Charles Moore reportedly remarked that the revelations about excessive BBC salaries that were supposed to shame the BBC into curbing them have morphed into squabbles about the gender gap, and will inevitably have the opposite effect. (Levelled up.)
People carping about each other’s pay is a terrible bore. When it concerns riches beyond our wildest dreams, to quote the eminent philosopher Robbie Williams, it becomes part galling, part comical.
One such carpist is our friend Jeremy Bowen (£150,000 - 199,999) who is not happy.
I hear he’d been tweeting about this so I had a quick look. His Twitter feed is 99% retweets by Our Man in the Middle East of tweets from fans of all shapes and sizes praising his series “Our Man in the Middle East” to high heaven.
People have been riveted. They’ve been bingeing on the podcast, which contains the whole 25 episodes back-to-back, and learning oh so much about the Middle East.
Somewhere in there one senses a whiff of virtue-signalling in relation to their ability to ‘love’ a serious subject, as opposed to, say, watching box sets of whatever the current box-set set are watching.
It appears that Jeremy Bowen is now, kind of, the idiot’s version of a serious historian - in the Stephen Fry sense.
In amongst the adulation, there was a request for advice about ‘what to read’, as a starter if you like, about the Middle East. Our man’s recommendation was a book called “The Arabs” by Eugene Rogan. The title alone signals that the book might not be the epitome of objectivity, at least, on Israel. A little research backs up this suspicion, although a blogger called “The Angry Arab” is quite critical of the depth of the author’s pedagogical familiarity with Islam. (Reservations on both sides so he must be doing something right (!) )
Casting wider - a review by Dr. Matthew Hughes of another of professor Rogan’s books “The War for Palestine” places Eugene Rogan firmly in the category of revisionist historian, which I suppose does little more than confirm my own bias.
Israel’s supporters generally see Jeremy Bowen’s commentaries on the Middle East as pedestrian and partisan.
Celebration or triumphalism? Religious Zionists dance to commemorate 50th anniversary of capturing East Jerusalem pic.twitter.com/RRPVQIgIXZ— Jeremy Bowen (@BowenBBC) May 24, 2017
Well, that's a loaded statement. How about you report the news rather than make it? pic.twitter.com/p6UY0F1vz9— Jason Lax (@jasonlax) May 24, 2017
I don’t know enough about the wider issues concerning the Arab/Islamic world to critique Jeremy Bowen’s essays on Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Iran or the Gulf states but on the particular subject that interests me I deeply regret that he is represented by the BBC as the ultimate authority on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He rarely has anything informative to say on Islam or the antisemitism that drives the conflict and keeps it alight.
I do understand why people find his delivery appealing and accessible.
As we’ve said before, Jeremy Bowen and the BBC seem to think the history of the Middle East began in 1967. Now a whole new generation of ‘experts’ on the Middle East has been engendered and Jeremy Bowen will be in the running for a pay rise.