girl that it was not wrong of him to deliver her to numerous Pakistani men for sex because in his homeland “you’re allowed to have sex with girls from the age of 11”.

Ahmed enjoyed having sex with children but worried they would make him impure. He forced girls to wash before he abused them. Afterwards he would “go home, have a shower, say two units of prayer and ask Allah for forgiveness”.

Muslim girls are saints or sinners who must be punished. Western girls are corrupt sluts. This is not an uncommon perspective in the Islamic world.

Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old singer from Florida, is a former children’s TV star whose global Dangerous Woman tour reached Manchester, 12 miles from Rochdale, on Monday. A year ago, she told Twitter critics that “expressing sexuality in art” was no more an invitation for disrespect than “wearing a short skirt is asking for assault”.

Girls the same age as those serially abused by Ahmed and his friends went to the city in their thousands to watch a mini-skirted, cat-eared woman dance and sing on stage in black thigh boots.

When it gleefully claimed responsibility for the slaughter of 22 “crusaders” by its “soldier of the caliphate”, Isis condemned the Arena event as “shameless”. It said that the bomb plot succeeded “with Allah’s grace and support”. There are many Islams in this world. This death cult is one of them.

The voice of the public?

The Tories are heading for electoral disaster if the "cross-party panel of voters" on this morning's live Victoria Derbyshire debate is truly reflective of the country as a whole. 

Whether electoral disaster faces the Tories or not, it has to be said that this audience doesn't appear to be 'truly reflective of the country as a whole', especially given this tweet sent out by the programme (h/t Guest Who):

YouGov polling from last June and this March has suggested that support for "a vote on the terms of #Brexit" is very much a minority interest, dropping from 31% last June to 27% in late March. 

How come this BBC panel of voters is so out of step with that then? Doesn't it suggest something rotten in the state of BBC audience selection?

Sunday 28 May 2017

Roger the Dodger

Today's The World This Weekend featured a piece from the BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin which left me shaking my head in incredulity. And then, on re-listening to it, shaking my head again. 

The bias was blatant, even by the TWTW's standards. 

David Keighley has already excoriated it over at News-watch, beginning his piece with the question, "At what point do BBC ‘correspondents’ cross the line from offering a properly judged and impartial assessment into propaganda and overt electioneering?", and answering it with the example of Roger Harrabin's piece today.

It really helps if you take a deep breath and read the transcript in full. It shows that David is not wrong:

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘The World This Weekend’, 28 May, 2017, Climate Change, 1.27pm 
MARK MARDELL: And as one Carlisle resident said, there hasn’t been much about the environment generally, even though it was once near the top of many a politician’s agenda. What happened? Here’s our environment analyst Roger Harrabin. 
ROGER HARRABIN: Air pollution, melting sea ice, wildlife depletion, a soil crisis, seas full of plastic. Why isn’t the election full of environmental angst? Well I think it’s mainly a question of worry capacity. Stephen Hawking would tell you climate change was the biggest long-term threat to humanity but in the meantime we’re also beset by terrorism, the refugee crisis, Brexit – they’ve filled up our worry-space. Coupled with that there’s been a shift in the way the media discusses the environment. The old consensus on climate change has been rattled by a long campaign from Conservative libertarians and UKIP. They scored their first success with wind farms, scattered protests against turbines were at first below the radar of the national media, but those angry local voices were eventually amplified by the Telegraph, and that began to influence policy. The government’s own surveys actually suggest that just 1% of the populace strongly opposes renewables, but that’s by the by. Then the Mail on Sunday launched its Great Green Con campaign criticising failings in renewables and highlighting uncertainties in climate science. When it was previously non-PC to declare yourself a climate change sceptic, a stance of what you might call anti-environmentalism has now been legitimised. This steady pressure from over its right shoulder has led the government to mostly gag itself on climate change over recent years and the sceptics have been claiming victory. But wait a minute – except UKIP, all the manifestos published so far, that’s including the blue one, recommit to the Climate Change Act. That sort of consensus hardly stimulates media interest, but it does prove the issue hasn’t gone away. There are details over policy of course. The Conservative manifesto aspires to the cheapest energy prices in Europe. The Greens promise affordable energy, not cheap energy. But as a slogan that’s not quite so catchy. For all parties Brexit looms large, 80 % of the UK’s environmental policy comes through the EU. How will politicians translate that into UK law? How will they handle the massive opportunity to restore nature as they’ve promised following British withdraw from the common agriculture policy? Can they direct some of the agricultural budget to catching water on farmland to prevent the floods we discussed earlier? How will they improve the chaotic waste and recycling policies and how will our next government solve the conundrum of persuading tens of millions of people to insulate their own homes as part of the supposedly inexorable drive towards the low carbon economy? The Conservatives’ ambition looks limited here compared with the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru and also Labour who want to make home insulation an infrastructure priority. The SNP hasn’t published its manifesto yet but it too wants to take a strong line on climate change. Then how will the parties deal with the thorny issue of air pollution? Policies are there in other manifestos but details are strikingly absent from the Conservative document, presumably to avoid upsetting diesel drivers. So many environmental questions still, so many unanswered.

Roger Harrabin's language is extraordinary, isn't it? Besides the hyperbole, there's also the loaded use of the negative word "beset" with regards to Brexit. Then there's the disgraceful linking of 'Brexit' with 'terrorism'. Then there's the use of the dubious term 'refugee crisis' rather than 'migrant crisis'. 

That's three patent examples of BBC bias in just one small part of a single sentence. 

There's also the 'argument from authority' (starring non-climate scientist Stephen Hawking). And the repeated blaming of 'the right-wing media'. And Roger's talk of "angry" UKIP and conservative types (driven by irrational emotions it seems). And that non-by-the-by use of the term "by-the-by" to dismiss scepticism about renewables. (And I'm betting that more than 1% are infuriated by wind farms despoiling landscape after landscape). 

And there's the use of the word "legitimised", which is invariably used by the BBC to describe a common view that's unacceptable (to them) but which has become more visible (to them). 

Then there's the traducing of UKIP and Conservatives at the expense of the Greens, Lib Dems, Plaid, the SNP and Labour - and, yes, he really does have a right good 'snark' at the Tories in this piece, again and again. 

So, in conclusion, by what criteria could anyone possibly consider this a piece of impartial broadcasting? 

I'm genuinely totally at a loss to guess. If anyone can explain it to me I'd love to hear their explanation. 

Douglas Murray and Sara Khan on 'The Sunday Politics'

Today's The Sunday Politics included a discussion between Douglas Murray and Sara Khan. It was so interesting and important that a full transcript seemed appropriate.

For the 'BBC bias' angle, please look at Jo Coburn's rather heavy-handed and one-sided contributions and then weigh them against the programme editor's decision to stage this vital discussion with these particular guests in the first place. 

Jo Coburn: The revelation that the Manchester suicide bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, was born in this country has raised fresh concerns about the effectiveness of the UK's counter-extremism policy. In a moment we'll be talking to two people who've spent their careers investigating radicalisation in the UK: Douglas Murray, of the Henry Jackson Society, and Sara Khan, author of The Battle for British Islam and CEO of the counter-extremism organisation Inspire. We asked both for a personal take on how to confront the problem of Islamist extremism. First up, here's Douglas Murray:
Douglas Murray: Even after all these dead, all this mourning and defiance, still we learn no lessons. We remain stuck in the John Lennon response to terrorism - they blow us up, we sing Imagine. Our politicians still refuse to accurately identify the sources of the problem, and polite society remains silent or dumb. This country gave asylum to the Libyan parents of Salman Abedi. Their son repaid that generosity by killing 22 British people, one for each year of life this country had given him. We need to think far more deeply about all this. Eastern Europe doesn't have an Islamic terrorism problem because it doesn't have much Islam. France has the worst problem because it has the most Islam. Are we ever going to draw any lessons from this? Apparently not. For the time being, the game is to be as inoffensive as possible. The rot isn't just within the Muslim communities. Consider all those retired British officials and others who shill, and are in the pay of the Saudis and other foreign states, even while they pump the extreme versions of Islam into our country. Our enemies are serious. It is high time we became serious too. 
Jo Coburn: Douglas Murray there. And now for Sara Khan's view: 
Sara Khan: Islamist extremism is flourishing in our country. We're failing to defeat it, so what can we do about it? Whenever I say we must counter those Muslim organisations who are promoting hatred, discrimination, and sometimes even violence, I'm often either ignored by some politicians out of a misplaced fear of cultural sensitivity, or I find myself experiencing abuse by some of my fellow Muslims. We need to wake up. These groups and their sympathisers tour Muslim communities, hold events, and have hundreds of thousands of followers on their social media. Yet there is little counter challenge to their toxic anti-Western narrative, which includes opposition to democracy and human rights. I've seen politicians and charities partner with and support some of these voices and groups. This is nothing short of scandalous. Many anti-racist groups will challenge those on the far right but not Muslim hate preachers, in the erroneous belief that to do so would be Islamophobic. But it's Islamophobic not to challenge them as it implies that all Muslims hold these views. Following the attack on Monday, it cannot be business as usual. We must counter those who seek to divide us. 
Jo Coburn: Sara Khan's view there, and Douglas Murray and Sara Khan join me now. Douglas Murray, you wrote a book, Strange Death of Europe. What did you mean in your film when you say, "Let's get serious?"

Douglas Murray: Several things. Just one example I can give you. The young man who carried out this atrocious attack last Monday night was two years a student at Salford University. He was on a campus which is, from its leadership to its student leadership, opposes all aspects of the government's only counter-extremism programme. They not only oppose it they boast they're boycotting it. They always did this. The university that he was at was against the only counter-extremism policy this state has. 

Jo Coburn (interrupting): Talking about one event, were you? Yes? 

Douglas Murray: This is just one example of a much bigger problem. 

Jo Coburn: What are you suggesting though? Shut down the University? Force them to change their policies? 

Douglas Murray: Well, I think that a university, which in the case of Salford, for instance, encourages students to report racist attacks - which is quite right - but discourages them from reporting any Islamic extremism is a serious problem because...after all, if you've  spent years telling people not to report Islamic extremism and then discover that you've produced a suicide bomber in Manchester, I think you should be held accountable. 

Jo Coburn: Sara Khan, what do you say to that? 

Sara Khan: I think it's quite clear from my own experience that there have been politicians who have undermined Prevent, there have been community organisations, indeed there have been Islamist groups in this country that have been at the forefront of undermining and countering Prevent, but also wider counter extremism measures. And I think we haven't really started getting real in recognising the fact that Islamist extremism has flourished in this country. If somebody had given us a crystal ball ten years ago when the 7/7 bombings had happened and said, 'Look forward and you're going to see the fact that hundreds of people leave this country to join Isis', and we've had hundreds of people being convicted of Islamist offences, I think we'd have been quite shocked about the fact that things have got worse as opposed to getting better. 

Jo Coburn: Right, but, Douglas Murray, the essence of your argument when you made those comparisons between the numbers of Muslims in different countries is that we've got too much Islam in Britain? 

Douglas Murray: Well, look. The answer that the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups give is that the answer to absolutely everything is Islam. It think less Islam, in general, is obviously a good thing...

Jo Coburn (interrupting): Really? 

Douglas Murray: The Islamic world...let me finish...The Islamic world is in the middle of a very serious problem and it has been going on since the beginning. And I think it is not worth continuing to risk our own security simply in order to try to be politically correct. 

Jo Coburn: Would you support that kind of policy?

Sara Khan: No, I would disagree with Douglas on that and say, look, nobody is going to deny that since the end of the 20th century there has been a rise in Islamist extreme terror organisations. But the fact of the matter is, what's really happening now, yes, there is a crisis within contemporary Islam, but there is a clash at the moment. There are competing claims about what the faith stands for. So, yes, while we're seeing Islamist terror organisations, at the same time there leading religious theologians who are saying to Muslims that, for example, the concept of a caliphate is absolutely outdated and that Muslims should be embracing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adopting a human rights culture. 

Douglas Murray: If I may just pick up on that very quickly? I entirely agree with Sara Khan that there are obviously people trying to counter this; however. I would urge us to take the long view. In the history of Islam there have been many reformers and most of the time they have ended up being on the brunt of the violence and the ones being killed. I deeply admire what Sara and other people do in this country. I want them to win. But the evidence out there is that they are not only a minority but the most beleaguered minority. Take a poll that was taken last year in this country. It found that two thirds of British Muslims said they would not report a family member they found to be involved in extremism to the police. I mean, this is a very serious problem...

Jo Coburn (interrupting): But the policies you are proposing are far more Draconian because, as you say, you don't think they can win and the majority...

Douglas Murray (interrupting): No, no. I wish that they could. I hope that they could. We should do everything we can to support people like Sara but we should also recognise that the scale of the problem out there is beyond our current understanding. 

Jo Coburn: How do you counter, Sara, radicalisation that can happen on a university campus or it can happen online? The discussion we had with Ben Wallace this morning, the security minister, about the amount of material that is out there. But if we really pursue in a hard-line way perhaps the sort of thing Douglas Murray is suggesting, then gone is freedom of speech, gone is free debate and discussion, as they will see it? 

Sara Khan: I've always said that the best way and the most effective way of countering extremism is through the prism of human rights. We cannot abandon our human rights to fight extremism. And I have to say where I think we are going wrong, where there's the hole, the gap, is that the lack of counter work is actually in challenging the Islamist ideals....that when you put up your larky image there...How many people are actually going to say 'We need to now counter that very strict anti-Western narrative, the Islamist ideals?' That's where we really aren't doing enough work. 

Douglas Murray: Yes, and....

Jo Coburn (interrupting): What about the human rights point though, that you cannot take away people's human rights in order to protect ours? 

Douglas Murray: I'm not suggesting that and I'm not suggesting that anyone has their human rights taken away. I'm suggesting that we do things that make sure  that 22 people don't get blown up on an average Monday again, OK? The idea that it is against human rights to ask people, for instance, to simply be opposed to people who want to blow up our daughters in a pop venue on a Monday night, that isn't restricting human rights. It isn't restricting human rights if you're taking government money and you are an institution like Salford University you should be held responsible for not cooperating with the standard security measures. 

Sara Khan: I don't disagree with that but I'm saying you can challenge extremism without having to abandon human rights, and in my organisation there's a lot of work going on, going into Muslim communities, working with teachers. But we're saying: We've got to actually counter the Islamist narrative. We are not doing enough. This is not about actually closing down free speech. This is encouraging more of us to say...and this is the most effective way of countering the Islamist narrative. 

Jo Coburn: So why isn't it doing better?Why isn't it reaching and spreading in the communities themselves?

Sara Khan: There are a  number of reasons. One of them is there is a denial taking place. There are a lot of apologetics taking place. Part of it is also the way we talk about Muslims in this country. We use this term 'Muslim communities' as if they are a homogeneous monolith when the fact is there is a very positive trend but also there is a negative trend among British Muslims, and we need to counter those who are promoting the idea that Muslims need to be part of a global, collective (?) identity. 

Douglas Murray: I agree. I absolutely agrees. It's also the case there is massive push back because a lot of Islamists in this country they are defending the faith as they see it. We think we can advise them down a better path but they think they are defending absolutely everything and e need to get real about that. 

Jo Coburn: Douglas Murray and Sara Khan, thank you very much.

Breaking: Diane Abbott's hair has just confirmed that it never met the IRA

Andrew Marr really got his teeth stuck into the security issue this morning, asking nearly all of his questions from a non-liberal standpoint. 

It was a fascinating, unexpected programme raising lots of important points.

His interviews with Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas were short but rigorous and his interview with Amber Rudd quietly persistent. 

The standout interview, however, was with Diane Abbott. Andrew really sank his teeth into her, using her past voting record and past extreme statements against her in an especially rigorous way. 

Diane Abbott interviews are famously nearly always car-crash interviews. This one must have produced a ninety-mile tailback. After such a grim week it was good to have a bit of guaranteed 'comedy gold' from the woman who could be the UK's Home Secretary in two week's time. 

Here are two short highlights from it:

Diane Abbott: Firstly I think there is something to be said for Home Secretary who has actually worked in the Home Office. I worked in the Home Office for nearly three years is a graduate trainee and I know how it works from the inside. 
Andrew Marr: Jeremy Corbyn got into some trouble with Andrew Neil in his interview when he said he had not met the IRA and he was then photographed with lots of people from the IRA during the course of his career. You yourself said a defeat for the British state would be a great liberation, a great move forward at that period of time. Do you regret your support for the IRA right back in the 80s? 
Diane Abbott: That particular quote you're referring to comes from a now defunct Left newspaper. It has...
Andrew Marr (interrupting): But you said it, didn't you?
Diane Abbott: No, no, no. But what I'm saying to you is this: It was 34 years ago. I had a rather splendid Afro at the time. I don't have the same hairstyle. 
Andrew Marr: Do you have the same views?
Diane Abbott: I don't have the same views. It is 34 years on. The hairstyle is gone and some of the views have gone. 
Andrew Marr: So you no longer in any...You regret the fact of what you said then about the IRA? 
Diane Abbott: The hairstyle has gone, the views have gone. We have all moved on in 34 years. Haven't you, Andrew? 
Andrew Marr: We've all moved on. I was just wondering, do you regret what you said about the IRA at the height of the bombing? 
Diane Abbott: What specifically do you want me to regret? 
Andrew Marr: Well, I can read the quote for you, if I can find it here. Basically what you said was that a defeat of the IRA would be devastating for the British people and a defeat for the British state was a good thing, you said, at the time when the IRA was attacking the British state. And you said that the reason for the violence was entirely caused by the British presence in Northern Ireland. I'm saying, do you think those statements now are wrong? 
Diane Abbott: It's 34 years ago. I've moved on.
Andrew Marr: You've moved on. Alright. I've got the quote here finally. You said that "Ireland is our struggle. Every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us. A defeat in Northern Ireland would be a defeat indeed".
Diane Abbott: 34 years ago and I have moved on. 
Stats-wise, it worked out like this: The Leanne Wood interview lasted 4m 18s, contained 1 interruption and had an interruption coefficient of 0.2; The Caroline Lucas interview lasted 4m 38s, contained 2 interruptions and had an interruption coefficient of 0.5; The Amber Rudd lasted 14m 02s, contained 9 interruptions and had an interruption coefficient of 0.6; The Diane Abbott interview lasted 13m 44s, contained 12 interruptions and had an interruption coefficient of 0.9.

It's the introductions this week that are so interesting though. At the risk of sounding like a Corbynista (not that they'd ever admit that Diane Abbott is useless), what could play better for the Conservatives than making "Who do we most trust to keep Britain safe?" the central question of the election, and then presenting us with Diane Abbott (Diane Abbott!!!) as one of the two available options?  

Main introduction:
Good morning. Well, as we all know, the general election campaign has been pushed off course by the hideous Manchester bombing. In other weeks we might have been talking about Brexit, taxes and the health service. All very important, but there's no getting away from it - one question is now at the centre of debate. Who do we most trust to keep Britain safe? After election day, one of these two women will be in charge of police and security on the streets of Britain. Should our next Home Secretary be Amber Rudd or Diane Abbott? Plus two party leaders with their take on terror: Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and, on the line from Cardiff, Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood. Reviewing the news for us today, the BBC's North America Editor, Jon Sopel, just back from Trump on tour. And two people who've been inside government at times of crisis: the former Labour Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, and David Cameron's former communications director, Sir Craig Oliver. 
Introduction to Leanne Wood: 
And his being the election campaign, we hear from a range of parties. In a moment, I'm going to be talking to the co-leader of the Greens, Caroline Lucas.  But joining me now from Cardiff, Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood.
Introduction to Caroline Lucas: 
And so to Caroline Lucas. 
Introduction to Diane Abbott: 
Now lot of people who are only half paying attention to the election campaign more or less assumed it was in the bag for the Tories. But now the polls have been closing a bit, they're having to focus for the first time on the real possibility of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. And that means, almost certainly that Diane Abbott would take over the Home Office, and she joins me now.
Introduction to Amber Rudd: 
I'm joined by the current Home Secretary, the Conservative Amber Rudd. Amber Rudd, welcome!

James Landale, Twitter and fake news

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Landale sent out a tweet yesterday that 'went viral', going on to received over 18,000 re-tweets and even more 'likes':

The thread beneath his tweet began well for him, with The Media Show presenter Andrea Catherwood, among many others, joining in disapproval and mockery of the US president

Unfortunately, many others - some avowedly not Trump supporters - began pointing out that Trump almost certainly was wearing a translation device and later produced the photographic evidence to prove it. Andrea Catherwood at first refused to believe them and then, when the evidence became too conclusive, simply shut up and went away. (A story for a future edition of The Media Show maybe?)

James's tweet came to the attention of Sean 'Spicy' Spicer:

James Landale then sent forth a second tweet, which - it has to be said - received far, far, far fewer re-tweets and likes:

Unfortunately (for him), the comments below this second tweet won't have made for happy reading for the BBC's diplomatic correspondent. Here's a highly representative selection:
  • He does. I've seen him photographed with it. If I know that from published photos shouldn't a BBC journalist know that?
  • If he can't be objective instead of vindictive, maybe he ought to stick to covering children's soccer games.
  • It's embarrassing how journalists have allowed their partisanship to get in the way.
  • And look at the replies to your tweet. Do not complain when people call you fake news.
  • And he kept the fake news tweet up too. He's practising vindictiveness, not journalism.
  • But that didn't stop you before spreading nonsense?
  • I hate how this last election has turned every journalist into some "gotcha" activist, where they are only concerned about their politics.
  • You "reported" before inquiring. Solid work.
  • BBC is the CNN of Europe, spewing fake news 24/7.
  • Shouldn't he just quit and find a new line of work??   I mean it doesn't get lower than spreading Fake News like that.
  • An objective journalist would verify before tweeting this as fact (see: MLK Bust on day 1.) 
  • You actually thought that Trump ignores speeches?
  • Where is your apology for falsely stating President Trump did not have earpiece? Terrible journalism.
  • Apology for your insinuation will be forthcoming?
  • Say it with me, James. "I was wrong. I retract." You can do it!
  • You're fake news.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Anita Anand and Tom with the velvety voice.

The Any Questions from Crickhowell High School was a lively affair. Somehow the audience was entirely made up of shouty Corbynites who heckled and whooped loudly whenever anyone said something unCorbynist, so that once again Jonathan Dimbleby felt obliged to plead that the composition of the audience was Nothing To Do With The BBC. (“NTDWTBBC” )

The Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith didn’t seem to agree with her leader on the matter of the link between terrorism and ‘our participation in conflict’.

Of course there is a link between terrorism and “our foreign policy” in as much as the cause-and-effect  theory is the pretext routinely parroted by Muslims to justify or rationalise terrorism. They know they can get away with it, since no-one knows history these days.

Unfortunately Anita Anand is back in the Any Answers chair, her voice as strident and her opinions as intrusive as ever. She’s a female version of James O’Brien.

“Julian Biddlecombe, I hope I pronounced your name properly William - from Gloucester”  she announced, though why the name ‘William’ should be pronounced ‘Julian’ escapes me. There were gremlins on the line so she moved on to Valerie Ward from Plymouth who skated on very thin ice by mentioning Ed Husain and Ayaan Hirsi Ali while Anand huffed impatiently in the background. Shortly she couldn’t resist interrupting to say that more Muslims have been killed by ISIS than by terrorists.

William came back, but faded away again, then onto the call that really brought out the morality police within Anita Anand.
“Tom Walsh is calling us from Wigan. Good afternoon Tom?”  
“Hello Anita.”  
“There’s a velvety voice. Tom what did you want to comment on?”  
“Too much time is spent pussyfooting around, not wanting to cause offence. We ought to tell it as it is. Some people want to harm us, to kill us.”.
“Politicians keep going on [...] my mother used to say you can’t turn a bad apple ripe.”  
“I’m trying to understand what you’re saying. So who are the apples you’re talking about here, Tom?”  
“Well, we can’t go on as we are. Something different must be tried. Civil liberties have to be curtailed for the duration and I’m sure the vast majority of people would be prepared to forego some freedoms for safety.”  
“Tom what do you want them to do? What are the freedoms you want curtailed? Let’s put it out on the table. What is it you want done!”  
“Well we must be - we’re going to have to think the unthinkable.”  
“What is that?”  
“Limited internment." 
“For who, Tom?”  
“For terrorists?”  
“Yeah well, once somebody’s a terrorist I meant there’s a pretty final kind of internment, and that’s prison.”  
“Yes. But you sound like you want to go further than that, I’m trying to understand what it is you’re talking about.”  
“Something different.”  
“Which is what?”  
“Internment. House arrest. Greater powers for the police. I know people say this will act as a recruiting sergeant but we can see there’s no shortage of recruiters. Also life should mean life for terrorist offences, and they should be isolated from other prisoners. Going back to the apple theme, one bad apple spoils the barrel.”  
“Right. So you’re talking abut internment but for those people who’ve been tried as terrorists and identified as terrorists, I mean that happens when they go to jail doesn’t it?”  
“No, no, internment’s a different thing. People would be interned without trial actually for a limited period and only the more serious - during the war there were three categories.”  
“Ah, ones that were known to pose a threat and they were interned immediately and b, were the darker ones who had restrictions placed on them, no radios, they needed permission to travel etcetera and these are the things they’re going to have to try.” 
“So the 3,000 who are on the radar, pick them up immediately and put them in a - a what, a camp or something?”  
“Well the ones that we know, and don’t forget the authorities know lot of these people that are definite threats, and they should be interned. We’re fighting a war. Not a religion. we’re not fighting a religion, we’re not fighting a people, we’re fighting an ideology.”  
“Okay. Alright Tom, thank you very much indeed let’s go to another caller”.

Spirit of Manchester

Nick Robinson signed off with a heartening tale about the spirit of Manchester. Recalling the car crash in France that nearly killed him, he described how he was flown home - to Manchester - by air ambulance.

“The ambulance driver stuck his head through the door of the little Cessna plane on the tarmac at Manchester airport and said ‘I’m Gerry from Bury and you’re going to be okay’ “

Well, it was 1982. It struck me that if a driver stuck his head through a door in 2017 a greeting might be ‘I’m Bilal from Bolton and you’re going to die’.

Selective tweeting

I know some of you don't reckon much to Twitter (including Sue), but the BBC remains in love with it and it can be very revealing about the BBC's priorities.

As some of you will already be aware, two of the audience highlights from this week's Salford edition of BBC One's Question Time, in the wake of the Manchester Arena atrocity, were (1) a very brave young Muslim woman speaking out against "the elephant in the room" regarding radicalisation in her own community and the vile influence of Saudi Wahhabi money "importing" terrorism "right under our noses" and (2) the man who read out the anti-Western leaflet given out at the Didsbury mosque which the murderer and his family had attended (holding his own against a hijab-wearing attendee at the mosque and David Dimbleby, who seemed to panic slightly at that point).

The Twitter point is that the official BBC Question Time Twitter feed ignored both of those and went instead for this

That came (as you'll also know from Sue) from the man sitting two seats away from the hijab-wearing Didsbury mosque lady - the ubiquitous, Prevent-rejecting, 'Islamophobia'-hunting Muslim chaplain at Manchester University who did the "It seems that Muslims tend to be the target and the collateral damage when these things happen" thing (his exact words). 

Why did the BBC's Twitter feed choose him while ignoring the other two audience members who made much more memorable and important contributions? 

The answer, as far as I can guess, is that BBC Question Time thought his contribution was worth tweeting to the world, and that the other two's contributions weren't - something highly suggestive of the BBC's way of thinking, I think. 


I must admit that I've found it hard to write anything this week, especially since Muslim terrorists targeted girls and young women enjoying a pop concert in Manchester. 

Four of my friends at work (all female) were at the Manchester Arena in the days immediately before the attack, watching their beloved Take That. They and their families have, therefore, had quite a week themselves, wondering 'What if?'. What on earth could I add to that, especially as I had absolutely nothing new or helpful to say?

The apparently random targeting of an Ariana Grande concert was hard to make sense of, and nothing in the BBC copious coverage illuminated that for me. Only Douglas Murray in the Spectator explicitly and plainly pointed out what, in hindsight, seems absolutely, appallingly obvious: The Ariana Grande concert wasn't randomly targeted. It was specifically targeted. The reason? Because mostly girls and young women would be attending (with their parents), enjoying themselves and - as Salafists would see it - behaving and dressing 'immodestly'. 

Girls and young women were precisely the targets. Puritanical Muslim fanatics regard them as 'slags', 'hoes', 'whores' (as they themselves put it) and, thus, as devilish, decadent, un-Islamic and most definitely not 'innocent'.

Several of the perpetrators of past attacks in the UK have been very explicit about that being the reason why they chose their specific targets, such as a ladies' night in London for example. Their motivation is very openly religious (i.e. Islamic).

Douglas Murray's perspective hasn't crossed my radar on any of the BBC coverage I've seen. Have you encountered it anywhere on the BBC? Shouldn't it have been all over the BBC? Shouldn't it have been one of the BBC's main talking points? 

I must also admit that I've been very slow to blog about this. I certainly didn't want to blog about it the morning after the attack, or for quite some time after. It felt ghoulish to even think of scoring points (or appearing to score points) off the BBC in the wake of such an attack. The risk of seeming or, worse, actually being, an opportunistic/obsessive sleazebag who sees everything through the prism of 'BBC bias' (and can't wait to leap into print about it) was a risk not worth taking - not that I even remotely felt like doing it anyhow.

But the BBC's coverage has been seriously disturbing (as has much of the media's coverage as a whole). 

It's felt like a concerted attempt to squash anger and steer the public's reaction in a 'safe' direction. It's felt like they've been trying to divert us away from the main point. It's felt dishonest and deeply manipulative.

I contented myself with ranting to Sue about one episode of Today (Wednesday's edition). Here's what I ranted:
I was driving to work during the 7.10-7.20 segment and heard Matthew Price and his totally-on-message main 'vox pop'. Her message was: Let's love. Let's hold vigils. Let's not blame Muslims, or do anything decisive because that would be really, really bad.  
And then came Mishal Husain and her 'backlash' agenda (the 'backlash' explicitly stated as a fact) leading to an interview with a Muslim headteacher at a school where all the girls wear hijabs as part of their school uniform (!!!!) telling the tale of a 'backlash' story about a Muslim pupil of hers being shouted at by a passer-by.  
I felt a strong "Aaagghh!" come upon me and went into work in a bad mood. 
Listening to it more closely a couple of days later, to check my impression, Matthew Price was doing what he always does after every such attack: Love, candles, flowers, hugs. This time though he kept on saying, in passing, that some (nasty) people criticise such things, and say that we should actually do something. He himself, however, dismissed such criticisms at around 6.30 am and then got the vox pop woman to dismiss them again at around 7.10 am. He was covering himself.  
I forced myself to listen to all the attack-related bits of that morning's Today and got more and more depressed. Everyone was on message - being so, so, so 'nice'. Mishal & Sarah kept asking 'the important questions' about how bad Prevent is and whether the government has given the police enough resources, Andy Burnham & Co. kept saying 'It's nothing to do with Islam'. 'TFTD' was on how Jesus isn't like a gun but somehow is. Amber Rudd said something or other. Mrs Mumsnet said something or other too. Libya. Frank Gardner. Hazel Blears came the nearest to making a difficult point. Barely a mention of Muslims, other than as victims. No mention of Islam (except to say "INTDWI"). No one at all to articulate the point of view that we have - and many, many others have - the point of view Matthew Price was alluding to (and dismissing). Even Frank Furedi of Spiked (it's always Spiked on the BBC, isn't it?) didn't appear on Today that morning to put a small spanner in the BBC's works, despite being promised in the programmes' running order. He said on Twitter that he'd been "disconnected" - whatever that means.  
Yes, I'm sure Matthew Price was being very nice and thought that he was being very nice, and that everyone else was being very nice too. Let nothing divide us. Love conquers hate. Etc, etc.  

Friday 26 May 2017

The other Jeremy

It was that episode from Jeremy Bowen today: Our Man in the Middle East, Part 10: The Nearness of Death

It was everything we expected - and more. 

There was him nearly being killed by Israel when his driver was "killed by Israel"; and him nearly being killed by Israel when Israel fired on a UN aid convoy going to help civilians in Lebanon; and Lebanese civilians, including women and children, having "suffered disproportionately at the hands of Israel"; and the Qana "massacre". All Israel's fault. 

Plus he used emotionally-forceful live recordings from all the incidents. And then he used more live recordings to rubbish Israel's version of events. 

All his version of events, of course. 

He also philosophised, in an oh-so-dispassionate-and-wise-sounding way, about the need to break the cycle of violence and revenge by seeing outrages as part of history (even though he didn't seem to be entirely living up to his own advice). 

There was plenty of moral equivalence as well, with Israel being made to sound (at the very least) no better than the rest. 

And he was the conscience-stricken hero of his own self-penned tragedy. 

And he did it all in a calm, thoughtful, award-winning tone of voice. 

I have to say it was a powerful listen, and made Israel sound very bad indeed. 

Goodness knows what the average Radio 4 listener made of it - though I can guess. Even I gulped at times. 

If I were a dictator I'd definitely hire Jeremy Bowen as my chief propagandist.