Monday 24 June 2019

Dishonest reporting

Look at this piece by Douglas Murray in “Unherd”.

I nearly skipped it because of the illustration they’ve chosen, which made me think “Oh no! Not another one!” in my best Bristolian accent. Of course, considering that the author is who he is, it wasn’t just the same old same old, although there was a tangential relevance to Bristol. Yes, I mean that not very moderate-looking imam, or mufti or whatever handle these wispy-beardies like to call themselves.

Why should the BBC censor the public? asks Douglas Murray. Firstly, he alludes to the awkward BBC leadership contest set design, particularly those bar stools, which were clearly chosen for spite. The clue is in the comedy seating that features so prominently in W1A, the parody of the BBC that isn’t as far-fetched as it was meant to be. The in-jokes in that programme nudge us towards the truth about the BBC in that it pays tribute to the psychology of choosing woke, whacky and impractical seating design and so on. I can picture the non-fictitious Siobhan and her co-creatives at the Beeb dreaming up those spindly bar-stools, motivated, partly by mischief, partly by venom. 

“Here’s the thing.” Remind you of anyone?

Secondly, Douglas Murray does describe Emily Maitlis as too interrupty, but refers to her as “usually excellent”. He obviously doesn’t read sites like this. Personally, I see her as usually professional and sometimes forensic, but certainly not impartial. But then, who at the Beeb is?

He also addresses the question of the ‘Mufti Patel and the Labour apparatchik’ fiasco. How did these two unrepresentative individuals ever get past the screening? Who actually did the screening? I know, ‘Will’, the intern. He was only trying to please. 

“Hugh Skinner: I like playing people who are crap at things”  There you go.

Stay tuned, we’re about to get to the nub.  “Two things have begun to disturb me,” says Douglas Murray.  Me too. The disgrace was that all these leadership contenders were bumped into instantly and irrevocably committing their Party to an inquiry into Islamophobia. Not just any old Islamophobia, but the Islamophobia within their own party - you know, tit for tat. The Labour Party had one, therefore so must we. (Never mind that theirs was a sham, and ‘ours’ will be one too; for different reasons.)

The second thing is one that has been disturbing me for ages. It’s the way that the media is hellbent on manipulating language until the chrysalis of a soundbite metamorphoses into a fully-fledged myth.  One that flutters around annoyingly and is fatally attracted to the light.

The most popular example is Boris Johnson's letterbox/bank robber analogy. A metaphor! Cavalier perhaps, and a tad disparaging, but not a straightforward ‘literal’ description, you idiots.

The BBC is guilty of allowing Boris-bashers of all shapes and sizes to state that “Boris calls Muslim women letterboxes and bank-robbers”. No! Wrong on several counts. He didn’t ‘call them” that, and he wasn’t even talking about (all) “Muslim women” he was talking about people who go about their daily business wearing the all-enveloping burka. 

Defending the burka is utterly, utterly bizarre, especially when it comes from secular, progressive types who, one minute, will say that there’s no such thing as ‘provocative’ clothing because men have no business even looking lustfully at women, and next minute condoning women’s decision to wear the black sack, which Abdullah and his mates say is the only way to prevent misogynistic Muslim men from having lustful thoughts, then, understandably, raping them. 

Assuming that the over-arching principle of the progressive argument is ‘the way one dresses is a matter of freedom of choice’, one must also ask how much ‘freedom’ is there in any society that accepts that those poor, helplessly sexually incontinent Muslim men have ‘no agency’.

This isn’t the only example of language being manipulated and grossly distorted to sway opinion in one’s own direction.  We are all guilty of doing it to varying degrees. Let’s look at another example from the opposite side of the coin.

Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘friends’. Is that a disingenuous, too literal interpretation of one singular,  injudicious soundbite? Couldn’t he too have meant it metaphorically, like Boris? Maybe Corbyn was being sardonic, as, for example, you might refer to, say, the clothes-moth that chomped up your favourite cashmere jumper. “Our little friends are back, put your woollens in the freezer!” 

Yes, it’s possible that we did him an injustice by saying he calls Hamas and Hezbollah his friends.  But look at the evidence. He does see them as friends. All of Corbyn’s actions speak loudly and clearly. We all know which side he sees as friends.

And remember! People seem happy enough to ignore the fact that Boris was arguing ‘for’ freedom of choice. His article stated clearly and simply that he was arguing against banning the burka. 


  1. Pedantic I know but the name of the site is ‘Unherd’. A lot of the articles on it are excellent and thought provoking.

    1. Oops. How careless of me. Fixed! I do like a nice bit of pedantry, so thanks for that.


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