I realise the BBC sees nowt wrong with the PSC, but what with all the recent fuss about extremism and hate and so on, one might think the commissioning editors would be a little cautious about whom they choose to employ, especially at this-particular-point-in-time.
Over at Harry’s Place atl writer Habibi has posted a damning piece about Dateline London’s most frequently invited panel member, who also happens to be a buddy of the BBC’s Gavin Esler.
Esler has recently quit hosting the Saturday morning programme, and has officially left the BBC to devote more time to writing books and retweeting uncomplimentary things about Donald Trump.
Yes, we’re talking about our old friend Abdel Bari Atwan. Craig and I have been writing about him for years. (See here and here)
Barry, as he is sometimes affectionately addressed, (or, as John Humphrys once accidentally spoonerised: “Arry Batwan” ) is openly antisemitic and believes Israel is behind all the ills of the world, let alone the mayhem and murder in the Middle East:
“He said the “Jewish lobby” was “extremely dangerous and is endangering the whole planet, the whole world”, and that it “controlled” the American Senate, Congress and media.”
He continually defends Hamas and Hizbollah and even has a good word for Osama Bin Laden.
Yet the BBC employs him, allowing him to express his inflammatory and racist opinions regularly.
While I’m not a fan of ‘no-platforming’ people whose opinions I dislike, I can’t see any justification for offering him the BBC’s tacit endorsement and the credibility that is automatically bestowed upon Dateline London’s regular panellists. Having him as the ‘top guest’ speaks volumes about the BBC’s institutional hostility to Jews and Israel.
As I said on another thread, the commenters over at Harry’s Place aren’t quite as geeky about the BBC as we are. After years of BBC-related specialist research we’ve absorbed an unhealthy amount of BBC-related detail, gossip and trivia. It’s the kind of ‘self-radicalisation’ that creeps up on you when you start delving into things. Craig suffers from a worse case of it than I do; that is to say he knows a great deal about matters BBC, and has a particular interest in Dateline London.
So although there was much btl commentary on Atwan’s duplicity and extremism below the line at Harry’s Place, the realisation about the frequency of Atwan’s appearances on the BBC ’s Dateline London was a little slow in coming. But now it has. Do go and take a look.
|three wise men|
“There are two Atwans.
"The Abd Al-Bari Atwan [appearing] on CNN is completely different from the Abd Al-Bari Atwan on the Al-Jazeera network or in his Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily. On CNN, Atwan speaks solemnly and with total composure, presenting rational and balanced views. This is in complete contrast with his fuming appearances on Al-Jazeera and in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, in which he whips up the emotions of multitudes of viewers and readers."
And as H.P. btl comments are deleted after a week, here are a couple that it would be a shame to lose:
Abdel Bari Atwan has been one of the BBC's go-to MENA 'experts' on Middle East politics for at least twenty years despite his long and well-known history of anti-Israel bias, anti-Semitism, extremism and duplicity.
At the same time the BBC have long since sidelined Hazhir Teimourian, the learned Kurdish former journalist from their own Persian service - I guess Teimourian was far too pro-Western and pro-Israel to fit in with the BBC house bias.
That said, we should never underestimate the sheer bloody laziness of news broadcasting producers and researchers. Their stories in every area are mostly sourced from pressure groups, PR companies and so on. Just pick up the phone and go to the same self-promoting and often deeply biased 'experts' you've relied on for years or even decades, it's much easier than actually doing the investigative work yourself or even finding a real expert.
You can be sure that more research goes into one of Habibi's posts than in into most broadcast journalism.
Hence Abdel Bari Atwan, hence Mohammed Shafiq, hence - straying wildly off topic - almost every Arts rentagob you can think of.
My complaint to the BBC about the use of Atwan on "Dateline London" in March 2008 got this terse reply:
"I understand from your e-mail that you feel Abdel Bari Atwan is an
inappropriate choice of commentator on the BBC. I also note that you
would like to know if the BBC will continue to use Mr Atwan in future
While I am unaware of any forthcoming appearances of Mr Atwan on the BBC, Editors at BBC News make decisions on the use of contributors based on the BBC's editorial guidelines and as such will continue to use Mr Atwan at present if they see fit."