Thursday, 30 July 2015

Antisemitism and the media

We hear that there’s a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents, perhaps because Jews are now more likely to report them. (Or because of the negative way Israel and Jews are portrayed in the British media.) The Today programme announced this news clearly enough, but didn’t seem curious about the how, the why or the wherefore.  

Get an earful of Ajmal Masroor’s ugly Speech about Zionism and the Zionist Lobby. Do listen, at least for a few minutes.
Masroor is one of the BBC’s go-to faces of normative, moderate Islam. He’s a frequent guest on The Big Questions. 

In his comfort zone, away from the BBC and in front of a fawning congregation of brothers and sisters this grinning puppet believes he is a big man. He puts on an act. For this audience he’s the ranting, raving fanatic, spewing out a stream of anti-British, anti-Israel, illogical, lying rubbish, delivered with a histrionic yet faltering Shakespearian swagger interspersed with Arabic.

Think Sir Laurence Olivier reciting Mehdi Hasan’s cattle diatribe with a touch of the late Ian Paisley; mix in the Zionist lobby, Palestine, racism, Jewish supremacism, the biggest concentration camp in the world while channeling 'Hamlet'. Then add a tearful six-year old girl/boy sobbing on the phone, double it and stick a cherry on top.

There you have Imam Masroor, the person the BBC has the cheek and the idiocy to beam into our homes on a Sunday morning without a health warning.  Then try and work out why Muslims believe what they do. 



Friends

People often use the term “friends” loosely, other than in a strictly literal way. They say it sarcastically, or sort of ironically, as in ‘our feathered friends’, or slightly disparagingly if they were referring to a bunch of delinquents. 

For example I don’t know if Bill Grundy ever said “our friends the Sex Pistols”, but he probably would not have meant it literally if he did.
We also use ‘friends’ as a collective term for people to whom we are kindly disposed, but don’t necessarily know personally. In other words, in the way we assume Jeremy Corbyn means it when he refers to Hamas and Hezbollah. Of course he could have been using the term cynically, but he didn’t claim that.

Obsessing about one potentially ambiguous word in isolation produces a lazy, unconvincing argument. That interview on Channel 4, the one with ‘friends’.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s tactic  - attempted ‘demolition by repetition’ - was originally created by Jeremy Paxman on a bad day, and unfortunately, much copied thereafter. 
Who could forget Michael Howard - “did you or did you not”-  and while we’re at it, remember Mishal Husain’s infamous “How many Israelis were killed?” with Gill Hoffman. (not enough for her) I call that cheap, lazy, wrong-headed and low.

It was refreshing in one way though. At least Guru-Murthy tackled an awkward subject - antisemitism - albeit tangentially. It doesn’t matter what word Jeremy Corbyn uses when he refers to radical Islamic Jew-hating militia. It’s the fact that he supports them, speaks alongside them at rallies and participates in questionable Palestinian solidarity events that is the problem. Or should be.

In this BBC-led nationwide drive to embrace diversity, a frightening number of people are willing to turn a blind eye to antisemitism. When Jeremy Corbyn is interviewed the questioner, Andrew Marr for instance, will usually ignore the issue altogether. I do wonder what would have happened if Corbyn had actually held his hands up and said yes, I sympathise with my friends Hamas and Hezbollah, and although I am not an antisemite I can understand  those that are. He wouldn’t be the first one to say that. Then Guru-Murthy might have said, “Oh! So do I!” and they could have lived happily ever after.

Polls show that Muslims are generally ill-disposed towards Jews, if not individual Jews - some of whom may be their best friends - they’re almost universally opposed to the existence of Israel (as the Jewish state) and most are immersed in the narrative of the Palestinian media machine.  
Everybody knows this, but it doesn’t seem to bother them. In their need to embrace diversity, antisemitism is a kind of under-the-counter glitch that cannot be directly confronted. It bothers me though, quite a lot. It bothers me that it doesn’t bother you.
   
Corbyn thinks we should include the views of all comers in any debate, however unpalatable they might be.  People who embrace unacceptable ideas often plead that ‘silencing’ their unpopular views and opinions has a chilling effect on freedom of speech.

One might wonder what’s the point of trying to talk to intransigent bodies like Hamas and Hezbollah. No amount of talking will alter their genocidal aspirations. Unlike their equally inflexible ideological compatriots ISIL, Hamas and Hezbollah may be willing to bamboozle their gullible western opponents by making superficially plausible concessions, but at heart they will not be diverted from their core values.  Just like ISIL, they want to destroy Israel, kill Jews, restore the Middle East to undiluted Jew-free Islamic Statehood and be left to prosecute their Shia-Sunni differences in peace. Not in peace, but undisturbed.

Which brings me to Peter Oborne. Peter Oborne is a highly rated political pundit and another of those high profile personalities with  disturbing friendships. Hardly anyone seems to notice this, but if they do it doesn’t appear to bother them. They still employ Oborne on the BBC fairly regularly and treat his opinions with considerable respect. However, his latest project did ruffle a few feathers.
  
People have been wondering why the Guardian is giving a platform to Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Peter Oborne’s friendly chat with Abdul Wahid has been widely disseminated by way of the full-page spread in Guardian. 

In what appears to be an attempt to disparage David Cameron’s policy on “those he calls extremists”, (Oborne impliedly wouldn’t call them that himself) Oborne, like Corbyn, believes that we need to talk to them, whomever they are, especially if they’re opposed to Israel, or have been associated with extremism, or have been kicked out of HSBC. 
As the latest round of this debate has unfolded, one voice has been noticeably absent: that of the alleged extremist.” 
he declares, in his puff piece about his good friend Abdul Wahid.
Oborne proceeds to chat convivially to his occasional dinner companion, and he shares the conversation with us adding his own observations courtesy of the Guardian. 

He tackles Islam’s policies on terrorism, democracy and women, but what I’m more concerned about at the minute is the following: 
“I turn to the charge that his organisation is antisemitic. Fifteen years ago HT published a notorious article entitled The Muslim Ummah will never submit to the Jews.
It contained unpleasant language, some of which I read out to Wahid, and invite him to denounce the article. He refuses. “HT is not antisemitic at all, but we are absolutely anti-Zionist”
Oborne presents a verbatim account of Wahid’s justification of that dubious claim, the gist being: “It’s not about the Jews, but all about Israel, therefore understandable” and  “It’s out of context, lost in translation, merely the rhetoric of conflict” 

We must hear him out, Oborne says. The Guardian must let his views have an airing, otherwise there’s that ‘chilling effect,’ that obstructive shutting down of debate. Only it’s not really a debate, it’s more a matter of weasel words and spin unconvincingly masking outright antisemitism. 
The rest of the piece includes an affectionate snippet of biographical detail, a kind of apologia for HT and an admiring description of Wahid’s library. ‘He’s well-read, is my non-extremist friend. A cultured chap and an all-round good egg. “
“You can say many things about Wahid, and be appalled by much of what he says. But in a democracy he surely has the right to say it. Whatever the government thinks.”
There are 976 comments below the line, and not all of them very sympathetic I’m pleased to see, although there are still plenty of Israel-bashing contributors who nevertheless seem slightly uncomfortable with Abdul Wahid and Hizb ut-Tahrir.  

Oborne’s pretence of even-handedness is particularly worrying. In his “Israel lobby” days, (2009) he takes great pains to say that he had been to Israel on a trip funded by Conservative Friends of Israel, and had ‘tried to understand’. 
No pressure was put on me, at the time or later, to write anything in favour of Israel. The trip, which was paid for by the CFI, certainly enabled me to understand much better the Israeli point of view.”
In the event he evidently didn’t understand it at all. He clearly demonstrated that by citing the Gaza death toll and making an ignorant reference to Israel’s war crimes.

Of David Cameron’s speech at a Conservative Friends of Israel  lunch at the Dorchester  Oborne observes:
I was shocked to see that Cameron made no reference at all to the invasion of Gaza, the massive destruction it caused, or the 1,370 deaths that had resulted. Indeed, Cameron went out of his way to praise Israel because it “strives to protect innocent life”. I found it impossible to reconcile the remarks made by the young Conservative leader with the numerous reports of human rights abuses in Gaza.” [...]“It is impossible to imagine any British political leader showing such equanimity and tolerance if British troops had committed even a fraction of the human rights abuses and war crimes of which Israel has been accused.”
Wrong! On several counts, just wrong! 
This comes from the preamble to a written outline or a transcript of his Jewish Lobby “Dispatches” programme for Channel 4, which, for all its bluster amounted to nothing but an elaborate sensationalised hullaballoo about very little. However it does come remarkably close to the conspiracy theory nonsense that David Cameron gave as a specific example of the kind of thing we don’t need in these dangerous times.  

The BBC comes into the picture too. Did you know that the Jewish lobby puts a lot of effort into bullying the BBC?  Apparently Ben Bradshaw said:
“I’m afraid the BBC has been cowed by this relentless and persistent pressure from the Israeli government and they should stand up against it.”
Oborne even knows what’s in the Balen report.
“In October, the High Court finally ruled that the BBC does not have to publish the report, which has become an obsession for Israel’s supporters, who hold this up as the BBC trying to hide its anti-Israel bias.This is dubious. We have spoken to one of the very few people who have read the report. He says that far from concluding the BBC’s coverage was biased against Israel, it simply finds examples where more context should have been given. If anything, our source claims, the impression given is that the BBC is sympathetic to Israel.”
Oborne’s piece is little more than a detailed run-down of everyone and everything that has or might have Zionist lobbying connections, direct or indirect. It reads like those websites whose sole purpose was to  point out ‘Who’s a Jew.’ Do they still exist?

Covering his back from litigious Jewish tentacles, he says:
“ The pro-Israel lobby does nothing wrong, or illegal. It is not sinister and it is not unusual. It cannot be too much stressed that British public life is populated by all kinds of interest groups, many of them extremely active at Westminster. “
‘It’s just’, he claims, “that it’s not transparent.” 

Incidentally Oborne should be perfectly aware that  BICOM trips are more than matched by the CAABU trips. He should very well know that the Jewish lobby is outweighed by numerous pro-Palestinian and BDS organisations that are more vociferous, more overtly racist, more obnoxious, than the Jewish lobby. As Oborne admits, lobbying is part and parcel of the democratic process.

Since Oborne cites the Guardian I should mention someone else who paid a visit to Israel and came back with a bizarre tale that conveyed the opposite of the reality that was before his very (tight shut) eyes. It was of course Alan Rusbridger.  His short trip to Israel (2001) is described by Tom Gross. H/T UK Media Watch. (Also present on this trip was Ian Katz of BBC Newsnight.)

Despite being given, at first hand, the chance to observe the polite and courteous manner of Israeli soldiers, the relatively good standard of living enjoyed by Arab residents of Bethlehem and having had the opportunity to oversee their un-troublesome passage between Bethlehem and Israel, on his return Rusbridger wrote a poisonous travesty of what he had witnessed, which was published in the Spectator. 
In a conversation with Oborne, his friend Rusbridger also refers to the chilling effect:
“I think it would be a terribly dangerous thing if the British press were made to feel that they couldn’t criticise Israel because they are going to be held up as anti-Semitic. I think it is a very disreputable argument.”

Tom Gross says:
“He went on to give some examples – taken out of context – of shooting incidents, and of Palestinian poverty he had witnessed in what he called the “large prison” of Gaza. He wrote of the “endless humiliating queues waiting to pass through Israeli army checkpoints.” There was no mention of our very different experience crossing into the “occupied West Bank.” “

“About the same time that Rusbridger published his Spectator article, he wrote a massive editorial in The Guardian, running to well over 2,000 words, entitled “Between Heaven and Hell.” A pull quote was reproduced in large type in a box on The Guardian’s front page. It read:“We are forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about how the dream of a sanctuary for the Jewish people in the very land in which their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped has come to be poisoned. The establishment of this sanctuary has been bought at a very high cost in human rights and human lives. It must be apparent that the international community cannot support this cost indefinitely.”

Why? why would these people abuse their position in order to propagate their antisemitic agenda?
Since this blog is principally about the BBC, here is the whole of Tom Gross’s BBC related section. It was written in 2001, 14 years ago. Nothing much has changed.

 THE BALANCED BBC?A good deal of the selective reporting derives from the fact that both the print and broadcast media rely heavily on Associated Press and Reuters to provide the text, photos and film footage from the West Bank and Gaza. In turn, the news agencies are heavily dependent on a whole network of Palestinian stringers, freelancers and fixers all over the territories to provide instant reports or footage of events. 
 As Ehud Ya’ari, Israel television’s foremost expert on Palestinian affairs, put it recently: “The vast majority of information of every type coming out of the area is being filtered through Palestinian eyes. Cameras are angled to show a tainted view of the Israeli army’s actions and never focus on the Palestinian gunmen. Written reports focus on the Palestinian version of events. And even those Palestinians who don’t support the Intifada dare not show or describe anything embarrassing to the Palestinian Authority, for fear they may provoke the wrath of Yasser Arafat’s security forces.”
Sometimes the local Palestinians admit their bias. For example, Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC’s Gaza correspondent for the past ten years, told a Hamas rally on May 6 that “journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people.” Yet no British paper (apart from the local Anglo-Jewish press) agreed to publicize these remarks. The best the BBC could do in response to requests from Israel that they distance themselves from these remarks, was to issue a statement saying, “Fayad’s remarks were made in a private capacity. His reports have always matched the best standards of balance required by the BBC.” 

The principal reason for the bias, however, is that many western correspondents sent to cover the Middle East are not in effect living in Israel, but in occupied Palestine, as they perceive it. Whereas many pride themselves on knowing some Arabic, few make any effort to learn Hebrew. As a result, they are detached from Israeli life. Their encounters with Israelis are mainly with government and army spokespeople, or other kinds of bureaucrats – being asked irritating questions at airports, being kept in line renewing visas, and so on.
The fault here ultimately lies with the bureaus themselves. Most would not send correspondents to Paris without French, or to Cairo without Arabic, or to Moscow without Russian. Even in Prague, where I worked for three years, the foreign reporters all spent many months learning Czech. 

Occasionally, the media has responded in print to Jewish concerns over Western media reporting. They have not been sympathetic. David Leigh, the Guardian’s comment editor (in an article headlined “Media Manipulators,”) dismissed Jews who had criticized the paper’s Israel coverage as “right-wing extremists.” Another Guardian columnist wrote that at least some of the protests were “sinister” and directed by “a shadowy ultra-orthodox Jewish group.” 

A senior figure in the British media (a Jew) told me: “When Indians and Pakistanis in Britain have raised complaints about reporting in our newspaper, their concerns were treated with some respect, and often they received an apology. But when Jews complained, they were shrugged off or treated with contempt for even suggesting bias. England seems to be a country where to accuse somebody of anti-Semitism is far more impolite than being one.”
Again, when the deputy director of Israel’s foreign ministry said that the BBC’s coverage of Israel is “tinged with anti-Semitism,” BBC special correspondent Fergal Keane said this was a “contemptible” and “ludicrous” charge.”

The Guardian is under new management, the BBC is under scrutiny, Jeremy Paxman has left Newsnight, but Jeremy Bowen is still in post, the new Guardian editor is even more anti-Israel than Rusbridger and Islamic State is chopping people up. Obama has made an unforced error by entering into a deal which weakens the west and has caused the Iranian Ayatollahs much mirth, which they’ve Tweeted about triumphantly. Everyone under a certain age is going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn for leader of the Labour Party, and they neither know nor care which Islamic extremists he’s friendly with.  


Tom Gross ends his article by asking   DOES IT MATTER?Does the bias, in the end, matter? In my view, it does, and not just because the truth is always important.
For one thing, it is clear that inaccurate reporting is influencing international diplomatic efforts. A distorted picture of events is helping to produce correspondingly distorted policies, particularly in Europe.
Then, as Shimon Peres pointed out recently, there are cases where media bias bears a direct responsibility for encouraging acts of violence. Peres cited the example of a local Fatah leader caught by an Israeli army camera saying, “Don’t start the stoning yet. I have just been told that CNN crew is stuck in traffic near Ramallah.”
In addition, as Jewish organizations in Europe and beyond can confirm, there is a clear link between inflammatory reporting about Israel and physical attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in the countries where the reports are published or broadcast. Correspondents may not realize it, but their unfair reporting plays into pre-existing anti-Semitic feelings.

Emphasis added.
The systematic building up a false picture of Israel as aggressor, and deliberate killer of babies and children, is helping to slowly chip away at Israel’s legitimacy. How can ordinary people elsewhere not end up hating such a country? And contrary to the perceptions of some, Israel is not a big tough major power that can withstand such international antagonism indefinitely. As the Jews have learnt only too well, acts of wholesale destruction and ultimately genocide did not just spring forth in a vacuum: they were the product of a climate. The international media is not an innocent bystander in this affair.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Muslims and Peter Oborne

Peter Oborne has been trailing his programme HSBC Muslims and Me  Radio 4, tonight  20:00

Here’s the blurb:
In the summer of 2014 HSBC dispatched a batch of identical letters to several prominent Muslims telling them that their accounts would be closed. The bank said that it no longer had the "risk appetite" to handle their money. But it failed to explain why or to offer a right of appeal. So what happened?
Pursuing this story led journalist Peter Oborne to resign his job as Chief Political commentator of the Daily Telegraph: the paper had refused to publish an article he had written which was critical of HSBC's decision.Footloose and temporarily freelance, Oborne embarked on an intriguing journey to discover the cause of the bank's decision. Were the Muslims targeted by mistake or were they targeted because they are Muslims? Was Peter naive to think the accounts would be closed without good reason? And, given the fact that many of those cut off by the bank had links to the Muslim Brotherhood, could the HSBC's actions have anything to do with David Cameron's announcement of a government review of this Islamist network?Oborne is shocked when he finds out the truth.

Although the programme hasn’t been aired at the time of writing, you can get a pretty good idea of the contents by looking at the accompanying article in the BBC’s online Magazine here
Why did HSBC shut down bank accounts?
One reason is because the owners of certain bank accounts have, or once had, links to terrorism.



Spokespersons from Finsbury Park mosque claim the mosque has since been cleansed. Peter Oborne is willing to take that at face value, and the rest of us are expected to do so too. 
Oborne appears to be very indignant at what he sees as HSBC’s inexplicable and mysterious decision to close these accounts. He further justifies his indignation by using the ‘disenfranchisement’ argument, which goes ‘ostracising Muslims is tantamount to pushing them into the arms of IS’.   
Kozbar and al-Tikriti argue that radicalisation is not taking place in London mosques, but on the internet, and by closing mosques, you only reduce further their role in countering extremism. Al-Tikriti says that he has a tough time persuading his own teenage kids to attend mosque, and when he does go, he finds himself among an older crowd.
"People don't realise that most of the youngsters that go to Syria and Iraq are not mosque goers. I go to the mosque and I see pleasant people of 65 to 70. It is dead," he said.

As I haven’t heard the programme, I’m only able to look at the contents of the online article, but it’s worth mentioning that  even Egypt has banned the Muslim Brotherhood, and various others aren’t too keen on it either, although Oborne would no doubt disagree.
The Brotherhood’s goal is to turn the world into an Islamist empire. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is a revolutionary fundamentalist movement to restore the caliphate and strict shariah (Islamist) law in Muslim lands and, ultimately, the world. Today, it has chapters in 80 countries.
“It is in the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.” —Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna[2]

Here we have Oborne’s insinuation that there’s something fishy and sinister - something mysteriously linked to David Cameron’s plans to root out Islamic extremism -  about HSBC’s  Islamophobic BDS  manoeuvre.

 Let’s just compare that with his other obsession, which is that there’s something fishy and sinister about the Jewish Lobby. 

That channel four documentary was borderline ‘antisemitic conspiracy theory,’ which is something David Cameron specifically condemned in his recent speech. It certainly drew out the haters in full force. 
In this article on the open democracy website Oborne goes to a great deal of trouble detailing the minutiae of the inner workings of the Jewish lobby and naming people and politicians of influence who are part of this terrible, traitorous, Zionist, abomination, all the while carefully reminding us how fair and impartial he is. After all that, towards the end, as though he suddenly realised he might be beginning to look quite  ridiculous, he says:
“The pro-Israel lobby does nothing wrong, or illegal. It is not sinister and it is not unusual. It cannot be too much stressed that British public life is populated by all kinds of interest groups, many of them extremely active at Westminster.”
There’s a pretty obvious reposte, just waiting and begging to be reposted. One below-the line-commenter articulated it straight away: 
“Will Peter Oborne write a similar article on the Arab/Muslim lobby and the lie that is a Palestinian state (it has never existed and Egypt/Jordan made no attempt to set one up during their 19 year occupation of Gaza/West Bank)?
I would not hold my breath”

It’s a jolly good job he didn’t attempt that because it was written 6 years ago.

Think on. Tune in tonight. Find out the truth and prove me wrong.

Update. I sat through this tedious programme. There were no surprises.

Peter Oborne is shocked, shocked,  that  Finsbury Park mosque, the Cordoba Foundation and the Muslim Brotherhood had been ostracised by the HSBC on the say-so of World-Check which had designated them all as ‘terrorists’, allegedly on the advice of the UAE.

What does surprise me is that the BBC and the Guardian allocate high-visibility platforms to conspiracy theorists, when David Cameron specifically criticised such a thing. 

Abdul Wahid Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Britain)


Oborne always makes a big deal of appearing balanced, but it’s a charade - it reminds me those subtitled detective / political dramas on BBC4, which always have a nasty immigrant as the major suspect; the one guilty of bringing about death, disease and destruction - but of course they always turn out to be innocent, and it’s ‘our’ fault for having nasty racist suspicions.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Pennine Way



The first episode of Paul Rose's upbeat new BBC Two series The Pennine Way began tonight.

Yes, a left-wing journalist was its early hero and there were messages about the need to tackle climate change (for those who prefer their blogs about BBC bias to actually be about BBC bias), but I liked it a lot and will be watching the rest of the series. And the BBC's cameramen worked wonders in bringing out the staggering beauty of the Pennines. 

I could range widely and deeply over the subject but instead I'll just take the easy option, pick a minor point and run with it sarcastically (you know it makes sense!)...

...namely the literary bit where the ever-enthusiastic Paul Rose explored the roots of Ted Hughes in the South Pennines and introduced us in the process to a real character (of the kind that these types of programme thrive on) - actor, director and proud Yorkshireman Barry Rutter. Barry then gave us a delightful rendition of a Ted Hughes poem about a football match in the area. Hughes was a Heptonstall man, and the virtues of present-day Heptonstall were then celebrated.

That poem, however, might not have been entirely typical of Ted Hughes's poems about the place. In the poem called Heptonstall he begins by calling it a "black village of gravestones" and ends by saying: "Only the rain never tires"....

...which I'm guessing isn't the local tourist board's official slogan.

Mish-mash

Friday’s Any Questions was a bit of an embarrassment.  The audience continually applauded Michael Morpurgo, the children’s author who often dresses, head-to-toe, in incompatible shades of red.  It must have been a ‘pre-red’ day when he posed for the photo shown on Richard Millett’s blog in 2012 entitled  “War Horse writer Michael Morpurgo: Israel shoots Palestinian children “like a video game”
His views are pretty child-like and saccharine sweet, so when Dimbleby revealed that the A.Q. had taken place in an Exeter F.E. college, I deduced that the audience might have been disproportionately youthful.  
 The rest of the panel didn’t go down very well with that audience. (Robert Halfon, Frank Field and Claire Fox.) Strange, that. Claire Fox has a grating voice. Perhaps a nice gargle with hot lemon and honey or something. 

************

I heard an announcement on the radio the other day; they’ve developed a bionic eye to treat cyclops. 
I didn’t realise cyclopses were that common - I did know they had one eye, but it was a bit of a surprise that someone thought it worthwhile developing a bionic eye to treat it. 
I knew the actual cyclops is a mythical creature and momentarily wondered if ‘cyclops’ is a politically incorrect term for people with one eye, perhaps in the middle.  
But, err, they wouldn’t use slang like that on the BBC. Then I realised the treatment was for sight-loss, not cyclops. 
See? Not so stupid after all - perhaps a slight hearing loss.

*********

I saw Mark Gatiss on the Andrew Marr show. Not that I’m a fan of Sherlock, but I did think Gatiss was gratifyingly sinister as the vet on League of Gentlemen who accidentally did away with most of his patients. Part of the humour was because as soon as he appeared on the screen you knew what was coming. I liked that even though it’s excruciating.
When Andrew Marr asked him something of a political nature, Mark Gatiss confessed that he saw himself as more of a pub philosopher than an expert on politics. I wish more celebrities had such admirable self-awareness. In fact I wish we all had that quality. To preempt the obvious, that includes me myself and I.

*********

Following Oskar Gröning’s  four year prison sentence, Eva Kor spoke to Carolyn Quinn on R4, PM, 15/07/2015. (Scroll to 37:01.) 
I thought Carolyn Quinn’s tone was quite disrespectful and irritable.
She seemed to think her role was to pit Efraim Zuroff’s desire to prosecute Nazi criminals against Eva Kor’s forgiveness, asking in harsh tones why Eva allowed that hug, and why she disagreed with the prison sentence. 


I understood that Efraim Zuroff believes Nazis like Gröning should still be brought to justice even though he is 94 years old. I took it that he was advocating the principle of a trial and the guilty verdict itself, not the sentence specifically. I may be wrong, but his views did not seem incompatible with Eva Kor’s personal feelings or her allusions to the futility of the prison sentence and the missed educational benefit that a more creative approach to the sentencing might have offered.


Carolyn Quinn seemed to be trying to create a controversy, but  Eva Kor put Ms Quinn firmly in her place with eloquence and clarity.  
BBC presenters are rarely in a position to judge others or talk to them in intimidating tones. Despite Carolyn Quinn’s palpable disapproval, Eva Kor spoke up for herself in a manner few of us would have been able to match.

******* 

Did you hear Liz Kendall talking to Mishal Husain on Today on Saturday morning? (Scroll to 1:49)
Not necessarily talking to’, but talking at the same time as. Kendall refused to give way, so when Husain tried to chip in, they continued speaking in unison. 
Has a mechanical intervention occurred? Maybe Liz Kendall has been possessed by a robotic alter ego, which mistook the Today programme for Just a Minute. (The original Liz Kendall is bound and gagged in a dark, dank cellar.) Call Tuppence and Walliams immediately!
  
The automaton Liz Kendall talked expressionlessly for minutes on end, without hesitation.  Awesome. The whistle was a long time coming, despite much repetition and deviation. Once she got going there was little hesitation; breaths were taken mid sentence and a stream of words poured forth, sometimes over and above Mishal Husain’s attempted interjections (and she was only trying to ask a question, as is the tradition in the ‘interview’ format.)

If you thought the trailing one should stand her ground, and prevent the others from taking advantage of left-over votes to strengthen Yvette or Andy’s battle with the radical left, then you might see that peculiar performance as a sign that you were wrong. I’ve noticed that both the real and the robot versions of Liz Kendall have started to communicate in joined-up cliche. They should let elfin Yvette have a go. She has a bright “i’m more intelligent than you think” appeal.

*********

Isn’t it weird how some people seem to get on the radio or the TV and no-one knows how? They’re people you’re supposed to have heard of, but you haven’t. One of these is Arthur Smith. People say he’s a comedian, but nobody ever says where or when he did the comedy. Another one is Rory McGrath. He appears, but nobody even knows why. He seems to have something wrong with his adenoids.
The other one, JP Devlin, is banned from this household. This is why I never discuss Saturday Live. I don’t know who JP Devlin is, but I know his voice is incompatible with the act of listening to the radio. 
As JP would say, “Who do you not actually know why they’re on the box?” 
  

******

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Kumbaya



Well, our Google Blogger stats show that (despite a lack of comments) "A Special Edition Broadcast Live from East London Mosque" has proved to be our super soaraway smash hit post of the day (thanks, perhaps, to a kindly tweet from a prominent anti-BBC tweeter)...

Thank you for reading it (and please don't be so shy about commenting).

I'm especially pleased about that as it's the only post of mine today that (I think) really nails the BBC on the issue of bias - and does so on an issue that truly matters. (As does Sue's one-and-only post today).

I have to say that I thought that edition of Sunday was about as clear an example of BBC bias in action as I've heard in some time - hence the post's length and detail. 

And it's not harmless bias either. Such whitewashing, such blatant propaganda, can be seriously counter-productive (however 'nice' and 'well-meaning' it may appear). Sweeping things under the carpet may feel like the right, PC, BBC thing to do, especially if it helps British Muslims feel that the BBC is on their side, but....

...those things swept under that carpet might be deeply, deeply unhealthy and deadly dangerous things.

And we all know where that kind of censorship (and self-censorship) leads (see Rotherham, Rochdale, Oldham, Oxford, etc, etc, etc).

It really is silly to, metaphorically-speaking, sing Kumbaya to the tune of the Muslim call to prayer, as Sunday was doing today.

Yes, everyone in Citizens UK and at the BBC must have felt great afterwards, but so what? So what if Citizens UK, the BBC and the Woolf Institute felt pleased with themselves about having flooded Radio 4's airwaves for 45 minutes with interfaith love and harmony whilst unison-chanting hymns and psalms in praise of the East London Mosque? 

This sort of thing is why I wanted to blog about BBC bias in the first place - to record the evidence.

If you agree with the arguments here, please feel free to complain to the BBC about it. They might ignore you if they realise we've sent you their way (see an earlier post), but if you pay the licence fee you are perfectly entitled to complain to the BBC if you think they are behaving badly. 

Cart and Horse

Following Adam Wishart’s misrepresentation of the volatile Al-Aqsa Mosque situation, the BBC has  done it again. 

As BBC Watch points out, they’ve reported the recent violence by muddling up ‘cause and effect’. 
You can read what actually happened on the Times of Israel online.

Palestinian rioters attack police on Temple Mount  “Dozens of masked Palestinian protesters hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at police officers on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City Sunday morning, before being pushed back into the Al-Aqsa Mosque by security forces who were rushed to the area.”

The BBC in its wisdom puts it like this: 
Al-Aqsa mosque: Israeli police enter Jerusalem holy site  “Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians are said to have barricaded themselves inside the mosque and thrown stones at police, who moved in to stop them.”

You learn something new every day



(h/t Deegee)

Back briefly to that documentary, The Train that Divides Jerusalem, and a piece by Jerry Lewis in the Jerusalem Post about the controversy it caused headlined BBC under fire for documentary on Jerusalem Light Rail

It gives an interesting insight into the BBC complaints process:
The program, which had its first broadcast last Monday evening, pulled in an estimated 1.7 million viewers, which a BBC representative told The Jerusalem Post is an average audience for such broadcasts. 
What was also disclosed later the following day was that the BBC had received 24 complaints. 
Fair enough? Well, after such a controversial examination of the conflict over Jerusalem, it would be inevitable that many more complained. 
However, the BBC has a strict policy in dealing with such complaints, triggered in part by the constant (and in this journalist’s view, often unjustified) barrage of criticisms aimed at the BBC virtually every time Israel is in the news, by so called pro-Israel lobbyists, who urge followers to flood the BBC with complaints. 
This has led the BBC to decline to give out complaints figures “when there has been evidence of lobbying or where media coverage has influenced the number” and it is known from internal leaks within the corporation that far less concern is taken after such organized campaigns.
Did you know that? 

So, if a 'BBC bias' story appears in a newspaper and lots of people independently complain to the BBC on the back of it, the BBC might very well refuse to give out accurate complaints figures. 

And, similarly, if lots of social media outlets (including blogs like this) are judged to be part of some 'lobbying' process encouraging people like you to complain to the BBC - even if we bloggers are also acting entirely off our own bats (as we are) - then the BBC might again very well refuse to give out accurate complaints figures (as appears to be the case here)....

I suspect that means that anyone (outside the BBC) wanting to know how many people complained about any high-profile, biased piece of BBC reporting regarding Israel will never be able to find out.

"A Special Edition Broadcast Live from East London Mosque"



As I’ve noted, the BBC has this year broadcast a couple of programmes that were essentially propaganda for the hardline East London Mosque. The programmes faithfully followed the mosque’s PR script that it is a beacon of liberalism and tolerance; only mosque officials and supporters were interviewed. The substantial evidence of the East London Mosque’s links with extremist and hate preachers was entirely ignored, and the mosque’s many critics, Muslim and non-Muslim, were nowhere to be heard. 
What provoked that comment was a report on the previous day's Radio 4’s Sunday programme "marking the mosque’s centenary and, in the words of the presenter, “sharing in the celebrations of the worshippers”". Andrew Gilligan gave that 2010 Sunday report a severe filleting before ending by saying,
It should not be the BBC’s role to “share in the celebrations” of anything, let alone the East London Mosque.
Move on from 2010 to 2015, and Radio 4's Sunday was at it again this morning with its live "special edition" from the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, which began with a call to prayer.

We heard a lot about the mosque's long history and Edward Stourton was at pains to point out that it has "a rich history", that it is "absolutely soaked" in history. 

What we didn't hear at any point was any mention of the controversial parts of the ELM's recent history. Not a word was spoken about that.

As in 2010, only mosque officials and supporters were interviewed about the mosque itself. Ed was given a guided tour by one and discussed its history with another. Controversial former chairman Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari was one of his main guests. 

It was all wonderful PR for the East London Mosque, presenting it as a wholly benign force in British society.

(Incidentally, if you ever fancy reading a Wikipedia entry that has very clearly been written by someone close to its subject, then please give Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari's entry a read. It's pure PR from start to finish. Quite shameless.)


David Cameron's speech earlier this week was the programme's starting point and finishing point, but its main leitmotif was interfaith relations. 

Dr Abdul Bari's companion was Sunday regular Dr Ed Kessler of the interfaith Woolf Institute. Dr Kessler said that interfaith dialogue is changing into action, spurred on by the effects of austerity. Mrs Cohen, Mrs Khan and Mrs Green are all meeting each other in soup kitchens. At a local level trust between communities remains quite strong, he added. Dr Abdul Bari said "overwhelmingly" there isn't a problem with Muslims who don't identify with Britain (in contradiction to what the PM said). Such people are "a very tiny fragment". (Ed Stourton didn't disagree).

There was also a report from Trevor Barnes on interfaith dialogue. He went to an event at a "community garden". He said such events don't make the headlines unlike prime ministerial statements, but they are just as important. Everyone Trevor spoke to expressed warm feelings about other communities. 

Then came a feature profiling Sister Christine Frost, a Catholic nun who has been promoting interfaith work in Tower Hamlets for many years. She was the one who had the black Islamic flag removed, but not perhaps for the reasons you might think. She thought it would reflect badly on her estate and get everyone branded with the same mark of shame. Various Muslim voices voiced their love and admiration for her, and her work. 

Apparently, this item is the first of a series of pieces on Sunday profiling figures who are working towards interfaith harmony. 

Then came the closing discussion, featuring a large group of young Muslims and Neil Jamieson of Citizens UK. 

It was trailed as being about hearing the reactions of young Muslims to Mr Cameron's speech, leading me to think it would feature a range of young Muslims from the East London Mosque and the surrounding borough. 

I was quite taken aback then when Ed Stourton let slip that all of the young Muslims involved in the discussion are part of Mr Jamieson's Citizens UK - i.e. a highly selective group of young Muslims (who, therefore, may not be representative). 


You can imagine the result: everyone pretty much saying exactly the same thing and no one saying anything too controversial....

Someone said he feels just as British as anyone else. Someone else said that ignorance and the media narrative creates barriers, and the government has a habit of talking to Muslims not with them. A third person said British values and Islamic values go hand in hand. A fourth person said he's a British muslim and has a plurality of identities, all of which fit in with British values. A fifth young Muslim echoed the complaint that the government keeps telling Muslims how to do things. A sixth voice said the Prevent strategy feels to many young Muslims like "a way of keeping an eye on us" and worried about universities monitoring extremism because of the danger of "ostracisation". He also complained about the media. The seventh person said that "99.999%" of Muslims accept the aims of Prevent but not its "methodology". The eighth young Muslim said Prevent shouldn't just focus on the Muslim community but ought to be more "multicultural", more "multifaith". She also blamed the media narrative. The ninth person said Prevent is "making us feel like a lab experiment", making Muslims feel "isolated". He blamed the media again. The tenth young Muslim said that David Cameron is "conflating" a lot of "very complicated" issues together. Mr Cameron is "very confused." The eleventh person said that is could result in the "further isolating" of Muslims and and "the media has a lot to do with it". Neil Jamieson of Citizens UK then pronounced himself "encouraged" by all of this.

The whole programme reeked of earnest propaganda. Listening to it was like being spoonfed a large, overly-healthy meal. Everything about it was nice and well-meaning, everything tending towards the same set of messages. No 'noises off' were heard.

You won't be surprised to learn, no doubt, that plenty of just-as-nice-and-well-meaning members of the Twitterati are urging people who missed it to catch up with this "brilliant" programme on the iPlayer. 

I don't doubt that the makers of Sunday will feel very pleased about what their one-sided programme achieved today. I have to say though that listening to it only confirmed the truth for me of Damian Thompson's description of Sunday: "Radio 4's Sunday programme offers perhaps the most undiluted liberal bias to be found anywhere on the BBC".

Corbynmania




The whole Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon is very strange. 

From the way some people tell it, it's as if Beatlemania has been reborn in the cause of an elderly, bearded far-leftist. 

Of course, much of that mania may be down to the distorting efforts of left-dominated social media echo chambers like Twitter, whose views bear very little resemblance to what most people actually think, as well as a lot of media hype and a few probably dodgy opinion polls....

...but there's no denying (I think) that Mr Corbyn is doing himself proud at the moment. 

His quiet, earnest, straightforward manner seems to be 'authentic'. His temper when questioned too strongly (as on Channel 4 News) also seems 'authentic'. His lack of a sense of humour seems 'authentic' as well. 

And politicians being 'authentic' really does seem to matter, to varying degrees, to many people. Nigel Farage does it for some; Jeremy Corbyn does it for others. (Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, it seems, less so).

Jeremy Corbyn became an MP just about the time when I began to be interested in politics. He's been around a long time, and in all that time I've never thought of him as anything other than a very-far-left, Israel-loathing, Hamas-Hizbollah-friendly, pro-Sinn Fein Labour Party fringe player, part of the 'awkward squad', utterly contemptible and unimportant. 

And, yet, now here he is, apparently poised to win the leadership of the UK's main opposition party - which is truly extraordinary.

And, even more extraordinary to me, is the fact that - like Sue - I've found him oddly plausible and weirdly appealing. Given how little large parts of the public know or care about party politics, couldn't he be onto a potentially popular thing, if he keeps this up? Could those Tories4Corbyn be laughing on the other side of their faces in years to come? 

(My guess is 'no, they won't be', but what do I know? The Tories could self-destruct into civil war after the EU referendum. UKIP might fail to get it together despite the open goal given to them by both main parties. The Lib Dems might revive a bit. The SNP could fall back (if Jeremy C is Labour leader). Who knows what will happen in 2020?)

Anyhow, Mr Corbyn's interview with Andrew Marr today was very oddly plausible. He's absolutely mastered the knack (if knack it be) of sounding moderate and commonsensical when saying all manner of (when you step back a bit) extreme things. No wonder the sort of journalists who fling the term 'populist' at UKIP are now flinging it at Jeremy Corbyn too.

And that brings me (at last) to the question of BBC bias. 

That left-wing echo chamber on Twitter is going mad at the BBC for being anti-Corbyn. They are beginning to outnumber the cybernats in dominating the #bbcbias hashtag. 

Even Andy Marr got it in the neck today on Twitter (en masse) for being anti-Corbyn.

That said, I've also seen a comment at another place (one strongly tending to the Right) accusing Andrew Marr of giving Corbyn the Magnificent a "cuddly" interview, "a cosy fireside chat". 

"Complaints from both sides. BBC must be getting it about right, #BackingtheBBC", as Professor Brian Cox et al might say.

No, Professor Brian Cox, Not at all. It means absolutely no such thing. It might mean than Andrew Marr got it about right on this occasion, but it doesn't mean that the BBC as a whole is getting it right. There could be an anti-Corbyn bias at the BBC, or pro-Corbyn bias. The only way to find out is to listen and judge the matter as fairly as possible (given that the BBC won't be doing so, publicly at least).



I, frankly, haven't seen enough of it to judge. Given the tenor of, say, Gavin Esler's comments on Dateline London yesterday and Andrew Marr's questioning of Mr C. today, however, I can see why some pro-Corbyn viewers and listeners might have detected an anti-Corbyn tone. Gavin was a little bit sneery about him yesterday and Andrew Marr did try, rather gently but nonetheless persistently, to paint Jeremy Corbyn as a communist today (but isn't he?)

Yet both also seemed fascinated rather than out-and-out horrified by the Corbyn phenomenon, in a way that they never seemed about, say, the Nigel Farage phenomenon. And the same, from what I've seen and heard, with Newsnight and Broadcasting House and PM.  

So let's speculate: The BBC probably would, I think, have been far more comfortable with boring, snoring Yvette, or mascara-wearing NHS-loving Mids Staffs guy Andy, or Blairite Liz. Though many of them (the vast majority of them, by most accounts) swing left, Jeremy Corbyn is too left even for them, despite him having a certain lingering (radical chic) appeal (memories of their student days perhaps).

Am I onto something here? Or not? 

Is the BBC pro-Corbyn, anti-Corbyn, confused or just being impartial? 


A good question, David. Where does the BBC stand (if anywhere)?

Baroness Warsi on the 'Marr Show'



Andrew Marr's interview with Baroness Warsi this morning found the Conservative peer vigorously batting for British Muslims again. 

She accentuated the positive and eliminated the negative as best she could (which, being Baroness Warsi, wasn't that well to be honest). 

Thus (according to her): the polling evidence shows that British Muslims are more patriotic than the rest of us Brits; let's not forget the far-right; the nutcases are a tiny "isolated" minority, and you'll find them in all communities anyway; there's not much support for ISIS among British Muslims; Muslims are victims of conspiracy theories too; Muslims have been "disengaged with" by the government, etc.

Many of those points could be contested, and Andrew Marr didn't do much in the way of contesting any of them; but, credit where credit's due, his two long questions posed precisely the kind of questions the BBC ought to be asking more often:
Alright, but it seems to me that the real difference is what is extremism inside the Muslim community? I mean we see polls saying a third of young Muslims want to live under sharia law. We see very large numbers of young Muslims regard Jews as legitimate targets and so forth. There are some very … views that a lot of people would regard as extreme and worrying inside the mainstream Muslim community and the question is does British Islam have to respond to the fact that Muslims are living inside a Western liberal state in a more dramatic way? 
But there is a view inside the Muslim community, some quite prominent clerics and so forth who believe that eventually Islam should convert the rest of the UK and Britain should become an Islamic society living under sharia law. Would you regard that as an extremist and worrying view yourself?

Another opinion


Talking about opinions. Here's another, regarding Libya:
Sarah Smith, BBC Scotland: Britain and France were at the forefront of NATO intervention...
Andrew Marr (interrupting): ...of "liberating" it and turning it into what is now another failed state.

Not a fan of Boris?



BBC Scotland's Sarah Smith is much more used to being accused of anti-SNP, anti-independence bias by massed armies of furious cybernats, so this post might make a pleasant change for her...

Here's her not-entirely-impartial-sounding take on Boris on the 'Marr Show':
Well, if you're trying to combine being Mayor of London and being and MP and having a newspaper column and write a book at the same time, it doesn't look as if you're terribly serious about your politics, does it?
Or it might look as if you're very serious about your politics, Sarah - i.e. very ambitious - if all of that effort is essentially directed towards the goal of becoming prime minister of our wonderful United Kingdom.

The right kind of 'militants'



There was an exchange between Andrew Marr and BBC Scotland's Sarah Smith during this morning press review that went as follows:
Sarah Smith (BBC): Operation Stack, which is all these freight trucks stacked up on the M20 southbound, and Kent Police warning that that is going to be in place all day today as well. So that means there's up to 5 hour delays for holiday makers trying to get through the Channel Tunnel. Absolutely miserable for them, but worth noting in this story as well...it talks about another migrant who was trying to climb on top of a train this week and was killed. Eight migrants trying to get through the Channel Tunnel from Calais have been killed this year, which puts waiting a few hours to get off on your holidays into perspective.
You will doubtless have spotted that BBC Sarah took the opportunity to engage in a fine bit of BBC-style 'virtue signalling' there. Anyhow, here was Andrew Marr's response: 
Andrew Marr: Operation Stack is also about the French militants on the other side of the tunnel, isn't it...?
...at which point you might have been forgiven a moment's shudder at the scary thought of French Islamist terrorists attacking the Channel Tunnel, given that 'militants' usually means 'terrorists' these days on the BBC, except that Andy then went on to say:
....who are protesting about working conditions and so forth?
Yes, these 'militants' here are the old-fashioned kind of 'militants' (the kind that 'enter' the Labour Party from time to time) rather than terrorists. Dieu merci! 

Maybe the BBC could start calling terrorists 'terrorists' rather than 'militants'? Much less confusing!

"Many thanks for that, Shaun"



Andy Marr make a bit of a blunder this morning. You may already have heard about it. He said, "Many thanks for that, Shaun" to newsreader Sian Lloyd.

A Twitter frenzy doubtless ensued (though I haven't looked to make sure) accusing him of having made a sexist Freudian slip, showing that he really believes that all newsreaders should be male, #everydaysexism, and that he should be sacked.

Incidentally, why are all female presenters of BBC Breakfast called Sian? First there was Sian Williams, and now there's Sian Lloyd and Sian Munchetty.

Andy wasn't having a good morning because soon after that outrageous howler he held up the front page of the Sun on Sunday with its headline about a Labour peer, Lord Coke: Top peer’s drug binges with £200 prostitutes. Unfortunately, Andy Marr then read that out as "Tory peer".

He probably should have kept his glasses on. (I know I always keep mine on when reading out newspaper headlines on live TV - and I'm sure you probably do too).

Jeremy Corbyn: It's the way he tell 'em


To lighten the mood, here are some of Jeremy Corbyn's funniest jokes

Radio 4's News Quiz is apparently considering hiring him to partner up with Jeremy Hardy each week. The station controller hopes that Jeremy Corbyn's arrival will shift the programme's political centre of gravity away from Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy and back towards the centre ground, thus fending off those pesky allegations of left-wing bias.