Monday, 8 February 2016

A few observations to start the week

Have you taken up the MCB’s generous invitation to visit 80 Mosques? It was devised so that Muslims can explain their religion to us.
But why not offer open, spontaneous visits? Spot-checks if you like. Seriously, what’s the good of a pre-prepared presentation, or ‘pitch‘, like on Dragons Den.  
“Hello Dragons. My name is Abdel and I’m here today to show you why you need Islam. I want several million  con reverts and I’m offering nought percent of the business.”
 We don’t want to be given the run-around, do we? Not like Hans Blix and those procrastinating weapons inspections. Fobbed off. 
“No, you can’t come in today. It’s not convenient. Come back tomorrow when we’ve had a bit of a tidy up.” 
Undercover Mosque. Who could forget.

********

For some reason we’re not subjected to Mehdi Hasan on the BBC as often as we used to be. I haven’t seen him on QT or TBQs recently, have you? 
Maybe the BBC has noticed that he’s sub standard. Never mind, our loss is Al Jazeera’s gain. He has shows: “UPFRONT” and “Head to Head”. His interrogation technique is just up Al Jazeera’s street - childish, partial,  and unresponsive. 





Watch this “interview” with Israeli MK Tzipi Hotovely. Who does Mehdi think he is? Jeremy al-Paxman?
Funny thing is that that Marc Goldberg sees this differently. 
She (Tzipi Hotovely) has shot herself in the foot so many times that all he has to do is basically quote her statements back to her in order to make her and by extension Israel look like a bunch of land grabbing assholes”
Goodness me. I wouldn’t call ‘telling the truth’ “shooting yourself in the foot” - although it might seem that way if a) you don’t like the truth and/or  b) you’re not sure what the truth actually is. 


*******

This blog lacks a women’s page. We’ll be giving more beauty tips in future. And, you know, celebrity gossip and fashion.  Migrant-camp chic and so on. And asking questions on your behalf, such as: some voices on the radio are confusingly gender-fluid, but does it actually matter?

******

Did anyone watch Simon Reeve on BBC 2 last night? I did, and it was interesting. 
But why oh why did he have to keep wearing that wretched keffiyeh? 



Update:
Anonymous (one of the many) has brought a fascinating Al Jazeera related issue to our attention, see below. 
One thing you can say for Al Jazeera, you do sometimes get a thorough discussion on that channel. They often broadcast extensive statements and arguments by Israeli speakers even though they are usually outnumbered by pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel speakers.

This is a fascinating exposé by Israellycool 
Tommy Robinson, one of the organisers of Pegida UK, appeared on Al Jazeera this evening in a panel discussion. But this 3 minute clip includes the part Al Jazeera cut out. You’ll see why when you hear it. And all that follows a pretty pathetic trick the presenter tries to pull by switching the Koran for the Hebrew bible!
and Breitbart.  
WATCH: Al Jazeera ADMITS Editing Tommy Robinson Interview To EXCLUDE Criticism of Muhammed, Claims ‘Not Acceptable Broadcasting Standard’

The video is here - you can start at 14.00 or watch the whole thing on YouTube


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Ishoos versus personalities



Andrew Marr's interview with UKIP's Douglas Carswell today was entirely dominated by questions about the structure of/infighting within the 'Leave' campaign(s), plus the personalities involved in that campaign. 

So much so that Mr Carswell didn't actually get any time to spell out his arguments in favour of leaving the European Union.

This made me realise that any attempts to monitor BBC impartiality in the run-up to the EU referendum simply by counting and comparing the numbers of pro-Leave and pro-Remain interviewees on a given programme over a particular period of time...


... could well be a fruitless exercise.

Last month's Newsnight had five interviews with 'Remain' supporters and just 2 interviews with 'Leave' supporters. Last week (the first week of February) saw an interview with one (overwhelmingly likely) 'Remain' supporter, David Lidington, plus two 'Leave' supporters, Kate Hoey and Steve Baker. 

Now that might be supposed to have balanced things out somewhat...

...except that both of the interviews with the pro-Leave politicians (Kate Hoey and Steve Baker) were - like Andrew Marr's interview today with Douglas Carswell - almost exclusively dominated by the same kind of questions: questions about the structure of/infighting between the 'Leave' campaign(s), plus the personalities involved in the campaign. (Kate Hoey's was entirely dominated by such questions, thanks to James O'Brien). 

Again, neither Mr Baker nor Ms Hoey had time to spell out their arguments in favour of leaving the European Union...

...in marked contrast to the pro-Europeans (Alan Johnson, Ken Clarke, Carl Bildt et al) interviewed last month, all of whom got plenty of chance to speak up for the UK's membership of the EU.

It's to be hoped this trend doesn't continue.

Review

What about Sunday Morning on BBC 1? Politics, religion, ethics. What’s not to like?

The Andrew Marr show was a little bit extra-boring this morning, though.
Jeremy Hunt has an impish expression that makes him hard to take seriously. Is he laughing at us?  He’s like a sprite. I would like to see him in a leprechaun outfit. Or in a Robin Hood hat with a feather, and shoes with curly toes.

Douglas Carswell. What is he like? He sounds quite posh and self-assured. He’s like, like, a politician. He speaks like a politician who is making you think he’s a safe pair of hands. 
All that E.U. hokey kokey. In, out, in out, how you gonna vote?  I’m still shakin it all about.

Jamie Oliver was on about sugar and the obesity crisis. (I don’t know why people buy fizzy drinks. I never have because I don’t like any of them, so neither should you.)


The Big Questions reverted to its three-question format today.  It never really got going. 

The immigration topic never got to the point. It was all emotion and no substance. Dr Brendan Burchell, the guy who said it was morally unacceptable that the UK isn’t taking in more refugees was wearing an attractive moss-green jumper, and the jumper of the man sitting behind him was a similar shade of green. Was this a pure coincidence? What are the chances of that? This somehow interested me more than the actual argument being aired, which seemed to miss the more crucial, salient and unPC aspects of the problem.  

I do wish everyone would stop bringing Kindertransport into the equation. A claxon ought to go off whenever they do that, like on QI.  Get out the minus points! 

Greens

As for Sunday Trading, if the demographic trend progresses as predicted the UK’s  Days of Rest will have to be staggered. Sundays and Fridays - and what about the family rights of those seven-day per week hospital doctors we, as N.I. contributors, are entitled to? 
I suppose we could get the migrants to do it. We could leave everything to them. Migrants could host The Big Questions and the Andrew Marr Show, and Nicky and Andrew could spend quality time with their families. 

Andrew Neill was a bit dull today too, though I must admit I went away in the middle. It was funny that Eric Pickles was on so soon after Jamie Oliver. Eric is a one-man obesity crisis, so not mentioning that at all was a kind of elephant in the room. But the topic was the hokey kokey, and it got exceedingly boring.

I did see the bit with Andrew Neill’s good friend George Galloway and the lesser spotted Kinnock, Stephen.   George was hatless, wizened and whiskery, whereas Stephen was hairless, upright and clean shaven.




Perhaps George Galloway has realised that wearing a trilby, both indoors and out is an affectation bordering on mild mental illness. I find all these things, leprechauns, green jumpers, hats and hatlessness very distracting. 


I assume that’s why I‘m never invited on to the BBC to review the Papers.

Love Productions

I forgot the name of a disturbing programme I watched the other day on Channel four. It was about ‘migrants’ so, to remind myself I Googled ‘Immigrants + Channel 4’. 
Up came “Immigrants Street”, which was sister production to the entertaining and controversial  series, ‘Benefits Street’. 

Last February’s ‘Immigrants Street’ had been set in Derby Street, Southampton, and the project  had, apparently, caused quite a stir when locals and residents, not wishing to be ridiculed, pelted the TV crew with eggs, and sent them packing. Instead of the intended series, it was shown as a one-off. 

Perhaps because of this ignominious retreat the production team (the same one) thought they’d disguise themselves and hide behind a title which didn’t include the word “street”. That’ll fool them. 
So they decided to call it “Keeping up with the Khans” a subtle combo of Kardashian and (Citizen) Khan.

The episode I saw seemed somehow different from the one reviewed in the Telegraph and the Guardian
The reviewers did mention the cunningly misleading title, but for some reason they saw a genuine depiction of immigrants, asylum seekers and the indigenous population of Page Hall, Sheffield, (The Telegraph had the strap-line “A surprisingly touching snapshot of immigrant life. Four stars out of five) whereas I saw a creaking, clunking cartoon-like agenda-driven parody with comedy overtones. A kind of Fast Show, or “Harry and Paul” without Harry or Paul.

The only review that made a little sense was in the New Statesman.
 “Let down by its own lack of curiosity” said Rachel Cooke, the critic.
“playing as they do on the prejudices of both left and right. When, for instance, a pasty-faced man called Bert spoke in the first episode about immigrants’ “easy lives” from the low-slung seat of his shiny mobility scooter, I took against him instantly.”
That’s what I mean. Everyone watching will have taken a strong dislike to the indigenous spokespersons, which the programme makers very well knew. That’s why they featured them. Obese, smoking, speaking from mobility scooters; without a trace of self-awareness they denounced immigrants and asylum seekers as scroungers.

Obviously, the programme makers had found one particular immigrant who was no such thing. 
Omar from Sudan was industrious, clean-living, ambitious, eager to work and full of the joys of Sheffield. An endearing character for sure, with a reasonably fluent command of  English, a sad back-story and a huge smile. No sooner had his papers popped through the letterbox than he’d landed himself a job. 



The contrast between the indigenous Brits and the industrious immigrant was not just hinted at. It was laid on with a trowel. 

Channel 4 is telling us to see the error of our bigoted ways. We must embrace the immigrants, despite the fact that ISIS are boasting that several hundred of their best terrorists have infiltrated the country amongst the refugees. 
“Come one, come all” emoted “Love Productions” through a megaphone. 

God help us. If the white working class is really as unprepossessing, work-shy and ignorant as depicted, and if migrants are as enthusiastic, aspirational and well disposed to  Britain as portrayed, do please et ‘em come. 


Opinions R Us



BBC News 24 couple of nights ago: Vacant-looking Martine Croxall reviewing the papers with 2 achingly left-wing commentators. Comes to the story about the ECJ forbidding the UK from deporting Abu Hamza’s daughter-in-law for terrorist activities due to her ‘right to a family life’.  Martine opines: “That’s why we need the ECJ, to tell us what do do in cases like this”. Her two comrades nod sagely. FFS!
I have to confess that I thought the commenter must have misheard because Martine Croxall isn't stupid enough to say something quite as biased as that. So I watched it myself, as you can do from 10:12 here (for a while). 

The conversation went on much as Chilli at Biased BBC described, with Martine chucking in the odd comment, such as "It comes down to that idea that you can pick and choose who you allow to have human rights. And I don't think the law allows that", until, replying to what James Millar of The Sunday Post had said about the European Court of Justice, Martine said (beginning at 12:17):
Well, that's why we have it, isn't it? To tell us what we should be doing in this country, to keep...checks and balances so that everyone has the laws applied to them. 
And then, with her guests nodding their agreement, she moved straight on to the next story, in the Guardian.

So, yes, BBC News Channel presenter Martine Croxall really did give us her opinion in favour of the ECJ on Friday night's BBC News Channel. 

Wonder how the BBC Complaints Department will explain this one?

Is Andrew Marr's show biased against the SNP?



Watching The Andrew Marr Show is just one possible way of experiencing it. Another is to read the accompanying social media commentary about it (of which there is a heck of a lot).

Inevitably there are plenty of political partisans commenting on Twitter, Facebook and other blogs and a surprising number of them get a real kick out of shouting 'BBC bias' at Andrew Marr - a lot of whose claims don't hold water when you investigate them.

Something I often see is political partisans complaining of 'BBC bias' because someone from a political party they don't like is on, or because someone from their own party isn't on (or simply because they can't stand the person or their views).

In comes from many sides of course, but this morning it came mostly from SNP supporters.

They often cry out en masse (especially on Twitter) whenever a Liberal Democrat politician appears and an SNP politician is absent - as on this morning's Marr, where Tim Farron was one of the interviewees.

"BBC bias!" cry the cybernats. "Where's the SNP?"

Now, if you look back through the programme's archive. however, you'll see that since the May 2015 general election there have been five interviews with Lib Dems (7.9% of the national vote, 8 seats) and seven interviews with the SNP (4.7% of the national vote, 56 seats):

LIB DEMS
7/2/16 Tim Farron
17/1/16 Nick Clegg
20/9/15 Tim Farron
6/9/15 Vince Cable
19/7/15 Tim Farron

SNP
24/1/16 Nicola Sturgeon
13/12/15 Alex Salmond
29/11/15 Stewart Hosie
11/10/15 Nicola Sturgeon
26/7/15 Alex Salmond
12/7/15 Stewart Hosie
10/5/15 Nicola Sturgeon

If you add in the paper reviews, then the following can be added to the above list:

LIB DEMS
10/5/15 - Baroness Grender

SNP
20/12/15 - John Nicolson
14/6/15 - John Nicolson

That seems like a fair balance, doesn't it, considering both their respective percentages of the national vote and the number of seats they won? So what are they complaining about?

Such people don't seem to grasp (or want to grasp) the point that the BBC has to try to achieve some kind of balance in who they choose to interview on these types of programme over time - and, yes, the BBC do have a point here about judging such things over time.

Now, the flip side of that  (for the BBC) is that those who want to hold them to account can take them up on that by judging some BBC programmes over a reasonable period of time (or over a large range of programmes) - such as, say, From Fact to Fiction, Dateline London, Sunday, A Point of View, Four Thought, etc, etc. That way you can show pronounced bias over time, and the evidence can't be shrugged off quite so easily because it's cumulative, not a one-off, and (hopefully) not just based on your own personal political prejudices.

Here endeth the lesson.

The BBC's Style Guide


Talking about the BBC Style Guide...

(and does it having anything to say about people constantly beginning posts with the phrase 'Talking about...'?) 

If you read Breitbart London you'll know that the BBC's Style Guide isn't free from controversy itself. 

For starters, on the subject of Islam, it declares: "Our style for the founder of the faith is the Prophet Muhammad (at second reference, Muhammad or the Prophet)".


There isn't a section on Christianity, however, or any BBC 'style' concerning how to describe Our Lord Jesus Christ - though there is a bit saying "Do not use 'Christian name' when you mean 'first name'.

The other example Breitbart finds is the bit on abortion:


This strikes me as clear-cut bias, reflecting the BBC's innate social liberalism. It favours one side by adopting that side's definition of its own beliefs ("pro-choice") whilst disfavouring the other side by rejecting that side's definition of its own beliefs ("pro-life"). One side gets what it wants, the other doesn't. How is that not bias?

The rest of the Style Guide is pretty uncontroversial - and interesting, eg:
Colosseum
The Colosseum is in Rome. The theatres in London, Oldham and elsewhere are the Coliseum.
Decimate
is a word liable to create misunderstanding. Strictly, it means ‘to destroy one-tenth of something’ - but it’s commonly used to mean ‘destroy a large part of’. Best avoided.
Hunting with dogs
And not ‘hunting with hounds’.
Lake District
The only lake in the Lake District with ‘Lake’ in its title is Bassenthwaite Lake. ‘Mere’, as in Windermere, means ‘lake’ - so strictly speaking, it is superfluous to write ‘Lake Windermere’. However, Windermere is also the name of a town so, for clarity’s sake, include the label to avoid confusion - and omit it only if there is no scope for ambiguity (eg: Hoteliers in the Lake District have renewed their complaints about speedboats on Windermere).
Manned/manning/manpower
In a mixed workforce, it’s more accurate to use staffed, staffing, staffing level etc. By the same token, avoid ‘man in the street’.   
Nasrallah, Sheikh Hassan
(leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah). Sheikh Nasrallah on second reference.
Ongoing
is typical management jargon - best avoided. Try continuing or developing or in progress, as appropriate. 
rack and ruin
is our favoured spelling, rather than ‘wrack and ruin’. Similarly, we prefer nerve-racking.
Sharia
Islamic religious law - capital ‘S’ no ‘h’ at the end. (‘Sharia law’ is tautologous).
Upcoming
Do not use, except in a direct quote. Substitute as appropriate expected, imminent, forthcoming, next etc.
Of course, this is also plenty of 'style' advice for one word in particular - and it's probably the most consistently controversial term when it comes to the BBC:
Terrorist
The word ‘terrorist’ is not banned, but its use can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as bomber, attacker, gunman, kidnapper, insurgent and militant. We should not adopt other people's language as our own. Our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom. 
When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services, and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy. It is also very important that we strive for consistency across the international and UK facing sites. If a BBC World story uses very measured language but a UK version does not, a user will rightly question the different approaches. 
The words ‘terror’ and ‘terrorist’ may be used in a non-specific context, or in direct quotes - but it is not for us to label a particular group or specific act as terrorist. 
Beware of paraphrasing and selective quotation, eg: “The Israeli prime minister said that while ‘terrorist’ attacks continued he would not back down.” Putting the single word ‘terrorist’ in quotes may give the impression that the BBC is sceptical about the prime minister’s assessment of the nature of the attacks. 
Domestically, we tread a similar line on Northern Ireland. The IRA is so well known, worldwide, that a label is not necessary. Groups such as the Real IRA and Continuity IRA can often be best labelled as dissident. A second reference to organisations such as the UFF and UVF could be along the lines of: The loyalist paramilitary organisation warned...

Christian and Muslims



Sunday morning. 7.15. Switched on BBC Breakfast, and they are promoting a Muslim Council of Britain initiative. 

Today (Sunday) more than 90 of the UK's estimated 1,750 mosques are opening to doors to non-Muslims to allow Muslims to "explain their faith beyond the hostile headlines".

BBC Breakfast presenter (and former BBC Paris correspondent) Christian Fraser is all agog. 

"I think it's a great initiative", says Christian to a polite chap from Khizra Mosque, Manchester, thus giving it his seal of approval. 

He later asks: "We've got to touch on a difficult issue: Islamophobia, the attacks on Muslims since Paris has been rising. Is it partly a reaction to that?" 

******

Is it too much to hope that the BBC Style Guide will advise against the use of the term 'Islamophobia' soon? After all, as Lord Hall didn't want the BBC to seem to be using "pejorative" terms like 'DA'ESH', as...
Unfortunately this term may give the impression of support for those who coined it and that would not preserve the BBC's impartiality.
...then surely using the deeply tendentious term "Islamophobia" isn't preserving the BBC's impartiality either, is it? 

Maybe saying "so-called Islamophobia" would be a BBC-worthy compromise?

******

This story is also on the BBC News website homepage. It has more than one link to the Muslim Council of Britain website, and the following 'further reading' recommendations:

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Almost a dead cert


True story...

Just checking out the running order for tomorrow's Sunday on Radio 4, this is the first item listed:
The Israeli government has announced plans to build a mixed gender prayer section at the Western wall. Campaigners are celebrating a groundbreaking decision, but Palestinians, the ultra Orthodox and archaeologists are not happy. We hear from Anat Hoffman from "Women of the Western Wall". Journalist Judy Maltz gives us the background.
My immediate thought on reading that, knowing the BBC, was to place a non-monetary bet with myself (a win-win situation for me) that "journalist Judy Maltz" would be from Haaretz, Israel's low-circulation left-wing newspaper. 

It's nearly always Haaretz with the BBC.

And lo and behold!...

"Stories via @jondonnisonbbc"


David (in the comments section of the previous post) has grabbed the embed code for a truly intriguing tweet:


Now, as you'll see if you click on their Twitter feed, Team Palestina are activists:


They have a remarkably busy Twitter feed which has been going since 2010 and which has already pumped out 135,000+ tweets, all promoting the Palestinian cause and denouncing Israel. 

And yet there's a tweet from their Twitter account promoting themselves which adds the words: "Stories via @jondonnisonbbc".

What on earth does that mean?


P.S. It's not the first time this has happened:


It could, come to think of it, simply mean that that day's 'Daily News' cited a BBC piece by Jon Donnison - though given that JonDon hasn't been on reporting duties in Gaza since 2014 what exactly would they be citing? His tweets? 

Who would have thought it


Meanwhile...

Some things never change.

The wonderful Daphne Anson has spotted a Twitter exchange between the BBC's Jon Donnison and someone who is apparently the Australia public broadcaster's answer to Jon Donnison: ABC Jerusalem correspondent Sophie McNeill.

JonDon, of course, is famous for being most emphatically not pro-Israel (to put it mildly). 

Recently he's also proved himself to be no fan of Australia's firm immigration policy (also to put it mildly).

Here he manages to combine both sentiments in just one short, ever-so-impartial reply:


*******

P.S. For those wanting some up-to-date evidence of JonDon's reporting of Australia's migration policy, there's his 'analysis' on a BBC report from a couple of days ago, Australian churches offer to take in asylum seekers. Describing the situation regarding a couple of hundred or so migrants now facing being sent back to Nauru, he writes - starting with that stand-by phrase for biased journalism "Many would think":
Many would think the government would be concerned about the negative coverage the story has generated internationally, with Australia being portrayed by many as cruel and lacking in compassion. 
But ministers also know that domestically, their tough policies towards asylum seekers have broad public support.
Who is that "many"? Not that many in Australia by the sounds of it. Probably not many in the UK either.

His next sentence reads:
The headline in one of Australia's best selling newspapers, Sydney Daily Telegraph, this morning was "Turn Back the Kids."
And his view about that is made perfectly clear in another of his ever-so-impartial tweets - this one a highly sarcastic affair:

A-ha



The lion's share of today's Any Answers was spent discussing the migrant crisis. 

Here's how Anita Anand framed the discussion this week (persisting, as ever, in calling it 'the refugee crisis'):
So, as you've been hearing in the news, the number of Syrian refugees heading for the Turkish border has nearly doubled in 24 hours. 35,000. What should we do about this? How much should we be doing for refugees? $10 billion raised by an international effort this week, but let's talk about the number of people you think this country should be welcoming. And what about unaccompanied children in those camps in Calais? Does their need cross the red lines regarding who we do and do not take? Love your thoughts on this. I know you have a lot to say. 
But first...it's leading the bulletins. It's also foremost in your minds this afternoon. Let's talk about the refugee crisis.
Anita was as hands-on as ever, especially as most of the callers were against us taking in lots more migrants/refugees. She did plenty of interrupting and contradicting and added a couple of 'mini-editorials' of her own between callers:
OK, right. you're happy to pay a premium but these refugees must be kept near their homeland, Turkey, Jordan.  Thank you very much Peter. I'm going to take another call on this because we did hear the King of Jordan saying, 'Look, we have always said yes to the West. We have always said we will take in all the refugees who are crossing our border. But we cannot take any more.' They are talking about a lack of space, a lack of infrastructure. Where do those people then go? Where does that overflow go? Elizabeth Fitzgibbon is calling us from Elgin in Moray. Hello Elizabeth. Hello. What did you want to say?
No, I totally take the point and Margaret thank you very much indeed. Margaret, you bring up the point about paedophiles. I just want to read a startling figure that's just leaped out at me and there's a report by Europol that was released on Monday that says "There are 10,000 missing children, raising concerns that these children might have fallen into the hands of traffickers". I mean, some may just be accounted in the system because of this mass movement of people but I think that is quite a terrifying figure. Colin Pine calling us from Hornchurch in Essex. Good afternoon, Colin. Yes. What did you want to say Colin?
Talking of Colin from Hornchurch, here he is in mid flow near the beginning of his fine contribution. Anita soon interrupts to 'correct' him:
Colin: What you've got to remember and the audience has got to remember is the Prime Minister has pledged that we take 20,000 in the next five years....
Anita (interrupting): Next ten years. Over the next ten years. 
Colin: Ten years.
Anita: A-ha.
Well, that was as much news to me as it was to poor Colin - and, I would bet, to Anita's BBC colleagues too! They've persistently reported (as has the rest of the media) that David Cameron's 20,000 Syrian refugees pledge was for over the next five years. Anita might want to take it up with her colleagues.

And then there's the number of refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan... 

Here she is, talking to a caller called Joanne, who she'd introduced as having "actually worked with refugees" (The sigh in Anita's voice when it turned out that Joanne was also against bringing them here - when they could stay in existing, safe camps - was very evident to this listener):
I mean, places like this..the Zaatari camp...I don't know how many millions are in there at the moment...
Well, according to Wikipedia, there were estimated to be around 83,000 there at the last count, so - unless Wikipedia is out by a huge margin - Anita got that massively wrong too.

Oh Anita! That would never have happened if you'd just sat back and let your callers speak!

Foreign press “Ignorant and quite lazy”

I was reading something in the Times (Jenni Russell) about bosses taking “sloggers” for granted. The pushy workers get all the credit, she says; she knows what she’s talking about, having served time as both slogger and boss. The hard-working, dependable ones assume that the boss is aware and suitably appreciative of all their hard work; but no. If you want to get ahead you have to shout: “See me!” As loud as you can.

I keep seeing things as an allegories for something else these days, but this simple truth resonated with me, having just read a piece by a young journalist who has been working in Israel since January 2014, Zenobia Ravji, featured on Elder of Ziyon, and here.

It’s the Israelis’ reluctance to boast, and the Palestinians’ continual manipulation of the media that has created this infuriating upside down status quo. The world sees Israel as a symbol of pure evil and the Palestinians one of righteousness and innocence.  

Have you seen the video that’s allegedly “gone viral” in which an actor pretends to be a blind man asking strangers for change? He’s approaching random passers-by and seems unaware that he’s proffering a high value note in exchange. The experiment is to see if people warn him of his mistake or pocket the extra cash. 
A similar experiment had been staged in Australia, when the ‘blind man” asked for $5 when the bill he was holding was for $100 or $200. Several strangers took advantage.

This time it was tried in Israel.    No-one took advantage. (I assume they wouldn’t have put it on the internet if the result had been otherwise, but it wasn’t, so they did.)

It’s the kind of thing that might surprise the world, whose prejudiced, negative perceptions of Israel and Israelis have been shaped by the Palestinians relentless media manipulation and the Israelis’ reluctance to participate in that particular circus.

Zenobia Ravji’s piece is worth reading. It’s about journalists so it’s extremely relevant to this blog. I urge you to read it in full.

Zenobia Ravji
“While traveling, I stumbled on a really eye-opening story—“everyday life” in the West Bank. In the U.S., I was exposed to images of violence and chaos any time the West Bank was mentioned in the news. So when I accidentally ventured into the West Bank during my travels, I had no idea I was even there. I was surrounded by tranquil scenes, modern infrastructure, and economic cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. I guess this was too boring to make any headlines. 
I thought it would be interesting to show people the uneventful side of the story. This wasn’t to negate any social and political injustices of the situation. I just thought people should see the entire truth—not just soldiers, bombs, and riots, but also what’s happening when none of the drama is taking place.  
And it wasn’t just the normalcy of life in the West Bank that went unreported. Many of the human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority were never mentioned, such as the lack of freedom of speech and the press, and a complete neglect of the Palestinian people by their own politicians, who continue to exploit the peace process while pocketing European and American funding for a “free Palestine.” My work, however, didn’t consist of criticizing the PA. I thought I should leave that to the “real” journalists. It was their job, after all, to report such things.” 

“The Western media also flooded its coverage of the war with personal stories of Palestinians. There were significantly fewer personal stories on the Israeli side. There was a Pavlovian reaction to focus one’s reporting on the supposed “underdog,” which left Israelis voiceless. I wanted to know what Israelis were thinking. How did they feel about the war? The Western media refused to tell us. 
So after the war, I took it upon myself to get the detailed stories of Israelis and their experiences during the war. I started collecting stories with the goal of compiling them into a book. I covered the entire mosaic of Israeli society: Bedouins, Israeli-Arabs, Druze, IDF soldiers, politicians, activists, and more. I wanted to know how they felt and what they went through. I found anger and resentment toward their own government and deep sadness for the suffering of innocent Palestinians and their children. It was a very different picture than what the Western media painted. Perhaps they had not bothered to dig deep enough into the story. Perhaps they didn’t want to.” 

So, why does the Western media get away with such unprofessional and sometimes outright biased conduct? There are two main reasons: First, Israel is a democracy. Second, Israel fails to stand up for itself."

“I once had lunch in Jerusalem with an accomplished member of the foreign press. I asked her about her personal experiences as a journalist. She had been in the region for about a year. She told me that when she arrived, Israelis were not very friendly to her, but Palestinians were. This was a strong factor in her tendency to write articles that were anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. In fact, during that conversation she spoke at length about Palestinian hospitality and how it was a major factor in her impression of the conflict. Arabs have a well-earned reputation for amazing hospitality.”

While it seems obvious that Israel’s failure to recognise the necessity of positive PR is hugely damaging (to itself) it should also be borne in mind that anything positive the Israelis do, like sending rescue teams to disaster zones, or treating its enemies in its state of the art hospitals is dismissed by its critics as “Washing”. I.e., trying to sanitise its image by doing good, purely to distract its enemies from its inherent malevolence. 

If anything could do with a good wash, it’s western journalism.


Light relief


While we're on with The News Quiz, there were some especially funny clippings sent in by Radio 4 listeners this week, which I feel like sharing with you.


From the BBC News App:
A 3,500-seat arena and an aquarium will be part of a £500 million transformation of Swansea city centre, which will lead to about 1,700 permanent jobs. It will be the biggest transformation of the landscape since the city was blitzed during the Second World War.
From the Evesham Journal: 
Two fire engines were deployed to a farm following a report that a cow was stuck in mud up to its belly. Firefighters approached the animal, who got up and walked off. A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Service said that it appeared the animal had been lying down.  
And finally, from the BBC News website: 
A man who illegally parked in a disabled parking space outside a court while he was inside admitting illegally parking in a disabled space has been fined.

The ghost of Noel Edmonds



The BBC's coverage of that UN panel's verdict on Julian Assange's 'arbitrary detention' in the Ecuadorian embassy hasn't been straightforward.

Given the BBC's extraordinary behaviour when Wikileaks first 'broke' (via the Guardian), when the BBC seemed to be hanging on the Guardian's every word and was very uncritical of Mr Assange, I kind-of expected the BBC to betray a strong pro-Assange bias.

Maybe others did too. When the story first 'broke' (the day before the UN panel officially released their 'ruling') the BBC were up to their neck in it, having received a leaked copy of the ruling (from some interested party no doubt!). 

It was 'the BBC has learned' territory yet again - and, as ever, they made as much of it as they could. 

I read some comments over at Biased BBC on Thursday saying that the BBC was being heavily pro-Assange in its reporting that day - singling out Caroline Hawley on that evening's BBC One News at Six for particular opprobrium. 

Checking it out for myself I found myself in total agreement with the folk at B-BBC. Caroline Hawley's report appeared very pro-Assange to me too. 

She called the UN panel "experts", stuck to their narrative for nearly all of her report, gave the pro-Assange people featured in her report significantly longer than the anti-Assange people (curiously a Lib Dem) and, most strikingly of all, didn't even mention the rape charge.  

I was all ready to post about that yesterday when I watched the BBC One News at Six again and saw another Caroline Hawley report, following the official release of that absurd UN ruling. Would it be as bad? 

Well, no. This time she did mention the rape charge and was far more even-handed throughout. She didn't call the UN panel "experts" either. 

That stopped me in my tracks.

My only other encounters with the BBC and this story concern last night's Newsnight and this week's The News Quiz. 


Newsnight completely confounded my expectations. 

My expectations were that by (a) inviting one of the UN "experts" to be its sole interviewee and (b) by getting that notorious lefty James O'Brien to interview him, we'd be given a full Guardianesque homage to Julian Assange's 'triumph'. 

Not so. In fact, we saw JO'B give the man from the UN a thorough duffing up, with JO'B aggressively putting the anti-Assange case and the Beninese UN man crashing and burning. 

It was grimly compelling - that grimness being compounded by the fact that however happy I was to see the UN idiot brought low it was James O'Brien doing it.

The UN man's less-than-perfect English and the time delay on the long-distance feed meant that JO'B's loud interruptions left the UN man at a severe disadvantage and a very long silence resulted at one stage, broken by the UN man asking if he could still be heard. 

That was rude, incompetent, look-at-me interviewing on James O'Brien's part but - thanks to the UN man's complete and utter ineptness - it gave the impression of being a knock-out fisking by the LBC/BBC man.

And as for The News Quiz (which this week was minus the usual far-left suspects), they were 100% unsympathetic towards/mocking of Julian Assange. There was a complete consensus that the man had 'arbitrarily detained' himself and considerable mockery of him to boot. (The audience didn't sound as if it expected this - doubtless being a typical BBC Radio 4 comedy audience). Someone called him "the Twitter Generation's David Icke" and Miles Jupp called him the "ghost of Noel Edmonds". 

So I can't rule that the BBC has been non-arbitrarily biased here. 

(That said, I didn't see or hear that much of the coverage, so I might be missing a lot of other bias - one way or the other).

From Fact to Propaganda (again)


Talking about Shami...

What has BBC Radio 4 got in store for us this week on From Fact to Fiction, following Shami's pro-migrant piece of agitprop last week?

Given that the three previous episodes, as I showed few days ago, were also full of left-wing messages (on Donald Trump, the migrant crisis and David Bowie!), this seemed to show a strong pro-left bias on the programme's part. So you might expect something to balance that this week? (Well, you might if you didn't already know the BBC too well!)



Its author, Dan Rebellato, is jokily advertising it on Twitter:


...and it could well be pretty funny as his website contains the following introduction, which certainly made me laugh:


As if anyone (especially a blogger!) would ever think of going to someone's webiste to 'gather ammunition for a vicious ad hominem attack'!! No, no, no, that never happens!

No, I actually learned from Dan's Twitter feed that he really is an out-and-out lefty. (So there!)

I also learned that he's got something of a Trump obsession. (He's not a fan though).

So, I'm expecting a darkly comical, point-making, anti-austerity From Fact to Fiction from Dan Rebellato...

...making that 5 out of 5 left-biased episodes of From Fact to Propaganda in a row (the entire series so far).

How very BBC Radio 4 of them!

Mr Davis Goes to Paris


If you were wondering where Evan Davis is today (and why wouldn't you be?), well he's in Paris at a conference for UK school children (sixth formers) called Your Future in Europe.

(I stumbled across this by accident, so, no, I'm not stalking Evan!)


I was especially struck by the list of speakers for the conference. 

Along with Evan, there's also Shami Chakrabarti, Alan Johnson MP and Dominic Grieve MP. 

They all have something in common: Mr Johnson is leading Labour's pro-EU campaign, Mr Grieve is among the most pro-EU of Conservative MPs and Shami Chakrabarti turns out to be pro-EU too (surprise, surprise!)

I was curious about that 'And more to be confirmed' though, as it suggested there might be some balancing pro-Leave politicians too...

...but here's a photo (recently tweeted) showing the full panel for the conference's Question Time:


Yes, alongside Shami, Alan and Dominic is pro-EU Lib Dem Kate Parminter....


...and the SNP's Angela Constance, whose views I don't know but can guess, given that the SNP is presently fiercely pro-EU, so she'll doubtless be too. 

So that's an entirely pro-EU panel then.

Now, what take on the EU referendum might the near-voting-age British school kids get from this entirely pro-EU panel? I think we can guess that too.

Of course, this isn't a BBC event, so it's not a case of BBC bias, but...

...it's interesting, isn't it, that Evan Davis is there, chairing the interestingly-titled Your Future in Europe - as he apparently does every year? 

From what I can gather on Twitter, he also gives the opening talk and answers questions about the EU from the children. Wonder what he tells them? 

Returning to official BBC matters in the light of all this: How many episodes of the BBC's own Question Time will have an overwhelmingly (or entirely) pro-EU panel over the next few months? 

I bet someone will be counting.

******

"Rather unanimous"

Update: Participants on Twitter confirm that this very one-sided Parisian Question Time, chaired by Evan Davis, was focused specifically on the UK's membership of the EU. 


"We're not likely to be UKIP voters around this table"



Dateline London talked about Britain and the EU and the migrant crisis today. 

The panel consisted of two left-wingers, an American liberal and a centre-right pro-EU German. The discussion proceed as you'd expect it to proceed.

I could describe it at length. but I'll just quote one of the panellists (Jef McAllister) instead:
We're not likely to be UKIP voters  around this table.
Never was a truer word spoken!

In fact, I don't reckon there's ever been a UKIP voter around the Dateline table.

(Maybe Peter Oborne, who made one appearance several years ago {if he votes}?)

Paws for thought




Thursday night on BBC Two saw Chris 'Kill the Pandas' Packham and Liz 'Probably Less Keen on Killing the Pandas' Bonnin stage a 'scientific' study, BBC style, pitting cats against dogs: Cats v Dogs: Which is Best? 

This, of course, falls squarely in the tradition of Galileo, Boyle, Faraday and Ball (Johnny). 

As might have been expected, the mutts were fully up for it and the pusses could either take it or leave it. ('Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!' v 'Yeah, whatever, now feed me!')

The first of its two episodes [spoilers!] resulted in a 2:1 win for our feline friends. 

Now, call me Nostradamus but I'm guessing, knowing the BBC, that Episode 2 will subsequently produce at 2:1 win for our canine friends, thus producing a thoroughly 'impartial' overall draw. 

Time will tell!

If so, that's BBC 'impartiality' for you! (Look deep, and see that it's all carefully staged!!)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Kids Company, the allegory

I know that people who believe that juvenile delinquents are best dealt with by experiencing a short sharp shock in a no-nonsense detention centre will never agree with me, but I believe Camila Batmanghelidjh was onto something with her original approach to the problem of the violence and drug addiction affecting London’s youthful underclass. (Original in all senses of the word)

Unfortunately, success in overcoming those early battles with authority and convention went to her head, and she didn’t understand that running an enormous charitable/publicly funded organisation wasn’t  where her talents lay. Frankly, she does appear to have become what the Telegraph critic Jasper Rees described as “paranoid, narcissistic, belligerent, manipulative, self-pitying, evasive, irresponsible and needy.”



The Telegraph critic was of course reviewing Lynn Alleway’s film, shown last night on BBC 2. It seems that Camila had invited Lynn, the maker of an earlier, upbeat documentary about Kids Company, to repeat the exercise for the purpose of correcting the ‘malign distortions’ in the media. In the event Camila was hoist by her own petard. (Mind you, some of the emotive language in Jasper Rees’s critique indicated that Camila’s depiction of the media was not entirely wrong.)

Oh what a tangled mess we weave when we let ourselves become all bloated and out of control. The story of the rise and fall of Camila Batmanghelidjh could be a lesson to us all. It’s a little bit like the refugee crisis, where showing mercy and generosity to the deserving, ballooned into an avalanche of self destruction. 
It’s also an allegory for the BBC itself. (What set out to be a mission for goodness and enlightenment turned into a bloated tangle of propaganda and populism)


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Turning tide

Woolly liberal


Hugo Rifkind has written an interesting piece.
“ It’s no good embracing refugees without accepting that some of their values are beyond the pale and must change.I find myself discombobulated over migration and Europe. Do you, also?”

“Do you, also?” sounds as though he's speaking with a German accent. 

“Perhaps not. Perhaps, back in September, when the tiny body of Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach, and Angela Merkel declared that Germany would take 800,000 Syrians, and the Swedes said they’d take even more, per capita, and the world’s liberals — such as me — genuflected before them, then perhaps you saw, quite clearly, where it was all going. So perhaps you aren’t discombobulated at all. The opposite, even.Combobulated as anything. 
Not me though. Firmly dis. This weekend, Mrs Merkel performed her sharpest volte-face yet (and she’s performed a few of late) saying that isf Syria and Iraq should ever again know peace (a big if, admittedly)then all the refugees that Germany has taken in should leave, and say “thanks” on their way out. 
In Sweden, meanwhile, on Friday, we were told that gangs of rightwing hooligans were roaming around Stockholm looking for brown people to punch.[...]For the woolly, well-meaning liberal - again, such as me - there’s a strong temptation to not quite think about any of this. Or, if you do have to think about it, then there’s an even stronger temptation to do so a little dishonestly”

Hugo proceeds to describe Jess Phillips’s misguided comparison between Cologne and Broad Street, Brum; then:

 “No. In fact a situation far more similar to Cologne occurred in Cairo on the night when president Morsi stepped down. Scores of women in Tahrir Square were harassed, beaten and raped by a jeering mob. And it is certainly true, then as now, that a whole host of surprising western voices piped up to condemn it. 
Some of them, than as now, seemed a lot more upset by sexual assaults conducted by Muslims than they ever seemed to be by anybody else, but that’s not really the point. Although, I cannot lie, I’d be a lot more comfortable if it were. 
[...]Yet in the end, even a woolly liberal needs to stop twisting and stare an obvious truth in the face. Leaflets are now being handed out in German swimming pools.politely explaining that women in bikinis were not to be unilaterally grabbed on the bottom. If you believe in immigration (which I do) let alone the moral necessity of accepting refugees (which I certainly do) this is the bit on which you have to dwell.Can we take in new people and make them just like us?”

(Not according to Trevor Phillips, who’s come in for stick for mentioning that Muslims aint like us, and it’s insulting of us to even expect them to become so.)  (The left does not approve.) 
“sometimes, in order to figure out your own thoughts, you need somebody to say the exact opposite. In that vein I’m grateful to Trevor Phillips[..] who said last month that continuously pretending that a group is somehow eventually going to become like the rest of us is perhaps the deepest form of disrespect”  
To do so, he added, was to suggest they just “haven’t yet seen the light”’ which is patronising and unhelpful, not least because maybe they never will. But they have to.  The lesson of Europe’s current migrant trauma is that integration - and, in the end, assimilation -  is not an option but essential. 
[...]It’s not enough for minorities to just keep their heads down. They have to change enough to not even want to. A society can have any number of foods, headdresses and religious ceremonies, but it cannot have any number of values. 
[...] For Germany, and for Sweden, though, the interesting bit is what happens next. The question is not just whether their migrants can become liberals. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, whether their liberals can stay liberal while they do.

Knit me a hairy jumper. I’m wondering if some of those woolly liberals aren’t beginning  to see the light. 

Here’s something else that caught my eye.
The Guardian is getting flak and it’s not happy. All those woolly articles are attracting avalanches of criticism.
Cologne seems to be the catalyst for some kind of turning point, although the Guardian itself is sticking to its guns. For now. Silencing the opposition can’t work for very long. Who’s going to keep on reading articles they disagree with, especially if they can’t have their say?