Monday 31 July 2017

We need to talk about Kevin

Yup, saw it.

Isn’t this a funny old business?
 Here we have Kevin Myers, a writer/journalist/ provocateur who has got himself into hot water for writing an antisemitic column in the Irish Sunday Times. 
Not only has he got himself into trouble, but he’s managed to drag a whole bunch of people down with him. 
As Vanessa Feltz said just now on the BBC News channel, many others will have seen the piece and passed it before it went to press. You can’t just write something and publish it (like we bloggers can) Your official, legitimate press article has to be commissioned, approved, and cleared by armies of editors, sub editors and so on before it goes to press.

(Thank goodness for blogs, although at times I must admit a sub editor would have come in handy.)

It’s quite ironic that as soon as an antisemite like Myers gets caught out and admonished, or in Myers’s case, sacked, the antisemites swarm round with fresh, blatantly antisemitic remarks and innuendos, which commonly include the accusation that the all powerful Jewish Lobby is trying to “silence them”  or shut down debate. If they can’t see that the very presence of their own antisemitic bile staring back at them on the page belies that circular, self defeating argument, they must be deeply stupid.

As part of the all powerful Jewish lobby, the last thing I want to do is shut down debate, but I don’t think ‘holocaust denial’ really constitutes debate. Antisemites obviously find the Holocaust pretty annoying, because mentioning it loses them the moral high ground, which can have a chilling effect on the pure unadulterated hatred they feel the need to express.

Here are some excerpts from Myers’s piece that we can still easily access”

“Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned”
“men usually work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant”.
“I note that two of the best-paid women presenters in the BBC — Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted — are Jewish. Good for them. Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity.
I wonder, who are their agents? If they’re the same ones that negotiated the pay for the women on the lower scales, then maybe the latter have found their true value in the marketplace. “

How antisemitic is that? Well, it’s using that ‘trope’ (recurrent theme) that the Jews are greedy. Not all that much worse than anything you might come across in the Guardian, but nasty all the same.  Brian Sewell got away with it!

The pompous phrase Myers uses about the good ladies: “with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted” leaves a glaringly open goal begging, begging to be flung right back. Who has ever heard of Kevin Myers? Tragically, up till yesterday, not I.

Anyway, the “fun” response is here, by another 'Kevin', and former colleague. 
“Myers is not a journalist, never has been. He is an overpaid star columnist on the Irish edition of The Sunday Times who writes a weekly rant that is based solely on his own warped view of the world. There is no striving for balance or fact-based evidence with Myers: just an outpouring of bile and sermonising that is intended to offend, shock or outrage readers. He makes the likes of Katie Hopkins and Kelvin Mackenzie seem like reasonable human beings.”

Another piece, which I will preemptively label  the ‘bleating’ response, is here: 
“There’s nothing remotely controversial about this statement to me, because as a Jew, I’m on the receiving end of this type of remark all the time.”

Needless to say, on cue, a goodly measure of ’this type of remark’ appears below the line.

The Telegraph’s report specialises in 'ugly' photos. If you’re interested, they’re here.

The piece that puts all the rest of it into some sort of context is here. It’s by Kevin Myers himself, in the Sunday Times, I assume the Irish edition, written after the Manchester suicide bombing. 

So Kevin isn’t a left-wing Islamist apologist and antisemite of the variety commonly found amongst the Corbynista wing of the Labour Party. No, he’s an old fashioned right-winger who hates Nazis, Islamists, and possibly Jews, in equal measure.
Now, we can hardly start saying things about ‘my enemy’s enemy’, can we, although he gets plenty of praise below the line for his bravery in writing a piece about Islam which flies in the face of political correctness. Although the piece is aimed at the Irish audience, there is much within it that it’s hard to disagree with. One might well ask, how can it be that he writes a piece criticising Islam in no uncertain terms and no-one bats an eyelid, yet the minute he turns his talents against the Jews, everyone is up in arms.?

My answer to that is going to sound pretty obvious (channeling Mandy Rice-Davies.) There are substantive reasons to criticise and fear Islam. It’s subversive, incompatible with ‘Western values’ and threatening. Specific aspects of Islam concern and alarm us, forming a legitimate basis for debate. Suicide bombings, stabbings, vehicle-rammings, no-go zones, cousin marriage, female genital mutilation, grooming gangs, antisemitism and, to quote Kevin Myers, “ The hijab — the full facial veil — is a public refutation of the norms of our society”  to name but a few of the  actual differences between ‘them and us.’
To put it crudely, Islam is behind violence, cruelty, sexual repression and terrorism. Innocent people die.

On the other hand, antisemites emote, insinuate and snipe, and some seriously think the Jews mess with your mind, control the media, are the cause of all wars and, if everyone hates them, there must be a very good reason why. But they haven’t got a substantive reason for their hatred. Of course there is always Israel, the country the British media has vilified and traduced with great success, effectively concealing from the public the Islamic antisemitism that is at the heart of the conflict, thus arming antisemites with the false equivalences they need to prop up their racism. 

I’m getting tired of writing about BBC bias all the time. When we started doing it, we were the few. Now we’re the many. 
This time the BBC is not the main offender. They’ve reported it, albeit with brevity, and dare I say, lack of detail. But they have featured it on their News channel. 

I don't know what to make of it really; but please, you make of it what you will.

 I hadn’t read this post by Sarah AB when I wrote the above. There are some interesting comments, and new (to me) info, including references to Myers’s support for Israel, which is something I’d never have imagined to be the case.  Not everyone thinks he’s antisemitic. Of course, supporting Israel doesn’t automatically absolve him of antisemitism or excuse him for promoting antisemitic themes.

It does show a lack of judgement though; it’s as though he believed he could simply assume that his record of ‘non-antisemitism’ would be enough ensure that if he made a casual, snarky allusion to ‘greedy Jews’ it would automatically be contextualised by readers, perhaps forgetting that not every reader would be familiar with his personal history.

Amol Rajan kept saying that the piece was incoherent. I’d have liked to hear him flesh that out more.

Sunday 30 July 2017

Yolande Knell explains all

Obviously there are time constraints on a magazine programme like Sunday, (Radio 4 9am) but if asking Yolande Knell to sum up, in a few minutes, the background to the ‘latest crisis in the Old City of Jerusalem” was a big ask, expecting her to “remind us why this place is so precious to two faiths” was to call for a small miracle.

Well, one could say she rose to the challenge. I’ll leave the religious element out of this critique as I’m no expert on religion to put it mildly. However, the arrangement whereby Jews are ‘allowed to visit but not to pray” has led to some truly bizarre situations. 

The Muslim ladies whose job it is to wave copies of the Koran at religious Jews who enter the site, whilst shrieking and ululating and generally harassing them is one example of something that seems plain weird. It’s been going on for years. 

And watching for signs of Jews’ lips moving in case they’re praying. Is that not a bit bonkers?
It’s called the status quo because that’s the standing arrangement between the Israeli powers that be and the Jordanian Waqf. It’s not under threat by the way, even though, as a permanent arrangement, it seems a bit mad and thoroughly unfair.

 Apart from the omissions, (facts without which the whole story is impossible to grasp) emphasising certain parts of the tale while swiftly glossing over others reveals how Yolande, on behalf of the BBC, views what she refers to as the “Israel Palestinian” conflict. 

She sees it as a conflict between a country (Israel) and a people (the Palestinians) rather than a conflict between two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians) or Jews and Arabs.

Yolande went native some time ago, as we’ve long observed. Her pronunciation is a give-away. “Ramull-lah” she says, with the prolonged, throaty “ll”s. “Isslaam” with the hissing “s” and the long flat “a”. The rolled “r”s in the Harrram al-Sharrrif.  She’s really down with the kids. On their wave length.

That’s not a bad thing in itself, I will grant you. But a tad one-sided. 

But it’s the way certain things were slipped into Knell’s summary, and certain things were left out that clinched the case. For example, the fact that Christians joined the Palestinians in protest. Did they really? If true, why include that in a time-constrained summary? To emote that ‘everyone hates the Jews?’ The perilous circumstances of Christians in the Middle East might have some bearing on their behaviour. You can’t just ignore that.
“Um, fifty years ago Israel captured the Old City, all of the east of Jerusalem, and annexed it in a move that wasn’t recognised internationally.”
 Facts floating in the air without context. The listener might wonder, why on earth did nasty Israel go and capture the Old City? Just another example of Israel’s innate aggression and expansionism?  Puh- lease! 

At least mention that under Jordan’s (illegal) annexation, synagogues were desecrated and Jews were barred. “The old City was rendered void of Jews.” Perhaps also add that in 1967 Israel faced its intended annihilation by Egypt Jordan and Syria, in a war that was instigated by Arabs. In ‘capturing’ the old city Israel freed it from Jordanian reign and liberated Jerusalem.
“For 19 years, Jews and Christians residing in Israel (and even Israeli Muslims) were barred from their holy places, despite Jordan’s pledge to allow free access. Jews, for example, were unable to pray at the Western Wall; Christian Arabs living in Israel were denied access to churches and other religious sites in the Old City and nearby Bethlehem, also under Jordanian control.16 During Jordan’s reign over eastern Jerusalem, its restrictive laws on Christian institutions led to a dramatic decline in the holy city’s Christian population by more than half – from 25,000 to 11,000,17 a pattern that characterized Christian Arabs in other Arab countries throughout the Middle East where religious freedom is not honored.
It was only after the Six-Day War that the Jewish Quarter was rebuilt and free access to holy places was reestablished. It is worth noting that after Jordan annexed the West Bank in the 1950s, it too failed to make Jerusalem – a city that Arabs now claim as ‘the third most holy site of Islam’ – its capital.”

Last but not least, the cold-hearted description of the murder of the Solomon family.

“In the occupied West Bank you had a young Palestinian man who broke into an Israeli settlement and stabbed to death three members of the same family in their home.”

Settlers, don't you know. Living in an Israeli settlement.  In the BBC’s opinion, did the ‘young Palestinian man’ Omar al-Abed have “lawful excuse” for entering a family’s home while they were laying their table, and stabbing three of them to death? 

Listen to the broadcast here  Transcript over the page.

Saturday 29 July 2017

"Will Britain's planes fly after Brexit?" (Part III)

Further to an earlier post (just down the page), here's Jacqueline Foster quite rightly protesting about her treatment at Newsnight's hands:

As Enough described on that earlier thread, this is what happened:
Somewhat resembling a character from Mars Attacks, she was knowledgeable and coherent, and frankly pretty cross with the package. So, as you do when you're seeking factual clarity, they literally faded her out and the segment ended on a wide with Foster still jabbering away silently in the background. Absolutely incredible. They just don't care.
You will have noted that Ms. Foster's complaint was retweeted by someone at the BBC. 

More BBC sensationalism?

Talking of BBC sensationalism, this week's one-hour Panorama special had the sensationalist title A Prescription for Murder? and the programme asked the question, "Could drugs which are safe for the majority who take them be, for a small minority, the prescription for murder?" And, to my mind, that tone of sensationalism hung about throughout the programme. 

As always when you watch such programmes, non-experts will be left floundering. Many might just accept it. Others (like me) wonder, 'Can we trust it?' and then start Googling around.

There was a large, hostile social media reaction from depression sufferers and concerted criticism from psychiatric and medical organisations but also some praise for it, especially from critics of 'Big Pharma' and others worried about the medicalisation of treatment for mental health problems.

Here are a selection of responses. I've tried to find a balance of pieces - some defending and some condemning Panorama - but (so far) I've only managed to find pieces condemning it.

'Vested interest' though they'll doubtless be called, The Lancet's take seems to me the most measured - though no less damning than the others. Though they say it wasn't as bad as they feared, they argue that: that the case study of the killer didn't prove what Panorama implied it proved; that the programme essentially confused 'association' with 'causation'; that the "small minority" Panorama talks of (taking Panorama's own statistics) is actually vanishingly small; that antibiotics are actually more fatal, statistically-speaking; that the issue of a link between antidepressants and violent thoughts is far more nuanced than Panorama suggested; and that antidepressants protect from suicide (and that people could be scared off taking them because of programmes like this). 

It's not as if Panorama wasn't right to tackle the issue. It's the way they handled it that's the issue. Couldn't they have explored it in a more balanced and less sensationalist fashion? 

"Will Britain's planes fly after Brexit?" (Part II)

Now, Newsnight is unquestionably correct that there is a real issue here but its reporting last night struck me (and many others) as pure sensationalism.

We had a one-sided, scaremongering report from Helen Thomas, complete with images of geese flying serenely (us now) and flightless ostriches (us potentially after Brexit), and this was followed by a woefully brief interview between Conservative MEP Jacqueline Foster and economist Peter Morris, where Ms. Foster found herself being repeatedly interrupted by Kirsty Wark (£150-199K) before being ostentatiously - and rudely - 'faded out' by Newsnight. (That said, Ms. Foster didn't seem impressed by the quality of Helen Thomas's reporting or Kirsty Wark's grasp of the facts.)

Here's how the item was framed: 
Kirsty Wark: Also tonight, we're used to being on the wing to Europe in our millions, but when we leave the EU, will we be forced to go into reverse, or even be grounded? 
Kirsty Wark: Since we joined the EU, we have enjoyed pretty much unfettered air travel to European Union destinations - give or take a strike or storm or two. In fact, the Office of National Statistics reported that, last year, there was a record total of 14.7 million visits to Spain alone by UK residents - the vast majority of these were for holidays. But when we exit the EU, if we leave the European industry and safety bodies - as seems to be the plan - we may be in for a very bumpy ride. Here's our business editor Helen Thomas. 
Helen Thomas: For decades, we've been taking flight to an ever-increasing number of destinations. But as we migrate towards Brexit, there are warnings of turbulence ahead. If we're not careful, could we find ourselves, well, flightless?  

Talking Trump

For fans of transcripts everywhere, here's the BBC Jon Sopel (£200-249K) talking Trump with Roger Bolton (?) on this week's Feedback:

Roger Bolton: Well, I'm now joined by Jon Sopel from Washington. Jon, what's it like to have the President of United States call you "another beauty"? And he didn't really mean that, did he? He put you in the category with CNN as somebody who's a purveyor of fake news.
Jon Sopel: Well, it was the most extraordinary news conference that I have ever been to, and I suspect that if the walls could speak in the East Room of the White House the walls would concur with that view, that they have never seen anything quite like the news conference that unfolded. And I suppose if I looked at the young Jon Sopel who was starting out his journalistic career he never imagined that he would be sitting in a news conference with a President of the United States let alone answering back. And yet I felt it was absolutely essential that we stood our ground and, in a very polite and British way, to say, 'Actually I think it's very important to note that the BBC is free of government interference, that it is fair and that it is impartial'.
Roger Bolton: But it must be a real problem though if you get that sort of attack-  and others are facing it - not not to respond, and it must make it even more difficult to be absolutely objective about what's happening?
Jon Sopel: Roger, I honestly think that journalism has never been more important than it is today, when there are so many challenges to fact-based reporting, people wanting to believe whatever it is they see on their Facebook feed, and I think that we face a real challenge. However, the one mistake we must not make - absolutely, I believe this passionately  - is that we are not the opposition to Donald Trump. We are there to do what we always do - which is, hopefully, as one of your caller said, hold power to account, because if we don't do that we fail, and if we start becoming oppositionalist - and I think that some of the American networks have in some respects - that's not got to be our tone. Let's stand back, let's not get over-excited, and lets report fairly, just as we would if it was a more conventional figure in the White House.
Roger Bolton: But it's a question of what you choose to report and so some criticism that you've become a bit obsessed with Trump. Is there a danger you're moving into that sort of territory though and you're ceasing to report, as it were, on America as a whole and reporting almost exclusively on the White House?
Jon Sopel: Well, I think there is a fairness to that criticism, but when what is unfolding at the White House is unfolding I actually think it would be negligent not to report on it, because then we would be saying, 'Well, it's perfectly normal for a president to go after a TV presenter on Twitter and be abusive about them'. I mean just this week, Roger, we have had the undermining of the Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a series of tweets and at a Rose Garden news conference. Just think of the Prime Minister of Britain standing up and saying that one of her key ministers was weak, beleaguered, had been disappointing. We would all be saying 'That's unsustainable. There is no way that that person can survive. They've got to be fired'. Jeff Sessions is still there. We had his speech to the Boy Scouts where he said he wouldn't talk about politics because he was with an audience of 12 to 18 year olds and proceeded to lambast Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and gave a very highly political speech. And so it goes on. This is not an orthodox presidency.
Roger Bolton: I think that's very, very clear! But one or two of our listeners think that you perhaps should be more sceptical of the so-called 'evil Russia' stories. I'm thinking here of Paul Kindlan, who says that the BBC has chosen to imitate CNN and swallow the 'nothing burger', making themselves look pretty foolish. So far, of course, there have been meetings with Russians and those have been denied, and then people have said they took place, but there's no smoking gun in sight, is there?
Jon Sopel: There is smoke. There is a little bit of fire. But wouldn't it be bizarre were we not to investigate it? Just to put this in context: So far in the six months of Donald Trump's presidency it has cost Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser, his job after lying about his contacts with Russia and not being truthful to the Vice-President about meeting the Russian ambassador, It's led to the firing of the Director of the FBI. We've now had the meeting with Donald Trump Jnr where they were told that they were meeting representatives of the Russian government and that they would be getting dirt on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Jnr was saying, 'Can't wait!', and that was a meeting attended by the head of the campaign, Donald Trump's son-in-law, and Donald Trump's son. It may be that Russia will add up to nothing, but my goodness it's caused a lot of collateral damage so far and were we not to report on it and investigate it I think we'd be negligent. 
Roger Bolton: Now most people thought it would be a rocky ride with Donald Trump but that things will be starting to settle down. Is there any sign of it? Or as Don Moore put it in an email to us, is this a family business or a government of sycophants?
Jon Sopel: I don't think there's going to be any settling down. I thought it might. I thought that normal processes would assert themselves. I don't see any sign of that whatsoever. I think it is going to continue to be quarrelsome, some would say 'dysfunctional', unpredictable. And I think that in a sense Donald Trump loves the drama of it all.
Roger Bolton: And finally Jon, you said the President is enjoying himself. Is Jon Sopel enjoying himself?
Jon Sopel: It is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting - probably in equal measure, although sometimes it goes a bit out of kilter. It is the most extraordinary time to be reporting on America. It is important. It does matter, and we've got the most enormous duty to try to report it fairly and accurately to our audience.
Roger Bolton: Our thanks to Jon Sopel, the BBC's North America Editor. Now from the soap opera in the White House to a U-turn in the corridors of Radio 4....

An unfolding story

Using the invaluable TV Eyes monitoring tool, it's possible to track how the news broke across several broadcast outlets. 

The story broke mid afternoon yesterday when the BBC News Channel began reporting it. BBC One's News at Six featured it as a 'news in brief' item: 
One person has been killed and four others injured in a knife attack in a Hamburg supermarket. Police said a man was arrested after being overpowered by members of the public and that his motives are so far unclear.
The BBC News Channel continued reporting it like that for several hours, but didn't report it for around two-and-a-half hours from 9.30pm till shortly after midnight and the story didn't feature at all on BBC One's flagship News at Ten

ITV's News at Ten, in contrast, did report it (as they had during their early evening news bulletin) and gave more detail than the BBC had given us so far (as did Sky News at the same time):
A man armed with a knife has killed one person, and injured four others, at a supermarket in Hamburg. A 26-year-old man born in United Arab Emirates has been arrested by German police. Germany has been on high alert in recent months following a number of attacks on civilians last year, including the December attack on a Berlin Christmas market. 
The BBC caught up just after midnight: 
Police in Germany say a man armed with a knife has attacked people in a supermarket in the northern city of Hamburg. Police say one person was killed and four others injured. The suspect is now in detention, is a 26-year-old man born in the United Arab Emirates, though his nationality is unclear. The police say they have no clear idea of the motive and are not ruling anything out. 
...and that's how they've been reporting it throughout the night. 

RT (Russia Today), in sharp contrast to the BBC (and Sky and ITV), began reporting eyewitness statements that the man shouted "Allahu Akbar" before carrying out his attack as early as 5.00pm yesterday evening and has continued doing so ever since, for example at 10.00pm:
Police have spoken about any motive behind the attack. They have said that they're investigating all possible motives, including terror. Some eyewitnesses at the scene said that the man shouted "Allahu akbar", 'God is great' in Arabic, before carrying out his attack, however the police spokesperson did not comment further on that.
Whether the story makes it to BBC Breakfast in any shape or form remains to be seen.

Update: And then, after hanging around the lower reaches of the BBC News website, the story now suddenly rises to become the BBC's 'third story' under the headline Hamburg supermarket attacker 'was known Islamist'. A failed asylum seeker from the UAE, he "was known as an Islamist but not a jihadist," and "suffered from 'psychological' issues". "It is not yet clear what the suspect's motivations were", says the BBC.

"Well, Reeta, they know better now"

There was some interesting labelling used by the BBC's Deputy Political Editor John Pienaar on last night's BBC One News at Ten. Talking about how Philip Hammond is "taking the lead in setting out government thinking on Brexit", JP called his opponents in Cabinet "hard-core Brexiteers" and "hardline Brexiteers". And as EU demands that the European Court should continue to have a say in settling trade disputes, his pay-off line last night had a point to make at the expense of those 'hardliners':
Hardline Brexiteers once believed it could all be accomplished  really quite easily and simply. Well, Reeta, they know better now.
That's them told!

Friday 28 July 2017

"Will Britain's planes fly after Brexit?"

Andrew Neil doesn't seem very impressed with Newsnight's latest (anti-)Brexit angle:

Thursday 27 July 2017

Is 'enough' enough?

A new Gatestone Institute article by Douglas Murray  popped into my inbox. It’s one of those pieces that immediately make you go ‘that’s just what I was thinking’.

UK Terrorism: ‘Enough’ is not ‘Enough’. 

When Theresa May said ”Enough is Enough” many of us were relieved. ‘Things are looking up!', we thought. But such optimism is apt to perish like a shrivelled balloon still tied to the gate long after the party. 

After the recent spate of terrorism, one might wonder, ‘where exactly is all this long awaited clamping down?’ Where is the action? 
Unless something stringent and punitive is being cooked up undercover, in the hidden world of Spy v Spy, it would appear to be non existent. 

Instead, the government presents us with more weak and feeble stuff about ‘perversion of Islam’ and the media reminds us that ‘extremism comes from the far right as well, you know.’

As Murray points out, two recent events that fly in the face of ‘Enough is Enough’ have recently gone ahead without let or hindrance. 

Despite calls for it to be stopped, the al-Quds Day march, which takes place annually in central London, went ahead again this year as usual.  The speeches in this year’s march were particularly inflammatory and antisemitic. Yet nothing was done.  'Does Mrs May regard this as ‘enough’?' asks Murray.

Evidently not. Another openly antisemitic event was held in the heart of Westminster. 
“On the weekend of July 8-9, the Queen Elizabeth II Centre (right opposite Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament) was host to a "Palestine Expo" event. This occasion was advertised as "the biggest social, cultural and entertainment event on Palestine to ever take place in Europe”.

There, similar speeches and anti-Israel rhetoric took place as several observers can attest.

Of course, the BBC wasn’t interested.  The BBC does not view Palestinians who murder Jewish families as terrorists. 

Before setting off to murder Israelis in their own home, 19-year- old Omar al Abed from the West Bank village of Khobar wrote what he presumed would be his final words on Facebook.

“I am writing my last testament and these are my last words,” wrote al Abed.
“I am young, not even twenty-years old, I had many dreams and many aspirations. But what life is this in which our women and our young are murdered without any justification? They are desecrating the al-Aksa mosque and we are sleeping, it’s an embarrassment that we are idly sitting by. 
“You, those who have a gun and who are worn out, you who only bring out your gun at weddings and celebrations, are you not ashamed of yourselves? Why are you not declaring war for God? Here they are closing the al-Aksa mosque and your gun is silent.
“All that I have is a sharpened knife, and it is answering the call of al-Aksa. Shame on you, you who preach hatred. God will take revenge on you and will make it count. All of us are the sons of Palestine and the sons of al-Aksa. You, sons of monkeys and pigs, if you do not open the gates of al-Aksa, I am sure that men will follow me and will hit you with an iron fist, I am warning you.”

On this occasion the particular grievance was the imaginary threat to the al-Aqsa mosque that Palestinians and their leaders dreamt up to ignite and excuse another of their customary waves of ‘rage’. 

This religious rant is fairly typical of 'Allahu Akbar' style religious fanaticism, and no different from the religiously-motivated terrorism that continually erupts from East to West with ever-increasing visibility. 
Yet the BBC refuses to connect terrorist violence perpetrated by a Palestinian with the same thing when carried out by your common or garden jihadi. Thus, BBC has decreed that the use of the emotive word ‘terrorist’ applies to the latter but not the former. This, says the BBC, is because it contains a value judgement.  

What message can be taken away from this puzzling inconsistency?  Either they see Israelis as so ‘other’ that the news that some of them have been slaughtered in their beds is, to them, neither here nor there.  Worse, it could be that they actually feel that the murder of Jews is all in a good cause.
It puts one in mind of the case in 2010 where activists who broke into a Brighton weapons factory and caused £200,000 of damage were found ‘not guilty of conspiracy to commit criminal damage’. Why not? Oh, because they were acting with “lawful excuse”.

Could it be that the general level of understanding of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict at the BBC, from the highest level to the lowest, is so poor that they seriously believe that Palestinian murderers are acting with ‘lawful excuse?’

Perhaps they apply the same principle  to al-Quds and Palestine Expo, too, but they’re skating on thin ice if they half-believe British victims of terror had it coming, and that our ‘foreign policy’ gives Islamic terrorists ‘lawful excuse’ to self-detonate outside a pop concert. 

In The Conservative Woman a post by Niall McCrae demonstrates where  our famous tolerance extends far beyond the call of duty. "British values' are being weaponised against Britons." 

“Last Friday’s front page of The Guardian featured a Muslim woman who is suing a school for its allegedly discriminatory dress code. After her daughter gained a place at the prestigious Holland Park comprehensive, Rachida Serroukh attended a talk by headteacher Colin Hall. Both she and her daughter were wearing full Islamic dress. A teacher asked Serroukh for a word in private, and advised her of school policy against masking of children’s faces. Serroukh told the Guardian reporter: ‘As the teacher was female I lifted my veil when we were talking’. How nice of her.

Holland Park is known as the ‘socialist Eton’. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds struggle to get in, but the culture of the school is emancipatory and secularist. Nurturing local Muslim girls’ potential would be regarded as central to the school’s mission. Yet this leftward institute is now threatened by Wahhibi entryism. In a completely one-sided report, The Guardian presents the school as a pariah, and Serroukh as a cause celebre.

Why was this case given such prominence, and such obvious support, by a ‘progressive’ newspaper? A large photograph of Serroukh on page 2 of The Guardian has her sitting on a sofa, shrouded in black except for her hands and eyes. The newspaper appears to be boosting its diversity credentials, but we must consider the powerful socio-political forces of globalised media and rapidly shifting Western demography. The Guardian is not only virtue-signalling, but also market-signalling.

Islam is Islam.  Enough is Enough. 

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Nice try

David Jordan

Two very senior voices from within the BBC bubble - David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, and Ric Bailey, the BBC's chief political adviser - have penned a rare and important joint piece for a somewhat out-of-the-way pro-public-broadcasting media site called headlined Impartiality and the BBC – 'broad balance' in a two-horse race. It concerns the BBC's coverage of the EU referendum.

It's a thoughtful piece, well worth reading. And it's refreshing to read: 
We are never keen on the argument that being attacked by both sides shows you must be getting it right. It’s quite possible to be wrong in two different ways, so we always take such criticisms seriously. In any case, few issues only have two sides, so teetering in the middle of the proverbial see-saw is seldom the right place.  
That said, after reading the piece through, what will you find to be its main message? 

(Shall I save you the trouble?) 

Well, get the smelling salts ready folks. Its message can be summed up like this: We think we got it about right

(OK, you can put the smelling salts away now. False alarm!). 

Yes, alas, despite all its welcome hand-wringing, it ends up being wholly and depressingly complacent, always giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt and painting the corporation in the most favourable colours. 

Typically, David and Ric dismiss 'stopwatch' monitoring of BBC coverage and place their trust in the BBC's good judgement. 

Ric Bailey

For them it's all down to the judgements of individual BBC editors to measure the 'balance equations' within their particular programmes.

That, of course, doesn't answer the question of how those individual editors are to police their own editorial decisions. 

Nor does it answer the question of how the BBC's coverage overall can be judged. 

To be blunt, I trust stopwatches more than I trust BBC editors. I don't see why we should take on trust the BBC's claims that their editors - people like Ian Katz - are unbiased. I used my stopwatches on Newsnight during the referendum and found it was far from even-handed. 

It's also characteristic of such pieces that our two brave BBC bigwigs give examples of what went right (eg. an interview with Douglas Carswell) but don't give examples of what went wrong.

Plus they place complete trust in their own reality-checking process - something that continues to ring alarm bells with me. The BBC sitting in statistical judgement on hot topics of political controversy, and doing so under the banner of impartiality, is a much more questionable proposition than our two BBC high-ups seem to realise. 

So, nice try guys but it really isn't washing.

Open Thread

Tuesday 25 July 2017

"Doing a lot of good work in that area, isn't she, Justine Greening?"

For a powerfully-argued counterblast against the government's plans to allow people to pick their own gender without a doctor's diagnosis - and specifically to allow them to change their own birth certificates (from male to female, female to male, or either male female to 'X') - please read Brendan O'Neill's piece about it at Spiked

And once you've done so please go on to read the BBC News website's report about those plans. 

The thing you'll immediately notice about that BBC report is that it gives the government's side of the argument (quoting extensively from Justine Greening) and then gives the views of people who agree with the government's plans. 

Everything, from the chose of parties quoted, to the direct quotes used, to the article's sub-headlines, to the Getty image chosen, presents these plans in a positive light. Everyone seems to agree that 'it's a very good thing, and about time too!'

And yet, as Brendan O'Neill proves, not everyone does agree that it's a very good thing. A lot of people will think that it's a very bad thing. Brendan himself calls it "Orwellian":
Britain is going full Orwell. The Tory government is proposing to include in the Gender Recognition Bill the ‘right’ to alter the sex on one’s birth certificate. So if a 32-year-old man decides that he is in fact a woman, he could be able to go to the General Register Office and insist that the word ‘Boy’ be erased from his birth certificate and replaced with the word ‘Girl’, or ‘Female’. Even though he was not a girl when that certificate was drawn up. Even though the midwife who declared ‘It’s a boy!’ when he was born, and the birth registrar who later wrote the word ‘Boy’ or ‘Male’ on his birth certificate, were telling the truth. That truth, that publicly recorded truth, that national truth, would be replaced with a lie. We’ve entered Ministry of Truth territory. The memory hole is real
The wholly one-sided BBC report gave no sense whatsoever that anyone might think that the government's plans are wrong-headed and dangerous. 

And that tells you a good deal about the BBC's bias towards social liberalism. 

It probably never even occurred to the reporter behind that piece to even think of seeking out a counter-balancing view. 


Incidentally, in trying to check out whether this BBC report was typical of the BBC's coverage (it was), I came across the following example from Sunday morning's Breakfast. Guest Margaret Doyle was doing the paper review and discussing this very issue with BBC presenter Christian Fraser. Here's how that part of their discussion ended:
Margaret Doyle: There's a bit of controversy over it but I think that the broad thrust of this government is to push forward that agenda of liberalisation and equality and say, well, maybe we need to change how we look at transgender, just as how we have changed also the way we look at homosexual relationships.
Christian Fraser: Doing a lot of good work in that area, isn't she, Justine Greening?
Margaret Doyle: Yeah. 
It probably never even occurred to Christian Fraser that his expression of a personal view there was even remotely controversial or in any way lacking in impartiality. It could hardly be less impartial (however much you may agree with it). 

Trouble ahead

“The al-Aqsa compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount” is how Tom Bateman introduces his report about Israel removing those ever so incendiary metal detectors from Islam’s third holiest site. Well, that’s one way of looking a it.

For once a topic involving an Islam-related controversy wasn’t assigned to Mishal Husain on the Today Programme. Nick Robinson (£250,000-£299,999) struggled. Re-naming (and imaginatively relocating) the infamous trouble-spot: “Alaska Mosque”, and  if I’m not mistaken generously allocating well-known Palestinian peacemaker Manuel Hassassian one extra “ass”, he handled the topic bravely.

Manuel Hassassassian

The news that Israel is removing the metal detectors from al-Aqsa was unexpected. Looking through the online press reports and skimming various below the line comments one finds a predictably mixed response. 


What is journalism like? 
Some of the stuff I read this morning is barely comprehensible. In most reports the stabbing incident in the Israeli Embassy in Jordan and the subsequent release of the Israeli security guard (from where? By whom?)  was so poorly explained that no-one could have properly understood who did what and why. The leftie press evidently sympathised with the perpetrator, almost absolving him of responsibility by calling him a teenager or 'teen'. 

The Guardian has this: 
“The announcement came shortly after the evacuation of all Israeli diplomats from the embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman, following an incident in which an Israeli security guard shot two Jordanians including a teenager who had allegedly stabbed him with a screwdriver.”

Leftie newspaper Haaretz (Israel’s very own Guardian) has this:
“The Israeli government was faced with an additional crisis on Sunday when an Israeli Embassy guard in Jordan was barred from leaving the country after shooting dead a Jordanian teen who tried to stab him

However, in my opinion the most cogent report was in the Washington Post. It was the only one that made sense throughout.  With far more clarity, their account of the incident calls the perpetrator a Jordanian workman, which is surely more objective and less emotive:
“On Sunday, a Jordanian workman of Palestinian descent used a screwdriver to stab and wound an Israeli security guard at the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman. The guard shot and killed the assailant and killed another Jordanian, reportedly an innocent bystander.”
This video from JPost was on Facebook


The way the “al-Aqsa incident” is being explained varies greatly. The BBC’s version is so dumbed down I won’t even bother to address it. I’ll leave it to primary schools, who might like to use it for year 6 comprehension. (Do schools still do ‘comprehension'?)

Several reports amplify the so-called ‘threat to al-Aqsa’,  so-called because the Muslims believe the Jews are about to destroy their holy site and replace it with something Jewey.

There’s no smoke without fire as the saying goes, and there are indeed some religious Jews  campaigning for the right to pray there. Why this is seen as the end of the world is inexplicable to most rational people, but rationality doesn’t come into it. The status quo, whereby Jews can visit but must not pray, is being upheld by the present Israeli government and will be for the foreseeable future.
 The threat to al-Aqsa is imaginary and a whopping great pretext for rage.

The incident that provoked the metal detector fiasco was also reported in ways that suited the appropriate agenda.

The Washington Post sets it out briefly and simply thus:
“Netanyahu and his supporters said the metal scanners were needed after three Arab Israeli gunmen smuggled homemade machine guns into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on July 14, then shot and killed two Israeli policemen at the site, which both Muslims and Jews regard as holy.”

If you’ve been following the story you’ll also be aware that the two murdered policeman were not ‘Juze' but Druze, and they were actually on guard duty to protect the worshippers at al-Aqsa. You couldn’t make it up, as they say on the interweb.

The diplomacy behind the decision to remove the metal detectors is set out by the media in various ways too, but again the Washington Post article is the easiest to understand. 

Commenters regard Israel’s decision as capitulation and a sign of weakness or pragmatic and wise, depending on their political stance. One thing comes up a lot, which is the fact that metal detectors are currently part of everyday life all over the world. In these dangerous times the necessity for security measures that inconvenience us all are in no small part due to the ubiquity of Islamic terrorism. (could you make that up?)

In its latest bulletins the BBC has reversed the naming of Jerusalem’s infamous flashpoint. In a later report it’s now being called “Temple Mount, known to Muslims as  al-Haram ash-Sharif.” 
(The news is currently moving down the charts.)

Obviously, when the metal detectors are disposed of the Israelis intend to install more subtle, even more dastardly security apparatus, which will do nothing at all to alleviate the Palestinians’ primary grievance, the Judaisation of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. 

There will be trouble ahead.

Sunday 23 July 2017

More Random Thoughts

It's proving very difficult to focus on BBC bias at the moment. The time for posting is proving harder and harder to find, and without the time to do proper research it feels as if I'm dipping in - and I really don't like just dipping in. I like nailing things down, with hundreds and hundreds of nails and twenty varieties of hammer. I feel that only when you listen to every edition of a BBC programmes (like Mark Mardell's The World This Weekend or Dateline London) do you get to appreciate that it is possible to work out how BBC bias actually functions and, with enough time and energy, to prove it.

I've proved it (beyond doubt) to my own satisfaction and, maybe, to yours but why don't I feel that I've proved it beyond anyone's reasonable satisfaction. Why? Because I haven't systematised it enough probably. Timings for every Brexit-related segment showing the massive disparity I know there's been (on both The World This Weekend and Dateline London) between the time given for pro-Brexit voices and anti-Brexit voices would help. Listing every question put would also help. And, yes, counting interruptions would help too. As would focusing analytically on the words used. Anything else? 

Is nailing things down as tightly as possible actually necessary though? Why shouldn't just 'dipping in', saying it how you see it, be enough? Doing so might make more of an impact than timing and counting?

Answer (after blinding flash!): There's room for both. If only there were time for both. Or time for anything really.


Yolande Knell

There have been some horrible events in and around Israel in recent days. I've seen some of the BBC reports. One from Alan Johnston - back (to my surprise) as a BBC Middle East editor a decade after his kidnapping by Palestinian terrorists (prompting claims of Stockholm syndrome after his release) - showed violence from Palestinian rioters in Jerusalem and the Israeli response. It contrasted sharply with Yolande Knell's much-broadcast and very gimmicky report which used only images of the Israeli authorities responding (to something) with skunk water, stun grenades, etc, and Yolande (twice, because of the gimmicky repetition) fleeing from their tear gas. No violence was shown from the Palestinians. It was as if Israeli was just using force for no good reason.

The most gruesome event there in recent days has been the murder of members of the Salomon family eating a Sabbath meal in celebration of their newborn grandson in the Israeli settlement of Halamish. The teenage terrorist knocked on their door, they opened it, he began stabbing them, murdering the grandfather, his daughter and son, and injuring the grandmother. The grandchildren were rescued. Not untypically, the human details of the Israeli family and their story, including their names, haven't been included in the BBC's online report of the attack.

This sort of thing raises serious questions about BBC reporting, doesn't it?


Meanwhile, down the road in Tel Aviv, Radiohead - ignoring Ken Loach and all manner of other BDS campaigners - performed their longest concert for years this past week. Thom Yorke was typically gnomic but (just as typically) left no doubts about where he stood. "A lot was said about this, but in the end we played some music", he said. (And Radiohead will be back in Israel next year). The BBC's write-up, Radiohead defy critics to play Israel, began like this:

The rest of the article wasn't so bad though.

As Israelis say to all those terrorists who keep trying to slaughter them, "This is what you'll get/This is what you'll get/This is what you'll get/When you mess with us"...


And talking of musicians, Daniel Barenboim's anti-Brexit speech at the Proms has drawn a lot of flak, most incisively from Douglas Murray at The Spectator. We know that the BBC were aware in advance of an earlier pro-EU bit of point-scoring by pianist Igor Levit and allowed it to go ahead, so what did they know about Mr. Barenboim's pro-EU speech in advance? What did they say to him about it? And what's coming next? And who's doing the Last Night this years? Maestro Guy Verhofstadt? 

Mr B's two concerts - Sibelius, Birtwistle and Elgar (both symphonies) - were excellent though. I even ended up re-listening to the Birtwistle three times. 


Radio 4's Dead Ringers is provoking some comment this series. There's no doubt, from Twitter, as to which new 'character' has been its main talking point. It's chirpy "Brexit Bulldog" David Davis, whose negotiations skills usually end up in his death. (He even ended up in Hell last week). The cartoonish nature of the Brexit Bulldog's self-delusions and self-induced disasters are hard not to laugh at. It's proving popular because it's essentially an old-fashioned comedy routine (despite being put to an anti-Brexit purpose). Is it effective satire? Well, it may be 'fake news' but it might still make Mr Davis a laughing stock with Radio 4 listeners, however representative (or unrepresentative) they are - though I (with hope in my heart) credit many of them with the ability to differentiate Mr Davis from his Dead Ringer caricature. 

That said, Dead Ringers is also presenting us with an impersonation of John McDonnell - another of its new regular characters - and making him out to be a mentally unhinged Marxist who is trying (and failing) to appear cuddly. His every attempt to talk about his allotment turns into a murderous Maoist diatribe against the bourgeoisie. 


I'm still, of course, keeping up with Dateline London. I noted the way centre-right commentator Alex Deane (quite superb as ever) was introduced as a "Conservative commentator" while far-left commentator (and Corbyn fan) Rachel Shabi was introduced as a "Middle East expert". That was very flattering to Rachel. If she's really a Middle East expert then I'm hoping to be called 'an expert in loop quantum gravity' some time soon. "Middle East expert" my posterior!

Nothing new under the sun

As regular readers will know, however variable the levels of bias might be on some BBC programmes, there's one programme that can pretty much always be relied upon to be biased, particularly on the issue of Brexit: Mark Mardell's The World This Weekend.

I can't think of a BBC programme that's even comes close to being as relentlessly biased in one direction over such a long period (except for Today, the World Tonight, Newsnight and PM, etc). 

It's pretty much guaranteed that whenever Brexit is a featured topic, TWTW will find a negative angle about it and proceed to steamroller that angle over its listeners' ears for much of the programme.

Several previous posts have begun with variations on the following theme:

It's like a cookie-cutter template (for them and for me!). 

So how did Mark Mardell open the show today? With these (entirely characteristic) words:
Welcome to The World this Weekend. This is Mark Mardell. The head of the powerful association representing German carmakers is worried about the way Brexit is going, and he's hardly alone:
Voice 1: What would help us would be decisions and fast decisions.

Voice 2: Policymakers in Berlin are surprised and worried about the extent of confusion and the somewhat incoherent messages that come out of London.

Voice 3The importance of the European Union for German confidence is much higher than the importance of a bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom.

Voice 4: We are actually preparing for tariffs. It would worsen our business.

Voice 5: I miss the traditional British pragmatism and I see more and more ideological points of view which make pragmatism very difficult.
We've been to Stuttgart and Berlin to hear the views of German industry, and we'll talk to former Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson.
Yes, it was déjà vu all over again.

Once again, Mark Mardell trotted off on a foreign jaunt (lucky him!), loaded us poor listeners down with voice after voice after voice after voice bemoaning Brexit (a section which went on for well about twelve-and-a-half minutes), and then granted a brief right of reply to his pro-Brexit interviewee (which lasted about three-and-a-half minutes) - and, yes, Mark did interrupt him!

It really is always like that with TWTW when it comes to this issue (except for those occasions where there are only anti-Brexit voices).

Belated interjection (by Sue)
Craig gave me permission to say this. I didn’t hear the programme, but I think we could be shooting the messenger this time.

The vox pops Mark Mardell selected do faithfully echo the opinions I heard during my own foreign jaunt; unfortunately we’d probably rather not hear these views.

I spoke to British passport-holders resident in Germany who were very worried. They were uncertain about their future status, their entitlement to healthcare and social care should they need it in old age.

Their policymakers were telling them that messages coming out of London were ‘somewhat incoherent’. I don’t think their media covers Britain’s case for Brexit the way ours presents the case against, if at all.

“The importance of the European Union for German confidence is much higher than the importance of a bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom.” says vox pop 3.

That’s what I meant when I said in my earlier post: “their ideological (pro EU) position trumps all concerns and worries over trade issues. In other words, even if they do ‘need us more than we need them’ trade-wise, they’ll happily suck it up for the sake of the Union. They say unity within the EU reigns supreme, even more so now with Macron onside.”
What Mark Mardell did was to give us a realistic impression of public opinion from the other side of the channel.
You may argue that he should have made more of the solitary pro-Brexit voice you say he featured, but we do get to hear pro-Brexit arguments from our own pro-Brexit British MPs, if not on TWTW from Mark Mardell. We do see Liam Fox and David Davis on our screens and there are plenty of pro-Brexit voices to be seen, heard and read in the British media.

Because of this, the BBC might argue that balance is achieved ‘over time’. If that’s their case, it could have been made clearer, but we can’t expect every single thing to be counterbalanced by an opposing view each and every time it is uttered.

I felt the British pro-Brexit arguments (their ‘other side of the coin’ ) were lacking in Germany, or absent altogether. The impression I had was that they thought all the intransigence was on our part.

Another thing that took me by surprise was the vehemence with which they protested that the EU had offered David Cameron an exceptionally reasonable deal, and they couldn’t understand why we rejected it.

Maybe the BBC is being clumsy with its presentation, but I think we need to take a step back and accept that reporting the German POV is not necessarily anti- Brexit propaganda.