Thursday 26 January 2023

New Year January 2023 Open Thread

Happy 2023! 

Something's not quite right

There’s nothing currently on the Beeb about the latest Ghislaine Maxwell revelations. The last time we heard about it was on the BBC website this time last year when they reported that “Prince Andrew has settled a civil sexual assault case brought against him in the US by Virginia Giuffre.” 

And there’s no trace on the Beeb of one of this blog’s former staples, our ex-Panorama friend, ’roaring’ John Sweeney, either.

I hadn’t been aware that Sweeney has made the Maxwell /Epstein affair into a major project. A number of people have rushed to be seen to condemn the Maxwells - well, they would, wouldn’t they   - but there’s many a slip-twixt cup and Virginia Giuffre.

The Guardian:

Hunting Ghislaine, which reaches its conclusion this Thursday, has been a huge hit, so far notching up 6 million listeners. Its success clearly feels like a redemption. “I’d like to thank Tony Hall,” says Sweeney, “for ruining my life.” He blames the BBC’s former director general for his departure from the corporation after 17 years. “I had a very bad 2019,” Sweeney admits. His investigation of the English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson was shelved by the BBC after it was revealed that Lucy Brown, one of Robinson’s followers, had pulled off a sting on Sweeney. “I fell for it. I was fool. I drank too much with a source who was scheming against me.”

Now for Jeremy Kyle.

After a spell of cancellation and subsequent semi-rehabilitation, Jeremy Kyle is back - complete with characteristic obnoxiousness. He attacked lawyer Alan Dershowitz with such venom and rudeness that even the below-the-line commenters on one of its Youtube iterations appeared flabbergasted at the venomous tone of the attack, given that Kyle’s de-cancellation was allegedly based on a promise ‘to be good.’ 

Pity that Dersh was unwise enough to appear on the programme - maybe he wasn’t familiar with Kyle. Oh well. Too late now.

 But guess who was also featured by Kyle!

Our old friend Sweeney!

I have to say that there’s something not quite right about That Photo. It’s Andrew’s position. I feel that if the hand that appears around the young lady’s waist really belongs to his left arm, then his left shoulder would be turned towards the camera much more than it is. Not exactly forensic, I do concede.

I haven’t got a particular axe to grind here - I do admire Dershowitz (because of his other writings) but I don’t have much sympathy for Ghislaine, apart from the fact her punishment seems harsher than absolutely necessary. Perhaps she’s ‘taking the flack for Jeffery’ and I suppose if someone has to do it, it may as well be her.


Forgot to mention :

Sunday 15 January 2023

Losing battle

I have virtually given up watching the BBC. When I do ‘dip in’ to see if I’m still a right-wing, Islamophobic bigot I’m quickly reminded why I gave it up.  It wasn’t total surrender, but this battle, if that’s what it is, looks like one I am bound to lose. When I heard about a 10-part podcast starring Shamima Begum I knew the end is even nigher than I thought.


This morning I listened to Claire Fox and Michael Portillo chatting about this issue on GB News. The case for the defence appeared to be that the BBC is approaching the topic critically and not simply giving a reinvented, media-savvy individual a platform to court sympathy and to ease her return to the UK. We mustn’t jump to conclusions, must we?

The argument for the prosecution was that the BBC hasn’t given such a platform, (or any platform at all) to the abused girls from the UK’s cities and towns, by predominantly Muslim men popularly known as grooming gangs. I suppose both cases are products of ‘grooming’. One might argue that the BBC itself has been groomed.

I ought to watch the podcasts before opining further, but I have a feeling that I’ll be made to feel that I’m in the wrong.  

Saturday 14 January 2023

Sorry/not sorry

I stumbled upon the Media Show last night. 

A conversation between presenter Katie Razzall and Michelle Donelan turned to issues around the BBC’s impartiality.

Katie Razzall:

“…….Tim Davie the Director General has made it one of his main focuses…

Michelle Donelan

“…….however - I would also say that there is a difference between having a plan and delivering that change, and it is certainly not ‘job done’ by any stretch of the imagination, and we only have to look at a plethora of different examples that have come up to highlight that. But there is still a problem.

Katy Razzall

“What examples?

Michelle Donelan

“Well if we look at the incident of the bus with the alleged antisemitism, if we look at…….

Well, we didn’t ‘look at the alleged antisemitism’ because there were more pressing matters to discuss such as Prince Harry,  Jeremy Clarkson, and Gary Lineker. 

At the end of the interview, when Ms. Donelan had left the room, and who knows, the premises, Ms. Razzall read out a rebuttal writted on a piece of paper (© Spike Milligan)

“Well that was Michelle Donelan, Secretary of state for digital media culture and sport and she made reference to how the BBC had reported an antisemitic attack on a group of Jewish students in 2021. Let me just add to that what the BBC have said about reporting that incident which was in part based on a video of the incident filmed from inside the bus. The BBC has said that while Ofcom has found that our reporting was not in breach of the broadcasting code 

the BBC executive complaints unit ruled in January 2022 that more could have been done sooner to acknowledge the differing views about what could be heard on the recording of the attack. The BBC apologised at the time for not acting sooner to highlight the contents of the recording were contested.”

  • Recollections may vary. 
  • The scale of the problem was exaggerated

This wasn’t on the BBC but it’s another example of Sorry/not sorry.

The Media Show should have invited Shami Chakrabarti to investigate. 

Thursday 12 January 2023

Look out!


The NUS is belatedly looking at antisemitism.  (Is this an attempt to rehabilitate the Labour Party?)

Come on guys. Let’s not wang on about the Oxford Street bus incident and other low-hanging fruits that skirt over or miss the underlying problem. 

It’s a much more fundamental issue, which the NUS is unlikely to fully confront anytime soon. 

The BBC is dutifully fulfilling its holocaust-day-related obligations but the media’s annual mawkish celebration of that tragic historical event is not enough. Constant ahistorical pro-Palestinianism is hobbling rational debate. Antisemitism (and its proxy anti-Israelism) is back with a vengeance in Britain America, and Europe. Look out!

The Royalty Delusion


My attention span seems to have a slow puncture. The more it shrivels the narrower my interests become, so my observations on Prince Harry’s psychological melt-down are no doubt superficial and ‘knee-jerk’.

The upshot is that the author of “Spare” whose name I can’t quite recall has had to squeeze a few drops of juice out of a somewhat barren lemon. The conclusion has to be that Prince Harry is just an ordinary man; a bit dim, but so are most of us. The problem is that he has very likely burst the Royalty Delusion; the myth in which we must all collude in order to preserve the monarchy. Many of us believe the monarchy needs to be preserved, so to find the country in a King’s New Clothes situation is a bummer. The Royal Family is in the altogether, but let’s just keep the little boy who noticed quiet for the time being. Apologies to Danny Kaye and Co. 

Sunday 8 January 2023

Daindruss Times

Jeremy Bowen has been promoted from Middle East to **International** editor and has been mostly covering the war in Ukraine but he still can't resist pontificating on Israel/Palestine. On 4th Jan 2023, Today programme  (19 mins to 9) Nick Robinson called upon him to report upon a dastardly provocation that Melanie Phillips describes as:

“a Jew walking for 15 minutes on the site that is most sacred to Judaism … without fanfare or media attention, early in the morning when the compound was almost empty and didn’t pray there or say anything to stir up trouble.”

 The Arab press calls this “storming” the al-Aqsa Mosque!

Here’s a near-as-dammit transcription of the item I heard on the Today Programme last Wednesday at 19 minutes to nine. 

Nick R

Now, why did a brief visit by the new Israeli security minister to the Alaska (sic) mosque compound in Jerusalem lead to such international condemnation and also to warnings of violent retribution from Hamas? China and the UAE have now called for a UN security council meeting to condemn the visit. Jeremy Bowen knows the area well, he’s our international editor and joins us on the line. “Morning, Happy New year to you Jeremy!” (Bowen mumbles) “Deliberately naive question if I may Jeremy - a daft laddie question - he didn’t pray, he didn’t enter the mosque at all, so why the fuss? “


Well, it’s very symbolic. Ah, the piece of ground in question, which Jews call the Temple Mount in English, and Muslims call - Palestinians call The Noble sanctuary in Arabic, ah it’s probably the - it’s certainly the most disputed ground - piece of ground - in the Middle East and quite possibly the world - it’s holy to both religions - the holiest place for Jews, the third holiest place for Muslims and it’s also a massive national symbol, particularly for Palestinians; and now this particular individual, Itamar Ben-Gvir is the most prominent group …. prominent of a group of militant right-wingers on whom the new government of mister Netanyahu relies for support, and they’re driving the ideology of the government and of course his supporters say that they’re elected fair and square, that’s democracy; but Ben-Gvir, he’s a police minister but he’s got a long criminal record of which includes incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist organisation.”

Nick R

Huge symbolism then, as it is it’s him going there, but I guess what everybody’s watching is to see the underlying question of what policy actually changes under this new wide coalition.


Yes, well, Netanyahu’s come back to power, relying on the votes in the Israeli parliament of these hard-line right-wingers, which, y’know, Israelis in the election liked the look of their coalition and voted for it. It’s not just a question of supporting harder action against Palestinians in the occupied territories, although that’s a big part of it. The— in Israel when they form a new coalition government they have a … they put out a political agreement, a statement. Now, this is often, not at all um, ah, brought into the letter’, but it’s clear that Ben-Gvir and his colleagues, they want big changes inside Israel to make it more religious, more their version of how a Jewish state should be and this horrifies many secular Israelis, and what would that mean? It means putting orthodox Jewish beliefs ahead of the rights of women - of LGBTQ people, of Arab citizens - 20% of the population of Israel is in fact Palestinian Arab. Ben-Gvir says those people need to know who is the landlord of the country, by which he means “the Jews.“ And they’re also, there are talks about removing much of the independence of the Israeli judiciary which for Netanyahu may have the result of  rescuing him from his own trial, which is continuing, on very serious corruption charges and all this at a time when the West Bank is very tense and anything that stirs the pot there is… daindruss!

Nick R

When you say tense Jeremy I’ve heard people predicting that it could ‘blow’ this year, that we could see very serious trouble indeed. On the West Bank that might be the excuse the Hamas wants to move out of its stronghold in Gaza and move in, do you think that’s a likely scenario?


Tensions are very high on the West Bank, and also in Palestinian parts of Jerusalem without question and it’s a really daindruss situation, it’s a really daindruss cocktail of a new generation growing up of Palestinians, a lack of hope, a feeling that um their aspirations towards - towards independence, towards freedom because there are millions of people who’ve been under a harsh military occupation now for generations, if you feel that that’s never going to go away - one thing that Netanyahu’s government has given another hard right-winger Mr Smotrich a lot of authority over settlements to expand them and so it’s a very difficult and daindruss situation; it’s a really nasty cocktail. Last year in 2022 something like 150 Palestinians were killed in the area by Israeli security forces, and more than 30 Israelis. Now Netanyahu. in his politics, has tried to play a double or a treble game, where he says one thing and does something else, reality and rhetoric being separated, but hard-liners like Ben-Gvir are very serious about imposing their views - and now can Netanyahu control them? Does he want to? and at the same time there’s this rising tide of anger among Palestinians and it’s just one serious incident, I’d say, at any given time, away from a very serious situation.

Nick R

Jeremy, thank you.

It did occur to me that the disdainful description of the new Israeli government: “militant  ‘hard-right-wingers’ that's “putting orthodox Jewish beliefs ahead of the rights of women, of LGBTQ people, of Arab citizens” looks oddly hypocritical when it comes from someone who happily overlooks the illiberal “orthodox religious beliefs” of his favoured ethnicity. On this occasion, only Nick Robinson specifically mentioned the word “Hamas” but that particular absence from Bowen’s narrative was conspicuous.