Wednesday 31 July 2019

On the fence

Sarah AB is a regular ‘above the line’ contributor to one of my favourite pro-Israel blogs, Harry’s Place. I find the b.t.l. comments varied, mainly erudite, though often surprisingly combative and irascible.  Sarah AB, renowned for her champion-level fence-sitting, has gawn and done it again. She’s positively teetering on top of the most uncomfortable rung of the fence.

As far as the Israeli Palestinian conflict is concerned, all pre-1967 history is a big empty BBC void. The BBC is of the opinion that ‘it all started’ when Israel spontaneously decided to occupy Gaza and the West Bank.  The crucial evidence - that the six-day war was an intended war of annihilation - is routinely hidden or absent from the narrative. Israel’s neighbours had hoped to destroy it, but they miscalculated. 

Apparently unaware of the BBC’s promotion and amplification of Dr Allin-Khan’s agenda-laden fact-finding mission, and having avoided listening to the run-up to the current situation,  in a similarly context-lite manner Sarah AB has dived straight in at the middle of the Dr Rosena Allin-Khan saga.

 She must also have missed the Today Programme where Mishal Husain’s overbearing chairperson-ship pushed any potential reconciliation further away than ever.

In Sarah AB’s post, she seems to imply that Dr Allin-Khan had made a conciliatory gesture - almost a sacrifice - in accepting an invitation to the Israeli Embassy to continue the discussion face to face. Perhaps it was courageous to venture into enemy territory when you see the enemy as mad, bad and dangerous, but surely the magnanimity was on the part of the deputy Ambassador who was so unkindly disrespected by Husain. 

Issuing an invitation to an openly hostile adversary who, aided and abetted by the BBC, had been doing the rounds to promote a disingenuous, Israel-bashing agenda, shows considerable generosity of spirit. After being subjected to the Beeb’s infamous two-against-one scenario and forced to sit through a distorted account of one's own country's gratuitous malevolence, I doubt if many of us would be as generous with our hospitality. Especially when the chances of changing an implacable mindset were next to nil. But hey ho. 

In the end, (which is where Sarah AB came in) it was those disgustingly shocking antisemitic tweets that opened Allin-Khan’s eyes. She is simply experiencing the extreme end of the “No to Normalisation” phenomenon. There can never be peace while so many people are busily shoring up Palestinian intransigence, as the BBC is. 
It takes bare-faced hate to expose the antisemitism behind the ‘no normalisation’ campaign and to show the futility of encouraging the armies of useful idiots on the left who think they are helping the Palestinians. They mean well, as I’m sure does Sarah AB.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

At the sharp end

This is a turn up for the books. Gosh, that’s an old-fashioned expression - it’s supposed to mean ‘an unexpected piece of good fortune’. In that case, scrap that. This is unexpected alright, but it’s not exactly a piece of good fortune. 

Remember Dr Rosena Allin-Khan? She was the subject of a couple of our recent posts after she’d managed to generate a flurry of anti-Israeli broadcasts about the Israeli medical profession’s heartless cruelty to Gazans. Babies dying alone? Parents denied permits to accompany child cancer sufferers for treatment? Yes, those.

There was a nasty interview in which deputy Israeli ambassador Sharon Bar-Li was at the sharp end of one of Mishal Husain’s customary tongue-lashings and at the blunt end, Dr Allin-Khan was invited to a leisurely stroll on Husain’s personal red-carpet.    

Now you’ve remembered all that, clock this. 

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan:
“So, in my quest to improve the permit system, I had a very lively radio discussion with the Deputy Israeli Ambassador - something which continued in the green room at the BBC. Weeks later, she invited me to meet with her to discuss it further. 
So last week, I went to the Israeli Embassy to discuss it, in the hope to get some traction, to improve the permit system - which will benefit thousands of Palestinians waiting for hospital treatment. 
Instead of supporting my work, those purporting to support the Palestinian cause have spouted horrible anti-Semitic abuse. See some examples here - it’s disgusting, these views are abhorrent - but also misguided and ill-informed.”

"This behaviour does nothing to help the Palestinian cause. I have been there, called out what I’ve seen and spoken in the press. Am I now not meant to work to improve this dreadful situation? 
I’ve worked with Palestinians across the Middle East for 10 years - but these racists think they can sit behind a keyboard here in the U.K and troll someone genuinely trying to help. It’s revolting - it’s wrong."

This looks a little like self-pity rather than a genuine dawning of the light, but it’s a start. At least she’ll see what it’s like to be at the sharp end of unfair criticism.

Not the BBC

H/T M.B.
In the unlikely event that the BBC ever decides to show something similar, it would help the British audience understand the I/P conflict (and it would go some way towards explaining the rise in antisemitism and show why people are so concerned about Jeremy Corbyn's friendships.)

What I missed

I saw a shot of Douglas and Matthew sitting patiently in the Newsnight studio at the beginning of the programme and I thought ‘I must watch that’ and promptly fell asleep. So here’s what I missed. Pity the sound gets more out of synch with the visuals as this clip progresses. 

Monday 29 July 2019

Much discomfort in woke-left circles

I bet the BBC (singular) were *was delighted to report that a bunch of teenage Israeli tourists had been arrested in Cyprus for the rape of a 19-year-old British woman. Something to counter-balance the UK’s grooming-gang debacle perhaps? 
As well as initially getting their ages muddled (one of the accused was 20 so not a teenager) the incident didn’t turn out to be quite the story they *it (singular) had hoped for. 

(* Oh, Jacob Rees-Mogg M.P., Esq., this is getting weird.)

Of course, this may not be the end of the tale. Some Israelis, perhaps protective of their country’s image, are angry with the boys for taking advantage of this girl and, to make matters worse, filming whatever it was that happened. 

If the girl made up the accusation to cover her humiliation, that was a bad choice; worse than involving herself in the first place. 

I’m not gloating over the BBC’s loss of a good story, though.  It might not turn out well for anyone.

To cheer yourself up, read about the terrible dilemma thrown up by the shocking incident of the niqab-clad homophobe and the gay. “The clip has caused much discomfort in woke-left circles.”
Brendan O’Neill is on top form.  Much discomfort all round.

Duchess of woke

Earlier on the BBC wheeled in Bonnie Greer to opine on Meghan Markle’s stint as guest editor of Vogue Mag

The Duchess of Sussex decided not to put herself on the cover as it would be a “boastful thing to do”.  (Hmm...s’what Kate did though, eh?)
"As you will see from her selections throughout this magazine, she is also willing to wade into more complex and nuanced areas, whether they concern female empowerment, mental health, race or privilege.” 
“The issue includes a conversation between Meghan and former US First Lady Michelle Obama.”

"Women who break barriers." Massive cringe. 

Coming soon: Meghan in a hijab (?)

Should the Royals be so woke?

"The list, however, is beyond parody as reflecting the shallow aspirations of a social justice warrior. The only achievement of several of them is being famous, being the right non-white skin colour or, like the duchess, aspiring to making the world a kinder and gentler place." 
Melanie Phillips (£) is spot on here - a subscription to the Times is sometimes worth it for the comments alone, but if you don’t subscribe, why not go and buy a copy?

Carry on Carrie

No matter how hard we try to stick to our ‘BBC bias’ remit, going off-piste is sometimes irresistible. (to me) 

I wanted to mention an Intelligence Squared debate - the motion was “Anti-Zionism is Anti- Semitism” - but I thought its relevance to the BBC might be seen as tenuous or off-topic. Then I realised that the chairperson was Carrie Gracie. So it’s legit after all.

You can read a full transcript of Melanie Phillips’s opening speech here

I watched the whole thing, and it wasn't until Mehdi Hasan stood up to speak that I properly understood why Melanie Phillips had described the audience as ‘hostile’. They whooped and hollered appreciatively before he uttered a single word. In other words, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Some of the random shots of the audience during Mehdi Hasan’s closing speech helped hammer that notion home. 

On the bright side, the ‘for’ votes increased by 4% (from 15% -19%.) However, ‘against’ increased by 17 votes (from 59% - 76%) 

The extra (21%) came from the per cent that claimed to be undecided (26% before, and 5% after.) Surely Mehdi’s clownish manner couldn’t have been that persuasive?  One might wonder if the undecideds had been entirely honest about their ‘undecidedness’ at the outset.

It would be interesting to know what Carrie Gracie really made of it. She did seem engaged (and equally stern with all speakers.) 

Maybe she’s making a genuine effort to be even-handed. If so - cool.  

Sunday 28 July 2019

Style guide.

I was glad to see Jacob Rees-Mogg’s style guide because it put me right on something I’ve struggled with.  I’m probably not going to use Esq. all that much - (Envelopes?) (Handwriting?) (Postman Pat?) in fact I’ve almost forgotten how to hold my pen - but I was particularly glad to hear that organisations are singular. 
That means I must call the BBC “it” and not “they” or ‘them”. If I remember.

cause célèbre

The Moral Maze - the one about antisemitism.

Melanie Phillips writes about this programme here. 
“I discussed this with my fellow-panellists Matthew Taylor, Mona Siddiqui and Tim Stanley. Our witnesses were baroness and rabbi Julia Neuberger, Jewish writer Robert Cohen, the Bishop of Worcester the Rt. Rev.Dr John Inge, and Adam Sutcliffe, professor of European History at King’s College London 
This topic was particularly frustrating for me because of the format of the show. What many listeners don’t realise is that the Maze is not a normal discussion programme where an issue gets comprehensively thrashed out in a debate that follows wherever the participants want to take it.”

It’s a frustrating listen, too. A theme that always runs through this type of programme occurs almost every time this particular topic is addressed. It’s a thing called “the Palestinian Cause.”

People like Mona Siddiqui (she’s by no means the only one) use the phrase as a shorthand term for something ‘we all know’, which carries the undertone that a terrible injustice needs to be put right. The assumption is that immediately upon Israel’s declaration of independence “the Jews” slung the indigenous ‘Palestinian’ Arabs out of their homes crying “It’s my house now!’ in the manner of Papa lazarou 

This is one of those ‘everyone knows’ delusions that, through constant repetition, I’m sorry to say exacerbated by the likes of the BBC, establish themselves as ‘fact’. 

History tells you that the reality is complex and quite different from that interpretation. There are so many things wrong with it that it’s impossible to sum up the reality as succinctly as the falsehood, but suffice it to say that it would be more accurate to define “the Palestinian Cause” as a strong desire for Israel and the Jews to go away.  From the river to the sea.
That is ‘the Palestinian cause’, and it hasn’t changed since the concept of establishing a modern Jewish (Zionist) state was but a twinkle in Theodor Herzl’s eye. 

All along, it was the Arabs’ intractable hatred of Jews that is behind the seemingly insurmountable problem we have today. But for that, everyone could have thrived. 

I listened to this programme a couple of times, and my other observation was Michael Buerk’s irritable and snappy manner with Melanie Phillips.


Sophie Ridge interviewed Jeremy Corbyn this morning. Well-intentioned but a bit feeble is Sophie Ridge. She hasn’t got the heft. With limited verbal agility, her USP amounts to facial gymnastics, (narrowed eyes) and she’s too inherently benign-looking to emote the scorn this topic demands.

Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats, brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats

Earlier today I was reading a review in The Sunday Times by ex-BBC man Misha Glenny of 'This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality' by anti-Putin, anti-Trump journalist Peter Pomerantsev.

Around the same time I was reading a BBC online report and listening to Radio 4 bulletins telling me that Donald Trump has been accused of racism again for attacking a black Congressman and saying something about rats in black-majority Baltimore. Apparently, he meant 'black people' when he wrote 'rats'.

Here's the headline from Radio 4's 7am bulletin this morning:

President Trump is facing further allegations of racism after criticising an African-American congressman.

Naturally, I checked the actual tweets from the US president:

Rep. Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA. As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.

Now, from that it seems clear to me that Donald Trump meant 'rats' rather than 'black people' when he called Rep. Cummings's district "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess", but if Nancy Pelosi and The Squad and the BBC say otherwise I might be missing something.

One of the things that immediately struck me though from the Radio 4 bulletins was how - yet again - certain words got dropped.

When Donald Trump last got accused of racism for saying 'go back' the BBC repeatedly failed to quote the 'then come back' words later in the very same tweet.

And here today was the BBC's Chris Buckler:

In a series of posts on Twitter President Trump struck back, accusing Mr. Cummings been a bully, and said he should concentrate on cleaning up the district he represents in Baltimore, describing it as "a dangerous, filthy and rat-infested mess".

Now, as you can see, that wasn't quite the exact direct quote it sounded like. What, for example, happened to the word 'rodent' - an added word that might have made it even plainer to Radio 4 listeners that Mr Trump was talking about literal rats and rodents rather than black people? 

Checking online to see if Baltimore is known for its rat problem, I find (again and again) that it is. Baltimore is a 'top rat city' in poll after poll and a recent highly-acclaimed US film about rats and race in Baltimore by a black Baltimore film maker was titled 'Rat Film'. Even The Washington Post had a long-read article a few years back headlined 'Oh, rats. There's one aspect of Baltimore she can't get used to'.

Seriously, do blogs like this really have to do this kind of research?

So yet another fake news twisting of the facts by the MSM, with the BBC following suit like  Trump-hating, Democrat groupies?

Well, the BBC website report, headlined 'Trump’s ‘rat-infested’ attack on lawmaker was racist, says Pelosi', was the BBC site's second story this morning, but is now gone from its home page. (Have the BBC yet again realised that they leapt too soon and then abruptly dropped the story?)

Nonetheless, Newssniffer tells an interesting tale, catching the BBC in the act of toning down their reporting. 

One version says:

The episode has echoes of the racially-charged rhetoric Mr Trump used in tweets lambasting four Democratic congresswomen of colour earlier this month.

The next version tones it down slightly (partly by recourse to a variant on the BBC's trusty 'some people say' formula') to this:
The episode has echoes of the rhetoric Mr Trump used in tweets lambasting four Democratic congresswomen of colour earlier this month. That was also widely criticised as racist. 
[P.S. Note how the BBC now slavishly parrots the US identity politics-led 'woke' formulation 'women of colour']. 

What do you make of this? Am I right or am I wrong? Does it matter?

'Profuse apologies'

Not BBC-related but obviously related to the previous post, I see that one of the Exaro people Newsnight used to work with - Orwell Prize-winning ex-Guardian reporter David Hencke (a precursor of the Observer's Carole Cadwalladr) - provoked The Guardian into this fulsome apology to Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard today:

Stephen Pollard, an apology. There were a number of significant errors in a report by David Hencke on page 9, yesterday, headed Chance chat over dinner led Blair to order u-turn on beds. 
The report depended substantially on the assertion that Tony Blair had had an animated conversation on the NHS beds crisis with Stephen Pollard, described as an associate editor of the Daily Express, whom he was said to have met by chance while the latter was dining in the River Cafe with his girlfriend. 
Mr Pollard is not an associate editor of the Daily Express; he is a columnist. He has never eaten in the River Cafe, let alone with Tony and Cherie Blair. While it is true that he has strong views on the NHS and the private sector, he has never discussed them "animatedly" with Tony or Cherie Blair. 
Mr Hencke did not check any of this with Mr Pollard. Profuse apologies.

Would that the BBC were more willing to offer such 'profuse apologies'!

After 'Nick' got nicked

Today's Mail on Sunday has a fascinating piece by Alistair Jackson, the BBC man behind that 2015 edition of Panorama which blew the lid on 'Nick' (Carl Beech) and his lurid lies about a VIP paedophile ring.

It paints a particularly damning portrait of the police. 

I'm proud that we backed Panorama over this at the time, strongly agreeing with Stephen Pollard  that it was "surely one of the most important programmes the BBC has ever broadcast":


It's complicated

The odd thing was that Panorama found itself under not-so-friendly fire from its BBC colleagues at Newsnight

Looking back, Newsnight surely has some questions to answer about this now. 

Here's part of what I wrote at the time:
I'm groping in the dark a bit with Wednesday's Newsnight. It all seemed a bit odd.
Instead of leading with David Cameron's big speech at the Tory Party conference it led with the previous night's Panorama...
...which might seem somewhat incestuous ("BBC shall speak peace unto BBC"), except that Newsnight's Nick Hopkins's report seemed to be more a case of sibling rivalry than incest (thank goodness!).
Nick Hopkins himself has pursued angles on the self-same story that Panorama was trying hard to discredit, so it's probably not much of a puzzle as to why he would want to cast such a quizzical eye over Panorama's latest edition.
Then came a strange interview with Mark Watts, the head of Exaro News - the media organisation that Panorama aired so many doubts out.
Evan Davis gave him a bit of a grilling but never seemed to go for the jugular. I thought that Mr Watts came rather well out of it.
The one thing I now about Exaro News, however, is that Newsnight has worked with them on several occasions in the past.
Was that why Exaro's chief was given such a prominent platform to defend his organisation at the start of this edition of Newsnight?
If it was, that puts the issue of 'incestuous behaviour' by Newsnight firmly back on the agenda.
...what with Wednesday night's Newsnight (a) sounding a rather dissenting note about the previous night's Panorama (given the Newsnight reporter fronting this piece's own role in reporting much the same kind of thing as Exaro) and (b) giving the Exaro boss a long 'right to reply' against Panorama.
I also heard an interview on Today the day after that Panorama report with the chief constable of Norfolk slamming the BBC for broadcasting that edition of Panorama.
And then came this week's Newswatch (with Samira Ahmed) which reported the complaints of what sounded like quite a lot of BBC viewers (even if 'quite a lot' in these circumstances means a few dozens, or - at best - a few hundreds out of 64 million people). 
All of them savaged the BBC for betraying the victims and prejudicing police investigations. 
And with no one from the BBC being willing to be interviewed about it (including Panorama editor Ceri Thomas), Samira ended up interviewing the chief constable of Norfolk again, who (again) slammed the BBC for broadcasting that edition of Panorama.
So Panorama really was up against it at the time, from the police, viewers and their own BBC colleagues. 


Incidentally, that once-ubiquitous chief constable of Norfolk, Simon Bailey, is still in place. Checking TV Eyes, it looks as if he hasn't been all over the BBC since the conviction of Carl Beech offering up an apology to Panorama for shooting the messenger four years ago. 


By the way, it was actually the BBC that first put 'Nick' on air whilst breaking the news about Operation Midland getting under way. You can see most of that report in a conspiracy theory YouTube video from 2012, and it makes for fascinating viewing.

Listen out in particular for the way BBC reporter, Tom Symonds, gives credence to Carl Beech's claims in his language - some of which I'll quote here:
London in the late 70s and early 80s. a time and place receding into history. But the darkest stories of the past are returning to haunt modern Britain, and this is one of them: an account of boys picked up by chauffeur-driven cars and taken to meet their abusers.  
Nick, not his real name, has overcome decades of fear to give his testimony. 
He remembers the abusers would send their employees to bring him. 
'Nick', of course, 'remembered' no such thing. He was making it up.

Language Eleanor!

Courtesy of MB, here are a fine couple of examples of biased language from the BBC this morning. First, here's Radio 5 Live's Eleanor Oldroyd using the e-word about the ERG (at around 7.40am):
There seem to be some interesting clash points all over the place really, aren't there?  There are plenty of people who want to avoid a no deal, including the former Chancellor Philip Hammond. There are the extreme Brexiteers, if you like, the ERG, who are potentially coming to clash with Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister, and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings. 
Secondly, here's William Crawley on Radio 4's Sunday using one of the i-words (no, not that one!) in connection to Boris Johnson's column defending the right of Muslim women to wear the burqa (the one with the letterbox joke):
Philip, what about Boris Johnson's relationship with faith communities? That infamous column we heard reference to earlier about the burqa and comparing it to letterboxes, just one example of that I suppose. 

Saturday 27 July 2019

John Simpson does it again

Do I bother too much about BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson's often highly opinionated Fran-Unsworth-busting tweets?

Well, even if I do, here's the great Afghan burka babe's latest Twitter outburst:

What tickled my fancy here, besides his telling EU reference, is than John didn't mention the only country to even remotely rival China, executions-wise, at the moment: namely the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This is relevant, particularly given that several earlier posts here at ITBB noted how BBC types, especially John Simpson, have been regularly defensive in favour of Iran. (Please read our linked posts about it if you doubt it).

Iran carried out more than 253 executions in 2018, beating Saudi Arabia by around a hundred executions and Pakistan by some 240 executions. It's either first or second (depending on the mystery on the numbers executed in China). 

So why did Impartial John 'forget' his beloved Iran here?

A tweet may be a minor thing, but if the BBC's World Affairs Editor is making a point here and, whilst doing so, somehow 'forgets' Iran - either the biggest or second biggest offender of all (with China as the complicating factor) - because he's sympathetic towards their country because of their past treatment at 'Western' hands, then that's surely something, isn't it?

The BBC, abortion, Trump, 'Panorama' and bias

I've not had much time to blog recently but when time permits and the impulse is upon me I sometimes find myself wasting a half hour or so of my life watching something I'd never normally watch just to check out a hunch about BBC bias. (May a host of harmonious angels singing Handel rescue me!)

Thus, having just watched Big Nick Robinson's M. Barnier-friendly Panorama on Brexit, I spotted that the subsequent Panorama edition was a US-based report by Hilary Andersson (not to be confused, despite what you might think, with Hillary Clinton). 

Now, the BBC's Hilary and biased Panorama editions go together like a horse and carriage.

We've already posted two detailed posts on the subject. 

One was a jaw-dropper on the Boston bombers - Chechen Muslim immigrants - where she tried to maintain that the Boston Marathon bombers weren't really jihadists and that America's Muslims were victims too.

The other concerned an edition of Panorama that was originally going to be called 'America's Most Hated President?' until the BBC got cold feet. Guess which President Donald Trump Hilary was asking about! It was broadcast on 14 November 2016, almost two months before The Donald actually became president. Gun-toting stereotyped white male Trump supporters duly got contrasted with young minority students fearful of Trumpian racism and Hilary's narrative cannily managed to imply that the only-just-elected president-to-be was responsible for black people being shot by the US police.

Now, on seeing that the subject was 'America's Abortion Wars' and then spotting Hilary Andersson's name, I expected the programme to make a pretence of impartiality but frame the narrative so as to very firmly push the social liberal rather than the social conservative side of the matter.

And guess what? Well, this is the BBC, so it was inevitable really. Should I bother laying out the evidence then?

Well, why not?


"We ask, could women here lose the right to abortion?", was the way the introduction framed the Big Question, and Hilary immediately began by talking of abortion clinics being "under siege" and of the "vitriol".

We were then introduced to Dr. Robinson, a black, female abortionist in the Deep South who also delivers babies. She's "regularly harassed" by anti-abortionists and "she has good reason to be afraid". I immediately spotted her as the heroine of the story.

Then we meet 22 year old Sandra, who wants an abortion. She having to move states. And there's sad music to accompany her story. BBC Hilary sat in on Sandra's abortion and confessed "I found it really hard to watch", but she told us that Sandra felt "relief" and Sandra then told us that herself.

What of the change of law in rose-filled Alabamy?. As Hilary narrates the politics there the programme shows a sign commemorating Rosa Parks and her anti-racism bus boycott. Is that just for local colour, or to slyly link anti-abortionists with white supremacists? (about 8 mins in).

"You could go to jail for up to 99 years", Hilary says to our heroine, Dr. Robinson, before going on, "And it's not just Alabama. 11 other states have joined the crusade" [not a positive word in the BBC's world].

Now we meet our first anti-abortion 'talking head'. It's Phil Bryant, Governor of Mississippi . He doesn't get to say much, before it's onto Kathryn Kolbert, captioned as a 'reproductive rights lawyer', and the programme's main 'impartial expert'. She doesn't sound at all keen on the conservative way things are going. 

Next comes Maralyn Moseley, an elderly black women who experienced bad things, abortion-wise, in the bad old days of backstreet abortions and then became a pro-abortion campaigner. You might well guess the gist of what she said.

Time for politics, and conservatives, Trump and the US Supreme Court majority: "So could Americans lose their right to abortion?", asked Hilary. 

Kathryn Kolbert, 'reproductive rights lawyer', appeared again to say, not approvingly, that Republicans will overturn Roe v Wade.

Then it was back to Gov. Bryant: "Won't banning abortion lead to more back street abortions?", asked Hilary. 

Off then to Our Kansas, or - as some call it -Arkansas. "It's not called the Bible Belt for nothing", said Hilary. "Most people here - and most women - oppose abortion". Life begins at conception they believe and, she added, "must be preserved at almost any cost".

Time for a spot of 'BBC balance: Here's white, middle-aged Kandi, a mother of seven who had an abortion at 19 and is "still traumatised" by what happened. "Kandi turned to religion", said Hilary, and set up an adoption agency to provide women with an alternative to abortion. Kandi adopted one such unborn girl herself (Anne Marie) - a girl with an incurable skin disease who's "in constant pain" but who has already lived longer than anyone predicted. 

That sounded sympathetic from Hilary Andersson, but then came: "And even if Anne Marie's mother was raped, it makes no difference to Kandi", and she went on:
In America today the most personal matters have become political. If the Supreme Court ruling is overturned, the abortion bans in nine states will even apply to women who've been raped and to those whose children would be born with severe disabilities.
And, to counter Kandi, here came Dina from Alabama, raped at 17,who found out she was pregnant 8 months in and gave birth to a severely disabled child. She told Hilary that she loved the child, but she constantly brought back memories of the rape and her sense of women's shame, imbibed from her dad's religion (which "crushed her"). Little Zoe "had a short, painful life". Dina's "outraged" that women, even in early pregnancy, may "soon lose the right to abortion here". She would have terminated her pregnancy if she could have.
"To Governor Bryant though abortion is simply murder", Hilary said next, before asking him:

  • "You want to ban abortion even in the cases where a woman has been raped or the victim of incest. Is that right?"
  • "But just looking at the issue itself, it's a very difficult issue for a woman to carry her rapist's child".

Republican Governor Bryant was the baddie 'in the dock' on Panorama

So what of the 2020 president election? Donald Trump's recent anti-abortion remarks at a rally led Hilary Andersson to suggest electoral reasons for so doing, and her main 'talking head', Kathryn Kolbert, 'reproductive rights lawyer', accused the President of using "red meat everywhere" because "it riles up his base". Possibly echoing Panorama's use of that Rosa Parks sign earlier in the programme, Kathryn listed "white nationalists" among those supporting President Trump here.

Ah, but, as Hilary then said, "the majority of Americans - around 60% - broadly support the right for abortion". {How broadly?]

And, sticking with Donald Trump and keen to make a 'reality check' point, Hilary continued: 
And now the fight's getting really ugly. President Trump is focusing the debate around the most sensitive issue - abortions in the late stages of pregnancy, which he describes like this: 
"The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don't think so". 
What he described is not a method of abortion used in America. Over 98% of abortions take place before 21 weeks. Very late abortions are rare. Women who seek them out, often desperate."
It was then back to Dina, defending late-term abortions. 

Hilary then talked to a late-term abortion doctor from Washington DC, "one of the most staunchly pro-abortion parts of America" - Dr Leroy Carhart. She called him "one of the most controversial abortionists" and asked him "You don't have a problem with killing a baby?", but was a good deal more sympathetic towards him that she was towards the Governor of Mississippi. "He believes they're [anti-abortionists] trying to push women back into the Dark Ages".

Back then to Gov. Bryant of Mississippi then to repeat that point: "Is there a bigger picture here that you and President Trump are trying to turn the clock back, bring America back to what you see as a more moral kind of age?" 

And then came the programme's concluding passages (minus the 'talking head' clips):

  • "Dr Robinson has carried out 24 abortions this week but today it's time to deliver a new life. It's a girl. The abortion bans may be struck down but women's right to choose in large parts of America has not been in this much jeopardy for decades". Dr Robinson fears for the next generation..."
  • "For all the politics raging around abortion in America the issue is deeply personal for Kandi - Anne Marie living proof, in her view, that all life is precious..."
  • "America's changing profoundly under President Trump. At stake with abortion, what kind of country this will be - one where women can control their own destiny, or a nation where, in the name of God, life always comes first."

I suppose this programme must have passed the BBC's impartiality test - just as the two other Hilary Andersson Panorama programmes must have done, despite neither of them, or this one, being anywhere nearly truly fair, open-minded and impartial.

On the question of abortion especially I'd expect nothing less (or more) from the ultra-socially liberal, anti-Trump BBC.

Harping on

On an old theme, probably harped by bards these days, today's Dateline London on the BBC News Channel was one of those editions where a right-leaning, pro-Brexit guest is let in and allowed to counter the programme's' usual, sometimes suffocating left-liberal, anti-Brexit bias. 

Today it was blog favourite Alex Deane. 

Alex - as ever on Dateline the doughty Christian in the lion's den - not only didn't get eaten but repeatedly bopped the three opposing lions on the nose as well. 

Our Alex, in a good way, never disappoints. 

One of those ravenous lions was another of our blog favourites, Nabila Ramdani. She never disappoints either - though in a less good way. 

Our Nabs went off on not just one but on several. Yes, the new Boris Johnson-led government, according to Our Nabs, is sinister, far-right, extreme, freaky, etc, etc. 

And she really, really, really had it in for Priti Patel. (Hmm. Wonder why? Is it cos Priti is right-wing and pro-Israel, or is it cos Priti is Hindu?). 

All of this said, I'm pleased to be able to say something wholly positive. Carrie Gracie is much, much better at chairing the programme than once-nice Gavin Esler. He was Change UK's spokesman on the BBC long before he left the BBC or before Change UK was even formed.

Nick Robinson, nightmares and glorious simplicity

Talking of Nicks...

Nick Robinson's Panorama - 'Britain's Brexit Crisis' - opened with these words from the BBC man:
This is the story of how something that was supposed to be gloriously simple turned out to be a nightmare.
And these were the words with which it ended: 
What is crystal clear three years after the referendum is that Brexit was never going to be simple. It was always going to involve difficult trade-offs, it had to be based on some sort of deal with the EU. The time for talk about having our cake and eating it is over. What our politicians owe us now is honesty - about that and the challenge ahead. 
From the use of the mocking phrase "gloriously simple" and the allusion to Boris Johnson's famous "having our cake and eating it" quote, it's pretty clear who Nick Robinson is mainly wagging his finger at here when calling for honesty from our politicians: He's berating leading Brexit campaigners, especially Boris Johnson.

That said, the bulk of this fascinating documentary will probably have left viewers wagging their fingers at plenty of others - not least the hapless Mrs May and her disorderly government. 

The featured voices on the UK side were: David Davis, George Bridges, Philip Hammond, Gavin Barwell, Sir Keir Starmer, Arlene Foster, Stewart Jackson, David Lidington, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Julian Smith. The featured voices on the EU side were: Francois Hollande, Michel Barnier, Frans Timmermans, Martin Selmayr and Simon Coveney. The latter all sang from the same hymn book, the former not quite so much:

NICK ROBINSON: They weren't the only ones who didn't know what was going on. Theresa May and her officials had finally come up with a detailed Brexit plan but key ministers were kept in the dark until the eve of a crucial Cabinet meeting. 
STEWART JACKSON: On the Thursday afternoon, we are sitting around in David Davis’s office in the department and the phone goes, he puts it on speaker and its Boris Johnson who has just got his pack. This is the Foreign Secretary who's just got 120 page agenda for the Cabinet the following day, and he is absolutely going ballistic, he is apoplectic. And he says, ‘Have you seen this?! It is effing bullshit, David.’ 
NICK ROBINSON: As the Cabinet gathered at the Prime Minister's country residence, her team told journalists any ministers who resign would lose their government cars and would have to take a taxi home. 
DAVID DAVIS: What a small minded attitude! And I just thought to myself, ‘Hmm, I know Jacob Rees-Mogg has got an antique Bentley and if I call up and tell them to put on his chauffer’s cap, he will come and collect me and I can drive up through the assorted TV cameras, probably wind the window down, and say, ‘It’s such a bore to take one’s own car.’

In Nick Robinson's presentation at least, the EU side looked like tactical geniuses, forever disappointed and saddened by the emotion-driven ineptness of their friends in the UK. 

I strongly suspect the EU side will have particularly enjoyed this programme. 

And that, I think, is where the problem lies, bias-wise, with what otherwise was a genuinely interesting programme. Despite the range of voices, we were still being 'steered'. 

Look at the closing segment, for example, and see how the bit quoted earlier in the post is led up to...

Nick Robinson begins with, in his words, those tough-talking, threat-issuing Brits, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. He then gives us two, oh-so-reasonable-sounding, 'UK-loving' EU voices (Martin Selmayr, the EU's eminence gris during this period, earlier in the programme called himself "Martin, the friend of Britain" in response to Nick Robinson's invitation). Nick also tells us that the EU will be waiting for us, implying that the EU are oh-so-formidable. And Nick leads Michel Barnier towards a closing 'warning' to the UK not to 'no deal', before himself taking aim at Boris Johnson and demanding honesty from UK politicians (though not, you'll note, EU politicians):

NICK ROBINSON: Britain is about to see another changing of the guard. Both potential Prime Ministers are talking tough and say they will use the threat of no-deal to make the EU think again. 
SIMON COVENEY (Irish foreign minister): This is an issue that requires political compromise based on reality and on the fact that present themselves, which are detailed and difficult. This is not something that should be decided upon on the basis of emotion, which is, unfortunately, when some people have gone with the Brexit debate, and that is my appeal from Ireland, you know, as your closest neighbour and closest friend, make a decision based on the facts. 
NICK ROBINSON:  Whoever the new Prime Minister is, the EU will be waiting for them. 
MICHEL BARNIER (EU chief Brexit negotiator): So why this document is so important, and I recognise it is not so easy to read, 600 pages, because we have put it together with the UK, not against the UK, but with the UK, the legal answers to each and every point of uncertainty created by the Brexit. That is why this document is the only way to leave the EU in an orderly manner. 
NICK ROBINSON: And if we just left, if we just tore up the membership card? 
MICHEL BARNIER: The UK will have to face the consequences. 
NICK ROBINSON: What is crystal clear three years after the referendum is that Brexit was never going to be simple. It was always going to involve difficult trade-offs, it had to be based on some sort of deal with the EU. The time for talk about having our cake and eating it is over. What our politicians owe us now is honesty - about that and the challenge ahead. [Closing credits roll].

Impartial? I don't think so.

*hat tip to the wonderful Andrew at News-watch for the transcript here*

A 'special' report from Nick Bryant

Last night's BBC One News at Ten carried a reporter by the BBC's North America Correspondent (as he was introduced) Nick Bryant. I'll post a transcript below, with my added comments in red italics:

Newsreel footage: During his visit, the Prime Minister and Mr Roosevelt consulted with members of the Pacific War Council
Nick Bryant: The special relationship has often turned on personal relationships between the leaders in Washington and Westminster. Churchill and Roosevelt formed a close wartime alliance. Reagan and Thatcher were like ideological newlyweds. Bush and Blair were from different sides of the political street but nonetheless became partners in Iraq. The chemistry already seems good between this billionaire populist and old Etonian populist [loaded descriptions intended to undermine their 'populist' credentials by emphasising their 'privelege'], here meeting at the United Nations in New York, the city where both men were born. In Donald Trump, Boris Johnson has a transatlantic fan. Tonight came warm, soothing words [a hint of a mocking tone there] from the White House:
President Trump: I think we are going to have a great relationship and Boris is going to be a great Prime Minister. I predict he will be a great Prime Minister. He has what it takes. They needed him for a long time. 
Nick Bryant: The special relationship has always been cyclical, but the recent trendline has been downward. Barack Obama and Gordon Brown were not especially close and although he became barbecue buddies with David Cameron he regarded Angela Merkel as the key, European leader. Donald Trump's relationship with Theresa May started with a gentle tap on the hand but ended with repeated kicks in the teeth. Ever since Churchill first coined the phrase, the special relationship has meant far more to the British than the Americans, as that's especially true now. As the UK tries to exit the European Union it's becoming more diplomatically isolated [in Nick's opinion] and it desperately [another loaded word] needs a trade deal with the United States. That partly explains the early offer of a state visit to London. But this America First president prides himself on his negotiating skills and knows he has by far the upper hand. 
Nicholas Burns, former US Under-Secretary of State: [Unannounced to BBC viewers, someone who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is now supporting Joe Biden] A mature, wise and responsible American president would look at Britain engulfed in this fundamental crisis and give Britain a helping hand. I worry that this unscrupulous, mercurial, unpredictable president in the White House could even try to take advantage of Britain in a moment of weakness . That wouldn't honour the special relationship. 
Nick Bryant: But the man Donald Trump once suggested should be UK's ambassador to Washington, Nigel Farage, claims [why not 'said'?] he's a more faithful friend:
Nigel Farage: Well, we need to press the reset button. Donald Trump is a businessman. He will go for a good deal. Of course he will.. As we will go for a good deal. I think it's remarkable, given that over the last three years we've disappointed Trump again and again and again, he is instinctively pro-British. He wants us to have a much better relationship than we've currently got. 
Nick Bryant: But Boris Johnson also needs to win the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has warned [why not 'threatened'?] that Congress won't ratify a new trade deal if Brexit jeopardises the Good Friday Agreement. She visited the Irish border earlier this year to hammer home that point. Donald Trump seems untroubled that Boris Johnson once said he betrayed "stupefying ignorance" about crime in London, but can the new Prime Minister repair a special relationship that risks becoming servile [an opinion disguised as a question]? Nick Bryant, BBC News, Washington. 

Thursday 25 July 2019

A sizeable iceberg beneath the surface

You might be interested in downloading this podcast.

Extra footage represents a "sizeable iceberg beneath the surface” according to John Ware.
Legendary documentary maker John Ware talks to me about his findings and if he's changed his view of both Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in the weeks since his documentary, "Is Labour Antisemitic?" aired on primetime BBC1. 
In this candid interview, John reveals how "livid" he is at Labour's allegations that he was motivated to mislead, predicts how it'll pan out in the coming months - and delivers his own verdict on whether the Labour leader is anti-semitic.

It’s reassuring to know that the Beeb’s legal eagles passed John Ware’s film for veracity and impartiality. It would also be useful to know whether the BBC’s legal team took the opportunity to scrutinise John Sweeney’s “Tommy Takedown” Panorama before it was postponed or abandoned. Perhaps this kind of scrutiny is carried out at the last minute,  say when the programme is edited and ready to go on the air.
However, if they’ve also given Sweeney’s dubious methodology the nod, it makes a mockery of John Ware’s assurances, much as I don’t want to doubt John Ware.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Open Thread

Plastic-free mid-July Open Thread. Recycled and new comments welcome here.