Monday 30 September 2019

This evenings viewing

You’ll have heard that Tony Hall has reversed the BBC’s unfortunate decision about Naga Munchetti and she has been uncensured. Will heads roll? Come back John Humphrys, that’s your speciality isn’t it?

I intended to watch Jane Corbin’s take on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, mainly because I’ve just mastered the fluent pronunciation of 'Khashoggi', with both adjacent gs (hard and soft) bound seamlessly together, which is more than most BBC announcers can manage. 

The problem was that the TV was tuned to Channel Four and I was transfixed by the post-conference interview with a portly-looking Krishnan Guru-Murphy, Rachel Sylvester, Craig Oliver and Gillian Keegan MP. 

Unsurprisingly, being Channel 4, the topic they were most excited about was Boris and thigh-gate. Who lied? If it wasn’t Charlotte Edwardes with her extra e, it must be Boris, the lying letch.

I had been reflecting on the increasing ubiquity of Rachel Sylvester as seen on TV. She’s been on loadsa political programmes recently. She’s a columnist for The Times, yet she appears to be a very priggish lefty. 

In the event, I sacrificed the first half of Khashoggi to my own morbid need to see how far Channel 4 could go with their petty, childish and spiteful Boris-bashing gossip. Gillian Keegan was the only sane person present and Guru-Murthy was almost beside himself with glee.

Looking at Rachel Sylvester’s spite-flecked eyes and listening to her squeaky voice one couldn’t help thinking that no-one’s going to be touching any of her body parts under or over any dinner-tables any time soon without written permission.

Watching Ed Balls on BBC 2 marvelling at our massive non-European fruit and veg related import and export industry was a nice change. It came across as rather pro-Brexit. Probably accidentally.

Things I don't want to see

Things I don’t want to see on TV (or read online or in the press.)

1) Do people really care what Boris Johnson did under the dinner table twenty years ago? Back then the killer look was an effective way of dealing with creepy things like that.

Norman Smith is in Manchester. He likes to use his own brand of flippancy to spin the news. He thinks Boris’s irrelevant, electioneering-motivated promises about 'busses' is sheer deflection from the far more serious matter of inappropriate thigh-squeezing. In the studio, Joanna Gosling jokes chummily, “He likes busses” 
If that ain’t Naga style editorialising I don’t know what is. 

Don’t you just hate it when people you quite like say really stupid things?

2) Take, for example, Brendan O’Neill. He’s written about Naga-gate over at the Spectator - You’ve probably read it by now. Everything he’s written is negated by his opening remark, which is that Trump’s abbreviated (quote-mined)  tweet was racist. Fortunately for my continuing sanity, most of the btl comments took him to task over this. 
To elucidate: Trump’s tweet was crude but he was trying to say to those dear ladies that they’re in no position to criticise. In playground language, “you can’t talk!” or, “If you can do any better, go ahead, let’s see you do it.” He sees their ‘holier than thou’ criticism of the US as disloyal and unAmerican. Simples.  And surely it’s not automatically racist to allude to someone’s geographical ‘ancestral’ origins nowadays, is it? 

3) Here’s another one. I really admire Rachel Riley for what she is doing to raise awareness of the alarming tsunami of antisemitism that’s sweeping the world. She’s putting her popularity, her beauty and intelligence to good use; making the best of her assets by devoting them to a worthwhile cause. 

However, I was disappointed to see that she too has used the Corbynista “all forms of racism” appendage in her anti-antisemitism speech at the Algemeiner  “J100 list” ceremony.

If you read her full speech you might notice that she alludes to people who have stood up against antisemitism, specifying: “Jews, Christians, Muslims. People of all faiths and people of none.” 
Fair enough if she’s praising religious and non-religious groups (including Muslims) who condemn hatred of Jews. But is she? it’s not clear whether she actually means ‘people who fight antisemitism’ or if she’s merely empathising with everyone who has suffered from ‘bigotry.’ 

Further on she declares her support for a bill in the UK Parliament to make online hate a criminal offence.
“….material that incites violence against women, against Muslims, indeed against any group they seek to target with their bile, to make them civilly and criminally liable for the content they recklessly allow to be published there.
This skates perilously near to blasphemy-law territory. I want her to at least acknowledge that much of the problem emanates from Islam. Rachel Riley came to the party surprisingly late in the day. She only noticed antisemitism after the “Enough is enough’ protests. So where was she during the 2014 anti-Israel crescendo? I may have got this wrong, but I can’t help being disappointed.

4) Criticism of the BBC. That’s another area that’s full of stupid stuff. Not only the ‘complaints from both sides’ meme - people saying the BBC is too right-wing - but eg., on rare occasions on our ‘sister’ blog when a commenter cites or links to an antisemitic website or makes a hideous, white-supremacist type of comment. The Biased-BBC comments field fills up fast, so the admin team (if there is such a thing) has its work cut out, but these things need to be flagged up so they could at least be challenged.

5) Last but not least, I’m puzzled by the fact that so many erudite and knowledgeable writers and bloggers who are brave enough to criticise Islam and the Islamisation of the West are terrified of being associated in any way with the artist formerly known as Stephen Yaxley Lennon. 

He’s working-class, and self-educated (to a pretty remarkable degree) on the subject of Islam. He’s reckless, impulsive and can be his own worst enemy, but I can’t quite work out whether he’s earned the disdain of people I admire merely because of class prejudice or for some other reason beyond my ken. After all, some of these people have been on ‘journeys’ themselves - commonly from the political left to the right rather than from skinhead to the Oxford Union if you see what I mean. But a journey is a journey. 

So, these are five examples of the things I don’t want to see on TV or read online. Maybe this post itself is something you don’t want to read either; but if you have been reading, 'thanks for your time' as they say on TV,  and be thankful that I’ve only got up to number five.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Going with the flow

I don’t think I need to write much about Andrew Marr’s embarrassing performance with Boris Johnson this morning. Everyone on Twitter is having a massive go at him. I don’t think Andy did himself or the BBC any good at all. 
Not only was the “interruption quotient” through the roof (i don’t think the PM was allowed to finish one sentence) but it looked as though Marr was trying to extract a ‘gotcha’, and the pettiness of the questioning was stultifying and totally counterproductive.

I’m not the only one who noticed the comparatively smooth ride enjoyed by Angela Rayner moments later. A joyride, even. Marr didn’t even bat an eyelid at her assertion that he (Boris) “called Muslim women letterboxes”.  
And, as people say these days to display their commonality with the zeitgeist and to show that they’re only going with the flow: “It’s not just me saying it”.  Everyone on Twitter sys it too.

Saturday 28 September 2019


What’s wrong with everybody? Can’t anyone comprehend English these days?
 Perhaps comprehension has been dropped from the school curriculum. Aren't children expected to master comprehension at about eight or nine years of age any more? I'm sure English teachers used to set a passage of text and pupils had to reproduce the gist of it in their own words to demonstrate that they’d properly understood it.

“[Reading] comprehension involves three levels of understanding: literal meaning, inferential meaning, and evaluative meaning.”

Something has happened. For some reason, it's become commonplace for politically motivated journalists and their followers to maliciously fail to comprehend ‘news’. and no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the alarming proliferation of “Quote mining”

On TCW David Keighley examines the BBC’s responses to the Emily Maitlis and Naga Munchetti  affairs. 
By way of a  personal declaration of non-interest, I can’t stand any of the BBC’s flim-flam formats which feature Hello Magazine style items sandwiched between the inane banter of a pair of BBC anchors on a sofa in a garishly lit BBC studio. Like many of you, (probably) I hadn’t been following The Naga Manchetti ruling, but I have heard it discussed in the media. 

I gather that Naga Munchetti’s Beeb colleague had invited her to opine on President Trump’s “racist” remark, which had been retrospectively revised  (‘quote-mined’ ) to infer that President Trump had told the ‘squad’ (of BAME congresswomen) to “go back to their own countries”.
I have actually seen President Trump’s whole Tweet - the full monty - reproduced on the TV screen with just the relevant words emboldened. Yet despite the entirety of the tweet being clearly visible, the crucial caveat  “and then come back and fix it ” was completely ignored. Some kind of collective blind spot? (Has Ilhan Omar hypnotised the whole world?) 

Here’s an example of the type of ‘quote mining’ we'd normally dismiss as laughable when used to promote some godawful film, play or book. 
“David Turner-Samuels (for the Eye): With your permission, my lord, I will read an extract from The Times Literary Review — "Lord Russel's works could be said to be pornographic…" 

David Hirst, QC (for the plaintiff): Read the rest of the sentence. 
David Turner-Samuels: "But they are not."

See what I mean? “Read the rest of the sentence”  - but of course no-one has any appetite for the rest of President Trump’s sentences.

Naga’s opinion concerned her personal experience of ’racism’ - all perfectly legitimate, but nothing much to do with President Trump because any alleged connection was entirely predicated on a deliberate misinterpretation of what he'd said. The whole silly business blew up because the media decided to scoop words out of a longer passage in order to paint President Trump as a racist. And it’s easily forgotten why he made that remark in the first place. It was in response to the blatantly racist conduct of the congresswomen in question.  This is getting really silly. 

Look at the relentless, malicious, politically motivated journalistic hounding of  PM Boris Johnson. 
Firstly, we have the watermelon smiles and picaninnies. All taken out of context and repurposed to ‘prove’ “racist belittling” of persons of colour by Boris.  Flippant and reductive maybe, but racist only if one ignores the context.  Then we have those wretched letterboxes and bank robbers. Racist against Muslim women? How so? Taken out of context again. (And are we really supposed to see the full-face veil as anything other than ridiculous?)   This language-related madness is being deliberately uncomprehended for political purposes. 

The most recent Boris-related hurricane in a teacup blew up over the Bill-and-Benn-undermine-Brexit-act being disparagingly referred to as the ‘surrender’ bill. To the Remain lobby that might sound flippant and disrespectful, but it’s an accurate label nonetheless. The ‘foul’ comparison between an MP and a turkey and something fictitious about traitors is so lame I can’t be arsed to go into it. Especially in the light of the long list of truly foul language thrown around by angry lefties.

To pile incomprehension upon incomprehension, I watched a snippet of a conversation about this language business on Sky News. A person of colour known as Poet George and a young conservative with a Geordie accent were invited to discuss this problem.
Poet George expressed horror over the MP whose name he couldn’t initially recall who had used the “N” word.  Here we are. 
“A Conservative MP has been suspended from the party after it emerged she used a racist expression during a public discussion about Brexit.
Anne Marie Morris, the MP for Newton Abbot, used the phrase at an event in London to describe the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
She told the BBC: "The comment was totally unintentional. I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused."
The Conservative Party later confirmed she had had the whip withdrawn.
Announcing the suspension, Theresa May said she was "shocked" by the "completely unacceptable" language.
"I immediately asked the chief whip to suspend the party whip," she said in a statement.
"Language like this has absolutely no place in politics or in today's society.”

As any fule other than Poet George must kno, in the olden days, before the N-word was censored, that particular ‘unmentionable in the woodpile’ phrase was intended to illustrate a concept: 

Back in the Enid Blyton era, when friendly gollies with waistcoats and striped trousers were objects of affection and the N-word was casually used by all and sundry to describe a shade of brown with no offence intended and not exclusively reserved for rap artists of colour to bandy about amongst themselves, anyone could freely use all sorts of phrases and metaphors. Then, with all its good intentions, along came the ‘enlightenment’, which paves the road to the kind of hell in which anyone can be caught out for unintentionally committing acts of racism such as accidentally saying “coloured person" instead of 'person of colour'.

Anne-Marie Morris MP duly apologised and grovelled and so on, and after a suitable period had the whip restored. Apologising for using such an out-of-touch phrase might have made sense, but she was probably even sorrier that she'd been unfairly accused of racism. 

Nowadays we deliberately misunderstand and mis-comprehend whatever suits us. The media cavalierly repurposes quotes and sound-bites until they’re devoid of literal meaning, inferential meaning, and evaluative meaning.  

Apologies in advance for any offence caused.

Thursday 26 September 2019

It's only words

I might have mentioned this before, but I’m not on Twitter. Life’s too short. However, I do get information from Twitter  - it reaches the parts (information-wise) that other information-providers don’t reach. 
A valuable source for anyone following Britain’s descent into pre-war 1930s Germany is the lively Twitter timeline of Sussex Friends of Israel; it does what it says on the tin. 

What’s it like for residents of Brighton and Hove during the Labour Party conference? What if you happen to be a Zionist, or simply Jewish, and a furious mob of antisemitic zealots descends at your back door with their “Free Palestine” T-shirts and starts setting up their vile, incendiary fringe-events and stalls. 

No wonder the Sussex friends of Israel is a-buzzing.

I have to say that I watched quite a bit of the Labour Party Conference on the Parliament channel. Think of it as part ‘rubber-necking’ (as in something horrifying that you can’t take your eyes off) and part ‘better keep an eye on it” as you might with, say, a lit candle or a headache after a concussion. You know, it might turn out nasty.

Sussex Friends of Israel Twitter feed provided me with concrete evidence of some of the things I saw with my very own incredulous eyes and wanted to see again just to make sure they were ‘real’. I’m not talking about the sea of Palestinian flags that Elder of Ziyon featured the other day. Nor about the wild applause speakers received for announcing that they were ‘first-time’ delegates and ‘first-time’ speakers - like Madonna’s virgin, a bit “touched”  (in the head) for the very first time. 

No, I’m not even talking about the sub-standard quality of the speeches, the venomous anti-Tory rhetoric, or the bitter, envious negativity that tainted the whole caboodle, let alone the farcical bungled confusion over their ‘crucial’ vote on composite 13 -  where a show of hands narrowly rejected a motion that would have committed the Labour Party to campaign for “Remain”, (though some ‘Remainers’ dispute the outcome)

No, what I needed to see again with my own eyes were two speeches, which I suppose came loosely under the “Foreign Affairs” umbrella. They tackled ‘Palestine’. The first abomination consisted of an  illogical tirade from a female delegate called Ali Brownlie Bojang (look her up - troubling - if she is who she seems to be) 
This person recounted a ‘historic’ tale about Jewish armies driving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes: ‘they left with nothing because they thought they were coming back in a few days’. After delivering more crowd-pleasing fantasies she concluded with a rabble-rousing but strangely tremulous cry: “Free Palestine!” Unfortunately, the video only captured the finale, which saves you, dear reader, from the bit-by-bit deconstruction I might otherwise have had to include. 

The second speech was even more of a farce. I even felt a pang of sympathy for the poor person who lost her smart-phone script mid-way through her diatribe. What was particularly farcical about this episode was that she received a standing ovation just for announcing “My name is Vanessa Stilwell and I am from Jewish Voice for Labour and I have never seen any antisemitism in the Labour Party”. Imagine, those credentials are even more virtuous than being a virgin speaker!

Thereafter she squandered the bulk of her precious two-minutes of hate-slot on searching and eventually failing to find page two of a tale about hundreds of thousands of peaceful unarmed Palestinians being shot in the lower limbs - we’ll never know the outcome of this tragic tale of unprovoked Israeli brutality.  Even the embarrassing hiatus of panicky but ultimately ineffectual scrolling through her phone and saying “oh dear - sorry “ didn’t dent the enthusiasm of the whipped-up mob. I found a video of the whole thing embedded within some godforsaken Twitter thread but I can’t quite find it again - so in a way, I know how she must have felt - bloody computers and smartphones and www.! Ugh!

Did the BBC report any of this? No. They were totally uninterested in that aspect of it. Even the Politics Live episode in which Sarah Baxter admitted she’d been to the conference didn’t bring the subject up at all, until  this exchange:

This ‘tribal’ remark has enraged Sussex Friends. I’d always thought there was some hope for Lisa Nandy, but now I see her, just like Labour’s Laura Pidcock, as so engrossed in the trials and tribulations within the confines of her particular constituency that she can’t see beyond it. Maybe all an MP needs to be is a single-minded advocate for their own constituents, but if they hope to rise within their party they need to be aware of the bigger picture too. This unimaginative attitude is especially puzzling from Nandy as she keeps saying ‘we must protect our minorities’. 

From a profound matter that the BBC willfully ignores, to something relatively superficial that the BBC is amplifying to an absurd degree. They have made the most ridiculous and sensationalised pantomime out of this ‘language’ business. 

I watched the Parliament channel nearly all day yesterday. The rhetoric was acrimonious, spiteful and full of bile.  Indeed most of the speeches from the opposition benches were negative, repetitive and contained no constructive ideas.

The BBC headlines were devoted to “language”, in particular, the word “surrender” as in “the surrender bill”. Of course, we all know what Boris meant - that preventing Britain from walking away from negotiations if faced only with an unsatisfactory deal is tantamount to surrender. It leaves Remain as the only option, which is the whole idea of the bill. No-one made such a fuss over the French-as-a-nation being defamed with the facetious label ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys.’ Or any fuss at all. And incidentally, dragging Brendan Cox to tell us what Jo would have thought, as they did on Radio 4 this morning was a pathetic idea; bad taste and irrelevant.

The Greta-like, childish focus on Boris saying ‘sorry’ was another example of the media’s infantilising influence on politics and current affairs. There is a difference between saying “Sorry for causing offence” rather than apologising for the actual offence, as is often pointed out, and making Boris say ‘sorry’ forces him to make the kind of non-apology that attracts equal disdain. 

As it is, he had no alternative but to respect and abide by the decision arrived at by an institution considered to be the ultimate legal arbitrator, but even if one thinks he's morally obliged to apologise for the ‘proroguing’, which was retrospectively judged to be invalid - nullified and voided, does it follow that he is also required or to say sorry for making the case in the first place? I’m only asking.
Actually, he seemed to me quite magnanimous and gracious in defeat, unlike those Labour MPs. If the BBC is going to make such a massive fuss over ‘language’ what about the spiteful, personal and vindictive bile that comes from the insufferable pigeon-like SNP bore, Blackford?

You have to ask. Why does the BBC behave in this increasingly tabloidy and infantilised way? I used to be ambivalent about abolishing the BBC because of the good stuff that was in there. If the Labour Party can abolish Eton, do away with borders and dispense altogether with the letter ’t’ I’m coming round to thinking that abolishing the BBC is the only way.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Open Thread

Red sky over west Cornwall last night.

Last open thread  was very interesting (but prorogued as it was getting rather long) Time for a new one

I'm throwing my arms around Gina

I smell love in the air tonight on the BBC News website. 

It's so sweet. I hope they'll be very happy together. 

By such things do we know them

It was a nice, quiet day at work this morning. 

After savouring its soothing delights I retreated to my car this lunchtime to check the news and listened to The World at One,

and OMG!!...

...11 unelected judges have ruled against the elected Government over its prorogation of Parliament!!!

And the BBC's Norman Smith, in his usual hyperbolic way, is calling it "catastrophic for the Prime Minister!!!!!!!!"


Despite the BBC, might not 'some say' that it could actually be much more catastrophic with regards to people's faith in UK democracy and the impartiality of Britain's major institutions?

And then, on WATO, we heard an endless parade of people opposed to Boris Johnson, exulting in the court's ruling, with just one single defender across the course of whole hour...

...which, I must say, didn't feel entirely impartial to me.

I did,  however (being ever willing to be fair to the BBC), consider that the very heavy imbalance of voices might be down to some people wanting to talk to the BBC and some people (i.e. Boris's government) not.

And, apparently, if the reporting is to be believed (and it's something Evan Davis emphasised later), Boris's Government has told its MPs to stay quiet.

So fair enough then? 

Well, in the midst of a sea of unchallenging interviews, featuring very few interruptions and an otherwise low-key interviewing technique by blog favourite Ed Stourton, came the exception to the rule.

Yes, Ed's interview with Steve Baker MP of the (anti-EU) ERG stood out like a fairly sore thumb. 

It was the only one that featured BBC Ed doing what BBC Ed does so often when he talks to people he doesn't agree with.

He began making all manner of strange, loud extraneous noises - wheezes, intakes of breaths, snorts, huffs - while Mr Baker was speaking, keeping it up throughout to a rather distracting degree, making his presence felt.

And, of course, he also made constant attempts to interrupt Mr Baker (occasionally successfully) - much more than against anyone else. 

Some analogy to a hunting hound straining at its leash with loud excitement might be made here. 

That multitude of weird noises. which never occurs during interviews with like-minded people, and the upsurge of interruptions, is surely evidence of bias (conscious or otherwise)? 

It's not major evidence, but it's surely evidence nonetheless?

(Possible rule?: If you've got one contrary voice on Brexit among six or seven other voices don't go in strongest, huffing and puffing, againt the one exception.)

As is BBC presenters' choice of language. 

Call me Chris Mason, but I'm nerdy enough to quickly pick up on Evan Davis, on tonight's PM, using the words "wheeze", "dodge" and "trick" to describe Boris's prorogation of Parliament. 

And, no, it didn't come across as him quoting others. It sounded like him entirely choosing his own words.

And what a biased choice of words it is!

Elsewhere, in the traditional BBC way, Evan put in the odd 'either/or'-type sop to impartiality and, in fairness, really didn't go 'the Full Emily' on the Boris defender (Charles Walker MP).

But just listen to him and you'll still hear him being noticeably nicer to Boris's opponents (Joe Moor and former Tory MP St. Rory Stewart) than the one-and-only pro-Boris guest (Charles Walker).

By such things do we know them.


Susie Cooper mask

There follows a great post by our esteemed commenter Arthur T...

From Craig’s recent excellent posts about John Humphrys: …

‘The BBC finds it "hard to resist" the temptation to engage in social engineering. It sometimes tries "to create society in its own image”.’ …

As Craig is to Morecambe, then so Arthur T is to Stoke-on-Trent. There have been a series of videos on the BBC News website Home pages produced under the headings ‘We are Stoke-onTrent’. The first on 3rd September 2019 called for contributions.

A series of responses have been received:

  • Why we came to Stoke-on-Trent’, 22nd September 
  • ‘Please look beyond our city’s poor headlines’, 23rd September 
  • ‘The mums and artists reclaiming a cit’s streets’, 23rd September 
  • ‘Miners fight to save colliery ‘time capsule’, 23rd September 

The BBC website isn’t allowing me to copy and paste the links to these videos, but here is a flavour of the content:

‘Why we came to Stoke-on-Trent’, 22nd September:

  • “I came from Bosnia and Herzegovina” 
  • “I came here from Trinidad via Hackney” 
  •  “I came from Botswana, via Birmingham, and now I live in Stoke-on-Trent” 
  • … ’Aida, Gabriella and Opelo told the BBC about their experiences moving to the city of six towns.’ … 

“I came here from Trinidad via Hackney” is a loaded comment. It suggests a kudos or even a form of stardom is achieved by having lived in Hackney. Why not say to people of the city: “I came here from Trinidad via London”?

By this message, the BBC groupthink directs us to the mistaken idea that London is the UK and the UK is London. The subtleties of the London political map roll off the BBC tongue in such a way that we are expected to know of all that ‘Hackney’ might suggest. Social problems in Hackney are a world away from experiences in Stoke-on-Trent.

‘Please look beyond our city’s poor headlines’, 23rd September 

… ‘The BBC has been asking young people from Stoke-on-Trent about the city's portrayal in the media.’ …

…. ‘Ady Sargeant, Emily Kate, Najee Fox and Chris Abramovs think there are some unfair and negative labels, and share their thoughts on the term "Brexit capital" and a population supposedly succumbing to the drug, monkey dust.’ … ‘

The mums and artists reclaiming a cit’s streets’, 23rd September 

… ‘Women are joining forces in the Portland Street area of Hanley to make it a better place to live.’ …

‘Miners fight to save colliery ‘time capsule’, 23rd September 

… ‘A campaign has begun to revive the derelict Chatterley Whitfield mine.’ …

A high quality of production is clear in these video clips, which suggests that the BBC have made some elaborate voces pop in order to promote their own specific point of view. I would guess that the interviews were scripted.

Throughout these videos, we hear the BBC mantra - diversity, inclusivity, emphasis on the young, giving voice to women ahead of men, distancing themselves from the pro-Brexit UKIP voting locals, from the former miners looking to hold onto their identity as hard-working blue-collar Socialists, from the industrial heartland of the locals, from skills learned over generations, and therefore, from most of the traditional values held dear by the vast majority of the residents of Stoke-on-Trent.

In the spirit of another BBC Beauty ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’, where quality of design and manufacture come a distant second to the suitability of contestants for such a programme, time is given to a female amateur artist who forms a crudely manufactured model from solid clay ‘The Lion lies down with the lamb’ [sic]. Unmentioned are the skillsets needed to create and decorate hollow fine china pieces.

That you might be a talented designer matters not a jot to the BBC - their only interest is in the equality of outcome. What irony there is in the fact that so many of the great pottery designers from Stoke-on-Trent were women - Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Charlotte Rhead, Jessie Tait, at the Midwinter pottery, and Susan Williams-Ellis at Portmeirion. The link here is through the Burslem School of Art under the guidance of Gordon Forsyth who nurtured most of these talents. Pottery decoration was carried out predominately by women who were paid poor wages earned by piecework.

There might have been a time not so long ago when the Stoke-on-Trent miner would have been celebrated by the BBC as a part of the 1984 strike, using any opportunity as they do to disparage Margaret Thatcher.

But lately, his status as a white ageing male (no longer photographed with a blackened face as he emerged from his shift down the pit) has become a symbol of something else entirely: a far-right Brexit-voting racist. Politically, the Stoke-on-Trent ex-miner will hold strong socialist opinions - again ironic when the well-to-do MPs Mark Fisher and Tristram Hunt have been their Labour MPs, and members of the Cabinet in recent times. ‘He’ because below ground was an exclusively male domain, as was mostly the case above ground too.

Tristram Hunt left politics to become Director of the V&A (where many of the Potteries’ finest pieces of work are displayed) and also works as a Guardian Columnist. The present day Labour Party hold few of the values that the miner might share.

Besides the potteries themselves, Stoke-on-Trent was home to other heavy smokestack industries - steelmaking, service engineering, water treatment, tyre making and others. The BBC fad for finding blue-overalled men and photographing them amongst showers of sparks seems to have petered out. Traditional Labour Leave voters are portrayed as old, exclusively white, and now recently, only at leisure - ideally obese, and smoking whilst riding along on a mobility scooter.

I won’t go on, but the average Stoke-on-Trent local resident is no longer encouraged to express pride in their past, but instead is being engineered to accept a future of diversity and multiculturalism that is alien to him or her.

More last words on John Humphrys

The case for the prosecution continues:  
Humphrys – the BBC’s bias-monger in chief, by David Keighley 
Shameful silence of Humphrys over the Iraq dodgy dossier, by Kathy Gyngell

Plus ça Change

More from John Humphrys in today's Daily Mail showing that his friend John Simpson's attitude towards criticism of the BBC hasn't changed much over the years...

After Richard Baker was pushed out from presenting BBC One's main news bulletin at nine o'clock and the two Johns, Humphrys and Simpson, brought in to replace him, the audience wasn't happy:
The audience did not like us. In fact, they hated us — partly because we’d ousted Richard Baker.
So what happened next? Over to JH...
If we’d had email and the ludicrous Twitter mob back then, I suspect the bosses would have pulled John and me off the air immediately, crawled to Dickie to beg his forgiveness and pleaded with him to come back. 
But snail mail took longer and when the letters finally began to flood in, John came up with a brilliant strategy. 
When the BBC is criticised by the audience, its instinctive response is to say sorry. [Haha! Really???]. John took the opposite view.  
We agreed that instead of handing all our hate mail to the department responsible for complaints, we should deal with them ourselves. Every single one. 
Instead of grovelling and promising to try harder in future and be a bit more like Dickie, we would fight fire with fire.  
The more abusive the letter, the more abusive our reply. And we awarded each other scores for who could write the most creative abuse. John always won. 
I almost felt sorry for the poor viewer who wrote to tell him that he was the news-reading equivalent of an inarticulate talking dog. 
To this day, I wish that I’d been there when he opened John’s reply to find himself accused of being lower than a camel’s crotch and far more smelly. 
Our replies didn’t have to be clever, you understand, just rude. 
And here’s the extraordinary thing. We’d expected retribution to be visited upon us by our bosses who would, obviously, be overwhelmed by complaints from the recipients of our bile.  
But exactly the opposite happened. The more vicious our abuse, the more cringing their apology when viewers wrote back to us — as, invariably, they did. 
They almost always began: ‘I’m so sorry if I’ve offended you by describing you as the worst newsreader in the history of broadcasting . . .’ I’ve never been able to figure it out. 
But, eventually, the flood of letters reduced to a trickle and then pretty much dried up when the poor old audience realised they were never going to get their beloved Dickie back.
I don't think that would work quite as well these days.

Sunday 22 September 2019

My Last Words on John Humphrys (well, for today at least)

You may already have read this, but if you haven't...

Kathy at The Conservative Woman has written forcefully about John Humphrys's post-Today criticisms of the BBC. 

Don’t just blame the BBC, Mr Humphrys, blame yourself is the piece's punchy headline. 

She makes the same case some of you, our dear readers, have also made. 

Kathy's case runs as follows:

John Humphrys criticisms ring true but also hollow. He should have spoken out much earlier and not waited till two days after reaching retirement and gaining the gigantic safety net of his MASSIVE BBC pension to speak out about BBC's bias - especially its anti-Brexit bias. 

So much for his integrity!

He saw it. He must have known the utterly damning News-watch stats (especially those about Today). But he stayed in place and didn't speak out. 

So why didn't he use his bully-pulpit on Today to shame the BBC or, if that didn't work, resign in protest over it if he felt it was so wrong? 

Was it because of the tremendously large salary he got? 

And why did he front so many of Today's "daily doses of Project Fear" without openly objecting? 

And won't he now continue to front BBC TV shows (like Mastermind) and still take the biased BBC's shilling, despite everything?

"He was never brave enough to make a stand", Kathy says. "And where in this window into the world of BBC bias was his own mea culpa – his own confession of his failure to take the behemoth on?"

All of this may be harsh, but there's a good deal of truth in it and a lot for John's conscience to chew over.

Yes, as I noted yesterday, it's not entirely true that JH has been silent about such things in the past.

He's burst out twice before (both times in The Radio Times) to the displeasure of his BBC colleagues, publicly saying some of the same things about the BBC's left-liberal, pro-EU mindset.

But, backing up Kathy's case, as MB has remarked, his earlier comments were far more muted than those expressed in his post-Today (would-be-best-selling) book, as laid out by the Daily Mail.

So, a case study then of John Simpson's "institutional BBC timidity", with his friend John as its flesh-and-blood embodiment?

A thought did strike me though, having read recent pieces about him: Did he eff and blind at the BBC behind the scenes on the question of bias and try to get them to mend their ways? I'm guessing that he grumbled loudly, but little more. Whatever, there was no discernible effect as far I can see. 

Still, we are where we are, and he is where he is. 

And his remarks about the BBC contain so many damning quotes that blogs like this - and like-minded newspapers - will be using them for years against the BBC.

So many of his comments vindicate us, and are absolutely damning. 

Also, being an eternal pragmatist, as one commenter at TCW said, I wonder if by relentlessly ratcheting up the unforgiving denunciations of outlying BBC types (like him) for being timid and self-serving if they only start spilling the beans on the BBC after they leave the BBC (which, in fairness to JH, he isn't actually doing - neither leaving the BBC entirely nor denouncing the BBC for the first time), future such would-be BBC whistleblowers, now lying low and fearful inside the BBC and biding their time, might feel it's not remotely worth it after all - and, in fact, positively harmful to their wellbeing - to spill their bean-stuffed guts about the BBC after they fly Auntie's nest.

The BBC's mighty monolith might, as a result, become even less leaky than it already is.

I, personally, want more leaks. Many more leaks and revelations. The more the merrier. Even if they come after the  cowardly BBC person in question has left the BBC with rare flowers, tears made from diamonds, 24-carat-gold EU clocks and Guy Verhofstadt chocolates, a mock Eric Gill statue, and a huge sackful of gripes.

Gimme, gimme, gimme!

And, of course, however unfamiliar it may be to you, there's the other side of this story - 'complaints from both sides' - and that's that John Humphrys has become one of the top two BBC hate figures in recent years in the more fetid echo chambers of pro-EU hardliners, the 'woke' brigades, the nastier climate apocalypse outriders, and the gathering hordes of the far-Left. 

They loathe him, and can't stop foaming at the mouth about him.

And their frothing has surfaced, again and again, on Radio 4's Feedback - which (as regulars will know) I've long felt has been suspiciously helpful to the huge campaign against him. 

For such haters (despite him voting Remain, as he's now admitted), he's long been a sexist, reactionary, right-wing, 'climate-denying', pro-Brexit dinosaur. 

The one thing they've wanted more than anything else has been to get him out, preferably sacked.

The amount of bile that's poured out on Twitter on against him on his every appearance in recent years has been beyond staggering. I know that because, in the interests of this blog, I've frequently watched hashtags connected to Today (may God protect me!) and I've witnessed the scale of the abuse pouring in against him. It's been beyond tidal or torrential, more a daily tsunami of hate, every day he's appeared.

He could have called the police on thousands of people for 'hate crimes' against him, so vituperative have been far too many of the comments against him.

(Naturally, being John Humphrys, he hasn't).

And, yes, it was mainly because they thought he was anti-EU and pro-Brexit (to repeat, despite him voting Remain, as he's now admitted). 

That nice Lord Adonis, you probably won't be surprised to learn, openly rejoiced that he's gone:
I am delighted that John Humphrys is leaving the Today programme. He dragged it down to a radio version of the Daily Mail - it needs big change.
Ah but, aren't such people a small, unrepresentative minority, despite their very loud Twitter mouths?

It's complicated, isn't it? 

Of course, many people don't think it's complicated at all, which complicates things even more. 

Yes, John Humphrys was never prepared to martyr himself over his reservations about BBC bias. His protests were muted, at best. But now he's vindicated us and given us quote after quote that we can use to show, from the bolted horse's mouth, that many of the things we've been saying for years are true. 

The End.


Via Pugnazious and his very fine comment at B-BBC, go (if you have the time) to just before 45 minutes into Emma Barnett's eponymous Radio 5 Live programme last Tuesday and take a listen. 

You'll hear her reading out various texts and emails from listeners on Brexit-related matters. She doesn't editorialise, just reads them out...until she comes to a text she didn't like:
"I was a Remainer, mainly out of fear", reads this message, "but after hearing Farage speak I joined the Brexit Party. So many facts are not reported by the BBC as it has a Remain/Project Fear agenda"...Yawn..."I advise people to go to Farage's speeches and seek out online the facts that the BBC silenced". Well, thank you very much for texting the BBC and for us reading it out.
As Pugnazious notes, she's with John Simpson there in finding listeners' and viewers' concerns about BBC bias "so bloody boring".

Pug sums things up perfectly: 
Emma Barnett this week showed the same disdain and contempt for any thought that the BBC should be held to account when a listener emailed in and mentioned the BBC’s failure to report Brexit and the corrupt Parliament, saying how biased the BBC was. Barnett’s response was to say ‘Yawn’…demonstrating her complete contempt for the listener and their view and showing clearly she has no interest in holding her own employer, and thus herself, to account.

It's really not a good look for BBC presenters to be so complacent about their audience's concerns or to be so bloody rude and patronising towards them. 

John McDonnell's War On The Media

You may have missed this, but here's something startling from the Huffington Post:
Labour will not “take shit” from the media during the snap general election campaign, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has warned.  
At the event called ‘The Media War On Labour - And How To Defeat It’, which was organised by Morning Star and funded by Unite the union, senior party figures accused a “right wing press” of ruining Labour’s chances of victory at the polls and of being biased.  
McDonnell claimed to have seen newspaper articles tell “lie after lie after lie” and pointed to independent research [ed - interruption counting by a far-left website] which said he was interrupted 21 times in comparison to zero times former Tory minister Amber Rudd in two separate interviews [ed - by Kirsty Wark on Newsnight]. 
“It was the same on Question Time, I was interrupted more than any panel member put together [sic],” the shadow chancellor said. 
McDonnell said: “We have to make sure that when we use live broadcast in particular, because they can’t edit it out, we do it more effectively and as best we can - and we don’t take the shit anymore. We don’t take shit anymore.”  
He claimed there were outlets where editors “refuse to report the truth”, adding that Labour activists must “use the broadcast media that we have” and “make sure that we do know what we are talking about when we go on air”.  
McDonnell also claimed that journalists resiled from criticising Labour “because we’re the threat”, and added: “We are going to make the owners of these newspapers pay their taxes.  
“We are going to make them accountable in Leveson part 2, and we are going to make them responsible for their actions.” 
He's not always the kind, cuddly, cardigan-wearning old uncle he seems on TV, is he? 

A Marked man

Mark Steel's in Space (by the looks of it)

Oh dear! Even Radio 4's funniest far-left comedian (and cheekie chappie) Mark Steel has fallen foul of the usual suspects on Twitter.

Maybe Labour should make their position even clearer, by saying they’ll campaign to leave on days when it drizzles and to remain when it stops, and instead of a referendum there will be a national contest of Hungry Hippos. 
This, inevitably, resulted in a pile-on by disapproving adherents of the Corbyn Cult, leading to Mark's second tweet on the subject:
A number of Labour supporters tell me the reason I, or anyone else, is unconvinced by the Labour policy on Europe, is I’m “stupid.” That’s certainly won me round, and should be a huge vote-winner on the doorstep.
The Cult, however, is sticking to its guns. Mark remains stupid. 

Us, us, us

During this morning's 8 o'clock News and Paper on Radio 4 came this:
The Sunday Times says one of Jeremy Corbyn's closest aides, Andrew Fisher, the author of the party's last manifesto, has resigned because "he believes Mr Corbyn will not win the next general election". In a memo seen by the paper Mr Fisher reportedly criticised the leader's team for "a lack of professionalism, competence and human decency". But in a separate statement seen by BBC News Mr Fisher indicates his motivation for quitting is to "prioritise" his family and he's to stay on until after any Autumn election. 
That "in a separate statement seen by BBC News" is very BBC in its limelight-hogging and credit-grabbing. Yet that "separate statement" was actually all over Twitter well before midnight last night with Sky's Tom Rayner, for one, tweeting it at 11:16 pm and Shehab Khan of ITV News tweeting it at 11:22 pm

So here's BBC Radio 4, nearly nine hours later, using the phrase "seen by BBC News" as if it was , somehow, their exclusive.

It's not big in the great scheme of things but, as I say, it is very BBC. 

It's Sunday again

This morning's Andrew Marr show featured an unannounced guest. 

Yes, - (irony alert!) and who at the BBC could possibly have seen it coming? - it was omnipresent 'Stop Brexit!' campaigner Steve Bray bellowing away outside the window and waving his EU flag. 

Indeed, he brayed so much during the Jeremy Corbyn interview that Andrew Marr might have well have been interviewing him.

As for Jeremy Corbyn himself, he positively radiated passive-aggression towards Mr Marr, and the whole interview was chilly to say the least.

And as for Twitter, well, it's the same old same old:
Shahil Parmar: BBC PRO-TORY BIAS IN A NUTSHELL: Tory Puppet Andrew Marr obviously doesn’t ask Jeremy Corbyn about any of Labour’s fantastic policies. Rob Burley (replying): As long as you don’t count Brexit and abolishing OFSTED. It’s not “pro-Tory bias” to ask him about the move to abolish the Deputy Leadership and to allow him to explain the current position on that.

The BBC rules against Emily Maitlis


Well, well, well...

Newsnight, BBC Two, 15 July 2019: Finding by the Executive Complaints Unit

The programme included a discussion about Brexit between Rod Liddle, columnist and author of a book about Brexit called “The Great Betrayal” and Tom Baldwin of the People’s Vote campaign. A viewer complained that the presenter Emily Maitlis was sneering and bullying towards Mr Liddle and in doing so exemplified the way the BBC views Leave voters.

The ECU did not agree that it was possible to deduce Emily Maitlis’ view on Brexit from the discussion. It also believed that it was valid to press Mr Liddle on his personal views and noted that he had the opportunity to vigorously defend himself. However it was insufficiently clear that this was not Ms Maitlis’s view of Mr Liddle but that of his critics, and the persistent and personal nature of the criticism risked leaving her open to the charge that she had failed to be even-handed between the two guests.

Action Point
The programme has been reminded of the need to ensure rigorous questioning of controversial views does not lead to a perceived lack of impartiality.    

"John Humphrys’s privilege is showing"

Ben Hunte

I see that Ben Hunte, the BBC's first LGBT Correspondent, has hit back at John Humphrys. 

The former Today man had objected to him saying after his appointment, "I'm looking forward to being the mouthpiece for some marginalised groups". JH thinks the BBC "must not act as anyone's mouthpiece" as "that's what lobbyists and public relations people do" and that "to confuse the two is to undermine the job of a journalist".

Here's Ben's response, quoted in The Sunday Times
John Humphrys’s privilege is showing. I am not a spokesperson for the LGBT community. However, what I can do — and I have done — is open the BBC’s platforms to some individuals who have been left out of the conversation for so long.
Hmm, if you say you're not a spokesperson maybe you shouldn't have used the word 'mouthpiece' then, Ben?


1. part, as of a musical instrument or a telephone, that functions in or near
the mouth.
2. Sports A rubber or flexible plastic protective device worn over the teeth, as by boxers.
3. Informal One, such as a spokesperson, through which views are expressed.


Here are some titbits that you may have missed from the dead tree press this weekend:


Someone like Nick Robinson, for example – another of the Today presenters – is just as good as Humphrys in the role of crazed dentist looking for holes in a politician’s teeth, but one feels that his motive is different. The essential Robinson message is “I know more about politics than you, so let me handle this”.

If we view Southampton as a microcosm of Britain, last night’s episode taught us two things: firstly that Boris Johnson is not quite as unpopular as his detractors - including the BBC - care to make out and secondly, that the Liberal Democrat’s new “cancel Brexit” policy is anathema to huge swathes of the general public. 

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel-Horwood, 54, has been banned by the BBC from using his ‘Fab-u-lous’ catchphrase outside the show. He was reportedly hoping to use it as the name for a range of wines. Judges cannot exploit their on-air roles for commercial gain.
Yes, I am undeniably privileged, something I am enormously thankful and grateful for. Socially, my opinions on class, the economy and politics are often dismissed because I’m “privileged” and therefore also “disconnected” — or, as the BBC referred to me when I was dropped from presenting Countryfile, “inaccessible”.

‘Oh, wearing jeans, are we?” It’s four in the morning last Thursday and John Humphrys has arrived for his final appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Actually, my trousers are pressed cotton, clean on and neater than anything he normally wears. But this is no normal day: it’s a special day and John has dressed special. In a suit. As he would have done growing up at home when something happened — a funeral or a wedding, perhaps. A working-class respect for time and place. For occasion.

One or two directors-general resented both his interviewing style and his prominence. I remember being told by a middle manager, in about 1998, that our interviewers should “go easy” on Blair’s government because it was terribly popular with the people. It was an instruction I totally ignored and certainly never passed on to Humphrys, who would have merely ratcheted up the ferocity a bit more. Later managers worried about the fact that he wasn’t quite woke, like all the rest of the BBC’s employees — forgetting that 75% of the country (that is, the licence fee-payers) aren’t woke either, and won’t be woke no matter how many alarms you set or how much our dozing bodies are prodded by the hyperbolic liberals in an attempt to make us so.