Thursday 31 August 2017

Who to believe again?

Well, the Tower Hamlets story has got a whole lot more complicated and the question 'Who to believe?' has become even murkier. 

Andrew Norfolk, the Times journalist who bravely exposed the Rotherham grooming scandal and who first broke the Tower Hamlets story on Monday morning, is coming under severe fire and facing accusations of 'sensationalism' and 'misreporting' from various quarters, especially the left-leaning media and Muslim organisations. 

His latest update does suggest that the story is a good deal less simple than it first appeared.

The 'white Christian girl' comes from a troubled family background, involving drugs. It appears that she comes from a family with a non-practising Muslim background - though the Muslim heritage of parts of the family is (curiously) disputed. The grandmother into whose care the poor girl is now being entrusted doesn't speak perfect English either (apparently) and may take her out of the country.

Reading the court order itself doesn't resolve the question of whether the judge praised or damned (or damned with faint praise) the Times's reporting. The court order itself contains no such praise. The praise (directly) quoted in the Times itself must have been made in court or in a communication between the court and the the Times (unless we assume that Mr. Norfolk was making it up). 

Reading Martin Bashir and Callum May's BBC rebuttal of the Times's reporting last night (and then thinking about it overnight), it struck me that that they had got it wrong by mixing up the judge with the court-appointed guardian. I went to bed confused by that.

They asserted in their opening paragraph:
There were no concerns about the welfare of a Christian girl said to have been fostered by a Muslim family, a family court judge has ruled.
but several paragraphs later they wrote:
The court-appointed guardian visited the foster family and reported no problems and that the child had been well cared for.
That didn't make sense to me, and reading the court order tonight confirms that I was right to smell a rat.

It makes it clear that the family court judge herself did not rule that "there were no concerns". She had nothing whatsoever to say on that point. It was the 'court-appointed guardian' who had no concerns on that front, not the judge.

The BBC reporters (Mr. Bashir and Mr. May) obviously confused the views of the 'court-appointed guardian' with that of the 'family court judge'. 

Given that their report was full of criticism of other media outlets' reporting, this was a woeful slip on their part.

(And even the Independent offshoot iNews says the BBC got this wrong).

Andrew Norfolk

That said, Andrew Norfolk does need to answer some serious questions. 

I watched last night's Newsnight, and from the very start Newsnight took the line that the reporting of the story (by the Times and others) had been 'disappointing' (as one of its talking heads put it) and that there was 'nothing to see here'. That was much as would expect from Newsnight. It was what I'd seen on the BBC website too. The BBC was 'of one voice' on this. 

But one of Evan Davis's guests was Andrew Norfolk himself. Newsnight, however, firmly placed him in the dock.

He was asked about why he had failed to mention that "the appointed guardian had found no problems" and about whether the Times's headline and strapline were "appropriate" in suggesting that "the judge had responded to the media coverage". 

Well, we're getting ever deeper and deeper into minutiae but, re-reading all of Andrew Norfolk's reports, I agree with his defence that if anyone read the article he published yesterday they'd find that he did indeed quote the judge as saying that the media coverage was no factor in her decision. 

That said, Evan was asking about this headline and strapline:

Well, I think Mr. Norfolk's defence still holds up there. The headline didn't say what Evan implied it said. The implications of the strapline have been discussed above (in paragraph 5 of this post) and it doesn't reinforce what Evan was implying either. 

However, when Andrew Norfolk responded to Evan Davis's charge that he'd failed to mention that "the appointed guardian had found no problems" and said that he "did" reflect the child's guardian had no concerns, my careful re-reading of all of his reports found that he actually didn't reflect that in any of them. Evan, evidently taken aback, replied, " If you said the guardian had no concerns, I'm sorry. I didn't see it. I looked at the piece". Well, I have to say that I'm with Evan here. I've looked at the piece - and all the other pieces - and, as I say, I can't find any mention of that in any of them. (Can you?)

The strong whiff of deep unease I have about this is that the elephant in the room in all of the BBC's coverage of this story that I've seen - including Newsnight's coverage - has been the very elephant that provoked so much shock when the story was first reported - i.e. the fact that a Christian girl was placed by Tower Hamlets council in the care of two Muslim families where, according to the Times, the women wear niqabs or burkas, and remove Christian crosses from necklaces, and didn't let the child eat bacon, and insulted Western women's morals and Western culture.

The BBC seems to have exorcised any suggestions of Muslim extremism from their reporting (suggestions the Times took from an official Tower Hamlets report).

The whole thing has felt like a concerted effort at deflection from the BBC.

Any thoughts you might have on this would be gratefully received (as ever).

'Fair and balanced'

Impartial BBC reporters have, naturally, tweeted about it...

...including the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson. 

He, characteristically, kept his own views very firmly to himself. 

Reading his tweets I for one would never know if he approved or disapproved of the decision, so impartial is he (Nurse! Nurse!):

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Who to believe?

Andrew Norfolk's continuing coverage in The Times of the case of the five-year-old Christian girl placed into the care of Muslims families by Tower Hamlets Council is now being strongly countered by the BBC News website. 

Since the story's initial reporting, the BBC website has posted a video headlined 'My Muslim family fostered kids from different faiths' and featured a full-length article headlined 'My Muslim family and our foster kids' - both based on the same family and both promoting a positive view of Muslim fostering of non-Muslim children. The BBC's purpose in vigorously pushing such a story isn't hard to guess.

Three new articles have been published today following yesterday's ruling that the girl should be removed from the Muslim family now caring for her and placed with her maternal grandmother instead (as reported in this morning's Times): Ruling over 'Muslim foster case' girlMuslim foster case: The rules and the reality; and 'No concerns' with mixed faith foster case

The last of those articles - by Martin Bashir and Callum May - is the most remarkable in that it abruptly dismisses The Times's take on the story in its opening paragraph - a statement which to anyone who has read about the story elsewhere might sound uncannily like a 'nothing to see here' kind of statement:
There were no concerns about the welfare of a Christian girl said to have been fostered by a Muslim family, a family court judge has ruled.
And that's that as far as the ruling itself is concerned, despite it seeming to be a very limited take on the judge's ruling compared to other reports - and very different to that of Andrew Norfolk today

The Bashir/May article - just as the main BBC report this morning did -  then spends much of the rest of its time giving the Council's defence while focusing repeatedly of criticism of the newspaper reporting of the story. 

It reads like a rebuttal. 

According to Mr. Norfolk, however, the judge specifically praised the Times in her ruling (saying it "acted responsibly in raising 'very concerning' matters of 'legitimate public interest'), and, contrary to the BBC report, suggested that the judge did have concerns given that she said that councils should seek "culturally-matched placements" for vulnerable children:

None of those direct quotes appears in those BBC's reports.

The full court order is apparently going to be published. This is absolutely vital here as the BBC's take on what Khatun Sapnara ruled and the Times's take on what she ruled are so wildly different that one media organisation must be grossly misreporting the story, and could even end up being seriously discredited over this.

P.S. Newssniffer shows that the Bashir/May report has been edited, possibly to tone down the impression of editorialising. The first version read:
Contrary to some media reports, the family was English-speaking.
The revised version reads:
Contrary to some media reports the council claimed the foster family was English-speaking.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Fresh in

If you haven’t yet seen the bit of film I linked to in this post you’re too late. You've missed it. Channel 4 has removed it from the interweb. It’s gone. (So has Assem Baig.)

 Read more; meanwhile this clip from Channel 4 News is, for the time being, on Youtube. 

Oh, and rest assured, Channel 4 news is investigating.

I think I have reinstated the missing film on the Browbeaten thread; be quick if you haven't seen it yet as it will probably be gone again soon. 

Monday 28 August 2017

Mishal Husain's view

Mishal Husain isn't happy about today's lead story in the Times:

For a contrasting opinion on this story, please read this by Melanie Phillips

Further thoughts and an update

Following my earlier piece, Craig has reminded me that Amina Lone, like the majority of her co-religionists, is "actively pro-Palestinian" on Twitter. Quelle surprise, as they say. 
No matter how outspoken a moderate Muslima may be in going public with her criticism of regressive cultural practices, she will still oppose Israel and Zionism. You can take the misogyny out of a moderate but you can’t take the antisemitism out of a Muslim. Or something. 

Do look at Amina Lone’s Twitter feed for a minute.  Here she says the deselection “happened in June not because of any recent interviews”.
It just shows how misconceptions (lies?) jet round the world before the truth (whatever that is) has time to put its burka on.

Even if her deselection is genuinely nowt to do with Sarah Champion’s aborted criticism of Muslim grooming gangs, the perception that it is has been generally accepted as truthful.
The trouble is that, true or false, it has had  little impact on the Labour Party’s standing, just as all the rest of the appalling stuff that pours forth from team Corbyn is ignored or glossed over by the MSM.

Also via the same timeline, note this series of tweets about the eyebrow brigade from “uberfeminist” including several foul-mouthed and embittered tweets by Nadia Chan. I wonder why Peter Kosminsky didn't base one of his characters on Ms Chan? His drama would have gained in authenticity what it might have lost in empathy.


Here’s another P.S. This one is to Craig’s Andrew Norfolk scoop.

Click on the link to the paper review with Daisy McArthur and Tim Stanley. Did you spot Daisy McArthur’s immediate response to the story? She began with a preemptive caveat, presumably to head off the politically correct protests from her friends and colleagues that she assumed would be forthcoming.
“There’s a bit of me that thinks there…well, there’s a lot of me that thinks there is more to this story than meets the eye, and I suspect this might be the beginning of a number of stories in Tower Hamlets.  
The nub of the story is that this 5 year old little girl, you can see her picture on the front page there pixellated, has been placed, has gone into foster care taken away from her mother and has been placed um with a Muslim family who don’t speak English all the time at home and obviously you can see there in the picture wears a niquab or a burka. 
Now the controversy is that people will immediately think this is pandering to you know racist views - why shouldn’t you have one ethnicity tor one religion fostering another? Of course when you come down to it, if the child can’t make herself understood or doesn’t speak the same language as this family, if the child’s not used to somebody having their face covered, I think that is a serious, serious problem.

No Daisy. The controversy is not that, and by the way, what are these racist views to which you allude, prey? Oh, you mean people who suffer from that terrible affliction, Islamophobia.

Yes, it might indeed be less controversial if families could foster within their own culture. Yes, cultural considerations might have to take a back seat when needs must, but why must we turn this particular case on its head to test our own outrage? Are we so afraid of being accused of hypocrisy? 
Do we really need to defend our outrage at this scandalous scenario by bringing up the case of, say, the UKIP family who were allegedly denied the right to foster because of their politically incorrect values?   Whataboutery like that shouldn't even be necessary.

Please, what’s wrong with a bit of inconsistency in this case? Have we all forgotten? This is Britain for heaven’s sake, not Pakibloodystan.  Oh, I forgot; it was Tower Hamlets.

Has Andrew Norfolk exposed another scandal?

Andrew Norfolk, The Times

The Times has a disturbing report today by Andrew Norfolk about Tower Hamlets council placing a five-year-old white Christian girl in the care of two Muslim households in London.

The girl apparently became "very distressed" because in one of the households they "don't speak English", removed her necklace which had a Christian cross on it, suggested she learn Arabic, refused to allow her to eat her favourite food carbonara because it contained bacon, and taught her to think that "Christmas and Easter are stupid" and that "European women are stupid and alcoholic". Her first carer wore a niqab in public. Her second carer wears the full burka in public.

(Mr. Norfolk is, of course, the reporter who did so much to expose the Rotherham grooming scandal.)

It was good to see that last night's The Papers on the BBC News Channel led with the story, though with words of caution from BBC presenter Julian Worricker about the report's "claims". He presented the council's response and added this caveat:
Just to round this particular conversation off: Allegations there at the moment. Obviously we can't verify them at this point ourselves but we put them out there because there it is on the front page of the Times and we put the council's view.
Given the obvious importance of such a story it's to be hoped that the BBC will follow it up extensively, and not just because it's on the front page of the Times. It raises all manner of necessary questions. 

Today has been covering it in their paper reviews too, with Justin Webb justly adding that Andrew Norfolk "has a very wide experience in these matters".

The BBC News website, so far, only features the story in its paper review and, unfortunately, that appears to show a decision being made by the BBC website not to give this Times report the greatest attention. The BBC's choice of featured headlines to illustrate their 'The Papers' article selects two other headlines instead:

and the article's coverage of the Times's lead story comes next to last. 

If the BBC were to run with this story it would force a national discussion on its many implications. Will the BBC choose to do so, or choose to play it down instead?

Sunday 27 August 2017


Unfortunately, the fashion for painting huge eyebrows on top of our actual eyebrows is still with us. (The actual fashion is, like, ‘so over’, but people will fail to keep up with the cutting edge. 

As heavy-handed with invective as they are with war-paint, two Muslimas, one who describes herself as an anti-colonialist anti-Imperialist Islamist and another who says she is as a ‘third generation British Asian Pakistani woman with distinctly left-leaning politics’ are part of a group that have set up a Muslim ladies’ book club. And very angry, they are. Too angry for the local Mosque, i.e., pretty angry.

They have assembled in a cafe with interviewer Assed Baig to discuss the findings of yet another inquiry, and are  being filmed for Channel 4 News. After eighteen months of research the inquiry has concluded that the relationship between the government and the Muslim community is broken. 

It occurred to me that Peter Kosminsky devoted a similar number of months to his quest for the truth about Islamic State. It’s rather optimistic to assume eighteen months is long enough to get to the bottom of whatever it is that makes Muslims so angry if you can’t make the connection between that and Islam itself. Eighteen years probably wouldn’t even do it.

On this particular occasion the anger was directed at the Prevent strategy. Baig asked: “how do you safeguard children if you don’t have Prevent?”
Third generation British Asian Pakistani woman leapt into action almost before he’d finished the question.
“Review your geo-political ambitions and your foreign policy!” she proclaimed, dropping her pen with a triumphant flourish.

I’m not saying they were directly advocating or inciting violence or explicitly supporting terrorism, but the sentiment they expressed didn’t seem a million miles away from the bloody rant delivered by Michael Adebolajo when he’d finished hacking at Lee Rigby’s neck. 

Disturbingly, the ladies claimed to be highly educated. One claimed she has a ‘masters in law’, no doubt a lot of (preferably understated) eyebrows were raised at that, and really, her Facebook history indicates it’s a question of ‘what you see is what you get’. Her ’drop the pen’ / ‘foreign policy’ friend is an ‘educator’. That is not encouraging. 

Goodness knows how they’d managed to live in Britain  for three generations and still speak with barely intelligible foreign accents, and goodness knows what message Channel Four was trying to send. 

Bear in mind the plight of Amina Lone who has been deselected by the Labour Party for backing Sarah Champion’s short-lived truth-telling exercise.  

Consider, too, Peter Oborne’s inexplicable Islamophilia. Is it his hatred for Jews that drives it?  Look at this strange attack on Anne Marie Waters, whose bid for the UKIP leadership he considers dangerous. 
“I don't know which it will be. What is absolutely apparent is that Anne Marie Waters is not a happy prospect for British Islam or – I believe – for Britain.”
All this is a symptom of a world turned upside down. It doesn’t need eighteen months to figure that out.

Saturday 26 August 2017

"inside bush she dey poopoo"

BBC Pidgin

New BBC service just launched.

Reunion and Reflections with Sue and Pete

Many apologies for lack of posts during the silly season. Craig has taken leave of absence, which he assures me is only temporary, and I have to say that as I hardly ever watch or hear the BBC these days, anything I might decide to say is not necessarily on topic or of interest. 

Talking of lack of new posts, it’s quite interesting that the critique of ‘The State’ on Harry’s Place, “Five Go Off on Jihad” has been top-of-the-page for four whole days and is still generating below-the line responses. Enid Blyton would be proud.

One thing I did listen to the other day was a couple of mid-morning programmes on Radio 4. The reunion - the Wapping Dispute episode, with Sue McGregor of the near-perfect radio voice, and a mixture of Fleet Street union activists and bosses who were ‘there’. The other programme was  Reflections with Peter Hennessy and Harriet Harman. 

The Wapping lot were entertainingly combative and the politics was fascinating. The unions’ militant reaction to ‘progress’ (they didn’t think much of it) and the reasoning behind their resistance - redundancy meant they would probably lose their homes as well as their livelihoods - pitted against the inevitable march of technology seemed all but irrelevant now that print media seems quaint and old fashioned and in imminent danger of dinosauring itself out of existence altogether. Those were the days my friend, when militants were proper militant. It was good radio though.

Listening to Harriet  Harman (aka Harperson) was a bit of an eye-opener. I’ve seen quite a lot of her recently as she’s been doing the rounds, presumably trying to promote her autobiography “A Woman’s Work.”  I guess the BBC was happy to cooperate with that enterprise. 

The main thing that struck me was her claim that the ‘men’ in politics were dismissive of womankind, regarding them collectively as ‘not leadership material.’ Since Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, one couldn’t help wondering if it could have been Harriet Harman in particular rather than the sisterhood in general who wasn’t thought of as leadership material.  
She certainly sounded self pitying and shallow.
There is a lot of amused chatter about Laura Pidcock and her silly statement about never  ever wanting to ‘be friends’ with a Tory. Well, what about Harriet’s bizarre tale about “not wanting Margaret Thatcher to set eyes on her baby”. (She hid her baby and darted into a side room when she saw the PM bearing down on her in the corridor) narrowly avoiding an evil glance or a wicked spell.

These ladies’ childish and asinine declarations do them little favours. Are they expecting people to think of them as leadership material?

Thursday 24 August 2017

The State, last episode.

This blog has kindly given itself permission to address matters other than BBC bias, although (arguably) much of our grumbles can be traced back to the BBC.
So, unapologetically, this is another post about The State. Yes, it was shown on Channel 4. If you’re looking for BBC-only content, you need to take a right at the crossroads and straight on - you can’t miss it.

There has been quite a lot of coverage of Peter Kosmisnky’s four part series about British would-be jihadis and jihadi brides.  Opinion is divided, but one particular complaint was unanimous. Most critics thought that the drama needed a back story. What, they wanted to know, led these particular characters to radicalisation? 
If you’re looking for answers, Peter Kosminsky isn’t going to be providing them. 

Kosminsky has been telling the media that he and his team spent eighteen months trawling through reams of testimony and guidance from witnesses and experts on Islam.  
(Otherwise how could a 61 year old middle-class Bafta-winning film-maker justify making a ground-breaking film about the subject?)

I’m sure he believes he knows enough - at least enough to take a selection of interesting anecdotes and string them together into a gritty award-winning work.

As human beings we’re all capable of holding dozens of contradictory beliefs and opinions at once. Cognitive dissonance, isn’t it?  

Here, the script delivered, and we were expected to swallow, leading characters so full of cognitive dissonance that the finished product came across as a string of anecdotes cobbled together - that’ll do - and very heavy reliance on the acting and Kosminsky’s cinematographic expertise to see it through. 

One example of what seemed to be an isolated  ‘interesting factoid’ thrown in for the sake of it, was protagonist Jalal being advised to speak Arabic, not English, because the particularly volatile knife-wielding psychopath and beheader-in-chief had ‘a thing’ about Brits. I can almost hear Kosminsky’s team saying “That’s interesting, we’ll use that one.”  

Another was the pick ’n’ mix assortment of individuals amongst the new recruits, like a box of Milk Tray. One blonde, one German, one ex-squaddie, one long-haired lover from Liverpool and one or two nutty centres that no-one likes.

I did wonder whether the palatial ‘married quarters’ we saw were based on fact. Also, the sudden appearance and departure of Jalal’s father was an odd and implausible vehicle for the introduction of a ‘reasonable’ voice into the mix. In the final episode, the viewer is urged to sympathise with the disillusioned escapee rather than the nasty security services agent who makes her an offer she can’t refuse.  

I’m not saying that Peter Kosmisnky is sitting there going “fooled y'all!”. I think his liberal leftie mindset is sincere, visceral and limiting. He can’t conceive of any starting point other than his own, so his characters are inherently empathetic, sensitive and human, with inexplicable tacked-on bouts of inhumanity and stupidity. The story made little or no attempt to explore the psychological trauma of the sexual and imaginative repression inflicted upon followers of  ‘conservative’ Islam. One might take that omission as typical liberal leftie denial.

Some good comments on Harry’s Place. For example commenter Sarka relays some observations from Jonathan Spyer on Facebook.
"You may remember Peter Kosminsky as the British dramatist who reimagined Israeli Jews as Norwegian-looking people who all live in mansions with swimming pools in 'The Promise.' He has now topped this feat of the imagination with his new series, 'The State', which reimagines British recruits to ISIS as cheery yet sensitive types looking for dignity and to make a better world. Kosminsky exemplifies the played out west European haute bourgeoisie, fascinated and enchanted by the people who want to rip them apart. An astonishing marker of the times.”

Later in the discussion he like others said that Kosminsky's decision not to go into the question of motivation (characters' back-stories) is a weakness, but also reflects his inability to conceive of people genuinely having religious and ultra-nationalist motivations...the characters are therefore "lightly romanticised" by presentation as basically nice decent lefty-ish types whose (essentially secular) idealism and youth just causes them to make a mistake

"For those with strong stomachs: the drama concluded last night with a portrayal of a Yezidi slave girl who fell in love and offered herself sexually to her kind British jihadi captor (who nobly refused her advances), evidence of ISIS men executed because they refused to fight their fellow 'resistance' members in the YPG (whaaaaat) and a depiction of IS atrocities in the context of atrocities committed against them by their (supposed) great rivals - Assad's army. A peek into the deeply strange world not of Sunni jihadis, who aren’t like this at all, but of British white lefties. Truly repulsive"

Wednesday 23 August 2017

The State (episode 3)

Isn’t it odd that as soon as you realise that someone who you’ve admired is a run-of-the-mill antisemite your admiration instantly slams into reverse?
For example I used to like Brian Sewell’s acerbic critiques of pretentious art until he said something about “Manchester’s greedy Jews. I mean how many of Manchester’s greedy Jews would a self-regarding old queen who makes a living out of sneering actually know? See what I mean? One minute you like, next you don’t.

Anyway, this might apply to me and Peter Kosmisnsky. I have to admit his films have their good points. Like Ken Loach, perhaps. But having seem the third episode of ‘The State’ I’m wondering if I’ve been over-estimating him.

Yesterday I gave the film credit for aiming beyond the superficial message, “it’s so awful no-one’s gonna want to run away and join Isis”. I put forward the hypothesis that he was sending a more ambitious and perhaps subliminal signal, i.e., ISIS has got (the real) Islam all wrong; true Islam is peaceful.

Maybe, after all, he is only saying is that joining Islamic State is less romantic than running away to join the Foreign Legion, (isn’t that what the disenfranchised used to do?) so don’t do it. 

Anyway the drama slid into farce during last night’s episode. Two scenes in particular were positively cartoonish. Number one was a ‘slave market’ where the histrionic sobbing and cowering reminded me of a rather sophisticated sixth-form production of Les Mis.

Number two. The prize for the most implausible scene showed our feisty female heroine, the doctor (no, not that doctor) risking death by making a clandestine, unchaperoned visit to the only ‘nice’ man she’d come across since she arrived, a doctor colleague at the hospital. She had a cunning plan. To avoid becoming the second wife of a horrid scary man, she proposed marriage to her  unmarried colleague, only to deduce from his momentary hesitation a deadly secret that no-one else had ever spotted. “Are you gay?” (He was.) I can’t be the only one who found that scenario particularly laughable. 

There are several other unanswered questions, too numerous to list, though I would quite like to know what happened to the defiant ‘singing’ slave when the non-English-speaking shahid went to paradisio, leaving his distraught widow behind.

I do understand all those people who say they’re not going to watch it on principle, but I’m not one of them. Let me rephrase that. “I’m not a refusenik, but I can understand those that are.” 

I caught the tail end of Channel 4 News, where an interview with Peter Kosminsky was just winding up. Unfortunately I missed it, but I wonder if he was justifying the film and/or defending his own credibility as an authority on the subject, as he did with The Promise. 

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Nothing to do with Islam

I have been watching Peter Kosminsky’s Channel 4 series 'The State' and also reading the reviews. They are diverse. 

The Telegraph, for example, takes it seriously. At first  Michael Horgan approaches his 4 star review as if it were just any old drama.  Then he goes into the moral  issues.
“This wasn’t easy viewing but it was eye-openingly powerful. Based on exhaustive research and first-hand accounts, its authenticity shone through.”

I understand that “Bafta-winning director Peter Kosminsky” is boasting that eighteen months of research went into the production. Well, good for him. What does that mean, though? Not a lot.

Remember his much praised four-parter “The Promise”? He and his team allegedly put a couple of years into ‘researching’ that, but he still came up with a biased and twisted portrait of Israel, past and present. Even more galling, he put himself up as an educator, taking part in online chats about the Israel - Palestinian conflict as if he sees himself as some kind of historian and authority on the Middle East. The public lapped it up. How many of the public who hung gratefully upon his every word are aware that not long afterwards Kosmisnsky was sitting on panels alongside anti-Zionist committees and PSC campaigners, denouncing Israel for all he was worth?

Christopher Stevens, reviewing the series in the Daily Mail takes a more robust approach. Firstly, he criticises Channel Four for not postponing the series in view of the recent terrorism in Barcelona. Then he says the film is making ISIS ‘cool’. 

“It is sickening. But it isn’t the gore and scattered limbs that leave a tight knot in the stomach: it is the moist-eyed adulation as The State pleads with us not just to sympathise with the British jihadis but to love them.”
 However, this is the part that the other reviewers are unlikely to mention.
“No one will be surprised to discover that the writer and director of the State, Peter Kosminsky, is not a veteran of the civil war in Syria. He did not carry out research missions to Raqqa and Aleppo.  
In fact, middle-class film-maker Kosminsky is 61 years old and Oxbridge-educated, the epitome of the London media luvvie who is desperate to demonstrate that he is less racist than anyone else at his Hampstead dinner party. He’s been the subject of a South Bank Show profile by Melvyn Bragg. You get the picture. 
The dialogue of The State gives him away at every moment. It’s Dad-speak, a middle-aged man’s failed effort to sound ‘down with the kids’, which parrots comical slang last used in the 1970s by the Bay City Rollers – words such as ‘super-cool’. 
In tonight’s opening scene, one fighter waves his AK47 and shouts: ‘This is better than flipping burgers!’ It’s meant to be a victory shout – but instead, the line is fake, patronising and, in its assumption that well-educated British Asians like him are destined to work at McDonald’s, dismissively racist. 
Kosminsky’s dead ear for dialogue is matched by his inability to smell out lies. Because all the scenes are based on second-hand research, they mirror the propaganda videos that cascade on to the internet, showing life under Sharia law. Much of the series consists of the director’s attempts to capture the camera angles common in phone videos of battlefields and marketplaces. 
It’s baffling that a man who knows how the television world works – he won Emmys and Baftas for his adaptation of Wolf Hall, after all – seems blind to the crass manipulation of Islamic State’s official videos. Kosminsky believes that the choreographed beheadings and the carefully curated aftermath of bombings are true and accurate depictions of ISIS life.

Now, let’s be clear. We have only seen two out of four episodes and they are indeed compelling cinematically. My theory is that we might be shown the futility, the gore, the death and the dirt, but I bet the main message we’ll be encouraged to take away from Peter Kosminsky is that Islamic State (so-called) is a perversion of Islam. 

There are already a few hints at that. For example “Single mother Shakira (Ony Uhiara)” who “wanted to deploy her skills as a junior doctor in a Raqqa hospital” is surprised to find that she must obey all the extreme modesty regulations and restrictions as an inferior woman, despite having much needed medical skills. The fact that she was unprepared for that situation seems highly implausible, but that aside, she is continually correcting her ‘masters’ over koranic principles. She knows more than they do about their religion! 

Islam is not so bad after all! See? We’re going to be told by Peter Kosminsky (I’m prepared to stick my neck out here) that the real Islam is a peaceful religion, and has nothing whatever to do with ISIS.

Tuesday Morning ramble

John Humphrys read out the wrong date this morning but I think he got away with it. (They must have spliced the right date in afterwards)

On the principle that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing I hesitate to leap into the foray over about moral equivalence between out-and-out Nazis (the alt-right) and Antifa (or, if you like, the alt-left) 

Until we have a visible body of strutting, out and proud swastika-wielding Nazis in Britain we’ll probably have a different perspective on the issue. We have a slightly different set of villains.

A discussion between Melanie Phillips and Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin about Trump’s approach to Charlottesville  took place at the end of the Sunday programme
“In the context of Donald Trump's remarks about the events in Charlottesville, Melanie Phillips and Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin discuss Moral Equivalence.” 
says the website.

“Trump was saying” said William Crawley, ” that there was no moral difference between the thugs who tried to turn Charlottesville into Nuremberg and those who came out to oppose them - the words of Rabbi Jeffery Salkin - or perhaps” he continued,”this was not, as widely portrayed, a clash between fascists and anti-fascists - it was between two groups, each of which perpetrate hatred and intolerance - the words of the columnist Melanie Phillips.” 

What followed was a civilised discussion which deserved a longer slot than it was allotted by the BBC, but William Crawley took a back seat and conducted the chairmanship rather well, I thought. (By not interrupting)

I see this as a perfect example of a topic that makes demands of the audience, starting with comprehension and historical awareness. The listener ought to know a little about, e.g., Donald Trump, American white supremacists, Nazis, fascists, antifascists, supporters of Black Lives Matter, statues that honour discredited historical figures, the antisemitic hard left and the antisemitic hard right, BDS, freedom of speech, the right to protest, violence, retaliation, self defence, murder and terrorism,  before jumping in with some superficial verdict.
Even so -  even if the historical and political context has been taken into account, there won’t be a definitive ‘right’ side.

On this occasion the speakers weren’t in complete disagreement, and they both expressed thought-provoking arguments. 

Sadly, as I said the other day, RIP Subtlety. The reaction on Twitter - I don’t want to link to any of it - but certain people were outraged that Melanie Phillips had been given a platform.


Talking of statues, we are facing the prospect of a statue of Brucie. Please, no.


Talking of facing prospects, what about the Crown Prosecution Service clamping down on online hate crime. Is racism actually illegal, then? Can hate be criminalised?  Will the CPS be able to pry right inside our brains?
Nick Robinson’s example of extreme hate was sending a Tweet to, say,  Luciana Berger, (as I believe someone did) saying: “Filthy. Jew. Bitch.”. (That wasn’t me saying it occifer, honest. I was just recounting wot Nick Robinson said) 

That’s quite hard to unpack. I mean all three words are fine, separately. It’s the three-word combination that makes it offensive. It’s not incitement to violence exactly. Can I take it that the most sensitive of the three is “Jew”? (makes it racist) Does this throw up any semantic obstacles to law enforcement?


‘No More Boys and Girls’. One minute they’re asking for positive discrimination in the workplace, next they’re insisting on gender-blindness. All that confusing stuff about boy toys and girl toys. Yet most trans “guy-to-gal” interviewees always seem to be telling us that they first realised they were in the wrong body because of their desire to wear a pretty dress. Contradictory messages? 

Monday 21 August 2017

Is there a future for British Jews

Sky News treated their Political Correspondent’s film about British Jews as a major news story yesterday. It was prominently featured throughout the day. Maybe it was a dull day for news or something, but Sky seemed to find it newsworthy. 

The story was based on the findings of a survey by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which concluded that one in six British Jews (17%) felt unwelcome in Britain and 37% felt the need to conceal their Judaism in public. 

Sky still fell into the trap (is it a trap?) of identifying “British Jews’ by showing footage of Orthodox Jews scurrying along the streets in traditional dress. However when Tamara spoke to Mandy Blumenthal in a cafe, both ladies were cunningly disguised in plain clothes. 

(I will resist going wildly off at a tangent here. Very tempted though)

Ms. Bumenthal said: 
"I can't believe I'm having to do this but I'm literally scared not of what's going to be happening in England tomorrow or even next year, but I think within the next 10 years it will not be tolerable for Jews here.”

The BBC didn’t think this story merited a slot on the main news, but they did discuss it on the Sunday Programme, the Radio 4 magazine programme that covers religious matters.

William Crawley spoke to Gideon Falter of the CAA. Falter was allowed to speak at length, but twice, when he was in full flow, Crawley interjected, crying “Gideon! Gideon!” 

Anyway, see if you can spot a pattern in the interjections. 

1.) “We’ve also got a lot of concern at the way that antisemitism is being allowed to fester in British politics….”  “Gideon!”

2.) “……the government in particular and I also think the Labour Party in particular need to be extremely worried about the message that’s currently being sent to British Jews” ”Gideon! Gideon!” 

Was Crawley trying to steer the conversation away from the antisemitism in the Labour Party? Or am I imagining it.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Are we done with Sarah Champion?

When “former race tsar” Trevor Phillips spoke out “On abuse it's time to call a spade a spade” it caused a mere ripple. Did his words carry less weight that Sarah Champion’s?

What about Trevor Kavanagh? The backlash from his “Islamophobic” piece in the Sun mainly concerned his ‘extremely poor choice of words’. His critics felt “The Muslim Problem” sounded a little too much like “The Jewish Question” and by implication, well, everyone knows how that ended up.

Sarah Champion has received much publicity, mainly praise and support, for what turned out to be a short-lived bout of truth-telling. Her subsequent apology for her ‘extremely poor choice of words’ and resignation from her post in the Labour Party (did she jump or was she pushed) was equally welcomed and derided. 
Is she weak for caving in or was she strong for speaking out? We who will not be divided, are divided.

I thought we were done with Sarah Champion, but no.  The affair still simmers. People who agreed with what she said in the Sun  are still praising her for having the courage to speak out, despite her subsequent resignation and, if I may say so, imprecise apology. Exactly which words were the extremely poor choice? All of them? We should be told.

Most people assume she was silenced by Jeremy Corbyn, but 'they would say that wouldn’t they' because they choose to see her as a political martyr rather than a vacillating self-publicist. 

For the record, I too agree with what she said in the Sun and I don’t doubt that Jeremy Corbyn welcomed her resignation and probably encouraged it, yet I still see her as a vacillating attention-seeking self publicist.  I’ll just have to accept that if it takes a vacillating, attention-seeking self-publicist to initiate a taboo-busting debate about the relationship between Islam and ‘British values’ I’ll have to lump it. But I don’t much like it.

Sarah Champion’s initial fifteen minutes of fame came about via the documentary ‘Inside the commons.” The cameras followed her rushing eagerly round the HoC learning the ropes and getting to grips with being a new MP. She was entertainingly portrayed as energetic and driven; ready willing and able to ‘do good’. Fantastic free publicity for the brand.

I repeat, many people agreed with her Sun piece; it was about time someone came out with it, and as she herself said in the Sun:
“British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls… and it’s time we faced up to it”.
Or did she? Not quite sure - later she was to claim it was the Sun wot wrote it. Maybe the Sun fiddled with the original content, who knows, (they deny it) but assuming she did write, in the body of the piece:
“There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?”

No-one who has seen her on YouTube castigating Israel over ‘the Palestine issue’ and telling an audience of Pakistani men just how passionate she was about the Palestinians could accuse Sarah Champion of being an Islamophobe. The video was so good I posted it twice. I thought it was remarkable, partly because of the inappropriate way she was 'exercising her right to bare arms' and almost flirtatiously flaunting her ‘immodesty’.  Goodness knows why she would do that, when simply denouncing Israel would have been enough to guarantee unanimous support from that particular audience - some sort of committee of local councillors. Rotherham folk.
Her disgust for Israel was peppered with references to herself:  “to me” or “for me”- a habit that surely begs a psychological diagnosis. 

Even if the only MP  brave enough to say so is an attention-seeking opportunist, the truth is that there are issues (as Jeremy Corbyn might or might not put it) with British Pakistani men and underage white girls. 
Of course the term  ‘Pakistani men’ is a euphemistic one. It’s an improvement on the  BBC’s default ‘Asian men’, but technically inaccurate since the perpetrators in the Newcastle case were not solely British Pakistanis; some originated from elsewhere; the elephant in the room is their religious/cultural  backgrounds. They’re Muslims.

If Sarah Champion was genuinely brave, she might have called them ‘Muslim men’, but either way, be it Pakistani men or Muslim men, it did turn out to be an ’extremely poor choice of words’, or extremely unwise words from an MP whose constituents are predominantly Pakistani and Muslim.

Shortly after expressing pleasure at the way the Sun presented her article, she rowed back, claiming the Sun had fiddled with it, apologised for the article and promptly resigned as ‘Shadow Secretary of State for women and equalities’.

If you’ve got that feeling of deja vu all over again but are wondering why, it’s probably because Sarah Champion has form when it comes to resigning when she sees fit. 
For example, when she thought Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable, she quit  - and when that particular bandwagon appeared to be hurtling off piste she ‘unresigned’ again, resuming her post as  “Labour’s domestic violence spokesperson” (officially “Shadow minister for preventing abuse and domestic violence) first-hand experience, evidently, qualifying her for the post, though her role as perpetrator rather than victim would ordinarily seem something of a drawback. 

Because of my dismay at Sarah Champion’s shameless sucking up to antisemites (call me paranoid) I have probably monitored her roller coaster political journey with more interest than absolutley necessary, and I know I judge her negatively / see her through a negative prism and so on.

However, praising her courage for speaking out, and for ‘saying the unsayable’ is easy. For one thing it provides cheap ammunition against Jeremy Corbyn - as if more of that was needed.
It’s just a pity that there was so little praise for the courage of people whose words can genuinely be taken at face value on the numerous occasions they have spoken out and said ‘what Sarah Champion said’. 

Can one unequivocally praise Sarah Champion for her courage without her track record diminishing the impact of her words? Former MP Denis McShane believes so, for example.  Accuracy may not have been Denis McShane’s priority; for example he wrote: 
“My plea was triggered by a young South Yorkshire Muslim, groomed by British-based Islamists, who blew himself up in Tel Aviv in a failed terrorist mission.” 
Correct me if I'm wrong, but was he referring to the 2003  terrorist Omar Khan Shariff who I understand hailed from Derby?

In 2004 Denis McShane was a Foreign Office minister representing the same Rotherham seat where Sarah Champion is a presently “hard-working Labour MP”, and he believes she was badly let down and harshly treated by her political masters. Here is a passage from his Times article:
“No one came to me when I was an MP to speak about the awful sex crimes committed against local children by groups of men whose family roots lay, as is the case with much of the British Pakistani community, in rural Kashmir.”

Read on for more of his thoughts about the incredibly difficult question of sexuality in the Pakistani Kashmiri community.
However, according to Mr McShane, he learnt about the situation  in 2012, “when years of failure by Rotherham’s child-protection authorities to act against known abuse gangs” was exposed by “painstaking journalism” in The Times. 
But Sarah Champion was MP for Rotherham at the height of the abuse. To quote from an earlier article about Denis McShane in the Telegraph  “I was too much of a ‘liberal leftie’ and should have done more to investigate child abuse”.  

Surely if Denis McShane felt he should have done more to ‘burrow into’ the problem then, it might have occurred to him that Sarah Champion could also have done some burrowing, or that she appeared positively blinkered by showing far more concern about Palestinian children than about what was being done ‘right now’, by Muslim men to children under her nose. Did no-one at all in Rotherham raise the matter with their MP while all this was happening?  

I still see Sarah Champion as opportunistic, vacillating and irresolute, but her antics have attracted publicity to  the malevolence of Corbyn’s Labour Party and that’s almost enough to forgive her for everything. Almost.

Wednesday 16 August 2017


Goodness me. What is going on?  

Is this the end of the story


Sunday 13 August 2017

Open Thread

This isn't how I remember Tom and Jerry:
In the meantime, please post any thoughts about BBC bias below as usual. And thank you.


I read a tweet last night:

Well yes. Here's something I saw cited at B-BBC:

I assumed the B-BBC link would take me to a blog-post by someone like the ever-righteous Katty Kay or the ever-sarcastic Anthony Zurcher - BBC journalists who appear to have carte blanche to be as opinionated as they like (for some reason) despite that whole 'BBC impartiality' thing - but no, the link took me to a bog-standard, byline-free BBC report instead.

So even bog-standard, byline-free BBC reports about President Trump now read as if they are blog posts by opinionated BBC journalists.

(Ed - Shock horror! As if that's really something new!)

Laura Bicker

Those self-same BBC types have been going into a frenzied overdrive against Donald Trump after what the BBC's Laura Bicker (on BBC One's main news bulletin) called his "failure" to denounce white supremacists for yesterday's violence in Charlottesville. 

I happen to agree with Laura there. I think it was a "failure" too.

That said, I'm entitled to express my opinions. I'm not a supposedly impartial BBC journalist. She is.

Yes, President Trump should have specifically slagged off the neo-Nazis, whilst acknowledging that, yes, the violence did initially come in roughly equal amounts from both sides until the neo-Nazi rammed his car into a crowd of protesters from the other side, killing a woman and injuring many more, of course - something which changed that equation considerably.

Slagging off people who bellow Nazi slogans ("Blood and soil"), give Nazi salutes (and yes they did give Nazi salutes!), spew antisemitic chants, march with torches, and tell black women to their face to 'go home' (complete with swear words), etc, is something a democrat ought to be happy to do - indeed consider it their duty to do (whilst simultaneously granting their right to free speech).


Back to the BBC though...

I'd challenge anyone who wishes to be considered fair-minded or objective to read any of the following Twitter feeds and then say that these BBC journalists are tweeting and re-tweeting as neutral, disinterested, purely objective reporters: Laura Bicker, Anthony Zurcher, Nick Bryant, Jon Sopel, Nick Robinson, Hugh Sykes, and Katty Kay.

Each and every one of them expressed (or 're-expressed') strong opinions galore there, and all of them said (or 're-expressed) pretty much the same things. They've been anything but impartial on Twitter.

Is this BBC groupthink in action? Of course, but shouldn't the BBC, which ought to promote democracy, be taking sides against neo-Nazis? Isn't it their duty to promote and protect democracy at the expense of totalitarians of all shades? So isn't this 'good' BBC groupthink?

Yes, of course, the hardcore 'antifa' types are deeply violent and have strong anti-democratic strains too, and it's significant (and predictable) that their violence, despite being much more pervasive, isn't dwelt on by the BBC anywhere near as much...

...but still Donald Trump should have distanced himself from the neo-Nazis - and questioning why he appeared to go all 'Jeremy Corbyn' by criticising violence from "all sides" (quite right actually) without adding that he personally abhors white supremacists (and any other shade of modern-day Nazi) and wants nothing to do with them, is surely appropriate questioning, isn't it?

Well yes, if it doesn't go beyond questioning into outright editorialising.

How fine a line is that?

Heather Heyer

As I wrote earlier, until a white supremacist terrorist, aping Europe's Muslim terrorists, repeatedly rammed his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a woman (Heather Heyer) and injuring many others, the equation of violence at yesterday's 'alt-right' rally in Charlottesville appears to have been fairly evenly spread between the fascists and the anti-fascists - both sides brawling, and clubbing each other, and chucking pepper spray.

A lot of the BBC's early reporting, from what I saw of it, acknowledged that in passing.

Only later did reports like Joel Gunter's begin appearing on the BBC website, painting a different picture of largely one-sided violence (from the violent far-right against peaceful anti-fascist protesters who, according to Joel, only threw bottles and chucked pepper spray).

And then came the terrorist attack from James Fields Jr.

Joel was a candle in the wind. By this evening any sense that the 'antifa' crowd had any violent intentions has vanished - if the reporting I'm seeing on the BBC News Channel is anything to go by. And it was all Democrats (not that the BBC report itself declared any of them as such):
Newsreader: One of the organisers of Saturday's far-right rally in the U.S. city of Charlottesville that resulted in a woman being killed by a car has been forced to abandon a media briefing following protests. Meanwhile the White House defended President Trump after it was claimed he didn't go far enough in condemning violence by white supremacists. Our North America correspondent. Laura Bicker reports.
Laura Bicker: After a violent day of division, Charlottesville has come together to pray, to show that this city condemns the hate brought here by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The Virginia governor went from row to row, hugging worshippers in this Baptist church. He promised to keep politics out of the pulpit, but there is a message he felt he had to give:
Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia (Democrat): It is about politics in that the political rhetoric in this country today is breeding bigotry.
Laura Bicker: The streets here simmered with tension yesterday before finally erupting into violence, as white supremacists gathered for a rally. The group, which included members of the Klu Klux Klan, said they wanted to take America back. Counter-protesters and anti-racism activists challenged them. Police tried to disperse the crowd but this day was not to end peacefully. A car, at speed, rammed into protesters. Shocked witnesses captured the aftermath. The crash killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who'd fought racism all her adult life. Many others are still being treated in hospital. Those who captured the scene on camera said they were not shocked the day ended in tragedy. The police have charged a 20-year-old James Alex Fields Junior with second-degree murder.
Brennan Gilmore (former Democrat aide): The Nazis who came to town yesterday clearly had the intent of causing violence. You don't come to town with shields and helmets and weapons and have a militia with automatic or semiautomatic weapons around their shoulders if you are here to peacefully express an opinion.
Laura BickerOthers, who have lived here all their lives, say the scenes do not represent Charlottesville, and they want politicians to challenge those responsible.
Dr. Wes Bellamy, Charlottesville deputy mayor (Democrat): It is important to call these people what they are - white supremacists. I don't understand why that is so difficult, that is what they are. They're not hiding this behind a statue, they didn't come here because of a statue, they came here because just as David Duke said yesterday, they came here to fulfil the promise of President Trump and take their country back.
Laura Bicker: This city did not want bigotry on its streets. Its people now want to remember those who died trying to challenge it and to keep the peace. Laura Bicker, BBC News.

(Is this a coherent post? Answers on a postcard to the comments thread below.)