Sunday 30 December 2018

HO-HO-HOpen Thread

Merry Christmas, and all other appropriate seasons greetings, to you all, and thank you so much for your comments.

Radio 4 Sunday's immigration special: A masterclass in bias

If it's still the case that "Radio 4's Sunday programme offers perhaps the most undiluted liberal bias to be found anywhere on the BBC", then every klaxon in the country should have sounded at the news that today's edition was going to be an immigration special

The bias was off-the-scale today. 

William Crawley's introduction announced the "controversial" subject by featuring a clip from a Sunday report about most of the congregation at a church in Stoke upping and leaving after the vicar opened a refugee support hub there. The clip consisted of a woman wagging her finger at the congregation (figuratively-speaking), saying that faith "isn't meant to be comfortable". 

Then he promised us two Syrian refugees-turned-stand-up comedians, and played us a sample joke: "Any country wouldn't give a visa to a Syrian family, even though they need it, but they would give it to a white man because he needs to find himself". 

And then came the coup de grâce: William announced that he'd be joined throughout the programme by two people: Dr. Anna Rowlands of Durham University and writer Shelina Janmohamed (author of Love in a Headscarf and Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World.

Would they have sharply differing views on the subject of immigration? Of course not. This being the BBC's Sunday, the two 'experts' approached the issue from very similar, pro-immigration positions. 

After being introduced, both gave us their initial takes on the subject.  Dr. Anna thinks it's a "largely distorted debate" and that the voices of migrants and refugees themselves have been "largely marginal" and "even very often missing from public debates", while Shelina thinks it's "a big, bad scary conversation" and that "it's almost as though every evil in every woe that we have in our country is somehow the fault of immigration" and that "the most worrying part" is that "we are transposing all of that hate, fear and worry onto immigrants themselves".

The perfect guests, then, for a BBC Radio 4 Sunday special on immigration. 

A report from Birmingham followed, beginning with Sunday reporter Rajeev Gupta painting a scene he described as "a positive image of multicultural Britain" before turning to the matter at hand: the views of Leave and Remain supporters from what William Crawley called "the British Asian community". Most of the people he spoke to had voted Remain - Yasmin Ali, for starters, called the debate "misguided" and said "this country needs immigration" - but when the Sunday reporter then interviewed a Hindu family, two of whose members had voted Leave and who had (as he put it) "curiously" cited immigration as a key reason for that, the mood changed. Having let Yasmin have her pro-immigration say without challenge, Sunday's Rajeev then challenged the elderly Hindu lady about her views, asking her whether present day immigrants "deserve an opportunity the same way you had that opportunity". Her son, when he echoed his mother's views that present-day immigrants don't make the effort to become British but keep to their own ways and said that this is a Christian country and that he doesn't want it to lose its identity, Rajeev of the BBC said, "There'll be people [including himself, by the sounds of it!] that say your views resonate with people that are regularly in the media accused of preaching hate speech". The Hindu gentleman's own son, a Remain voter, then praised immigration and multiculturalism - and, naturally,  the Sunday reporter didn't challenge him. And the report ended there and then with the son's praise for immigration and diversity left ringing in our ears. A very 'Sunday' report indeed, with bias running through it like letters in a stick of rock.

Then William talked to those two Syrian refugees who are now stand-up comedians here in the UK, making jokes about their experiences. We heard the earlier joke again. 

Then came 'balance' - an interview with Eric Kaufmann, author of Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities”. Prof. Kaufmann distanced himself from populism and "the anti-Muslim discourse that we see", but said it isn't racist to be concerned and that it's harmful to suppress majority identity. He didn't get a free ride, as you'll see if I list William's questions to him:

  • And the two key examples you have of that populist moment are the rise of Donald Trump and Brexit?
  • These themes - white identity, and white identitarianism, we hear these days - are themes we typically associate with white nationalist narratives. Are you concerned, Eric, that your work could be drawn on by those kinds of groups to give some kind of academic legitimacy to essentially racist or white supremacist ideas?
  • So, actually, what you are suggesting, it seems, is that we need to talk more about white identity in order to deal with, to challenge, racist ideas?
  • Even your critics, I'm sure, will accept that there is a dimension of the human experience where we tend to 'other' other people and, in a sense, engage in bigotry. Even though we may not use language that is so clearly bigoted, we 'other' other people. And, instead of pandering to that in the future and developing a system that descends into some kind of presumed race realism, we should challenge that tendency to 'other' other people?
  • What about the role of religion? Do religious beliefs play any significant role in shaping an individual's view of immigration?
  • And in the past year we've reported quite a bit on Sunday on how immigration in some areas of the country has had a very beneficial effect in terms of those religious communities[You can say that again, William!]. When you look to the future to what extent do you think the religious future of Britain will be tied to the increasing levels of immigration?

Prof. Kaufmann's contribution was then discussed with the programme's two guests, Dr. Anna Rowlands and Shelina Janmohamed. I could guess in advance how that was going to go, and I wasn't disappointed. 

Shelina - doing a bit of a Cathy Newman-style "What's he's really saying is" hatched job on the now-absent Eric - complained of "the veneer of respectability" in how he "couched" his views in "academic language", and called them "a complete misdirection". He's "placating racism", according to her, and promoting "race superiority" among whites ("white" being "the norm" in society.) 

Dr. Anna objected to his focus on identity, or any talk of identity when it comes to discussing immigration. She'd prefer a focus on "the serious political questions about moral obligation, about inequalities, about the protection that the state owes externally to those who are in need, and also, in a sense, for our own responsibility from a policy point of view for our own intervention in terms of arms sales, economic and wider political policy".  

Perhaps taking fright at Shelina's increasingly inflammatory language about Prof. Kaufmann, William ended this section by saying:
OK. I know that Eric Kaufmann absolutely denies any claim that he's championing race superiority. But thank you both very much. We'll come back to both Anna and Shelina in a few minutes.
The programme then paused to preview Sunday Worship on Radio 4, and went from covert 'preaching' about immigration to overt 'preaching': 
A quick look ahead to Sunday Worship later this morning on Radio 4. The former Lib Dem MP and education minister Sarah Teather reflects on the biblical story of Jesus and his refugee family.
Sarah Teather: And it's hard to escape the realisation that God seems to be doing something in these refugees' lives, something that doesn't come so easily to those of us who live with more certainty and security. Perhaps refugees who have walked the lonely journey of anxiety and struggle, and learned through it to lean on God, have something to teach us.
The programme then resumed, and William Crawley began talking of the Iranian migrants from France trying to illegally enter the UK by sailing across the English Channel in flimsy boats. Not that he put it like that, of course. He merely talked of "extremely dangerous crossings that have been undertaken by extremely desparate people". He then talked to former anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland about the situation. William asked Mr Hyland:
Well, what you make of the strategy proposed by some people, regarded as a very tough strategy by others, that the government should follow the lead of, for example, Australia and try to discourage these dangerous crossings by telling anyone making these crossings or attempting to make them that they will be denied entry?
Mr Hyland didn't approve of the strategy. He called it "simplistic". We need to "rescue" these people and "treat them with dignity" and "listen to the migrants". He also picked up on William's talk of 'othering' earlier and complained that the Government sees such people as "others" and "a nuisance", whereas they should be thinking of them as being "vulnerable". 

It was off to church then (for more 'covert BBC preaching'), and Brexit-voting Stoke-on-Trent, and that story previewed at the start of the programme. The Anglican vicar, Rev. Sally Smith, had - as William told us - "opened her refugees in the area". She "encountered strong opposition from her existing, mainly white congregation, most of whom left the church". Sunday reporter Rosie Wright talked to Rev. Sally, various volunteers helping the "asylum seekers" and some of the "asylum seekers". Only one side of the story was represented. 

It was then back to the two guests, Dr. Anna Rowlands and Shelina Janmohamed. William began with the migrants in the English Channel and quoted to them an Anglican bishop wagging his finger at the Government and calling on them to "remember that those attempting these dangerous crossings are people in need" and that "compassion" is needed. Dr. Anna said that these people are in "a place of desperation" (France?), and agreed with the bishop. Then William asked Shelina about the idea that the UK should become "a place of sanctuary" to such people, and Shelina talked of our feelings of "insecurity" about such people and how "sad" she finds that. It's not a sign that we're "a strong country", she said. She wants us to focus on the history of immigration and "have quite difficult conversations about British empire, about colonial history, about imperial legacy, and even slavery and the role of the Church within that...". And so on, and William added his own two-penn'orth too:
William Crawley: Anna, I guess if we talk about the theology of immigration, the media is part of that story too, isn't it? Basic information, when we hear words like 'invasions' or 'influx', and the UN migration agency tells actually in global terms the numbers attempting these crossings in the Channel remain small. You've got to wonder who you're getting your information from?
Anna Rowlands: Yeah. absolutely. And I think we've generally debased our language. I think we have really, really debased language with people and myth and narrative, and the Brexit debate have shown that over and over again. We need good quality narratives and they need to come from multiple sources. 
[Is satire dead? Here were William Crawley, Dr. Anna Rowlands and Shelina Janmohamed all giving us the same narrative. I suppose she'd consider the three of them, all saying the same thing, to be "multiple sources" of "good quality narrative"-telling.]
If anyone thinks this was impartial BBC broadcasting, I'll eat the late Lord Ashdown's hat. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the programme would have a strong bias on the issue of immigration (in the usual left-liberal direction), but this was something else: an absolute raging torrent of bias. 

I know I'm not alone here, thankfully. Here are a few tweets about the programme this morning:
David Robertson: Listening to BBC R4 Sunday this morning was somewhat disappointing - it offered the kind of shallow, one-sided narrative that feeds the far Right. Refusing to engage with the discussion and simplifying concerns about immigration to racism or even the British Empire, is not helpful. 
Davy F: BBC R4 Sunday. Look, thanks for sharing from poor old Stoke. IF any of you lived here you would realise that there are far too many unemployed immigrants already in residence. It is undeniable and unsustainable. Talk as much as you like around your coffee tables, this is FACT. 
Eamon: BBC R4 Sunday as always the two contributors on this topic came from the same side of the fence. A lot of unchallenged assumptions and assertions were allowed to go unchallenged. Not good enough..v poor. 
Ploughboy: Both of whom seem to be very left wing, as is the BBC's practice. And why the dishonesty from them on the illegal immigrants trying to cross the channel? These people aren't in imminent danger, they're coming from European countries where they are quite safe. Simply lies. 
Linda Floyd: This infuriates me, just listened to  BBC R4 Sunday prog on racism & immigration, but enormous distinction between legal & illegal  immigration not mentioned. It isn't racist to want ILLEGAL immigration prevented. (Legal immigrants welcome).

Identity Politics

Chidera Eggerue

Yesterday  morning's Today was guest-edited by a blogger. 

No, it wasn't me or Sue. It was Chidera Eggerue - a fashion blogger 'best known' for the #SaggyBoobsMatter hashtag. 

Chidera's choices were 'very BBC', and ranged widely across the whole narrow spectrum of identity politics, from transgender issues to body politics, from race-related matters to yet more race-related matters. 

It was a very 'non-binary', race-obsessed morning at Today yesterday, and listening to it felt like receiving a hyper-concentrated dose of BBC Radio 4's present-day identity-politics-rife weekly output in just one serving.

Even under the editorship of Sarah Sands, it's very hard to imagine the BBC ever giving a Today guest-editorship to someone whose purpose was the reverse of Chidera's - e.g. a social conservative strongly opposed to identity politics and other such present-day fads and follies over sexuality and race.

Similarly, it's also 'very BBC' that the present crop of Today guest editors has tilted so massively in the PC direction. They've consisted of a veteran BBC presenter (who visited a school to extol multiculturalism), a Muslim writer (who talked about Muslims, Pakistan, refugees and women), a tech entrepreneur (who talked about climate change), an actress (who talked about refugees and violence against women), plus, of course, Chidera and her saggy boobs and her identity politics.  

As Fedup2 observed at B-BBC, it's even more 'BBC' that New Year's Eve will finally see 'the balance' - the token right-winger to 'prove' the BBC's commitment to impartiality. This year it's the historian Andrew Roberts. (Will he ask for a section on Napoleon?)

Anyhow, the highlight of yesterday's Today was Martha Kearney's interview with the Chief Constable of Sussex. It has to be said that the Chief Constable of Sussex didn't cover himself with glory. Many people's favourite low-point of the interview was where he said that some of the drone sightings at Gatwick may have been police drones looking for other drones.

So in honour of the Chief Constable of Sussex - and because we need a laugh - here's Buster Keaton:

Saturday 29 December 2018

Jon Sopel and Katya Adler on Brexit

Correspondents Look Ahead 2018 turned briefly to Brexit. This is what was said:

Lyse Doucet: Let's stay on Europe. We've managed to talk for quite some time without mentioning that B word, Brexit, and who can possibly predict a Brexit? Does anyone want to give a punt on this and be prepared to face up to the consequences next year? What about you, Jon Sopel? 
Jon Sopel: I think that as someone who spent ten years covering politics at Westminster during the dog years of John Major, all the struggle that he was having with the Maastricht Treaty, that was as nothing. There is total collective nervous political breakdown in the UK. Nothing has a majority. The only thing that commands a majority is to say no to something. We don't want that. We don't want this. We don't want something else. And I don't see if you can't get a majority how you either avoid one of two conclusions: One is you park Article 50 and say, OK, we're not ready for that to implement and, therefore, we won't go on March 29, or we have to put the question back to the people with seismic consequences, I think, for faith in British politics, for all sorts of other things as well. 
Lyse Doucet: Katya, how does it look from Brussels? What do you think? 
Katya Adler: The huge outpouring of European emotion the day after the UK voted to leave has given way to dispassion. You know, there's a dispassionate viewpoint now. Brexit either happens or it doesn't happen. They hope we'll change our mind. They hope that they've made this process hideous enough that the UK will change their mind. And if they don't the UK will leave and can forget any special deals as a former member. The UK becomes officially what's known as a 'third country'. which in EUspeak means 'an outsider'. And that means it will be treated as such. It's not about punishment, as it's so often viewed from the United Kingdom. It is about the EU, which on the world trading stage is a feared player that sets the rules. It is a rule setter. And the UK is going to end up being a rule taker. Whether it stays very close to the EU or has a more distant relationship with the EU, the EU will set those regulations. And the public in the United Kingdom was never given to understand that when it was time to vote.

"And on a happier note, we're relieved that..."

The blurb for this year's Correspondents Look Ahead provided the opening words spoken by Lyse Doucet herself. You'll note that she openly speaks for the BBC on the matter of the climate change conference in Paris here:

Friday 28 December 2018


Across the past week, and amounting in total to almost an hour of drive-time BBC output across four evenings, Radio 4's PM has been broadcasting a series of personal reports from BBC radio presenter Adrian Goldberg...

...(a regular host on Radio 5 Live, among other things, who sounds uncannily like another Adrian: namely, Adrian Chiles).

British, and from a German-Jewish background, Adrian says he's been agonising over whether to apply for a German passport in the wake of the Brexit vote.

I suspect I can guess what some of you are thinking already (or is it just me?): Why is a BBC presenter being blatantly partisan over Brexit, and why is BBC Radio 4 airing his partial views over an entire week of BBC broadcasting?

(P.S. Adrian's written the whole thing up, in a slightly more toned-down way, for the BBC News website). 

Well, the big question on PM was: With members of his family having been murdered by the Nazis, and his father having been a refugee to the UK from Nazi Germany, would it be right for him, Adrian Goldberg, to take German citizenship because of his fears over Brexit?

I have to say that, from the moment his first report began on Christmas Eve, it was obvious (to me) that he'd end up applying for German citizenship in light of "the post-Brexit world".

After all, why would the BBC broadcast it otherwise?

And so it turned out, at the end of the fourth and final episode tonight.

His application has now gone in.


The whole thing was a fascinating listen, often genuinely absorbing (especially on the Nazi-era-related material), but it was also a very strange, very BBC, listen.

Yes, the programme featured voices from 'the other side' (e.g. Gisela Stuart), but here was a British BBC radio presenter actively considering, and eventually choosing, to apply for a German passport explicitly as a result of the Brexit vote, because of his fears of a 1930s/1940s-style situation for Jews arising here in the UK, sometime in the future, because of that public decision.

(How weird is that? What evidence does he have for such a wild fear?)

And here also, of course, was BBC Radio 4's PM, ever-so-impartially, spreading his 'agonised decision' across four days. 

(How biased it that?)


For, yes, despite worries about continuing antisemitism in parts of the EU - specifically Poland - and his own concerns about the rise of AfD in Germany (one of whose leaders he got into a very heated debate with, and who he openly associated with the Nazis), Adrian still decided that Germany should be his own place of safety should the UK turn dangerous for Jewish people in the wake of Brexit

I'd have thought that he'd have been more concerned about the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government as far as antisemitism goes, but that was never mentioned, so it mustn't be much of a concern for him. (But what do I know?)

The peculiar thing is that, despite Adrian being an engaging presence and despite him being nice to everyone (except the lady from AfD, with whom he seriously lost his cool with, and with whom he took 'the low road' rather than 'the high road' - as Michelle Obama might have put it), this 'series' struck me as being BBC reporting at its most 'bubble-dwelling'.

Obviously, I could be wrong. But, seriously, how huge is the clamour among British Jews to flee to Germany to escape a 1930-Germany-style Britain emerging in the wake of Brexit? Isn't that hysterical nonsense?

And isn't a Jeremy-led Labour government more of a genuine danger?

And is Adrian Goldberg, in fact, a 'very BBC' tiny minority (of a minority) here made to seem like the voice of the people by a biased BBC?

Thursday 27 December 2018


The BBC is pleased (with itself). 

According to The Times, they beat ITV all hands down this Christmas, ratings-wise, taking 9 out of 10 of the places on this year's 'most-watched programmes on Christmas Day' list. 

Charlotte Moore, director of content at the BBC, said: “We’re happy so many people chose to watch BBC One. We want to offer something for everyone.”

That said, not that even the highest-rated programme, Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show, with 6.1 million viewers, got anywhere near the kind of viewers that Morecambe and Wise got in 1977 (28 million) but, of course, there's vastly more choice nowadays. 

The BBC will be much less pleased if they read the comments below the Times article though. It's a long list of complaints about how unimaginative, how PC, how rubbish, the BBC's offerings were this Christmas.

Craig and Sue's Bumper End of Year Quiz 2018

If the BBC can have lots of end of year quizzes then so can Is the BBC biased?. 


The theme of the quiz, you probably won't be surprised to hear is, 'The BBC in 2018'.

And for non-regulars passing by, all the answers can be found by reading through every one of our posts on the subject over the past year. 

Hope you enjoy it!


1. Which BBC presenter, whose salary rose this year from around £150k threshold to over £220k, put the following point doing an on-air discussion about Brexit?:
"I'm going to say something really unpopular, which is that we keep on talking about, you know, the problem with democracy and the problem with the deficit, but at what point you to say, actually, democracy is not as important as the future economy and stability and prosperity of the country right now?"
2.  Which veteran  BBC presenter and former member of the Bullingdon Club told John Humphrys, "I'm about as posh as you are. I come from Wales, as you do. I'm not posh"?

3. Which long-running BBC programme did Sky's Adam Boulton call a "pantomime horse" with "celeb add-ons" that should be put down?

4. Which BBC presenter was chastised by the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit for "risking misleading audiences" over Israel? 

5. Which BBC presenter lost his cool with Baroness Chakrabarti and snapped, "Don't try and patronise me"?

6. Who did Andrew Marr describe, on air,  as "the most prominent and eloquent moderate Tory in the country"?

7. "The House of Saud is built on a sea of oil. Whoever holds the Crown has the key to unimaginable wealth and that has brought the ruling houses of the United States to Riyadh's door time and time again. First, the House of Bush, and now, the House of Trump". Which hat-wearing Newsnight reporter 'forgot' to mention the Clintons and the Obamas there? 

8. Whose privacy case against the BBC resulted in a judge describing the BBC's Head of Newsgathering as "overly guarded" and "almost wilfully failing to acknowledge inconsistencies"?

9. Why US-based BBC reporter posted an "Oooof" on Twitter after prematurely pouncing on an incorrect NBC attack tweet about Donald Trump and General Robert E. Lee that was actually about General Ulysses S. Grant? 

10. The BBC tweeted an apology with the hashtag #honestmistake after misreporting that Donald Trump had said what at the UN about Iran, when what he'd actually said was "more will follow"?

11. Which well-known BBC presenter did the BBC apologise for and then force to delete a tweet after he'd called Observer reporter Carole Cadwalladr a "mad cat woman"?

12. Which landmark BBC arts series did the BBC's own Arts Editor Will Gompertz describe as "more confused and confusing than a drunk driver negotiating Spaghetti Junction in the rush hour"?

13. Which senior BBC manager pledged to bring an end to "heteronormative culture" at the BBC?

14. Which 1980s pop group did the BBC's Head of Live Political Programmes Rob Burley describe as "one of the worst bands in history" whose music was "trash" during a heated Twitter spat with its "crazed" drummer over the BBC reporting of homelessness?

15. "Be careful! Don't make things worse!", "You see I think that's exactly where people would say that you're not careful enough...", "Personally I do actually believe you ought to be more thoughtful because, you know, stuff that seems like a great idea to say can make some nut do stuff". Which BBC home affairs correspondent gave this 'friendly' advise to Tommy Robinson (aka, etc)? 

16. An image of whose hat did some (largely far-left) critics of the BBC claim that Newsnight had manipulated to make it look more Soviet?

17. On his programme, which European leader did Andrew Marr describe as "very, very authoritarian and "right-wing" and "the most prominent antisemitic politician, xenophobic politician"?

18. The editor of which BBC channel was charged under the Sexual Offences Act over a report on his channel which mistakenly identified a Rotherham child abuse victim?

19. Which senior BBC editor, and scrupulous corrector of other people's statistical failings, made an embarrassing statistical blunder over child hunger and food banks by passing on the false claim that struggling families must find an additional £30-40 a week to feed each child" when that figure was actually to feed a family of four?

20. The BBC's executive complaints unit upheld a complaint against which BBC TV and radio presenter for giving the impression that he supported Emmanuel Macron against Marine Le Pen in the March French president election?

21. A presenter on which BBC arts programme talked of the "dark times" we live in because of, among other things, Brexit and Trump?
22. BBC Teach had to remove a controversial 'Don't Hate the Debate' video, intended for use in schools, after the BBC found it didn't offer a significantly "diverse range of views". On which issue?

23. Which senior BBC editor presented a report for BBC One's main news bulletins where he reported on demands for increased regionalism from nine regional leaders, presenting them as diverse group of political leaders, all critical of the government, without once mentioning that all nine of them were Labour regional leaders?

24. Hindus and the British got the blame for the horrors of the India-Pakistan partition in the Punjab in which popular BBC One staple?

25. Which European politician makes John Sweeney feel "uneasy", according to a piece of his on From Our Own Correspondent?

26. Which senior BBC editor tweeted derisively about Sir Michael Caine after the acting legend praised Brexit, tweeting "...Says multi millionaire and patriot who moved abroad to avoid paying taxing in the 1970s"?

27. The Twitter feed of which Radio 4 programme had to swiftly delete a tweet from one of its team after they boasted about being on a People's Vote march in June?

28. Which BBC radio and TV presenter deleted a tweet after sounding off against the Mail's long-standing BLACK DOG column over a piece about Diane Abbott having tweeted "Appalling headline in the Mail Online. Beggars belief" after seeing the headline "BLACK DOG: Diane Abbott causes alarm when she accidentally went into the men's toilets in the Commons"?

29. Which BBC presenter said this of BBC comedy? "When it comes to so-called comedy the BBC has long given up on balance, on radio and TV. Nobody seems to care. And I don’t want right-wing comedy, whatever that is. I’d just like comedy. Which is in really short supply. On TV and radio".

30. "There’s a mode of programming that involves a presenter, usually white, middle-aged and male, standing on a hill and ‘telling you like it is’. We all recognise the era of that has passed". The white, middle-aged and male controller of which BBC channel said that in August?

(Answers two posts down the page.)

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Do they know it's Christmas? Updated

Dear Readers,
I’m feeling guilty and embarrassed by your appreciative remarks about the blog, which tactfully included my name alongside Craig’s (whose indefatigability never ceases to amaze) while my few and far between contributions to the blog have recently dwindled to zilch.

Humbled, I am.

I’m reminded of a well-known charity single called  “Do they know it’s Christmas?” Well, there can’t be much doubt about that. Even my domestic appliances know. They start to go wrong around  December 21st when you can’t get a man out, and even if you can, the parts won’t be available till mid-Jan. 

Who’s read Daniel Finkelstein in today’s Times? (£) I have. 

For those without access, or £s, here’s a small excerpt from the first paragraph:
“I’m not a big one for celebrating Christmas. We don’t have a tree, we didn’t have a turkey, there were no stockings and we haven’t decked the hall with boughs of holly. I’ve nothing against celebrations, it’s just that the birth of Jesus wasn’t exactly a red-letter day for the Jews.” 

The actual piece relates to ‘bias’ - and of course, the BBC is cited. He does say that people necessarily approach  - everything, really - with their own agenda though they generally see themselves as impartial. He’s kind of doing that himself here too, of course, and he more or less admits it. What interests me most of all in articles like this are the below-the-line comments. That’s the principal reason I’m willing to fork out for online access.

Anyway, as a secular, completely assimilated 3rd generation immigrant of Jewish heritage (is that the correct term?) and a defender of Israel against unfair reporting, my heart always starts to sink at this time of year, as I know we’re in for the customary deluge of passive-aggressive anti-semitic and anti-Israel reporting. 

Sure as eggs is eggs, we’ve had the same old same old stuff this year; Mishal Husain has made a massive meal out of her jaunt to Gaza, with reports on the BBC website about what life is like for the BBC’s favourite victims, plus various related tangential and somewhat forced spin-offs. 

If you’ve looked at BBC Watch over the last few days and weeks you’ll know what I mean ‘arry. 
Yolande Knell has been at it too.
Also, here, here,  and here, and the detailed five-part analysis of Mishal Husain’s ‘Gaza Special’ Today Programme 

As well as the BBC’s emotive, half-a-story stuff about a romanticised Gaza, we have the usual Bethlehem Christmas stuff. In all cases, anything negative about Islam is conspicuously absent, as it has also been (so far) in the BBC’s reporting of the Bishop of Truro’s newly commissioned inquiry into the persecution of Christians, (and our duty towards them). 

Who is doing this persecution, one wonders? Especially the persecution of Christians in that murky region known as “the Middle East”? Why, anyone who didn’t know better might assume it’s those malevolent Jews.

Here’s another extract from Lord Fink just to give you another flavour of the piece.
“I will at all times remember when watching the television news that it is just as likely to be me that is biased as it is the programme. 
One of the most striking features of recent political debate is the certainty of all participants that the news media is biased against them. 
Sometimes, of course, this is true. Sometimes reports are biased. But it’s a little odd, isn’t it, how supporters of Brexit are sure that the BBC is biased against them, while opponents believe passionately that the BBC is now campaigning to leave.”
I wish I could bring you all the btl comments, but I can’t.

Gosh. The Queen said something in her speech roughly to the effect that she wishes people would all stop being beastly to one another, despite their seemingly irreconcilable differences. The BBC took it upon itself to interpret this as a dig at the seemingly irreconcilable divide between Remainers and Bexiteers. But I couldn’t help wondering if there was another topic where irreconcilable differences were proving problematic.

Anyway, that’s the way my mind works, so there. In the end, I completely forgot to watch Her Maj, so I’ll admit that I might not know precisely what I’m talking about.  Oh yes, that’s another reason I haven’t been posting recently - I keep forgetting to watch TV or listen to the radio. Hmm. 

Interestingly, I saw the beginning of an interview with Julia Gillard before I left the room to write this. I know it’s a bit rude of me, but why does she does so remind me of a kangaroo? I think it’s partly the colour of her hair and partly her posture. Sort of upright and kangaroo-like.

By the way, I definitely do bring my agenda with me when I approach everything. I’ve always said only inanimate objects can pull off true impartiality, even if they deliberately choose not to exercise it just before Christmas; continually beeping fridge-freezers included.


As promised, here is my response to a comment on the Bumper Quiz thread:

Quiz Answers

So how did you do?

A Christmas Carol

A short story for Boxing Day...

Just imagine that, having invited a friend of a friend to join you for Christmas Day and, having asked him how his 2018 has gone, your guest (downing his third glass of fizz) relaxes and becomes talkative - so talkative that he barely pauses for breath for about 45 minutes, and then (after a toilet trip) begins again for another breathless 45 minutes. 

He first tells you, in a downbeat way, that as far as Britain goes, it's been a year of "national traumas" and then he talks of things that make us "cry" and then mentions Brexit, before apologising for mentioning the word. (It wouldn't take a genius to work out his views on Brexit).

Next, for some reason, he begins saying that he'd heard that one "antidote" to "all the despondency going on at the moment" is to do something wild, like publicly take all your clothes of. It's good for your body image apparently. (Thankfully he keeps his on. I've heard he has strange things dangling from parts of his body)

He then began lecturing us, yes lecturing us - for, I'll now let on, that this actually happened to our family yesterday (a true story!) - yes, he lectured us on #MeToo. And, wagging his finger, said that "if you're one of those who think it's all gone too far" (and we all looked a little bit sheepish at this point), our "reeducation" (and, yes, he even used that word) should begin by visiting an old people's home and asking the old ladies there to recall incidents of sexual harassment in their younger years. We'd learn a lot from that, apparently.

And then he began telling us how great the NHS is now, and how much better health treatment is these days than it used to be, giving us some examples he'd heard about how bad things were in the past. We should feel "gratitude" for how things are now, he said. (I felt obliged to go and put on the NHS bit from the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, which I got from YouTube and plugged into the TV, and he was quickly applauding like a Brezhnevite.)

I was diving for the wine by this stage and poured it into a pint glass by happy mistake. I was seriously wondering whether inviting him had been such a good idea. He was really lowering our Christmas spirits. 

He then banged on about World War One internment campssome radio play he'd heard (which sounded very depressing to me)  concerning the Syrian civil in Aleppo, and then about the influence of the Diana Ross song 'I'm Coming Out' on the gay community, on which subject which he sounded particularly enthusiastic, what, perhaps, with being gay himself.

Most of the family had started to look severely depressed by this stage, just as our Christmas dinner was being served. We were wanting to tell Christmas cracker jokes like 'What kind of motorbike does Santa ride? A Holly Davidson!' or 'What do you call Santa's little helpers? Subordinate Clauses!', but we didn't want to stop our guest, who was obviously enjoying himself (even if no one else was), and we were already beginning to feel unworthy of ourselves in his saintly presence.

He then then began talking, not once but twice, about 'experiencing rooms' in hospitals where mothers of severely premature babies go to express milk for their babies, via tubes that squeeze their breasts. (I was just starting my prawn cocktail at the time). 

And then came another depressing radio play he'd heard called 'Freezing to Death'. (I was trying to enjoy my turkey at this point). 

Then he told us about an encounter he'd heard about between a man who'd accidentally run over and killed and that man's friends and family. (Just as I was feeling guilty about enjoying my roast potatoes so much). 

And he ended by talking about cancer. (Just as I was restraining myself against eating an after-eight mint. After all, how could I enjoy myself by eating after-eight mints when so many sad, moving things were going on in this world of ours that I needed to know about on Christmas Day?) 

So, yes, it was Christmas Day, and here he was, our guest, being all worthy and serious and, as Scrooge might put it, virtue-signalling like crazy. 

None of us felt like pulling a cracker now, or putting a paper hat on - not while someone was going on and on and on about severely premature babies, death, war, cancer, Diana Ross, Syrian jails, and #MeToo. 

One moment when my eyes brightly lit up was with hope when he began talking about hearing about someone's wonderful encounter with whales. 'This at least should be free of worthiness', I thought. But my eyes shot towards the ceiling when it turned out that the 'someone' in question was a blind man. It just had to be a blind man for this first-order virtue-signaller to have bothered telling the story. 

Of course, I felt absolutely awful about thinking such a wicked thing, and for not fully appreciating all the very moving, very serious, very worthy things he'd been telling us about.

He was only doing it for our own good after all, doubtless to make us better people. 

And then it clicked. From now on, I thought, I must try to be as earnest, as right-on, as much of a Social Justice Warrior, as BBC-like, as our talkative guest, even during Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day itself. And as I thought that I could swear I heard a bell ringing in Heaven as another angel got his wings.

And to be fair to him, our guest did make us almost smile (or at least stop frowning till our faces ached, at least for a minute or two) by very briefly taking about a couple of comedians he'd personally enjoyed this year: One was a comedian who calls his show 'Citizen of Nowhere' (To my shame, I tutted again, silently). He joked about xenophobia in South Africa and Boko Haram. And the other was a comedian who calls his show 'Chinese Comedian' and who jokes about being Chinese in Leeds. 

And, also to be fair to our guest (given his obvious views), he did largely keep off Brexit, restraining himself over Nigel Farage, though he enjoyed two BBC Radio 4 series on the subject - one by David Aaronovitch, and the other by Mark Mardell (something called Brexit: A Love Story?). The bit he remembered was a clip from the Mark Mardell thing where Lord Armstrong teared up on recalling Ted Heath celebrating the vote to take us in the EEC by playing a Bach prelude on the piano. 

By now I felt like a new man.

There is a twist to my festive tale though... 

My guest's name, by the way, was Evan. (Almost forgot to mention that.) Nice chap, a bit preachy, very right-on, obviously not a fan of Brexit. 

After he'd left, I put on my computer and clicked on the Radio 4 website to listen to Radio 4's Pick of the Year 2018

To my astonishment it was the very same Evan we'd had round for Christmas dinner yesterday. 

And to my even greater astonishment, the programme consisted of him repeating everything he'd said to us, in exactly the same words, to the nation as a whole.

It turned out everything he'd been talking about was based on BBC radio programmes, mostly from Radio 4, and that they were his pick of the year to highlight the riches of the station he works for as PM presenter.

I cracked open another bottle of wine to help myself recover from the shock.

Radio 4's Pick of the Year 2018 was broadcast soon after midday on Christmas Day, so he must have pre-recorded it, or else he couldn't have joined us for Christmas...

...unless, of course, it was a Christmas miracle. 

And the moral of our story?

All year, at this blog, I've kept on saying how Radio 4 is getting harder-and-harder to listen to for people outside the BBC's way of thinking, because its schedules are losing any variety they used to have and becoming increasingly much-of-a-muchness: a sludge of well-meaning, serious, worthy, politically-correct, socially-liberal, soggy-left, preachy programmes, many of which could have come straight out of the Guardian's features pages, leavened by identikit left-wing comedy shows and programmes about Brexit presented hosted by Remainers. 

And here was Evan Davis's Radio 4 Pick of the Year 2018 to proof my point in the strongest way possible by consisting of nothing but these kinds of programme. 

But, because it's Christmas, it's all therefore OK, and I must learn to virtue-signal like Evan and Radio 4 as a whole. And I hope this Boxing Day post shows that I'm well on the way to becoming properly "reeducated". 

May the BBC bless us, every one!

John Simpson & The Wailers

It's absolutely terrible news that Japan has decided to resume commercial whaling.

Well, that's my opinion anyhow.

And it's also BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson's opinion. Being John though, he can't just leave it there. Oh no.

Guess who's ultimately to blame, in his view?

Clue: The answer's an anagram of Add torn plum

(Answer below picture)

Another Christmas miracle?

BBC News's main worldwide Twitter feed certainly knows what the main news story this Christmas has been, relegating HM the Queen to just one tweet.

No, the big story has definitely been Donald Trump, Santa and the

I suppose, given  the way the world is at the moment, it's possible that little Collman might have 'transitioned' on Christmas Day, or maybe it's just that the BBC sent out its tweet before properly checking the story, but on Christmas Eve the world's most respected broadcaster was calling her a 'boy':

Monday 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas!

My favourite piece of Christmas Eve music...

Miracle at 'Is the BBC biased?'

As it's nearly Christmas (and as it's a pet interest of mine)...

Mr. Kringle, in Miracle on 34th Street

This week's Archive on 4 was excellent.

Its title was How Santa Claus Stole Christmas.

Yes, it was partly a reflection of that most time-honoured of Christmas traditions, the annual festive grumble that Christmas has become too commercialised and Americanised - with an added 'very BBC' layer of talk about 'capitalism' - but it was still a great listen, and full of interesting highways and byways.

All credit then to Sir Christopher Frayling. May all his Christmases be white! (Oh no, I've now got Afua Hirsch of The Guardian on Line One, complaining). 

The standard tale about Santa Claus tells us that, once upon a time, at the beginning of the 4th century, in the Roman Empire, there was an early Christian bishop called Nicholas based in the Greek town of Myra (now Demre in Turkey). It wasn't really until the 13th Century though (some 900 years later) that he shot to saintly prominence, becoming associated with all sorts of legends which led to him becoming the patron saint of children, as well as of sailors, pawnbrokers and bankers.

One legend tells of a wicked father who was going to kill his three daughters because they had no dowries, so Nicholas chucked some gold in at their window. Another tells how he rescued three schoolboys who were going to be baked in a pie. (I'm going with the latter story).

6th December then became his Saint's Day, and by the 16th Century people in several European countries celebrated Saint Nicholas's Day by going house to house and giving sweets and nuts. 

One of those countries was what later became known as the Netherlands. And it was Dutch immigrants to New York who brought the festival to America. 

But, the programme contended, it wasn't this that really gave us the Santa Claus we have today.

No, that was mainly down to New York cultural politics in the early 19th Century, and a couple of writers.

And so it begins...

John Pintard

At the time there were plenty of political clubs, frequently based on ethnic groups, and out of one of them a certain John Pintard emerged to found the New-York Historical Society. His ancestors came from the Low Countries and he wanted an emblem for his society and chose St. Nicholas.

And then the wonderful Washington Irving (author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") decided to write a mock history of New York in order to make fun of John Pintard and his cult of St. Nicholas. Mr. Irving's satire was a best seller. 

Side fact, not featured on the programme but featured in a favourite book of mine called A Christmas Cornucopia (by Mark Forsyth), which I'll just chuck in gratuitously as it's nearly Christmas: Washington Irving's book was a huge hit in Britain too, and the great satirical cartoonist George Cruikshank provided illustrations for the British edition. Some of his drawings mocked Dutch clothing, particularly their trousers. Irving's fictional antiquarian was one Diedrich Knickerbocker, and because of Mr. Cruikshank's illustrations, the word 'knickerbockers' entered the English language. And, over time, and with a slight change of focus, the word contracted and became another well-known British word, 'knickers'. So from St. Nicholas to knickers. And from there to jokes about Just a Minute's knickerless parsons. 

And then came an anonymous poem (1823), which a theology teacher called Clement Clarke Moore later claimed to have written. (He was a member of the very same New-York Historical Society as John Pintard.) The poem was "A Visit from St. Nicholas", better known as "The Night Before Christmas". (The best known poem 'in the American language'?). It made Sinta Klaas our Santa Claus - the nice, big-boned, fur-wearing guy who comes down our chimneys, delights kids, fills our stocking with gifts, and flies through the air on a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer with now-familiar names (though no Rudolf, of course, yet).  One difference is that his Santa smoked a pipe. (Such things, as we know, are frowned upon now.) A second difference is that his Santa was a little elf, whereas ours in a big, fat bloke. (No offence).

A nice Nast-y Santa

Next, during the American Civil War, came the cartoonist and satirist Thomas Nast - the man who first drew our Santa Claus as the fat man with the beard in a red suit. (Curious bonus fact, not mentioned on the programme: He also came up with the elephant symbol for the Republican Party). According to Archive on 4, he derived his vision from (a) the Greek god of wine (because Christmas has always been a bit boozy), (b) an obese corrupt political boss of the day and (c) a notorious slum landlord who wore a big fur jacket. (Blimey!)

That visual image went on developing (and softening) over the following decades, but it was America's best-selling journal, The Saturday Evening Post, that really gave us the Santa we see in stores and on Christmas cards today - and in films like Miracle on 34th Street. And it was the great Norman Rockwell's drawings that massively magnified it.

What did I see Mummy doing?

As for the red-and-white costume? Well, it wasn't Coca Cola for starters. (That's a long-busted myth). It began instead with a mineral water company called the White Rock Medicinal Water Company, whose adverts showed Santa relaxing at home with a drink wearing that very red-and-white costume. And Norman Rockwell then picked that on that and ran with it for decades. But then, in 1931, came the next Big Moment when Coca Cola decided to copy it, as the colours went so well with their own corporate colours. And the rest, as gobby Gary Lineker would probably say, is history.

Meanwhile, from the 1880s onwards, US stores began introducing Santa's grottoes and Winter Wonderlands - though, as the programme said, they were beaten to it by us Brits. Lewis's Bon Marché department store opened its Christmas Fairyland as early as 1879. (Bonus fact, beyond the programme: That was in Liverpool - something that probably merits an exclamation mark. So: That was in Liverpool!)

And it 1897 The New York Sun issued an editorial headlined 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus' in response to a girl called Virginia who'd heard that he didn't really exist. (Fake news!). The paper (which ceased printing in 1950) then reprinted it every year. Sir Christopher thought this was the launch pad for films like Miracle on 34th Street and Santa Claus: The Movie, where "it's all about faith". 

Red-nosed Rudy

On to 1939, and enter Santa's ninth reindeer, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, via a Chicago department store called Montgomery Ward. A free promotional pamphlet of an illustrated poem written by their advertising copywriter Robert L. May was handed out to children as they entered the store. It was deliberately written in the same metre as T'was the Night Before Christmas and was, as Sir Christopher put it, a Christmas version of 'The Ugly Duckling'. By Christmas Day 1939 some 2.4 million copies of that promotional pamphlet had been distributed - a figure that went up to 6 million by 1946. Then, a couple of years later, Robert May's brother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote a song based on it and "it was recorded, reluctantly at first, by the popular singing cowboy Gene Autry". That sold 2.5 million copies in its first year. It's now sold 25 million copies, making it the second best-selling song of all time.

And the best-selling song of all time? (You'll know this already, especially if you like quizzes). Yes, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, which first appeared in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, and which - to the surprise of its creators, who never expected it to be a hit - became a phenemonal worldwide hit at the height of the Second World War, spread by Armed Forces Radio. (Incidentally, the film Holiday Inn did indeed inspire the creation of that chain of motels). 

The Christmas movie had been born. Meet Me in St. Louis came next in 1944, bringing us Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and, with them, the commercial potential of the Hollywood Christmas movie had been well and truly clocked by the studios, and films would begin to be deliberately pitched to the holiday season. Sir Christopher wondered if it's any coincidence that box office flops which did badly at holiday time came to be known in the industry as 'turkeys'? 

It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street followed soon after the War, both with supernatural elements and, according to the programme, also with themes of "good capitalism versus bad capitalism". As far as It's a Wonderful Life goes, the programme suggested that it's "taken over from reading Dickens's a Christmas Carol by the fire side" in America. (Probably here too, though I always either watch or read a Christmas Carol version, including the original, every year.)

Clarence and George Osborne

Meanwhile, here in Britain, Anglican archbishops were preaching against the cult of Christmas and, later, British adverts 'went too far'. In 2003, for example. a woman giving birth and screaming in pain while three men (and, later, a previously-hidden audience) looked on in concern led to the pay-off line, "Has Mr Kipling ever directed a nativity play before? No, but he does make exceedingly good cakes." (I love it that YouTube has that).

And in Rome in 1969, Paul Paul VI took the decision to distance the Catholic Church from St. Nicholas/Santa Claus by removing him from the Calendar of Saints, and demoting him from obligatory to voluntary veneration. 

In contrast, in 2005 the mayor of the modern day site of St. Nicholas's old bishopric, Demre in Turkey, took down a bronze statue of the 4th Century saint and replaced it with a large plastic Santa in a red-and-white suit. He said it was more recognisable to foreign tourists.  

Anyhow (as Kirsty Walk might put it), you better watch out. You better not cry. Better not pout. I'm telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town. Here's John Sweeney...

I've been reliably informed, incidentally, by ex-Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason that every time a John Sweeney report goes out on Newsnight an angel get his wings. (Or, as Kirsty Walk would doubtless remind me, 'or her wings'.)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday 23 December 2018

Only on the BBC

Satirising the BBC is getting ever harder. This is 'breaking news' from BBC News's main Twitter feed at the moment: 

This is about a radio presenter in Argentina. Yes, Argentina. As you might guess, comments could be going better. 

Of course, you could say 'Well, it's just Twitter', but no: The BBC News website has it as one of its top headline stories at this very moment. It's front page headline is Sexist radio presenter must host feminists (with no quotation marks around 'sexist'), and it comes just under another massive story (for the BBC) 'Halfwit' attacks Banksy's latest mural. . 

In the BBC's report you'll find a classic example of:
42. Bias by Absent or Abbreviated Nomenclature. At the BBC the "criminal surname" is often reserved for people for whom we have a visceral hatred. 
The offending radio presenter is just "Etchecopar". His critics get "Ms" placed in front of their names.

I'm so glad that the mocking comments below that BBC News (UK) tweet are so uniformly derisive. It adds to the feeling that the BBC is wildly out-of-touch with this kind of thing.


P.S. On that Banksy story, it's not often you see the word 'halfwit' on the BBC News home page. They 'borrowed' it from a comment from some angry chap on Facebook. The message seems to be: Don't mess with Banksy or the BBC will 'commit a hate crime' against you (at one remove)!

For Mash Get Smash

The Daily Mash (satirical inspiration for the BBC's impartiality-free The Mash Reporthas recently published a piece about the BBC's Question Time. It seems a little wrong-headed to me so, in the spirit of Christmas, I've ever-so-slightly tweaked it to bring it somewhat closer to reality:

BBC confirms next Question Time to come from Angryborough in North Salford
THE next episode of topical panel show Question Time will be broadcast from Angryborough in the metropolitan borough of North Salford.  
The BBC believes the location will ensure a bear pit of shouty, Tory-hating, anti-Brexit obsessives that viewers have come to demand. 
Producer John Simpson said: “Angryborough is perfect for Question Time. The inhabitants once requisitioned a Twitter mob to castrate a member of UKIP. That was during the winter." 
“As usual we’ve loaded the panel with noisy anti-Brexit loudmouths including Gina Miller, Nish Kumar and Anna Soubry, so the atmosphere should quickly turn toxic with a real danger of a ‘vegan riot’". 
“This week’s sacrificial Brexiteer is Charles Moore, who’s posh (unlike David Dimbleby), so we’ve got the police on standby in case the audience tries to drag him away to an isolated protest meeting and give him the full Wicker Man treatment. The police will arrest him for a hate crime instead".
Angryborough resident Mark Easton said: “I’m really interested to hear what the panel’s got to say and will try to drown them out by screaming, ‘Let’s have another People's Vote NOW!’ while turning red”.
He added: “My non-binary other is going to ask an ill-informed question about the Tories and homelessness that would be extremely stupid if it wasn’t so poorly worded no one can understand it.”