Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Lewis to the rescue



Let's have a conversation about the news:

Guido Fawkes: Every single interviewee on Panorama last night was a pro-Labour activist before the pandemic. Every single one. It was a party political broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party.
Iain Dale: I was about to watch this on iPlayer. I don't think I'll bother now. Nothing wrong with being a Labour activist but for a serious current affairs programme to interview them to the exclusion of anyone else is, well, an interesting editorial decision.
Christian May: This does seem a bit odd, to put it mildly.
Claire Fox: A shame. Whole tone of programme far too melodramatic and sensational IMO, but some good investigative work that it's important to reveal.  Dosing it with emotive, personal stories from front line workers who are all activists, may now discredit more useful journalism.
Alastair Stewart: The oddest thing about last night's BBC Panorama is that they clearly had a powerful story of ill-preparedness by the DHSC and the NHS and NHS Providers. They had suggestions of the turning of political blind-eyes. They even had the post-Cygnus data. My point was is that, given what BBC Panorama appeared to have, the programme didn't need to be 'filled' with 'activists' of any persuasion.

Let's not have  a conversation about the news:

Lewis Goodall (BBC Newsnight): Sure we could have a conversation about the news. Or we could have a conversation about carers struggling to get tests. NHS workers struggling to get masks. Care homes struggling with excess deaths. It’s our job to report on people who don’t have the luxury of being “positive”. So let’s not have a conversation about the news. It’s the one conversation which is least useful to anyone right now, except perhaps to some in power, who curiously enough seem very keen to have it. It’s a cliche of journalism but an accurate one to say that we should be here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Too many on here seem to think it should be the other way around.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Epidemiologist wars

Epidemiologist wars

I still believe it’s far ‘too soon’ in the coronavirus journey to prepare end-of-year accounts’, and as far as I’m concerned the fat lady hasn’t even opened the score yet.

Since Boris’s current strategy relies on 100% cooperation, near as dammit, I’m still in favour of giving Lockdown a chance.  I wouldn’t go as far as to invite Nick Hornby to cross-post this BBC-related article: "BBC should be 'untouchable' after coronavirus"   but hey, a balanced view is better value than an echo-chamber. 

A wide debate on the pros and cons of the way the government has handled Coronavirus, as well as the media coverage of it, is just what the doctor ordered.

I‘ve listened to the Swedish strategy, (which is not nearly as far removed from ours as it’s cracked up to be) and I’ve listened to Neil Ferguson and professor Johan Giesecke and their detractors and heard Boris’s plea to hang on in there.  Neil Ferguson is not a personality you’d immediately warm to. He does a funny thing with his jaw. He’s been wrong before - but haven’t we all? The Swedish death toll is rising.  Freddie Sayers thrashes it all out here in Unheard
“Are you more Giesecke or Ferguson? The expert that most resonates is unlikely to be entirely down to your assessment of the science — more likely a complex combination of your politics, your own life experience, your attitude to risk and mortality and your relationship to authority. Perhaps each of us have elements of both instinct within us — but what do they really represent?”



Saturday, 25 April 2020

Trusting the media



To while away a locked-down day blog favourite Alex Deane proposed a game yesterday: 
Tweet an unfashionable opinion. I don’t mean one that you pretend is unfashionable but really makes you look “cool”. One that makes most people say NO. I’ll start. Most Bob Dylan covers are better than the originals. 
Suggestions included "Wine doesn’t actually pair very well with food", "Two spaces after a full stop. Unfashionable, but correct" and "The Victorian Workhouse was an excellent idea. Feckless wastrels got a roof over their heads and three meals a day in return for gainful employment".

The undisputed winner, however, was:
I'm a big fan of the journalists asking questions at the daily press conference...They're doing a great job.
(Just between us, I think this canny chap was cheating by being sarcastic šŸ˜‰) 

Humour in a time of crisis: 

The splendid Rich, who I also follow on Twitter, posted something the other day which others then swiped (without crediting him) and wrote close variations on:
This is how it'll play out if we make the vaccine:  
*Hancock calls briefing, says we've created world-saving vaccine*  
BBC: Will you apologise for not creating it sooner?  
ITV: Isn't it true that it contains dead kittens?  
C4: Why didn't you join an EU vaccination scheme?   
Sky: You said creating a vaccine would be difficult, do you now accept that you weren't telling the truth?  
Buzzfeed: 37 reasons why the UK is still a shit country  
Independent: Isn't it true that austerity stopped the vaccine being made sooner? 
Guardian: Vaccines are racist  
Then 12 days later, in what he thinks is a massive scoop, Robert Peston will tweet that his well-placed sources have informed him that a vaccine may be close.
*******

Whether that's fair or not, something definitely gone badly wrong for the media during the coronavirus crisis - at least if Sky/YouGov's poll into public trust is anything to go by:


While the NHS has a +81 trust rating and Boris Johnson a +12 rating, TV journalists have a -40 rating and newspapers a -55 rating.  

Newspapers have long had dreadful ratings, but for TV journalists to plummet to such dismals depths when it comes to public trust is highly striking, and ought to give them considerable pause for thought.

So why has the public drastically lost trust in TV journalists?

One possible factor is that the public has, by all accounts, seen a lot more of these TV journalists than usual - through watching the daily press conferences and by tuning in in greater numbers to BBC One's news bulletins, etc. (Even Newsnight cites a rise in viewing figures). Could it be that familiarity has bred contempt - and distrust?

Reading the non-bubble parts of Twitter, those daily press conferences do seem to be a particular bone of disquiet with the public. The likes of Laura Kuenssberg, Robert Peston, Beth Rigby, etc, now stand charged with all manner of things - including (to be brief): grandstanding, making fools of themselves, asking the same questions day after day, asking the same questions other journalists have asked before them (even during the same press conference), asking ill-informed questions, betraying scientific ignorance, being rude, asking the wrong questions, adopting a hostile tone, pushing an agenda, all singing from the same hymn sheet, failing to reflect or give voice to minority opinions (e.g. over the usefulness of lockdowns and the harmful economic effects of lockdowns), asking too many 'Will you apologise?' questions, being knee-jerk anti-government, and going for 'gotchas'. And, above all, of failing badly to catch the public mood.

Also: Could that anti-media stat have something to do with a swathe of the public reacting against swashbuckling, high-profile loudmouth Piers Morgan?

Or maybe it's because of people disliking aggressive, gotcha-style interviews by TV presenters/journalists? From Naga in the morning on BBC Breakfast to Emily in the evening on Newsnight, I'm seeing complaints along those lines chiming and rhyming with other complaints on my broad Twitter line. Such interruptions and gotchas are, understandably, winning our Naga and Emily & Co. vociferous plaudits from the tiny minority Twitter bubble and their media colleagues, but are they alienating/angering the vast public beyond that bubble?

And finally: Is more and more of the public starting to see such journalists as being little more than a vast ocean of agenda-pushers? 

Whatever, it's still quite something when the public trusts the politicians more than they trust the journalists who believe themselves to be holding the politicians to account. 

Thursday, 23 April 2020

BBC’s BIG NIGHT IN or “Just Give Us Your Money”


Guest Blog by Arthur T


I heard Zoe Ball telling us excitedly this morning about the BBC’s Big Night In on Thursday evening 23rd April 2020. Just to check, I googled ‘BBC Children in Need Big Night In’ and there was an advert right at the top of page one:
… ’BBC Children in Need and Comic Relief are coming together, to raise money for people in the UK who need our support now more than ever.’ …
This is a donation site, with its authorship clearly that of the BBC. The terms are vague - just donate £10.00, £20.00 or £30.00, a donation which ‘could’ help communities come together etc.

This has conļ¬rmed my view that the BBC are strengthening their position, having weathered the storm at the turn of the year when they were failing to address accusations of political bias or issues over the licence fee. In fact the BBC is ļ¬‚ourishing and with it, its desire to create a ‘Radio 2 family’ (as Zoe Ball likes to call it), a “One Show family’, a ‘Zoom family’, an ‘NHS and Carers family’ a ‘Politics family’ (of only like-minded people of course), and so on. BBC favourite Michael Ball has already recorded “You’ll never walk alone” with Captain Tom. The public are generous - they want to help the NHS apparently - by spoon-feeding more and more money into the BBC’s hungry mouths.

These cosy groups are led by sentiment alone - and there is only the one sentiment: adoration of the those on the ‘front line’. The message is a simple one. These angels and heroes are being let down by the Government. Rarely is there any mention of their employers, who are the people who are responsible for paying wages and ensuring that they are in a safe working environment. This is a huge let-out clause for Public Sector, Charity and Care Agency employers.

The imbalance between public sector/charities and private enterprise might from now on become  irreversible. In order to ļ¬nd a way through, taxpayers’ money is being directed towards public and care services, local authorities, beneļ¬ts etc, but how long before the likes of the National Trust, RNLI, NSPCC, et al require funds in the absence of donations and volunteers? This money will ultimately have to be paid back by taxes from the wealth creators of the UK - many of whom are being forced to twiddle their thumbs and to join in with the supposed euphoric mood.

The positioning of charities, including the BBC’s own, demonstrate a shift of revenues in their direction which in turn isolates many of the SMEs, who provide employment for the majority of the UK workforce. 

The BBC’s political family is well-known as being anti Conservative and pro EU. Senior Guardian reading BBC staļ¬€ climbed the ladder of success during the Blair government years from 1997, and there is a wish to maintain those values - values that are never questioned as they are universally held within the BBC.

So when you are singing along with Peter Kay to Amarillo with the Big Night In, and you feel pressured into donating money to the BBC’s charities, bear in mind the following:
1. The BBC felt they were justiļ¬ed in reversing a decision to lose 450 newsroom jobs. Indeed, judging by the new faces appearing on TV during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s a fair guess that they have increased their workforce at a time when so many people are losing their jobs.  
2. The relentless hostility of the BBC political reporters towards the Conservative Government. 
3. A decision to end free licences for the over 75s has been delayed in its timing, not reversed. 
4. The cries from the BBC for a Government of National Unity in which Blair, Campbell and Sir Kier will be put forward as saviours will in fact be a covert initiative to extend the Brexit transition period indeļ¬nitely before mounting a campaign to rejoin the EU. 
5. When the BBC Sports reporters have nothing to report, their jobs are not at risk. They are paid for by the TV licence. If they were to be furloughed, they would be paid for by the tax payer twice over, once through the TV licence and again via the (tax payers’) furlough scheme. The licence fee can never go down no matter what. 
The sinister part of the BBC’s Big Night In is that it plays upon the public’s sympathy, whilst taking yet more money into its coļ¬€ers. I don’t know how much it costs to get a Google advert placed right to the top of a page, but however much it is, the BBC must consider it to be worthwhile for the return it will produce.

Losing control?

While I’m at it, (posting yet another slightly off-topic minority-interest screed) I might as well flag up this fascinating article by Con Coughlin

While still trying to digest Col Richard Kemp’s comprehensive observations on the global implications of China’s relations with the rest of the world, Gatestone Institute has thrown another politically seismic situation at us that needs to be pondered over.



It’s Iran. The oil price has collapsed, coronavirus has hit hard, Iran is running out of cash and the Ayatollahs are losing control.

“The scale of Iran's deepening economic crisis is reflected in the regime's recent decision to seek $5 billion in emergency funding from the IMF, its first request for outside help since the 1979 revolution. 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has tried to put a brave face on the latest setback to hit the regime, claiming that Iran is unlikely to suffer as much as other countries from the oil price drop because it is less reliant than others on crude exports. 
If that were truly the case, then Tehran would not be asking the IMF for a bailout, and Mr Rouhani, together with Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister, would not be begging Washington to remove sanctions. 
The truth of the matter is, for all the regime's attempts to claim it has everything under control, that the country is teetering on the brink of collapse, and the ayatollahs are fast running out of options to save themselves.”

Meanwhile, they’ve been demonstrating their technical prowess with the flamboyant launch of a military satellite, which has "successfully" gone into orbit



If anyone is interested in ITBB’s extensive back catalogue of Rouhani-related contributions from Craig and me, click here.    What could possibly happen next?

The BBC's Ideological Drift

The open thread is looking lively. Disqus provides the flexibility that other systems lack! One negative response to - may I call it our reinvention (?) - was spotted  - not on this blog — but over on Biased-BBC.  I do hope the predicted invasion of trolls doesn’t materialise. But hey ho. You win some, you lose some. 

Anyway, there’s bound to be a certain amount of cross-pollination between ‘over here’ and ‘over there’ (one example) and on this occasion I’m borrowing from something I first saw on Biased-BBC. 


....and in more depth here.


"The Islamic prayer call states that everyone should submit to Islam and proclaims power over the area of the ​​prayer."
Church Militant (which also uses Disqus) is a site I’m not familiar with. It’s a Catholic organisation, and it could be something I might regret referring to or perhaps even mentioning, but from what I can see, as critics of the BBC, I assume we share the concerns expressed there.

The Lockdown has affected Europe, and the curtailment of mass prayers and the closure of Mosques has let to a temporary relaxation of the rules regarding loudspeaker-amplified calls to prayer.
"The Adhan being broadcast by loudspeaker is generally not allowed in Germany, except for special occasions," says Fahrettin Alptekin, a mosque representative in Essen.
It could be that the BBC’s newfound call-to-prayer policy is temporary; we’ll have to wait and see ( I won't be holding my breath.) The article concludes, quoting extensively from Robin Aitken's ‘The Noble Liar’
BBC's Ideological Drift 
"In its early years, the BBC "was consciously aligned with traditional Christian morality and conscious also of its obligation to be fair," Aitken writes in The Noble Liar: Why and How the BBC Distorts the News to Promote a Liberal Agenda.
From 1942–44, he observes, the BBC "saw fit to broadcast a series of talks about Christian apologetics [by C. S. Lewis] as if this was the most natural thing in the world." The talks were turned into the bestselling book Mere Christianity — "an example of the BBC directly abetting evangelism through the medium of its airwaves."
However, in recent years "the BBC has wholeheartedly thrown its lot in with the liberal reformers; there has been no 'impartiality' on any of the big moral issues of the past half-century. In every instance, the socially conservative argument has been depicted as callous, reactionary and dogmatic," writes Aitken, who spent 25 years as a BBC reporter and executive. 
Utley concurs. "Among my colleagues at the [BBC] World Service there was an unquestioning acceptance of western 'liberal' values on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage," she says. "This blinded program editors and presenters to the fact that many of our millions of listeners across the world would be offended by the editorial position we were, in effect, adopting.”

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Trivial pursuits

I  mentioned Lockdown backgrounds a couple of weeks ago. Now everyone has jumped aboard the bandwagon. We’re talking bookcases. (And ceilings with or without Velux windows. )

Iain Duncan Smith’s bookcase was quite narrow and full of musty tomes that no-one has (probably) looked at for millennia. 


One of the other Lockdownees, (was it Rachel Reeves?) featured as her chosen backdrop a spacious set of shelves stuffed with all manner of modern literature. 

I demand at least one bookcase close-up, which I can freeze-frame at a later date - so that I may read the spines. Then I’ll know what kind of a person I’m listening to … well, if one’s personality can be determined from analysing a specimen of handwriting, surely a speaker’s reading/home decor preferences could be equally revealing.

**********

I don’t find Laura Kuenssberg unremittingly objectionable. I think she’s clever and hardworking, and more importantly, her hair usually looks nice. It’s just the default metro-centric lefty attitude that grates.



What’s ‘scratchy’? The cat who keeps getting killed by “itchy’ the mouse? Anyway, being somewhat old-fashioned I’ve often wondered about the Ton v Tonne quandary.

Laura K wrote: 
The saga of the plane from Turkey that may or may not be on its way to the UK with tonnes of kit is an unfortunate metaphor for the problems the government has had.
I just wondered why she used the metric ‘tonnes’, rather than the good old Bexity ’tons’, which I would have thought more fitting in that context.

Here’s what a likeminded ‘pedant’ had to say:

I’m all for the metric system, and I’m sure a lot of British schoolchildren would be well pissed off if UKIP’s idea of restoring the imperial system ever came to fruition. But I do find sentences like this, in a item on the BBC website, rather strange and unnatural:
Mr Teller says the first question is not “How can we make a tonne of money?”
I know that tonne is our unit of measurement now, but does it have to take over our idioms as well, especially as this is probably more of an American idiom anyway (I think we Brits would be more likely to say ‘ton(ne)s of money’)?
The following idioms are all listed in British dictionaries with ‘ton’ or ‘tons’:
They came down on him like a ton of bricks.
That bag of yours weighs a ton!
I’ve got tons of work to do.
We’ve got tons of food left over from the party.
I don’t know why the BBC insist on using tonne in idioms. Perhaps they think young people won’t know what a ton is. I say keep the idiomatic ton, and leave tonne for weights. After all people don’t say they’re off to spend a new penny, do they? (Actually I’m not sure anyone says that anymore anyway!)
I'm off to see if I can zoom into some images of people's bookcases; the itch needs to be scratched.

Chinese whispers

Some people - pacifists I guess - simply detest the military. When the daughter of some (former) friends learned that her husband-to-be had decided to join the army, she immediately broke off the engagement. Her parents recounted this sorry tale with pride, assuming we’d agree that this was the right, noble and only thing to do. Equally alarming was their assumption that the horror of being associated with the armed services was mutual. 

Ban the bomb!

Just as Bruce Kent and the CND movement still have their followers (perhaps not quite as out of touch as those poor chaps) others admire wise and wonderful military folk like Col Richard Kemp.  

I had toyed with the idea of writing about the BBC’s relationship with China - did you realise there was one?  - however, the subject seemed too complex and too much of a challenge. So now I can simply recommend the piece by Col Kemp, written for the Gatestone Institute. 

Colonel Richard Kemp CBE 

Do read it all, but the following extract should give you the flavour.  
“Chinese investment penetrates every corner of the United Kingdom, giving unparalleled influence here as in so many countries. Plans to allow Chinese investment and technology into our nuclear power programme and 5G network will build vulnerability into our critical national infrastructure of an order not seen in any other Western nation. Even the BBC, which receives funding from China, has produced and promoted a propaganda video supporting Huawei, to the alarm of some of its own journalists. All this despite MI5's repeated warnings that Chinese intelligence continues to work against British interests at home and abroad.”

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

No results

Yom HaShoah

I would like to feature some poignant articles marking Yom HaShoah.
What is the difference between Holocaust Memorial Day and Yom Hashoah? While both are days to mourn the loss of those killed in the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah is specifically a day for the Jewish community to reflect on what was done to their people. An important theme is also educating future generations on the millions of people who were murdered by the Nazis, to ensure that today’s children know the magnitude and horror of what happened.
Prince Charles made a remarkably statesman-like speech



Elder of Ziyon posted a thought-provoking and chilling piece:

  
The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland was published by the Polish government-in-exile in December 1942 and sent to the foreign ministers of the 26 government signatories of the Declaration by United Nations.

BBC Watch presented a film about Shimon Greenhouse - the resilience of such people completely bowls one over.



(Searched the BBC - "no results")


Turkey trot

An abrasive interview on the Today programme  (22.22)with Nick Robinson and Simon Clarke MP (me neither)  on the theme of ‘candour’. 
Yes, someone has royally messed up; the desperately urgent consignment of gowns form Turkey has yet to materialise. But the BBC should remember that all day yesterday they were telling us that the gowns have been ‘delayed’. Delayed? Mislaid? Waylaid? I never heard anyone on the BBC probing further.  Did you? Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it hasn’t so far killed me.

If there’s one thing the Guardian is good for, it’s that it often provides detail that other organs don’t bother with. Yesterday the Guardian reported that the “84-tonne consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE)” which was “expected to include 400,000 gowns”  was delayed because of some kind of bureaucracy. It looked as if some bureaucrat in Turkey couldn’t be arsed to sign some bit of paper (?)

Whether that’s true or complete nonsense, the BBC might have passed that information (or ‘mis-information) on under the auspices of ‘the renowned Reality Check’; but no they expected us to be satisfied with just an announcement that it’s ‘been delayed’. So much for candour.

Why on earth are we depending on Turkey for anything, anyway?


Announcement.
Owing to the limitations of the Blogger comments system, we have successfully migrated to Disqus. We’re all migrants now!
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Craig.  I urge everyone to perform a melody of their choice from their balcony in appreciation. (Suggest “We’re all in this together”.) I will be doing continuous laps of my garden till the end of Lockdown or before my 100th birthday whichever comes first.
Enjoy our newfound freedom, and a happy Disqus to one and all.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Off Beam

The limitations of our comments system make it awkward to insert direct hyperlinks, so following a comment (by Anonymous)  - and for clarity, I'm posting the Government's rebuttal of the Sunday Times article below the fold. 
Michael Gove described the article as 'off beam." The Government sets out the 'claims' made by the Sunday Times and offers its 'responses' in full.  
Read more...

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Dancing in the square

“By Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight if the Iranian missile hits Israel.”
So bragged Abdel Bari Atwan, the most frequently invited panellist on BBC Dateline London.



This video of a conversation about the media’s bias against Israel between “Elder” (from EoZ) and Adam Levick (from UK Media Watch) reminded me of Atwan’s infamous statement - which should surely be regarded by any genuinely anti-racist organisation as a damning, career-undermining boast - yet there he often is on our Saturday morning BBC TV screens chatting away animatedly with his trademark flailing arms and bulging eyes while Carrie Gracie or Shaun Lay look on benevolently.

I suppose we must make allowances for the fact that the Trafalgar Square pledge dates back to 2010 and his dancing days may be over.

Another topic that came up in the EoZ video was a fanciful headline in a recent edition of the Mail online. Prince Harry Faces Backlash ….

It seems that Prince Harry invited injured IDF soldiers to participate in the Invictus Games, and when ‘Bari’, as the BBC affectionately calls him, raised an objection on the basis of his deeply antisemitic sensibilities, the Mail online chose to upgrade this solitary, one-man ‘objection’ to the status of ‘backlash’.  

This is uncharacteristic of the Mail, but I’m not sure if it’s primarily motivated by Harry-bashing or Israel-bashing.

I found the technically challenged EoZ video in question worth watching because both speakers are equally ‘well aware of’ and ‘baffled by’ the inexplicable blindspot that persists in much of the western media; a tacit refusal to acknowledge the antisemitic pandemic that is rife in the Arab world, particularly within Palestinian culture. No matter how many studies reveal staggeringly high percentages of unadulterated, religiously rooted Jew-hate (not Zionist-hate) - shocking figures are consistently found in survey after survey - the largely atheist western media will obstinately insist that their much venerated Palestinians are ‘just like us’.

It was odd hearing two Americans pontificating over the current state of the British Labour Party, and deciding whether Keir Starmer was a good guy. Better than Corbs, that’s for sure.

A question that still troubles me is who on earth put that shelf up?

End times


Big splash in the Sunday Times. Get Boris.

A scoop! A day by day; hour by hour diary of the government’s failures and gross mishandling of the pandemic. Boris’s selfish, narcissistic, stubborn deafness! His cavalier behaviour! Hundreds, nay, thousands of unnecessary deaths! Boris’s negligence! The government’s ineptitude!

The keyboard warriors had already been busy, piling in below the line by about 6:30 am! Get Boris!

The whole www blogosphere is full of people (like me) opining on stuff we know very little about. (But how could we? We know only what we’re told.)

“So whom” did no-one anywhere suggest “would have handled the crisis better?” Jeremy Corbyn? Decisive and presidential? He’d still have been ‘having a conversation’.

Andrew Marr, on behalf of the Labour Party, massaged Anneliese Dodds gently through her sermon.

Michael Gove had just been con-fronted by Sophy Ridge with the narrow-eyed stare that makes her look intense.

Marr’s fixers put him in the last slot where the imminent danger of ‘running out of time’ usually adds an extra frisson of suspense. No-one could have been surprised by the tedious predictability of the questioning - the likelihood of Marr getting a sudden surge of inspiration and imagination is next to nil.

“Did he or did he not miss five cobra meetings?” squeaked Marr, the air of triumph amplified by his extra-reedy tone of voice.

So pleased was he with this question that the moment Gove began his answer, Marr had already begun a series of ‘interruption’ noises. Nevertheless, Gove battled through the distraction with stoicism and forbearance.

“Did we not send billions of tons of our PPE to China?” continued Marr. But he had already stopped listening and concerned himself with the Marr Show’s rapidly approaching end time.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Keep calm and carry on

The mini-drama that’s being acted out in the Spectator has a parallel relevance to this blog (my position here) 

Stephen Daisley is a divisive figure in the Spectator. The Marmite kind of divisive.

Here we have a comparatively niche article about the fortunes and misfortunes of two English language Jewish newspapers, The Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News. They’ve both gone into liquidation, but some kind of rescue plan seems to be in the offing.

The below-the-line discussion ignores the content of the piece and coagulates instead around the justification for publishing such a ‘minority interest’ issue in the Spectator. And, predictably, it has brought a few unpleasant realities out of the woodwork. 

Personally, I find the journalism in the Jewish News (in our sidebar) a little bland. Also, rather error-prone, but it sometimes comes up with some valuable insights.

The ‘best’ comment (according to Disqus’s “Best” league table) is from ‘ugly-fish’  - ugly by name - ugly by nature, maybe.

 Here it is:
“It's obviously a subject very close to the writer's heart, but why is he banging on about this in The Spectator? I and, I suspect, many other Speccie readers don't give a f*ck about The JC.”

That’s the first of several, to the effect that 
 'Jewy stuff like that has no business in the Spectator. No-one cares.'

So, should I conclude that the Spectator readership is mildly antisemitic? At the time of writing, out of the 13 comments,  seven support ugly fish,  three are against, and the rest seem indifferent or halfway between.

I’m not suggesting that Jewish issues deserve Special Status. I can easily imagine similar, or much more virulent responses if, say, the Spectator featured an article about some Muslim related media organ going out of business. 

It’s merely that in the current climate - rampant antisemitism everywhere - it hits a sore spot.

So,  with regard to this blog. 

I realise that antisemitism on the BBC - often in the guise of anti-Israel reporting, but not exclusively - coupled with its aggressively pro-Islam angle - is a far more serious problem than a few negative responses to articles by Stephen Daisley. 

The BBC has a wider reach and a much bigger influence on public opinion, which ultimately affects government foreign policy, so my focus on antisemitism and anti-Zionism has a rightful place on a blog about BBC bias.

I won’t pretend that it’s not dispiriting to be met with comparative indifference to my ‘Israel” posts, but as long as this blog exists, I’ll do what I do, and I hope Stephen Daisley keeps doing what he does too. 

The will to live



This is by Dr Matt Strauss, the author of the piece concerning ‘the ventilator controversy’ that I linked to recently

I offer it to you because Dr Strauss criticises Emily Maitlis for her disdainful assertion that:  
'You do not survive the illness through fortitude or strength of character, whatever the Prime Minister's colleagues will tell us’. 
It appears this went viral (?) 

I think it’s safe to assume that Dr Strauss (a critical care physician) has more going for him in the medical expertise department than has Ms Maitlis - but what do I know?

Cocked Hat



You’ll probably have already watched this fascinating video from Unherd (featured on Guido Fawkes.) It's Freddie Sayers’s interview of Swedish expert Prof. Johan Giesecke

Fawkes’s bullet-pointed extrapolations from the film hold good, but I would take away a few extra ones as well. 

The Swedish strategy turns out to be much less dissimilar to the UK’s than meets the eye, and Freddie Sayers’s questioning is pertinent and of a kind that the BBC repeatedly fails to put “on our behalf.”  His questions are ones that viewers themselves would actually wish to put, should they have the opportunity to do so.

For example, I spy a political underbelly here. For me, the clue lies in the professor’s fear that a strict Lockdown strategy is an inevitable route to totalitarianism and dictatorship. A very Swedish attitude.

Sayers asks if Prof. Giesecke is taking “A slightly cold-hearted approach” (and that was something that immediately struck me.)

Again, one of the most significant remarks that stood out for me (It would, wouldn’t it?) was:
“Let’s discuss this a year from now”.
If you’ve been following previous threads on this blog you’ll know what I mean.

The proliferation of this kind of direct reporting, (think also of Steven Egerton of The Sun) consistently knocks the BBC's efforts into a cocked hat.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Open Thread

Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater - inspiration for a famous poem

This open thread is open to the public, despite coronavirus. Thank you for your comments. 

Amnesty, the final straw



A lot of people I used to know supported A.I. I imagine they still do, out of habit, laziness and a lack of curiosity. It’s thoroughly discredited, and this is should be the final straw. I haven’t heard the BBC quoting from it recently, but no doubt that’s purely coincidental.

"The media has failed to ask the right questions"


This episode of the New Culture Forum is worth watching. You get a better view if you watch it on Y.T. rather on this site in its cramped form.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Born in Bedlam and other stories

I was alerted to this lavish article that appeared on 7th April in the BBC’s online travel section. It’s chock-a-block with emotive Israel-bashing insinuations and inaccuracies. As one-sided as could be. 

It comes under the auspices of a BBC Travel series described thus:
“Comeback Cities is a BBC Travel series that showcases under-the-radar capitals, champions the urban underdogs and revels in the success stories of cities that have turned their fortunes around.
I will highlight just one of the outrageously emotive quotations and strange allegations the writer gets away with.
“The first thing the Israeli occupation would want is the end of our art and culture,” said Baha’ AbuShanab, a mop-haired manager at Singer. “That is how you sterilise a society.”
The affectionate way this person is described puts the tone of the whole piece in a nutshell. “mop-haired”?  - how cute! - and it makes those bizarre allegations even more absurd! 

If there is one thing the “Israeli occupation”(!) would certainly not want, it’s “the end” of any art and culture, nor would “it” want to sterilise anyone’s society. Au contraire, Israel might want to introduce genuine art and culture to replace the childish anti-Israel nonsense that’s filling this mophead's deluded thought-processes.

Anyway, please refer to BBC Watch to see the whole article forensically deconstructed. 

My concern is that the BBC is violating its commitment to fore-warn readers or listeners of contributors’ specific interests. If they have ‘skin in the game’ so to speak.

In other words, when a contribution requires some sort of a health warning to enable the reader to see where the author is ‘coming from’,  thus allowing him, her or it to take whatever it is into account in order to assess the veracity or objectivity of the contents.

 Let’s just call it the Mandy Rice-Davies clause. In the name of clarity and openness.  

A cursory Google reveals that this BBC author has a mixed background, typically from dual ‘either-end’ strands of anti-Jewish sentiment. He has both Islamic and Irish/Christian heritage. 

I don't wish to come across as the antithesis of one of those "Who's a Jew" type of racists, outing people or damning them for their ethnicity but with a misleadingly Welsh-sounding name like Richard Morgan, it would be helpful if the BBC had noted that their business correspondent from BBC radio Ulster has also authored an article that includes this information:
“For centuries my ancestors in Bethlehem had been servants of the Franciscan monks—in Arabic, the name of the clan to which they belonged, the Tarjameh, means “the translators.”
[…]
“But the reality of Bethlehem today, of course, is much different. Surrounded by a 26-foot-tall concrete wall with barbed wire running atop, the city is part of Arabia’s Rubble Belt.
“For more on Richard Morgan's Bethlehem ancestry, read his Kindle single, Born in Bedlam.”
If it weren't for the depth and breadth of the one-sidedness in the piece I wouldn’t be so mean as to scrutinise a travel article so critically. But this one is truly biased and inflammatory.  

Don’t let’s compare apples and pears

This particular article in the Spectator (which we still haven’t managed to restore to the sidebar) best reflects my own view of the current situation, which is that no-one can yet tell whether Lockdown is the most or the least effective strategy for dealing with the pandemic. The best or the worst. The wisest or the stupidest.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again - the jury’s still out. 

We cannot yet know whether the economic fallout from Lockdown will turn out to be a bigger calamity than the imminent prospect of a few million more premature deaths from Covid, and no amount of logic and reasoning can provide a definitive answer till the fat lady sings; and not even then. In the absence of a reliable, robust, retrospective tally, our polarised attitudes and prescriptions can only be ’visceral’, instinctive and speculative, and I daresay, dependent, at least in part, upon whether we’ve got vulnerable and very precious loved-ones to worry about. 

It seems to me that in a no-win scenario like this, any strategy is risky; but since we voted for the present government, and Lockdown is the strategy they’re betting the farm on, it’s wiser to cooperate than to dissent, because the chosen strategy is heavily dependent on our cooperation.  

If Brendan O’Neill thinks it’s the wrong strategy and Peter Hitchens says dissent is our moral duty, it’s not so much that I disagree with their arguments - they may well be right - but at the moment it’s extremely premature to be certain of anything, and in my opinion, it’s unwise to insist you can be.

No outcome I can think of is likely to give us a definitive answer anytimesoon. Perhaps if the pandemic rapidly dies out and the economy bounces back double-tout-suite, we can pretend we knew it all along.  Not very likely though, is it? Even with the benefit of hindsight, we’ll probably still be left with a bunch of ‘what ifs’ that we can argue over forever and a day.

I just think this piece by Professor Michael Baum details the uncertainties that make me quite sure that we can’t be sure. There’s even a reference to TV journalists in there, so no-one can accuse me of going completely off-topic.

“We now have a rich and varied amount of data on coronavirus that is global and increasing by the day. As you would expect, in the face of uncertainty, opinions in the scientific community are diverse. Now is not the time for point-scoring and facile comparisons, but for global collaboration. 

Ultimately this lockdown period will come to an end, we will develop herd immunity, produce antibody tests that work and vaccines to protect the vulnerable. We will win against this virus and our children will ask, ‘What did you do in the great corona war of 2020?’. 

The best answers will come from those currently caring for the sick or who work in our science and mathematical laboratories. But if you are a whinging TV journalist demanding, ‘Something must be done’, or an armchair epidemiologist who has no doubt that ‘rhubarb’ is the answer to our problems, you may have to keep quiet and change the subject.

Please disagree in an orderly fashion. It’s our blog and we. can. exterminate.



Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Questions


Robbie Gibb, Head of BBC Westminster before becoming Downing Street Director of Communications for Theresa May, has posted an interesting thread on Twitter this evening

What do you make of it? 

Are Laura K, Robert P, Beth R & Co. asking the right questions? What questions would you ask?

  1. Because journalists at the press conferences are asking questions through the prism of establishing political culpability, they are not asking the questions that matter.
  2. An opinion poll by Kekst CNC today suggests the media is the one UK institution that has seen a collapse in public confidence, a net 21% fall.
  3. Cheap, political, business as usual questions, such as the one from Ch4 News at weekend demanding an apology from the Home Secretary, completely misjudges the public mood. 
  4. Excitable questions about “government U-turns” (or responding to new advice when the evidence changes), “cabinet splits” (or just different points of view) and other “gotcha” techniques are jarring at best. 
  5. Questions designed to help understand how we can defeat this virus, what genuine lessons we can learn from other countries and updates on the developing science is what the public really want to hear. For example… 
Q. Is there evidence that the level of exposure to the virus – the viral load - will determine the severity of the illness?
Q. Are we getting very detailed data from other countries mapping the development of the virus?
Q. Are the countries who are lifting some lockdown restrictions basing their decisions on science or the needs of their economy? If the UK were faced with same data, would it come to the same conclusion? 
Q. Where are we on the trials of existing drugs that might help to tackle the virus?
Q. What is the latest research on re-infection showing? 
Q. What is the earliest possible timeframe for a UK vaccination programme? There are reports that one might be ready by September. Is that correct?
Q. Is there evidence that exposure to other viruses in a patient’s history can impact on the severity of Covid19?
Q. Do we use the same medical criterial for admission to ICU as other countries who seem to have different survival rates?

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Friday, 10 April 2020

Scuppering Boris

I feel I’ve been unfairly lumbered with a ‘right-wing’ label. All because of the defensive, pro-Israel stance I take against the BBC’s institutional anti-Israel bias. But I’m not particularly right-wing.

I share some of the sentiment I read on conservative blogs, particularly in relation to the family, but I’m not at all on board with the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ approach, or the ‘hang ‘em and flog ‘em principle that lies behind or goes together with the so-called traditional right-wing philosophy.

Personally, I can boast of an old-fashioned marriage and a brood of kind-hearted, industrious, law-abiding children to show for it. There you are.

I (we) value your engagement and I certainly wouldn't want to discourage or make anyone think they’re not appreciated, but I beg to differ from some of the (in my opinion) prematurely dogmatic below the line responses I’ve read. 

I’d be the first to acknowledge that the lockdown/shutdown strategy is risky and has massive downsides. As someone whose particular circumstances have, over the years, had a habit of slipping through all manner of Rishi-type safety nets, I still say it’s impossible to calculate a final tally while we’re in the midst of the crisis. 

Even when it’s all over, the wisdom of adopting a strategy (albeit belatedly) that depends on 100% co-operation will be open to interpretation and politicisation. For now, I think that dogmatically expressed dissent of the Peter Hitchens variety recklessly ‘rocks the boat’ and sabotages the journey, holes the ship below the waterline and other nautical metaphors. “Scupper” is the word I’m looking for.

The police’s interpretation of the rules is another matter. Some of the things we’re expected to go along with are utterly illogical in practice. Our regular, pre-lockdown ‘walk’ is a short drive away. It’s a vast open space where you rarely see another soul. The edict that one mustn’t ‘drive to walk’ is effectively a sledgehammer to crack a nut -  just because some people drove miles and miles for their exercise, potentially causing traffic-related incidents and wasting resources. Tough nooks. (we used to say at our school) So we suck it up and don’t go there any more.

Then there’s the shopping conundrum. How can you shop infrequently when you’re not allowed to buy sufficient goods to tide yourself over for more than a day or two?  But for the potential ‘good of the cause’, we do our best, like good boys and girls (and all genders in between.)  Let’s hope someone finds a vaccine or a treatment PDQ. 



Big Question



Who is (was) on Question Time tonight? (Last night)

The fact is, (as they say on W1A) who cares? I have to level with you - I didn’t watch it. Did anyone?
In the era of Lockdown, Q.T. is incontrovertibly dire. ‘Direr’ than usual. There’s not even a whooping and hooting audience to complain about. But that panel even surpasses itself in terms of irrelevance and dullness; the antidote to click-bait.

Let Q.T. join HIGNFY as another casualty of coronavirus. But (in the absence of a suitable test) did it die OF coronavirus, or WITH?

Prince Charles reading part of 'Tintern Abbey'


Gotcha journalism?



The Guardian's 'exclusive' yesterday that Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, "is facing questions" after visiting his elderly parents house is itself facing questions.

The Times's Matt Chorley responded to it by writing:
A story which doesn’t even survive four pars. There are plenty of people who would be in real trouble, including some of my own family, if relatives didn’t travel to leave food/medicine on the doorstep. Credit to Robert Jenrick for looking after his parents.
And the BBC's Andrew Neil commented:
This Guardian story kills itself by para four. So why publish at all?
Mr Jenrick himself tweeted this yesterday:
For clarity - my parents asked me to deliver some essentials - including medicines. They are both self-isolating due to age and my father's medical condition and I respected social distancing rules. 
Meanwhile, today came this tweet from Stephen Canning:

The Daily Mail seems to think he shouldn't live with his wife and children if he works as a cabinet minister in London. 
I first heard about the story while listening to Radio 3's Breakfast this morning. The usual intrusive, BBC-wide news bulletin at 8 o'clock ran the story like this:
Meanwhile, as the Government's again urged people to stay at home, a cabinet minister's had to defend his movements. The Daily Mail reports that Robert Jenrick went from London to his house in Herefordshire after Government guidance said that travel to second homes was not essential. In a statement the Communities Secretary said that he'd been in London on ministerial duties but left once he was able to work from his family home where his wife and children were.
The BBC is going with the Daily Mail's main angle interestingly, and ignoring the Guardian's angle (which that paper is, bizarrely, still sticking with). Presumably, the BBC accepts that the Guardian's angle is untenable.

I could be misunderstanding this story, but if Mr Jenrick's family lives in this 'second home' and he's an essential worker, why is it wrong that he travels back home to them? Surely that angle is just as untenable, as Mr Jenrick seems to have obeyed every one of the Government's own guidelines here.

Update: The title of the post has been amended. And I quite clearly was misunderstanding this story - see comments below. 

Explaining away


Rembrandt, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

The Guardian featured a touching interview yesterday with 61 year old Hylton Murray-Philipson. He's been through five days of intensive care and been on a ventilator, 'thanks to' coronavirus. Unlike either a similar aged man on the same ward or an ENT consultant at the same hospital, Mr Murray-Philipson pulled through. He is profoundly grateful to the NHS:
While in recovery, the nurses found out it was my 61st birthday coming up and asked me what I wanted. I felt pretty rough and beaten up so I said I’d love a shave. The nurse gave me one. On the day, the nurses gathered around my bed with a slice of cake and sang Happy Birthday. It was so unbelievably moving. 
NHS staff even gave him a 'guard of honour' and applauded and cheered him when he finally left hospital. 

This morning's Today programme picked up on this good news story and interviewed Mr Murray-Philipson. Something curious happened during that interview though:
Nick Robinson: Those memories that you had in intensive care are very, very intense, aren't they, good as well as bad?
Hylton Murray-Philipson: Well, absolutely. And following those words from Bishop James Jones just now I think it's appropriate to say that one of the many very powerful images I had in that moment of great distress and struggle was the image of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. And that just came to me, and I would like to think that that was Jesus Christ coming to me and helping me in my hour of need.
Nick Robinson: Well, it's so powerful that you have that...partly I have to say, partly because of the drugs that you have to be on in order to be on a ventilator machine which plays tricks with your mind, doesn't it really? But you also had some happy moments, didn't you? There must have been some horror there but also some happy moments?
Hylton Murray-Philipson: Well, to be honest, the happy moments came when I was out of intensive care. Intensive care is a pretty horrendous experience I can't really put the word 'happy' alongside it.
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) I was thinking of your birthday that you spent in hospital.
This was blog favourite Alex Deane's immediate reaction to Nick Robinson's kneejerk 'explaining away' of Mr Murray Philipson's recent deeply-felt religious experience:
  • It is Good Friday. The Today Programme interviews a man who was discharged from hospital having had COVID-19. He said that in his hour of need, he saw Christ. Nick Robinson: "Ah, you were of course on very powerful drugs at the time."
  • The sense of desperate panic amongst the BBC production team that someone was going to mention his Christianity was palpable.
  • There’s no other faith that would have been dumped on in this way on air on the BBC. I honestly think that if the recovered patient had outed himself as a Satanist who’d seen the Devil he’d have got a more respectful time.
  • I understand that Robinson felt awkward in the moment & that this was an instinctive remark rather than a scripted one. But it’s telling that that’s his instinct, isn’t it? You sweet, silly old drug addled God botherer, chuckled the host... imagine it towards another faith. Try.
  • I honestly don’t think for a scintilla of a moment that there is a chance that any other faith would have been disparaged in this way. 
Nor do I, and I do hope Nick Robinson reflects on this.

UpdateNick Robinson has asked for forgiveness:
Forgive me. I didn’t mean to dismiss his or anyone else’s faith. I’d been told that he’d had a series of vivid dreams & as it happens I have been on a ventilator & heavily sedated myself & still remember my dreams almost 40 years on. My words got a bit jumbled (like the dreams).
Further update - Ah, but BBC defensiveness is already creeping back in again:
Thanks for re-tweeting my apology & explanation. I can understand why it upset you & others but on the day we heard from Rowan Williams, Vincent Nichols, an excerpt of the St Matthew’s Passion [sic] & Thought for the Day you can’t really argue that we dismiss Christianity.
That wasn't really what Alex Deane was arguing, was it? He was arguing that no other faith would have been treated in this way, however 'accidentally'?