Sunday 6 August 2017

Weekend Ramble (II)

What else?


John Simpson is aghast again:

He didn't link to precisely what he was aghast about so, naturally, I Googled, and I'm guessing he read about it in the Guardian. They published a piece about it some three days before JS's tweet, and they were aghast too.

Weirdly, the Guardian didn't note that this "hate-filled" NRA video was posted three months ago. (It's been on YouTube since 10 April). 

When I read JS's tweet I (naturally?) assumed it was a piece threatening the NY Times with violence, what with the NRA being a gun lobby. What else could provoke such an extreme reaction from the BBC man?

But then I watched the video, as you can too, and - as I suspect you'll agree, having done so - that JS, the BBC's World Affairs Editor, was swallowing a Guardian angle hook, line and sinker without engaging either his ears or his brain. 

Seriously, please watch the video and then re-read JS's tweet. What did the NRA lady, Dana Loesch, threaten to do to the NY Times?  She 'threatened' that the NRA would "fisk" the NY Times, "laser focus" on their journalism.

And, yes, that's it! That really is all she 'threatened'.

(Maybe JS doesn't know what 'fisk' means? Maybe he thinks it means 'shoot'?)

Is John Simpson losing the plot? 

I hate to keep criticising him, given all of the brave work he's done for the BBC over the years and his obvious fundamental decency, but he does seem to be going seriously off the impartiality/credibility rails at the moment. 

He probably should have kept off Twitter. It's doing his reputation no good whatsoever.


David, in the last/present open thread (well, the one with the ducklings), pointed to a fascinating Proms-related story - one that I've also been following closely over the last few days after listening to the Prom in question.

Our friends at the BBC presented us with a concert containing two pieces. In the second half came the annual performance of Beethoven's glorious Ninth Symphony, which - partly due to a pro-EU stunt earlier in this Proms season but mainly due to post-referendum mania - has recently become far too entwined with its offshoot, the EU anthem (a fit of madness that will hopefully pass very soon). And in the first half came the European premiere of Sir James MacMillan's European Requiem

Many people saw that programme, put two and two together and made five. 

Sir James is an admirer of European culture not the EU. And both Sir James and his good friend Damian Thompson at the Spectator have made it very clear that this piece was not an anti-Brexit piece. It's a piece by a Catholic composer about the common European tradition of writing requiems, strongly tinged with elegiac concerns about the fate of European civilisation.  

The BBC appears to have been at the forefront of those putting two and two together and making five. 

Damian was not wrong in describing the BBC's presentation on the night. Sir James, being interviewed by the BBC presenter, kept having to insist it wasn't a Brexit-related requiem and the presenter rode the applause at the end by saying ‘as a young man James MacMillan had a lot to say politically and his work was rather politically engaged but over time that has rather changed’ - which Damian notes is "nonsense". James MacMillan has simply moved from being a politically-engaged left-winger in his youth [much favoured by the BBC] to being a politically-engaged right-winger in his middle years.
But the BBC can’t get its head round the notion of an internationally renowned composer who believes, as MacMillan does, that Europe needs defending from ‘the self-hating, elitist Left’ and ‘the incoming Islamofascist Right’. So it doesn’t try. 
The headline to Damian's Spectator piece sums up his piece very well:
The BBC Proms broadcast a piece of gloriously subversive new music – without realising it.
I suspect that's true.

And it was a superb piece too, which I've been listening too again and again in recent days, enjoying it ever more and more with every listen. 

The interval of the concert was a discussion about Europe between two BBC 'new generation thinkers' who weren't fans of Brexit (being "turfed out" of "Europe") - something that will only have added to the impression that the BBC intended this as a pro-EU blast of the trumpet (featuring lots of actual trumpets).

The BBC is a strange old beast at times.


Musical joke (courtesy of Les Dawson): "I toyed with the idea of playing Ravel's Pavane pour une infante defunte but I couldn't remember if it's a tune or a Latin prescription for piles".


It is very easy hereabouts (but not here, I hope!) to slip into the habit of mentioning (in passing) some piece of fine BBC reporting which goes against the bias we expect from the BBC and then instantly shrugging it off by mockingly saying (or implying) that such reporting is so untypical of the BBC as to make the BBC even more guilty than it already was!

Radio 4's The World at One has pursued a UK public relations company over four editions this week for helping Jacob Zuma play the 'anti-white race card' in South Africa. The company has now apologised, and BBC reporter Manveen Rana merits the credit for reporting that and for pursuing it so vigorously.

A BBC online report can be read about it here.


I'm still listening to Tweet of the Day. (As a slightly obsessive bird-lover, how could I not?). It's a while since I've blogged about it though (for some strange reason).

Alas, it's gone all celebrity-based recently. Less natural history, more personal (celebrity) anecdote.

(A parable for the BBC as a whole?)

That said, Olympic gold-medal-winning rower Alex Gregory's tale of Sparky, his childhood pet - a female house sparrow he rescued and took care of - warmed the cockles of my heart.

She loved scrambled egg, and couldn't get enough of it. She quickly learned to fly and flew into the trees but would always come when her name was called and land on Alex's shoulder. But then, sinking heart!, a story all too familiar to lovers of garden birds, two years later, one day, she didn't reply to his call. And never did again. Deep sigh. 

It's one of the joys of this year that I've not seen as many sparrows in my garden for years. They've done well.


That said, we're all doomed. Or at least many of us, possibly even Sparky's descendants.

Why? Well, according to the main report about the story on BBC News website this morning, extreme weather - the result of climate change - really has it in for us. We're going to die in our hundreds of thousands by the end of this century, every year.

The funny thing about this is the photos the BBC chose to accompany its article. They made me laugh, especially the final one.

Writing this piece I returned to that article in order to list the photos, but one of them had gone.

Yes, one of the BBC's photos is missing!

The picture of low levels of water in the River Po remains. The picture of flooding in Southern Germany remains. The picture of woodland fires in Southern France remains.

Now, yes, all of these might be signs of climate change or might just be occasional weather events. We'd probably need to know how regular or irregular all three of the above are to properly judge.

Regardless of that, the final picture is one I'm struggling to remember, given that the BBC got rid of it - even though it was the one that made me laugh out loud because it seemed so OTT. It contained lots of ice and was somewhere far from the Poles.

Did anyone else see it? Does anyone remember exactly what it depicted? (Oh, how I wish I'd 'snipped' the image at the time! And how I wish my memory was sharper!).

Update: I'm pretty sure it was a snow-and-ice bound Alpine resort. 


  1. Funny old bird, the BBC.

    20,000 staff; £4,000,000,000 in unique funding, and too often their 'news' is what the main editorial sees on BBC Trending who has seen on JS's twitter page what he had seen in the Graun. That is inaccurate. Or at least is something someone might have said.

    Envy of the world.

  2. The snow bound resort was "The frozen waterside promenade at Lake Geneva in Versoix in 2012" and used this picture:
    All this from:

    1. Thanks LunchtimeLoather.

    2. A response from BBC Complaints...
      "The photo you’ve complained about was initially included in this article for around 2 or 3 hours before being removed as part of an update because the other three photos better illustrated the story, which was primarily concerned with the role of heat waves in weather-related deaths. We hope you’ll find this response useful and thank you once again for getting in touch.".

      So, we're definitely NOT going to freeze then, which is what they were telling us in 1982.

  3. This year will be known as the anti-Brexit Proms. I think we can expect one or two more incidents, which they will continue to deny, of course. They can't deny deliberately allowing all the anti-Brexit talk before concerts and during half-time, though. We're expected to believe that's all purely coincidental, and that just this once the concerts were programmed in a vacuum?


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