Sunday, 19 October 2014

The pro-immigration BBC

From former BBC director of News Helen Boaden to John Humphrys and Nick Robinson, prominent BBC figures have recently been keen to 'fess up to the BBC having had a pro-immigration bias in the past.

For the present day BBC, of course, the words "in the past" give them the chance to put the issue behind them and move on, but what if the BBC is still pushing a pro-immigration message because of having (as Helen Boaden put it) a "deep liberal bias"?  

This morning's Sunday Morning Live asked the question, "Is the UK too hostile to immigration?"....which is a very particular way of framing the issue for starters. They could have asked, "Should the UK be tougher on immigration?", but they didn't. If you were marking the programme for impartiality, that would be a tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

Then came the opening report showing two immigrant footballers playing for a local football club, making their case for why immigration is a good thing, recounting stories of racism and condemning the media for spreading negative messages about immigrants. If you were marking the programme for impartiality, that would be a second tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column.

Still, at least you can rely on SML to feature a lively discussion between its four studio guests, some speaking for the question, some speaking against it, can't you?

...except, astonishingly, all four guests - yes, all four guests (Dr Lez Henry, Charlie Wolf, Michelle Dewberry and my old hero Bill Oddie) - agreed with each other that we are too hostile to immigration and criticised politicians and the media for stirring up anti-immigration feelings. 

Lez Henry blamed "politicking" for creating a moral panic. Charlie Wolf said that immigration is economically beneficial and that immigrants blossom in their new countries (to that country's benefit). Michelle Dewberry blamed "punchy headlines" and "catchy stories" (about things like benefit tourism) for infuriating people, stories she didn't believe were entirely true. Bill Oddie said that people who think immigration should be reduced are "not terribly well-informed" and that Britain's culture has "burgeoned" because of immigration.  He also [in an extraordinary outburst of anti-British self-loathing that seemed to take even Sian Williams by surprise] expressed his complete and utter loathing for Britain and British "chauvinism". ("I'm not proud to be British. In fact I'm often ashamed to be British. We're a terrible race"). Lez Henry then talked about slavery, and his parents being "enticed" to Britain. 

Both Charlie and Michelle did (eventually) express reservations about uncontrolled immigration though and the need for a little more tightening-up, but none demurred from the programme's central thrust - that we're too hostile to immigration.

If you were marking the programme for impartiality, all of this would be a third obvious tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

The debate paused at that point to go across to a second presenter, Amy Garcia, at the Leeds Museum for Black History Month. 

In the programme's introduction, Amy said this "fits in really well with one of today's debates. My Leeds, My Culture celebrates the positive contribution that people of African descent have brought to the city" which, if you were marking the programme for impartiality, would be a fourth tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

Amy talked to a population geographer and an ethnic minority immigration officer. The professor said that immigrants make "an enormous contribution" to the NHS and in building industry, and that we'd be a lot worse off without them. He criticised, at Amy's invitation, the government's controls on student visas. The immigration officer said immigrants face "a very harsh" life in the UK. "Life is very hard for them", she said. If you were marking the programme for impartiality, would be a fifth tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

The discussion then continued in the studio, much as before. [Lez wanted the "indigenous people" to be "educated" into seeing the benefits of immigration.] 

Now, if all of this isn't damning enough of BBC bias, then please read the list below of all the questions put by main presenter Sian Williams during this discussion. If they don't amount to absolute cast-iron proof of BBC pro-immigration bias here then I'm a Dutchman. (And I'm not a Dutchman).
- Lez, if I could start with you. We heard Reginald, who's from Zimbabwe there, saying he's got racist messages, his car tyres have been slashed. Is this something that you are hearing yourself? Do you think the rhetoric around immigration has become more hostile? 
- So, Charlie, it's the idea of 'the other' that people are suspicious of and that's why perhaps there's a more hostile reception...?
- That being said, and you both have parents who came here, why then do twice as many people in the UK say there are too many immigrants compared to places like Germany and the Netherlands, who have a lot more? Is it the case, do you think, Michelle that we are a less welcoming country and, if so, why?
- So it's the media's fault, is it?
- Is there a danger, Bill, that as soon as you start talking about immigration - and two-thirds of the public want immigration reduced, according to the British Social Attitudes survey - as soon as you start having an open discussion about it those who want to see immigration reduced are deemed racist?

- Why do you live here then? [to Bill Oddie]
- Well, you can leave Bill!
- But it's true, if you don't like where we are then go to somewhere where...
- So integration has worked?
- Integration has worked as far as you're concerned. Why then is...?
- It's a better life, Charlie?
- I heard, though, Michael Heseltine, the ex-Tory minister, saying on a programme yesterday that it feels like the same sort of febrile atmosphere around immigration as during Enoch Powell's day, when he was talking about the rivers of blood. Is that something you're feeling as well?
- There is a points system at the moment that works, isn't there? A points system...Therefore, if you're more skilled you're more likely to be able to find a place here. Michelle, do you think it should go further than that?
- [interrupting] Is there a drain on the NHS because of immigration? 
- So we should pick and choose who comes here is your view?
- Interesting, Charlie, it's not a soft and easy ride for immigrants was the theme that was coming out there [during Amy Garcia's segment]. There is talk as well about restricting their benefits. This isn't an easy place for them to live. So why is there this level of...Well, we're saying 'hostility', which is what some of you...
- So it's a lack of integration? Bill was saying earlier that there is quite a lot of integration. 
- Well, let's ask Charlie and Michelle. Why do you think...(two thirds of people think there's too much immigration)?
- Lez, there is a story in the papers today that there is one council - I think it's Newham - which is being offered some money to have street parties so that immigrants can feel like they are welcomed and part of the community. It sounds such a small thing - a couple of hundred quid. Is that something that might help? What do you think might change people's minds?
- Michelle, do you see anything changing in the next few years? I mean, if all the facts and figures are out there - and recent government social trends suggest that over the past decade immigration has actually given more to Britain than taken away - even when you have all those facts and figures do you think it's going to change people's minds?
- While we're still in the European Union, that's the free movement of people and it's a legal right for people to...
If you were marking the programme for impartiality, would be a clear sixth tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

Except for her joky exchanges with Bill Oddie, those questions clearly bring out a strong pro-immigration bias on Sian's part (which many might well generalise to the BBC as a whole). She barely bothered to try to make even the most token effort to put the opposing point of view, did she?

Blatant bias. 

This being Sunday Morning Live though, the online vote came down heavily against the programme's (loaded) question: 73% said 'No, the UK isn't too hostile to immigration' while a mere 27% agreed with everyone who appeared on Sunday Morning Live that, yes, we are too hostile to immigration - despite all the overwhelming efforts of the 'Yes' campaign run by the SML team. 

Sian asked if Charlie was surprised. Charlie said UKIP ares being tactically astute in spotting this trend. "Well, they're all talking about immigration politically now...", began Sian. 

"We're friendlier than people give us credit for, Lucy?", asked Sian (in a forlorn tone of voice - and, no, I don't think I'm imagining that. Watch and see for yourselves) - the Lucy in question being Lucy Siegle of the Observer, who had joined the panel later on (along with George Moonbat of the Grauniad). Observerista Lucy felt that the public aren't  as "anti as they suggest". Add a seventh and final tick.

And that was that. 

Now, I do think I've become something of a 'BBC bias wet' over the past couple of years - a BBC bias Hezza! - but this Sunday Morning Live was about as shamelessly biased as anything I've seen on the BBC for a long time. I hesitate to use the words, but 'pure propaganda' springs to mind.

Maybe all BBC bias-related sites and campaigners should focus on this one programme and use it to prove that Helen, John and Nick are completely wrong in consigning this sort of pro-immigration BBC bias to the past. It remains alive and kicking very, very hard.

Boko Haram, the Extraordinary Synod on the family, Ebola, the morality of tax, end of life care, and ShabbatUK

Today's Sunday on Radio 4 began with the news of the apparent ceasefire between the Nigerian government and the bloodthirsty Islamists of Boko Haram, and the possible release in the coming days of the abducted school girls.

I have to say I wasn't expecting either development, given all that's gone before. We could do with some good news though, so fingers crossed! 

Then it was onto Catholic matters, specifically the Extraordinary Synod on the family at the Vatican. The bishops there had rejected some of the 'gay-friendly' statements in the full draft document, plus some relating to remarried Catholics. 

Edward Stourton interviewed Cardinal Vincent Nichols about it. 

Edward's liberal Catholic bias has a habit of coming through in interviews with Cardinal Nichols and, for the first time under Pope Francis, I got a strong sense of dissatisfaction from Edward at the less-than-revolutionary turn of events in Rome. This was not a friendly interview in its early stages - and Ed came close to sounding cross at times. 

Here's a flavour of his line of questioning:
And on the specific point of gay people, the Church, presumably, this morning is in the curious position of having indicated earlier in the week that it wanted to welcome them into the Church, and now saying, no, actually we don't after all?
Well, it tells us a bit more than that, doesn't it? It tells us the mind of the Church is not to as welcoming and liberal as it appeared to be earlier in the week?
It was thanks to Cardinal Nichols that a further piece of evidence for bias on Edward Stourton's part emerged (or possibly confirmation bias on Edward Stourton's part). Twice, including at the start of the programme, Edward quoted Pope Francis criticising the "hostile rigidity" of conservative traditionalists in the Church. Cardinal Nichols, however, pointed out that the Pope also condemned the "destructive good will" of progressives and liberals who wanted change at any cost - people like Ed Stourton's friends at the Tablet

If you check out the news reports, you do indeed find that even-handedness in the Pope's statements. Why did Edward Stourton cherry-pick just the statement condemning Catholic traditionalists? 

Things then took a weird turn as it emerged that Cardinal Nichols voted against the 'gay' statements because they weren't "welcoming and progressive" enough (Ed's words) - or at least he thinks he voted against them because, he said, he can't remember if he did or he didn't. [At that point I could well understand why Edward Stourton sounded incredulous.]

Edward's mood suddenly changed though as it seemed to dawn him that Vincent Nichols was actually on his side in wanting "more positive" attitudes towards gay people. His tone audibly softened in the following questions - which, I think, further suggests his bias.

Edward's mood of dejection then appeared to return at the turn of events as he worried about how the Church's new spirit of 'democracy' had produced such an unexpected result.

Cardinal Nichols then gave him a little pep talk on impartiality that made me smile:
Vincent Nichols: I would a similar level of honest, open, pensive and very, very charitable exchange of views in order to discern a way forward. What Pope Francis does with immense depth and skill is to create and follow a process. And he comes at it all of the time with an eye for discernment. Where are we being prompted to go. And that excludes nobody. So nobody's views are unimportant. Nobody's views are there to be dismissed. They're to be listened to, and we sense our way forward. 
Ed Stourton: Including the views of traditionalists, which clearly made themselves felt very powerfully in the conversations during the last few days?
Vincent Nichols: Well, why not? They are people - if you can use that category. The Pope did - who have a profound dedication to the Church, who give their life to the Church and see in their understanding of the coherence of the faith continuity with the tradition to be very, very important. That's a very proper part of being a Catholic.
If only Sunday would really take the Cardinal's advice to heart!

The next topic was Ebola. Edward mentioned an article in the Tablet [which has started getting more mentions again on Sunday in recent weeks] by Monsignor Robert Vitillo of the Catholic charity Caritas Internationalis, who has recently returned from Liberia. Msgr Vitillo compares Ebola with the early days of HIV. He's worried that the same kind of "fear, discrimination and stigmatisation" is re-appearing. He talked about the actions being taken by Caritas (and Cafod) and the Catholic Church in the effected countries.  

Sunday is always keen to promote calls from campaigners for something 'left wing' or 'progressive', especially if it's something from a religious group, so it was hardly surprising that this week's edition promoted the calls from Christian Aid for businesses to pay more tax than the law requires. Cue a discussion on the morality of tax.

Sunday began by doing what Salford-based Sunday now tend to do - canvas a few 'vox pops' in the ultra-safe Labour stronghold of Manchester. Why do they keep thinking that's going to give a representative snapshot of public opinion? Won't that tend to massively skew any survey they do?

The results of this survey? One man said corporate tax avoidance is immoral and that the rich make use of loopholes. One woman said you should be paying tax to the right level, not paying as little as you have to as tax is "for the betterment of other people". A second woman said the government wastes money and people can make better use of their own money. A second man seemed to be blaming to government for taxing tax from people who haven't got the money. A third woman said, as a pensioner, that she'd pay less if she could do. A fourth woman said paying as little as you can is immoral. (4:2 in favour of Christian Aid's position then).

This was followed by an interview with a co-author of the Christian Aid report, Canon Dr Angus Ritchie. [You will note that no dissenting guest was invited to join him].

Revd Ritchie said that multi-national companies are his report's main focus and made the moral case against their perfectly legal activities. At least Edward challenged him decently.

Benjamin Franklin is usually credited with coining the phrases, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes", and after taxes came death and a report from Trevor Barnes on end of life care - "how hospitals and hospices are adapting their services to respond to religious and cultural needs of relatives and patients", or more specifically, how ethnic minorities feel they are missing out on getting the full range of services.

Trevor went to a Catholic hospice in an ethnically and religiously diverse area of East London. The hospice caters for people of all religions and none. We heard from Hindu relatives, praising its work. We then heard from a charity campaign manager arguing for better services, before hearing from the imam at a university hospital about the problems faced by people from the South Asian sub-continent, a hospice palliative medical specialist pioneering a new approach called 'Caring Communities' to bring it lay knowledge and a lecturer in palliative care who said that pain can be understood in different ways by different cultures (say, as a divine punishment) so that needs to be taken into consideration.

Next came something a little different for Sunday, a positive item about Judaism.

It took the form of interview with the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, about ShabbatUK which is calling on Jews across the UK, regardless of their level of religious observance, to celebrate "a Shabbat unlike any other" (from 24-25 October). According to the ShabbatUK website,
Shabbat is a central part of what it is to be Jewish. It plays a crucial role in Jewish identity with its powerfully uplifting and transformative qualities.... This is an incredible opportunity to join with fellow Jews around the experience life, for just one day, disconnected from the daily grind and engage with Shabbat in a meaningful way
Rabbi Mirvis told Edward Stourton that it will be fun:
Judaism is fun. The traditional Jewish religious way of life is fun. The happiness that is experienced within the family circle, the joy within the heart of a community by celebrating the Sabbath days is something very precious and I would like as many people as possible to enjoy it.   
He then sang traditional Jewish words - the Jewish grace - to the tune of Match of the Day. (Yes, really).

Finally, it was back to Catholic matters and the Extraordinary Synod on the family at the Vatican, and a discussion between Mark Dowd of the Catholic gay group Quest and "radical orthodox" Catholic blogger Paul Priest [a new voice for Sunday] - another opportunity to test out Edward Stourton's impartiality.

Well, he did OK here it must be said. Besides some tutting during Paul Priest's opening salvo [denouncing the attempted hijacking of the synod by Church liberals], he let both of them have their say - unfortunately, not for very long though as the programme ran out of time.

I think Paul himself (On The Side of the Angels) was quite surprised to get an invite onto Sunday. He's not really Ed Stourton's type, is he?

'Law in Action': Mind the gap!

I caught up yesterday with the 30th anniversary edition of Radio 4's Law in Action, hosted by its original presenter Joshua Rozenberg, and intended to blog about it today. 

It took the form of a debate in front of an audience of legal professionals. The panel consisted of the former Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Deputy President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale, and the former DPP Sir Keir Starmer. They were all there to discuss what they thought were the most significant legal developments of the last 30 years.

It was genuinely eye-opening but also slightly disturbing. 

What was eye-opening about it was it made me think about quite a few things I've not really thought about enough before. I got somewhat philosophical for a while afterwards.

What was slightly disturbing about it was that it revealed a quite staggering gap between the liberal-minded legal professionals involved in that Radio 4 debate and the far-less-liberal general public. 

It also showed that those same legal professionals clearly believe the fault lies with us rather than with themselves and that our politicians ought not to pander to us.

The two most significant legal developments, the progamme decided, were the march of equality legislation (especially over gay rights) and the adoption of the Human Rights Act in 1998. There was very broad support for both from the panel and from the legal great and good in the audience. 

Tellingly, when Lord Judge made the one point in the entire programme that seemed to touch on conservative concerns (though he was emphatic that he was no Conservative) - namely that it's not clear where sovereignty lies between the UK parliament and the European Court of Human Rights, and that that's a problem - Lib Dem Lord Carlile (in the audience) rose to dismiss sovereignty as unimportant and that he believed 'most people in this room' agree that the EU is a good thing. 

The thought struck me, after my philosophical mood wore off, that the kind of views and the limited range of views on offer here tally pretty much exactly with what many of us feel to be the BBC's own 'groupthink' on such issues, and, to my surprise, having spent some time mulling this over yesterday preparing to burst onto the blog today with 'a scoop' (!), I find this morning that Paul Donovan in the Sunday Times has been thinking pretty much exactly what I've been thinking about this (a two-man 'groupthink'!).

I call Paul Donovan to the witness box:
Last week’s edition is therefore an opportunity to laud Law in Action for the valuable role it plays. Yet it also demonstrated something more worrying — the gulf between m’learned friends and ordinary people. The problem, as with other areas of the BBC’s output, is that the programme’s thinking can be too narrow, and stems from the corporation’s innate liberal bias.
The topic the panel had to discuss was the key legal developments of the last 30 years. The progressive and ambitious Starmer, who is now waging a high-profile campaign to become a Labour MP, waxed lyrical in praise of the Human Rights Act, which also received support from two other QCs, the human-rights barrister Lord Pannick and the Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile. You did not once learn that the Human Rights Act is regarded by many as a terrorists’ charter — and that the home secretary has pledged that, if elected next year, a Conservative government would repeal it.
It would have been a very different programme had it consisted of, say, voters in Clacton or elected politicians — less rarefied, less elegant, but punchier and more relevant.
Just as Farming Today, if debating caged chickens, talks to animal-rights activists as well as poultry farmers, Law in Action has to make room for those who believe the law is an ass, as well as the Hampstead silks who make a fine living from practising it.
Hijacking Update:
Dear Craig,
Hope you won’t mind me hijacking this thread with this important piece. I imagine there are some interesting conversations round the Rozenberg dining table. 

Dr Magombe flees for his life (because of UKIP)

Just a very quick word on this week's Dateline (minus Gavin Esler), which unfortunately reverted to type. 

Though former Observer editor/Newsnight presenter Adam Raphael struck a sound note of moderation, two of the other left-liberal-biased panelists - Michael Goldfarb and Vincent Magombe - mainly used the opening discussion of Ebola to criticise the West. Both accused the West of racism. Yes, it was that type of panel. 

As for the question on the self-proclaimed Islamic State, that was framed (by Maxine Mawhinney) as being about the whether our bombing of S-PIS is having a negative effect and acting as a recruiting sergeant for the jihadi cause, though the actual discussion that followed was less focused. 

On UK domestic politics, three of the four guests were dismissive about UKIP, while the fourth, Dr Magombe, struck a hysterical note, saying they are "scary" and racist, and it's so bad in the UK (due to racism over Ebola and the rise of the "beyond the Right" UKIP) that he now wants to flee the country. He thinks it's no longer safe to be black here. 


Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Apprentice, episodes one and two.

The world is in turmoil, the Ebola crisis is worsening each day, Islamic State is going strong, Muslims are at war wherever you find ‘em, Jihadis’ plots are straining our security services to breaking point, the BBC is preoccupied with the so-called Freudian slip and the Madeley family’s trolling problem

Of all the artificial constructs, in all the schedules of every channel in all the world, no wonder I was watching the most artificial construct of all; the Apprentice.
We do like our unreality reality programmes.  We know they’re slickly edited, tweaked, manipulated and moulded into a package for our goggle-eyed gratification.

The Apprentice is so ridiculous that I like it a lot, and I’m not alone. It’s uniquely voyeuristic and cringeworthy, but without the viciously cruel humiliation of the X Factor auditions. There’s still humiliation, but it’s more benign.

Of all the dumbed-down, ratings-driven, populist crap that make the BBC what it is today the Apprentice is the daddy. It’s so peculiar, what’s not to like? 

Like all the other unreality programmes, the Apprentice sticks to a rigid, obviously nonsensical format. Unachievable time-limits are imposed, designed to inject suspense into the action, despite viewers knowing full well that what they are seeing is not what has actually happened. 
The latest series of the Apprentice opened with a flourish. A treat! Episodes one and two on consecutive days, with extra candidates!

We’ve still got the translucent screen through which Lawd Sugar makes his dramatic entrance before making his way to the throne. You’d think by now, after several episodes - a decade, we’re told - someone might have put him right about his pet saying:  “What was you thinking”. Is everyone really terrified of Lordy, or is he deliberately modelling his TV persona on the Dick Van Dyke school of cockney grammar?

No-one who has ever watched the Apprentice would volunteer to be the first project manager. One assumes these candidates had watched it before, but someone had to do it, and Sarah Dales (33/1)and Felipe Alviar-Baquero (9/1)were the first foolhardy guinea pigs.

The girls chose a name that none of them knew the meaning of, ‘Decadence’. 
The project manager had ordered them to glam up for the hard sell, so decadence might have accidentally been quite a fitting team name. Unfortunately those instructions antagonised the team, who felt  their intelligence had been insulted, so all semblance of  ‘teamwork’ went down the pan from the get-go. The the girl who suggested Decadence thought it meant something to do with ‘decade’  (Ence of decade?)  There is a scent called Essence of Beckham, so...   

It was a shame that the first episode was so mundane. Selling job lots of unrelated merchandise, if possible, for profit, in the space of a working day, and back to the boardroom, ready or not, at 5 on the dot, the girls tottering frantically from inappropriate venue to inappropriate venue in killer heels, eventually offloading most of their wares at a small profit or a substantial loss.

The boys wasted so much time at an outlying organic suppliers, adding value to some sausages that they missed the lunch trade, forcing them to abandon a valuable stock of T shirts at the printers that had been briefed to decorate them with the ill-conceived slogan “Buy this T shirt”. Who would wear that?  Not so much adding value as subtracting it.
They too eventually offloaded most of their wares at a substantial loss or a small profit.

On episode two, they chose (nothing to do with municipal incontinence) “Tenacity”, the meaning of which someone allegedly understood. 

From the losing team (the boys) the one who made the decision to sell off the spuds instead of collecting the T shirts was fired. (Chile(s) 9/1)

Episode two.

In the second episode Nurun Ahmed (25/1) was railroaded into being project manager. The task was to design wearable technology as fashion.

She seemed to be wearing several headscarves at once, with a small red hanky kirby-gripped on top. Her headdress seemed to have its own superstructure, capacious enough to house a considerable amount of wearable technology. A transmitter that could have relayed instructions on how to project manage would have been useful. Obviously that was not the case, as she was hopelessly bullied into incorporating everyone’s ideas into a hideous jacket.

It had the ability to charge a phone and warm your front torso with the aid of solar panels. Unfortunately no-one discussed the solar panels with the technicians, and at the last minute they discovered that solar panels must be exposed to the sun, so had to be stuck on the shoulders of the jacket in the hope that they would be mistaken for striped shoulder pads, which they would not. 
One of the initial ideas for the design was that the lapels of the jacket would change colour according to any top worn underneath. This effect could have been achieved with multiple tiny lights, but the concept was lost in translation, and the final lapels were edged with one or two sparsely placed lights that twinkled like a sad christmas tree decoration. 

Unbelievably, they achieved some orders for this garment, which won them the task.

Nick Hewer has morphed into a TV personality. When he appears on HIGNFY he constantly makes socialist, anti-capitalist asides. Since he is fortunate enough to have created an apparent demand for his own TV appearances solely through a purportedly capitalist venture, this is disturbing.

Of course, the whole thing might indeed be a Marxist plot, because any real business founded on the unsustainable principle of unabashed rip-offness wouldn’t last ten minutes. But still, surely Lord Sugar must be aware of the need to keep the customer happy? 
The boys’ team fared even worse. Their creation was a drab grey sweatshirt with a tiny camera in the front. None of them addressed the concept with the obvious question: “What was we thinking?” 
It was secret filming, but not secret because of the words “On Air”, which were written in fairy lights across the front to warn people when the jumper was filming. 
No-one knew where such a sweatshirt would come in handy, even in the unlikely event that anyone would take a fancy to the style of it.

When the idea of a sweatshirt sporting an illuminated ”On Air”  was first mooted, one imagined twinkly LEDs rather than the surface-mounted trail of wires with old-fashioned fairy lights that was greeted with dismay when it arrived at the crack of dawn at the house next morning. 
We all expected cutting edge technology, but what we got was wind-the handle, penny-in-the-slot, sticking plaster and glue, make do and mend-ology.  Another disappointment. 

No sales were generated. The girls won by default. Two people from the boys team were fired, including the one tipped to win the series, six foot seven Robert (high-end) Goodwin (Goodwin?) (6/1) and the Scottish Scott McCulloch (10/1).  The winning team was duly rewarded.
Nurun the PM was last seen hovering above London on a jetpack in the arms of a man in a wetsuit, in a most unIslamic fashion, if I may say so. 
Next week there will be some other contrived, faked set-up, artfully engineered to appeal to the attention-deficit-flibbertigjibbets that the BBC assumes we are. Cheers!

Meanwhile the BBC news and current affairs department is still wondering if Lord Freud should step down and agonising over Richard Madeley’s trolling problem or Ed Miliband’s polling problem.

"I agree with Nigel"?

This week's Newswatch dealt with the thorny issue of BBC impartiality and the proposed next general election leaders debates, especially given the fractured UK political landscape at the moment, posing the question:
Why is there a place for Nigel Farage but not for the leaders of the Greens, the SNP or other parties in the proposed television debates for next year's general election?
The current proposals from the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 are that Channel 4 and Sky will stage a head-to-head between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, while the BBC will include Nick Clegg alongside Cameron and Miliband in their debate, and ITV will stage a four-way debate including Nigel Farage alongside Clegg, Cameron and Miliband.

Samira Ahmed said it was "the contrasting fortunes" between the Lib Dems and UKIP since the last general election that prompted these proposals, noting the latest poll putting UKIP on 25% "whereas the Liberal Democrats' popularity has plummeted". 

However, over 150,000 people have signed a petition demanding a place for the Greens and the Greens are threatening legal action against the broadcasters. The SNP and Plaid Cymru aren't happy bunnies either.

Two viewers - one an SNP supporter - were invited to put their points to the BBC's chief political advisor, Ric Bailey. 

Christine Dench, one of the viewers, wanted to see the other parties involved to ensure "there's balance across the board, while the SNP supporter, Pauline Taylor, accused the BBC and the rest of the media of having "a strange fascination with UKIP", something she finds "disturbing and undemocratic":
If the Monster Raving Loony Party had had as much publicity as UKIP has had they'd probably have a MP as well at Westminster. Now, would they be elevated to share a platform with the rest of the main political parties? I don't think so.  
Samira Ahmed added that Newswatch has been hearing such complaints for some 18 month, "the sense that UKIP has been built up by a lot of BBC exposure".  

Christine said that there's a "question of what's leading and what's following here", wonder if the BBC should be leading rather than following public opinion - though, speaking for myself, isn't that precisely the problem many of us (on blogs like this) have with the BBC, that we think it already does attempt to lead public opinion - in the wrong direction - and that it should flipping well stop doing so!!!].

The BBC's Ric Bailey explanation of the decision to exclude the Greens bears quoting:  
It's perfectly true that the Greens won a seat at Westminster in 2010 and UKIP didn't. Now, what we have to do is look at that, take that into account, but we also have to look at the change in support since then and take that into account. Even in 2010 UKIP actually got three times as many votes in 2010 as the Greens did, even though the Greens won one seat. At every single election since then UKIP has done much better. So the evidence of electoral support from 2010 until now is overwhelmingly clear that UKIP is much better supported than the Greens and that is part of the judgement we take.
The thought did pop into my head after hearing that that it should surely follow from, shouldn't it, that Nick Clegg should be dropped from one of debates and Nigel Farage given a second spot? After all, it's no less overwhelmingly clear that UKIP is now much better supported than the Lib Dems (25% to around 6-7%). 

On the SNP and Plaid, Ric Bailey argued that, these will be debates for the Westminster parliament, and the BBC is proposing debates within the nations of the UK as well as the big national debates. 

He didn't draw the obvious conclusion from that - so I'm drawing it myself! - that as these will be nationwide leader debates there's no point in having non-nationwide parties involved. The vast majority of people won't be able to vote for them, so they have no place there. Therefore, the BBC is right to suggest confining the leaders of the SNP and Plaid to BBC (and other media) platforms in Scotland and Wales only. That's why the DUP isn't going to get an invite either.

That line of argument would surely have invalidated Pauline Taylor's comeback that the SNP is the third largest party in the UK (membership-wise), three times bigger than UKIP.  

Ric Bailey repeated pointed out how complicated it all is, and how there's no golden model available to satisfy everyone. Indeed, and he can expect lots more brickbats in the coming months.  

...where angels fear to tread

I'll share a secret with you. When you're in the blogging mood you do tend to actively hunt out things that will advance your blogging mission, especially (for the purposes of this blog) things about BBC bias. It keeps momentum going - which, for some reason, matters. 

The temptation then is to post about any half-credible-sounding thing you come across, especially if it's an article published in a prestigious media outlet, like the Times, the Spectator, etc, and then to write a powerfully-worded preface strongly denouncing the BBC on the strength of it. Bingo!

I may have done so myself before.

A case in point: I initially felt tempted to post about an article in the Spectator alleging BBC bias over the Rwandan genocide, but then I read the article closely and alarm bells rang. 

For starters, I thought it sounded far too biased itself. Then another thought struck me: That I've got far too little knowledge about the subject to know if its charges of bias are just ones, or even if the charges really are reasonable ones - other than the fact that the prestigious Spectator chose to publish them. So I decided not to write about it after all.

What's partly changed my mind is a sensible comment posted underneath that Spectator article by Teddy Bear (of Biased BBC: The Forum fame) - a fellow BBC bias blogger exercising his little grey cells and sounding a cautionary note about not just believing everything a BBC critic says just because it has been published on a serious forum about a serious subject. It could be wrong, and the BBC could be innocent of the charges against it after all:
I don’t pretend to know very much about this conflict, and who did what to who and why. As far as BBC bias is concerned, it appears to be their raison d’etre on a host of their agendas whilst taking in as much money for themselves as they can.
However, looking at your personal position I can see that you would have a particular desire for the narrative to go a certain way – rightly or wrongly.
I am put in mind of the Israel/Palestine conflict where both claim bias by the BBC, but it is only where one researches more details that one can see really on which side their bias lies. You seem to present an argument which is akin to the one put by Palestinians, and you fail to present real hard facts to support your case.
After reading your article I did a Google search on the Rwandan Patriotic Front and came across this webpage:
Who was Behind the Rwandan Genocide? The Rwandan Patriotic Front’s Bloody Record and the History of UN Cover-Ups
It suggests a completely different narrative than what you are putting forward, and provides far more evidence than yourself.
The picture the BBC might have put forward could well have been nothing to do with reality, that’s par for them, that doesn’t mean your version is any more valid.
Quite so.

S'ralan and the "middle class BBC mockery that denigrates sales and business"

Iain Martin has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek post about The Apprentice at the Telegraph, 'Is the Apprentice a Marxist plot designed to discredit capitalism?', which, for all its humour, makes some reasonable points, I think, about the BBC's business coverage:
In the last decade the BBC has done much to improve its coverage of business. It has hired a string of respected figures and good journalists – Jeff Randall, Robert Peston and now Kamal Ahmed – as business editor and has strength and depth in its reporting team. This has produced a dramatic change in the tenor of the Beeb's coverage. Whereas in my youth the Corporation only tended to cover business with relish when a leading business person committed a criminal offence, discredited Thatcherism or fell off a yacht, there is now much more serious attention paid to the part of the economy which creates jobs and employs many millions of Britons.
Despite these positive developments, there is clearly still a Marxist sleeper cell, intent on discrediting capitalism, operating at the heart of the BBC. How else can one explain the existence of the Apprentice?...
...The entire thing is horrible. It is not just that the contestants are portrayed as being generally awful; that the squabbling men go to meet potential customers without shaving first; and that the women appear to be at odds with each other from the moment they are introduced. It is much, much worse than that.
The cumulative impression created – because of the way the programme is structured, edited and marketed – is unflattering. The message is that business is unreliable, selfish, cut-throat and inherently flashy in an embarrassingly tasteless way.
This is not the fault of most of the contestants. As Steve Moore noted on Twitter last night, the show isn't really about entrepreneurialism or innovation. It is about sales and some of those chosen to take part clearly have skills that are useful in any economy. The market trading ethos is salesmanship in the raw and is needed in all manner of big companies. But caricature it by setting up daft challenges, magnify it with close-up shots, add that stupid modern music that they use on television to suggest tension, and what you get is middle class BBC mockery that denigrates sales and business. And let's face it, this country needs to sell a lot more, particularly to the outside world.
Now, some of you might take issue with Iain's characterisation of the improvement in the BBC's tone towards business in recent years (and his praise for Robert Peston), but I too remember how bad it really used to be. His description of the BBC's earlier dismissive, often hostile attitude towards business (before the Blair years) rings very true to me, and the BBC's many regular business spots and star-name business reporters nowadays are something different, something better. #discuss (as they say on Twitter).

Still, The Apprentice does seem to show, as he suggests, that something of that old spirit lingers, albeit a much shallower incarnation of it.

Have I Got Labour Smears For You

Both Have I Got News For You and Question Time are recorded on Thursday night. Question Time goes out 'as live' immediately after recording. I'm not sure what time of the day HIGNFY is filmed though, but it's probably fair to bet it's before Question Time is broadcast - which is presumably why HIGNFY continued to push the Labour Party version of the Lord Freud story. If they'd seen how angrily the QT audience reacted to Angela Eagle later that evening, they may well have dealt with it differently.

Or maybe they wouldn't have dealt with it differently. Maybe the writers of HIGNFY would have stuck with the Angela Eagle line regardless, simply because they can - and because no one's going to stop them or challenge them. BBC comedies and impartiality rarely go together. If they did, half the comedies on Radio 4 would have to be scrapped. 

Here's what they got away with this week over Lord Freud: 
Frank Skinner: Which other Tory had to issue an apology this week?
Paul Merton: Lord Freud.
Frank Skinner: Yes, Lord Freud, who said that some disabled people were not worth paying the minimum wage and some people with mental disabilities should be paid as little as £2.00 an hour. How did he change his tune after David Cameron threatened him with the sack?
Ian Hislop: He thought they should be paid the minimum wage.
Frank Skinner: What he actually said was, "Any disabled people should be paid at least the minimum wage. I care passionately about disabled people".
(Audience laughter)
Frank Skinner: Lord Freud got into trouble this week for saying that people with disabilities should only get paid £2.00 an hour. I wonder how much Oscar Pistorius is going to get for sewing those mailbags?
Frank Skinner [on Richard III]: He wants to think himself lucky he's not alive today or he'd be on two quid a week.
Joke-wise, the political targets were mostly UKIP and the Conservatives, though - and this perhaps suggests that HIGNFY is aware of having some responsibilities - there was a minute or so spent on the failings of Ed Miliband too, including: 
One person told Channel 4 News that expectations of Ed Miliband [in the TV election leader debates] were so low that, "If he comes on stage and doesn't soil himself...he will outperform expectations". 
That was probably the funniest joke of the night, and - tellingly - it didn't come from anyone involved in that night's HIGNFY. 

And much the same can be same about the second funniest joke of the night, which was simply the name of a Nigerian footballer who's name is the butt of some grim humour at the moment - Dele Adebola. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Mishal Husain gets gratuitous with Justine Greening

Sue wondered what I made of Mishal Husain's interview with Justine Greening (re Ebola and West Africa) this morning? [after 8.10]. She found it "gratuitously aggressive". 

Listening to it, so do I.

I agree entirely with her that it was an "out of order" interview - misjudged and needlessly adversarial. Mishal sounded as if she was interviewing-by-numbers.

She also seemed woefully under-prepared and Miss Greening appeared to be patiently correcting her and filling her in about everything.  

The two surrounding interviews about Ebola [with the captain of RFA Argus, David Eagles, and an aid worker in Sierra Leone] were marked by Mishal's other quality - coldness. 

I'd really like to know what other Today audience makes of her but, for me, she's somewhat lacking in warmth, spontaneity and a sense of humour. She may have all of those qualities in 'real life' but they really don't come across on Today (unlike with Sarah Montague) #ad hom.

Mishal Husain had two main angles today - pushing the United Nations' complaints about the 'under- funding' of their Ebola appeal, and advancing "many peoples'" puzzlement about the 'health professionals only' rule for beds on our medical ship off Sierra Leone. 

The first point was 'put straight' by Justine Greening (as far as the UK is concerned). It was a (left-wing) tabloid debating point, and easily swatted away. 

The second point, however, reveals something (I think) about the way BBC people like Mishal think. 

Are many people really that angry that a British navy vessel dispatched to provide emergency care for (mainly foreign) health workers in Sierra Leone (if necessary) won't be open to all Sierra Leoneans? Mishal gave every impression of thinking that we do think that.

I very much doubt it though. 

Were Mishal's 'race grievance' antennae twitching here? Had someone moaned about it in the Guardian?

"Many people" in the UK are more likely to be thinking 'unthinkable' [for the BBC] thoughts about what the heck we're doing out there in the first place, putting ourselves in danger, and why these long-independent countries are so unable to cope, after so many decades of 'freedom'. 

Those aren't the sort of questions (I suspect) Mishal Husain would ever think of asking though.

"Many" other people [also not mentioned by Mishal] might also be admiring our country's willingness to step up to the plate, and our commitment to helping others less fortunate than ourselves. 

It's what we do after all. 

Not making friends with Nigel

Continuing to catch up, this week's Panorama on Nigel Farage seems to have caused the biggest hoohah among BBC watchers. 

From Twitter to Biased BBC (where you'd expect the reviews to be hostile) to Digital Spy (where you'd expect the reviews to be much less hostile), the overwhelming body of opinion is that Darragh MacIntyre's report was "anti-UKIP" and showed "left-wing bias" on the BBC's part. 

[The Digital Spy responses are especially interesting, given that a good proportion of those claiming "anti-UKIP" bias on the programme's part claim to be non-UKIP people themselves.]

I won't rehash a lot of points you've probably already read about it but, having now watched the programme [and then had a shower to wash it off], I think it's fair to say that the programme was unambiguously intended as a hatchet-job on Nigel Farage and his party.

The line from Darragh MacIntyre that stood out for me came during a darkly-lit ambush of Nigel Farage [of the kind you usually see in reports of this kind], namely that Panorama has merely...
...been carrying out a normal investigative journalistic process, as you would expect. Well, you'd expect to be subject to the same degree of scrutiny as other political parties?
Nigel Farage didn't reply - but probably should have said: "Yes, but does Panorama subject other political parties to the same scrutiny as us? Have you investigated Ed Miliband's Labour Party, Darragh? The Green Party and their record in running Brighton? Respect? Have you investigated them the same way you've investigated us?" 

Many of us may remember the way dodgy UKIP candidates were spotlighted by the BBC and much of the British press during the European elections, while 'breaking news' of equally dodgy candidates from the 'Big Three' parties were cast as mere footnotes (if mentioned at all). 

Such a bias is understandable in pay-for-your-own-bias newspapers, like the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph. They can slam errant UKIP candidates' and ignore errant Tory candidates to their hearts' content, as they are under no legal obligation to be fair - unlike the BBC, which ought to be scrupulously fair. The BBC, therefore, shouldn't have allowed itself to be seen behaving like the Torygraph.

The question for Panorama specifically is, 'Was this hatchet-job on UKIP just one among many such pieces that have targetted other parties?' If Panorama has done similarly 'bashing' exercises against the other parties then, yes, Darragh M's question is a valid one and the BBC can ease itself off the hook of bias. If not, then the charge of anti-UKIP bias stands.

So has Panorama devoted any of its editions to similar investigations of the other political parties? To find that out would entail a trawl through the Panorama archive.

Such a trawl reveals that most of Darragh MacIntyre's Panorama reports have been about 'tax dodging', though there's also one in his portfolio called Hungry Britain? (about "the dramatic rise in the number of food banks in Britain") and an exposé of the BNP entitled BNP: The Fraud Exposed.

Looking at comparable Panorama reports into the UK political parties since the MPs' expenses scandal, there has been an exposé of Tower Hamlets First (Lutfur Rahman) in 2014, the Conservative Party (Lord Ashcroft) in 2012, the BNP in 2011, the Conservative Party (Lord Ashcroft again) in 2010, and the DUP (Iris Robinson) in 2010. There have also been a few 'cash for questions'/expenses editions targetting a number of political parties (one in 2013, two in 2009). Before the archive runs out, there was also one about the Conservatives (David Cameron) in 2008 ("Has Conservative Party leader David Cameron got what it takes to be prime minister?" and one about Labour (Gordon Brown) in 2007 ("Reporter John Ware investigates Gordon Brown's involvement in past New Labour spin").

So, though rather rough-and-ready, the number of exposés/hatchet jobs for each of the UK political parties since 2007 stands as follows:

Conservatives - 3
Labour - 1
UKIP - 1
DUP - 1
BNP - 1
Tower Hamlets First - 1

The Liberal Democrats, Greens, various nationalists and Respect have emerged unscathed. Labour hasn't been 'exposéd' since 2007. The Conservatives have fared worst (due to the programme's interest in Lord Ashcroft).

Though the terminology of Left and Right gets controversial with some of the parties involved (particularly the BNP), conventional BBC wisdom (and, sometimes, the parties' own self-estimations) would suggest that the list above shows that 6 programmes have 'exposed' parties of the Right and 2 have 'exposed' parties of the Left.

Make of that what you will.

So the UKIP hatchet-job isn't a complete one-off.

Anyhow, it probably backfired. (Well, if the internet response is anything to go by it certainly did!)

People can spot a smear a mile off and they don't seem to be on the same page (or even reading the same book) as Darragh and the BBC when it comes to thinking that politicians saying very un-BBC-like things about immigration must automatically make them beyond the pale for the British public as a whole. If enough people watched it, then maybe UKIP will have gained an extra percentage point or two!

Talking of Panorama and failed hatchet-jobs, and moving on to a genuinely sinister party...I thought John Ware's attempted take-down of Luftur Rahman's party earlier this year might have finished the Tower Hamlets' caliph off, being broadcast just before the mayoral election there and being (as I thought) so damning about him, but, no, LR is still there, after Labour failed to wrest power from him (for whatever reasons) and in spite of all Panorama's hard work. 

Angela's Crashes

So it can happen the other way.

Whether you class this as 'counter-evidence' or merely 'the exception that proves the rule, the question on last night's Question Time which dealt with Lord Freud's comments about disabled people and the minimum wage produced a highly unexpected reaction from the audience - something that sounded like genuine outrage at a politician's shameless grandstanding (h/t Guido Fawkes).

Like the rest of us, Labour's Angela Eagle was probably expecting the usual kind of QT audience - one apparently packed with noisy left-wing activists and students. She was no doubt expecting loud applause then for her righteous posturing about Lord Freud. 

Unfortunately (for her) what she got instead was criticism of her own party political point-scoring from the audience and lots of jeering and heckling. The audience members who spoke stood up for Lord Freud and denounced Angela Eagle. David Dimbleby also intervened on Lord Freud's side, against Angela Eagle. 

The Eagle landed with a very heavy thud.


I was intrigued on reading the latest Open Thread at Biased BBC to see a whole chain of comments devoted to last night's Question Time, agreeing with each how unrepresentative and left-wing the audience were, how often David Dimbleby interrupted the Tory, how left-wing audience members were chosen, how left-wing the panel were (etc) - specifically during the opening question on immigration.

A long way down the thread, however, when a new chain of comments saying much the same sort of things had got underway, someone added, "You should have stayed and watched Angela Eagle get slaughtered by the audience for suggesting that Lord Freud should resign over his comment on pay levels for profoundly mentally disabled people". 

That, of course, is the subject of this very post - a segment of the programme where the audience seemed anything but unrepresentative and left-wing, the audience members invited to speak all slagged off Labour's Angela Eagle and defended Conservative Lord Freud, David Dimbleby intervened in support of Lord Freud, and the panel appeared fairly evenly balanced on the issue. Lefties watching might well have cried 'right-wing BBC bias!' at that point and took to Twitter (as, in fact, they did!)

Now, several of the Biased BBC commenters who denounced the BBC here admitted they'd switched off in disgust after/during the first question. Similarly, I myself only saw that question about Lord Freud - having watched the whole bit via Guido Fawkes. Therefore, I didn't watch the first question. It could well very have been just as bad as they said at Biased BBC - which, given that QT discussions on immigration often seem to come from another planet, wouldn't surprise me one bit. None of which, of course, would invalidate the initial point of this post.

I've now watched the whole of the first segment, and it is true to say that the loudest applause went to Giles Fraser for his pro-immigration rant which, yes, doesn't seem very representative of British public opinion. 

That said, freezing, re-winding and re-watching shows that, by my reckoning, a good 40% (or so) didn't join in the applause, and the members of the audience who actually spoke seemed to split down middle on the issue. Among the 'non-pro-immigration' contributions, one wanted an Oz-style points-based system, another wanted the Spanish system where you need a job and a house before you can settle in the country, another denounced the effects of mass immigration on village life, and another cited the Latvian murderer. 

Judging by the audience contributions then it was far from being the uniform Labour-supporting, lefty audience that some commenters at Biased BBC  believe it was. 

Other points made were that Angela Eagle got a long time to speak and a free ride. She didn't get any more time than Jeremy Hunt, all in all, but Jeremy Hunt certainly got interrupted more often (in this segment). The interruptions from David Dimbleby weren't, however, interventions from the Left. I could easily imagine a pro-UKIP guest presenter asking some of them. 

The panel covered the spectrum from those who are very pro-mass immigration (Giles Fraser and Ming Campbell) and those who are pro-immigration but want it controlled to varying degrees (Angela Eagle, Jeremy Hunt and Isabel Oakeshott). That's the way of British politics, and the way of QT when you don't have a UKIP panellist. It's rare to get a politician on the panel of this show who's anywhere near as tough on immigration as the general public.

Thus, there were biases on the panel and in the applause during this section but they were balanced out during the Lord Freud segment, and - from their contributions - the audience weren't as unrepresentative (and left-wing) as some people clearly felt they were. 

I do keep wondering about that. How does that happen, that false impression? How, say, do the critics of immigration in the QT audience get forgotten about? How does the content of David Dimbleby's interventions go unnoticed when he's not putting left-wing points? How does the good sense of Isabel Oakeshott get overlooked while the right-on outbursts of Giles Fraser get remembered? 

Well, people do tend to see what they want to see. As you probably know, it's called confirmation bias, and I'd say a certain amount of confirmation bias was going on in some of the comments about Question Time at Biased BBC, but I doubt I'm immune from it too. So, if you've a spare quarter of an hour - and a willingness to have an open mind - please just watch the first question (all the way through) and see who you think is closer to the truth.

While I'm on the subject of confirmation bias, that same Open Thread at Biased BBC has what appear to me a few more possible examples of it.

One commenter denounced what he described as "This Week in Politics ,chaired by Andrew Neil, with Portillo and Abbott":
they discussed immigration and in particular if the UK could stand indefinitely an influx of 250 thousand pa. Incredibly those on the panel seemed to think that it could!! They trotted out all sorts of rubbish to support this lunacy.
...before launching into a long political point about immigration and the Westminster bubble.

Meanwhile, down the page, another commenter had watched the same bit of This Week and come away with a very different impression:
For a change, and In fairness to the BBC – last night’s episode of ‘This Week’, they let Jon Gaunt give a good account of his views on immigration. – Ms Abbott was also put under pressure.
Is the new ‘Chair’ Rona getting to grips ?
Why did the first commenter forget all about Jon Gaunt (from the other side of the immigration debate to Diane and Michael)? Confirmation bias?

Elsewhere another commenter linked to FOX News' reporting of the upholding of the death sentence for blasphemy by a Pakistani court on a Christian woman, Asia Bibi - a sickening story. The commenter notes, ‘FOX NEWS’ -not INBBC:- “Persecuted Christian: Will Pakistan’s Asia Bibi be killed for alleged blasphemy?” - except, as anyone who heard this morning's Today will know, the BBC did cover the story and talked about Pakistani society's murderous ways of dealing with those who are brave enough to challenge its blasphemy law for good measure. Plus the story was high up on the BBC News website home page yesterday evening (as I remember seeing it). Is that a case of confirmation bias too?

Someone else took mild exception to a BBC magazine article entitled ‘Is wearing a Native American headdress offensive?’. The article concerns the Glastonbury Festival's decision to ban it because a few dozen people signed a petition calling it offensive. The implied charge against the BBC was of PC bias. 

Of course it could just be reporting a story about PC, just as the Daily Mail likes to report such stories without being PC itself, so as to fire up its readers' outrage engines - and, indeed, the Daily Mail has reported the story.

The amusing closing paragraph of the BBC article (well, it amused me!), "Not everyone appears to be taking the headdress restriction seriously. A new petition has been launched calling on Glastonbury to ban tipis", suggests that this isn't exactly the kind of earnest PC piece that the commenter was implying it was.  

Finally, another form of confirmation bias could be applying rational-seeming labels that just happen to give you enough wriggle room to 'prove' your point, such as the commenter who wrote,
I’ve just noticed the panellists on ‘Any Questions’. Heseltine (soft-left), Chukka (left), Frances Grady (hard left), and Delingpole (phew, a Conservative at last). Despite Delingpole, I shall not listen.
The wriggle room applied there is to describe Michael Heseltine as "soft-left", thus 'proving' that the panel is biased (3:1) towards the Left. 

You may remember that widely-tweeted 'study' we covered by a genuine left-winger which did this kind of thing in reverse, placing Blairites on "the right" and Peter Hitchens, Peter Oborne, Quentin Letts, etc, on the "far-right", thus 'proving' that Question Time was biased towards the Right. That person would probably have cast this particular AQ panel as "Heseltine (right), Chukka (centre), Frances Grady (soft-left) and Delingpole (far-right).


The ever-reliable Ed West has an interesting take on all of this over at the Spectator:
Manufactured outrage is not a joke. Since the totalitarian-lite ideology of political correctness was born on American campuses after the Second World War it’s been used to snuff out unpopular ideas and legitimate lines of scientific inquiry; it’s a sub-rational style of argument that has no more place in a mature democracy than flag-waving ultra-nationalism or religious fundamentalism. Indeed it appeals to the same emotional parts of the brain. As I wrote in today’s Express:
‘It makes Question Time unwatchable because rational arguments are drowned out by indignant, reason-free protests on behalf of this or that disadvantaged group.’
If I were a producer for the programme I’d have any politician who tried the outrage card sent off to a corner for ten minutes with a can of Coke and some crisps while the grown-ups did the talking. Many politicians are wont to play the card, although Labour MP Emily Thornberry in particular stands out for her use of it, her response to the debate on marriage tax breaks being along the lines of ‘as a child of a hard-working single parent I’m offended by this’, as if that were a winning argument against the vast data on the beneficial effect of being brought up by married parents on childhood outcomes.
Anyway, it the reaction to this that made last night’s episode of Question Time so pleasing. Eagle tried to make everyone feel outraged, but instead the audience turned against her, accusing the MP of distorting Freud’s words for party political gain; it was like watching the crowd turn against Ceausescu in Bucharest, and the first time I’ve ever seen a QT crowd react like this. I think I may have to move to Newbury: If that’s what their Question Time audience is like, imagine how sensible the population as a whole must be.

Whatever happened to Richard Black?

I've heard very little news in recent days, but I did manage to hear a few minutes of Today on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

They were building towards an interview with former environment secretary Owen Paterson (which I didn't hear), based on a speech he'd just given/was about to give (I can't remember which), calling for a wholesale government re-think on global warming whilst bashing 'the Green Blob' (Greenpeace et al) for causing more harm than good.

A brief foray onto Twitter shows that one BBC reporter's coverage of Mr Paterson's speech has won plaudits from some quarters (namely, 'the Green Blob').

Here's Leo Hickman, chief advisor on climate change for the WWF:
And here's Sam Barrett, campaign director for Avaaz (and former head of media for Oxfam):
Hmm, approval from two green campaigners for a BBC reporter gently mocking Mr Paterson and making the sceptical former minister look daft? Are those the sort of things an impartial BBC reporter should be doing?

Judge the report for yourselves here.

Another reply to David Skukman on Twitter - demonstrating the same 'gentling mocking spirit' - comes from the director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU):
This Richard Black is the very same Richard Black who used to be  the BBC's environment correspondent. People at 'climate sceptic' blogs (like Watts Up With That, Bishop Hill and Biased BBC) would regularly accuse him of acting like a green activist during his time as the BBC's environment correspondent. Eventually, he left the BBC and became an official member of the 'Green Blob'. 

This Richard Black is also cited (being critical of Owen Paterson) in the BBC News website's main report on the speech

Maybe when David Shukman decides its time to seek pastures new (presumably pastures full of wind turbines), Richard Black might be able to wangle him a job at the ECIU, "a non-profit organisation that supports informed debate on energy and climate change issues in the UK", albeit a gently mocking kind of informed debate, probably.

In the same spirit, here's Richard's latest publicity shot, showing him sporting a fine Roger Delgado-era Master's beard from Doctor Who: