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).


  1. Yep. "If you can't bury it, strangle it before it gets any bigger" seems to be the BBC approach to this sort of story.

    Reasding between the lines it seems to me the child was placed with a Muslim family because of that faintest of family connections with Islam. Social workers like the BBC, and like it seems the whole of the UK political, business, Anglican, legal and media elite are desperate not offend against the principles of Islam and its followers.

  2. Well, social services staff in Muslim areas have a long and sordid history of deliberately suppressing concerns of young white girls in care. The guardian may have reported no concerns, but who believes them any more? That's the person who needs to be interviewed.

  3. Gaby Hinsliff writing in the Guardian has summed up the new narrative in a master-class of progressive journalism.

    Concerns have been dismissed, the water muddied. Progressives can safely dismiss the original story as racist and creating "culture wars". BTL, half of the comments are satisfied that the original story is in tatters. The other half are responding in an eminently
    sensible way. Guess which half are more inquiring.

    The problem with the new narrative is that it doesn't ask the simplest of questions.
    Are ANY of the accusations in this case true ?
    Did ANY of those things happen ?
    The rest of the arguments are superfluous in light of the potential religious / political / social indoctrination of a child. Islamic indoctrination.
    It doesn't matter that the mother was a lush or a coke head and the foster mother isn't. That's not the story.

    The other thing that seems to be unimportant to progressives is that Tower Hamlets
    is now essentially a country within a country. Progressives are determined that this is an irrelevance.
    It's not.

  4. Andrew Norfolk has just been interviewed on Today by Nick Robinson. Norfolk stuck by his guns. This story is fascinating. The BBC have the editorial skill to link disparate events to other events when it suits their narrative, and it has the skill to place certain events outside of any links to social history and view them uniquely.

    Robinson's first question to Norfolk was what would Norfolk's stance be if the cultural identities of the foster family and foster child had been reversed, forgetting that he (Robinson) still lives in the UK perhaps. Progressive thought has skipped nationality entirely - it's not even a discussion any more.

    Also perhaps forgetting that the attention and concerns may arise from culturally linked events in recent history that provably and implicitly link Islamic ideology to corruption, voter fraud, trafficking, and the social undermining of UK law with a view to gaining political power.


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