Monday 24 September 2018

Them and us

Gabriel Gatehouse and a Dutch activist on 'Newsnight'

If you missed this - Gabriel Gatehouse on yesterday's From Our Home Correspondent - here's a transcript:

Being a foreign correspondent is easy glory. Trips to the frontline with friendly rebels. The crack of bullets behind walls for cover. "Come, come, this way is safe!" Scary? Absolutely. Dangerous? Sometimes. But there's camaraderie too, and hospitality. "Stay for lunch. Thank you BBC. Thank you for telling our story to the world."

Those three magic letters - BBC - they act as a badge of integrity. They open doors. Often the people we report on see our presence as part of their struggle against the Establishment. 

Reporting from home is different. At home we're often seen as the Establishment, and those same three letters can carry with them a lot of baggage. 

I learned this while reporting on a story about Tommy Robinson. 

He campaigns against what he calls "Muslim grooming gangs" - cases like those in Rotherham, where groups of men, many with Pakistani heritage, systematically sexually abused young girls and women, many white and from working class backgrounds. 

This is an explosive issue, Robinson and his followers believe there's an Establishment conspiracy to cover-up such cases. Many did go unreported for a long time. Many of the convicted perpetrators have indeed been of Pakistani origin. 

But Tommy Robinson founded the English Defence League. Even though he has since left the group, saying it had been taken over by racists, some accuse him of using cases like Rotherham for political gain, to label an entire community as child abusers. 

Tommy Robinson was recently jailed for contempt of court. He'd broken the law by communicating details of an ongoing trial, potentially threatening the collapse of the case, but his followers saw yet another Establishment cover-up. 

Over half a million people signed a petition calling for his release. That's more than a fringe movement. 

I wanted to talk to these people - the concerned citizens, not the far-right activists - and find out what was motivating them. The problem was none of them want to talk to me

Ahead of a rally in his support I contacted half a dozen people. Some at first agreed to meet, only to cancel at the last minute. Others told me to eff off straightaway. 

"The biased BBC? You must be joking!", one woman yelled at me down the phone. "You just want to stick me on TV and call me a racist". 

Even though that was precisely the opposite of what I was trying to do, I could see her point. To talk to a journalist is to cede control over what you say to those who will edit your words into a report. The polarised politics of recent years has been the enemy of nuance. 

I made my way to the rally. "The BBC are here," one speaker announced from the stage. The crowd booed and hissed. "When are you going to report the news?", one man shouted at me. "They are covering up the facts", another said. "The paedophile problem goes right to the top of our Establishment", said yet another, adding "and it started with Jimmy Savile". 

Their beliefs and their anger seemed genuine. These were people who don't see the stories they're concerned about on the TV news bulletins - the stories they do read about on social media. 

Sometimes those stories are false or only half-true but, in the age of Facebook, organisations like the BBC no longer control the national conversation in the way we once did. 

Also at the rally were people whose anger seemed less raw, more politically calculated. UKIP's leader was there. So were representatives from nationalist movements in Europe and the United States. I told a group of Dutch activists I was from the BBC and they said they'd be happy to be interviewed, but when we switch the camera on one suddenly asked, "What channel are you from?". I was taken aback. We'd just been through this. "The BBC?, he said in that flawless way most Dutch people have with the English language. "No way!" he told me, and shoved the camera away. It was pure performance. 

Like the friendly rebels in the foreign war zone the new populist nationalists understand the power of the camera but with social media they don't need the BBC. They have their own channels. And in their struggle they see us as the enemy.


  1. Promote that man to head of news at least he can see the problem.

  2. It's always a case of two steps forward and one step backward with Gabriel...during the Newsnight programme he spent some considerable time lecturing a woman demonstrator that child marriage was not part of Islam (in contradiction of her claims)...he asserted with great confidence that there weren't any countries in the Middle East which allowed it...but he was wrong - Iran specifically have laws that allow it...In any case, it remains part of Sharia law and that law has higher status than any civil code in many parts of the Middle East. Why did he engage in that bit of bogus, plain wrong fact-checking? Why did he pick on a woman who clearly wasn't that well educated or articulate, and so not able to defend her correct claim.

  3. Firstly, here's the link to the video of the event to which Gatehouse refers. I just had to dig it out as I already knew it existed. Oh the joy of modern fact checking :

    It is clearly obvious that the Dutch guy has been approached by a journalist who speaks Dutch, (je spreekt Nederlands, toch) but who hasn't declared he's from the BBC. It's not a performance, and not for the first time, Gatehouse is being dishonest in his recollection of events.

    Gatehouse is one of the top ten BBC journalists expert in defining the Overton window of debate so as to steer it in whatever direction he wishes.
    His basic mistake, as with many other journalists, is believing that the new right is simply stupid, misinformed, hasn't read the Koran or the Hadith's and is feeding on fear of the other.
    The mistake is that this summary describes most journalists.


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