Sunday, 22 May 2016

Wrongly claimed

Tonight's BBC One evening news bulletin began with the following headline:
Referendum battle lines are drawn over the Health Service and the chances of Turkey joining the EU. With controversy over what future migration levels might be David Cameron clashes with one of his own ministers on whether Britain could veto Turkish membership. The head of NHS England says the Health Service would be effected in a UK exit caused an economic slowdown. We'll be exploring the latest arguments from the two sides, with less than five weeks to go.
The bulletin (courtesy of BBC reporter Alex Forsyth) quickly - and explicitly - ruled who was right and who was wrong over that Turkey 'controversy': 
Sitting on Europe's south-east flank, Turkey's now at the centre of this referendum battle. Its role in tackling the migrant crisis has renewed talk of it joining the EU, and that's allowed those who want the UK to leave to raise questions about immigration and security. Like this minister [Penny Mordaunt] who today wrongly claimed the UK had no power to stop Turkey joining.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Penny! (according to the BBC).

We then got clips of Dave and Boris both saying (in the past) that Turkey should join the EU.

Then Alex did a 'Reality Check' for us. She 'made it clear' that Turkey wasn't going to be joining the EU any time soon. And blog favourite Prof. Anand Menon (the one who did that massively pro-EU series on the EU for The World at One) then duly appeared as Alex's 'talking head' to say (correctly) that the UK has traditionally been Turkey's biggest cheerleader as regards its entry into the EU and to emphasise the point that it's not "anywhere near becoming an EU member". And Alex then capped that by saying of Turkey's prospective EU membership, "It is in fact [emphasis hers] some way off..." (BBC message reinforcement on overdrive, I think, here!)

So relax about Turkey! (And don't, whatever you do, mention that Turkey has already been granted free visa access to the EU as part of the panicky EU-Turkey migrant deal!)

And then it was onto Steven Simons warnings of the dangers to the NHS from a Brexit.

The bulletin gave Mr Simons' warning (on the Marr show), then featured a clip (from a week ago) of Bank of England governor Mark Carney saying leaving the EU would result in a recession. Ellie Price of the BBC said that Mr Simons (unlike those Leave campaigners) took Mr Carney's warnings "very seriously" and cited his own warning about 130,000 EU NHS workers quitting the NHS in the wake of a Brexit. Ellie called his intervention "highly significant" and "highly political" - and "highly unwelcome" for some. She then, for illustration of the last point, featured a brief clip of Lord Owen (of David Owen fame) huffily making an unpleasant personal attack on Mr Simons (accusing him of making "a very considerable mess of" running the NHS). Then came a clip of a Vote Leave campaign video and its "claim" that leaving the EU would relieve pressure on service and free up extra resources with that famous £350 million a week figure - at which the BBC's Ellie said; 
That's a figure Remain campaigners point out is inaccurate when you factor in the rebate Britain receives for its EU contributions.
Ellie then ended with a 'they say this, they say that' thing, oh so impartially.

Now if that's impartial, then I'm one of Boris's bananas.

Let me finish my point!

I was toying with the idea of switching over to ITV after Andrew Marr and before Andrew Neil  to see what Peston’s show was like (I hear David Cameron was a guest) but when I saw who was on the front row of TBQs I stuck around to see what Adam Deen, Douglas Murray, Peter Hitchens and Kate Smurthwaite would have to say. 

The question was to do with the ‘Prevent’ strategy. “Is countering extremism compatible with freedom of religion?”. (No-one even agrees about the exact definition of extremism, so the  programme was doomed to go nowhere)

Today’s representatives of Islam were Dr. Rizwaan Sabir (Lecturer Liverpool John Moores University) and Mohammed Khaliel. True to form, they were pugnacious and reluctant to let anyone else speak, but that’s probably why the producers invited them on. Half the precious air time was wasted by people asking if they might be allowed to finish their point.

Dr. Sabir said there was “no empirical evidence that an extreme form of Islamic Ideology is in fact the cause of terrorism.”

Peter Hitchens made a strangely ill thought-through argument, which seemed to be that freedoms of “thought” should never be impinged upon - including the thoughts and words of proponents of radical Islam - until actual violence is involved. 

He said that acts of terrorism have always been undertaken by petty criminals, drinkers and drug addicts, not theologians or scholars of Islam. You don’t see many imams carrying out their own dirty business, that’s true. They’re too fond of their privileged position in this life to splat prematurely on to the next.
The rather large flaw in his argument is that those freethinking theologians and scholars are in the business of manipulating the petty criminals into doing their bidding, lured by the promise of martyrdom and all those seductive virgins. 
I assume Peter Hitchens can only think this because he fears that his own Christian views might be criminalised, were the Prevent strategy to be applied too rigorously.  He might incur an ASBO.

The thing that never fails to amaze me is the set. Who in their right mind could have deliberately picked the theme of orange, blue, bronze(quilted), blue, yellow, purple, ochre, blue, veridian(quilted), blue, tangerine and yellow vertical stripes as a backcloth to this programme. Even before anyone has said a word it’s highly depressive. 

It’s even worse than Andrew Marr’s new set, with the orange upholstery and the vermillion cushions. 

Good grief.

Introspective post

Although I stand firmly by my BBC EU referendum stats, a little voice in my head is sounding a note of warning. 

My inner voice is telling me that my stats are coming close to suggesting that the BBC is actively and exclusively working for Remain (to exaggerate slightly) and that this must either be (a) evidence that there's a major problem with BBC pro-Remain bias or (b) evidence that I'm cherry-picking.

Naturally, as I said two paragraphs ago (if you recall), I stand firmly by my stats. I've chosen to monitor some major BBC programmes, pre-announced most of what I've subsequently monitored, followed them through after pre-announcing them, and provided full details of the evidence I've found. I don't think I could have been more scrupulous.

And they've showed what they've showed: some pretty striking pro-Remain bias over time.

But, that little voice in my head tells me: "That's not the whole story, is it?"

And, of course, it isn't. 

And for all sorts of unexpected people - from the Daily Mail to Toby Young and Bill Cash MP - to give the BBC a pretty clean bill of health over their EU referendum coverage, there must be more to it than that. What are they seeing?

And there is, of course, more to it than that...

...and I don't just mean Jeremy Paxman's Paxman in Brussels: Who really rules us? (the one the pro-Remain lot are loudly shouting 'Bias!' about).

No, I should have quickly posted about the third instalment of Katie Razzall's Referendum Road feature for Newsnight (from Preston) which, I felt, went quite some way towards showing that she'd moved beyond the pro-EU bias of her first report (and well done her!):

A blogger should always mention such things, so mea culpa for not doing so much earlier.

And (h/t David Keighley) there have been some tough interviews with pro-Remain interviewees (other than those by Andrew Neil!) - such as Friday's Today interview with the European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan (about 2 hours 40 minutes in), conducted by Nick Robinson, of all people. (That's one I didn't hear at the time. It was a scorcher.)

And with Dateline London improving on EU matters (this week's excellent episode featured blog favourite and leading Leave campaigner Alex Deane) and various other things (some of which I may have mentioned), it's obviously not all one way traffic.

Even my Newsnight monitoring (more on which next weekend), shows that the BBC has upped the number of pro-Brexit voices (though they still lag behind). And Friday night's edition did give George Osborne's pro-Remain scaremongering over housing quite a decent fisking.

As ever (even on black and white TV), nothing's ever entirely black and white (except for skunks). 

But what I'm monitoring (BBC News at Six, Newsnight, More or LessDateline, etc) only shows what I'm monitoring. (Not a tautology, in context).

And the resultant stats only show what they show. (Ditto!)

And they are (except, surprisingly, Dateline) showing a pronounced pro-Remain bias.

Plus, my stats are intended as medium-to-long-term studies rather than mere snapshots.

The BBC itself asks to be judged by medium-to-long-term studies rather than mere snapshots. The medium-term studies (here) are going strongly against them; a few of the snapshots aren't.

Make of that what you will.

Here endeth the case for the Defence.

Harriet Harman crashes her car (again)

While I'm giving credit where credit's due...

It's Andrew Neil again, on BBC One's The Sunday Politics - and, hopefully, this link takes you to the right place to enable you to watch Andrew Neil & Co. debate the issue of the EU and women's rights with Harriet Harman. 

We're firmly in 'car crash interview' territory here....especially from 9:07 in, when AN lists a long list of leading female Leave campaigners and invites Harriet to give an equivalent list. She duly 'does a Harriet' and stonewalls. But it's no good. It's 1-0 to Andrew Neil and Harriet's car is out of control, scraping along dozens of others Remain campaign cars as it hurtles towards disaster. 

It then got even worse for her.

Answering her claims that the EU is good for women's rights, AN then showed her the top 7 people in the EU and asked her if she noticed something common to them all:

After trying to 'do a Harriet' again, she said - more than once - that she didn't know who any of these men are...

...which, given that they include EU Commission President Juncker and EU Council President Tusk (former Polish PM) and European Parliament head (and long-term leading light in the EU's Socialist group - which includes Harriet's Labour!) Mr Schultz, is very hard to believe - except that this is Harriet Harman!

And then, still flailing around, she accused Andrew Neil of picking seven "random" men! AN, of course, immediately disabused her of that suggestion.

She was now not only looking at the smouldering remains of her own car but a twenty-mile pile up behind her (entirely caused by herself)...

...though, also being Harriet, it has to be said that she still didn't bat an eyelid.

Her pro-EU arguments were severely dented by The Sunday Politics though - eyelids or no eyelids.

Credit due

For anyone who read yesterday's post about the Muslim selfie-taker at the 'far-right' rally in Belgium - and 'freelance' reporter Anisa Subedar's part in writing it for BBC Trending - you might be interested (and pleased) to learn that BBC Trending has now posted something about the claims of anti-Semitic social media comments from the Muslim selfie-taker. 

And the BBC Trending headline is pretty explicit too (no ifs, no buts):
Anti-Semitic statements of 'joy and peace' selfie star
"It's a story with a not so pleasant postscript", says the anonymous BBC Trending writer. (Anisa? Not Anisa? - Update: I see she's tweeted about it, so it may very well be her own piece.) 

The article mentions that BBC Trending reported the 'positive' take on the story and then says:
However, since then a series of deeply disturbing anti-Semitic statements made by Ms Belkhiri on social media have come to light.
Trending has approached Ms Belkhiri again for comment but at time of writing has yet to receive a response. 
All credit to them for that. 

And all credit too to all the sites and tweeters who raised concerns about this and achieved this result.

Is it just me....?

Is it me...? But....

Pro-suicide bias

Talking of the BBC's deeply ingrained social liberalism, here's Peter Hitchens in today's Mail on Sunday:
There's no heroism in suicide
Why do BBC bosses love suicide so much? Every hard case of a sick or injured man or woman wanting to end it all gets sympathetic top billing on BBC bulletins. And now the propaganda soap, EastEnders, has treated the fictional suicide of the fictional Peggy Mitchell (played by Dame Barbara Windsor) as a moment of heroism and dignity. 
How can I break it to them that this is only one opinion on a contentious subject, and that they are yet again breaching their obligation to be impartial? 
Suicide leaves many hard wounds behind, and many people still believe it to be wrong. Much can be done to prevent the dying from suffering, the hospice movement needs all the help it can get, and the BBC could do a lot to promote it.
Though I'm a social liberal on such things myself, I can see PH's point about BBC bias here - if he's describing the programme (which I didn't watch) correctly.

If he is describing it correctly, then it's a case of bias (whether we personally care about the bias or not), isn't it?

Whether it's a simple failure to even consider that there could be another perspective on the issue or, perhaps even more worryingly, an unwillingness after recognising that there is such a perspective to duly provide 'balance', Peter seems to have a point here, doesn't he?

Making no bones about transitioning

The topics on this morning's Sunday were, as so often, largely redolent of left-liberal concerns:
(a) Putin and the Patriarch going to Mount Athos in Greece.
(b) transgender Christians.
(c) the Church of Scotland and same-sex marriage.
(d) a multi-faith choir which celebrates multiculturalism.
(e) a relic of St Thomas Becket going to England from Hungary.
(f) the faith of Nelson Mandela, and
(g) a dispute over the World Humanitarian Summit, with Medecins Sans Frontieres refusing to attend.
The bit on a fragment of a bone believed to have been part of the body of St Thomas Becket making its way over to England for the first time in more than 800 years (from Trevor Barnes) was interesting though. Its usual home is the Basilica of Esztergom [pictured above], Hungary’s most important Catholic church. During the heavy oppression of religion under Communist rule, a cult developed around the saint. He was seen as a symbol of resistance to an over-mighty state. (Maybe Brexit supporters could adopt it as their relic too).

On the subject of transgender Christians, I was fascinated at the way guest presenter (and former BBC South Africa correspondent) Mike Wooldridge conducted his interview with two transgender vicars - Rev Rachel Mann and Rev Christina Beardsley [both of whose surnames made me laugh, for some reason]. Rev Mann and Rev Beardsley both believe that being transgender and being Christian are wholly compatible things. 

Though a veteran BBC reporter (with well over 40 years of service for the corporation), Mike conducted the interview as if he was a Radio One Newsbeat reporter (or Stacey Dooley), brimming with understanding and concern for his guests (and their concerns) and sounded fluent in 'transgender-speak' ('transitioning', etc) throughout. 

He even described people who don't accept that being trans is compatible with Christianity as "those who have convinced themselves" that they are incompatible - a somewhat loaded way of characterising such religious 'conservatives'. 

I wish him well when he eventually transitions to being Michaela Wooldridge. 

Unusual things on 'Marr', and that 'Sunday Express' lead story about Turkey and the EU

This morning's Andrew Marr programme did a couple of unusual things during its paper review: 

The clip mentioned in the second tweet there was of Boris a few years back saying that Turkey should be let into the EU and that it's not right that they should be excluded, especially just because they are Muslims.

Both of those things did happen and both of them are unusual. 

Somewhat more usual, however, was Andrew Marr doing a spot of impromptu editorialising and describing the Sunday Express's take on the possibility of huge numbers of Turks moving through the EU to the UK as "much more extreme".

That same headline really isn't getting 'a good press' from the BBC today. Roger Johnson on BBC Breakfast earlier felt the need to add "Of course Turkey is some way to joining the EU yet" after reading it out, and BBC Middle East correspondent Quentin Somerville gave it the full BBC Twitter treatment (albeit pithily), echoing the head of CAABU:

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra on Turkey joining the EU

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain was the paper reviewer on this morning's BBC Breakfast. Here he is discussing Turkey, the EU and racism:
Sally Nugent: In the Observer, you've picked a story about the referendum, Vote Leave campaign. 
Ibrahim Mogra: I mean, the nation has to have this debate. We need to have the referendum and the people will speak for themselves as to which way we should go. But I'm just very, very concerned about the fear-mongering and the headlines that suggest we'll be flooded by Turks coming into this country. Let's put everything into perspective.... 
Roger Johnson: That's if Turkey joins the EU, and that's a huge 'if' anyway, isn't it? 
Ibrahim Mogra: It is a huge 'if' but it's a very exciting 'if' for me, because it's very rich for us as Western nations to have Turkey as part of NATO, to defend our borders, to defend us against any potential attacks or threats and the like, and at the same time we're very reluctant to even consider having them as part of the EU. I think having Turkey within the EU would be a wonderful thing I believe. We already have significant contributions from our Turkish communities within the United Kingdom, hard working people, and dare I say Turkish places are very, very popular with British people to go and have a meal. And how many of us regularly holiday in Turkey? We see Turkey is a very, very safe place... 
Roger Johnson: Although the numbers are going down. People are more wary about travelling to Turkey. 
Ibrahim Mogra: I think the recent terrorism that has peaked in Turkey has been a major reason why maybe numbers have fallen. But prior to that it's been one of the most favourite destinations. We've holidayed in Turkey several times ourselves. You feel very safe going out at night. No fear of being mugged. So to suggest that Turkish people inherently when they come to Britain will be more prone to criminality, etc, I think it not only borders racism, but I think it is quite racist suggestions. Turks have proved to be hard-working contributors to our country and our society. And, of course, there's always going to be movement from one country to another. So why should it be any different if Turkey does join the EU? I think it would be great.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Last Whites of the East End

BBC 1 on Tuesday 24th at 10:45 pm

One to watch:  Last Whites of the East End.

A programme about the changing nature of the East End, and ‘white flight’. 
It looks as though it has managed to tackle this subject without being ‘racist’.  

(Prop up your eyelids, it doesn’t finish till 11:45)


...and he's posted a methodically-detailed article about an edition of Jeremy Vine's show on BBC Radio 2 - an edition that he, from listening to it, thinks is the most biased thing about the EU referendum he's heard yet from the BBC (and he's heard a lot). 

Indeed, he's finding it hard to imagine anyone that could possibly bemore biased.

This was Wednesday's edition of the Jeremy Vine show where Jeremy "discusses driverless cars, magic mushrooms lifting depression and invites ordinary people from the 27 countries in the EU to tell us what they think".

I've not listened to it myself but (maybe even better) I've read the transcript and...well, frankly, just wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! (as Kate Bush might say). 

Though, as David points out, Jeremy Vine did ask some 'devil's advocate'-style questions (from the pro-Brexit standpoint) the whole hour-long thing was a pro-EU/anti-Brexit "love-in". 

Who at the BBC arranged this extraordinary gathering of pro-EU/anti-Brexit EU "ordinary people"?

And, as soon as I read David's transcript, I spotted the name 'Imke Henkel' - the "ordinary person" from Germany. And, checking her Twitter account, it indeed was that Imke Henkel - the leading left-leaning Die Ziet correspondent who keeps cropping up on the BBC (and in posts here at ITBB). 

And, using Google, I then put in the name of the "ordinary" person from Finland and found she was a Green MP there (until the voters lost interest in her). 

Other names were half given and hard decipher and, thus, difficult to find on Google. Were they all like this? 

Well, it's hard to know...but the Hungarian "ordinary person" was clearly from the Left - and, thus (according to all opinion polls, which regularly give the Right in Hungary 2/3 of the vote), quite some way away from from where popular Hungarian opinion now stands.

The Greek wanted us to stay in the EU. The Spaniard wanted us to stay in the EU. Everyone wanted us to stay in the EU. And everyone was nice and liked the UK. Not a Eurosceptic in sight (despite Euroscepticism being sharply on the rise across much of the EU).

As, by chance (though no night owl), I was up into the absurdly early hours of yesterday morning (feeling half dead) watching some Kate Bush at the BBC programme on BBC Four, here's Kate singing 'Wow!'

BBC One 'News at Six' (yet more)

When we last left our monitoring of which side's angle comes first in either the headlines or the whole bulletin on BBC One's News at Six (EU referendum-wise), the tally stood at a hugely imbalanced 14 for Remain and 3 for Leave. 

In the week since we've seen:

15/5 Leave "Boris Johnson compares the EU to Hitler, saying both wanted a single European state. His critics say the comments are offensive".
16/5 Remain "The Chancellor George Osborne has said the economic debate over whether Britain should stay in the EU is over. Speaking at Stanstead Airport Mr Osborne said an exit from the European Union would be 'a one-way ticket to a poorer Britain'".  
17/5 Remain "A war of words inside the Conservative Party over the EU referendum. Lord Heseltine attacks Boris Johnson. Lord Heseltine: "He is behaving now irresponsibly and recklessly and I fear that his judgement is going"."
19/5 Leave "Migration is one of the big issues in the EU referendum debate. The latest official figures show a sharp rise in the number of EU migrants working here. Those campaigning to leave the EU said it proves that UK workers are losing out. Downing Street has said that the vast majority of jobs in the UK are carried out by British workers."
20/5 Leave "Michael Gove of the Vote Leave campaign warns of massive extra demands on the NHS if we stay in the EU".

...which takes the running tally to: 

Remain 16
Leave - 6

And here's where things get a bit complicated. 

The two Remain-led days' coverage put the respective Remain campaigners' cases first and foremost. They then followed through with that case.

Please contrast that with...

The 15/5 coverage, which may have led with Boris but it did so by somewhat misrepresenting Boris and focusing on the "outrage" he'd caused. Unlike all of the Remain-led stories, this Leave-led story wasn't helpful to Leave (at least it wasn't after the BBC had reported it!). This was 'negative' reporting for the Leave campaigner. It should really have gone in the Remain column.

And the 19/5 coverage was peculiar in its lack of reporting of Leave's points about the sharp rise in EU migrants working in the UK. The BBC suddenly went into pure 'facts and figures' mode. Viewers would have struggled to get any sense of why the figures might be a major issue relevant to the Leave side's case for leaving the EU.

And the 20/5 coverage - the one that looks like a 'proper' Leave-led bulletin was quite the jaw-dropper. I was going to write about this in detail myself, but David Keighley has already done it over at News-watch (complete with a full transcription)

Michael Gove's claims were pretty much 'rubbished' by the BBC's deputy political editor John Pienaar:
The Leave campaign deny they’re scaremongering but some of the numbers today do look scary and they are meant to. They are also open to question. Take a look. We are told if we stay in the EU that will add between 2.5 and 5 million to the population. Why? Because it assumes that five countries, including Turkey, all join the Union by 2020, which is doubtful.  It takes no account of new controls. David Cameron says Turkey won’t be joining for decades.  But the Leave side say it would add between 6 and 13 visits to A&E departments, and increase of 57%. Why? Because migration and A&E visits have both gone up – there’s no conclusive evidence that the two sets of numbers are linked.
And then John Pienaar did what I'd expect a pro-Remain campaigner to do. He reached back to the pre-Referendum archive to broadcast a clip of Boris to further 'rubbish' the Leave point (fair dos if you're a campaigner; less so {I think} if you're meant to be an impartial broadcaster):
John Pienaar: The leading Leave campaign wasn’t convinced countless Turks were coming quite recently.
Boris Johnson (speaking in March 2016): Turkey’s been a candidate for membership of the EU since 1963.  I think the chances of the Turks readily acceding to the European Union are between, you know, nil and 20%.
Given that all three of the three previous 'Leave-led' stories focused on negative campaigning by Leave (Boris bashing Obama, Michael Gove accusing Remain of behaving badly and Nigel Farage slagging off other Leave campaigners), Leave are still getting the raw end of the deal here - even when their angle is leading BBC One's much-watched early evening news bulletin. 

The stats speak for themselves in suggesting the sheer scale of the pro-Remain imbalance but, oddly, they actually seriously understate the imbalance. The imbalance is even more massive than the stats suggest.

Breaking news...

For fans of stats, here's another thing I've been monitoring this year regarding the BBC's EU referendum coverage:

...namely the BBC Breaking News Twitter feed (followed by nearly 23 million people).

All I set out to do was the count the number of Remain-helpful and Leave-helpful tweets sent out by BBC Breaking News. 

Here's what I've got so far, complete with every tweet sent out about the EU referendum from BBC Breaking News...

For you to check my findings for yourself (and please call out any ones you disagree with - and you might disagree with a fair few of them), I will colour the tweets in the way I see them. (I suspect the Green ones will prove most open to question).

Arbitrarily (colour-wise):
Blue = helpful to Leave
Red = helpful to Remain
Green = hard to say/neutral
Now, I will freely admit in advance that I'm not wholly happy with this (and suspect you will find a few things to disagree with), but I still think it shows the expected bias - and quite convincingly.

I make it 26 for Remain and just 3 for Leave - which (of course) sounds stupendously imbalanced.

Please count and judge for yourselves though (after the 'Read more' - placed purely for aesthetic purposes):

World on the Move

It's one of the pleasing features of the Spectator that it has some regular columnists who aren't typical Spectator writers. 

Their Radio columnist Kate Chisholm always reads to me as if she'd be much more suited to writing for the Guardian or the BBC. Her views are invariably impeccably bien pensant (as her fellow Speccie columnist Rod Liddle might say) and she's nothing if not strongly pro-BBC to boot.

It was hardly surprising, therefore, to read her hymning the BBC's praises in her latest column:
Monday’s ‘World on the Move Day’ on Radio 4 was a bold challenge to government policy and proof that radio is much the most flexible, the most accommodating, the most powerful medium when compared with TV. Without much ado, the day’s planned schedule was squeezed, manipulated, overturned to allow the team behind the Today programme to mastermind a live discussion throughout the day about the migration issue, as if to say to the government, here’s what people not just in the UK but from around the world care about. Let’s listen to them and see what solutions they might have to offer.
Angelina Jolie Pitt was the biggest prize as she took over the You and Yours slot to lead a live lunchtime debate on Radio 4 and the World Service that looked beyond the overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean and the homeless refugees queuing up on the borders of the EU to the migrants who have already arrived but not settled and to the reluctant hosts themselves who are not always so welcoming or accommodating. Why did she choose to use this forum? Because it gave her immediate access to a global audience. But not only that. She knows that speaking on the BBC gives her an authority, a cachet that surpasses her own glamour. Ponder that, Mr Whittingdale.
Maybe Mr Whittingdale might actually make better use of his 'pondering time' by pondering instead that (as Kate herself put it) the BBC was making "a bold challenge to government policy" here - and doing so by focusing on what people "around the world care about" rather than "just" what people in the UK care about.

Should an impartial be BBC "challenging" government policy here?

And Mr Whittingdale might also care to ponder, beyond the question of what the blessed Angelina might want from the BBC, what the blessed BBC instead might want from Angelina: a pro-migration, anti-Brexit plea from a glamorous Hollywood actress as the centrepiece of their 'big migration day'. 

He might ponder whether that's also something that an impartial BBC should be doing.


Sue has already mentioned Toby Young's blast against the BBC at the Daily TelegraphToby called the whole BBC ‘World on the Move Day’ "anti-Brexit propaganda". ("If you were looking for impartiality, you’d come to the wrong place", he said). 

And another powerful excoriation of the BBC comes from Karen Harradine at The Conservative Woman, which I'd urge you to read. She describes it as "a barrage of manipulative and patronising 'reporting'" and "a dribbling diatribe from a motley assortment of organisations", replete with "virtue-signalling and mawkish sentiment".

I have to say that, what with one thing and another, I didn't listen to much of ‘World on the Move Day’, so I can't say if it was as appallingly biased as it's been described - though Kate Chisholm's admiring piece leads me to trust the criticisms from Toby and Karen. 

And when Karen writes:
The BBC also triumphantly brandished a demand by the insidious Save the Children charity that refugee children are enrolled in school within one month of arriving in the UK.  Perhaps those who run that charity would like to donate some of their bloated earnings to building new schools as a way to accommodate this? 
....well, I myself noticed that as I was driving (very early) to work. The BBC - starting with Today - was making that call from Save the Children their top story - including (as I checked after getting to work) the BBC News website...

...and its tying-in with the BBC special day surely reinforces the point (from fans and critics alike) that the BBC was in campaigning mode here (which it should never be).

Time permitting (and there's precious little of that at the moment) I'll try and conduct a review of that days coverage on Radio 4 for myself. 

Trending in the usual direction

That's spot-on. 

Anisa Subedar's BBC Trending article was headlined Muslim woman's cheeky selfie with anti-Islam group goes viral and reported the "friendly" social media response to "hijab-wearing Zakia Belkhiri" and her "cheeky selfies" in front of a "far-right anti-Islam group protesting outside an Islamic lifestyle event she was attending in Belgium". And, yes, Anisa's Twitter feed does indeed express the views described: 

And, yes, she is a 'freelance journalist' who seems (from her Twitter feed) to exercise her 'freelance journalism' entirely at the BBC:

...and yet who BBC Trending doesn't choose to describe as 'freelance', thus leading BBC Trending readers to assume that she's a 100% BBC reporter.

And now, according to Raheem Kassam at Breitbart London, it is claimed that cheeky "hijab-wearing Zakia Belkhiri" posted an anti-Semitic tweet in 2012 (now deleted) saying: 

Other allegations of anti-Semitic social media comments are also posted at Breitbart (though to add caution on top of caution, even RK is being unusually cautious about the claims).

Hopefully Anisa will be investigating/updating for BBC Trending. Is her heroine anti-Semitic or not?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Canary in the room

Talking of The Canary, I listened to David Aaronovitch’s “The Briefing Room” having seen that the editor of the Canary was on the programme talking crap about the evils of Zionism.

They’re discussing it on H/P as well. Go there now if you’d like to see a wide variety of opinions on the programme. 

I just thought the 28 minutes was too short. No time to be of much consequence. Although David Hirsh refuted the forced sterilisation story, it hung in the air  - and lingered there. 

I had to look it up to remind myself what had happened. It’s precisely the kind of story that Israel-bashers pick up and run with; they get away with it simply because they can. No-one can be arsed to check it out.
Transcription thanks to "Happy Goldfish"
(Kerry-Anne Mendoza 0:18:26) "The Comparison of Israel to Nazism or the atrocities of the Third Reich. What evidence is there for that? Well, what other state in the world do I know of in the present day has been behind the forced sterilisation of Jewish women? That would be Israel, It was applying Depo Pravera**, long-term contraceptive injections, to Ethiopian Jewish women. I think that's an anti-semitic act. I think it has horrific echoes of some of the atrocities, not all of them, some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich, and I think it's right to call that out. I would call that out in any state anywhere in the world where Jewish women or any other group of women were subject to forcible sterilisation to prevent some sort of racial dilution, which wasthe theory behind that process. Do I think it's helpful for people to go around willy-nilly attempting to bait Jewish people by calling them Nazis? Absolutely not. But do I think there issome evidential case for saying there are echoes here of some the worst behaviour that we have committed in Europe? Yes I do."
** Depo Pravera is a 3-month contraceptive

I see Sarah AB has crashed Gene’s post (I do that here sometimes, it’s very jolly) and she has contributed a fuller summary of the programme.

It was good to hear Owen Jones talking more sense than usual, especially when he demolished Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s Nazi comparison, and I was impressed by his seemingly heartfelt admission that it was up to people on the left (like him) to speak out. 

He has come in for a lot of flak from some of his followers for what they see as a betrayal. 
It’s a common problem - one isn’t entirely responsible for the excesses of one’s fans. In fact the excesses of one’s fans can act as an eye-opener, and can prompt one to reevaluate some of one’s lazier assumptions. 
As for Owen, I can’t help remembering his passionate condemnation of Israel over the death of the baby Omar  Mashhrawi  which crossed the line between rational and irrational by way of his stubborn refusal to recant, even after the institutionally anti-Israel UN found that Israel was ‘not’ responsible.

The new Owen almost smacks of a bandwagon hastily jumped upon; the boy Owen with a youth’s keen sense of smell, having scented a whiff of an imperceptible shift in the direction of that elusive moral high ground. 
Owen, when did you stop being antisemitic?

The elephant was still there of course. The lazy repetition of that phrase “What Israel is doing”, which is never challenged  - and the blind spot that looms so large that it reduces everything else to candy floss, an inability to acknowledge let alone confront  the Jew-hate that emanates from the Arab world and the Palestinians that the silly lefties have adopted as pets. 

Collective melt-down

In the interest of balance, I bring you another perspective on Paul Mason and his extraordinary class-warrior outburst on last night’s Question Time. "The Canary"

“Economist, journalist and film maker Paul Mason appeared on BBC Question Time on Thursday night, liberated from all impartiality rules for the first time since leaving Channel 4 News earlier this year. It made for explosive viewing, and right-wing pundits were not happy about it.”
Liberated from impartiality rules. Right wing pundits. Social media. OMG The Daily Mail.......

........Breath of Fresh Air.   As you can see, I’m not making much sense.

“For most on social media, Mason’s appearance was a breath of fresh air. Social media lit up with praise for his refreshingly unrestrained presence – which did shake up a show which has become tediously predictable of late.”

“Swivel-eyed crazy”

I was just about to compose a shell-shocked rant about Paul Mason’s extraordinary outburst during last night’s Question Time, but I see OMG The Daily Mail has done it for me.
In a sidebar, a brief reference to the BBC: 
“Dismissed as a 'revolutionary marxist' by George Osborne, Paul Mason's left-wing leanings were no secret during his decade long career at the BBC.”

Toby Young  and William Cameron Tweeted:

I wonder if anyone from the BBC will have anything to say?

Antisemitism enquiry, a Labour of love

The enquiry into antisemitism is getting more and more absurd and surreal. 

This subject is loosely related to the BBC, because the BBC’s hostility to Israel is partly responsible for facilitating the expanding acceptability of antisemitism. Antisemitism even seems to be trending amongst eternally immature people with a penchant for the keffiyeh.   

We used to talk about ‘dinner party’ antisemitism, which of course has  been culturally appropriated by the Muslims*. Apparently dinner party Islamophobia is the grievance du jour, and implicit and explicit antisemitism has moved on. 

Now the in thing is “social media’ antisemitism, “internet” antisemitism, “left-wing” antisemitism, “pub” antisemitism and the antisemitism on the Tower Hamlets omnibus.

Equally surreal is the fact that as soon as you refer to the source of the most overt, most openly expressed antisemitism of all, you’re automagically committing Islamophobia. 

Or ‘suffering from’ Islamophobia, since a phobia is usually classified as a disorder. Psychoanalysts and hypnotherapists who profess to cure phobias could do some great business if they simply added Islamophobia to their CV alongside claustrophobia, arachnophobia, giving up smoking and fear of flying. 
They could create an acclimatisation scenario, where the sufferer is gradually exposed to a simulation of the thing he fears. A simulated airline cabin; a dusky, bearded actor with a backpack settles down in the seat next to the kill two birds with one stone if you like.

Never mind that. More surreal even than that is Shami Chakrabarti joining the Labour Party before embarking on her enquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party (to show that she has the Labour Party’s best interests at heart) She will also be converting to Judaism for similar reasons. (Waiting to hear the exact date)

Have you ever heard of an organisation seriously claiming that an enquiry into its own misconduct is best conducted by its actual self? From the inside? You know, a non-independent enquiry is  a more perfect type of enquiry than an independent enquiry? 

Since antisemitism is now inextricably coupled with Islamophobia, no investigation into antisemitism would be complete without a parallel investigation into its conjoined twin. Therein lies an inherent conundrum. (Can you tell what it is yet?)
It’s one of your catch 22s. “a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.”

My crystal ball summarises Shami’s conclusion thusly: Complaining of antisemitism amounts to Islamophobia.

The first stage has already begun. The labour Party is to subpoena Rod Liddle for committing Islamophobia, and has suspended him from the party retrospectively. I almost feel a riff coming on about specific particles of food that adhere to Rod Liddle’s jumper, but no, it’s not going to be that. 
It’s to do with language.

So  - and I’m starting with ‘so’ here, because I can, Rod Liddle wrote a piece in the Spectator, which made perfect sense until pressure forced him to make a politically correct correction.  The article is now politically correct but grammatically incorrect. Or, tampering with the wording has altered the meaning.

There are two relevant paragraphs. Here’s the beginning of the first one:
Re the anti-Semitism. There are a number of broad points to make. First, it is absolutely endemic within two sections of the Labour Party – the perpetually adolescent white middle-class lefties, and the Muslims – the latter of which ..”

The next paragraph continued:
“For the Muslims the anti-Semitism is visceral, an ingrained part of their unpleasant ideology.”

Grammatically and, if you like, stylistically, “For the Muslims” carries the implication that he is referring to “the Muslims in the Labour Party” simply because he’s just defined the ‘two sections’ of the Labour party:   (number one = the  white ones. Number two = the Muslims.)

However, some unidentified political correctness police inspector feared there could be a significant misunderstanding within the three word phrase: “For the Muslims”.
Readers might mistakenly think Rod Liddle was referring to all the Muslims in the entire world, rather than (specifically) the Muslims in the Labour Party, so to be on the safe side  the three word phrase  was altered to read “For many Muslims”.

In the amended version, the second paragraph  now reads:
“For many Muslims the anti-Semitism is visceral, an ingrained part of their unpleasant ideology. For the idiotic white lefties it is an adjunct to their self-loathing and hatred of firstly Britain and second the West. In both cases it is predicated as much upon envy – at Jewish success, worldwide and in Israel – as anything else. If you handed over Israel to the Palestinians they would turn it into Somalia before you could say Yom Kippur.”

Ironically this small change alters the entire meaning of the paragraph. It broadens out the accusation; now it’s not just the Muslims in the Labour Party who face Rod’s accusation, but “many” from the whole entire planet-full of Muslims!
That must amount to a huge increase in the number of Muslims the amended version of the article now addresses. 

In my opinion, Saul O was wrong when he said it was right to amend it. I think it was daft. 

However, the very fact that Rod Liddle, whose acerbic and often hilarious articles frequently refer to the absurdities in Islam in an irreverent and sometime facetious and flippant style, was still a paid-up member of the Labour party was an absurdity in itself.  Why didn't he pull out, already?

The fact that antisemitism in the Labour party is being investigated by a committed Islamophile who has converted to the Labour Party just so she can investigate as an insider rather than an outsider is illogical, discordant and senseless.

Another factor that makes this whole exercise such a fiasco is that antisemitism in the Labour Party is as visceral and ingrained from the Leadership right down to the infant department and the students and the trade unions. If people who fraternise and empathise with rampant antisemites at home and abroad are  ‘against all forms of racism‘  then  my name is Joseph Heller and I’ve spotted a catch.

*Many Muslims

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Shouting at pigeons

The older you get the more you admire the State Opening of Parliament. It’s the kind of ritual you’d probably laugh at when you‘re young. 

Years later you might feel it’s reassuring that all these grown-up people take it seriously enough to get all togged up in their ceremonial outfits and perform with solemnity and respect. 

Tradition and pomp provide a sort of illusory parent substitute - a comforting feeling that the adults are being responsible, taking care of things in another room, and we ordinaries can carry on being irresponsible in the nursery.  Religion without the hassle. 

Anyway, I enjoyed watching the State Opening on TV. Black Rod, with a slight smile, approaching doors that would slam in his face. (What if they forgot to slam them? Would he fall over like Del-Boy leaning on an unexpectedly non-existent bar?)

The Queen with bejeweled crown and several pageboys carefully holding onto her long velvet train. Fabulous pomp.
Of course the commentators had to find something bitchy to say, so they plumped for Jeremy Corbyn supposedly ignoring David Cameron’s polite conversation, but I’m sure I saw Corbyn’s lips move. I hope he was wondering “What the hell am I doing here”.

When Dennis Skinner told Jeremy Hunt to ‘wipe that smirk off his face’ last month, one commenter posted the following:
He begins his spiel, hand in one pocket, like a cocksure, acerbic '70s working man's club comic, unfortunately, this act rapidly descends into a highly convincing performance of an addled & bitter, urine soaked pensioner, shouting at pigeons in a supermarket carpark.”
Today Skinner shouted loudly at no-one in particular: “Hands off the BBC!” 

Lowered the tone somewhat.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

ISIS Caliphs 4 Brexit (apparently)

Here's a Twitter  exchange between a BBC Scotland political correspondent and a BBC Middle East correspondent....rudely interrupted by our old friend DB...

I can see DB's point here.

BBC One's News at Six mentioned Dave's 'ISIS 4 Brexit' point but did so very much in passing (merely a clip of the PM speaking) and quite some way into the bulletin - and without so much as even beginning to bat a critical eyelid about it, never mind raising up a storm of 'controversy' about it. 

Boris finds all hell descending upon him for mentioned Hitler (and Napoleon and the Romans). David Cameron calls Caliph Ibrahim of the Islamic State for Brexit and...what from the BBC (and their like)? 

Pretty much nothing.