Friday, 27 March 2015

Rumble in jungle


I suppose we ought to mention the rumble in the jungle. I disagree with whoever it was that declared Paxo the winner.
 I thought he was hopeless. The aggressive approach that’s suppose to ruffle feathers and stimulate passion only creates defensiveness and a kind of special politician’s brand of inhibition. Instead of drawing out potential, it kills it off.  Hell yes.
So after all that evasiveness and defensiveness, we’re none the wiser. Kay Burley got a thorough pasting on the interweb. Yes, she does resemble a cat.

The only thing worth just mentioning - in my humble, not very impressed opinion - was a superfluous debriefing in the BBC’s ‘spin room’.
They interviewed  a small cluster of Labour supporters and Nigel Farage. “What did you think of it so far?” they asked people like Dan Hodges and Kevin Maguire. “Rubbish” came the reply.   “Who came across best?“ Ed’s passion, apparently.
They must have been watching a different programme from the one I watched. 
After the Labour-luvvies plus the Ukip leader had given their verdicts, along came William Hague, and suddenly something went wrong with the sound.  

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Why the BBC's biased coverage of Israel matters

The Times reported today that Amnesty International (famously no supporter of Israel) has accused Hamas of being responsible for the deaths of 11 Gazan children at the Al-Shati refugee camp on July 28, 2014:
Misfired Hamas rockets’ killed children in Gaza
A rocket salvo that killed 11 Gazan children and hit a hospital on a Muslim religious holiday was the work of Palestinian militants hitting their own people, a report has found, in a damning indictment of Hamas’s conduct during last summer’s war with Israel.
The explosion at the Al-Shati refugee camp on July 28, which killed the children buying sweets on the first day of Eid ul Fitr, was the result of misfired rockets by Hamas, Amnesty International concluded.
Hamas blamed Israel for the bombing at the time, but a relation of one of dead child said that Palestinian militants went to the scene and tried to hide the evidence of their involvement.
“I saw the body of the rocket [and] I knew it was a local one,” the family member told The Times. “Some people came and hid it on the spot — however, it was really hot.”
He said that he held Hamas, as governors of Gaza, responsible but that no one from the group had ever visited the family or apologised. Two adults also died and another 19 were injured. 
That tragedy was widely blamed on Israel at the time, despite the Israeli government's prompt offering of counter-evidence absolutely refuting the claim.

Amnesty has now endorsed the Israeli government's version. 

As BBC Watch notes, the impact of this one news story - extensively reported on the media outlet that most British people use to get their news, the BBC - was so strong that the CST noted a spike in UK anti-Semitic attacks in its immediate aftermath. 

Did the BBC help create that anti-Semitic zeitgeist?

That's quite a charge, but it's a reasonable one to make.

Please judge for yourselves by watching this short BBC report from Ian Pannell - a report I remember seeing at the time: 

If anyone wants a single concrete example of BBC News being blatantly biased against Israel - and why that matters - I'd say that report provides it.

It's a piece of flagrantly emotional reporting: suffering children, suffering parents, suffering BBC reporter. It's unequivocally one-sided. It amplifies Palestinian claims - and downright lies - without questioning them. It fails to provide any context. It avoids wondering if Hamas intimidation might lie behind some of the claims against Israel. It seeks to undermine the Israeli case by (a) not giving it and (b) featuring Palestinian voices sneering at it.

Its reporter clearly believes that Israel did it. And he didn't hold back on projecting that feeling, did he?

Frankly, it's just an awful piece of reporting - made all the more awful by being so moving.

And, given its prominence, lots and lots of British people will have seen it. And lots of British people would have been appalled by it. And lots of British people will have blamed Israel for it. And some may have gone on anti-Israel protests because of it. And some may even have attacked Jewish targets (here in the UK) because of it.

Re-watching that report now, several months on, knowing what we now know (and which many knew at the time), doesn't this show that the BBC's reporting of Israel is clearly, demonstrably faulty and irresponsible?


P.S. Unusually, the BBC's most Israel-unfriendly Twitter users seem very quiet about Amnesty's report and the media's coverage of it today. Jon Donnison is clearly keeping his counsel. So is Jeremy Bowen. Where are they?

A Dialogue between the Soul and the Heart

By popular demand...

The Radio 4 drama Recent Events at Collington House (Part 1 here; Part 2 here) prompted a metaphysical dialogue between the heart and the soul, here at ITBB

Here, channeling that marvellous Metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell, is a taste of that inner debate:

Heart: I dutifully listened to the final episode of that Radio 4 drama, which was like a collection of all the recent 'issues' pasted together, but with an unusual outcome - the Muslims defeated the secular headmistress. A message of hopelessness I suppose.

Soul: I was surprised at how emotionally involved I got with it. I went red in the face at times. Plus, it went to places that the BBC rarely goes to. It showed how a Trojan Horse-style plot (of the kind which occurred in the West Midlands) might actually work, beginning with personal demands from a single governor that his child should not be taught music because "Music is haram" and progressing through an ever-increasing number of further sharia-inducing demands to a smear campaign against the sitting headmistress (and non-Muslim members of staff), to dogged grievance-mongering, a relentless infiltration of the board of governors and finally a takeover - a takeover which all the nice, well-meaning, PC, multicultural, equality-loving, (BBC-like) members of staff/governors are nigh on powerless to prevent. It certainly was a message of hopelessness - which, at the moment, seems something of a realistic position.

Heart: The only thing I'd point out is that to me it seemed, in terms of drama, it was pretty crass. The good thing was that it ended up on a kind of note of hopelessness and resignation, but it was as if the writer had gathered together a hatfull of headlines and strung them together with little additional creative or literary input:
  • The headmistress hounded out by Muslim parents and governors. Tick.
  • The friendless outsider non-Muslim boy with a worried single mum, radicalised by another pupil. Tick.
  • The radicalised clever Muslim pupil. Tick.
  • The frail chairman, supportive but about to stand down. Tick.
  • The gratuitous divorce in the background, sapping the headmistress's strength. Tick.
  • The graffiti on the wall. The debate about freedom of speech. The Charlie Hebdo/picture of the prophet. Tock.
That's just for a start. At least we were spared a happy outcome, which was indeed a surprise. It clunked.

Soul: Yes, it did clunk. The bit where Mr Nurani did his "I love the Prophet Mohammed more than my mum, dad and kids" speech was nicked straight out of the papers, as was pretty much all of the rest of the plot. Still, it got me hot under the collar about Mr Shah & Co. (the Islamist plotters inside the Trojan horse) and made lots of points that aren't usually made on the BBC, which is something.

Heart: I thought the whole thing was nicked out of the papers, and that's why it couldn't really be described as 'good'. Only in its vaguely realistic ending was it in a way good.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Here's to Andrew Neil, the last surviving right-winger at the BBC!

A recurring joke in the old days at the Biased BBC blog - a joke which, strangely enough, was (by and large) 'funny because it's true' - was that left-wing defenders of the BBC only ever used one argument to counter our charge that the BBC is left-biased: "Yeah, but what about Jeremy Clarkson, Nick Robinson and Andrew Neil?"

It was as if the mere ritual recital of that unholy trinity of BBC names was enough to disprove all of our evidence that the vast majority of BBC staff leaned leftwards rather than rightwards.

The evidence for that assertion (of ours) included (among other things) quotes from prominent BBC types confirming the fact; an internal BBC survey which showed an overwhelming majority of BBC staff identifying themselves as 'liberal' rather than 'conservative'; those figures showing a vastly disproportionate number of BBC purchases of the Guardian compared to other newspapers; those seemingly endless one-sided tweets and re-tweets from BBC reporters; plus, of course, the mass of evidence that we ourselves found in support of that contention.

That was then and this is now though. Jeremy Clarkson is gone (and he's never been a BBC News man anyhow, any more than Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steel or Marcus Brigstocke have ever been). And Nick Robinson is sadly indisposed. So that just leaves Brillo - the last remaining right-winger at the BBC.

Ah yes, but things have moved on and those old-time left-wing defenders of the BBC might now say, "Yeah, but what about Craig Oliver, who worked at the BBC and then became David Cameron's spokesman? What about Jeremy Paxman who outed himself as a one-nation Tory after leaving the BBC? What about Fat Peng? And what about Gobby, who ran off to UKIP?"... which the obvious reply would be (if you don't consider this a straw man argument on my part): Yes, but they've all gone too. So, as I say, that just leaves Brillo as the sole remaining right-winger in the BBC village.

Of course, that 'only rightie in the BBC village' crack implies that there are more right-wingers in the BBC village. It would be highly unlikely if there weren't.

Who though? 

Rod Liddle suspects John Humphrys might be - though he thinks he's very good at hiding it if he is. (Rumour has long had it that there is one Tory on the 'Today' rota. John? Justin?) Deputy political editor James Landale has also been mooted as a Tory. [No one at the BBC - except the late Sir Patrick Moore (and, now, the differently-'late' Gobby) - ever seems to get mooted as a Ukipper though.]

Anyone else?

The BBC Scrutiny Committee

The Guardian and the Telegraph disagree about the House of Commons' European Scrutiny Committee's report on the European debate - especially over the committee's criticism of the BBC's coverage of Europe. 

As for the BBC's own online report on the MPs' findings, well, it chooses to make the report's general findings about "the lack of an EU debate" its focus. The section on the BBC begins a considerable way down the report, presents the BBC top managers' statements first, then gives the committee's view before ending with a statement from a BBC spokesman. It uses (without quotations marks) the sub-headline 'Independence'. 

For those who don't here are some extracts from it: 
78. We remain concerned following that session that Lord Hall did not seem, in our view, to appreciate fully the limitations on the BBC editorial independence imposed by Article of the Charter, the Framework Agreement and the general law. We were glad to note that Lord Hall stated that on “impartiality, I think that is just fundamental. I really do.” However, we were not satisfied with his responses as to the balance to be struck in delivering that impartiality in respect of different views on the EU issue, and we challenged him that few voices were heard from those with strong views criticising the EU among backbenchers, including from the Labour Party.
80. Overall, following our questioning, we were not satisfied that Lord Hall was sufficiently clear about the structure of the oversight he exercised over those who worked under him as Editor-in-Chief. We were also concerned that neither he nor James Harding sufficiently appreciated that the issue of the EU is not only a party-political, but a cross-party issue for backbenchers.
82. We are gravely concerned that despite our clear message in the session that we would have expected that the BBC would give full coverage to the proceedings attended by Lord Hall and James Harding, apart from a broadcast on BBC Parliament after the session and a short summary of the proceedings on the BBC website, there was to our knowledge no news commentary, analysis or interviews on any of the mainstream programmes of the BBC of the proceedings. We note in this context our continued concerns that there was similarly little coverage of our seminal report on European Scrutiny Reform of November 2013. We regard these failures as inexplicable, and in our view they could be construed as a breach of the BBC’s duties under its Charter and Framework Agreement, and particularly in respect of its public purposes. Furthermore, we find them difficult to understand given Lord Hall’s repeated statements of how seriously he took the issue of impartiality, and the steps he referred to in his oral evidence of how attention is paid to the “flow of information” and a “common response”, with many including daily) meetings between editors and senior managers.
86. We are not yet convinced that the BBC’s training adequately equips BBC editors, correspondents, producers and interviewers to devise the questions and coverage to reflect all sides of the EU equation, in accordance with the BBC Charter and its obligations. We were told by Lord Hall that the organisation is “very reflective. It thinks very hard about what it is doing … The culture, I think, is one of questioning”, and on the question of the complexity of the issues in question, we were told that “the challenge is to say ‘this is complex; it matters. Now we, as journalists, must try to get to grips with it”. In our view a good deal more analysis is required.
90. In summary, we still remain deeply concerned about the manner in which the BBC treats EU issues. Our witnesses seemed to be more intent on defending and asserting their own opinions, mindset and interpretation of the obligations under the Charter and Framework Agreement than in whether they had in fact discharged them or whether they had the mindset to carry through their post-Wilson aims. In the interest of the licence fee payers, and the public in general, and in the context of the approaching General Election and a prospective referendum on the EU, and given the fact that the BBC themselves state that 58% of the public look to the BBC for news they trust, we believe that the BBC has a duty under its Charter, Framework Agreement and the general law, and following the Wilson report in particular, to improve substantially the manner in which it treats EU issues.
93. We deeply regret the fact that Lord Hall’s repeated refusals to give oral evidence delayed the session to such an extent that it has not been possible to conduct further work on these issues before the dissolution of Parliament. Our central tenet, regarding the BBC’s coverage of the EU scrutiny process in the House, and EU issues more generally, is that the country’s public service broadcaster must command wide confidence in its coverage of such a sensitive and complex issue. We do not believe that this has been achieved.
Lord Hall doesn't seem to have gone down too well with them, does he?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Mountain v molehill

I’ve been trying to find out the reaction to Theresa May’s speech about how the government intends to clamp down on extremism. How it went down with the public and so on.

The BBC did air the speech, but so did Sky. Reactions seem to fall into two camps. 

The Islamists didn’t think much of it. Some say they wish to put a knife through her neck, others that they wish cars would run her over. 

Other, less fanatical responses range from ‘too little too late’ to “yeah yeah, all talk and no ‘do’.”
Odd that Anjem Choudary has been invited to address the Oxford Union, which you might think  a bit of an impudent invitation under the circumstances.

While David Cameron is still insisting that ‘extremism’ is entirely different from Islam, even when it’s called Islamist extremism, Theresa May’s intentions seem decidedly pie in the sky.
She mentioned the Trojan Horse effect. Yet the BBC tells us that there is no evidence that such a thing exists. It all seems to hinge on how one interprets ‘extremism’, ‘plot’ , ‘British values’ and the meaning of the word ‘meaning.’

What irritated me yesterday was that David Cameron’s supposed ‘gaffe’ eclipsed every other item of news yesterday. Everyone on the BBC was hell-bent on making an enormous mountain out of what most people will think of as a small mole-hill. It was an obsessive, media-driven, overblown, explosion of substance-free, boring, manufactured speculation about 'what David Cameron meant' when he said something unremarkable about his intentions for the far off future.

With luck one day the media will eat itself, or push a knife through its own neck; or get run over by a truck that it didn’t see coming because it was completely absorbed in its own irrelevant speculation.

There *is* Race!

While we’re on the subject of The Big Questions, last Sunday’s episode was about race. Or was it about racism. The general consensus seemed to be that racism is, and could only be, the powerful discriminating against the disempowered. 

From this principle it was extrapolated that black people couldn’t be racist. It was an impossibility. If I remember correctly that’s the Diane Abbott theory.  Someone could maybe have mentioned Zimbabwe, the Middle East, present day South Africa and so on, but perhaps that’s just semantics, because of course those examples are still power or ‘class’ holding sway over the weak and/or the underclass, albeit in these cases it’s ‘black’ upon ‘white’.

Something that should have been said, but wasn’t, was that there is also the passive-aggressive, guilt inducing racism that comes from incessant victim-mongering, such as was in evidence in that programme. Blacks - or whatever the latest acronym for ‘black’n’asian’ is -  can be racist. And they often are - with notable exceptions of course.

There is another flaw in this kind of discussion. It’s the fact that most of the time everyone is talking at cross-purposes. There *is* race. It exists. DNA and all that. We should be able to acknowledge that, at least without people recoiling in horror at the very mention. People should be able to generalise about certain things where they’re obvious, on the understanding that there are exceptions to the rule. 

If, say, statistics show that one racial group broadly demonstrates unique physical or mental attributes, why should we be afraid to mention it - on the understanding that there are exceptions.  Racial stereotyping isn’t necessarily negative or positive; it can simply be neutral. 

There’s an issue about profiling. I understand that Israel has an effective way of minimizing terrorism in the air through profiling. If security services or airport authorities were prohibited from working along those lines it would put us in more danger than we already are. In fact some politically correct non-discrimination must already be in place, if stories about white grannies being searched while burka’d ladies sail through check-in are anything to go by.

Of course the black citizens who are offended by too many racially targeted stop and search events might see things differently. Some would say it’s up to black communities themselves to overturn the statistics that make them a target, by reining in their own criminal element and generally conforming to conventional norms, which is dangerously close to blaming the victim; and they could justifiably argue that it’s difficult to do all that because of society’s discrimination. It’s a circular argument with little hope of a quick fix. Patience is the only hope.

There is an extraordinary amount of racial discrimination and harassment at our universities in the form of anti-Zionism-come-antisemitism. It’s rising. 

Which brings me to Trevor Phillips.
 “Former Master of the King’s Wardrobe suddenly reveals that ‘The King is in the Altogether’ shock horror.” 
This weird mea culpa, which some people are lauding as wonderful, refreshing and liberating and others are condemning as total disingenuous rubbish - seems to me to be part statement of the bleeding obvious / part racist victimhood whinge. He seems to be making a case for more active  ‘positive discrimination’, and  he lost me near the beginning. The first thing Phillips cites as a ‘truth we’re not allowed to say” is that rusty old antisemitic slur, that Jews are predominantly powerful and rich. Statistics somewhere attest to it, he said. He stopped just short of saying Jews control the world. (In The Big Questions, Lee Jasper of all people brought Phillips to task on that because, he said, “I know plenty of poor Jews”)  There are exceptions you see. 
However I found it bothersome that in his Channel 4 documentary Trevor Phillips didn’t bother to qualify that so-called ‘truth’, even to say that he too knows (or knows of) the occasional poor, un-powerful Jew. He was happy enough to just leave that  particular ‘truth you can’t say’ well and truly ‘said.’

"I know some poor Jews"

As far as I could tell, Trevor Phillips’s  revelations added nothing to the mix. Perhaps he’s reluctantly coming round to the view that pure, unadulterated, non discriminatory equality and universal sameness is a delusion rather than a reality. He’s kind of the last man standing, the only man alive who didn’t know that all along.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Meanwhile, in another universe...

The cybernats are not happy bunnies today. 

They are (as ever) very active on the Twitter hashtag #bbcbias, busily tweeting each other messages like the following:
Proof of #bbcbias entire interview subliminally captioned as "SNP Threat" on #bbcdp Impartial and unbiased eh? ”
wow the #bbcbias channel now trying subliminal messages. It's not done in error
@BBCNews @BBCNewsnight @BBCPolitics your bias against the SNP is the REAL THREAT to democracy! #BBCBias
Stewart Hosie interviewed by BBC yesterday surely positive proof of BBC bias? 
More incredible BBC bias. They don't even try and hide it anymore. (Too funny) 
#BBCBias introduce latest series for their  #ProjectDemonizeSNP
If you needed proof of BBC bias toward SNP, here it is @boycottTheBBC @daily_politics @theSNP @afneil 
And what exactly has got their goat today (mixing my animal metaphors)? Well, this:

Now, I think I know what the BBC's trying to say with that caption but I don't think the cybernats would entirely buy that explanation.

Anyhow, you're now beholding an image (above) which is surely destined for thousands upon thousands of tweets and re-tweets from now till infinity...or at least until Scottish independence.

Some bigger questions

I’m not religious. It’s not so much that I do or don’t believe in God - It’s more of an absence of belief. There are more pressing things to worry about, or for that matter, to believe in.

Many British adults with secular tendencies (lefties, progressives, creatives, centre-righties, lapsed Christians, apostate Catholics, cats, dogs and English-speaking parrots) have rejected the religion they know most about (Christianity) because of the prudish, retrograde morality that used to blight people’s lives in the days when ‘high church’ and piety were regarded as ‘good‘ and original sin needed to be exorcised by prayer and penance and doing good deeds.  
Although most secular souls might retain a vague, waffly idea that God is ‘within us all’,  the underlying concept that ‘God is love’ is out. God is love is the baby that was thrown out with the bathwater. Many non-believers have dispensed with the whole thing, bathtub and all. No God; no sky faries.

So, if all the old fashioned religious ideas of what constitutes immorality (being gay, illegitimate, and all the other ten commandment-type sins) can be dispensed with, as well as the concept that God is love, how can it be that another religion, Islam, can persuade so many rejectors of Christianity that Islam, with its God Allah, its prophet Mohammed, its dogma and its worldview is a credible way of life for British citizens, which we must all accommodate? Furthermore, how can we accept, despite all the evidence to the contrary, claims that it is a religion of peace?

The current situation seems to be that you can’t entertain the idea that God is love; you are inclined to reject religion altogether. You are not particularly acquainted with the fundamentals and the trappings of Islam other than a vague notion that the violence and atrocities we hear about in the news are ‘nothing to do with Islam’, yet you are eager to give Islam’s claims of peacefulness, Godliness and plausibility  the benefit of the doubt?  I just can’t make sense of that.

Muslims have inveigled ‘secularist cultural non-Christians’ into respecting and kowtowing to much of the claptrap that goes with their religion as well.
The BBC appears to have overturned a nationally accepted commonality that used to cover everything. Satire, humour, diet, dress, figures of speech, turns of phrase - for fear of offending Muslims.

Is it rational that we are still seriously expected to embrace Islam, absorb it, depict it from the premise that, in its ‘true’ sense, it’s a force ‘for the betterment of mankind’, despite the ever increasing list of Islam inspired violent Jihadi practices and cultural atrocities and taboos that dominate the news, day in, day out? 

How can the BBC give credibility to people like, well, need I give a list of the BBC’s pet Islamists? They must be laughing their heads off (if you’ll forgive the allusion) at our gullibility.

I was going to post something about the Sunday before last’s The Big Questions, the one about apostasy, but matters conspired against. (flu) The lone apostate who set the scene was Amal Farah, who bravely held her own despite the voluble hostility all around. She said “I don’t regard Mohammed as a prophet”, something I think goes for a great many of us. Evidently not the BBC though. It has recently started referring to “Friday prayers‘ in a very familiar fashion, as though praying in a mosque is part of everyone’s Friday. The BBC is not only sucking up to Muslims, but is trying to ‘be like’ them.

Since the topic was amply covered by Harry’s Place, instead of reiterating the points made by commenters and the poster ‘habibi’ I’ll just make a couple of observations. 

First, isn’t it remarkable that supporters of Islam are incapable of shutting up? For representatives of the religion of peace, they all behave with a unique type of belligerence and rudeness. Not in the slightest peaceful.

Mohammed Shafiq is shouty and disagreeable. He admitted he was wrong to call for the murder of Maajid Nawaz for tweeting about the Jesus and Mo T-shirt, which he did in Urdu, so that people in Pakistan, where they kill people for all sorts of minor transgressions, might have been minded to actually carry out that deed. He claimed it was tweeted in the heat of the moment. 
Luckily for him Maajid Nawaz is still alive, so presumably Shafiq believes an expression of regret (for inciting murder) is enough of a concession to re-establish his position as spokesperson for the Muslim community and one of the BBC’s foremost, go-to Muslims.

The Muslims weren’t the only belligerent contributors. Kate Smurthwaite was pretty excitable, and hard to shut up. She looks so like the Queen of Hearts. At any minute she might say “Off with their heads” 

Abdullah al-Andalusa is a convert whose muse is Haitham al-Haddad.  Someone drew attention to a twitter feed in which he announced his forthcoming appearance on the Big Questions. An assortment of prayers and advice on how not to be tricked by Nicky Campbell ensued.  
Razaul Karim You will ne ambushed, you will be asked if you think the apostate should be killed, you will be asked what do you think about the Islamic verdict should one be killed. You have to show they to have corporal punishment, so every nation has boundaries for which they apply the corporal punishment. You have to go on the offensive. May Allah guide you and bless you for your efforts.”

......and very prophetic it was too. He was asked if he thinks the apostate should be killed, but he wriggled out of it by redefining apostasy.  I don’t know if Allah did guide him, but I’d guess not.

One of the reasons I find it hard to accept Islam in the same way that the BBC does, and urges me to do too, is that I know Muslims are encouraged to hate me. The BBC knows this, but doesn’t care. To me it seems as if antisemitism is a minor issue if it’s expressed by a Muslim, whereas from a non-Muslim it’s racist. Unless it’s branded anti-Zionism of course.  

Another programme I caught up with on the iPlayer, which had gone out on BBC3, concerned a beauty contest called something like  “International Miss Muslima”.  
The presenter and contestant was a Muslim version of Stacey Dooley; giggly, conspiratorial and a bit thick. The audience was sucked in, so that they felt sympathetic to her plight, her awareness of the strangeness of ‘foreign’ Muslims, her surprise at some of the differences between what was acceptable to British and non British Muslim women. 
In some ways our heroine was more inhibited by her religion than some of the ladies from Islamic countries. They sang Karaoke in public, for example, whereas she certainly would not.  

Dina Torkia, our presenter, swearing, laughing, flirty, confrontational, wouldn’t stay in a house where a man was staying. She couldn’t. 
When the girls found out that the whole shebang was corrupt, fixed, riddled with ludicrous, farcical conditions and anomalies, our heroine decided that these deceits could be excused because the outcome was good; they chose, albeit accidentally, a worthy winner. She looked decidedly anorexic, and nobly dedicated her win to all the oppressed Muslims, particularly those poor oppressed Muslims in Gaza and Syria.  So there you have it. Another of the BBC’s attempts to sanitise lunacy. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Farce of the day

The latest scandal to hit ‘electioneering’ is even more like something from “The Thick of It” than the Ukip debacle. (I mean everyone is tempted to inflate an invoice or two... if the EU is picking up the tab..... are they not?) No? Maybe not.

I mean, did Afzal Amin really dream up that farcical plot? (Brian Rix eat your heart out. )
Did he, as he now claims, do all this for the ultimate betterment of mankind?

Who made the recording? Some say it was the EDL; Mark Mardell said the Daily Mail.
The Celebrity Restaurant? You couldn’t make it up. Well, you could, but no-one would believe you.

By the way, what was Afzal’s actual policy on the mega-mosque? Or was he so hell-bent on getting elected that he didn’t give a damn one way or the other? 

From the transcript of the conversation it really looked as though Tommy Robinson was all set to go along with the plan, but it now seems it was all a bluff. Surprisingly, the media believes him.

The whole thing begs several questions, who did what and why? 

Personally, from my own position (a combination of total ignorance and guesswork based on various media reports of the incident) I’ll guess that Afzal Amin was pretty miffed about his failure to stop the original EDL march, and fantasized, as one does, about how he could re-run the whole thing and emerge triumphant.  Only he took it a bit too far. It should have remained a fantasy, obviously.

What astounded me more than the fiasco itself was that the BBC seems most outraged at the very idea that a would-be M.P. could stoop so low as to hob-nob with such a disgustingly far-right-wing bunch of thugs as the EDL. The fact that as a would-be MP Afzal concocted an elaborate farce to make himself look good didn’t seem to bother them at all.

Now call me a right-wing defender of the EDL if you must, but I seem to remember that the EDL are vilified for objecting to the Islamification or Islamisation of the UK, which they express vociferously and sometimes drunkenly, through the medium of the protest march.

Both ladies on Marr’s paper review seemed to be taking this EDL-bashing line, specially the labour MP Gloria De Piero.  “The idea that anybody would contemplate doing a deal with the English Defence League” was the thing that appalled her. “They’ve marched through my constituency, they intimidate people, they frighten people....”  Wow. 
The EDL is the most appalling organisation” said Anna Soubry MP. 

Nothing was said about the intimidation emanating from massed Muslim marches we’ve seen over the last couple of years, least of all the one against depicting the prophet Mo. that winded outside the PM’s residence.

Meanwhile, scandals surrounding the corrupt councillors of Tower Hamlets, the hate preachers that seem to be protected by chancellors and governing bodies of our universities, the communities that demand separate Islam-style education for their children, the racist sexual exploitation that was swept under the carpet by the police, social services and the media for years - have enjoyed kid glove treatment for fear of stirring up social unrest, and worst of all fear of being called racist.

It would have been admirable if Afzal had really been what the Conservatives wanted him to be, disadvantaged background, Muslim, aspirational, successful, multicultural; diversity with a cherry on top. But alas, no.

Tim Montgomerie was interviewed on the Sunday Politics. (I think) He also adopted the anti-EDL approach.     

Andrew Neil eventually got Tommy Robinson on the blower. 
“Hello, Mr Robinson, can you hear me?” 
“Yes. Hello”

“Are you there?” 
“Yes, I can hear you. Hello.”
“I can’t hear him.”

That palaver at the beginning of the conversation gave the whole thing a surreal aura, and although Andrew Neil appeared prepared to hear Tommy Robinson out, alas and alack, they ran out of time. 

The story continues....

As I am subtle, false and treacherous as the BBC...

Richard III, acting the part of Laurence Olivier

The BBC News Channel is devoting a lot of time this afternoon to the slightly-belated funeral procession of Yorkist king Richard III. 

It's all a little bit surreal.

As a Lancastrian, I'm appalled. 

The bias is astonishing. That comely wench Martine Croxall is actually wearing a Yorkist white rose in a truly outrageous display of BBC bias. 

She's also quoting the Richard III Society - as if they're as worthy of the BBC's respect as, say, CAGE or the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 

Never mind the BBC being the broadcast wing of the Guardian, the corporation has now become the broadcast wing of the Richard III Society. I will be writing to Andrew Bridgen MP.

And, come to think of it, she even failed to label the Richard III Society as a "pressure group". 

And now she's parroting their pro-Yorkist propaganda, saying that all the bad stuff we think we know about him is merely "according to the (Tories) Tudors": "The Tudors insist that Richard murdered the two princes in the tower, but most experts reject this, saying that the evidence points more towards the involvement of Mossad. Reporting from Gloucester, here's our Middle Ages editor, Jeremy Bowen"...

Plus, she says, "many" historians feel he has great achievements to his name. He opposed the bedroom tax for starters and laid the groundwork for instituting the BBC licence fee.

Today, in the "diverse" city of Leicester [as the BBC put it earlier today], Richard III (pbuh) is being buried. The hideously white crowd is applauding. Ring out the bells! My hearse, my hearse, my kingdom for a hearse! 

Like Richard himself, I've got a hunch...that the BBC is enjoying this. And why not?

Marcus Brigstocke, are you interested?

Here are some entirely-on-topic jokes for a sunny, Spring-time, English Sunday afternoon (slightly adapted from a certain website which always makes me laugh):
Following the BBC's advice, Jeremy Bowen tried using a colander to view the eclipse. He thinks he may have strained his eyes.
I saw Jon Donnison looking directly at the solar eclipse.
"Didn't you read any of the warnings?" I said, "You could go blind looking at the sun like that!"
"I'm not that stupid," he replied, squinting. "I'm looking at the moon." 
A terrorist attack has blown away two local houses - one made of straw and the other made of wood. The BBC reports that it's probably a lone wolf.
BBC Breaking News: The families of three British teenage girls thought to have run away to Syria have come together and pleaded with their daughters to come home. "We are losing child tax credits and family allowance," claimed the girls' fathers. 

"I don't think they were aware of what they were doing"

Oh my! Fergal Keane was 'fergal keaning' splendidly on this morning's Broadcasting House

Reporting from Tunisia, he clearly felt the hand of history on his shoulder:
If you ever wanted an example of how the past can lay claim to the present, it's here and now.
Sad voice. "The problems of unemployment, of lingering police repression, continue to cause alienation among many young men". There are "people looking purposeless" in poor districts - the kind of people drawn to the call of jihad.

Of course, it's easy to be cynical. Fergal also found some interesting responses: He spoke to a campaigner against jihadism who was angry at the Tunisian government for failing to take notice of the ongoing warnings of anti-jihadi protestors about the terrorist threat; and a crowd rushed towards him, having seen he was a Westerner, to offer their condolences. One man said, with deep passion, that Tunisia should be a place for everyone, "even the Jews". 


One of the ways that bias in any kind of reporting could be monitored (it's recently struck me) is to check out how the report ends. What message does it choose to end with? What final thoughts are left lingering in the listener's ear? 

Well, this is the message that Fergal chose to end on. It came from the imam of the local mosque:
I don't think there are any religious reasons behind the act. I think those young men were lured by money and tempted by money more than by anything else. They were brainwashed and I don't think they were aware of what they were doing. 
Well, I do think there might have been religious reasons behind the act. Knowing that they would almost certainly be killed after carrying out their atrocity, I'm not convinced by the imam's "lured by money" excuse. And I very much doubt they weren't aware of what they were doing in going to Tunisia's national museum, fully-armed, and slaughtering every white face they could see. 

I suspect Fergal Keane chose to end his piece with that absurd statement from the imam because it puts across a couple of messages that he, Fergal Keane, also wishes to put across: (a) that such terrorist atrocities have nothing to do with Islam, and (b) that there are reasons (unemployment, poverty, police repression - the examples he cited earlier in the report) which might explain why these alienated, purposeless young men go off beheading, shooting tourists, slaughtering shoppers, raping women, persecuting followers of other religions, chucking gays off buildings, etc - which is a very 'nice', liberal way of looking at things but probably a long way away from being anything like the whole story.

Experiencing a more Islamic culture

Here we go again, it seems: 
Nine British medical students and doctors are feared to have travelled to Syria to work in areas controlled by Islamic State militants.
Go down to the penultimate (14th) paragraph in the BBC website article and you'll see the following:
The medics are said to have been born in England but were sent to Sudan to study and experience "a more Islamic culture".
Sky News, however, is more explicit about exactly who "sent" them to Sudan to experience "a more Islamic culture", telling us as early as their 4th paragraph:
The students had been studying in Sudan because their parents wanted them to experience a more Islamic culture, but they were born and raised in Britain.
Turkish politician Mehmet Ali Ediboglu is quoted later in the Sky article saying, 
"I've asked the families why they sent their children to study there, and as I understood it, they wanted them to experience a more Islamic culture and not to forget their roots." 
This needs remembering, just in case the usual suspects attempt to pretend it's all the fault (somehow) of the British authorities, and that families bear no responsibility for helping to encourage their children to value Islamic culture and their non-British roots more than British culture and 'their British roots'. 

Groundhog Day

It's almost a year to the day since I wrote this about Radio 4's Sunday
It's rare that you get a Conservative MP on Sunday - it's usually Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs who appear on the programme - but Conor Burns MP was invited on today to criticise his own Catholic bishop for excommunicating him over his vote for gay marriage. (This is a classic Sunday story.)
I may not be a Catholic but I've become slightly more clued-up on Catholic matters over the past couple of years or so, and if there's one English 'bogey-Bishop' for the likes of Edward Stourton and his fellow liberal Catholic Tabletistas, it's the new(ish), conservative-traditionalist Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan. And, lo and behold, here he was being slated on Sunday - just as he's been slated in recent days in The Tablet
In fact, although I've never heard about  the story before, as soon as an unnamed bishop was mentioned as being the 'villain of the piece' I guessed it might be Bishop Egan. 
After the Bishop was well-and-truly bashed, Edward Stourton said, curtly, that they'd asked Philip Egan to come onto the programme to respond, and he'd said "No." I wonder why.
Well, this morning's Sunday began with the following:
Edward StourtonWelcome to Sunday. The Bishop of Portsmouth has told his priests that they must review the charities they deal with to make sure their aims are compatible with Church teaching. A Catholic MP for the diocese tells us what he thinks is wrong with Bishop Egan's list of guidelines:
Catholic MP: I think it's very legalistic. It's very rigid. And my worry about it? It will cause people worry and anxiety and perhaps have them step back from involving themselves in things that could otherwise be very good for them and very good for their communities.
Edward Stourton: We'll also have the Bishop's response. 
That Catholic MP turned out to be Conor Burns MP again.

(And, needless to say, The Tablet have been covering the story too - and noticeably less favourably to the Bishop than The Catholic Herald). 

It's déjà vu time again!

This time, however, Bishop Egan did appear for interview - and we'll see how that turned out later.

The sort of Church teaching that Bishop Egan has in mind is that concerning matters like contraception. As he's a Catholic social conservative, he disapproves of  such things. 
Edward Stourton: As an example he cites the case of a domestic dispute resolution charity which has been endorsed by the gay rights organisation, Stonewall. The Bishop argues that becoming involved with such a charity could be seen, and I'm quoting here, "to constitute formal cooperation in gravely immoral acts" [and listen to Ed tone of voice. It changes when it comes to that quote from a straight tone of voice to a loud and somewhat incredulous one - as if he's telling us all that he doesn't believe such things].
After Mr. Burns had slated the bishop in an interview - with Ed Stourton's help ["And you think this will be actively damaging to the people it's sent to?", "You're a Catholic yourself. What do you think the Pope would make of it?"] - Bishop Egan duly appeared [in a pre-recorded interview]. 

It was pretty much inevitable what was going to to happen next - and it most certainly did happen. Ed Stourton went for him - repeatedly interrupting him, asking much longer questions that usual and sounding (especially for Ed) unnecessarily fired-up. 'Unfriendly' and 'hostile' were the words for it. 

Now, if that isn't Ed's liberal Catholic bias coming out into the open again, I'm not quite sure what is. 

This may not be the kind of bias that matters to you but it's pretty clearly bias nonetheless, and a BBC presenter shouldn't be showing it.

P.S. For any passing visitors from the Spectator (h/t Damian Thompson), please click on the link below (to this self-same blog) for the full context:

'The BBC understands...'

The BBC, Sky and ITV websites are all leading with the same story this morning: the Mail on Sunday's dramatic scoop concerning the Conservative candidate Afzal Amin, who - the paper claims - conspired with the EDL [Update: "far-right extremists", according to Paddy O'Connell and the newsreader on Broadcasting House] to take credit for stopping a protest against a mega-mosque.

It's an astonishing story, especially given Mr Amin's past record of military service and his outspokenness against Muslim extremism. No wonder it's leading the headlines.

Sky's account is, typically, much more detailed than the BBC's - complete with extensive quotes. It also reports a racial aspect to the story which the BBC opts to exclude:
In a recorded phone call with Mr [Tommy] Robinson, Mr Amin also says he needs two "white" canvassers to help his campaign for election. 
"I need two white, working class lads to go round those areas to say to people, 'You support the Army, if you support the troops then vote for this guy'. That's what I need," he said.
Plus, Sky describes Mr Amin as a "Muslim candidate"; the BBC doesn't.

Incidentally, it was only yesterday that I was reading a discussion about how the BBC likes to insert itself into someone else's scoop (those many "the BBC has learned" and "the BBC understands" stories where, critics say, the BBC has simply been handed a press release or read another newspaper), so my eyebrows raised at two such examples in the BBC's article about this story:
Mr Amin told the paper the allegations were "completely untrue". He has not returned a call from the BBC.
A full disciplinary hearing is expected to be held on Tuesday, when Mr Amin will be able to explain his actions and a decision on his future will be taken, the BBC understands.'
Is this one of those cases when "the BBC understands" simply through reading it in/hearing it from a rival media outfit?


Ah, happy memories! Ullswater. 

Just as an aside..

Here are are some statistics I saw on Mark Easton's Twitter feed which I thought I'd pass on simply because I found them interesting. They come courtesy of the Office for National Statistics:
The value of the UK’s lakes, reservoirs, marshes, bogs, canals & rivers UP 26% in 5 yrs to £37bn says first ever @ONS analysis.
In Iceland 1/3 of over-65s are working. In UK it's 1/10. In Spain it's 1/59.
In 2012 Brits took 36.2m overseas holidays. In 2013 it was 37.6m.  Last year 39m+
To add to those, here are some more:
UK residents made 3.9 million visits abroad in January 2015 and spent £2.3 billion during these visits.
In 2013 more than one in three adults (36%) reported having a long-standing illness or disability (LSI) and one in five (20%) reported having a limiting LSI. People living in Wales (27%) were more likely to report having a limiting LSI than those living in either England (19%) or Scotland (20%).
The last one is one, I'm guessing, that 'sensitive BBC type' Mark would have hesitated about ever reporting.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

'fergal keaning'

Mark Lawson compares the two News at Tens - the one on BBC One and the other on ITV - and finds that the BBC wasn't the serious, straight, analytic one. The BBC programme was more populist in feel, full of simplistic gimmicks and 'operatic' turns from its star reporters (Fergal Keane and Robert Peston), and contained 'news items' which then turned out to be little more than plugs for upcoming BBC programmes. 

I'll quote a different section to Alan, as it struck me as particularly good and introduced me to the splendid term 'fergal keaning': 
Thursday night anchors Mark Austin and Mary Nightingale at the ITN desk and Sophie Raworth alone in the BBC studio had the same lead story – the terrorist attack on the museum in Tunis – with identical UK-based spin: the killing in the incident of a British tourist. Each had also got a journalistic big gun there in time to report live: Rageh Omaar for ITV and Fergal Keane for the BBC.
Omaar employed the standard sombre tones and vocabulary of tragedy reporting – “the peace of a Tunisian museum shattered by gunfire” – but his rival showed why the term “fergal keaning” is now used by some to refer to the sound of Irish lamentation. “Today the fearful aftermath,” Keane noted, of “the new age of international terrorism”. He made priests at gravesides sound cheerful in comparison.
ITV used two bits of Omaar to “doughnut”, as the jargon has it, a London-made package about the methods of Islamic State terrorists. The BBC wrapped two chunks of Keane around an interview with a local man who claimed to have known one of the gunmen and observed his turn towards extremism.
As a viewer, I wondered how the crew in Tunis could be completely certain that a stranger found so rapidly and speaking in translation phrases of a generalised kind – the guy used to “drink and gamble” with them before being “radicalised” – really had known the terrorist well. But presumably the BBC’s news managers were happy with the guarantees given.
One presumes indeed.

Is the BBC deliberately undermining a critical MP?

The BBC now has an enemy in parliament: Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen MP. 

Mr. Bridgen is the MP who led the charge for the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee because it amounts to some 12% of all magistrates cases in this country. The BBC publicly disagreed with him and, according to Mr Bridgen, its ex-employees in the House of Lords have been successful in delaying his bill for another two years. He's not impressed, to put it mildly.

Some of his arguments about bias and the need for radical reform at the BBC will probably be familiar to you. What was new to me, however, was his description of the BBC's actions against him personally. If true, they are truly astonishing:
By leading the debate and setting the political agenda on the decriminalisation of the licence fee, I have set myself on a collision course with the might and influence of a £5 billion worldwide media organisation, which has attacked my family business, falsely reporting “facts” and attributing comments to me which I did not make.
I am fearful of retribution from the BBC after having been picked last week, out of a possible 46 East Midlands Seats, as a focus for the regional news programme in the upcoming election, effectively granting my opponents a disproportionate amount of prime BBC airtime to attack me.
Did the BBC intentionally smear Andrew Bridgen? Is it deliberately seeking to unseat him?  

If either of those charges holds water, then it's absolutely scandalous, isn't it? 

Poor analogy

Jonathan Freedland has written a vitriolic analysis of Netanyahu’s victory in the recent Israeli elections. It is headed:  “Netanyahu sank into the moral gutter - and there will be consequences.”
(one of which is inflammatory rhetoric like Freedland’s.) That’s his privilege, and as they say, no-one is forced to buy the Guardian. But was it wise of the BBC to single out this article in their paper review (Today 18:20) this morning, and in particular to use this silly, inappropriate, off-key analogy to quote from, verbatim?
“Imagine if a US president broadcast such a message, warning the white electorate that black voters were heading to the polls in “large numbers”. Or if a European prime minister said: “Quick, the Jews are voting!”  This is the moral gutter into which Netanyahu plunged just to get elected.”

What sort of comparison was that supposed to imply? What sort of imaginary moral equivalence was Freedland dreaming of? Freedland was, of course, referring to Netanyahu’s warning that “Arab voters are advancing in large numbers towards voting places”. 

Perhaps Freedland’s superficial interpretation of that remark might be his way of rehabilitating himself with Guardian readers who were disappointed with his spat about antisemitism on Q.T. with George Galloway, but even so, to venture into that kind of  disingenuous analogy territory is revealing.  

I’d just quote from a couple of comments about this on Harry’s Place to put it in context. The whole thread is interesting because it tackles both of two statements that Netanyahu-haters will love to pick up and run with, ( “No Palestinian state on my watch” is the other) but for the moment let’s stick with the 'Arab voters' theme.  Here’s a comment that echoes Freedland’s take on the subject:
“Dude. The President of the US says it's time to reassess our relationship to Israel, based on Bibi's statements about Arab voters and also the lack of support for a two-state solution.
That isn't a little silly nitpicking. That's a very serious, very big deal.
Bibi has hurt Israel and he's hurt the perception Americans have of Israel, which up until now has been pretty positive.
I hope this blows over, this is the most serious anti-Israel commentary I've heard in America, from the most powerful people, in my life - and I am 65.”

Here’s the counter argument, which highlights the points Freedland fails to address: 

"...Bibi's statements about Arab voters..."
If I were him and I understood that a certain segment of society was being aided and encouraged by non-members of that segment to vote, in order to change significantly the outcome of an important election, I would have said the same thing, and I would have added that those outsiders weren't free from a charge of racism too.
"...lack of support for a two-state solution."
In the euphoria of the years after the Oslo agreements, candidates for Prime Minister used to say, before and after elections, that peace would be achieved through painful compromise.
This is no longer true because Palestinian statements and behavior have destroyed the hope that they were ready for peace on any terms.
That's more or less what Netanyahu said at the time, and it's what he explained later.
It's nitpicking and Obama would have found something else to harp on.
"...this is the most serious anti-Israel commentary..."
Perhaps, but don't forget the promise of a previous president which Johnson reneged on,
the Nixon/Kissinger "reassesment" after the 1973 war, and the anti-Semitism of Carter.
BTW I’m 71”

Jonathan Freedland is doing what Trevor Phillips has just made it less obligatory for leftists to do, namely, “Play the racist card.” You don’t have to do that any more, ‘dudes’.

Sometimes things are necessarily and justifiably ‘racist’. Traits with statistically racial propensities. I have a bone to pick with Trevor, but that’s for another day. 

By singling out this Guardian item, and giving it to Mishal Husain of all people to read out as part of the paper review, the BBC is playing the race card - lazily implying that Netanyahu’s warning about the “Arab list” is unjustifiably racist. It ignores the racism that emanates from Israeli Arabs as well as political manoeuvering from outside Israel that influences their vote.

The BBC pretends, as usual, that the Palestinians and Muslim Arabs are ‘just like us’. The BBC airbrushes away all the unpleasantness of Hamas and Islam, and by general consensus identifies with them wholeheartedly. That’s not only racist in its own sweet way, but it’s very biased.  

"You don't say!"

"You don't say!"

That was my reaction to Kate Adie saying, "The Palestinian territory of Gaza is no stranger to this programme" on today's From Our Own Correspondent

She added that Gaza is stranger to conflict either. In recent years, devastating conflicts with Israel have left much of the Strip in ruins, while blockades of its borders have meant shortages of many basic goods, as well as anger, resentment and a sense of isolation. 
Yet another Gaza story followed. Tim Whewell went in pursuit of the only grand piano in (what he called) that "besieged concrete warren on the Mediterranean".

[Except that, in using that analogy, he didn't mention that the tunnels in the warren don't contain rabbits. They contain Hamas terrorists and - until Israel took action against them - a vast horde of rockets].

Sue’s addendum:

Oh Kate. 
“Israel’s blockade of its borders has meant shortages of many basic goods as well as anger, resentment and a sense of isolation.” 
No Kate; I don’t think that is the case. Basics are regularly trucked in by Israel, which, under the circumstances, is generous. The anger and resentment were there all along, and the isolation is the self-inflicted consequence of the Hamas’s rejectionist politics.

Tim Whewell ‘set off” to investigate. I like the sound of that, Tim Whewell setting off to “Investigate.”  Intrepid reporter, fearless and determined, sets forth, on a mission to find a moving story of the pathos -  and the triumph of true grit over adversity.

Whewell’s moving story is unintentionally injected with humour because it  involves a character named Fatty Arafat.  He’s probably called ‘Fati’ but Fatty Arafat has a Fatty Arbuckleness about it, which I like better.  Keep a straight face Tim lad.

A former Russian concert pianist married a Palestinian Doctor and suddenly ‘her music’ was whipped away from her. That’s what you get for marrying a Palestinian and settling down in Gaza. She misses her music.

The musicians of Gaza. Who are they? We’re not told why the music school has to be hidden in an ambulance station. Is music a bit unIslamic?
A charity has paid for a French piano restorer to bring the piano “slowly, lovingly, back to life.” So many ‘l’s for someone with an l-related speech impediment.

“We don’t have shelters underground in Gaza” says the earnest 15 year old piano student. “We just have to run for our lives” Whose fault is that? asks Tim. Only joking. (He didn’t )
Well, there are underground passages in Gaza, but they ain’t for shelter. Does Tim Whewell not know this?

Yes; Chopin and Beethoven fought a lot, and went through a lot too. The noble people of Gaza are like classical composers. Their struggles are exactly the same. Not.