Saturday, 3 October 2015

Faking it

Even The Guardian/Observer is sticking the boot into the BBC tonight...
BBC footage of lightning over erupting volcano was stirring, dramatic – and fake
The BBC has admitted that footage of a volcanic eruption screened as part of its natural history blockbuster series, Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise, was faked. The scene, purporting to depict a single volcano in eruption, was actually created by splicing together eruptions from two separate volcanoes. One eruption took place in 2011, the other in 2015. 
The admission is likely to trigger a new row over the use of digital techniques to make documentaries more dramatic and popular, and will embroil the corporation in further controversy at a time when its finances and remit are under parliamentary scrutiny.
Staff at the BBC’s natural history unit – which made the series – were also said to be angry about the inclusion of the doctored scene, which they fear could erode trust in their output. “If we falsify one scene, who is going to believe anything else in that programme or, for that matter, any other film that we produce,” one staff member told the Observer.
Oh dear.

A very 'BBC' debate

Last night's The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 began with the sentencing of "a 15 year old [Muslim] boy from Blackburn" for plotting a terrorist attack in Australia. 

Presenter Razia Iqbal's coverage opened with a clip from the lawyer for the defendant's family, defending the boy's family. (They say lots of nice things and knew nothing, apparently.)

She then spoke to a Muslim criminologist from Birmingham City University, Imran Awan (whose self-described "expertise" is in "Islamophobia"). 

Razia's line of questioning focused on the length of the sentence, her voice projecting a sense of surprise at its severity.

Imran wants us to go back to the roots of the boy's "lone wolf behaviour". His research suggests "anger, perceived injustice, a sense of vengeance, or looking for identity and belonging" are why boys like this one "fall prey to" self-radicalisation.

Then came a lengthy extract from a hang-wringing BBC-hosted debate from the fringe of the Labour conference on the general issue of radicalisation and the UK government's policies on the issue, chaired by Owen Bennett Jones.

This was a depressing listen. 

The selected panellists were Labour MP Keith Vaz, Dr Afzal Ashraf of RUSI, Dr Evan Lawrence of Liverpool Hope University and Dr Usama Hasan of the Quilliam Foundation - a very 'BBC' gathering of guests. 

If you crudely divide them between (a) those who stuck to saying safe, Muslim-friendly things and (b) those who didn't....well, they fell 3:1 in favour of those saying safe, Muslim-friendly things (as you might well expect from a BBC debate). 

Only Usama Hasan dared to offend the audience - saying, for example, that "Islamophobia" is mainly caused by people's understandable reactions to Muslims committing large numbers of acts of terrorism, trying to chop people's heads off on the streets of Britain (and so on)...

The audience - yet another 'BBC audience'! - gave Usama Hasan (and only Usama Hasan) a hard time, heckling him, arguing with him, smearing him...

That audience - or at least the part of it that spoke during the debate (which might not be the same thing) - seemed to be almost entirely Muslim....

....and what a bunch of self-pitying, grievance-mongering British Muslims they were! 

Listen and weep! 

I like Owen Bennett Jones (his articles at the London Review of Books are one of that publication's high points), and due credit must be paid to him for stopping the audience from shouting Dr Hasan down. (OBJ genuinely appears to relish debate...unlike, it seems, much of his audience). 

What was that audience though, beyond the Muslims who spoke? Given that it was a Labour Party fringe debate, presumably it was mostly Labour Party activists? (Another one who spoke was a second Labour MP). 

It might have been more interesting if the BBC had organised two such debates - one at the Labour conference and one at this week's Conservative Party conference. Would there have been any significant difference? 

The whole thing was very BBC. Only Usama Hasan came anywhere near close to saying what most people here in the UK (which the British Broadcasting Corporation might be expected to speak for) actually think.


Update: Auntie Anita on Any Answers framed the 'Blackburn boy terrorist' story in a similar way to Razia Iqbal. Here are her exact words:
Also a 14 year old plans murder and mayhem overseas. Does he deserve to lose his liberty for the rest of his life? And what does such a sentence achieve?  To all extents and purposes he was a normal school boy going through the same system as our children. How do we stop the radicalisation of our young?

Editing out the IRA

And talking about DB...

He's also spotted a unusual edit to one of the BBC's main articles about the Oregon shootings:

As Newssniffer shows, Version 3 of the article read:

In Version 4, this had changed to:

Why did they do that?

"Yes, NOW it is"

Friday, 2 October 2015

"A derisory nine quips"

He's exasperated at the programme for feeling like "an insular establishment talking among themselves".

Maybe that's true, but reading it I was somewhat taken aback by the following passage: 
On the night after David Cameron won the recent election, HIGNFY spent most of the show mocking Labour. Twenty-eight jokes were at Labour’s expense. Twenty-three were about the Lib Dems. Seven about UKIP. About the Conservatives, the party in power and surely the proper target for satire, a derisory nine quips.
A pro-Right HIGNFY? Really? That's never been my experience of it. Has it ever been yours?

Oh those stats!

Whatever. HIGNFY will be back tonight. I've rather given up watching recently, having been a devotee for most of its early history. Should I watch it tonight? 

Jeremy Clarkson is back presenting, apparently being mercilessly mocked by Messrs Merton and Hislop. Paul will apparently pretend to be punched by JezWeCanOnAmazon. (I've got bandages ready in advance lest my sides split).

And according to the Mail, Ian Hislop will make the following joke, linking Messrs Clarkson and Corbyn:
A man called Jeremy who has extreme views and won’t be in a job for long.

(And 'Uncomfortable Journalist' Camilla Long is back too. So, Camilla, is it a dolphin in a a bathtub?)

.....Oh and while I'm making up my mind about whether to watch it the zombie-like revival of Open All Hours in on (with the sound turned off). A Chuckle Brother is talking to G...g...g...Granville.

No, really. blogging. 

There's a very funny opening visual joke about Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell failing to mount an escalator. The audience laughs.

Then Richard Osman of BBC's Pointless says a few nice things about "refreshing" Jeremy Corbyn. The BBC audience gives him rapturous applause.

Nigel Farage is mocked. The audience laughs and applauds. Ian jokes about him coming back from the dead.

Did Ian engage in relations with a pig at Oxford? He denies it (surprisingly seriously). It seems his own past has been questioned by the wicked media this week. He mocks Tory non-dom donor Lord Ashcroft - and the media for taking his allegations about Piggate  seriously. He says the bedroom tax is more important. That's what David Cameron should be blamed for, he says (somewhat randomly). The BBC audience whoops.

Ooh, a saucy scripted joke about Jeremy Corbyn wanting the bring the fizz back into politics involving Jez's relations with Diane Abbott!

I've not seen Paul in a while. His neck has grown surprisingly wide these days.

The punching jokes turn out to be very mild. Jeremy Clarkson appears perfectly relaxed. Ian praises him for punching Piers Morgan. A joke is made against Jeremy Corbyn instead. The audience laughs politely.

Robert Peston is laughed at. (Poor Robert!)

Did Richard Osman mock Paul Merton by quipping "a hatstand in a bandstand"? ("a dolphin in a bathtub?"). Paul didn't smile.

I'm astonished, having read all the build-up, just how easy things turned out for Jeremy Clarkson. I feel I've been hugely misled. What happened to the "extreme views" joke linking him to Jeremy Corbyn?

I laughed a few times. Not often. 

Only a little spark

The Today Programme this morning (17 mins to 8) brought us Kevin Connolly’s report from Jerusalem about the shooting of an Israeli couple, by Palestinians. The couple were in their car with their four children when a Palestinian car drew up and shot at them, killing both parents.
This was the first I’d heard of it, and I wondered what impression Kevin Connolly intended to give.

I’ve listened again, and I still perceive that the reporting we’re  getting from Kevin Connolly is ‘news from the Palestinian point of view’. If you like, it’s events seen through the Palestinian prism. 

Connolly certainly seems to identify with the Palestinians, though he probably distances himself from the ‘religiosity’ of both the Israelis and Palestinians, whom I suspect he regards as equally religiously fanatical.

The impression I had was that Connolly was keen to imply “they had it coming to them’  because of the way he described the location of this murder. 
“a dark country road between two Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the nearest big city being Nablus.....”
That insinuates that the Palestinians were defending themselves against ‘settlements’.

On the other hand, it could be seen as essential background of the type we complain about when context and background are omitted from cases where the scenario is reversed.
Nevertheless, it seemed inappropriate because of the brutality of the act.
“and of course today it is friday prayers here in Jerusalem” 
Well, it is “friday prayers,” - for Muslims -  and the 'rising tensions' he alludes to is something that has been woefully under / mis reported by the BBC ever since it escalated into a major powder keg.

Connolly tells us: 
“we were just going back  through our own news archives, it’s far from scientific, but we would say that more than 20 Palestinians have died in political violence on the West Bank this year, at least a half a dozen Israelis.”
Who, might I ask, is “we”? Be that as it may, why bother telling us this? It couldn’t be, could it, to remind us that Palestinians are more deserving of our sympathy than Israelis? It’s the same old death-toll syndrome. How many died? 

What it fails to address is that most of the Palestinian fatalities at the hands of the IDF have been provoked or initiated by some kind of direct, threatening behaviour from the Palestinian, which is usually reported in the ‘last first’ tradition.
“ of the times of year when Jews traditionally make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, that means, of course, that they move towards the Western Wall in the old city, that means they’re close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, many in the Arab world see that as a kind of attack on their religious identity..........”
The Al-Aqsa mosque ‘status quo’ would seem almost unbelievable and inexplicable to any sane person, if reported impartially, or at least not through the Palestinian prism.  It would seem inexplicable that the Israelis would, a) tolerate it, and b) that the world would think it was okay.

The history - how the present situation has arisen - the Israeli government’s policy of appeasement, the unfounded rumours perpetrated by Palestinian agitators, the whole lot of it has been given the BBC treatment, so that we have actually been told (in several previous reports) of the Palestinians‘ fears’ as if their unfounded fears had as much credibility as the factual occurrences they are supposed to be reporting.  

The BBC website has this: 
“Al-Aqsa is one of Islam's holiest sites and is in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif site also revered by Jews.”
I’m not a religious person, but I do know that this site is known as the third holiest site for Muslims, and ‘the’ holiest for Jews.  Why twist it?

“it takes only a little spark, like last night’s killings, to ignite it.”
Well, I’d hardly call the cold-blooded murder of two people in front of their young family “only a little spark”

The Times of Israel has more details.

and if you want to see a report that starts off on an even more uneven keel, see this one,
"Israel sends troops after settler couple killed in West Bank"
Which manages to combine ‘last-first’ and “gratuitous settler” in the space of ten words.

At least, way down the page, the BBC report had: 
“The Palestinian militant organisation Hamas, which is dominant in Gaza, said "we bless the killing of settlers in the West Bank". 
Spokesman Husam Badran said: "We call on our people in the West Bank to carry out more quality operations like the [one] today."This is the only solution which is supported by the masses of our people everywhere."
We don’t really know if  Kevin Connolly concurs.

Oregon and the oddness of the BBC

Having taken the day off work today, I've been following the reporting of the latest gun massacre in the United States as it unfolded.

I read the Times, Telegraph and Mail's reporting of the story this morning and, as they kept updating their stories, found out all sorts of (often conflicting) claims about the killer - his pro-IRA leanings, his use of neo-Nazi symbols, his Obama-like mixed-race background, his anti-religious rants, his singling out of Christians during his massacre, his 'conservative Republican' sympathies, his British roots...

I also kept my eye on the BBC News website's coverage and found that most of those claims weren't being reported this morning. The BBC's reports focused on gun control and what President Obama was saying about gun control.

So the BBC was being very tight-lipped. 

Was that because of journalistic scruples about reporting unverified reports? Or was it because the BBC was being characteristically wary lest the killer turned out to be Muslim (as his targeting of Christians led some eager lemmings on the Right to hastily assume)?

As the afternoon went on, the BBC's article about the atrocity was updated to include much of the above (many hours after most of its media rivals in the UK), albeit none spelt out at length.

Oddly, 'the targeting of Christians' - which have led Sky and others' headlines for much of the day - remained an incidental point (at best) in the BBC's online coverage until the last couple of hours. 

Then, suddenly, the BBC's non-committal main headline changed to: Oregon college shooting: Gunman 'targeted Christians' - many, many hours after the others.

The BBC is a most peculiar online broadcaster at times. It claims to be the best but, frankly, it's the last place people should go to first (online) for breaking news on subjects like this.

Even now the main BBC website article, unlike pretty much every other one I've seen, is choosing not to feature a photo of the killer.


The whole guns thing in the US is probably hard for most British people to understand - as the BBC keeps telling us.

I sort of understand it, but I suspect I might be unusual in that. After all, I didn't get where I am today in the right-wing BBC bias blogosphere by not understanding that Obama is bad, m'kay, and that those advocating gun control are almost as bad, m'kay (despite all those US gun massacres). Libertarians R Us, etc.

The BBC is certainly biased on the issue. There's no doubting that, unless you're certifiably insane (in which case you shouldn't be let anywhere near a gun!)

Whether the BBC's right to be biased is another matter (a separate if related question) but, even if we agree with the BBC here, let's not pretend it isn't biased (like any of us would!)

If you still doubt the BBC is biased on the issue, then please just listen to tonight's PM . This was one of the clearest cases of a BBC programme repeatedly nailing its colours to the mast I've heard in a long while.

We had nigh on five minutes of Barack Obama reacting to the massacre for starters.

I've never heard anything like that length of uninterrupted broadcasting from our own PM on PM, so why grant a foreign president such a free platform? Obviously because PM found his comments powerful and persuasive.

Then came a succession of opinions from BBC North America editors past and present: Justin Webb, Mark Mardell and Jon Sopel.

They collectively expressed their feeling that the US's resistance to restricting guns would be hard for us in the UK to understand.

Ol' Justin was the most forthright of the three, making clear his belief that opposition to gun control in the US is wrong-headed and stating, without equivocation, that there was a surge in gun purchases following Obama's election in 2008 because of racism. (Evidence, Justin?)

Mark Mardell was scarcely less clear about his (pro-gun control) feelings on the issue but, characteristically, made a half-hearted attempt at 'BBC impartiality' by being a bit nicer about those who oppose gun control. He did blame those pesky Republican right-wingers though for stopping gun control legislation.

Jon Sopel (the incumbent) was the least blatant of the three, though even he didn't disguise his (pro-gun control) feelings on the issue. In contrast to Mark Mardell, however, he noted that lots of Democrats also opposed gun control legislation.

I don't think I've listened to such a concentrated burst of openly one-sided BBC reporting from not one but four BBC reporters/presenters for a long time (and I'm including Eddie in that for featuring that five-minute clip of unedited Obama).

I really urge you to listen to it if you suspect me of exaggerating. (It begins some 26 minutes in).

Should the BBC be biased on this issue?

Any Question Time

While I've been away (in Morecambe)...

Rod Liddle in The Spectator and his "old mucker" at the BBC, media consultant Chris Birkett, writing in The Telegraph, have both been reflecting on that perennial BBC-bias-related old chestnut: the apparent left-wing character of most BBC studio audiences on Question Time and Any Questions - and what that says about BBC bias.

Labour-supporting Rod doesn't blame the BBC in this case. He puts it down to middle-class 'liberals' (i.e. left-wingers) not being able to shut up and, thus, dominating proceedings. 

Chris, similarly, doesn't blame the BBC. He puts it down to shy Tories (and other right-wingers) not wanting to speak in public (being shy). 

Rod pretends they are disagreeing but they are actually saying pretty much the same thing.

As I've noted before (more than once), several of Question Time's favourite right-wingers - everyone from Nigel Farage and James Delingpole to Janet Daley and Toby Young - have defended the makers of Question Time on much the same grounds.

None of them think that Question Time is intentionally biased (quite the reverse in fact). They all agree, in slightly different ways, that the BBC is innocent here (in intent)...

...but still, they also agree that there's a big problem nonetheless.

There certainly is, but what can be done about it?

Strangely, last night's unusually enjoyable edition of Question Time might point the way forward.

Yes, the panel had a 3:2 bias towards the Left...

...(Labour's Stephen Kinnock, Plaid's Leanne Wood and the usual QT celeb Charlotte Church v Charles Moore of the Spectator and Welsh Conservative Stephen Crabb...and Wales's third party, UKIP, was absent)...

...but David Dimbleby gave all three party politicians a firm (feline) duffing-up (particularly Stephen Kinnock), and the audience, for once, seemed genuinely balanced and unpredictable.

Amusingly and, perhaps, tellingly - as the Spectator's Steerpike noted - Charlotte seemed seriously taken aback and disappointed that the Question Time audience wasn't wholly on her side and whooping her every word. Some of her (and Jeremy Corbyn's) fans cried 'BBC bias!' on Twitter as a result.

How did this happen? 

Is it something peculiar to Wales (run by Labour - occasionally with Plaid's help - under devolution for what might seem nigh on eternity)? Or did the BBC go out of its way to demonstrate an unbiased audience, given all the recent controversy? 

Whatever, last night's edition was a delightful one-off in being unambiguously balanced. Audience applause and stony silence went in all directions, depending on what was being said. 

Plus I warmed to all the panellists (even the ones I didn't agree with). 

Did you notice though David Dimbleby's disbelieving questioning of Leanne Wood when she said that the Labour First Minister of Wales had called for Trident to be relocated to the fascinating port of Milford Haven (in south-west Wales) if the SNP turfed Britain's nuclear fleet out of Scotland? 

He pounced, cautiously, assuming she'd got it wrong. He just didn't seem able to take her word on trust. Didn't she mean a Conservative minister? 

No, she said, it was a Labour man (as indeed it was - namely Carwyn Jones, Wales's Labour first minister - as she'd already said!). 

David D moved on without comment or apology. He's obviously not as up on Welsh politics as might be expected for a top BBC presenter. (Even I knew that Mr Jones had made that striking proposal.)

Still, if Question Time (and Any Questions) could be like this all the time, then no one (other than rabid partisans) could object to it.

Oh Victoria!!!

I had to smile at this comment at Biased BBC - especially as the commenter's description of BBC Business Live's Aaron Heslehurst is both spot-on and funny:

“So, what does the Chairman of the Bank of England know about climate change?”
“Perhaps he’s going for his next job”
Sometimes, occasionally, a glimmer of off-message truth and insight breaks through on the BBC airwaves.
BBC Business Live’s hyper-active male presenter Aaron Haslehurst (think Robert Peston’s peculiar intonation plus a bit of Aussie fast spin) breaks rule number one this morning at BBC Central by questioning the climate credentials of one of the great and good. Then his side-totty shows she’s not just a display item by firing an off-the-cuff laser-guided shot raising the possibilty Carney might just be polishing his CV for that next big One World Government jobbie.
That’s what they used to call ‘speaking truth to power’
More, please.
The exchange (transcribed for posterity) ran as follows:
Victoria Fritz, BBC: We're going to start with this story. This is in the New York Times today. This is about India, and India being under a lot of pressure to reduce its emissions. We've heard a lot about climate change in recent days - even from Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, wading in on this as well... 
Aaron Heslehurst, BBC (interrupting): What does the governor of the Bank of England know about climate change??!! 
Richard Fletcher, The Times: I'm not sure. You tell me! [laughter from Aaron and Richard]
Victoria Fritz: Maybe he's gunning for his next job, yeah? 
Aaron Heslehurst: Oh Victoria!!!
Victoria Fritz: But back to this story. India is the third biggest polluter in the world. It's under a lot of pressure, but of course poverty...or reducing poverty...has got to be its number one priority?

An aside

Keeping on catching up...

Lefties on Twitter weren't happy, it's fair to say, with Andrew Marr last Sunday.

What especially roused them was Andy replying to former Ed Miliband spin-doctress Ayesha Hazarika after she quipped that bacon and pigs are bad for any political leader and said, "Thank goodness Jeremy is a vegetarian!"

Andrew Marr's off-the-cuff response was:
That's his strongest card!
Many a Corbynista on Twitter found that disrespectful to their Leader and resorted to the #bbcbias hashtag.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

More on Corbyn

It could be because I've barely slept for three weeks or that I've barely watched (or listened to) any BBC coverage of the news, but I've got a horrible feeling that I'm really losing the plot.

For starters: I really don't know what to make of the BBC's coverage of Jeremy Corbyn. (Do you?)

I've seen countless assertions on Twitter that the BBC has been heavily biased against Mr Corbyn (often accompanied by claims that the BBC is pro-Tory), but I've also seen the exact opposite assertion (on other blogs) that the BBC is actually flying the red flag for Jeremy Corbyn. 

So is the BBC biased against Mr Corbyn, or in favour of Mr Corbyn? Or is it unbiased?

As so often in such cases, the BBC is so huge that one sleep-deprived blogger sitting in front of a laptop is never going to answer that question to anyone's satisfaction, but that's never stopped a blogger before, and it's not going to stop this one now!..., deep breath!!...


The one test I set myself to judge this question was to look at how the BBC's three 10 pm news programmes covered Jeremy Corbyn's speech at the Labour Party conferenzzzzzz.....

...namely Tuesday night's BBC One News at Ten, BBC Two's Snoozenight and Radio 4's (supposedly insomnia-busting) The World Tonight. 

News at Ten (no longer available to watch again) featured a report from the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg, a piece featuring 'vox pops' from Bedworth, North Warwickshire from Sian Lloyd, and a chat between the aforementioned Laura and Huw Edwards. 

Laura K's main report offered quite a few clips from the new Labour leader's speech, before saying:
There were huge roars of applause from Labour's growing crowds. What they didn't know was that nostalgic message had been written long ago for former Labour leaders.
That was a reference, of course, to the much-reported fact that quite a lot of Mr Corbyn's speech was lifted from a piece by someone who had sent the same speech to previous Labour leaders (including Ed Miliband) and had always, previously, been rebuffed. So I wouldn't put that down as being pro-Corbyn.

Sian Lloyd's piece was a classic of BBC impartiality, as it's 'meant' to be. Five 'vox pops' were heard from. Two said things in favour of Jeremy Corbyn (that he's "proper Labour" and a "breath of fresh air", and that his plans to renationalise the railways are a good thing), two said things against Jeremy Corbyn (that JC "doesn't get" that people have got to pay for his plans, and that JC hasn't answered the question: Where's the money coming from?) and the fifth said something in favour and something against Jeremy Corbyn (that he's "personable", but how is he going to pay for it all?) 

As so often with scrupulously 'balanced' vox pops, what exactly did they prove? How representative were they? What was the point of them?

Then came Laura to Huw, summing things up:
This was campaigner Corbyn. A political phenomenon, yes, but comfort zone Corbyn too. And there's not much concrete sign yet that this is a leader at this stage who's ready to find a way to talk to those millions of voters in the middle. And the political rules he's trying to disprove suggest it's still those votes that win general elections.
Now, I'm not classing that as 'pro-Corbyn'!

Here came a report from the progamme's political editor Allegra Stratton, followed by an interview with pro-Corbyn union leader Len McCluskey, and then a three-way discussion between three Labour sympathisers: Peter Kellner of YouGov, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian and (pro-Corbyn) Ellie Mae O'Hagan of the Guardian. 

The spread of guests between formerly-mainstream Labour and pro-Corbyn Labour was 'fair'. Presumably next week's speech by David Cameron will have a four-way Tory divide for balance...and two right-wing columnists from the Telegraph or Spectator.

As for Allegra's reporting, here are her most personal bits:
But was this all authentic Corbyn? It emerged afterwards that sections had been written by a Labour supporter sent in four years earlier for Ed Miliband but rejected by the then Labour leader.
Jeremy Corbyn there, gloriously unplugged. I thought he would trim his message a little bit for the audience outside the hall, but not a bit of it. Instead he took the audience on a tour of all the issues he's care about over a lifetime. It wasn't, however, mainstream politics and it wasn't a platform for government.
Many thought the man himself would today move to broaden his appeal. In the end the 66 year old returned to a happy place.
Again, I'm not classing that as 'pro-Corbyn'! 

Clips of Mr Corbyn speaking were followed by a series of reactions gathered by BBC reporter Paul Moss. 

Here's my two-days'-late 'live blogging' of Paul's report:

Paul sounded oddly sceptical, saying that the audience "certainly seemed happy, euphoric even", and that they "insisted they really were delighted by what their leader said". One such Labour activist then appeared, saying (in her own words) that he was "inspiring". Paul asked her if that was "the danger": that he says "what you want to hear but he doesn't necessarily say what's going to win you elections"... which point I spotted something you might also have spotted: three BBC reporters (Laura K, Allegra S and Paul M) on three different BBC programmes (News at Ten, Newsnight and The World Tonight) all posing exactly the same question/making exactly the same point: that Jeremy Corbyn made a speech that went down well with his audience at the conference but didn't speak to the mainstream electorate.

A second pro-Corbyn activist said it was the socialist speech people had been waiting for "for the last twenty years." Paul pointed out that he had a beard and asked him if he was pleased that JC praised beard-wearers.

Then Paul interviewed former "New Labour personified" minister Geoffrey Robinson, looking "less happy" (according to Paul) said he hadn't been won over by Mr C. but that it's "our" job to win Jeremy Corbyn over and show him how to do it.

Then Paul focused on a MORI fringe conference that seemed to thown "a bucket of cold water" over the faces of the Labour audience. The polls didn't look good. Gideon Skinner of MORI said that JC's speech "added almost othing" to Labour's electability - though his "considered" tone went down well. 

Then Paul featured a clip and an interview with Daily Telegraph columnist and former Labour activist Dan Hodges who pursued Paul's earlier point that Jeremy Corbyn's speech was just speaking to the hall, not the electorate at large. Dan dismissed his attempts to play the "patriotic" route.

Paul then went outside the conference hall, to Brighton Pier, to discuss that patriotism point. His first vox pop said Jeremy Corbyn wasn't being patriotic by being disrespectful to the Queen. His second vox pop said he should "bend a bit" and "follow a few rules", especially towards the Queen. 

No, I wouldn't class that as pro-Corbyn reporting either! Would you?

Then came an interview with a pro-Corbyn Labour activist and her anti-Corbyn retired Labour councillor dad. She was enthusiastic about Jeremy Corbyn. He wasn't.

Then came a section focusing on that part of JC's speech which dealt with the Labour leader's criticisms of Saudi Arabia. 

This featured an interview with Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi who strongly criticised Mr Corbyn, accusing him of playing party politics over Saudi Arabia (whilst, even to my sleep-deprived ears, pretty blatantly playing party politics himself over the same issue). Presenter Ritula Shah pressed the Conservative MP pretty hard on this issue.

And that was that, as I heard it. 

Good night.

'Not linked to feet'

One thing I heard as I was driving to work this morning was an interview on Today with a female surgeon alleging sexism in the operating theatre (a very BBC story). 

Reporter Sima Kotecha gave the accusing surgeon, Dr Jyoti Shah, a respectful hearing...and Sima's online report - the only report about it on the BBC website (besides a link to that Today interview) - also gave Dr Shah something of a clear run.

Oddly, it fell to the Daily Mail to provide a scrupulously balanced version of the story. In the  Mail's take, Dr Shah is quoted at length, but another female surgeon, Gill Tierney, is also quoted at length disputing her points. 

(Both reports also feature another female surgeon making what uncharitable types might describe as fence-sitting comments.) 

Incidentally, the only other BBC News website report I can see featuring the selfsame Jyoti Shah comes from 2002 (during her UCL days). It's title is: Penis size 'not linked to feet'

Just thought you'd like to know that.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Say the word

I could write reams about Jeremy Corbyn. His policies, his principles, his hypocrisy, his persona.  His cringe-inducing speech with those awful straw-man jokes and that conspiratorial gesture - a kind of wink and a nod, which he must have thought was endearing (it wasn’t) -  its rambling, unfocused, populist motherhood-and-apple-pie platitudinous vacuousness, much of which turned out to be, in any case, plagiarised

Corbyn’s challenge to David Cameron over Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, a protester who faces the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for a crime he allegedly committed aged 17 was all well and good, but next minute he’s congratulating President Obama for making this atrocious deal with the Ayatollahs, whose human rights record is equally terrible, even if we don’t know the actual names of the individuals hanged from cranes.  

I don’t even like those over-sized jackets that people wear to make make them look vulnerable.  To me they just look stupid.
There. I’ve got that off my chest. Now for the criticism.

If you look at Order Order, you can’t help noticing those Tweets; "Leftie Commentariat Pan Corbyn's Dire Speech"

Jeremy Corbyn was the star of the show at the Labour Friends of Palestine fringe last night. Speaking on a panel organised by the group yesterday was Husam Zomlot, a former PLO ambassador to Britain. Zomlot has some rather eccentric views, to put it kindly, judging by this BBC interview from last year”

As well as attending Labour Friends of Palestine he fulfilled his duty as leader of the Labour party by putting in an appearance at  Labour Friends Of Israel.  
Having spun his fondness for mingling with terrorists and holocaust deniers as “for peaceful purposes only” as furiously and unconvincingly as the centrifuges in Iran, what else could he do?
That he managed to deliver his platitudes without mentioning the word “Israel” in a Friends of Israel meeting was as odd as not mentioning ‘the deficit’ in a keynote speech to the Labour party conference.   No-one shouted out “Say the word Deficit” from the back of the hall at that meeting, but someone did shout out “Say the word Israel from the back of the hall at this one, before being duly bundled out.

Douglas Murray:

“On Northern Ireland, he claimed that he was not in fact an obscure backbencher but was intricately involved in the peace process. Precisely the same claim has been made regarding the Middle East. Rather than admit to having spent decades palling up to the worst anti-Semites and Israel-haters worldwide, Corbyn is trying to claim that he has in fact been involved -- deep undercover, away from the eyes of any respectable negotiator – in a "peace process." Why did he meet with Eisen? Peace process. Why did he meet with Hamas? Peace process. Why did he meet with Salah? "Inter-faith issues." You would have to be a child to fall for this. Unfortunately for the Labour party and the country, many of the thousands of people who joined the Labour party to vote for Corbyn are practically children. Or adults who are at the very least radically unbothered about having as a party leader a man who has supported the violent enemies of the United Kingdom and our only democratic ally in the Middle East.”

What we need from the BBC is some robust direct questioning of Jeremy Corbyn about his relationships with Islamists and terrorists. He claims he doesn’t do ‘irritation’, perhaps forgetting how rattled he got with Krishnan Gur-Murthy. In fact, rather than ‘a nice man’ he seems like an anti-Israel fanatic on of the verge of irritability all the time.  

Monday, 28 September 2015

The BBC's war against Israel

Sleeping fitfully last night while  waiting for the moon to go red I heard Kevin Connolly on the BBC World Service delivering the audio version of  this piece, sparked off, he says,  by a new book named “An Improbable Friendship” by Anthony David.

The introduction he was intoning woke me up sharp. I can’t remember Connolly’s exact words, but this paragraph from the article sums it up:
You may be familiar with the history of the 1967 Middle East War - a short, sharp conflict in which, Israel captured land from Egypt, Syria and Jordan in a series of lightning operations.” 
I’m not sure that he actually said “You may be familiar with the history of the 1967 Middle East War”, but no matter, Connolly wasn’t going to be of any help to those of you who are not familiar with it. This may or may not have been entirely a bad thing, for whatever Kevin Connolly’s version of the history of the six day war seems likely to be - and I dread to think what it is -  I’d take a bet that we’re far better off without it.

So, it was “a short, sharp conflict in which, Israel captured land from Egypt, Syria and Jordan in a series of lightning operations.”

No reason, no rhyme, just a topsy-like event; there it was - it ‘grew’.
Let’s be clear, as pre-Corbyn politicians used to say. The six day war was a war of intended annihilation.  It was initiated by the Arabs with the intention of annihilating Israel. How cunning, how devious of Connolly to miss out the fact that Israel was fighting a defensive war.

I wasn’t too keen on this misleading,  emotive insinuation either:
So Israel remains in control of the Golan Heights with its apple orchards and rolling pastures.”
Before the six-day war, Syria’s tanks and artillery were placed high on the Golan, 'apple orchards, rolling pastures' and all. The guns were pointing at, and visible from, kibbutzim below, posing a constant and ever present threat to the civilians living and working peacefully beside the Sea of Galilee. Make no mistake. In the spring of 67 there was a sudden, fierce escalation and a barrage of shellfire landed on Kibbutz Ein Gev.   Israel now controls the Golan for very good reasons. To protect Israelis and allow them to stay alive.
“And the West Bank of the River Jordan, with its huge Palestinian population and its growing number of Jewish settlers, is still under Israeli military occupation.”
Kevin Connolly might not know this. He might not know that the six day war was an intended war of annihilation against Israel, started by the Arabs. He might not know that most of the territory that was captured by Israel was returned (to Egypt) supposedly in return for peace.

If he doesn’t know why the occupation came about, he should damn well go and find out. He seems to think it’s because of unreasonable and unjustified warmongering by Israel, when the exact opposite is the case. 
Of course he does know all this really. He chooses to leave it out. How should I describe the BBC’s war against Israel and what is their intention?

I am mildly curious about one thing. Not for personal reasons, just to clarify something that bothers some of us. Does Kevin Connolly think Israel "has the right to exist?" Does he think it has any legitimacy whatsoever? 
Not that I care what Kevin Connolly thinks, but I am quite interested in whether he and his colleagues who report from the region actually have the authority - the BBC's blessing -  to represent the BBC by reporting everything that happens, and anything that takes their fancy -  solely from the Palestinian viewpoint. 

I suspect that despite the ‘impartiality obligations‘ that the BBC is supposed to espouse, there is an inherent Arabist default position which nothing will budge. No matter how cognitively dissonant  this becomes, what with the ever increasing turmoil in the Arab Muslim world. Muslims fighting, killing each other; followers of Islam changing the face of Europe and making their presence felt in Western democratic countries that they live in, but dislike. How long can this go on and how far can it go?  I say that rhetorically.  Propagandising and emoting against Israel is all the BBC wants to do.

Anyway, this “improbable friendship” theme is interesting. It’s between 98 (and a half) year old Ruth, the divorced widow of  Moshe Dayan and a deceptively youthful looking Raymonda Tawil, the mother-in-law of Yasser Arafat and mother of the fragrant Suha. 

Oddly, that portrait has found its way into the room and it looks as if it’s on the exact same easel as Suha's easel. Not so much a case of the eyes following you round the room, in this case the whole bloody picture follows you halfway round the world.   Is it a BBC prop? How bloody ridiculous. 

Like daughter

Like mother

Now, it’s all well and good that Kevin Connolly has this idea to make a film for the BBC about a heartwarming story of friends across the divide, based on a new book.  But it’s more than a coincidence that as far as I can tell this tale is seen (sigh) from the anti-Israel perspective. If I’m told that the book is less partisan that Kevin’s film, I’ll be delighted to hear it, but I’m doubtful.

Incidentally, another story about friendship and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians didn’t catch the BBC’s imagination at all. Kevin Connolly didn’t choose to make a film about it, which seems a shame, as it involves another of the country’s favourite topics, football. I bet a film based on that would generate as much interest  - and do more good for the ‘peace process’ than, If I may say so,  this indulgent bit of flim-flam.

Ruth Dayan is indeed a sweet old lady, and no doubt she had a tough time being married to a man she said she should have divorced “ten years ago’” (I assume she meant ten years before she did divorce him) “for political reasons”. Kevin Connolly was keen to tease that out.

Moshe Dayan may have been a difficult man. He may have been a terrible husband. But let’s not forget that if it weren’t for Moshe Dayan and his brave brothers-in-arms, Israel would have been overrun by the enemies that surrounded it then (and still do) and Mrs Ruth Dayan may not have lived till 98 and a half to enjoy a friendship with Raymonda, the mother-in-law of that corrupt old rogue Yasser Arafat. 

I had a little look, just to be sure. Just to make sure that Anthony David is as impartial as Kevin Connolly and the BBC would have us believe. 

I went to Google, as you do, and saw that prof. Anthony David collaborated with Palestinian activist Sari Nusseibeh to produce an earlier, autobiographical  book “Once Upon A Country”

A review by Jeffry Goldberg is generous, but clearly states where the author is coming from.
“Once upon a country “ by Sari Nusseibeh with Anthony David.
“This is a rare book, one written by a partisan in the struggle over Palestine who nevertheless recognizes — and bravely records — the moral and political failures of his own people. This is not to say that Nusseibeh is a Zionist. For one thing, Zionists aren’t in the habit of quoting — approvingly — Noam Chomsky, and Nusseibeh catalogs, sometimes at unwarranted length and in exaggerated form, the sins of Israel, particularly the sins of occupation and settlement. And the narrative he presents in this book is undeniably the one devised by Arab, and pro-Arab, historians. There is no doubt that the 1948 war, which erupted upon the establishment of the state of Israel, did not end the way his family hoped it would, and Nusseibeh unpersuasively argues that the Jews were the Goliath in the fight, rather than the David. “

The new book "An Improbable Friendship" hasn’t been reviewed yet, and who knows, it might be full of surprises. But Kevin Connolly’s film tells a decidedly partisan tale, demonising Moshe Dayan, over sentimentalising or infantilising  his ex-wife Ruth just because she’s an old, old lady, omitting the context and background of the six-day war, giving undue respect to the Arafat family.

On the BBC World Service the continuity announcer thought it was sweet that she insisted on including the 'and a half' in that 98 years old, just like children do. Somehow, that says a lot.