Saturday 15 February 2020

"It just seems weird that you would want to go out there and bait and insult other people"

Paddington Bear-loving Evan Davis certainly went to town on Harry Miller on PM yesterday. Evan later defended himself on Twitter, maintaining that he was being impartial. Others, however, disagree. 

A transcript is needed.

Here's how Evan began the programme:
Evan Davis: Hello there. The High Court has ruled in this man's favour, saying the police went too far in defining his anti-trans tweets as hate rather than legitimate mockery:
Harry Miller: You police stand behind a chocolate fireguard called the College of Policing Guidelines. It will not shield you. You will get burned.
Well, that anti anti-trans tweeter will join us shortly. 
And this is the news bulletin:
Newsreader: The High Court has ruled that Humberside Police acted unlawfully after they visited a man at his workplace over a series of allegedly transphobic tweets. Trans activists have described the judgment as worrying because it failed to establish the threshold for acceptable speech. The Humberside force said it had acted in good faith and would learn from what happened. Here's our legal correspondent Clive Coleman.
Clive Coleman: In 2019 a transgender woman complained about Harry Miller's tweets. Humberside Police went to his place of work. He was questioned, told he could be prosecuted if he continued and a non-crime hate incident was recorded. Mr Miller argued the police guidance breached free speech and required no evidence of hate nor of a specific victim. Mr. Justice Knowles ruled the guidance was lawful but the way it was applied by police disproportionately interfered with Mr. Miller's right to free speech. "In this country we've never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi", he said. "We've never lived in an Orwellian society".
And now comes the interview. 

It was one of those interviews where the interviewer says at least as much, if not more. than the interviewee. During it Evan described Mr Miller as "obsessed" and "weird". 

I've underlined some of Evan's most striking interventions. Was he baiting and insulting Mr Miller?
Evan Davis: When does mockery become hate speech? The issue is alive today after that High Court judge ruled that Humberside Police had gone too far in deeming tweets mocking the whole idea of trans people changing their agenda. The police had not said the tweets were a crime but they did visit the man responsible for them and log his words as a non-crime hate incident. Many think the police are hopeless at judging these issues, going way too far sometimes in a wokely direction. In this case it was all the more interesting that the man doing the tweeting was in fact himself a former policeman. And we can talk to him now: Harry Miller, who founded the campaign group Fair Cop. Thank you for joining us on PM Mr Miller. Can I just first ask, do you accept there are limits on free speech and it can at some point turn into hate speech and could be reasonably stopped by the law?
Harry Miller: We've never, ever suggested that there shouldn't be limits to free speech.
ED: Right.
HM: When it comes to harassing people, when it comes to malicious communications, when it comes to targeting people, we're not for that at all. 
ED: Right.
HM: What we are for is for free and frank and satirical discussion around a range of subjects, including the whole issue of gender identity. And I do take issue with your introduction that I was 'an anti-trans tweeter'. I'm not anti-anything. I am pro-women, and I'm pro-democracy, and I'm pro-discussion, and I'm pro-free speech. 
ED: OK. I think anyone reading your tweets would say you're anti-trans. Let's just call a spade a spade. I mean...
HM: No, no, what exactly...
ED: ...I might have misunderstood...
HM: No, what exactly is there in there that's anti-trans? 
ED: Well, you're mocking the idea at [sic] people changing gender.
HM: I'm mocking the idea that it is possible for an immutable characteristic like sex to change just because somebody says so. That's an idea that's worth mocking.
ED: Well, certainly the trans community feel you have mocked them and I think, you know, I've just read the tweets. I'm looking at some of them now. I think the listener would benefit from knowing it's reasonable to call them 'anti-trans'. But look, you accept the limits. You say you accept you're not against the idea that there can be something called 'hate speech'. Do you think you would have launched this kind of, if you like, sequence of tweets on an issue you might feel more sensitive about? Race, for example? 
HM: No, of course I wouldn't, because that's not an issue. Race is a thing. The notion of race is not up for discussion. The government hasn't called upon its citizens to discuss the notions of race. It did call upon its citizens to discuss the notion of gender in relation to reforms to the Gender Recognition Act reform. That's what I engage with, so it's just not a fair question.
ED: OK, can I...I don't want to put you in the psychiatrist's chair here, Mr Miller...
HM: No, go ahead, I'm quite happy. I'm relaxed.
ED: What is it? You come across as a bit obsessed about something which you could quite happily ignore. You could have your view. You're not really debating here. It's sometimes a little bit sweary, isn't it? It's quite insulting. Some of it, you could say, is satirical, you know, 'I'm a fish and I want, I regard my right, don't misspecies me'. You could call that satirical. Other bits are just very insulting.
HM: No, they're not. There's nothing in there that's insulting at all. Tell me where I've been insulting.
ED: OK, well, Adrian Harrop. You called him "a gloating bastard. Harrop doing what he does best". It that not...?  "Is Trans Day of Remembrance a thing then like an actual one?"...
HM: No, no, no, no, no...
ED: (high pitched) I'm just reading you the tweets! I mean, they're insulting, aren't they? There's no point in saying they're not insulting.
HM: No. No. I had no idea. I had never heard of Trans Day of Remembrance. I saw it on a TUC tweet and I said, "Is it a thing?" I'd absolutely no idea...
ED: (interrupting) "What's the Witchfinder General gloating about now?". That's insulting to the people who are...
HM: That was aimed at Dr...
ED: (interrupting) "Shon Faye, clothing fascist, utter...", I'm not even going to say the word. You can't pretend you're not being insulting or that you're not being anti-trans. Of course you are. You might as well be honest about it.
HM: No, I was being Dr Adrian Harrop because he was celebrating the no-platforming of the feminist Megan Murphy, and Shon Faye, I can't remember why I tweeted that. I think he compared...I think he was having a go at somebody's dress sense. So I wasn't having a go because he was trans, I was having a go at him because he made some ridiculous comment online.
ED: I don't know, do you feel like this is like engaging with the Government's debate about the subtleties of the Gender Recognition Act or is this just a kind of weird tirade from someone who's got no particular connection?...I don't know if the trans community has ever hurt you in particular. It just seems weird that you would want to go out there and bait and insult other people, even though you may have the right to do so.
HM: Right. The High Court has said that I didn't bait or insult anybody. The High Court said that I wasn't even in the foothills of baiting anybody. What I did in the public market square of Twitter was engage in a lively debate. That's what I did. I don't apologise for it, and I would encourage people to join in and do it. And I was speaking on behalf of women...
ED: (interrupting) I don't know, most of the time you don't seem to be speaking up on behalf of women. You seem to be actually putting trans people down. That's a very different thing, isn't it?
HM: No, because that was 30 tweets over a period of two months. I tweeted hundreds of things during that period. They were the tweets that somebody separated out, so you're taking individual tweets way out of context...
ED: (interrupting) I'm taking the tweets that have been the subject of the case today. But anyway, you stand by the fact...and this is. I think this is the important point of agreement, that there can be such a thing as hate speech and it is about drawing a line and the argument is about where you draw the line.
HM: Yeah, but the real story here is that Humberside Police were compared to the Gestapo and the Stasi. I think that's the real story.
ED:  Harry Miller, thank you very much for joining us. 
Here, to end, is a flavour of the online discussion about the interview:
  • Sar: Evan Davis is being extremely inflammatory calling Harry anti-trans over and over. 
  • Suzanne Evans: Agreed. I just listened to this and was appalled at Evan’s approach. In complaining about his interviewer being ‘insulting’ (for expressing widely-held views), he then actually insulted him again and again. Textbook example of how wrong-headed some BBC news people have become.
  • Mr Misunderstood: Completely agree. Evan Davis didn't conduct so much an interview as a hostile interrogation. He kept insisting his opinion was fact by repeatedly calling tweets "insulting" and allowing no disagreement with that opinion. Typical BBC now, though.
  • Karl Dunkerley: He treated an innocent man as guilty and treated a guilty police force as if it was innocent. He put the innocent man through the trial all over again. Another example of why my long-held faith in BBC News reporting has collapsed.
  • Mr Misunderstood: My thoughts exactly. During the "interrogation" I kept saying to myself "cripes, Evan... are you trying this man all over again cos you didn't like the verdict? And then puffballed "Tiffany" from Cambridgeshire police! 
Ah yes, and that is the punchline of all this: As Mr Misunderstood says, Harry Miller's hostile interrogation was immediately followed by a much softer interview with Tiffany from the police.


  1. I never understand why journalists aren't more instinctively in favour of free speech. You'd think that they'd have some professional interest in the matter. Truth to power and all that. More and more I'm coming to the conclusion that the reverse is the case. Journalists have the power to present the world as they see it, regardless of the truth.

  2. "Hostile interrogation" sums it up.

    I hate that technique Davis uses of the false summing up: "I think the listener would benefit from knowing it's reasonable to call them 'anti-trans'. But look, you accept the limits. You say you accept you're not against the idea that there can be something called 'hate speech'. " Of course Davis is smuggling in the idea that Miller has to accept Davis's own idea of "limits", whereas of course he doesn't as he is a free speech activist.

    Presumably Mr Davis would like The Kinks song "Lola" to be banned as that can be viewed as anti-trans. Lots of people in Mr Davis's community - the gay community - are anti-trans, seeing it as a way of avoiding acceptance of being gay.

    Although Miller, being a Yorkshireman, ex copper and
    nifty debater doesn't need my help, I think it is a mistake to engage with people like Davis on the basis of their definitions. He should have challenged every presmise introduced by Davis. Firstly "trans". What is "trans"? Is Davis saying that anyone who declares a gender when all the scientific evidence points the other way must have their claim respected by the whole of society? Why is the BBC keen on scientific consensus when if comes to climate change but not when it comes to gender?

    1. There's an amusing typo - presumably predictive text or audio transcription - about trans people 'changing their agenda.' Uncannily apposite. They should.
      It's beyond clear that Davis is pushing his agenda and refused to take on board any of the several points Miller clarified for him (about Miller's agenda being pro-; engaging with the government consultation; satirising ridiculous ideas; responding to the behaviour of named individuals like Harrop and Fay rather than their status; making hundreds of tweets on other subjects; why it's not comparable to Davis's poor attempt at an analogy - ah, race, of course, however irrelevant), bone headedly sticking to his own insistent characterisation and resorting to insulting him as weird and obsessed. That's outrageous from a public service broadcaster. Coming from him, it's also amusing. I know who I think is weird and obsessed and that's even before reading this particular episode. No, I don't listen to PM and don't intend to change that.

  3. Who listens to PM ?
    Not Leavers like me I suspect
    Evan started replying to people on Twitter as if his bubbleworld had been shattered

  4. Evan Davis is as biased a Beeboid as they come. His view is right and anyone with a different view is wrong and he is going to make it clear to listeners that they are wrong by insulting them and misrepresenting what they believe/said. It's the classic BBC method these days: Quote partially (a snippet out of context) to misrepresent people who do not conform to the BBC world view and get them to justify what they never said!

  5. It’s not simply that the BBC have caved in to the shouty woke mob. Nor is it simply that there is now not even a pretence of defending free speech - once one of the principals that defined liberal politics. It is the hypocrisy and double standard when it is one of their own. I don’t remember Evan Davies tearing into Jo Brand or Nish Kumar. Why isn’t he concerned about the disgraceful actions of the Cambridgeshire Police? I’m not a particular fan of either Farage or Trump, but it might be said, Evan that you and your colleagues come across as bit obsessed.

  6. Hi, I have made a transcript too. I found your page searching for the tweets Evan Davies quoted and was amazed to find you had already made a transcript. Well done on doing that, I know how much work is involved! :)
    I was increasingly annoyed by what I was writing as Davies's disdain was palpable. I also transcribed the interview with Tiffany Lane that came afterwards. His softball questions and easy acceptance of her crypto authoritarian "concern" was notable and scary. It was utterly clear to me Davies felt that "hate speech" should be a thing that includes much more than the law currently can control. His repeated pressing of Harry Miller to acknowledge some limit of free speech and "hate speech" gave me the impression he wanted some consolation in hearing Harry agree with that.

    One of the things I found especially risible about what Detective Constable Tiffany Lane said is her "pain" that the judgement may stop people coming forward. The only consequence of the judgement is that Harry Miller was found not to have committed an offence. If people feel sadness they can't mobilise the police to harass people then hard cheese is all I can say. No loss to liberty.

    Anyway, for what it's worth here's the google doc with my transcript if it's any use to anyone.

    1. Hi TLITB. I'm liking your transcripts too. The effort involved is definitely worth it.

      I hope people read your transcript of the Tiffany Lane interview and compare it to the Harry Miller interview. Why should disdain be smeared by the BBC on an ex-policeman while soft soap is gently rubbed over the actual person in power, a senior female officer with marked authoritarian tendencies and little talent for talking sense.

  7. @VerityVox commented
    Curious as to why the presenter of this evening's PM
    @BBCRadio4 addressed (ex police officer) Harry Miller as 'Mr Miller'
    ... and (Det Const) Tiffany Lane as 'Tiffany' during discussion of hate crime and allegedly anti-trans tweets.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.