Sunday 29 May 2022

May Open Thread

Hello, and happy May! Apologies for the lack of posts but thank you for your comments. Please keep them coming.

The BBC Descending

The one exception to my recent exorcism of the BBC has been listening to several episodes of Composer of the Week on Radio 3, which has been a month-long celebration of one of my favourite composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams. 

Though the programme and its long-time presenter Donald Macleod are understandably regarded as jewels of the BBC, even they aren't wholly immune to the failings of the modern BBC. 

The season began by trying to speak to its Islingtonian listeners by persuading them that RVW had a 'progressive' outlook. 

I've just rechecked now and the first episode was called 'The Young Radical'. 

They just have to filter it this way, it seems. 

For love of RVW, and beautiful recordings, I've stuck with it though. 

However, in a later episode Donald Macleod told listeners that RVW always voted 'Labour or Radical' in elections.
Vaughan Williams voted Labour or Radical all his life but his music, and Sancta Civitas is a fine example, seems to strive mightily above the shrill clamour of political dispute.
Now I've read huge amounts about RVW over the years and I was pretty sure that that's factually inaccurate and that RVW once voted Conservative [for Churchill against Attlee]. 

Indeed, I've just dug out my Cambridge Companion to Vaughan Williams which mentions this three times. 

Vaughan Williams voted Conservative in 1945 because he was 'so disgusted by what [he] considered the mean tricks of the Labour party in forcing an election'. 

That said, he voted Labour again in the 1951 election, though he added that 'in my heart of hearts I wanted the Tories to get in'. 

So my only significant encounter with the BBC for a couple of months has betrayed BBC political groupthink and factual inaccuracy even on Composer of the Week

Is any part of the BBC's output safe?

Friday 27 May 2022



Views as news

Though I've avoided the BBC like a plague, putting my attention to its output into a lockdown so strict would astound even Jacinda Ardern, I have been keeping an eye on comments about it, here and elsewhere. 

One comment elsewhere took me somewhere I've not been for a while: the BBC News website and to an article about veganism and farming that read like a piece written by a vegan activist:
The byline on the piece reads “By Suzanne Bearne, Business reporter”. 

She's on Twitter of course, where her bio reads as follows:
Curiously, when you Google her Twitter feed it shows you an earlier version of her Twitter bio, which is slightly different:
Wonder when she removed “Interests: veganism” from her bio? Just before writing this piece for the BBC?

Sunday 15 May 2022

The haters are back


You may have noticed - I certainly have - that the lull in vociferous Israel-bashing is finally over.

What turns out to be a temporary diversion from the anti-Israel status quo may have been because the media’s current focus on Putin’s war against Ukraine has effectively paled other conflicts into insignificance; it may simply be the fallout from the near-miss of a Corbyn government. Whatever caused the haters to beat a temporary retreat, the Israel-bashing hiatus has now reached its natural sell-by limit. Back to abnormal; the haters are back in full force.

The BBC hasn’t had much to say about the resurgent and ongoing violence in the Middle East recently. The dearth of BBC reporting on the matter is becoming conspicuous by its relative absence. In the unlikely event that one were to rely on the BBC one would not know of the intifada-like flare-ups that resulted in the killing of Shireen Abu Aqla (also spelled Akleh) - few western reporters seemed interested in the prologue to the shooting itself. 

Several subtle and not-so-subtle differences between “pro" and "anti" media have obscured the facts. Predictably, the pro-Palestinian press has stoked the Israel-bashing flames. The BBC and The Times, to give just two examples, regurgitate the ‘Palestinian’ version, which not only ignores the ‘context’ but is pitched from the premise - the assumption - that the fatal bullet was fired by the IDF. The Israelis want the chance to analyse the bullet before formally accepting or denying responsibility for firing the fatal shot, but the Palestinians won’t let the evidence out of their sight; they’re grimly hanging onto the bullet. 

Worse still was the actual funeral. Although the ‘slain’ journalist was a Christian, she was fiercely politically pro-Palestinian, so the decision to follow the Muslim practice of burying the dead immediately would be acceptable - were it not for the fact that so much store is being (unnecessarily I think) set upon the identity of the shooter; obstructing potential forensics is not a good look.

Much of the reporting focuses on the brutality of the Israeli police, who were filmed attacking the pall-bearers and using batons with such violence that the coffin almost fell to the ground.  Describing a frenzied mob plainly revelling in the drama as ‘mourners’ is stretching it a bit.  The emotion on display hardly strikes one as ‘grief’. 

We have to look at the ‘Jewish’ press to find a fuller description of the event. It’s alleged that the family had agreed not to have the coffin ‘paraded’ through the streets; instead, it was to be driven by hearse in order to avoid the very scenes that transpired.


However, Abu Akleh’s brother disputes the Israeli account, and he has “slammed the Israeli police for “extreme, vicious and brutal force”. 

The British media (notably The BBC "Shireen Abu Aqla: UN condemns killing of Al Jazeera reporterand The Times) took the al-Jazeera approach, in the case of the Times they actually shared a reporter, Anchal Vohra .

The comments section of the Times clearly shows that the antisemites are back. The truce is over and the unleashing of all that pent-up Israel-bashing is further demonstrated by the enthusiastic reception of a film everyone’s raving about. It’s called Eleven Days in May and has been widely praised for the very thing it shouldn’t have been doing, namely “not contextualising”. The very thing it makes a virtue out of is the very thing it should have been ashamed of. Why would anyone be genuinely proud of stoking hate?

"Trying for a two-sided overview of this particular spate of bombardments would probably have doomed any documentary: no striving for editorial balance could ever be universally embraced.

The huge virtue of Eleven Days in May is avoiding any such attempt. It concentrates, with devastating simplicity, on the deaths of Gaza’s children, and only Gaza’s children, in that fray: the 60 of those innocent lives lost from May 10, 2021 until the ceasefire on May 21, amid an overall death toll of at least 243 people, according to Gaza’s health ministry."

Not contextualising is dangerous. It stokes hate. The film critic uses the “innocent face”. tactic.  Michael Winterbottom’s justification for wallowing in decontextualised misery reminds me of a lyric from the 60s.

"I’m just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."

Well, I don’t think the intentions are good. Misguided at best, and probably not misunderstood at all. 

“Assembling a memorial to the dead is all this film is doing, and everything it needs to do. We’re not embroiled in disputing anything: in terms of what’s strictly on screen, there’s nothing to dispute.”

Memorials to the dead are well and good. One-sided, egregious, mawkish wallowing in tragedy amounts to incitement to hate, and hate has certainly been incited.  Lone comment btl:

Of course it's appalling and tragic that children are killed in conflicts - still are in Ukraine and other places. But how about having a word with those children's fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles etc. Perhaps they could refrain from starting (most of) these fights.

The Jewish press has a different take on this but I can already hear the famous words of Mandy Rice Davies echoing in my head. 

Kate Winslet Gaza film ‘is Hamas propaganda’  

Co-director Mohammed Sawwaf was presented with an award by Hamas leaders for his work "countering the Zionist narrative". On social media, he has celebrated the launching of rockets against civilian targets and effectively called for the destruction of the State of Israel, saying that the map of Palestine should extend “from the sea to the river”.

Distinguished British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom is co-director, but did not visit Gaza for the making of the documentary.

On the other hand, Government severs ties with NUS over ‘antisemitic rot at its heart’ At least the majority of the responses here are encouraging. At last, the government has ‘done something’ but I fear the ever-increasing normalisation of “Muslimness” in GB does not augur well for some of us.

Sunday 8 May 2022

Insulting listeners intelligence

And now for something completely different.  It’s not about Israel. (well, only a tiny bit)

Insulting voters’ intelligence? I thought: am I the only one who was taken aback by the bullying here? (scroll to about 2:21.41)  It’s Nick Robinson taking advantage of his position in the concluding moments of this tetchy interview with George Eustice.

G.E. “In the interest of balance you need to recognise that the leader of the opposition…

N.R. (interrupting) “I don’t think we need any lectures from you about balance Mr Eustice, we interviewed Mr Starmer all about it yesterday”..

I did spot another reference to this exchange within a GB News feature titled: 'Does Britain still love the BBC?’  (scroll to about 6:20)   Dame Esther Rantzen (Supporting the Beeb) and Rupert Lowe (not so much,) discuss with Mark Dolan. 


Rupert Lowe:

“I mean I listened to an interview the other day between Nick Robinson and George Eustice. I’m a farmer - George Eustice is not my favourite person but I couldn’t believe Nick R’s arrogance when he was interviewing GE and it’s an example of how they know they’re going to be there well beyond when that person they’re interviewing is going to be voted out of power so there is a degree of arrogance which I think is unacceptable now….”

Full disclosure; George is my M.P.   The  Eustice family farm produce is pretty pricey though. George has come in for such a lot of stick for his ‘let them eat cake’ remark, but it’s sound advice. (Shop at Lidl’s and Aldi) I don’t know if the Eustice family farm would agree.


So then I caught a programme on the radio late last night about  BLM.  on the theme of combatting racism. It was hosted by our old friend Samira Ahmed.  It came across as pretty vacuous, to be honest, but a couple of throw-away remarks suggested that the discussion was based on a somewhat creative interpretation of ‘anti-racism’. 

One participant navigated his self-inflicted minefield of tricky glottal stops with such agility that something that would normally send my hackles through the roof was so distracting that it slipped by almost unnoticed. “…the way Israel has colonised Palestine” On reflection, I found that so profoundly dumb that it threw the whole of his tenuous anti-racist thesis down the toilet.

I concluded that their version of ”anti-racism” is itself pretty racist, especially when Samira Ahmed brought in Azeem Rafiq as an example, evidently having forgiven and forgotten his casual antisemitism or disregarded it altogether. That's what I call insulting listeners’ intelligence. 

Tuesday 3 May 2022

I try shutting up for a change.

I began a new post about al-Aqsa the other day, beginning with “I really didn’t want to flood the blog with Israel-related posts.”  Then I wondered why I was apologising. Did I need a disclaimer? I imagined people saying “What?  Another piece about the al-Aqsa riots?” Anyway, it didn’t get written (but not because of 'not' flooding the blog.)

Later, and splish splash I was in the bath and idly reading the label on my flannel. (I often read labels) “100% cotton. Keep away from Fire”  I mean as if!  How likely is it that a small face-flannel would get too close to a fire, and how dangerous would it be if it did get so close that it caught alight (!) and burst into huge flames? It seemed absurd and reminded me of the legendary notice on a post in the in the middle of nowhere marked: “Do not throw stones at this notice” Not only absurd - but instigating a compelling desire you hadn’t thought of till you were forbidden to do so. (Quick! Get stones!)

That brought to mind those Palestinian juvenile delinquents desecrating their ‘third holiest place’, al-Aqsa, by breaking up significant archeological relics into stones and rocks to hurl at Jews who dared to place their filthy feet on the Muslims’ ‘holy’ ground. 

Yolande Knell must have missed that bit of the story. Perhaps she came in half way through the first act and spent the rest of the performance baffled about what was going on. All she could see was Israeli police having another go at Palestinian worshippers. The BBC’s context-lite reporting of that and similar incidents differed from the Jewish press’s accounts of the same thing. 

That’s so weird. I understood that the BBC was the most reliable news organisation in the world. I’ve written about violence at al-Aqsa at least once before. Years ago I think. It’s almost a ritual. No doubt the Beeb sees the annual desecration by Palestinian delinquents of their holiest spaces as old hat and low priority news-wise. Not really worthwhile going into it again and again.

Fresh trouble was reported briefly by Rebecca Jones during a BBC news bulletin earlier this week, but little or nothing else was to be found on the BBC website. The institutionally-hostile-to-Israel  Guardian mentioned it once but I think they got away with it. 


I stumbled upon a Zoom conversation on Jewish News Syndicate (new to me.) The panel included Melanie Phillips, who made an interesting observation. She said that while her occasional appearances on the BBC (and her column in The Times of London) afford her a tremendous platform she feels that her ‘mainstream acceptability’ comes at a price - the tacit understanding that her Israel-related contributions keep to a minimum. 

That’s how I’m feeling right now about flooding this blog. In other words, Israel-related articles can only be smuggled in up to and until you reach an indeterminate saturation point, and if you want to put ‘the case for the "other side"’ you may; a) bury your observations on sympathetic fora like Jewish News Syndicate, or; b) risk alienating the - let’s call them the righteous misinformed - by fighting un-winnable battles on the MSM. 

Of course, you could always just write on your own relatively niche blog and hope for the best.

Should I wade in on matters I know I’m relatively ill-informed about? With my vacillating opinions and known unknowns? I don’t know a huge amount about Ukraine and I suspect I’m guided by my own flimsy, fleeting emotions rather than objectivity. If anything, flag-waving curbs my enthusiasm.


Who, apart from Rod Liddle, admires Angela Rayner’s feisty political acuity? Do I? Not sure, but don’t think so.

 Do I know much about cake and wine in the work environment? No. The collapsing economy and/or imminent nuclear annihilation?  Not much. Can I opine with any credibility whatsoever? I think not. My advice to myself is: stick to what you know, and STFU about the stirred-up personal feelings that hang precariously on the shoogly peg of biased, one-sided reporting. I, for one,  should really shut up. 

Maybe I could embroider that onto a label.