Monday, 19 July 2021

We need to talk about bias


After unearthing some historic Hitler-related Tweets by its employee Tala Hawala the BBC dismissed her from her job as Palestine Specialist for BBC Monitoring. 


An impassioned response to the dismissal appeared on Twitter and was reproduced by some of the media, many of which chose to close comment fields that are normally open to the public. This is so sensitive a topic that a partial “don’t go there” situation apparently prevails. We’re tacitly colluding in a conspiracy of silence. (Are we?) The prospect of being drowned under a tsunami of un-woke, racist hate-speak must be a bit too much for the editorial community if there is one.

Why though - why close the comments? Opinions on Israel and the Palestinians (and sometimes on ‘Islam-in-general’) are invariably divisive and turn nasty at the drop of a hat, but I wonder if preemptively cancelling comments altogether is a sensible policy. It probably is, while the general public is so ill-informed and ill-equipped to argue knowledgeably. See that, BBC? 

But suppurating boils ache to be lanced, and because this blog is all about the BBC and Bias, and because one aspect of the media’s egregiously one-sided reporting is the BBC’s pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel bias, particularly by omission but also by inference and outright advocacy -  because of all that -  we need to talk.

In the self-pitying reposte above, Ms Hawala paints herself as a victim of the pro-Israel mob. I’ve heard it argued that her views are perfectly in accord with the BBC’s, therefore singling her out for dismissal is unfair and that she merely crossed the line with a much-too-unsubtle reference to Hitler, accidentally a little too overt and in-yer-face to pass for impartiality.

“I apologise for my single offensive and ignorant Tweet” came the weasel-worded non-apology. “I blurted out the “Hitler was right” remark in the heat of the moment” This confession looked suitably self-deprecating with a whiff of mea culpa thrown in. and had she left it at that, with the possibility of a Naz Shah style redemption. ‘Lessons learned / sorry for what I did‘ she might have bought herself some time. 

But no. Racism will out. Begging for sympathy, Hawala painted her heat-of-the-moment outburst as understandable. Cherry-picking incidents from Israel’s 2014 retaliatory incursion into Gaza - devoid of context and full of obvious omissions - not least three murdered Israeli teenagers - was a clumsy and stupid tactic. She even managed to trash her own boast, of (her own) ‘impartial and professional journalism’ by coming out with a litany of stereotypical antisemitic conspiracy theories. Hoist on her own gratuitously self-damning petard and reducing her vindication thing to parody.

There’s no way back. Chances of reconciliation - quashed. She needn’t worry though. There are plenty of opportunities still open to her. The Times might be interested.  

For anyone who still cares, that loaded allusion to ‘Industrial in scale’ is quite obscene 

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