Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Experts. Antisemitism and the Government’s plans to tackle Islamist extremism

Alas! Lack of technical nous prevents me from embedding the video into this blog. But I implore you to click on the link and please, bear with me and scroll past the montage of all Tuesday’s front pages, right down, on and on,  to the video headed “What the commentators say”

It’s Chris Rogers (who has form) hosting the paper review with guests ‘Journalist Rachel Shabi and Ben Riley-Smith of the Telegraph’.

Understandably, as this is a football-obsessed country (opiate of the masses etc) a major chunk of the chat is about Leicester City.  
Cheering News indeed. But we’ve already spotted that the biggest story on the front page of the Telegraph is the piece by Kate McCann with its screaming headline  Labour Suspends 50 for racism.

You couldn’t miss it, even if you were just a run of the mill viewer and not an actual ‘Telegraph political correspondent based in Westminster.’ For a while I thought the whole thing was going to be devoted to the footie, but eventually, Chris Rogers said There is some other news in the papers.”

Cack-handedly looking for some kind of code in a failed attempt to embed the video I found a bizarre transcript, apparently the output of a bot.

“Labour suspends 54 racism” it declares, mistaking “54” for “50 for”. Fun, but not much use for those of us who appreciate a good transcript. 

Anyway, you’ll have to play the video to get the full force, because even if I were to spend half a day transcribing it meticulously, you need the original sound and the visuals to get the full effect.
Watching Rachel Shabi, (well-known to those who have followed CifWatch now UK MediaWatch ) and a frequent guest on Dateline, is never a pleasant experience, either for the politics or the simpering manner.

Combine a foghorn with a mid-Atlantic drawl plus that metropolitan str e t c h ing of certain words, as in ‘soooo’. 

That’s the audio. Then there’s the visuals. A semi-amused smirk, a twinkly eye and much animated head-turning from speaker to speaker with a mixture of exaggerated expectation and faux admiration, but all the while waiting to air her misguided and self-opinionated views.

According to Ms Shabi, all this antisemitism needs to be put in context. It’s a widespread issue, always there, but "not specifically in the Labour Party." It’s only in the Telegraph because of the election, otherwise it wouldn’t be there at all. 
“Right-wing elements seem to be trawling through ..... we don’t have a control of this experiment, do we, we don’t have people doing the same for the Conservative partiee or any other partiee - there’s no way to tell that this is specifically about the Labour Party.”

Ben Riley-Smith doesn’t seem to have been following this particular news story at all. He couldn’t recall the name of the MP who had publicly accosted Ken upon the stair (he wasn’t there again today / I wish, I wish he’d go away)

“Antisemitism is a problem in society”, ventured Chris Rogers “Not just in the Labour Party”.

“Percisely” says the foghorn “I don’t think it’s particularly fair to say that the Labour Pardee has a problem with antisemitism”

“But politicians are meant to lead by example” says Chris Rogers, tasked with playing Devil’s advocate.

Next up: “PM plans new laws to stop Muslim extremists”

Shabi is an expert on this topic. The government is making things worse. “The problem is that they’re focusing on Islamist extremism.” 

I’m not absolutely certain, but I imagine she’s asserting that violent extremism is nothing to do with Islam. It’s just the criminals, the insane and the disenfranchised.

“It’s just about money, it’s just about oil” chips in the Telegraph man.

Next - The Guardian: “UK’s covert fight against the lure of ISIS”. 
“There is a propaganda war, isn’t there?" announces Rogers.

“It’s gonna end up alienating just the people you wanna get engaged” says the expert, leaning closer to her reviewing companion, who, though nodding vigorously, is backing away.

“You are more of an expert than me” he says.

“Briddish-backed enterprise” enunciates Shabi “is this gonna spread more mistrust at a time when what you wannado is build that,  because if people know that they’ve been, you know, fed lines by a government-backed unit, that’s not gonna be a way to counter or deal with the problem."

"We’ve only got a couple of minutes but I really want to do this: 'man sues former employer for boring him out of his mind' ”  says the anchor.

Does this paper review encapsulate one particular attitude, dare I say that of the BBC? 
If so, to put it in Rachel Shabi’s own phrase “that’s not gonna be a way to counter or deal with the problem.”

And there's more...

As Labour suspends three councillors over Israel comments disappears from the BBC home page and drops ever further down their Politics page, the Telegraph now reports that Labour has secretly suspended 50 members for anti-Semitic and racist comments
Senior sources reveal that Labour's compliance unit has been swamped by the influx of hard-left supporters following Jeremy Corbyn's election. 
The  suspensions that have been made public so far are said to be just the tip of the iceberg.
That's the Telegraph's main headline this mornng.

Meanwhile, Melanie Phillips has a powerful piece in the Times today, Hatred of Israel and Jews can’t be separated. Here's part of it, relevant to the BBC's reporting:
In fact, as the High Level Military Group of western top brass told the UN last year, the lengths to which Israel went to try to protect Gaza’s civilians far exceeded the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, even at the cost of its own soldiers’ and civilians’ lives, and going further than any other nation’s army would ever do. 
Yet the British public had been told, virtually without contradiction, that Israel had wantonly killed hundreds of children. Among those on the left now vowing to root out antisemitism, I didn’t notice any of them rushing to condemn that particular blood libel. 
Last year, the Islamic adviser to Mahmoud Abbas taught on Palestinian Authority TV that Jews throughout history have represented “falsehood . . . evil . . . the devils and their supporters . . . the satans and their supporters”. The Palestinian Authority daily published an opinion article claiming that Jews “are thirsty for blood to please their god (against the gentiles), and crave pockets full of money”. Children were shown on TV reciting poems portraying Jews as “most evil among creations”, “barbaric monkeys” and “Satan with a tail”. 
Progressive Britain never reports any of this. Instead, it amplifies the hate in its own intellectual, cultural and media echo-chamber.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Antisemitism, Facebook and the BBC

I must be getting old. Whenever I see Chris Cook on Newsnight I immediately think: why is that little boy pretending to be a reporter? People used to say the same thing about policemen - that they seem to be getting younger. Funny, you don’t hear that these days. (I suppose it’s because you hardly ever see policemen, except on T.V., when they’re either actors or middle aged men reading out statements following some kind of corruption scandal) 

I digress. It was interesting to see that Chris Cook has uploaded the full version of his interview with Howard Jacobson onto Facebook. (We saw the abridged version on Newsnight.) 
I mustn’t jump to the conclusion that just because he’s done this it means he sympathises with Howard Jacobson, or even understands what he’s talking about, but it’s not a bad sign.

While we’re on the subject of Facebook. And antisemitism. And the BBC. And the casual way in which the The Big Questions allows people with vile antisemitic views to ruin the possibility of any rational debate, take a look at the foul-mouthed excreta on Facebook emanating from a certain person (and his racist followers) who was a front-row guest on that programme, when the subject under discussion was antisemitism. The precise question posed was “Is anti-Zionism antisemitic?” 

This guest couldn’t care less whether anti-Zionism is antisemitic or not, being  an out and out antisemitic, anti-Zionist Islamist who doesn’t even pretend otherwise. He seems like a volatile mass of pent-up hatred, repression and instability permanently at the point of cataclysmic eruption. Next step: spontaneous combustion.

While Jeremy Corbyn is frantically pretending he doesn’t tolerate racism in any form (whilst at the same time attending a rally alongside racists of the first order) .......

.......the BBC kindergarten subsection mischievously whips up racial hatred as vigorously as possible, for the ratings. 

Now the inquiry into the Labour Party’s racism is set to be a whitewash

And the children at the BBC? Will they take a look at themselves? Don’t hold your breath.

The might of the pen

May I recommend a recent article on Gatestone by Richard Kemp and Jasper Reid.
Why? Because it covers all the bases, from A (for antisemitism) to Z (for Zionism.) 
It’s a must-read. Here are two excerpts that have particular resonance for this blog.

Recognizing their collective inability to eliminate Jews from their historic homeland by force, the Arabs have waged a pernicious and all-pervading propaganda war to demonize the Jewish State. Their lies have included the blatant falsehoods that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal under international law; that the Israeli government operates an oppressive apartheid state; that the IDF is strangling Gaza under an unprovoked and illegal siege; that successive Israeli administrations have been the sole obstacle to peace in the Middle East; and that Israeli security forces deliberately murder innocent Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.Understanding that the might of the pen is magnified by the flash of the sword, the Palestinian leadership and their Iranian paymasters have frequently used violence to seize international attention. Provoking the Israelis into killing Palestinian people to ensure global condemnation was the true purpose behind the Gaza rocket wars and the recent wave of murderous knife attacks and car-rammings.

This is why we see Western leaders condemning Israel for insufficient restraint while defending itself from lethal Hamas rockets, when they know full well Israel has done all it can to avoid civilian deaths. It is why not one single EU member state had the courage to vote against the false condemnation of Israel for war crimes in the UN Human Rights Council last year. It is why the British government unequivocally asserts that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal when it knows they are not. It is why Prime Minister David Cameron, a friend and supporter of the Jewish state, accused Israel of turning the Gaza Strip into a 'prison camp' when he knew it had not.These false and malicious condemnations fuel hatred of Israel and of Jewish people everywhere. They are driven and intensified by a media that is dominated by strident, virulent and unyielding anti-Israel bias.

Christians' Hour

...with Giles Fraser

If you've not read it yet, there's a thought-provoking piece by Theo Hobson at the Spectator making the case against the BBC that the corporation's heavy (left-liberal) secular bias makes it consign Christian voices "to the margins". 

The BBC, Theo argues, gives us evangelical feminism (Woman's Hour) and evangelical science (The Infinite Monkey Cage) - plus plenty of evangelical arts programmes too - but goes all 'anxious' and 'nervous' when dealing with religion. 

He wants the BBC to balance Woman's Hour (an hour for feminists) with, maybe, a Christians' Hour, where Christians can discuss things "in an intelligent, accessible way".

I can see his point. Programmes like Beyond Belief do approach religion in that way and Woman's Hour is, when you come to think about it, a remarkably ideologically-rooted programme for the 'impartial' BBC to broadcast every weekday, every week. 

Plus, a Woman's Hour-style programme where Christians discuss things might well be interesting to listen to - even for non-believers like me who might otherwise echo Béla Bartók and say 'If I were to cross myself I would say, “In the name of Nature, Art and Science”'.

However, as commenters below the line at Theo's piece point out, this is the BBC we're talking about and such a Christians' Hour would pretty much inevitably be stuffed with 'BBC Christians' (in the manner of Sunday): Tabletista liberal Catholics, Giles Fraser, the rest of the Thought For The Day crowd, that Evangelical who changed his mind to support gay marriage and who keeps appearing on Sunday as a result, Ed Stourton, various feminist Christians, Christian socialists, Marxist Christians, SJW Christians, etc, etc...

To quote The Masked Marvel (whoever it may be behind that mask!), "Be careful what you wish for, Theo." 

The same old story with the BBC News website

Originally posted: 2:33 pm:

Thanks to Guido Fawkes, two more Labour councillors have been suspended today for anti-Semitic Facebook posts - Salim Mulla and Ilyas Aziz

One blamed ISIS and the Sandy Hook massacre on Israel and said, "Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity" while echoing Naz Shah's call for the Israeli population to be shifted en masse to the USA, calling it a "very easy solution"; the other also wanted Israeli Jews "relocated" to America, seems to believe that David Cameron is in hock to the Rothschilds, compares Israeli actions to those of Nazi Germany, and promoted the blood libel about Israelis drinking Gazan blood.   

The Sky News home page has an article about the suspensions, as does ITV News.

The BBC News home page, in contrast, has nothing about it yet. There's not even anything about it on the BBC's Politics page .

Given that the most lowly UKIP councillor saying something slightly off colour would used to lead to prompt 'front page' treatment from the BBC, it's puzzling why the BBC website is being so slow to report it. 

Unless it's because they are both Muslims.

UPDATEAh, they have reported it after all...

You'll find the story (among many others) on their LIVE Elections and EU campaign latest blog.

Of course, that's not the same as having a prominent stand-alone article about the suspensions, such as Sky and ITV have already published, alongside The IndependentThe Daily TelegraphThe Daily MirrorThe Daily MailMetroeven RT

So the BBC appear to be downplaying the story.

FURTHER UPDATE: And when you read what the BBC has posted on their rolling election blog (mostly lifted from the Press Association), they've  omitted the maddest, most damning stuff -especially from Mr. Aziz - and given us two examples of nice, on-message comments from Mr. Aziz instead.

That is a clear editorial choice from the BBC chaps running that live blog (Aiden James and Tom Moseley)...

...which, added to the editorial choice of more senior BBC News website editors not to make this a headline story on either their home page or their politics page, suggests that the downplaying of this story is very deliberate.

FINAL UPDATE (5.45 pm): And now, hours after Sky, the BBC has finally posted a stand-alone article on the story, Labour suspends councillors over 'relocate Israel' comments, and they've even put it on the BBC News website home page (under the somewhat more cryptic headline 'Labour suspends Israel row councillors'):

As for the BBC article itself, it continues to miss out the wildest, most damning of the Facebook comments posted at Guido Fawkes, places Labour's 'strong' actions against them and their denials of wrongdoing first, uses 'Not to do with religion' as a sub-headline, and then returns to their denials and Labour's 'strong' actions at the end.

The editorial decision-making and story-management going on at the BBC here becomes ever clearer and clearer.

I'm seriously not impressed.

FINAL FINAL UPDATE (6.00 pm): And within the last few minutes, the BBC has updated their article because - thanks again to Guido Fawkes - it's now a hat-trick of Muslim Labour councillors suspended today.

According to Guido, the latest - Burnley councillor Shah Hussain - tweeted to Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun that “you and your country doing the same thing that hitler did to ur race in ww2” and said he hadn't been kicked in the head “hard enough” by another footballer, adding "#FreePalestine" to that lovely sentiment.

The BBC's updated article (the sub-headline has changed to ''Not about religion") omits the second bit of that and gives Mr. Hussain's counter-attack against "Jewish people" who "find it offensive" instead. Mr. Hussain will be fighting his suspension and his message to any offended Jewish people seems pretty much to amount to 'Tough!'

FINAL FINAL FINAL UPDATE (6.30 pm): Given all of this, you probably don't be surprised to learn that BBC One's main evening news bulletin today made no mention whatsoever of this story. Not a word.

FINAL FINAL FINAL FINAL UPDATE (6.55 pm): And would Radio 4's 6 o'clock bulletin (BBC One's grown-up sister bulletin) mention it among its plethora of stories? No. Again, not a word.


Three Labour councillors suspended in one day over allegations of anti-Semitism, all Muslim, yet not a word on either BBC One's or Radio 4's main evening news bulletins. Remarkable, isn't it?

BBC editorial decision-making (and flagrant 'Bias by Omission') in action.

I hardly think it could be any clearer.

It's not that the BBC hasn't covered the Labour anti-Semitism row up till now (it most certainly has, especially over Ken), it's just that something about this development in the story (three Muslim anti-Semites [allegedly], all in one go) seems to have stopped them in their tracks and made them sharply apply the brakes.

BBC (not) Trending

As pointed out in the comments section of another post, another intriguing editorial choice made by the BBC is to ignore the very widely-reported story about Ntokozo Qwabe, the man who began the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, gloating about doing "something so black and wonderful" and making a white waitress cry (which, I'm guessing, most reasonable people would agree is as clear a case of racist bullying as you could dread to hear). 

I first read about it at the Spectator. but the Times, the Daily Mirror, the Independent (twice), the Daily Mail, Metro, the Daily Express and the Sun have also covered it (to name but a few). 

Given how loud and how extensively-reported this Rhodes Must Fall campaign has been, it's hardly surprising, is it, that news about its founder behaving in such a bullying, racist fashion (to a doubtless underpaid waitress who just happened to have a different skin colour to his own) has aroused so much interest?

Except that the BBC doesn't seem remotely interested in it...at least as far as the BBC News Website and BBC Trending is concerned.

BBC Trending hasn't been shy about promoting Mr. Qwabe and his cause in the past, so you'd have thought that this story might have interested them then - especially as it's a story about race (the subject they're most interested in) and because there's been such a huge social media reaction to it. Oddly, however, they don't appear to be touching the story with a ten-foot bargepole. 

Why ever not? Is it because they are so 'right-on' in their ever-so-Guardian-like fashion that they think that certain kinds of racism are acceptable? 

The latest BBC Trending article, if you were wondering, is race-related. It's about how some superhero fans "want to keep The Flash's love interest black".

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Is the BBC 'Judeophobic' or just 'anti-Zio'?

How is the BBC handling the antisemitism crisis in the Labour Party? 
There seems to be a split between the camp who want to treat it as honestly and impartially as they can without upsetting too many Muslims, and the camp that has gone rogue. 

I almost see a hideous parallel with Ken Livingstone’s assertion that Hitler supported Zionism before he went mad and killed some Jews. 

We know the BBC is institutionally pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist. I mean, from top to bottom. 

We know this because they magnify every detail of what they see as Israel’s human rights violations and crimes against humanity, without noticing any of the numerous and blatantly obvious examples of human rights violations and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel’s enemies - against their own populace as well as Israel’s. 

However, we are where we are, and the BBC’s failure to notice the antisemitism in the Arab world is something we have to deal with, until some kind of miracle occurs.

Also, the BBC is obliged to be seen to be impartial, and many of them do the best they can to confine their prejudices to Twitter and leave them there the minute they put on their BBC hats.

However, the camp that has ‘gone mad’ (or gone rogue) is alive and well. 

There was a prime example of that on this morning’s The Big Questions. Someone decided that it would be good for the ratings to invite onto the panel Zionists and anti-Zionists to discuss the question: “Is anti-Zionism anti-semitic?” By doing so, equal credence is given to the opinions of both sides. 

Did they think someone like Tony Greenstein or prof Moshé Machover, a dissident Israeli and  an anti-Zionist, (who ruthlessly exploit their AsaJew status to protect them from accusations of antisemitism) would ever admit for one second that anti-Zionism was antisemitic?

If you were hoping for a rational debate, would you invite, say, Adolf Eichmann and David Irving into the studio to discuss antisemitism? Perhaps you could ask them if they thought  Haj Amin al-Husseini was antisemitic. I’m sure that would generate a productive debate.

not antisemitic

No-one will admit to being antisemitic. I daresay not even Raza Nadim of MPACUK.

Pitting the likes of Louise Ellman, Angela Epstein and Joy Wolfe against these volatile and belligerent racists was mischievous and sensationalist, and the people who decided to do that clearly regard the whole thing as nothing more than populist entertainment.

In sharp contrast, Andrew Marr’s programme was the model of sanity. I must admit I found the idea of appointing Mark Regev as Israel’s new Ambassador to Britain as quite a risky move. He has already earned himself a reputation as apologist for an unpopular government, which seems to be an opinion shared by all and sundry in the UK. Every time he has appeared on our screens he has faced hostile and aggressive questioning, and is regarded as a figure of hate and bile by the pro-Palestinian community.
What chance has he of charming the British? However, Andrew Marr was respectful, and let him speak, and he was eloquent and measured. Diane Abbott, on the other hand, was evasive and uncomfortable. It was she who was given the role of defending the indefensible. Andrew Marr was okay.

Back to Newsnight. The one with Emily Maitlis, doing her best to play the hand she was dealt by the rogue faction, for it must have been they who invited a notorious activist for the Palestinian cause, and, let’s face it, a rabid Jew-hater, into the studio to demonise Israel.   
“Listen. I am an expert on people being uprooted, and transported. I am a Palestinian. And I and hundreds and thousands of Palestinians were really and properly transported from our homeland, many into refugee camps so it wasn’t an idea, it wasn’t a little thing on Facebook, it was a reality. I know all about that.”

It’s understandable that Ghada Karmi wants us to see it this way. To give her the benefit of the doubt, she probably genuinely sees it that way herself.
But you have to concede, whichever side you’re on, that Ghada has adopted the emotive term ‘transported’ for a very good reason. It emotes Jews riding in cattle trucks to the death camps. You might call this a kind of cultural appropriation.

History tells us that the Palestinian Nakba was not ‘transportation’. On other occasions Ghada herself has used the more accurate term: ‘fled’. 
The fact is that Karmi is a well-known activist who devotes herself to advocating the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ‘homeland’, Israel. Several million of them, wielding the symbolic key.

This blog by Noru Tsalic puts the other side of the story:
“ the vast majority of ‘Palestine refugees’ have not fled from anywhere or anything – in fact they tend to live in the countries where they were born, many of them for 3-4 generations.”

To qualify as a Palestinian refugee, you just have to be the descendant (paternal line only) of someone who resided in the British Mandate of Palestine for a minimum of two years before 1948. Your qualifying ancestor could have been a worker from Jordan “who, in 1946, found work harvesting oranges in a Jewish orchard.” 
The original refugees are currently outnumbered by UNRWA employees who are funded by taxpayers to feed, clothe and supply these people and their 4 million plus descendants with healthcare and education, etc. 
This preferential (and incomprehensible) interpretation of refugee entitlement is uniquely applicable to Palestinian refugees. No others on this Earth.

As for being uprooted or ‘transported’, Arab leaders were responsible for creating the 1948 exodus, using scare tactics so that the intended Arab war of the destruction of the State of Israel could go ahead unimpeded. They promised the Jews would be defeated in a few days. Some Arabs chose to flee, escape, shelter, while others stayed where they were. 
“In April 1948 great-great-granddaddy fled to Jordan, having heard that the Jews are coming to kill all men, rape all women and eat all babies.”

I don’t know Ghada Karmi’s particular story, but she likes to say that her family were transported. Perhaps they were driven out, perhaps they were amongst the ones who made a wrong decision, and fled; unlike the Arab families who chose to stay where they were, and made the right decision.  You start a war, you risk losing it.
 The irony of Ghada Kharni’s position is that the whole catastrophe could have been averted, but for the Arabs’ hatred of Jews.  Pretending that anti-Zionism is ‘nothing to do with’ antisemitism is ludicrous. The hatred still stands, as virulent as ever, and even more pernicious when disguising itself as something else.

Emily Maitlis started questioning Karmi, using the tactic that flummoxed Malia Bouattia on Channel 4. Why do you only criticise the State of Israel and no other country? Both Ghada Karmi and Malia Bouattia could only reply: “But we’re only talking about Israel”

"Everyone howls at batty Ken - but they wouldn't dare tackle racist Muslims"
“On visits to the Muslim world, from Egypt to Iran, Iraq and Jordan, via the Israeli-occupied West Bank, I have repeatedly met foul and bigoted opinions about Jews which people in this country would be ashamed to speak out loud. 
I have no doubt that there are plenty of Muslims who do not harbour such views. But there are those who do, and British political parties which seek the support of Muslims have often been coy about challenging this. As for all these people who have suddenly got so exercised about Judophobia, and wildly worked up about Ken Livingstone’s batty views on Zionism (standard issue on the far Left for decades), I have some questions for them: 
Are you prepared to put the same energy into challenging and denouncing Judophobia among the Palestinians you support abroad, and the British Muslims whose votes you seek here?

On The Big Questions Tony Greenstein couldn’t stop screaming, and he behaved in one of the rudest and dare I say most unhinged manner I’ve ever seen on TBQs, and that’s saying something;  but he did manage to ask a question that sounded plausible: 
Why is it that a Palestinian Arab refugee who was born in Jerusalem can’t go back to his place of birth, when I, a Jew, who was born in Britain, have the right to go and live there? 
Rational as that question may sound, no-one reminded him that Israel’s Right of Return is devised as a safe haven for Jews, should the genocidal antisemitism that motivated Hitler ever resurge. Never again, remember? Angela Epstein did remind him that AsaJew, he would not be immune from such a fate, however passionately he had sided with the Islamists. 

"dropping white phosphorous on children"

The final BBC programme I have to mention is Any Questions and Any AnswersAnita Anand was obviously out of her depth and too ill-informed to chair the discussion properly. Do BDS-advocating ‘AsaJews’ and ‘Jews for Jeremy’ really represent the majority of callers? 
Anita Anand sounded irritable when addressing Jonathan Hoffman. One gets the feeling she’s not a fan. 

When sensitive topics like this one come up, the BBC should employ someone capable of responding in an informed  fashion.  Ignorance is no defence. 
While the Labour party is examining its morals, the BBC needs to have a good look at its own. Preferably not under the chairpersonship of Shami Chakrabarti. 

Jeremy Bowen is Back

Jeremy Bowen, after a lull, has been busy again on Twitter

He's back in Jerusalem and marked his arrival in the area by tweeting the following:

You probably won't be surprised that he then immediately got down to 'business as usual' by tweeting this:

Then came two tweets relaying Palestinian anger at the killing of a "mum" and her brother, complete with photos of sad children, "killed by Israeli forces". The family "reject the claim" from Israel that they were attacking the Israelis. Jeremy doesn't provide the Israeli side (and, from given what's been going on, I'm strongly betting - despite Jeremy's tweets - that they were trying to kill some Israelis).

Then comes another tweet about "the wall":

Next comes a long sequence of wonderful photos from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the miracle of fire from Christ's tomb for the Orthodox Easter (suggesting that Jeremy Bowen - if he took the photos - might be better employed as a photographer than a senior BBC editor):

But, alas, after that, it's then straight back to 'business as usual, with more photos 'showing'  Israeli 'meanness':

And (some) people wonder why the BBC gets accused of heavy anti-Israel bias? Well, the above gives the answer, doesn't it?

Now, in fairness to the BBC's Middle East editor, he did also re-tweet the following re Ken Livingstone:

Yes, Jeremy may be distressingly biased against Israel but he's prepared to re-tweet something about Ken Livingstone being a long-standing problem for the Labour Party. 'I'm no anti-Semite then', Jeremy seems to be saying here.

Part of the problem though, Jeremy Bowen, isn't he? His tweets, as ever, seem completely one-sided. They only add to the demonisation of Israel, don't they?

Bye, bye, Barack!

Oh my! Tonight's BBC One evening news bulletin had a feature on President Obama's final White House correspondents' dinner. 

Reeta Chakrabarti was all smiles while introducing it. 

And BBC reporter Laura Bicker, reporting from the event, waxed whimsical, saying "Entertainer-in-Chief Barack Obama has left a legacy of laughs".

They do like Barack at the Beeb, don't they?

Naturally, his biggest fan at the BBC, Mark Mardell, also covered the event on The World This Weekend.  The President is "enjoying" himself, said Mark. 

Same joke at Donald Trump's expense in both reports. 

"Easy slogans"

Mark Mardell's The World This Weekend tried to look beyond what Mark himself called the "easy slogans" of Brexit supporters about us "regaining control of our borders" by looking at what leaving the EU might actually mean for immigration to the UK. 

Now, some might say that "easy slogans" is a sneering, biased way of characterising the rhetoric used by leading Brexit campaigners, but Mark Mardell has never been one to let 'BBC impartiality' get in the way of his reporting. So that's all right then.

He then talked to John Vine, former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration here in the UK, asking him about UKIP's Australian-style points system for immigration. He said that Mr. Vine "knows more than most" about such things (which some might call 'the argument from authority fallacy', and others 'bias by labelling'). Mr. Vine was very downbeat about it. He described the difficulties of such a policy: lots more bureaucracy and a "considerable cost" for the British taxpayer, including if we want to extend it to EU citizens.. It certainly wouldn't "be simple" to extend that to EU citizens, he said, repeating his earlier points.

Mark then said that both Michael Gove and Boris Johnson also back this (just-trashed) Australian-style system.

Mark then introduced Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch (neutral in the EU debate). Alp doesn't want such a system. He wants work permits given to those skilled people we need and work permits denied to low-skilled workers we don't. Mark raised "a problem with that". Alp called for better-skilled border agency staff.

Mark, continuing his narrative, then said (in response to Alp's comments) that if we imposed such restrictions other EU countries would react in kind - and that means that all the other 26 passport-free countries in the Schengen Zone would have to follow suit. German CDU veteran Elmar Brok (a very strong EU supporter) then reinforced his message. British citizens working in the EU would suffer, said Elmar, and - like Norway and Switzerland - we'd have to obey EU rules or suffer "major economic implications". 

Mark then cited a "new study" by the "independent" NIESR (and "independent" was his word - again possibly leading 'some' to cry 'Bias by labelling!'). We'll need those EU workers, according to the NIESR - in contrast to "what Leave supporters might expect", Mark said.

The NIESR says the "prospect of new controls alarmed many employers, particularly in construction, hospitality and the food and drinks industry". Dr. Heather Rolfe from the NIESR duly appeared to say that such employers see no other alternative to EU workers as we Brits aren't keen on doing such jobs (we all want to be footballers). Mark asked her (in a downbeat voice) what employers thought about us leaving the EU. Such employers are "very concerned", she said - especially about the long-term.

Tim Martin of Wetherspoon is "passionately" pro-Brexit, Mark said, but doesn't want such migration controls. Mark laid out the success of Wetherspoon's (£112 million profit last year) and how many people it employs nationwide (more than 35,000 people). Oddly we didn't hear why Mr. Martin wants us to leave the EU. Mark only gave us his comments on why he thinks "migration has been a good thing."

Tim praised the Eastern European workers who work for his company (and, from my own experience, rightly so). Mark asked him whether "like most other companies in that area" his company "employs a fair number of migrant workers from Europe".Tim praised them again. He wants workers to come to the 'remaining EU' to keep on coming and says that "a democratically-elected government in the UK" will decide how to manage that. 

Then came a short, sharp interview with Arron Banks, leader of the Leave.EU campaign. He takes the UKIP line on post-Brexit immigration. Predictably, Mark Mardell's questions grew longer and more challenging, piling on some of the anti-Brexit/pro-migration points we'd heard before. Mr. Banks was short and sharp in response.

And that was that.

And that follows a pattern that is becoming all too familiar from The World This Weekend during this run-up to the EU referendum.

I believe that I've described what happened fairly. And I believe that I've shown the problem of bias to be firing on various cylinders (pro-Remain, pro-immigration). Please listen for yourselves though and tell me if I'm wrong.

Health warning

This week's More or Less on Radio 4 returned to the EU referendum issue and talked about the (mass) immigration figures missing from George Osborne and the Treasury's heavyweight/dodgy dossier about the dangers of leaving the EU.

Curiously, it didn't do so in a noticeably debunking spirit - even though it was obvious from what we heard that the Treasury report had been economical with the actualité (as they say in Brussels).

As he has been doing for some time, Jonathan Portes of the NIESR pointed out the mysterious discrepancies between the official figures for EU migration to the UK and the vastly larger NI numbers appearing in the records. Has EU immigration to the UK been vastly underestimated?

'It's hard to know' was the conclusion, but there's probably been something of an underestimate.

The latter part of the segment then turned to the possible consequences of that 'underestimate' - specifically the economic benefits and costs of immigration. Here Jonathan Portes of the NIESR pointed out the benefits and, at considerably less length, Matthew Pollard of Migration Watch pointed out some possible negatives.

So the immigration issue was covered, albeit - costs and benefits-wise - tilted strongly towards the pro-immigration side of the debate.

The thing that particularly struck me here though was the way More or Less introduced Matthew Pollard of Migration Watch. 

In contrast to Mr. Portes (introduced as "Jonathan Portes from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research") or, say, Madeleine Sumption from the (clealy pro-migration) Migration Observatory (who More or Less recently introduced as "Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory"), this is how Mr. Pollard was introduced:
I spoke to Migration Watch - a think tank that studies migration into the UK and has a clear position: that current levels of migration are completely unsustainable.
Would you ever get such a clear 'health warning' about a pro-migration think tank from a BBC programme? 


Oh, and The Andrew Marr Show also had an interview with Sir Lenny Henry. 

Sir Lenny is best known these days for talking a lot about race. He's now produced a blues album that sings a lot about race. 

Andrew Marr was all agog to hear him talk about race. 


And the programme ended with Sir Lenny singing one of his songs. I instantly thought of the 'Pub singer' round in Reeves and Mortimer's Shooting Stars and chortled.

I suppose I shouldn't have done that. I should have thought about race instead.

Is it wrong not to think about race anywhere near as often as Sir Lenny Henry and the BBC think about race?

It probably is, but I always associate 'thinking too much about race' with 'racism'. I suppose I ought to just put on my vinyl copy of Theophilus P. Wildebeeste's hilariously-titled The Loin King then and get with the groove.

Andrew Marr and Diane Abbott

Andrew Marr's interview today with Diane Abbott was extraordinary.

As you can see from the video, it's already being described as a 'car crash interview', but aren't all interviews with Diane Abbott 'car crash interviews' these days? 

And to have a 'car crash interview' at the hands of Andrew Marr? That takes some doing, but Diane managed it effortlessly today.

It never seems to get to her though, does it? And I think that's because she comes to each and every interview clad in seemingly-impenetrable armour: the armour of her own supremely-confident stupidity.

All credit to Andrew then for at least trying to penetrate her armour today. 

But, alas, Andrew Marr is no Andrew Neil and he, very evidently, found it extremely frustrating.

Her armour seemed newly coated with an extra layer of ultra-confident doltishness today, so there was no way he was going to dismount her from her high horse of total and utter ignorance. (No offence!) 

"Slightly fruity" UKIP

It's a funny thing. Never mind how many millions of people vote for UKIP or how many council seats they hold (around 500 at the moment), you could pretty much bet on a BBC interviewer making this kind of crack at some stage during an interview with someone from UKIP, couldn't you?: 
UKIP politician: Well, we stand for direct democracy. You know, we believe that big issues should be put to people and people should be able to call local referendums on really big issues. But you will also get, you know, with UKIP politicians at all levels, you will get people who are not afraid to speak their mind. And we’ve made some big calls in politics over the course of the last ten years, particularly  about opening up the doors to former Communist countries and what it would mean for us here and we’ve been right. So if you want people to represent you who are not tied by political correctness and will stand up and fight for what they believe in, we’re the guys.
BBC interviewer: Outspoken, slightly fruity councillors who want lots of referendums. I’m not sure how popular that’s going to be.
That, of course, was Andrew Marr and Nigel Farage this morning

Andrew Marr and Mark Regev

Andrew Marr's interview with Mark Regev this morning is well worth catching up with if you've not already seen it. Ambassador Regev (as he now is) was on excellent form throughout, e.g.:
Mark Regev: You know, if historically anti-Semites targeted individual Jews, that they were evil, that they were behind the scenes, that they were manipulators, all the typical anti-Semitic stereotypes; if you listen very carefully today modern anti-Semites target the collective Jew, the Jewish state. Israel is evil. Israel must be eliminated. Israel is a perversion. The very same slurs are now targeting the Jewish state.
Andrew Marr: But you know, also people attack, for instance, Russia. They say Russia under Putin has become a dangerous rogue and in some respects dark and evil state. That’s not Russia-phobia. That’s attacking the Russian government.
Mark Regev: But no one denies Russia’s right to sovereignty and independence. No one denies the Russian people’s right to national self-determination. Why do they deny my people’s right to national self-determination? 
Incidentally, I do hope Andrew Marr meant that question purely in the spirit of 'devil's advocate' interviewing, as it would be a particularly dopey question to have put if he'd actually meant it. 

Andrew on the whole was OK though and let Mr. Regev speak, though I think introducing him as "a controversial figure" was unnecessary, and I do wonder just how representative his "lot of Jewish friends" really are: 
I’ve talked to a lot of Jewish friends of mine recently who feel that the actions of the Israeli government and the apparent lack of interest of the Israeli government in hearing criticism from outside has made their lives as Jews more difficult in Europe. 
Also to be noted here I think was Mr. Marr describing his regular sofa guest (on the show, that is) Shami Chakrabarti as "the very, very highly respected Shami Chakrabarti". Well, speak for yourself Andrew! (Ed - I think he already was doing).

Andrew Marr, Bake Off and Owen Jones

Continuing the theme of this morning's BBC Breakfast paper review, Andrew Marr & guests gave short shrift to the mooted plan to encourage the BBC to behave responsibly towards its non-licence-fee-funded commercial rivals by moving shows like Strictly and Bake Off to slightly different times:
There's an idea that popular programmes - programmes that are doing too well - should be pushed off prime time. There's the Sunday Telegraph splashing on that: 'BBC faces checks into the quality of its shows'. If they're too good, off they go! Erm, that's my bias there for you!
You said it, Andrew!

All the guests were of the same mind, with Owen Jones - whose article claiming the BBC is biased towards the Right ('It's the BBC's rightwing bias that is the threat to democracy and journalism') remains one of the most tweeted 'BBC-bashing' articles on Twitter (and is probably one of the examples the IEA had it mind when they demolished the BBC's beloved 'claims from both sides' argument) - showing his true feelings and showering the BBC with praise. (Why wouldn't he like the BBC really? He's never off it.) 

I do like AM's introductions to the press review though. Did Andrew Pierce draw the short straw today?:
And reviewing the papers: a journalist who's become one of the most popular voices on the Left of politics, Owen Jones; the Sun's star columnist Jane Moore; and the waspish political observer from the Daily Mail, Andrew Pierce. 

Keeping tabs on BBC One's News at Six - Update

If you were wondering what's happened to ITBB's survey of BBC One's main evening news bulletin (News at Six on weekdays, the early evening news bulletins at weekends) and its EU referendum coverage (since the referendum's official launch in mid-April), well, here's a month-end update.

If you remember, three things are being counted.


The first measure is a simple comparison of the amount of time given to direct quotes from each side [actually clips of people speaking]. This has worked out as follows (with 'n/a' signalling no EU referendum-related feature or no direct speech):
30/4 = n/a
29/4 = 0s Remain, 28s Leave
28/4 = 81s Remain, 12s Leave
27/4 = n/a
26/4 = n/a
25/4 = 35s Remain, 24s Leave
24/4 = n/a
23/4 = 51s Remain, 0s Leave
22/4 = 99s Remain, 21s Leave
21/4 = n/a
21/4 = n/a
19/4 = 23s Remain, 67s Leave
18/4 = 96s Remain, 70s Leave
17/4 = 21s Remain, 39s Leave
16/4 = 23s Remain, 21s Leave
15/4 - 58s Remain, 31s Leave
That works out at:
Remain: 8 minutes seconds
Leave: 5 minutes 13 seconds
i.e. nearly 3 minutes more for the Remain side - a startling imbalance.

Caveats are, however, needed. This (intentionally) ignores the content on what was being said. So if, say, Nigel Farage was slagging off other Leave campaigners rather than making a point in favour of Brexit or Barack Obama was telling the youth of Britain to remain outward-looking as regards the rest of the world without being completely explicit that he was meaning 'vote Remain', or if Mrs May was sending out mixed signals in a speech on security, well, it still all goes into those figures.


The second measure is whether the opening headlines favour one side or the other, That's been trickier to keep an eye on because quite a lot of the above (a) have featured in the headlines and (b) some of the headlines have done the 'someone says....but critics have reacted by saying' kind thing. So this have been refined to which side's angle comes first in either the headlines or the whole bulletin. Here's what's happened so far:
15/4 Remain [George Osborne warns that mortgage rates could go up if the UK votes to leave]
16/4 Leave [Boris tells Barack Obama to keep his nose out]
17/4 Remain [A French government minister saying Britain would have a much weaker hand when negotiating trade deals if it voted to leave the EU]
18/4 Remain [The United Kingdom will be permanently poorer, says George Osborne, if voters decide to leave the EU]
19/4 Leave [Michael Gove accuses the Remain side of scaremongering and using patronising arguments]
20/4 Remain [20/4 Eight former U.S. Treasury Secretaries have signed an article in the Times warning of the risk of Britain leaving the European Union]
22/4 Remain [Barack Obama's big 'back of the queue' warning]
23/4 Remain [Barack Obama implores the young not to pull back from the rest of the world]
25/4 Remain [Theresa May says we should vote to stay in EU for security but leave the ECHR]
28/4 Remain [David Cameron campaigning alongside former TUC boss Brendan Barber and calling for Jeremy Corbyn to join him]
29/4 Leave  [Nigel Farage criticises other Leave campaigners saying they aren't the right people to talk about the EU and immigration]
That works out as:
...another striking imbalance.

Two further things need adding to this though. 

Firstly, the above list didn't feature another item which perhaps ought to have been included. The 30/4 bulletin featured a report from Joe Lynam on the sharp cut to mobile phone roaming charges in the EU. The move was shown as being (understandably) very popular with all the report's vox pops.The European Commission was credited as being responsible for this popular move. (Interestingly, this report was a toned-down version of one that had been running on the BBC's lunchtime bulletin where Joe Lynam had said "These price caps will only apply for a year. After that roaming charges will be scrapped entirely. But that applies to EU member states only. So it Britain votes to leave UK mobile phone companies could reimpose higher fees, unless, of course, the government put in place its own ceilings".) And that followed the 29/4 bulletin's focus on how the EU's deal with Turkey seems to be working with 0 migrants arriving on Lesbos that day.

Secondly, the above list shows that the BBC has been focusing on substantial points and warnings from the Remain side about what a Brexit might mean while, in contrast, focusing pretty much exclusively on the Leave side's personal criticisms of others (of Obama, the Remain campaign and their own side!). 


Daniel Sandford

The final measure we've been looking at involves counting up the number of debunkings (eg. from Reality Check) included in each bulletin. This has proved surprisingly easy as only two bulletins have included such a feature! The first was the 15/4 bulletin which debunked the Leave claim that we'd have an extra £350 million a week to spend on the NHS if we left the EU. The second was the 25/4 bulletin which looked at EU migration figures. This was less clear-cut as to who it favoured, though (to my mind) it was very much tilted against the Leave side as well. 

Here's a transcript of it for you to make up your own minds (with a little colour-coding from me to 'help you mind your decision'!):
George Aligiah: So Britain's ability to control immigration is one of the big themes being talked about today. Our Home Affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford is here with me. Let's get this right. First, what's the position now. What are the numbers?
Daniel SandfordWell, George, there's no doubt that the European Union freedom of movement rules have made a significant contribution to the numbers of foreign citizens choosing to come and live in the UK. They're not quite as big a proportion as you might expect. If you take British citizens out of the equation, then net migration into the UK was 363,000 in the year to September - that's the number arriving minus the number leaving. Both the Remain and the Leave camps agree that we can do nothing at the moment to control the number of EU citizens coming to live here, though we still do have border controls. We can still check on people arriving and also under EU rules we do have the power to expel people on security grounds, for example.
George Aligiah: All right, let's just look at the EU migration. What's the difference likely to be between a vote to Remain and a vote to Leave?
Daniel SandfordWell, if the UK left the EU then in theory migration from the European Union could be completely stopped. However, presumably at the moment of leaving we'd want to do a trade deal with EU and when Switzerland, for example, did a trade deal with the EU they had to accept some of the EU freedom of movement rules. Now they have a much higher proportion of EU citizens living in Switzerland than we do, for example, of non-British EU citizens living the UK. They're trying to get out of that agreement at the moment but to do that they might have to abandon their trade deal. Also, would we actually say that no EU citizens - no German doctors, no Hungarian economists, no Lithuanian farm workers - could come at all to the UK? Presumably not. If the economy stayed strong then even if we left the EU presumably there would be some EU citizens still coming to the UK. On the other hand, if we remain in the UK then the freedom of movement rules will certainly stay, and with other countries like Turkey and Albania potentially joining the EU further down the line the pool of people who might want to come here could actually go up - unless we change the rules of course about new countries joining.
Very arguably then, the Debunkings tally is now:
Of Leave claims2
Of Remain claims

All three measures then have suggested the same bias: Pro-Remain voices have been heard significantly more than pro-Leave voices and pro-Remain angles have led most of the coverage (and been more helpful to them); and the 'debunkings' have also tilted in the same direction.

All in all then, this does add up to quite a dramatic picture of BBC pro-Remain bias in action, doesn't it? 

Institutional bias at the BBC

The free-market think thank the Institute for Economic Affairs has produced a new report calling for the BBC to be privatised

Part of the report looks at the subject matter of this very blog: BBC bias. Ryan Bourne analyses the date (pp 67-97) and Stephen Davies considers why the BBC might be biased (pp 100-112). 

Both are subtle and nuanced takes, emphasising how difficult bias can be to nail down and how it isn't as simple as just 'left-wing bias' or 'right-wing' bias. They argue that the BBC's bias doesn't result from a conspiracy. They say it's institutional, arising from things like the composition of the BBC’s staff, its internal culture and certain structural features of the BBC. They say it's also partly produced by the world-view of the kind of person who chooses to work at the BBC, "combined with the consensual views of the political class, which has come to have an ever-closer connection to all the mass media". The BBC's "commitment to and focus on a received or conventional wisdom that is not the settled view of the population as a whole (to the very small extent that such a thing ever exists) means that certain views are marginalised and either misrepresented or even ignored" - a tendency intensified by the modern media's obsession with seeing political and intellectual divisions "in binary terms".

On the issue of 'complaints from both sides', Ryan Bourne has this to say:
Unsurprisingly, the BBC itself is extremely defensive about all of these ‘accusations’. It seizes on reports that dismiss accusations of ‘left-of-centre’ bias and uses the fact that it gets criticised from left and right to robustly defend itself against charges of political or ideological favouritism. Yet, few suggest that the BBC is overtly and deliberately biased at all times, particularly towards or against a political party. It is more that an institutional worldview sometimes appears to shape coverage, whether through decisions on what to cover, what to include in a story or what to admit. Just because figures on the left and right sometimes moan about the effects of this world-view does not implicitly make the BBC ‘neutral’.
The data in the report (courtesy of David Keighley & Co. at News-watch) is interesting in its own right. 

From reading other pieces about the report (such as Toby Young at the Spectator and Iain Martin at CapX) it's clear that the figures on Radio 4's Thought For The Day have caught people's attention. They certainly caught mine. Of course, they show that John Bell, Giles Fraser and the rest of the TFTD gang are, on the whole, as left-wing as we already knew them to be, but it's the sheer scale of the anti-capitalist bias across the spot's output that's so striking. Negative commentaries about business outnumbered positive portrayals by a factor of more than eight to one.

The bigger study of Today's EU coverage is even more damning though. In contrast to British public opinion which has long had either a substantial minority or a small majority wanting us to get out of the EU, Today has persistently under-represented such voices:
Fresh News-watch analysis commissioned for this chapter has sought to combine all News-watch survey sample data on Radio 4’s Today programme between March 2004 and June 2015. In the monitored sample, the Today programme included 4,275 guest speakers on EU themes. Just 132 of these (3.2 per cent) were identifiably in favour of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Furthermore, 72 per cent of withdrawalist speakers were representatives of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and over a third (37 per cent) of all withdrawalist contributions were from Nigel Farage alone. Left-leaning withdrawalist voices have accounted for just 0.07 per cent of all EU speakers over this period (three appearances from Labour Party supporters and one representative from the Socialist Labour Party). 
One thing that can be said in favour of the BBC during this present EU referendum period is that they have redressed this staggering imbalance somewhat, most strikingly by featuring Labour Party withdrawalists (Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart especially) much more often. I myself have been looking out to see if that's happened - and it has.

Going off at a tangent, maybe, but in the section on 'health warnings', there's a chart showing how certain think tanks are described by the BBC. It got me thinking about that most 'influential' of 'independent' think tanks, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). It is often given such labels by the BBC (along with 'respected'). As the IEA report says, such adjectives constitute "a powerful, positive signal that the viewpoint should be taken seriously and is untainted by political biases." When someone from the IFS passes judgement on, say, the Budget or what a Brexit might mean economically or on mass immigration's benefits and costs, it is automatically given considerable weight and status. Does it deserve to be so exalted by the BBC? Is it always right? Is its track record so impeccable? Why does no one ever seem to ask that, or check that?

As I say though, that's just an aside arising from the report.