Monday 30 August 2021

August Continuing Open Thread

Hello to August. Time for a new open thread. Thank you for your comments.

Oh Tim!

I think it was right to give Tim Davie the benefit of the doubt when he was appointed BBC DG, especially as he said many of the right things about putting BBC impartiality first.

But it's led nowhere so far.

He won't step in and release the Balen Report, or stop BBC executives from loading the schedules with 'woke' programming, or rein in senior journalists from expressing their views in BBC reports...

...or, as Arthur T points out on the open thread, 'sanction' even the BBC's gobbiest tweeters. 

For as the Guido Fawkes site reports, not one person at the BBC has been sanctioned for social media breaches of impartiality this year - not even Lewis Goodall or Emily Maitlis.

This was one of the most widely reported promises from Tim Davie following his appointment - that there was a problem he acknowledged about BBC journalists sounding off on Twitter in flagrant breach of BBC impartiality guidelines and that he would be the man who'd crack down hard on such behaviour.

And then came the sound of crickets chirping.

In summary: He's vocalised the talk but not perambulated the walk so far.

Oh Tim, you've let me down, you've let Sue down, you've let the BBC licence fee payer down, you've let the hallowed memory of the BBC past down, and - drumroll for the inevitable end of this sentence - most of all you've let yourself down!

No change on the Balen Report front, despite Tim Davie getting involved

Writer and freelance journalist Jan Shure has an interesting piece at the Jewish News section of The Times of Israel concerning the infamous Balen Report into bias as regards the BBC's coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The BBC has spent 17 years and lashings and lashings of licence fee payers' money refusing to release it to the public - or as Jan puts it ''wriggling and weaselling its way out of revealing'' it.

It's been a saga, far longer than most Icelandic ones. 

Jan reports that BBC DG Tim Davie has now, ''very belatedly'', replied to her MP Theresa Villiers's letter about it.

And what did Tim, the So-Far Ineffectual Champion of BBC Impartiality, have to say when he did reply?

Well, to cut a long story short, he stuck to the BBC line - hook, line and sinker. 

Yes, he'd discussed it with the people who'd previously refused to make it public and, yes, they told him it should still be kept under wraps.

So no change whatsoever. Suppression is still the order of the day.

There must be things in that report that very deeply embarrass the BBC. 

Jan now compares their handling of it to the Bashir scandal and hopes Lord Dyson will help.

Her idea is that the BBC's cover-up over Martin Bashir took 26 years to be exposed, so one day the cover-up over the Balen Report will come out too, and Lord Dyson might be the man to help quicken the process.

We'll see. Sue and I have always hoped for a whistle-blower, but given the state of opinion held so widely at the BBC on matters Israeli/Palestininian, we're still not holding our breaths.

Give that man an award!

Wonder what Newsnight's Lewis Goodall is after here?

Well, whatever it is, I think Adrian Hilton captures it rather well:

I'm pleased to learn of this project from Lewis Goodall at BBC Newsnight. Please send directly to him your harrowing tales of grief, anxiety, depression, exasperation, desperation, and thoughts of suicide over the intolerable (/impossible) costs of the #claddingscandal.

Sunday 29 August 2021

Not controversial, apparently


There was a revealing comment, in passing, from BBC presenter Martine Croxall to Dateline London Canadian regular Jeffrey Kofman this weekend:

What Extinction Rebellion are saying, Jeffrey, isn't exactly controversial, is it? 


Some - at the very least - of what they're saying is certainly controversial - e.g. their claims, and their targets, and the possible economic impact of their proposals.

Is this rosy view of XR common at the BBC?

Broadcasting Reclaimed


A prominent story in the Sunday Telegraph today, Top scholars launch fightback against woke brigade’s ‘blatantly false’ reading of history, tells how ''leading academics'' [e.g. Prof. Robert Tombs and Andrew Roberts] are ''joining forces'' for a campaign called History Reclaimed which is ''aimed at calling out misleading narratives about historical figures'' in the light of ''growing consternation at the steady march of “woke” ideology which has seen statues pulled down, university degrees “decolonised” and museum exhibits relabelled or removed altogether''. 

The Telegraph report was discussed on this morning's BBC Radio 4 Broadcasting House paper review and all three of Paddy's guests mocked it, presenting it a non-story, and dismissing concerns about “woke” as right-wing nonsense. 

It's the BBC, so who's surprised at this very BBC meeting of like minds? 

As Rod Liddle once put it, ''On Radio Four, you get the bien pensant toss rammed down your throat, almost without variation''. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen and others, is why GB News - or something like it - is needed. 

P.S. The young ''social justice''-focused pro-''woke'' woman on Paddy's wholly likeminded panel, Swarzy Macaly, turns out to be ''the official young voice of BBC Sounds''.


John's View

John Simpson, the BBC's impartial yet highly opinionated World Affairs Editor, having previously spoken his brains and splurged his spleen on Twitter against the Biden administration's withdrawal from nation-building in Afghanistan, has today posted a piece on the BBC News website saying the same at greater length.

The piece's headline doesn't bother to disguise its author's opinion - or his name. 

John Simpson on Afghanistan: A country abandoned 

And in it the famous John Simpson of the BBC gives a full-bodied defence of The West's 'liberal interventionalist' intervention in Afghanistan. 

To summarise: Our intervention was a good thing and it achieved even more than we think it did, and we could have kept on keeping on there. 

And he then gives a cry from the heart about the horrible consequences of our withdrawal.

I don't think Tony Blair himself would demur from a single word of it.

John Simpson may or may not be right, but it still fascinates me how he's allowed to be so bold with his opinions on a highly controversial matter at the impartial BBC whilst holding the surely impartiality-bound role of BBC World Affairs Editor. 

Swift Update

And the big guy's back on Twitter now with news of his Radio 4 report tonight featuring ''a leading UK diplomat'' who, you won't be surprised to hear, agrees with him 100%:
John Simpson: Just reported for the 6pm BBC Radio News on Britain's and America's serious defeat in Afghanistan - including the judgement of a leading UK diplomat: the withdrawal from Afghanistan is ‘a thoroughgoing abdication of everything we stand for.’
What are the chances of that happening? John Simpson finding ''a leading UK diplomat'' who says exactly what John believes and John then popping him into his impartial Radio 4 report? 

There can only be one explanation. It's a miracle of BBC impartiality.

You couldn't make it up


I suppose if you were wanting to write a satirical piece depicting the BBC as relentless purveyors of  ''metropolitan liberal elite'' groupthink and ''woke ideology'' you might imagine a fictional BBC Director, Factual, Arts and Classical Music Television ticking his boxes and announcing the following televisual treats:

His Arts remit might lead him to commission a profile of the personal and political life of an artist with trendy attributes, eg. someone who's a gender-bending, feminist icon, and a far-left political activist too. My satirical antennae tell me that the fictional Director would be best ticking the name 'Frida Kahlo'.  

Also on the Arts side of things, our satirist might imagine the BBC Director then commissioning a Black Lives Matter-inspired major arts series, provisionally titled 'Black Art Matters'. Even funnier, the satirist would joke that it's bound to be presented by one of the BBC's two go-to race-baiting activist presenters, Afua Hirsch, because it wouldn't be the BBC these days without a ''woke''-filtered documentary series starring Afua Hirsch.

And there'd have to be something for the other one too, as what BBC season would be complete without David Olusoga? Maybe our satirist would imagine the BBC commissioning a series from him about Britain and British identity and get him to talk again about race, given that that's what he always does. 

Hm, a major new series about Planet Earth is needed. Brian Cox is a bit passe, Sir David's done a lot in recent years, so which ubiquitous flavour-of-the-month would the BBC chose to present it? The satirist wouldn't hesitate, even for a second. It has to be Chris Packham.

As for Classical Music, our satirical BBC high-up would have to commission a documentary about a composer with certain attributes. It it isn't a composer of color, it must be a left-wing, homosexual, pacifist activist, or something of that kind for the programme makers to peg their politics. What about Sir Michael Tippett? He'd tick a few boxes. 

And so on.

As you've probably guessed by now, this isn't satire. It's exactly what the BBC announced for its new season. And the white, privileged BBC boss who did all this commissioning is called Patrick Holland.

Is Bari at the BBC no more?


Israel today is in a state of confusion, in a state of panic. They know very well that what happened in Kabul Airport will repeat itself at Ben Gurion Airport. But Ben Gurion Airport will be closed, there will be no planes in it…. Israelis should listen to the advice of [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah and start learning how to swim, because their only option will be Cyprus, their only option will be the Mediterranean Sea.
Abdel Bari Atwan, Lebanese television station Mayadeen TV, 18/8

'Who's that?', recent newcomers might ask.

Well, he's a Palestinian leftist journalist based in the UK who sports a fulsome Saddam moustache and loathes Israel and is/was a favoured BBC go-to voice.

My main encounter with him was via watching the BBC's foreign flagship Dateline London and counting the number of appearances of each and every panellist on every episode over several years, and regularly posting an ongoing tally and analysis.

Every single year, without fail, Abdel Bari Atwan - came top of the tree as the most-invited panellist on the Dateline London panellist charts. 

He was the programme's most regular guest, frequently ranting away like an ill-informed maniac on most subjects yet being treated, on matters Middle Eastern, as if he were the expert's expert. 

It was weird.

The main Dateline presenter throughout most of that time, Gavin Esler, called him 'Bari' and even hosted Bari's book launch. He wanted his friend on the programme, he said, because he was ''subversive''.

And Bari was always a highly controversial figure, having made statements openly rejoicing in terrorist attacks against Israel and fantasising about dancing ''with delight'' in Trafalgar Square if the Iranians attacked Israel - something Gavin Esler and the BBC knew, yet evidently let pass.

Has he been finally dropped? I've searched via various methods and not found him on Dateline London recently.

He's evidently not been quiet though. As ever, he's been ranting away, away from UK television, recently expressing his hope that what happened at Kabul Airport will repeat itself at Ben Gurion Airport, and that Israelis should learn to swim like “rats fleeing a sinking ship".

To sum up: The man who the BBC made their MOST-frequent guest on their flagship foreign affairs panel programme over the course of several years - and treated with love and kid gloves - was an Israel-hating zealot, and the BBC knew this and kept him on, continually inviting him on more than anyone else.

So have they finally dropped him though? 



Following on directly from Richard Morrison's closing question in the previous post...

BBC DG Tim Davie doesn't appear to be brave enough yet.

A recent report in Times reports that the BBC is still refusing to distance itself from the increasingly controversial campaign group, Stonewall.

That controversy partly comes from claims that Stonewall has, in recent years, transitioned from being a benign movement campaigning for gay rights into a malign 'woke' force advocating for trans extremism at the expense of gay/lesbian people and women. 

But, particularly as regards the BBC, it's also because Stonewall advocates a 'diversity programme' which it wants all organisations to adopt.

Critics say that Stonewall tries to shame those who don't adopt it.

And, to a remarkable degree, hordes of nervous-if-not-terrified large organisations duly adopted it.

And then came the opposite reaction. The Equality and Human Rights Commission pulled out. And Channel 4 pulled out. And then Ofcom pulled out.

And that's when things become relevant to this blog because despite the people who ultimately rule on BBC impartiality, Ofcom, withdrawing themselves from the scheme on the grounds that their involvement with it risked compromising Ofcom's impartiality, the licence fee-funded BBC is sticking with it.

Therefore, we're in the bizarre situation where the BBC's main regulator drops Stonewall because they say involvement with Stonewall compromises their impartiality, but their charge - the impartiality-proclaiming BBC - won't or daren't follow their lead.

None address the main point of course.

The questions on my mind are: 

[a] Are BBC executives too scared of offending the 'woke' elements in their own organisation and/or too fearful of the blowback on Twitter [which the vast majority of the population ignores] to do the obvious thing?

[b] If they are, what will Ofcom do about it, given that they feel involvement with Stonewall puts organisations at a ''risk of perceived bias'' and they ultimately rule on matters of BBC impartiality ?

[c] Will Tim Davie 'grow a pair' [if that phrase it still allowed], and step in and withdraw the BBC from this scheme and distance the BBC from Stonewall?

Friday 27 August 2021

Unsurprising news

Richard Morrison, writing in The Times, notes the result of a survey conducted among nearly 200 TV programme-makers and executives at the Edinburgh TV Festival, doubtless involving large numbers from the BBC. 

They were asked to divulge their views about a variety of social issues and the results were compared to a poll of nearly 3,000 TV viewers.

Unsurprisingly, while the majority of TV viewers were 'proud of the UK', thought political correctness has 'gone too far' and are NOT 'ashamed of the British Empire', the vast majority of TV-makers and executives thought the opposite. 

Only 27 per cent of TV executives and programme-makers are 'proud of the UK', only 23 per cent think political correctness has 'gone too far' and just 19 percent are NOT 'ashamed of the British Empire'. [And my guess is that most of those aren't the ones working for the BBC].

As Mr Morrison says, that's a ''sociopolitical gulf between them and the majority of the public''. 

He talks of ''TV’s mad scramble to be woker-than-woke'', with independent producers ''having to supply evidence of cast and crew diversity when they pitch ideas to networks'' and ''storylines for soaps, serious dramas and even Doctor Who being manipulated so that issues can be given far greater prominence than they would if the dramas strictly mirrored reality'' and ''current affairs programmes and documentaries being skewered to favour the viewpoint of what’s usually labelled the metropolitan liberal elite''.

But he suspects this doesn’t happen ''because programme-makers are passionate about championing social justice'', given that ''most of them live in Holland Park in London on salaries well north of six figures'', but that it happens ''because they are supinely following quota rules issued from above''.

What has happened, Richard Morrison argues, is that the pendulum has swung too far, 

...possibly because of the “must please management” mentality ingrained into every organisation - even one where employees imagine themselves as creative and free-thinking. Pragmatism, common sense, moderation and subtlety go out of the window. Then programme-makers find themselves way out of step with the public, and people start asking themselves why they should pay the licence fee. 
A population as stubborn as the British will never respond well to arrogant preaching or their favourite shows being hijacked to represent views they don’t hold. Quite the reverse. People switch off. Government ministers sniff blood. Views polarise and harden, and fundamentally worthwhile institutions are threatened with break-up.

And he ends with a question:

Those delegates in Edinburgh did well to expose the sociopolitical gulf between themselves and the majority of the public. Now who’s going to be brave enough, clever enough and humble enough to bridge it?

Thursday 26 August 2021

''Of course. I understand that. But where is safe then?''


This morning's BBC Breakfast saw Armed Forces Minister James Heappey being interviewed by Naga Munchetty. 

Twitter then caught fire, as usual.

Here's a representative selection of the early tweets from both sides, followed by a transcript of the interview, with Naga's questions in bold and underlined.


Ian Preston: I see that Naga Munchetty has got her stroppy face on again. Armed Forces Minister - There is a very credible threat to people's safety at Kabul airport so we are advising them to go to another place of safety.
Naga - So where would that be?
Minister quite rightly diplomatically didn't answer.
Naga - So where us this place of safety? Again, with stern face.
Minister - Well I'm not going to tell you as it will no longer be safe!
What did she expect him to say!
Come on BBC Breakfast, we can do better than this!

Les Douglass: Naga "Can you tell us what boarder crossings are safe for people to go to escape?" James "No, because the would tell the Taliban where to block their escape"! ..SUCH STUPID QUESTION...WHO WRITES HER COMEDY SCRIPT? It must so difficult for James Heappey to give informative answers from such stupid questions from NAGA. He is either correcting her false assumptions or explaining why her ideas can't work! NAGA Its not the BRITISH Army that abandoned the Afghans! It was the AFGHAN Army! The question is "did NAGA learn anything from James Heapey"? No. She did not understand a word...Thanks James, most of us did understand!

Hmmmm?: British soldiers and govt officials risking their lives to get British and Afghan vulnerable out and Naga Munchetty implies they are being abandoned "is it fair to say they've been abandoned?" What a bloody disgrace she is.

Annie_MacF: FFS. Naga M is a real nasty piece of work! Suggesting the people now in trouble due to ISIS in Kabul are being abandoned. Other Q & tone confrontational all the way through interview with James Heappey MP who was great. It was as if we had caused this.

JD: Naga, your aggressive line of questioning/interrogation isn’t clever or pleasant to watch. “Can you guarantee” seems to be one of your favourite questions in situations where clearly no guarantees would ever be possible.

Steve Weston: Despite moronic questions from Naga. Stop, stop, stop asking for specific timings, you are going to get people killed. I can't say why because I have integrity. The general UK audience does NOT need those answers. The Defence Minister's tolerance was excellent.

kirsty: [James Heappey] was doing his job by acting responsibly to protect the lives of the UK nationals, the Afghan people and our armed forces personnel by refusing to answer questions about the threat. I usually enjoy Naga’s interactions but her questions this morning were unrealistic.


BenDelaBen: Naga did her job. Being a journalist = Asking Hard Questions. The MOD Dodged half the questions with very vague answers.

Jangli Billu (Wild Cat): Love to see Naga Munchetty upsetting the natives again. Her name tending means the bigots are upset. She just needs to appear and the frothing starts.

Gwinnie: ‘Naga’ is trending so assume the gammon are out, yet again, attacking that poor woman on BBC Breakfast. She takes so much abuse every day she’s on. Wonder why?

J.-P. Janson De Couët: What it about Naga Munchetty that rattles gammon cages?

Peadar Mac Ciarraí: I love how all the Karens pretend their issue with Naga is anything other than pure racism.

Giorgio: Welcome to journalism. It's about holding people to account. Be honest what really upsets you is the colour of her skin and the fact that she confronts societal ugly truths and misconceptions. Naga is brilliant.


We're joined now by Armed Forces Minister, James Heappey. Good morning to you. 
Morning Naga. 
Morning. OK, so what details, if any, can you give of this imminent threat? 
I can't share with you the exact detail with you of what the threat is, that I can say that over the course of the week the credibility of the reporting has reached the stage where we believe that there is a very imminent, highly lethal attack possible within Kabul, and as a consequence we have had to change the travel advice to advise people not to come to the airport, to move away from the airport and find a place of safety and await further instructions. 
Do you have a timeline?
OK. Where is safe then? If the environs of the airport is not safe, where is safe for those people who are waiting to leave the country? 
Well, as you're seeing on your TV screens I suspect already this morning, to an awful lot of people even knowing that the US, the Australians, the UK are giving the advice that we are now giving an awful lot of people still feel that the airport is the safest place. That is a concern because the crowds are still very large and that reflects I think the desperation that people have, and I suspect that people realise that by not coming to the airport with the 31st August still the deadline everybody is working to this isn't just a case of pausing, dealing with the threat and picking up where we left off. The reality is that the clock continues to tick even whilst we are having to give the advice that we are giving and asking people to stay away, but we know how desperate people's circumstances are. We would not be sharing the intelligence or the threat that we know of if we did not think it was credible, imminent and lethal. 
Of course. I understand that. But where is safe then? If there are people in Kabul who would have made their way to the airport to pass certain checkpoints in order to be able to get on transport to leave the country, if they're not supposed to do that where physically do they go now? 
Well, I can't advise them to go to any one place. In fact, you might see that to do so would simply be to advertise to Islamic State that there is another place that we are asking eligible people to go and concentrate, and that in itself becomes a target. The reality is that we are asking people to move away from the airport. You might argue that anywhere that isn't a large crowd in an obvious place that IS would target is a safer place, but the reality is - as you will see on tv - that there are still very large crowds outside the airport and that's a real concern for everybody. 
I mean, one of the processing centres - or the processing centre - is a hotel which is in the middle of the area where people are people told to avoid, so what does that mean in terms of processing people? 
It means I'm afraid exactly as it sounds, that we have processed 1,988 people or we have flown out 1,988 people in the last 24 hours. We have taken as many into the hotel as we physically could at the time when the threat reporting came as urgent as it was, but the reality is that clearly if we are asking people to move away we are effectively also saying that that reduces our capacity to process people. Now you may well see footage of people who have ignored the advice and remained in the queue that we are desperately trying to protect them by bringing them inside as quickly as we are able to, but that should not encourage people to travel to the airport because... 
So, OK...
I cannot stress the desperation of the situation enough. The threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal. We wouldn't be saying this if we were not genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target that is just unimaginable. 
If you are not in the hotel at this moment in time, will you be able to get into the hotel to be processed? If you are not in the hotel at this time, does that mean that, while this threat exists, there is no chance of being processed? 
I am not able to guarantee that if you are not in the hotel at the moment that you may have the opportunity to be processed. But I should stress that that is under constant review. We are not wanting to end the process at this point. We just have to be honest and responsible with the intelligence we have. 
Of course, of course, but it is now the 26th of August and the deadline is the 30th, at 11:59 at night, on either the 30th or on the 31st of August, that's not yet clear. So is there any indication that this threat may be over before then? 
The reality is that we have no depth in country in order to be able to go out and interdict the threat. We are effectively holding the hotel and the airport and providing security to that. And we are confident in our ability to secure that. Clearly what happens outside the immediate perimeter is to target, but when you have got so few troops on the ground, and when you have got no depth in the city beyond the airport, our ability to go out and find the threat and deal with it is very limited indeed. So I fear that this is a judgment to be made on the balance of probabilities between IS's ability to mount the attack that we have intelligence to say is imminent versus our desire to get out as many people as possible. We are not being overly cautious, I promise you. 
Of course. How many British citizens haven't been processed? Is there an estimate available? And those Afghans who are eligible to leave the country and be evacuated by the UK, how many...what numbers are we talking about who are not yet being processed or in that hotel? 
British citizens, it is very, very hard to nail down. There have been colleagues in the Foreign Office who have been trying to get hold of some people for weeks and then they get hold of them and it turns out they are already in Dubai. Our working number is we think there are around 400 eligible people, mostly British citizens, dual nationals, in country. Clearly we are working hard to find routes to safety for them, and indeed for those that remain under the ARAP scheme. But I hope you will understand that, given the threat, the last thing we would do is advertise what advice we might offer to those who have moved away to a place of safety, because in advertising it we risk making that alternative provision, if we are able to find an alternative provision, a target in itself. So it is suboptimal in terms of my ability to give you the detail what you quite understandably want, but... 
And I appreciate that, but how are they getting the information? How would they get the information? I appreciate you cannot advertise it, there is a security issue, but are they getting that information, those 400 who have not gone through the system yet? 
That is the job of work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Crisis Unit last night and today. There will be people who are absolutely desperate to have heard this news at what they know is the back end of the evacuation process. It is a concern for all of us that they are still there in the first place. The advice has been to leave for many months now, but a number of people have chosen to stay. Some of them, journalists for example, who have a... 
And some of them Afghan who love...and some of them Afghans who love their country and wouldn't want to leave because they didn't want to see it in that position. So can you guarantee...
You asked me about eligible people and I am just pointing out that there are some who do not want to leave at all. There are some who have, for various reasons, needed to stay until the very end. We are in the process of contacting them to try to discuss with them what their options might be for getting them to safety. But this is a very dynamic, very challenging situation, and I just have to be really honest with people and say that there is every possibility, as we've been saying all the way through, that we will not get everybody out. And the security situation worsening, as it has, makes that more likely. 
If you don't get them out, is it fair to say they have been abandoned? 
I don't think that would be a fair reflection of what has happened over the last ten or 11 days. 12,279 people have been brought out. We have been clear all the way through that there will inevitably be the reality that not everybody can be brought out and I think that whilst they personally might feel that, the reality is that we will have done our absolute best, militarily. Judgments will then be made I think about the political decision-making and the route to being in this situation in the first place. But I want to pay tribute to the Royal Air Force particularly for the way that they have facilitated the air lift over the last few weeks. 12,279 people is over 5,000 more than we thought we were going to need to evacuate from Kabul when this mission began. It is an extraordinary effort. But that is no consolation whatsoever to the people who are fearing that they are not going to get out. And that is why I say those numbers with no sense of triumph or accomplishment. I know that there are people who will feel desperate that they have not been one of those 12,000 who has been brought out.
The French Prime Minister has said that from tomorrow evening onwards we may no longer be able to evacuate people from Afghanistan. That is from the French Prime Minister. Is the UK in a similar position? 
I am not going to comment on the remaining time line for our evacuation flights. 
James Heappey, Armed Forces Minister, thank you very much for talking to us on Breakfast
Thank you very much indeed.

Sunday 22 August 2021

''We conflated...In fact...We also said...To be clear''

Talking of Newsnight and BBC management 'corrections'...

Did you see this - a BBC 'correction and clarification' issued on 16/8, some four months after the offending programme was originally broadcast?
Newsnight, BBC Two, 20 April 2021

We conflated the vaccination rates for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and Palestinians in the occupied territories when we said the roll-out rate was half a percent.

In fact, within Israel it was then estimated to be around 67%.

We also said the “Palestinian population has not been inoculated at anywhere near the rate of the Israeli population.”

To be clear, this was because of vaccine hesitancy.


I had to dig a little, because the BBC gave no clues, but...Can you guess who at Newsnight said these things, and got them so wrong? 

Yes, it was Emily Maitlis. 

She keeps on getting the BBC into trouble, doesn't she?

BBC management makes Lewis Goodall delete a tweet


Just to recall a comment of mine from 10 July concerning the mooted appointment of former Huff Post editor Jess Brammar to the post of the BBC's executive news editor, despite her history of left-wing tweets:
An interesting part of this story is that Robbie Gibb communicated his reservations about Jess Brammar in a message to Fran Unsworth. Someone at the BBC has obviously leaked this.

Jess Brammar is part of the old Newsnight circle of friends on Twitter that includes my old favourite Lewis Goodall. Lewis and Robbie Gibb, as you'll probably remember, had a bitter Twitter spat over impartiality after Sir Robbie laid out a long list of reasons why Lewis's reporting wasn't impartial. I suspect Robbie Gibb was aware of her being in that circle when warning Fran Unsworth about appointing her to a senior BBC news management role.

Well, there's been a development on that latter front today. The BBC has made Lewis Goodall delete a tweet about Jess Brammar, attacking the Mail on Sunday:

The deleted tweet said:

You can read the Mail on Sunday's ''unhinged, simply misogynist'' article by Glen Owen and Katie Hind here.

Charles Moore and Robin Aitken

Among the topics in this interesting and enjoyable 45-minute discussion are: 

Mrs [and Denis] Thatcher's attitudes towards the BBC, the BBC and Donald Trump, Lord Moore's difficult experiences guest-editing Today, the ''most biased'' BBC reporter Roger Harrabin, how Lord Moore hasn't been invited back on Question Time after embarrassing the BBC by pointing out to Fiona Bruce that he was the only one on the 6-person panel to have voted for Brexit, the BBC and Brexit, Tim Davie, the Bashir scandal, the feasibility or otherwise of BBC reform, the BBC's self-declared 'bravery', the BBC'S 'hesitancy' towards Islam and Islamism and their 'racist' reporting of the subject, the BBC's 'unilluminating and biased' attitude to BLM, religious illiteracy at the BBC, and what impact GB News might have on the BBC.

Guess who John Simpson blames?

''This Little Girl in Gaza Was Used by the BBC As Propaganda''

This is worth watching:

This Little Girl in Gaza Was Used by the BBC As Propaganda - YouTube

You can read the BBC report here:

All I'd add is that Newsniffer reveals a very telling edit, as the BBC corrected a particularly egregious mistake - five days later:
Version 1 - The photo of Celine holding a doll in the ruins of the tower block that was brought down by Israeli air strikes next to her family home - which was also hit - clearly struck a chord.  
Version 2 [correction5 days later] - The photo of Celine holding a doll in the ruins of the tower block that was brought down by Israeli air strikes next to her family home clearly struck a chord.

Saturday 21 August 2021

On Jon Sopel [the Full Sopes treatment]


A few days ago, one Tony Spencer tweeted a link to a BBC News website pieceThree ways this Afghanistan crisis really hurts Biden The US president promised more competence and empathy - his reputation and America's have taken a hit

Tony wrote,
Hope @BBCJonSopel is not reading this. Biden's number one fan will be so disappointed.
Jon Sopel, adding a 'rolling eyes' emoji, replied,
Tony - I wrote it.

Burn!” cried Jon's delighted Twitter fans.

Tony then replied,
Wow. I'm impressed and should have read the credits!! Fair play to you Jon on this article, which is well balanced. Changed your tune a bit, though.
To which Jon - channeling his famous “impartial, free and fair” response to President Trump's 'Another beauty!' crack - replied,
Nope. Have not changed a bit. Hold people in power to account - fairly and firmly whatever their political stripes.


Jon Sopel's belief in his own impartiality is undoubtedly sincere. He evidently thinks he's getting it right.

He's proclaimed it many times, from his appearances on Feedback and Newswatch, to his newspaper/gazette interviews. 

He's even favourably contrasted his own 'fair' reporting of Donald Trump to that of 'unfair' partisan, liberal US outlets, despite himself reporting on the previous US president in pretty much the same hostile, sneering spirit as they do - albeit with added British dryness.

There's none so blind, perhaps...

Or to quote the ripe-for-cancelling Rabbie Burns on behalf of Jon: O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!

I, personally, don't think that Jon Sopel has been even remotely impartial as the BBC's North America editor - whatever he thinks. He objected to Donald Trump and fixated on Donald Trump's tweets [despite criticising others for fixating on them], and sneered and sneered and sneered about Mr Trump, whilst evidently getting a real kick out of playing to the gallery, reinforced by the enthusiastic responses he got from the usual, unrepresentative suspects on Twitter. 


Yes, many more people than just Tony - including me - found themselves taken aback by the sheer unexpectedness of Jon Sopel's strong criticisms of President Biden over the incompetent-at-best Afghan pullout. 

From Twitter to the BBC's News at Ten he's actually been pretty brutal.

Here's a small sample of his reporting, broadcast over the month on BBC One's main news bulletins:

  • Those optics are terrible. This looks like being the most consequential decision that Joe Biden is going to take. It could also be the most calamitous.
  • Over many years and at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, the US trained and equipped Afghan forces to be ready to take back control of their country. But they collapsed like a house of cards - one of many miscalculations made by the Biden administration over these dizzying few weeks.
  • This may have been Donald Trump's policy, but it is Joe Biden's implementation, and I think he will play quite a price for the shambles that has unfolded over the past few days. 
  • America is the world's pre-eminent superpower, but after the past few days, it doesn't look very super and it actually doesn't look that powerful.

So is this a sign of impartiality? He spent four years 'holding Donald Trump to account' and then some, after all,

Or does it show the opposite? 

Because this could very well be Jon marching in lockstep with like-minded US journalists, let down by and angrily disagreeing with 'their' President.

Many of them - just like the BBC's John Simpson - seem to be deeply wedded to the liberal interventionalist model, and aghast at the pullout.

[They also like war reporting.]

And, indeed, it does strike me as being highly suggestive that huge swathes of the US liberal media - even some of the most partisan outlets - have just-as-suddenly turned on Joe Biden over Afghanistan too, at exactly the same time, over exactly the same issues, and just as fiercely, and that they are all making much the same criticisms of the incumbent President as Jon Sopel's been making. 

Liberal interventionist birds of a feather flock together, even on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean?


And it also strikes me that Jon Sopel, like his BBC colleagues, has been just as guilty as those partisan, liberal US outlets of not holding President Biden to account...up till the point when the Afghan debacle began unfolding.

The other day on GB News Simon McCoy [ex-BBC] commented, just as the crisis began:

If you watch some channels you would be forgiven for thinking everything's fine because President Trump's gone. And yet America, Joe Biden, with the decision to remove troops from Afghanistan, there are issues, there's sleaze bubbling under around President Biden.

I think he had the BBC in mind, doubtless among others. 

The Real Simon was, I think, rather understating it though. From the border crisis and growing economic woes to VP Kamala Harris's unpopularity and the divisiveness of Democrat identity politics radicalism, there's so much to say about the present US government.

Indeed, the 'Nothing to see here' attitude to the Biden administration's many failings even saw the BBC park their Americast podcast - the one with Sopes, Maitlis, and Zurch. 

No Trump to sneer at, no fun perhaps.

And then came Afghanistan.  

Americast was brought back this week, and Jon Sopel rose from his post-Trump slumbers, describing Joe's handling of the Afghanistan fiasco as ''totally incompetent''. 


Despite all this, I'm sensing - especially from his latest BBC One reports - that Jon's now starting to restrain himself, slipping back into more circumlocutory turns of phrase in describing the latest Biden misspeaks than he was last week. 

I think that might be because of that very Americast

He started expanding on his earlier criticisms of Mr Biden's ''totally incompetent'' handling of the Afghan crisis [as he put it], but found himself alongside a far-more-charitable-to-Biden Emily Maitlis and - their special guest - a kind-to-Biden ambassador. 

BBC and US media liberal groupthinks colliding and scattering, maybe.


It's a tricky thing, thinking you're impartial when you're not. 



And to end, a little light relief, plus an opportunity to post a map...

The good old 'crossing the DMZ from Tajikistan' defence for getting your facts wrong is one we've surely all used, especially in pub quizzes. 

I once got a Lady Gaga question wrong in a pub quiz, saying that Her Ladyship really was the sister of Queen's Radio Gaga, but excused myself by saying ''Sorry, but Jon Sopel crossed the DMZ from Tajikistan once'', and was awarded the point. 

Rightly so. Maybe Joe Biden should try it?

Indeed, as geography fans will know, Russia now has a minimum of two countries between it and Afghanistan [almost always three countries], depending on your land journey - unless you take the narrow but long land route via China. 

Clicking the link in the tweet Jon replied to, you find that Jon has [without admitting so on Twitter] edited the piece. 

Instead of ''three countries that neighbour Afghanistan - Russian, Iran and China'', the piece now says ''Why, three countries near Afghanistan - Russia, Iran and China''. 

Hm, Russia's still not that near. Kazakhstan, especially, is huge. Gawd know what they eat in Kazakhstan to make their country so big. Yaks? Lost yetis? Or former Kazakh regime advisor Tony Blair's legendary all-you-can-eat Brown burger specials?

Monday 16 August 2021

Rod Liddle and Robin Aitken

Don't necessarily agree with every word in this conversation, and we've heard much of it before, but here it is anyway.

Sunday 15 August 2021



'Breaking news' this morning...

At the very same time that tweet was sent, BBC reporter Yalda Hakim was sending out the following tweets...

Saturday 7 August 2021

John Simpson on Afghanistan

Afghanistan from space

What more do you want on a soggy Saturday than to read a transcription of a 'liberal interventionist' John Simpson Twitter thread on Afghanistan?:

John Simpson - Amazing how fast people forget.  Afghanistan, left to rot by the outside world in 1990, was taken over by Islamist extremism & the whole 9/11 plot was organised from there - with results that still affect us all. Now we’re bored with Afghanistan, & the process can begin again.

Fillip Jar - How much destruction was caused by the US invasion? How does that make 9/11 less likely to be repeated? Why was / is there a lack of international law on countries being able to start random wars?

John Simpson - There was no US invasion of Afghanistan.  The Afghan Northern Alliance, with the backing of US air power, drove out the Taliban in 2001.

Gary Smyth - But let’s not forget that the extremists were supported & funded by the West (principally US & UK) after the Russian invasion, in a catastrophic case of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Therefore the answer to the monumental tragedy of Afghanistan CAN NEVER involve US/UK/Russia.

John Simpson - It’s true that the US was suckered by Pakistan into sending some money & weapons to Hekmatyar, Gary, but it was the far more moderate Northern Alliance & the hugely impressive Ahmad Shah Masoud who got just about all UK & most US cash & support.

''Why do some horrors cause outrage and others do not?''

This is an important exchange about a horrific incident that took place on 24 July:

Benedict Spence, writer and commentator - I’m still staggered that the death of a woman who was set on fire in a street in England isn’t the biggest story in the country. 

Benedict Spence - Civilised people should be appalled and enraged by this primitive savagery in our midst. Everyone needs to know this happened. 

Ben Cobley, author of The Tribe - On the contrary, it is not in the least bit surprising.  

Stella Coppard - Cold blooded premeditated murder & it is almost hidden from mainstream news channels. Shame on them. The pain & horror this women suffered is unthinkable. NOTHING honourable about murder, downright malicious evil.

Lord Milton Damerel - I'm even more amazed that MPs such as Jess Phillips who've worked so hard to highlight violence toward women, don't seem interested. Of all the atrocities we've seen in the news this needs to be spoken of in Parliament.

And this is a telling question:

Emma Webb, The Free Speech Union - A Muslim woman from Bury has died after she was found on fire in the street. Three men in their 20s and 30s have been arrested. It’s barely been covered. Why do some horrors cause outrage and others do not?  

As far as I can see, searching via TVEyes, this story has received no coverage on BBC One or BBC Two's national news programmes and just two brief mentions on the BBC News Channel on 24 July at 7.14pm and 8.14pm. North West Tonight, the BBC local news programme hereabouts, also gave it two short mentions on 24 July, adding little but the ages of the victim and the three men arrested.

''*What on earth?*''


Sky News's Mark Stone seems to have become as unpopular as the BBC's Jeremy Bowen with pro-Israel critics of the media - and that was before this week when one of his reports for Sky used footage from a 2017 visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial site, to accompany these words about embattled New York governor Andrew Cuomo:

The investigation concluded that the Governor kissed, hugged and groped inappropriately. He made comments that were deeply humiliating and offensive. But in a statement he rejected all the findings.

So as Mark Stone spoke, Sky viewers were shown Governor Cuomo wearing a kippah [or yarmulke] and laying a wreath before bowing his head in respect for the victims of the Holocaust. Many were understandably appalled at this terrible editorial decision, and some took to Twitter to challenge him about it: 

Sussex Friends of Israel - Mark Stone, how is it appropriate to have your report on the deplorable actions of Cuomo being accompanied with footage of him in yarmulke laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem? You are fully aware of the significance of the Yad Vashem, why use it in your report?! Shameful.

He then responded: 

Mark Stone, Sky News - Hi Sussex Friends, thanks for drawing this oversight to my attention. This report was put together by production teams in London. I am in the US. The report has now been changed. And you’re right, I have visited Yad Vashem a number of times & I’m well aware of its significance. M

Many were not satisfied with M's answer:

Gnasher Jew - This is not enough, there should be a full investigation into who thought this was appropriate and they should be given antisemitism awareness classes and disciplined.

Sussex Friends of Israel [replying to Gnasher Jew] - Which is precisely what would happen if this  happened in context to any other minority community.

Jewish Writer [replying to Gnasher Jew and Sussex Friends of Israel] - I think it's safe to say they would have been fired if they did this to any other minority community. 

Prosthetic Conscience - An "oversight" is when you unintentionally fail to notice something, not when you intentionally try to make someone who's in trouble look Jewish despite them not actually being Jewish. 

Charles Kirie - The main problem is choosing video that gives the (very strong) impression that he’s Jewish, when 1) the piece is about the very negative story of the allegations of sexual harassment that he’s facing, and 2) he’s *not even Jewish*. Very illuminating, and pretty sinister…

BCLP Roger Cohen - “ Oversight”? “Egregious error” possibly. And not a hint of an apology.

Kate - Any idea from the production teams in London *what on earth* laying a wreath at Yad Vashem has to do with the AG finding him guilty of a history of sexual assaults? 

Nir Kahn - Sorry, that’s not enough. Somebody at Sky News made this deliberate and utterly unacceptable editorial decision and I want to know what you’ve done about it.

Bonsai Elephant - “Oversight.” Picking the one piece of footage out of thousands that has this non-Jew wearing a kippa. Right, it was an oversight.

Brandon - From 2017. Why on earth would it be picked?

It's Gnasher Jew's question that intrigues me: Who at Sky thought this was appropriate, and why exactly did they choose this incongruous, four-year-old footage?