Saturday, 19 April 2014

Breaking news....Muammar Gaddafi killed in Libya

I must be losing track of time as I get older. I could have sworn that Colonel Gaddafi was killed by our nice Libyan allies (and hasn't that turned out wonderfully!) well over two years ago, but it appears that it has only just happened. 

The current third 'Most Read' article on the BBC News website is...and, yes, it really is ...Muammar Gaddafi killed in Libya

Maybe this is Einstein's gravitational time dilation in action though. Gaddafi was quite a big man after all, and I'm quite short. 


I hate being a perennial sourpuss when it comes to blogging, so I'm going to recommend that you make an effort to catch the third and final part of Radio 4's most recent Classic Serial, Dante's Divine Comedy, Paradiso, while you can.

Failure to do so will see you damned for all eternity. After all, the sign at the entrance to Hell reads, "Abandon hope all ye who failed to catch Paradiso on Radio 4."

You can listen at 9 o'clock tonight [now] or on the i-Player for the next nineteen hours. 

The whole thing, as adapted by Stephen Wyatt and narrated by John Hurt, was staggeringly good. 

I will confess (as it's Easter Saturday) that I read everyone's favourite part of the Divine Comedy, the Inferno, many years ago, and continued half way up Mount Purgatorio before giving up (and tumbling back to Hell). The joys of Paradiso remained untasted, until this week. 

Beautiful poetry, thanks to Dante; interesting background information, thanks to Stephen Wyatt; fine performances; and gorgeous music too. (I recognised snatches of the Messe de Notre Dame by the greatest of all medieval composers, Guillaume de Machaut). 

I haven't heard anything as good as thing on the radio for years and I'd willingly subscribe to the BBC if they kept doing things like this.

And they very well might, as tomorrow's Classic Serial is Ring for Jeeves, with Martin Jarvis as Jeeves.

Martin Jarvis's recent solo readings of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories on Radio 4 have been another recent treat (and one that I probably ought to have mentioned earlier).

Despite the years of gentle teasing he had to put up with, thanks to the team responsible for Dead Ringers, the man is an acting genius ("He Do the Police in Different Voices"), and if you ever get a chance to hear him reading Wodehouse don't miss it!

In anticipation of tomorrow then, Happy Easter!

P.S. Talking about subscribing to things, I'm now a subscriber to The Spectator, on the grounds that they deserve a little financial support. And I'm not regretting it.

Among the many fine articles there - including Mark Steyn's glorious rallying cry in defence of free speech (oh, why isn't he a regular of Radio 4's A Point of View?....he asks, rhetorically) - is a piece by Christopher Booker on 'the greatest picture in the world', Piero della Francesca's Resurrection.

It is a magnificent painting, as you can see below.

“Have you enlisted Katty too?”

Oh, for David Preiser's take on this at Biased BBC (David is presently missing, presumed kidnapped. I suspect a police search of Mark Mardell's basement might restore him to us)...

The Times is reporting that Jay Carney, Barack Obama's official spokesman, has 'become the story' - something official spokesmen are famously not supposed to become. 

Republican critics are aghast that he and his wife, writer Claire Shipman, photographed in their kitchen in Washingtonian Mom magazine, have been found to have decorated their walls with two 'two framed Soviet-era propaganda posters, one featuring a female factory worker and the other a Red Army soldier with the legend in Russian asking, “Have you enlisted?”'

According to The Times, "the simple explanation for the posters is that the couple both worked as award-winning journalists in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Still, it's got the American Right a-buzzing, and is (therefore) 'a story'.

David P would be especially interested in this because one of the BBC's least impartial journalists, Katty Kay, who heads the BBC's American outfit, is - in one of  those strange BBC twists of circumstance - the business partner of Claire Shipman. (They've just published another book together, which The Times mentions - without mentioning Katty).

Were he not AWOL from Biased BBC, I'm sure that David would be checking the BBC News website to check out his suspicion that the BBC wouldn't be reporting this story. He'd find, not to his surprise, that they aren't reporting it. 

He'd also be bound to be checking out Katty Kay's Twitter feed to see if she's keeping her gob shut - and, yep, she sure is , even though she's the top BBC presenter in the U.S. and knows Jay Carney very well, and knows Claire Shipman even better.

Of course, The Times is reporting it as if it's an out-of-season 'silly season' story. Which, in a sensible world, it would be. 

Newsnight, David Axelrod, Operation Trojan Horse, Marine le Pen and Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The final Newsnight this week dropped Ukraine from its prime position. The deal in Geneva was obviously not as exciting as the 'bang bang' earlier in the week [as Jeremy Paxman might put it], so into third place in the programme's running order it duly went. 

Into prime position instead went the boring Westminster bubble story exciting Newsnight scoop that the Labour Party has hired West Wing star American strategist David Axelrod to help make Ed Miliband electable. If it worked for Obama, it's bound to work for Ed. 

Even though Newsnight and Kirsty Wark were clearly excited, Laura K's report was slightly ironic in tone and featured just one talking head - Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian. His contribution was similarly ironic [and, I suspect, true]:
In a way I do think some of these American advisors are slightly taking candy out of the hands of a baby by taking this money, these people, big fat contracts to work for British political parties, cos the truth is they haven't run a parliamentary campaign, a nationwide parliamentary campaign, and their experience - though glamorous and fascinating - is very, very different. I'm not sure how much their wisdom is exportable to Britain, but it will certainly make those advisors and SPADs with their DVD collections of The West Wing feel thrilled when they get up to work in the morning, and that's why they want him here. 
The studio discussion afterwards featured Republican Party strategist Frank Luntz and The Times' hard-to-place-politically Rachel Sylvester. They weren't especially wild about David Axelrod's appointment either.

Next came another report on the Operation Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham. 

It really is surprising that the BBC is playing an active part in reporting this story. It's not what I would have expected from them. From Channel 4 maybe, but not from the BBC. 

Still, they have generally been treading carefully (as is their way), and Chris Cook's report for Newsnight was as over-cautious as can be. It went out of its way to balance all shades of opinion except those supporting the government's choice of a former anti-terror chief to investigate the matter. As a result it rather lost the plot (in more than one sense).

The report promised something new. A scoop. Newsnight had "discovered" something - new documents "that reveal concerns over extremism in one school were flagged up four years ago". 

Amazingly little was made of this though. Chris Cook mentioned them, but didn't give us a good look at them or describe their contents in any great detail. It was a damp squib of a scoop, at least in the ultra-cautious way it was presented. What did the documents actually say, and why didn't Newsnight tell us? 

If you set against this weak Newsnight report a piece of real investigative journalism - and a genuine scoop - such as Andrew Gilligan's Telegraph report this weekend, based on a leaked copy of an official report into the affair, you'll see the difference between nervous, don't-offend-anyone-from-a-sensitive-minority BBC reporting and proper, no-fear-or-favour investigative Telegraph journalism. 

Talking of Muslims, Laura Kuenssberg then turned up in France talking to Marine le Pen, leader of the Front National. 

The interview was a strange affair, conducted through an unseen/unheard interpretor yet appearing as if it was a normal interview, complete with terrier-like interrupting from Laura. How was this done? Were some of Laura's interruptions superimposed on some of Mlle le Pen's answers? Or did Laura interrupt despite not having a clue what Marine le Pen was actually saying? Or does Laura understand French, but Marine doesn't understand English? 

Laura had two main lines of questioning, and stuck with them. Mlle le Pen told her that she seemed more interested in asking her questions than listening to the FN leader's answers. 

Her main line of questioning was to ask about Mlle le Pen's view of UKIP, again and again. Why? Those suspicious of Newsnight's motives might well suspect an attempt on their part to smear UKIP by association. (UKIP has made it clear that there's going to be no deal with the FN because of its record on anti-Semitism.) 

Her second line of questioning concerned Marine le Pen's "offensive" views on Muslims. Mlle le Pen's views sounded positively mild compared to some of the stuff many of us read online, but Laura put on a 'horrified' expression and interrupted. 

The response to this interview on Twitter was striking. Expressions of admiration and disgust for Mlle le Pen mingled, but almost everyone agreed on one thing - Laura was 'handed her ass on a plate' [or variants thereof]. Left-wingers despaired at the way Marine le Pen had outgunned poor Laura Kuenssberg here. 

As we've said before, Laura isn't a natural interviewer. Sometimes that works to her (and our) advantage. When she's up against a formidable figure like Marine le Pen, someone well beyond the BBC's nice liberal comfort zone, she's likely to struggle and (as here) go under.

Still, at least she gave every impression of not liking Marine le Pen, so the BBC will forgive her.

From the Right to the Left next, as Newsnight marked the passing of yet another leading left-winger, this time the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Given that he has regularly topped polls of the 'greatest living novelist' among literary types, Newsnight's commemoration of his life and works was understandable. 

We heard from author Ian McEwan; writer A.L. Kennedy; & Gaby Wood, Telegraph Head of Books.

No one spoke any ill of him, of course (even anything that might be true). 

I have One Hundred Years of Solitude on my book shelf. I bought it, many years ago, for 50p in a second hand book shop, as I've always liked the sound of 'magic realism'. All I've now got to do is read it. 

Ah, magic realism! Like listening to a nightingale singing as a cello plays the Londonderry Air, which is just how Newsnight played itself out on Thursday. Altogether now. 'Oh Danny boy, tweety-tweety-tweet-tweet, the pipes, tweet, tweet, the pipes, trilllllllll, are tweeting'.

Newsnight, Keith Blakelock, self employment, Central African Republic and Irish dancing

Wednesday's edition continued the pattern so far in beginning with Ukraine. It then dealt briefly with the South Korean ferry disaster before moving on to a report about the murder of P.C. Keith Blakelock

P.C. Blakelock was stabbed 43 times by a Tottenham mob during the 1985 riots. Some of whom were evidently trying to decapitate him. His family have never found justice. 

Newsnight was evidently very pleased with itself for having obtained the first T.V. interview with Nicky Jacobs, the man recently found not guilty of Keith Blakelock's murder. No doubt (being good left-liberal types) they thought it was their duty to give him a platform.

It was an interview that many will have found uncomfortable watching though, not least this deeply unpleasant exchange concerning his non-presence at the murder of the police constable:
Kurt Barling (interviewer): Was there a moment in your mind at 16 where you thought “Ah, I’ve missed the main event”?
Nicky Jacobs: It did cross my mind, because like I said at that time the wickedness that the police used to do to the black community, yeah it was celebration time.
How would Keith Blakelock's family have felt on hearing that? Has Newsnight ever offered them a platform? 

The following feature on the rise of self employment discussed the question, 'Has entrepreneurship taken off, or is there another reason?' 

Jim Reed's report interviewed a self-employed lady who says becoming self-employed "was the best decision" she's "ever made", and another self-employed lady who would prefer regular, employed work. His report balanced the 'ups' and 'downs' for the government. His talking head was Danny Alexander MP (Lib Dem), pushing the 'ups', and the 'downs' figures came from the Labour-friendly Resolution think tank. Then came a Jeremy Paxman interview with Nicola Smith of the TUC and Allister Heath, editor of City A.M., representing contrasting perspectives. All fair enough, I think.

Next came the Central African Republic

The last time Newsnight did a report from there we at 'Is' took it to task for presenting a deeply misleading introductory account of the origins of the crisis:
The country is now ravaged by what some human rights groups have described as 'ethnic cleansing'. It was set off after a coup which unleashed Christian militias upon the Muslim minority.
Thankfully, they've now learned their lesson and gave a much more accurate description this time:
The country has been tipped into chaos since a mainly Muslim rebel coalition seized power a year ago, started abusing the Christian population and set off waves of revenge attacks which have driven great numbers of Muslims out of the country.
Tim Whewell's report focused on the peace-making activities of two remarkably jolly religious leaders there - the country's leading archbishop and the country's leading imam. [How very BBC!] They really didn't seem to be making much headway though, as Tim admitted. 

This report was much more balanced than his last one (which focused almost entirely on the plight of the Muslims of the C.A.R.). Here were heard upsetting stories from both sides of the conflict. It was a very decent report, all in all, and all credit to Tim Whewell for that. 

And all credit to Ian Katz too for ending the programme with some fine Irish dancing. Reelly good stuff! (unlike that pun).

Newsnight, the cost of living, sexism, Facebook jihadis, Lord Tebbit and the Kop

Like Monday's edition, Tuesday's edition of Newsnight began with Ukraine before moving on to Labour's Cost of Living Crisis campaign in the light of the latest stats seemingly undermining Labour's case. As Jeremy Paxman's introduction put it:
Now, inflation in this country is now running at its lowest rate for four years, 1.6%. Figures out tomorrow are expected to show that wages are rising by more than inflation. A year ahead of the election this is good news for the Conservatives. The shadow chancellor Ed Balls was steadfastly maintaining today that the improvement didn't mean the cost of living crisis was easy. Well he might because Labour already has had to change its economic attack on the government once.
Laura Kuennsberg's report asked whether it's still "a crisis" or only a crisis now for Labour strategists. That couldn't be taken as evidence of pro-Labour bias by even the most biased anti-BBC-bias blogger! Yes, Paul Johnson of the respected, independent IFS popped up, as he so often does, to give Labour some crumb of hope that things will still be worse for people in 2015 than they were in 2010 or even 2008, but the problems for Labour weren't downplayed here and Jeremy Paxman didn't give shadow Treasury minister Shabana Mahmood an easy time of it either. His opening question was:
OK. So growth is up, inflation is down, wages are going to be above inflation. Do you want to apologise to the Conservatives?
Still, the programme's left-liberal instincts re-emerged in the following discussion of sexism in the UK, following a South African U.N. investigator's statements about how sexist Britain is. This is classic Newsnight territory under Ian Katz.

The programme gathered together an all-female panel consisting of the former editor of the Guardian Women's page and founder of Louise Chunn, Guardian writer Nesrine Malik, and founder of Everyday Sexism and new Guardian columnist Laura Bates. The Guardian, The Guardian and The Guardian. Former Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz must have fancied a re-union.

Interestingly, though they all thing there's a problem with sexism in the UK, both Louise Chunn and Nesrine Malik described Rashida Manjoo's statement that Britain is the world's most sexist country as "ridiculous", pointing to the likes of Saudi Arabia and South Africa as examples of countries with far worse records on women's rights that Britain. Even Laura Bates (above), as ideologically rigid a feminist as it's possible to imagine, grudgingly admitted Dr Manjoo went a little bit too far here.

The following report on the effects of social media on radicalisation was also typical of Ian Katz's Newsnight in looking at the social media aspect of a story:
From what has emerged from the world of espionage and counter-espionage it seems received wisdom that the greatest terrorist threat to this country comes from radicalised young men who travel to Syria to fight in the civil war and then return to Britain. But how do these networks form? How does a young man get drawn into an experience so utterly alien to his life here?  A group of researchers from King's College, London have unearthed the vital role played by social media.
Richard Watson's report on "the world's first social media jihad" looked at the type of sites jihadis use, the sort of videos they post [including one jihadi pulling a severed head from a bag full of heads in Syria] and who 'follows' who online. His talking heads were Shiraz Maher of King's College, London and Islamic scholar Sheikh Musa Admani, representing the 'nice side of Islam'. 

Dr Maher said that many British and European radicals are going to join ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, which wants an Islamic caliphate in the area, and which is good at branding itself, which young Muslims who want to fight in Syria find alluring. He outlined their research as follows:
On Twitter we've collected more than 18,000 individual unique users who either follow a foreign fighter or are followed by a foreign fighter. On Facebook we collected more than 4,000 pages that were 'liked' by the foreign fighter community. And once we pull all that data together we were able to build quite a unique picture, with other information as well, about who's the most popular, whose the most important within these networks.

They found that numbers 1 and 3 on the 'most popular' list were the American cleric Ahmad Musa Jibril and the Australian convert Musa Cerantonio, both of whom post in English. Jibril has 145,000 'likes' on his Facebook page. Jibril preaches against democracy, asserts Islam's supremacy and urges the spurning of 'kuffars'. Cerantonio is open in supporting ISIS, says the new caliphate's capital will be Jerusalem (which is presently "full of the Zionists") and extremely anti-American, calling for assassinations. 

Sheikh Musa Admani dismissed their "interpretations" of Islam, saying that they are "selective passage quoting" from the Koran, adding that "the Koran supports freedom".

"This is not Islam", he said. "No serious cleric of knowledge would recognise it".

This is a familiar message from the BBC, though one (this report suggests to me) that doesn't seem to be getting through to those it most needs to get through to - the would-be jihadis. 

After all that, it was pleasant to see Lord Tebbit on Newsnight, talking mainly about his new children's book and about coping with disability. His wife, as you will know, has been disabled since the Brighton bombing. 

It was a good-natured, interesting interview with Jeremy Paxman, but Paxo did keep pushing away at a particular point - at first indirectly, then more directly - about whether Britain is more compassionate these days, later shading into whether the Conservatives are more compassionate these days, and whether he likes that. I could have done without this apparent anti-Tory point-scoring attempt on Newsnight's part, but there you are. You can't have everything.

Finally, Newsnight - being a BBC current affairs programme - just had to have something about Hillsborough. The programme played out with the Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone

Newsnight, Nigel Evans, death row, and Morpurgo v Gove

Looking back over this week's editions of Newsnight, Monday's edition spent its first quarter of an hour discussing Ukraine before moving on to discuss the fall-out from Nigel Evans's acquittal.

Rod Liddle wrote an interesting piece about this in the Spectator:
The lowbrow public may not know how to spell Barack Obama, or be entirely au fait with the name of the country of which he is leader. But...they are worried about the hyperbole from our political elite over the Ukraine, and on an entirely different issue they are not prepared to simply swallow bundled charges of historical sexual abuse against famous or slightly famous people without asking questions. In other words, unlike the elite, they do not appear to have been distracted by a politically charged (on both issues) crusading zeal, but are guided instead by common sense and fairness. Perhaps this is because they are too thick to understand the bigger issues; that, I think, is what our liberal elite would tell you.
The former deputy speaker Nigel Evans, a charming, witty and good-natured man, was finally cleared last week of nine counts of sexual abuse of young men, including one charge of rape. Fighting the patently absurd case against him has cost him his job (with its extra salary), his entire life savings in legal fees (which will not be repaid, despite his total innocence) and 11 months of sheer, unmitigated torture. He is understandably bitter, furious that his case was prosecuted by the police with a ‘zeal’, as he put it; a zeal occasioned by a politically driven obsession, I would reckon. On the evening after he was cleared of all charges, the liberal elite’s favourite media conduit, Newsnight, interviewed one of Evans’s supposed victims, repeating all the charges. I hope Evans sues them.
That refers to an earlier edition of Newsnight, but Monday night's edition wasn't much different. 

It featured a gentle, interruption-free interview with the Conservative MP who facilitated the legal action against Mr Evans, Dr Sarah Wollaston, She sounded more aggrieved on her own behalf than concerned about Mr Evans. Then Jeremy Paxman interviewed Nigel Evans's friend, Ann Widdecombe. He began by asking her twice about Nigel Evans's drunken and licentious behaviour. 

Miss Widdecombe was on Newsnight because the man they'd wanted to interview - Nigel Evans himself - had turned them down. I think I can understand why he turned them down. They would probably have re-tried him, live on TV. 

Next came a story about the death penalty in America - the kind of story that tends to crop up quite regularly in the features section of the Guardian, especially if there's a racial angle to the story

Newsnight sought out an interview with Glenn Ford, a black man convicted by an all-white jury who has now been freed from death row after thirty years. 

Preceding that interview, sympathetically conducted by Jeremy Paxman, came a report which stated that 60% of Americans still support the death penalty, with 35% against it. It featured just one talking head. That talking head was from Reprieve and she was opposed to the death penalty -as might have been expected from "the liberal elite's favourite media conduit, Newsnight". 

Monday's final feature was an interview with children's author Michael Morpurgo about whether fiction about World War One helps or hinders out understanding of it. Being Newsnight a political angle was placed on it, with Michael Gove's criticisms of certain kinds of writing about the war being made the main bone of contention. 

Newsnight knew exactly what they were going to get from Michael Morpurgo. His outspoken criticisms of Michael Gove over this very point have been widely reported. Jeremy Paxman duly invited him to say what he thought about Mr Gove's criticisms, and pacifist-inclined Mr Morpurgo duly disagreed with the Education Secretary, and re-stated the standard liberal take on the First World War. 

It would be good to watch a Newsnight interview with a writer who agrees with Mr Gove some time in the near future. I won't be holding my breath on that front though. 

The closing credits featured the short version of a remarkable timelapse video that's 'gone viral' (Ian Katz's Newsnight loves social media things that 'go viral'). It captures the transformation of Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester's daughter Lotte from newborn to teen, in just over four minutes.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Shock news! 'Today' editor says BBC gets its about right on climate change

...still, there is one thing I can do tonight, blog-wise, that puts the question 'Is the BBC biased?' back at the forefront of our attention, and that's to transcribe part of Roger Bolton's Feedback interview with Today editor Jamie Angus, namely the bit about the BBC's coverage of global warming.

Please see what you make of it (though I can probably guess!):
Roger Bolton: I want to raise this question of balance, specifically in relation to climate change. The programme has come in for some criticism, particularly over a story in which Today interviewed Nigel Lawson, who's a former MP, a former chancellor of course, but a non scientist who's sceptical about climate change, alongside a climate change expert and scientist, and this is from Liz from Lewis who is very concerned about the presence of Nigel Lawson on Today.
Liz: I was seriously disturbed by the interview. It seems to me an extraordinary idea of balance that's involved here to say that when you have a whole group of people, all experts in their field, who say one thing, balance means finding somebody with no expertise in that area to say the opposite.
Roger Bolton: So, Jamie Angus, in this case about the fact, if you like, of climate change, do you need to balance your discussions?
Jamie Angus: The BBC's reviewed its coverage of climate change and climate science and it's set out some admirably clear guidelines for us to follow. We are able to put on air people who take a differing view from the majority view of climate science; however, that coverage should be proportional, and I think that any reasonable listener who'd listened to Today's coverage of climate change across the past three months would probably find that Lord Lawson was the only climate sceptic, if you like, who'd appeared in that period, and I think, you know, when Justin and I and the programme team discussed that interview, we thought we'd allowed it to drift too much into a straight yes/no argument about the science. And, of course, the settled view of the expert scientists is just that: Settled. And I believe that our coverage reflects that over the long term.

A good Good Friday

It was a lovely, sunny Friday today here in Morecambe, which is good - especially as I was off work. 

I took the family out for a walk towards Torrisholme Barrow, a Bronze Age burial site with spectacular panoramic views, as they might say in tourist brochures - if such brochures ever bothered to mention such things [which in Morecambe they don't.] 

As this Friday was Good Friday, the locals performed their annual procession of the cross through the village of Torrisholme [a village that pre-dates the Norman Conquest] up onto the barrow. 

As they were coming back down we went up, arriving at the cross at midday. I found that strangely satisfying, on many counts. 

Why am I telling you this? God alone knows, but I've been sunning myself all afternoon and chatting all evening and have nothing BBC bias-related to write about, so this is all I've got. 

Such are the problems faced by bloggers, and their readers. Famine and feast. Apologies.

Still, here's something BBC related for you. It's the BBC website's account of why Good Friday is called Good Friday, and it's rather good - if short.

It is the day when Christians commemorate Jesus Christ's crucifixion. So why is it called Good Friday?
According to the Bible, the son of God was flogged, ordered to carry the cross on which he would be crucified and then put to death. It's difficult to see what is "good" about it.
Some sources suggest that the day is "good" in that it is holy, or that the phrase is a corruption of "God's Friday".
However, according to Fiona MacPherson, senior editor at the Oxford English Dictionary, the adjective traditionally "designates a day on (or sometimes a season in) which religious observance is held". The OED states that "good" in this context refers to "a day or season observed as holy by the church", hence the greeting "good tide" at Christmas or on Shrove Tuesday. In addition to Good Friday, there is also a less well-known Good Wednesday, namely the Wednesday before Easter.
The earliest known use of "guode friday" is found in The South English Legendary, a text from around 1290, according to the dictionary. According to the Baltimore Catechism - the standard US Catholic school text from 1885 to the 1960s, Good Friday is good because Christ "showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing".
The Catholic Encyclopedia, first published in 1907, states that the term's origins are not clear. It says some sources see its origins in the term "God's Friday" or Gottes Freitag, while others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag. It notes that the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons and is referred to as such in modern Danish.
It also says that the day is known as "the Holy and Great Friday" in the Greek liturgy, "Holy Friday" in Romance Languages and Charfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German.

'Newsnight' - 14-17 April

Because of the Easter weekend, it's a four-day week for many of us this week (and next week), including Newsnight. So, a day early, here's this week's run-through of the topics covered by Newsnight this week, plus details of the people they interviewed. Can you spot any bias?

Monday 14/4
1. Ukraine: "Are the towns in eastern Ukraine falling to the mobs or to Russian special forces?" Interview with Dmitry Linnik, bureau chief of Voice of Russia & Orysia Lutsevych, Chatham House.
2. Nigel Evans's acquittal: "Following Nigel Evans's acquittal, a Tory MP rejects accusations she tried to get the complainants to call the police" We'll ask Nigel Evans's friend Ann Widdecombe what should happen next". Interviews with Sarah Wollaston MP (Con) and Ann Widdecombe. former Conservative MP.
3. Release of man on Death Row in America: "It's one of the greatest nightmares: Being convicted of a crime you didn't commit and then being sentenced to death. In the case of Glenn Ford almost everything about the trial stank - no eye witnesses, no word of a murder weapon, just a black man represented in court by a couple of incompetent lawyers in front of an all-white jury. He was sent to Death Row in Louisiana in 1984 and now, thirty years later, he's finally been cleared of the crime and set free." Interview with Glenn Ford, freed Death Row inmate.
4. Fiction and the First World War: "The story of a horse conscripted into battle has made global conflict real for many. We ask the author Michael Morpurgo whether stories about the First World War help or hinder our understanding of it." Interview with Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse.
     [closing credits: timelapse video of a man's daughter growing up]

Tuesday 15/4
1. Ukraine: "As protestors march on the airport, will the Ukrainian army roll over again or fight?" Interview with Sergey Sobelev, parliamentary leader of the Batkivshchyna Party. 
2. Cost of living: "Now inflation in this country is now running at its lowest rate for four years, 1.6%. Figures out tomorrow are expected to show that wages are rising by more than inflation. A year ahead of the election this is good news for the Conservatives. The shadow chancellor Ed Balls was steadfastly maintaining today that the improvement didn't mean the cost of living crisis was easy. Well he might because Labour already has had to change its economic attack on the government once." Interview with shadow Treasury minister Shabana Mahmood MP (Labour).
3. Is Britain sexist? "An U.N. investigator is appalled at how sexist Britain is. Absurd? Or has she got us banged to rights?" Interview with Louise Chunn, former edition of the Guardian Women's page and founder of; Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism; & the Guardian's Nesrine Malik, writer and commentator. 
4. Social media and radicalisation: "From what has emerged from the world of espionage and counter-espionage it seems received wisdom that the greatest terrorist threat to this country comes from radicalised young men who travel to Syria to fight in the civil war and then return to Britain. But how do these networks form? How does a young man get drawn into an experience so utterly alien to his life here?  A group of researchers from King's College, London have unearthed the vital role played by social media."
5. Lord Tebbit's new children's book: "And the story of a telepathic Russian dog who befriends a disabled boy. Which drug-addled hippy wrote that? You might be surprised at the answer."
     [closing credits: Liverpool's The Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone on the anniversary of Hillsborough]

Wednesday 16/4
1. Ukraine: "Is there a looming point at which this proxy confrontation between Russia and the West turns into something worse?" Interview with Olexander Scherba, ambassador-at-large at the Ukraine Foreign Ministry.
2. South Korean ferry disaster. Interview with marine salvage consultant Captain John Noble.
3.  Murder of P.C Blakelock: "Now, it has not been British justice's finest hour. Almost thirty years after his killing no one has been convicted of the murder of P.C. Keith Blakelock. The investigation into the horrific killing of one of their own turned into a saga of police incompetence, the most recent chapter of which resulted in the acquittal a week ago today of a man called Nicky Jacobs. He's never spoken to the media about what happened that night P.C. Blakelock was hacked to death, nor what it's like to be arrested for a crime you did not commit. Now he has talked. Talked to Kurt Barling". Interview with Nicky Jacobs.
4. Self employment: "One woman and lots of other people's dogs. How working for yourself is the new big thing in employment...Has entrepreneurship taken off, or is there another reason?" Interview with Nicola Smith, TUC & Allister Heath, editor of City A.M.
5. Central African Republic: "'So now, the only thing we want is for there to be no Muslims in the Central African Republic'. From the horrors of the civil war in the Central African Republic, the story of a Christian and a Muslim leader working together to prove it doesn't have to be an eye for an eye".
   [closing credits: Irish folk dancing]

Thursday 17/4
1. Labour hires David Axelrod: "A Newsnight exclusive: We reveal the man who sent Obama to the White House twice has been hired to work his magic on Ed Miliband. What chance the American campaign guru David Axelrod can deliver a winner? - 'Ed Miliband understands the struggle that people are going through in Britain to make a living wage, to support their families, to retire with some dignity'". Interview with Frank Luntz, pollster and political strategist & Rachel Sylvester, The Times.
2. The Trojan Horse Letter: "All this week the maelstrom over an alleged takeover plot of Birmingham schools by Muslim hardliners has been intensifying. The decision by the Department of Education to appoint the former head of counter-terrorism to investigate the accusation {sic} facing 25 schools did nothing to calm matters. It was described as 'desperately unfortunate' by the chief constable of West Midlands Police. Accusations of the segregation of girls and boys within classes, related visits to 15 schools by Ofsted, the supposed banning of sex education, have all become part of the mix. Now Newsnight has discovered documents that reveal concerns over extremism in one school were flagged up four years ago."
3. Ukraine: "Will today's agreement in Geneva stabilise the country?"
4. Marine le Pen: "She is the most successful right-far leader in Europe and she tells Newsnight she still wants to court Nigel Farage for her team." Interview with Marine le Pen, leader of the Front National.
5. Death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "And the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died. We reflect on his life." Interview with author Ian McEwan; writer A.L. Kennedy; & Gaby Wood, Telegraph Head of Books.
    [closing credits: old radio broadcast of a nightingale singing and a cello playing the Londonderry Air

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the BBC.

Having castigated the BBC for playing down the elephant in the peace negotiations, i.e., the PA’s officially sanctioned cradle-to-grave incitement to hate/kill/exterminate Jews whilst amplifying spurious obstacles to peace concocted by the PA, I’d like to mention that the BBC has in fact publicised Brandeis University’s unfortunate decision not to award an honorary degree to  Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They even link to this, with its sympathetic Q and A.

Brandeis's deplorable decision is worse than merely ‘deciding not to’ because having decided to award it, they were persuaded by an angry letter from a number of left-leaning objectors to retract the wretched award after it had been offered. 

This grossly insulting reversal has drawn adverse publicity, both to the university and  to the craven individual responsible, one Fred Lawrence. It has also set off a controversy over Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s views about Islam as well as everyone else’s views about Islam, everyone’s debating whether it can ever be modernised, reformed, or be compatible with the infidel world. 
“Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born woman who, after enduring ritual genital mutilation, fled an arranged marriage, renounced Islam for atheism and became a Dutch MP. Subjected to death threats after her colleague Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam in 2004 because of the film they made highlighting the plight of women under Islam, she moved to the US where she continues to campaign against Islamic extremism.Now she is at the centre of another controversy. Brandeis University, a small but well-regarded liberal arts institution in Massachusetts, has withdrawn its proposal to award her an honorary degree. The university’s president, Fred Lawrence, said: “We cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” These included calling Islam “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death” that “legitimises murder”.The volte-face followed pressure from Islamic groups, in particular the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group accused by the FBI of being a front group for Hamas, and by members of Congress and others of having links with extremism.This has far wider significance than a spat in a small American university. It graphically illustrates, and deepens, the dangerous muddle over Islamic extremism and the charge of “Islamophobia” that has caused problems in the UK for years, and now seems to have spread to the US.”
The rest of it is behind the annoying Times paywall.  

The interesting part of the aforementioned letter objecting to an honorary degree being bestowed upon Ayaan Hirsi Ali is where they try to rationalise their opposition by glossing over the cognitive dissonance that allows the liberal left to align itself with illiberal  Islam.
  “Please know that, like Ms. Hirsi Ali, we fully recognize the harm of forced marriages; of female genital cutting, which can cause, among other public health problems, increased maternal and infant mortality; and of honor killings. These phenomena are not, however, exclusive to Islam.”
...says the letter. You see, we’re not going to get caught out approving of these terrible things. We defend Islam because.. because.. because  other cultures do them too so that’s okay goodnight.
“The selection of Ms. Hirsi Ali further suggests to the public that violence toward girls and women is particular to Islam or the Two-Thirds World, thereby obscuring such violence in our midst among non-Muslims, including on our own campus.”
What? How does the selection of someone who opposes violence, forced marriage, FGM, honour killings and the like within Islam automatically suggest that these problematic cultural traditions are exclusive to Islam, merely because they’re characteristic of, or if you like, particular to Islam, (and, good grief, if they’re rampant on the campus, root them out why don’t you) and why exactly does highlighting the existence of them within Islam obscure them outwith Islam?   Not logical at all in my opinion.
 “It also obscures the hard work on the ground by committed Muslim feminist and other progressive Muslim activists and scholars, who find support for gender and other equality within the Muslim tradition and are effective at achieving it.”
No it doesn’t.
 We cannot accept Ms. Hirsi Ali's triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples.” 
Hmmph. Do we hate ourselves?
Their main objection to Hirsi Ali is that she takes an uncompromising approach to what many people think is an uncompromising religion. No half measures. 
Many liberals are desperate to prove that there is “moderate Islam”, even though people like this, and surely they should know, are adamant that there is no such thing. Abdullah al Andalusi had his knickers in a right old twist because the BBC allowed Maajid Nawaz a platform to spout his inconsistent theories about moderate Islam, and what’s more they did this in the sincere belief that he speaks for others, not just himself alone (when it is I, Abdullah al Andalusi, who I believe speaks for others, not just myself alone.) For our enlightenment, Abdullah al Andalusi summarises, with derision, a list of the devilish reforms the UK government wishes to impose upon the Muslim community. 
  • Create a ‘reformed’ (and deformed) ‘Liberal Islam’ (2) (3) that fully adopts Liberal values,
  • Detaching Muslims living in Britain intellectually and emotionally from the rest of the Ummah (global Muslim community), and set up British nationalism as the definer of their ‘main identity’  and
  • Complete mental enfranchisement of Muslims into the concept of Secularism, by encouraging active enfranchisement and confidence in the Secular democratic system, via voting (4)
The impudence of the UK government! If only they had the will.
Mr al Andalusi seems oblivious to the fact that this is Britain, and the Western World appears equally oblivious to the fact that they are The Western World. Or, if you will, “Western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples” and if all’s well, rooted in a core belief in their own superior humanitarian credentials.
Because Islam is the one religion that by its very nature has resisted reform and will do so for ever after because that’s an inbuilt requisite of Islam. 
No-one knows whether ‘moderate Muslims’ are “culturally Muslim” apostates, ex-Muslims who emerged, blinking, from Muslim backgrounds, or what? Without the trappings, is there anything left?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali says what others are afraid to say. If they agree, they’re ashamed to say so. All they can do is qualify everything with disclaimers. 
“I’m no supporter of the EDL, but...” “I disapprove of Geert Wilders, but..” “I agree with some of what Robert Spencer says, but..” “I admire Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s courage but...”

Mark Steyn has written extensively and forthrightly about this topic . He’s a fine writer.
“At Brandeis University, we are learning the hierarchy of the new multiculti caste system. In theory, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. If conservative white males were to silence a secular women’s rights campaigner from Somalia, it would be proof of the Republican party’s ‘war on women’, or the encroaching Christian fundamentalist theocracy, or just plain old Andrew Boltian racism breaking free of its redoubt at the Herald Sun to rampage as far as the eye can see. But when the snivelling white male who purports to be president of Brandeis (one Frederick Lawrence) does it out of deference to Islam, Miss Hirsi Ali’s blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly news anchor. White feminist Germaine Greer can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine’s standards, Ms Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of ‘cultural identity’: ‘One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation,’ as she puts it. But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of ‘one man’s mutilation’ and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too ‘hateful’ to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all: race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women.”
So the BBC didn’t avoid this subject altogether, which is a plus. At the risk of sounding like Amazon (People who bought one of these, also bought one of those)  if you’ve ploughed through all this, you’ll be interested that the BBC has also mentioned this.

That’s a turn up. 

Best of a bad bunch

This seems to be a case of the BBC’s anti-Israel bias being the least of the worst. In the spirit of "The BBC’s is the worst form of bias, except for all those other forms that can be observed" it seems that the BBC, although far from perfect, hasn’t stooped so low as the Guardian, or fallen so deeply into the abyss as - of all things - the Times.

There was a terror attack in Israel on the evening of April 14th by a terrorist / gunman/ hero, which killed an Israeli father of five / off-duty policeman / settler, depending on whose side you’re on.

This incident was the subject of two BBC Watch articles that dealt with various amended versions of the BBC report.

On 16th April the BBC made a brief mention of the incident, albeit buried in an article about the peace talks.
“Israel is also angry at the killing of an off-duty Israeli policeman by a gunman in the West Bank on Monday, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. His wife and child were wounded in the attack outside Hebron.”

The BBC’s original article was illustrated by a photograph of Israeli solders, one aiming his weapon, with the caption:  ”Tensions are high in Hebron after an Israeli policeman was killed in the West Bank” A lone gunman shooting at cars is clearly a terror attack, yet he military style picture implied that the policeman was killed in the line of duty. The details of the attack were freely available, had one of the BBC’s intrepid reporters taken the trouble to seek them out.

Later, an improved BBC version states:
“Tensions were raised on Monday when an off-duty Israeli policeman was killed by a gunman in the West Bank, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. His wife and child were wounded in the attack outside Hebron.”
As BBCWatch points out, the BBC did not fully report the terrorist nature of the attack, nor that it was praised by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Nor did the BBC spot that no-one from the PA had condemned it.

All articles in which the BBC refer to this incident primarily concern the postponement of peace talks; references to the attack appear in ‘non-consecutive paragraphs” 
This reporting contrasts sharply with the screaming headlines habitually employed whenever a Palestinian is shot by an Israeli soldier. Whole stories are frequently devoted to news of the death or injury of every Palestinian unwise enough to attempt to breach the security measures Israel is forced to take in order to protect its citizens from just such occurrences.

However, the Guardian was worse than the BBC. In a piece entitled “The Guardian has absolutely no idea why a Jewish man was murdered near Hebron” Cif Watch points out several examples of biased writing from the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont, their new Jerusalem correspondent.  
One Israeli was killed three others injured after their car was hit by gunfire as they travelled through the West Bank on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday.”
Our old friend passive language, which alludes to the pesky “gunfire” that’s apt to snuff out anyone unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Like lightening. But for good measure, the Guardian introduces an element that the BBC, for once, does not.  The settler thing.
“The family in the car that was hit was understood to be en route from their home in Modi’in – an Israeli town split across occupied Palestinian and Israeli territory – to visit the mother’s family for the traditional meal that commences the Passover religious festival. The shooting was the second incident in the past two days on the West Bank.”
Cif Watch says:
“This paragraph represents the first attempt to impute ‘settler’ status upon the victim.  However, Beaumont gets it wrong. Modi’in does not extend into “Palestinian territory”. (The Maccabim section of the greater Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut municipality – encompassing a few zip codes – are in what’s known as No Man’s Land, which refers to land between Israel and the West Bank whose sovereignty was never fully clarified after the War of Independence in 1948.)”
The article, like the BBC’s, all but attempts to justify this attack by stating:
 The shooting comes amid increasing tensions following a stalemate in peace talks.”
before again returning to the theme of settlements.
It also comes hard on the heels of permission by the Israeli army on Sunday for three settler families to move into a building in nearby Hebron, after a long legal battle and culminating on Sunday with the authorisation by Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, of the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s."
Then Cif Watch has
Beaumont descends to the absurd, feigning ignorance as to the likely motive: ”However, with no immediate claim of responsibility the precise motives for the shooting remained unclear.”
...and finishes by highlighting another passage with selective use of passive language “five Israelis have been killed” (by evil spirits?) neatly juxtaposed with “82 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces”.
But wait. Here’s the Times. “Israeli policeman is shot dead amid fury over settlers’ return.”
There we have it. All the elements of bias rolled into one. This report is tagged ‘Catherine Philp. Hebron.’

“An Israeli policeman was shot dead near Hebron on the eve of the Passover festival as Jewish settlers celebrated their return to a disputed house in a Palestinian area of the West Bank city.Three families moved into the building on Sunday evening, protected by Israeli soldiers, hours after Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defence minister, granted permission for their return — six years after their initial eviction.” 

says Catherine. The rest is behind the paywall, but I’ve got the paper version.

“The first apparent retaliation for the return of settlers came on Monday night when a man opened fire on a car outside Hebron” she states confidently. So it wasn’t just any old terrorist attack. it was a perfectly formed retaliation.

There follows several paragraphs about the Supreme court ruling that found in favour of ‘the settlers’ , the long-running ownership dispute over the building, the final decision being in the hands of the defence minister Moshe Yaalon and the claims that this was  a provocation aimed at sabotaging US-backed negotiations.

She quotes a Palestinian human rights activist, as you do, who voiced predictable opinions about exposing, exploiting and expanding, and a settler who voiced predictable opinions about torpedoing negotiations.
She gives statistics about the number of settlers, residents of Hebron, Palestinians, soldiers and border police, how many restriction have been imposed, how many acts of violence have been perpetrated by both sides, and how many Muslim worshippers Baruch Goldstein killed. 

In fact the rest of the article is devoted to the Supreme Court ruling about the disputed house, the evictions and reinstatement of the settlers, the legality or otherwise of the purchase of the property and the fact that at one stage the eviction prompted “violent retaliation against their Palestinian neighbours”. 
By the end of the piece Catherine Philp has all but forgotten about the late Baruch Mizrachi and his wife and children. Nevertheless she’s hell bent on implying  moral equivalence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, despite the first five words of the headline. Someone was shot dead, remember?  So at best the BBC was the least bad and at worst the BBC was the least worst.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Rime of the BBC Reporter

Apropos of nothing (to put it mildly), there was a report on today's The World at One about the Conservative Party's apparent problems with ethnic minority voters from BBC political reporter Iain Watson. It came from the marginal seat of Croydon Central. 

BBC Iain went there because Croydon "has a long history as an ethnically diverse borough". Or so he said.

His evidence for which was provided by the music playing in the background of his report's opening seconds - Hiawatha's Wedding Feast by the black, Croydon-based composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912). 

Unfortunately, Iain Watson slipped on a banana skin here:

"This piece was composed by the 19th Century composer and long-time Croydon resident of the area, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose live's commemorated here in a local museum just beside the Croydon clock tower. And with the passage of time many more people have followed in Coleridge's footsteps."

Do you see what he did there? 

He confused Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the Croydon-based "African Mahler", with the famous poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, chum of Wordsworth and writer of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. 

If anyone has a spare albatross could they please send it to Iain Watson so that he can put it round his neck in penance.
In Croydon Town did Iain Watson
A foolish news report decree:
Where ethnic minorities ran
In numbers measureless to man
Down to the BBC.

Probing and pranging

In a former blogging life (at Beeb Bias Craig and Biased BBC), I might have posted something tonight about how Sky News is prominently featuring the headline Ed Balls Facing Police Probe Over Car Prang on its website, adding that it's one of their Top 10 stories. 

I'd then have gone on to note that the BBC website doesn't feature the story among its main headlines at all, merely relegating it to its Politics page with the headline [visible from its home page] Police probe Ed Balls car prang

I'd then have pointed out that the Sky headline makes it crystal clear that Ed Balls did the pranging and is facing the probing - unlike the BBC headline, which is ambiguous, leaving it unclear whether the police are probing someone else for pranging Ed Balls's car or whether they are probing Ed Balls for pranging someone else's car. 

Were this the me of five years ago, I'd have followed that up by hinting - or more likely asserting - that is suggestive of pro-Labour bias on the BBC's part with the pro-Labour BBC headline writing deliberately composing an ambiguous headline so as to spare the shadow chancellor - and his party - his blushes. 

To amplify that point I would have noted that the Sky News article ends with more embarrassment for Mr Balls....
It is not the first time Mr Balls' driving has come to the attention of the police.
Last year he admitted he was caught "bang to rights" speeding at 56mph in a 50mph zone on the M62 in his constituency.
In 2010 he was fined £60 and given three points on his licence after being caught using a mobile phone while driving on a dual carriageway in Milton Keynes.
At the time, he said: "It was a fair cop."
....while the BBC article chooses not to mention any of that at all, thus sparing Ed Balls's blushes yet further. 

At which point I'd have added something sarcastic like, "Lucky Balls!".

I'd have also pointed out that Sky talks of the Labour man having "admitted" something while the BBC merely says he "said" something, and that the BBC's version - as a result - sounds less damaging. 

Really getting into my stride, I'd then have gone on to point out the striking difference in tone and confidence between Sky's opening paragraph....
Ed Balls is facing a police investigation after hitting a car and driving off without reporting it.
...and the BBC's more cautious, low-key take:
Police are looking into an incident in which senior Labour politician Ed Balls allegedly drove off after his vehicle hit a parked car.
Finally, I'd have brought out the big statistical guns and blogged the fact that a 140 words out of a total of 279 in the BBC article (i.e. literally over half - just!) are given over to directly quoting Ed Balls, which amounts to 50.2% of the article, while Sky only gives over 71 words to directly quotes from Mr Balls out of a total of 289, which amounts to 24.6% of their article. 

That, I'd have asserted, showed that the BBC was given Ed Balls a much larger say that Sky News. 

Yes, that's what I'd have done a few years ago. 

Nowadays, of course, I'd never think of doing anything like that. And rightly so.

Mind the gap

The trouble with returning to the same subject time after time is the difficulty of finding a balance between providing sufficient context with originality and brevity as opposed to reiterating a cryptic soundbite, or omitting the background and hoping for the best.  

Melanie Phillips has a virtuosic ability to encapsulate a backstory succinctly and eloquently, while, at the opposite end of the scale, the BBC will lazily append its articles with snappy but inaccurate phrases like “considered illegal under international law” or tag an out of context, smugly repetitive death toll statistic onto all reports relating directly or indirectly to Israel’s retaliatory incursions into Gaza.

The consequences of leaving out the background are many and widespread. I have encountered astonishing gaps in awareness in the most surprising places and amongst the most well-informed, educated and clever persons one could ever hope to meet.

The most alarming deficiency was utter ignorance about that wretched thing, incitement.

Anyone who has never Googled ‘Hamas Bunny’ or looked at MEMRI TV will hardly know a single thing about this phenomenon, yet it is the most germane, most central, most unyielding, biggest, most intractable obstacle to peace. More pertinent than a thousand Jewish settlements and ten thousand cancelled prisoner releases.

I am as guilty as the next keyboard warrior of assuming that ‘you’ will know what I’m talking about and will give me the benefit of the doubt if you don’t. But meeting new people  over the last few days made me see how mistaken one can be.

So just in case you don’t already know this, here’s a small sample.

You see, the Palestinians regard the person who “opened automatic gunfire on passing cars from a distance of several meters” as a hero.

The BBC did belatedly report this killing, tagged onto the end of an article about ‘peace talks
“Israel is also angry at the killing of an off-duty Israeli policeman by a gunman in the West Bank on Monday, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. His wife and child were wounded in the attack outside Hebron.”

I see they describe the dead man as an ‘off-duty Israeli policeman’, which, to those with sensitive BBC bias-detecting antennae, almost sounds as though they’re hinting that he was asking for it.