Sunday, 25 January 2015

Oooh, no missus!



That last post featured an image of Nicola, aged 44, from Glasgow, displaying her legs. 

As The Sun might put it, "Phew, what a scorcher!"

Talking of which...

The Sun's Page Three has been a big topic at the BBC this week. 

I've not paid too much attention to the row myself (being otherwise engaged), but even I've spotted that the BBC has been giving the story one heck of a lot of attention. [The usual suspect on Twitter (Jon Don & Hugh) have been active on the subject (taking the side of The Sun's opponents, of course)]. 

Some of that attention has been explicitly ideological. (Jane Garvey of feminist Radio 4 staple Woman's Hour (h/t Alan at Biased BBC) declared "It’s gone, we hope" this week.) 

Some of it could be puritanical. (Unlikely at the BBC).

Some of it could be just the usual Murdoch-bashing. (Likely at the BBC).

And some of it could simply be because it's a cracking, ratings-grabbing, tabloid-like news story. 

The BBC has become quite partial to those sorts of stories in recent years. It gives them the chance to get gorgeous Page Three models onto the News Channel - and Andrew Neil's This Week - to stand up for bare bosoms whilst, at the same time, disdainfully standing aside from them, tut-tutting...(which is just the sort of thing BBC types like to accuse the Daily Mail of doing).

This morning's Broadcasting House on Radio 4, naturally, couldn't resist adding to the Beeb's feeding frenzy on the story. 

And who - standing firmly on the BBC's moral high ground - did BH get to wax indignant on the subject? 

Clare Short. 

Clare - in true Carry On fashion - talked about "racks of newspapers". She also (less saucily) talked about "how degrading they are to women".

Paddy was keen to make a curious point about the former Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens [recently in the news over the 'paedophile MPs conspiracy'] posing with Page Three in opposition to Ms Short. [God knows what that was all about!]

Clare Short, of course, savaged The Sun

Paddy quoted Matthew Parris at her in response. She disagreed with him.

Naturally, being a high-minded blog, we've gone for the BBC-approved image to accompany this post.

What matters on Twitter


An earlier post may have unintentionally misled you into thinking that most Twitter comments about Nicola Sturgeon's interview with Andrew Marr this morning were about the ever-burning issue of BBC bias. 

They were not. They mainly focused on Miss Sturgeon's split skirt and legs.


Some swooned, some complained about being put off their breakfasts, but all were united in the belief that the First Minister of Scotland's frock was the thing to tweet about. And quite a lot of them were women. [One for Dame Jenni Murray, methinks.]

I thought I'd share that with you in the interests of disinterested blogging.

"So, what fun!"



As The Andrew Marr Show neared its close, the programme cut briefly (as it always does) to the presenter of the following programme: Nicky Campbell, flamboyantly rapping his notepad while waiting to preview today's The Big Questions

And then came the 'big question': "Is the time coming to lay the Holocaust to rest?"

It took a few seconds to recover from the shock of hearing such a distasteful-sounding question in the wake of recent events, but Nicky went on to say, thankfully, that the programme would discuss the Holocaust, hear from survivors "and keep the memories alive". 

Cue the return of Andrew Marr saying, jauntily, "So, what fun!", before turning to the closing music. 

It took me a few seconds to recover from that too.

After two distasteful-sounding things in less than a minute, I wasn't exactly expecting The Big Questions to involve much more than a quick trip to the 'Off' switch on the TV - i.e. the usual bear-pit, full of annoying people saying distasteful things and yelling at each other all the time. 

The programme, however, turned out to very interesting. My head swam with all manner of unexpected thoughts. Though passionate, it ran deeper than might have been expected. And the Holocaust survivor, Iby Knill, was a remarkable woman. 

I'd actually quite recommend it, if you've a spare hour.

"Poorly-phrased questions"




Tim Willcox isn't the only BBC presenter to give the impression of holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel whilst interviewing a Jewish woman on the subject of anti-Semitism in Western Europe. BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine showed that such thinking (far from being merely a matter 'poor phrasing' during an interview) appears to be shared by others at the BBC. 

Journalist Angela Epstein was describing the fears of Jewish people in Western Europe. She was saying that Jews are targets of Muslim terror while the reverse is not the case, when Jeremy Vine interrupted to say...
You say it doesn’t happen the other way round – there will be people who say wait; when you look at the State of Israel and what it does in the occupied territories, that’s the…that’s the other side of the argument.
...[that "that’s the other side of the argument" echoing Tim Willcox's "But you understand; everything is seen from different perspectives"]...

...and then, ignoring Angela's answer, put the following question to David Cesarani:
…does this stem from Israel’s actions and the way they’re perceived or is there something deeper afoot or is it actually not a problem, David?
And later, despite the Toulouse attack on a Jewish school and the evidence that the Paris attacker might have also been intending to attack a Jewish school before going for the kosher supermarket, Jeremy Vine saw fit to ask Angela Epstein the following question:
And Angela, even if you look at the Paris attacks, what they went for first were the cartoonists. They were not going for French Jews. The kosher supermarket was secondary.
There looks like something of a plague of "poorly phrased questions" underway at the BBC.

Promotional headlines?



And talking about checking things and avoiding confirmation bias...

I saw some comments early this year on one of Owen Bennett-Jones's "right-wing, media-monitoring blogs" noting that Labour's election agenda was being heavily promoted (that day) by the Today programme, the BBC News website, BBC Breakfast, and the like. A few commenters went on to make the claim that this was likely to keep on happening right up till the general election in May.

So I thought I'd start checking it out by finding something easy to monitor and then focusing on it for a while. Would it bear out their (and my) suspicions?

The easiest thing to do was to screengrab the home page main headlines on the BBC News website every morning and record all the election/manifesto-related stories. That way any pattern of bias - say, headlining Labour election pledges/Labour's election-related charges more that those of its opponents - would duly emerge. 

It's early days yet, having started it on 6th Jan), and some of the initial New Year frenzy of electioneering appears to have worn off. But the results so far are as follows (and, NB, some days are missing because there were no election-related stories that day and some days had more than one election-related story):
6/1 - Lib Dems in NHS funding pledge
7/1 - Labour seeks summit to find A&E 'fix'
8/1 - Cameron: I can fix EU 'problem'
10/1 - Conservatives pledge new strike curbs
12/1 - Cameron warns of 'legacy of debt'
13/1 - Clegg on 'snoopers' charter' attack
14/1 - Leaders warn PM over TV debates
15/1 - Labour pledges caps on fat and salt
16/1 - Almost 1m voters missing - Labour
17/1 - Tories should fear Miliband - Patten
18/1 - No child illiteracy by 2025 - Clegg
19/1 - Cameron makes full employment vow
19/1 - Miliband pledges mental health push
20/1 - Mansion tax 'crude' says Mandelson
So far then, I make that 3 pro-Lib Dem ones, 5 pro-Labour ones, 4 pro-Conservative ones, 1 anti-Labour one and 1 anti-Conservative (or, at least, anti-David Cameron) one. 

As with everything like this, such results partly depend on what constitutes an election/manifesto-related story - and there can be no hard-and-fast rules on that, only rule-of-thumb ones. The rule-of-thumb one here is that the articles in question should, in some way, clearly tie the news story to the general election. Plus there's got to be a strong element of (dangerous) subjectivity in judging the pro-/anti- tenor of the story and placing the item firmly in one camp or the other. (So, should I have put "Tories should fear Miliband - Patten" in the pro-Labour camp? I think so, but do you?) There could even - God forbid! - still be some lurking confirmation bias remaining.

So far there's not much evidence here of the BBC promoting the Labour Party at the expense of the two governing parties, is there? I'll keep an eye on it for a while longer though. 

"Never heard Marr so quiet. Farage is a slimy little toad and he's not been interrupted once..!!"



The BBC's favourite defence against charges of bias - that it gets complaints from all sides, so must be getting it about right - has always been based on a dubious premise. It assumes that the complaints from each side are of equal validity - or, from the BBC's perspective, equal invalidity.

It doesn't help that so many accusations of BBC bias are invalid (for whatever reason). Look into most of them and they simply fall to pieces.

The world of Twitter is particularly rife with invalid assertions of bias. Just look at this morning's Twitter coverage of the Nicola Sturgeon interview on The Andrew Marr Show and you see posts like these:
I'm no fan of Sturgeon nor the "progressive" @theSNP but #Marr has interrupted her repeatedly whilst Farage got the run of the place. Awful.
Duplicitous little weasel #Marr employs a different interview style with Sturgeon than earlier #Farage who was never interrupted once
Marr show: my only gripe is that Farage was on first and he spoke for 20 minutes,Nicola gets on for 15 mins and was interrupted by Marr
Marr interrupting Nicola way more than he interrupted Farage.
Never heard Marr so quiet. Farage is a slimy little toad and he's not been interrupted once..!!
They are all, every last one of them, talking complete and utter rubbish.

Nigel Farage was interviewed for eleven-and-a-half minutes. Nicola Sturgeon was interviewed for just under 13 minutes. Nigel Farage was interrupted 12 times. Nicola Sturgeon was interrupted 12 times. 

Why are these people tweeting (and re-tweeting) such crap? Do they actually believe what they're writing? Or can it all be put down to confirmation bias

Well, you would probably have to be a robot not to suffer from confirmation bias, according to the psychologists, so I'm doubtless guilty of that too in some of my posts here. I try to overcome it, however, by checking things out and supplying evidence. Any (credible) counter-evidence you spot would always be appreciated.

Two sides to every story



In assessing whether the BBC is especially biased it's often a useful exercise to compare its coverage of stories with those of other broadcasters.

Taking the latest UKIP story then, do we see any substantial difference between the way the BBC News website is reporting the story and the way Sky News is covering it?

You can judge for yourselves by reading the two articles (copied and pasted below  the 'Read more' fold).

My take is that the Sky article is a remarkably balanced piece, giving almost equal numbers of paragraphs to UKIP and the Conservatives' side of the row. The BBC article, in contrast, gives three times as many paragraphs to the Conservative side than to UKIP side in the section dealing with the defection of Amjad Bashir (before moving onto a separate Labour-UKIP spat). 

The BBC article is dominated by the attacks on UKIP by Mr Bashir (and Labour's Jon Trickett). The Sky article is far more even-handed, giving the charges and counter-charges roughly equal space and alternating them, so as to reinforce the two-sided nature of the story.

Sky also reminds its readers about Mr Bashir's previous controversies (over the arrest of seven people for immigration offences in a raid on his restaurant (something the BBC News website reported in detail at the time, when Mr Bashir was the UKIP candidate in the last European elections) and his apparent "continued affiliation" with Mujeeb Bhutto, who resigned from the party in 2014 after it emerged he had been jailed for leading a gang of kidnappers in Pakistan). The BBC omits any mention of those. 

It's hard to escape the conclusion, isn't it, therefore, that the BBC article is significantly less impartial than the Sky one? 


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Another bias row



The BBC is facing a bias row over its new Europe editor, Katya Adler, who is replacing the veteran Gavin Hewitt but has yet to start the job because she is on maternity leave.
Why? 

Well, according to Telegraph reporter Christopher Hope:
Eurosceptic Tory MPs are exercised by an entry in her LinkedIn work profile stating that from 1996 “to the present day” she has been “chairing debates, moderating and public speaking – hosting public, corporate and private events including for the EU Commission, the European Space Agency, CERN, London’s Frontline Club and the Austrian government during its EU Presidency”.
Two Conservative MP's have raised alarm bells:
This apparent cosy relationship between the BBC’s new Europe editor and the European Commission is a big cause for concern and calls into question the BBC’s impartiality on the issue of Europe. [Andrew Bridgen MP]
Miss Adler has openly advertised the fact she regularly hosted events for the European Commission over a period of 15 years and I can only guess the generosity of EC propagation. This cosy relationship between the BBC and the European Commission severely undermines your editorial integrity and ability to report matters in a strictly objective manner. The BBC claim to operate a strict editorial code of conduct and these revelations appear to be a serious breach of the code. [Philip Davies MP]
The BBC's response? 
BBC editorial guidelines permit journalists to take part in events as a neutral host or speaker.
Katya was an independent moderator for a number of events in Europe while she was working as a freelance for the BBC and other outlets. None of these were political discussions. Chairing events in this way does not prevent her from reporting in a balanced and impartial manner.
The Europe-related events she has been involved in were about topics covering space, science. Any implication that [there was] political discussion about the EU is inaccurate and misleading.
The proof, of course, will be in the pudding. 

Katya will, no doubt, be watched very carefully from the moment she take up her post. Her 'impartiality' had better be impeccable. 

New Technical Message



A universal 'Sorry!'...

Disqus, doubtless down to no fault of its own, has completely bamboozled me. So much so that I've even found it hard to get back into my own site.

Plus we've had an eerie absence of comments for four days.

And the old comments have stubbornly remained on the wrong side of the fence at Calais.

So I've uninstalled Disqus for the time being...which, to be frank, is about the easiest thing I've been able to do with the damn thing. (And that was only because I could do it entirely through Google Blogger).

So, Gawd knows where we are now but I can see all the old comments and all the new comments now....and, hopefully, so can you...

So, for the time, I'm happy again (at least until the next cock-up crops up).

Disqus is clearly a fine, flexible, good-looking system but it has completely lost me, so it's back to basic Blogger for the time being I'm afraid. (May the Lord forgive me!)

Another universal 'sorry' then and (with luck) back to the blogging.

Meep, meep.

That said...

Sue may give Disqus another go.

She can't fare any worse than me. (I feel like one of those blokes in BBC comedy programmes. They're all invariably useless at everything.)

Showing obeisance to the Saudi King/US president



Sarah AB at Harry's Place has posted a highly pertinent piece called Responding to the death of King Abdullah

She notes that notorious Israel-basher Ben White and pro-Israel blogger Guido Fawkes have come together (coincidentally) in astonished condemnation of the West's obsequiousness in the wake of the King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's death. 

Sarah's question is, given that the punishments prescribed for various crimes by the Saudi regime and by ISIS are pretty much identical, "How far can Realpolitik excuse the inconsistencies of Western foreign policy?" [For the pro-Realpolitik side, please read Con Coughlin at the Telegraph.]

Being Harry's Place, the comments - as fleeting as mayfly (dying after a mere seven days, poor things...ahem) - are well worth a read too. 

Having not seen a great deal of the Beeb's King Abdullah coverage [other than Frank Gardner's News at Six report on BBC One, where he didn't mention flogged blogger Raif Badawi], I can't say how true this is (though it certainly rings true)...

....but there's a comment at HP about the BBC's reporting of the story that highlights another species of BBC bias:
Shazza  • 6 hours ago
Loved the way the BBC showed pictures of GW Bush having tea with King Abdullah but not the ones showing Obama bowing and showing obeisance (isn't he supposed to be a republican and hence did not show our Queen the same respect?) to this ghastly moslem king.

Blasphemy, jihad and victimhood



BBC World Service presenter Owen Bennett-Jones (much missed from this year's BBC Correspondents Look Ahead) has penned a piece for the BBC news website called Blasphemy, jihad and victimhood

I've seen his piece described elsewhere as "rambling", "a bit all over the place", and "a text book example of drivelling liberalism". (Others were less kind). 

Those comments were made at what Owen Bennett-Jones himself would probably describe as a "right-wing, media-monitoring blog". At this "right-wing, media-monitoring blog" [but note to readers: Sue isn't right-wing], we'll going to take our own ramble through the article right now.

Owen begins by arguing that by attacking a target that stands for freedom of speech, the Kouachi brothers made many Europeans take a stand. They also exposed the fear of physical violence that lay behind the stated reason ('not giving offence') for the West's self-censorship on issues such as blasphemy. They compelled many media editors to find the courage to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. 

Well, yes, the attacks certainly have made some people think about their own position on free speech - especially on this side of the Atlantic where, increasingly, words can get you into trouble with the law. Many people's positions are riddled with inconsistency. (I know mine is. I didn't used to be - when I was young and libertarian - but it is now.)

And, yes, the attacks also put a very large cat among the pigeons at the UK's media outlets - and it was surprising (to me) to find the BBC ending up as being one of the most courageous (certainly more so than Sky)....

...however, on reading that BBC staff have now been advised to keep their work badges hidden for fear of a terrorist reprisal, it's a chastening reminder that clamouring for a media organisation to be gung-ho in support of free speech is very, very easy for anyone who isn't a part of that organisation and who won't be on the receiving any of any reprisals. 


Anyhow, back to Owen's article. 

He goes on to argue that the unity marches in France can't disguise the 'them and us' divisions in Europe. 

And, for him, it's Europe's Muslims who are the ones who are hard-done-by: Despite "virtually all Muslims see[ing] violent Jihadism as a perversion of Islam" [what's the hard statistical evidence for that, one wonders?], but "there is increasing tendency in the Western media to suggest that violence might be integral at least to a strand of Islamic thinking".

The implication here, surely, is that if "virtually all Muslims" see such violence as alien to Islamic thinking, the Western media are wrong to suggest it's "integral at least to a strand of Islamic thinking"; in other words, it's not 'real Islam' that the jihadis are practising. [Again, that depends on whether the premise holds - the premise being that "virtually all Muslims" see violent jihad as 'not true Islam. All the polling I've seen suggests it's very much a minority of Muslims who do, though it's not correct to describe that minority as a 'tiny minority' or 'virtually no Muslims'.]

I suspect I know who he has in mind when he then writes:
Right-wing, media-monitoring blogs are celebrating the shift, praising any programmes and articles that hint that Islam is regressive.
Both Is the BBC biased? and Biased BBC have been "celebrating the shift" wherever we see it.

He continues, stressing the unfairness [as he sees it] of the situation faced by Muslims:
Of course, most people still accept that the vast majority of Muslims are just as horrified and upset by militant Islamist violence as anyone else. But Muslims are under increasing pressure.
For years, they have routinely been asked by journalists to condemn violence. Now questions are also being asked about mainstream Muslim opinion on doctrinal issues such as blasphemy.

The problem (as identified by John Ware's Panorama - which, I'm guessing, OBJ wasn't too keen on) is that many of the [possibly self-appointed] Muslims spokesmen and women we see so often on our screens (especially on the BBC) give every impression of not being as horrified and upset by militant Islamist violence as anyone else. They seem all too willing to make excuses, change the subject, denounce the victims, condemn the West and, generally, focus on the faults of anyone but themselves. What would Owen Bennett-Jones do about getting those other voices (the silent majority?) onto our screens instead?

The point Owen is making, on and off, throughout this article is that the situation is worsening for Muslims. Their beliefs are now being challenged, not just their actions. 

After a semi-related digression (which is interesting in itself) on blasphemy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he advances the 'we in the West have no room to talk' argument: Some Christians protested about Life of Brian; Ireland has blasphemy legislation built into its legal code. 

Indeed, but Ireland's blasphemy legislation is something of an exception and the UK's old blasphemy law had languished in disuse for many decades prior to its repeal. (The rare attempts to exploit it failed abjectly). Protestors against Life of Brian didn't go on the rampage, or issue death threats, or kill people, or burn down cinemas, etc. No anti-blasphemy Christian or Jewish protestors have engaged in such activities for a very long time. 

He then raises a series of questions and points without really answering them - mirroring some of the discussions he's evidently been hearing. However, as so often, his own (liberal - in the U.S. sense) biases emerge through the contrasting ways he describes the two main positions.

Here's how he outlines the side I don't agree with:
Such discussions almost always develop into a row about power. Political Islamists and Western liberals often argue that Muslim sensitivities about public challenges to their faith and identity are informed by the fact that over time they have been colonised, invaded, tortured and falsely imprisoned by Westerners.
The US and Israel, they argue, are the subject of so much invective and even violence because, for all their talk of human rights, they hypocritically use their own strength to oppress Muslims, whether in Iraq or Gaza. Furthermore, it is argued, Muslims are singled out for abuse.
Thus, while the Charlie Hebdo management sacked a cartoonist for anti-Semitism, it did not hesitate to publish anti-Islamic cartoons.
These arguments about the unequal distribution of power are bolstered by socio-economic surveys within Western countries. Muslims are often at the bottom of rankings measuring people's health, employability and educational levels.
You'll note that he presents their views clearly, cogently and uncritically. He also reinforces their views by writing that their arguments are "bolstered" by evidence.

Contrast that with how he outlines the side I do agree with. There's not 'bolstering' here; instead, watch out for the caveats ("not very convincingly", "it seems to be predicated on the view"):
Critics of political Islamism often respond to these arguments by saying - not very convincingly - that attempts to explain violent jihadism are akin to condoning it.
But they also make more substantial claims - that while Islamists exaggerate and even wallow in their sense of victimisation, they don't get so angry about the persecution of and discrimination against minorities in Muslim-majority countries.
After all, Christians in the so-called Islamic State and Shias in Saudi Arabia are even more marginalised than Muslims in Europe.
Islamism's opponents also ask whether the religion should be granted unique protections just because some of its adherents feel weak and vulnerable. Might affording Islam special protection from criticism and satire even be racist?
After all it seems to be predicated on the view that the Muslim community is incapable of responding to criticism and satire with calm, rational debate.
And to which side does he give the last word?
It all depends how you look at it. How, for example, do you interpret the fact that when the Kouachi brothers fled the Charlie Hebdo offices they yelled: "We have avenged the Prophet?" Some see that as a sign that Islam teaches not peace but violence.
But others reckon the brothers were in fact using the blasphemy issue as a vehicle to express the frustration, anger and powerlessness that come with being the sons of Algerian migrants, alienated and unable to get a fair chance in the society they were born into.
Those closing 11 paragraphs, of course, contain elements of thesis and antithesis. In other words, they are intended to come across as a balanced presentation of two strands of thought. The couching of that presentation and the language used, however, strongly suggests where the author's own sympathies lie - where many of us on "right-wing, media-monitoring blogs" believe the BBC's sympathies lie (institutionally-speaking).

It is a bit of a ramble ('Six Points In Search of a Argument'), this article by Owen Bennett-Jones, but it's an interesting, thought-provoking one nonetheless. (Whether the same can be said about this review is another matter).

Spot the difference

When I logged on the other morning I spotted ‘The lost sons’ on the top of ‘BBC News’ in our blogroll in the sidebar. It wasn’t there for very long, but when I saw it my heart sank. (It keeps doing that) 


I knew I ought to click on it, and I did, but before doing so I wondered why anyone (at the BBC) would think that was a suitable topic for a morality tale. I thought the aim of the writer would be to compare two seemingly similar tragic events and conclude with a moral message. Sort of like the temporary truce on Christmas day; a message of hope with its implicit false equivalence. 

Well, over at the site I found a cornucopia of images, some videos and some elaborate graphic effects.
One fairly obvious reaction from supporters of Israel would immediately be that there were three Israeli boys murdered, whereas just one Palestinian. Perhaps the inclusion of two other Palestinian teenagers who were shot by Israel’s security forces and the IDF was Mike Thomson’s attempt to even the score. What do you think?
For an outsider it does seem rather extraordinary that an Israeli teenager should be allowed by his parents to hitchhike around the occupied West Bank, given the animosity felt by Palestinans (sic) there to anyone they perceive as a settler.
says Thomson. However the answer to this question is provided in the article.  It is in a short video explaining why hitchhiking is commonplace in Israel. It didn’t even try to insinuate that the three Israeli boys, settlers, no less, were ‘asking for it’ by getting into a stranger’s car, as Mike Thomson assumes he and fellow outsiders would think.  
In fact it made a couple of points in the other direction. 1)That terrorist attacks in Israel make public transport as dangerous, and 2) In Israeli society one can normally rely on the genuinely public spirited motive of the motorist.  

Pleasingly, Mike Thomson does something unusual. He ‘humanises’ the Israel family, treating them in the same manner as the BBC consistently treats ‘Palestinians’. Here, Israelis have names and they text each other about their arrangements, just like ‘us’.

But other things were more troubling. Take this paragraph: 
 “The resulting anger and bitterness among Israelis led to the loss of another young life. This time an Israeli Arab boy, the same age as Naftali, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir.”
There may well have been a great deal of anger and bitterness among Israelis, as there would be anywhere else under similar circumstances. But to say this led to the loss of another life is almost to suggest that Israelis in general approved of this act of revenge, which is the opposite of the case. 
"Young Mohammed’s fate caused similar outrage among Palestinians - deepening the growing divide between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Similar outrage among Palestinians” is almost libelous in its departure from reality. The fact is that the Palestinians are in a permanent state of outrage. The scale of their outrage starts from a very high base. The fact that the Palestinians obstructed investigations so determinedly for several months bears this out. 
Mike Thomson

However the worst aspect of this in depth report is its failure to directly compare the attitudes of the Israeli and the Palestinian families and the attitudes of their respective public.
There are ample references to Palestinians’ bizarre reaction to the murder of Mohammed Khdeir. Their refusal to believe that the police made an effort to find him because he was an Arab and not a Jewish boy, and this whole section: 
But Mohammed’s parents insist, despite all the evidence, that Naftali and his two Israeli friends weren’t actually murdered at all - they died in an accident and the Israeli government used the deaths to fuel anger against Palestinians.
His mother says the Israeli government “wanted to bomb Gaza and planned to use this as a justification”.I ask how widespread is this belief. She replies: “Everyone knows this story, not only us. We didn’t come up with this story.”But, I point out, senior Hamas figures have admitted that members of the organisation carried out the killings.Hussein says: “I am not a politician, I am an ordinary man and didn’t hear of this story. The story that we know is that they died in a traffic accident.”

That is not to be taken lightly. It should be highlighted to show the fundamental difference between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims. 
RACHELLE FRAENKEL: We heard about the death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. At first we couldn’t believe that it’s a hate crime. We thought something else might have happened. We were horrified. It stands against every value we live or educate towards. No parent should go through what we’ve been through. And especially not an innocent boy just walking through the street in Jerusalem. It is simply horrible.
It’s all there in the text, I know, and I don’t think it’s been deliberately buried. But the contrast is so great that rather than merely ‘being there’ for us to find, it merits a specific comparison. As it is, the whole concept of “The Lost Sons’ seems to be ”a message of hope”  like the Christmas truce, and the opposite of  what it ought to be. 

In an ideal world the message should be “What is different” about the two lost sons, not a superficial “What’s the difference?”  between them.

It's all Greek to me




I saw a comment the other day saying that BBC has 
...actively avoided reporting on the real social and economic problems in Greece, exacerbated by the totalitarian ideals of the EU over the past 4 years....The trials and tribulations of the poor and vulnerable of Greece? No. Nadda. Don’t want to expose the serfdom that results from unconstrained corporate socialism. 
Well, that's not not my impression at all. 

Far from the BBC reporting "nothing" about "the trials and tribulations of the poor and vulnerable of Greece" over the past four years, I've seen (and heard) countless BBC reports from Greece describing the hardship caused by the EU-designed austerity strategy there. There have been innumerable reports on the effects of the cuts/tax rises, especially on Greek public sector workers. The impoverishment of swathes of the Greek population because of austerity has been extensively covered. The months of anti-austerity protests there were very widely reported. (While at Newsnight, Paul Mason seemed to be almost permanently encamped with the revolting dispossessed of Athens.) 

The commenter puts what he sees as the BBC's complete failure to report such things down to the BBC's pro-EU bias. I, in complete contrast, might put what I see as the BBC's very heavy reporting of Greek hardship down to their anti-austerity bias. 

One of us is clearly wrong about the extent of the reporting of Greece's economic woes (and it's not me!), but (assuming you accept either of those propositions) it's still quite possible for us both to be right about the presence of BBC bias here. The BBC can, after all, be anti-austerity and pro-EU at the same time.

How? Well, here's what I think is a classic example: The closing words of Gabriel Gatehouse's piece for last night's Newsnight:
The Greeks themselves face a difficult choice. For while many see Berlin and Brussels as the enforcers of their current austerity, they also understand that in Europe lies their best chance of future prosperity.
His report focused on the hardship caused by austerity but, as you can see, concluded with the BBC reporter telling Newsnight viewers that the Greeks "understand" - i.e understand the 'fact' - that "in Europe lies their best chance of future prosperity"...

...which is a questionable statement of belief from Gabriel Gatehouse [given the evident fact that it hasn't worked out quite like that so far for them].

Of course, given that large numbers of Greeks have suffered drastic falls in living standards in recent years, the BBC's strong focus on their hardship is understandable. 

As time has passed, however, I've been hearing ever-diminishing mentions on the BBC of what (I believe) prompted the introduction of austerity measures in the first place - the fact that decades of over-spending, inefficiency, tax evasion and corruption produced a massive bubble for whose bursting the Greeks as a whole, not just their mainstream politicians, must surely take a good deal of the blame. 

Austerity is only part of the explanation for what's caused so much suffering in Greece today. Shouldn't BBC reporters be asking if Syriza's promises amount to a return to the bad old days (with an added layer of extreme left-wingery)? 

Well that's my two euros/drachmas' worth on the subject. 

I hate ACME



Having spent what little spare time I've had in the past few days trying to work out (without success) how to import our existing comments onto our new Disqus system, I've had no time for any actual blogging. 

I could blame myself for ineptly installing Disqus on the blog but, instead, I'll blame Disqus. 

(Ooooh, what's this? 429 emails just in. Who from? 429 MPs praising my course of action, saying they'd have done the same if they were in my position. Cheers, guys!)

Yes, it's all Disqus's fault. 

I feel like Wile E. Coyote. He placed all his trust in the ACME Corporation, yet everything they sent him backfired on him. He should write to You and Yours.

And talking of Wile E. Coyote...

...his insufferably smug nemesis, the roadrunner, was featured on one of this week's episodes of Tweet of the Daypresented by Michael Palin  

Those fast and fierce birds aren't just the nemesis for unlucky coyotes, they also eat reptiles - including, to my surprise, rattlesnakes - thus suggesting that the spirit of the velociraptor lives on. 

Sadly, the programme also revealed that the Greater Roadrunner's tweet is not much like the famous 'meep meep' so memorably uttered by the most member of its family.

OK, back to this Disqus problem. OK, what happens if I press this?....

Friday, 23 January 2015

Carefully made up

Should you take the sincerity of the spoken word for granted when you see or hear it on the media? Some might think, cynically, that what we get is more a matter of what the spokesperson has decided to say today.

That thought persisted when I watched the HardTalk with Zeinab Badawi and Suha Arafat. (H/T BBCWatch. Congratulations to Hadar Sela on a very well deserved accolade.)


You know that expression ‘rats fighting in a sack’? Something like that popped into my head.  
Zeinab and Suha. Two harpies play-fighting on the BBC.

Everyone who’s aware of Zeinab’s interviewing history would be pretty naïve to expect any kind of penetrating grilling from Zeinab, a least in the case of an Arafat.  In the event, apart from the usual propagandistic cliches that Suha knew she could get away with, it was Zeinab who came across as equally, if not more, ‘partial’ than the (relatively) poor widow. 

Some of this interview was hilarious, some plain weird.  Hadar noted Suha’s evasive answers and picked out the most fanciful of the propagandistic allusions she slipped in, more of which later, but what about Zeinab’s performance?

Zeinab asks Suha “when you’re living in Malta in relative comfort and you see the struggling  of the Palestinian people....how does that make you feel?”
Well, Suha feels terrible, but she and her daughter wouldn’t be safe in ‘Palestine’.  “The name Arafat.. it’s not easy.” Fair enough. I can quite believe they’d be a sitting target,  even more so now that the Islamic State terror group has managed to set up bases of power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The section one could call “Where’s the money?” was strange as strange could be. Zeinab mentioned eleven million dollars that were supposed to be in bank accounts “under your control - where is it? 
Where is the money?” 
At that, Zeinab looked around with a theatrical gesture, meaning .... what? I don’t quite know. Did she mean the spartan fixtures and fittings? As in “I see no outward signs of wealth here?” Can’t be that.
Perhaps she meant the opposite. The ‘relatively comfortable' surroundings. Maybe she was alluding to the considerable sum Suha has very likely thrown at cosmetic dentistry and personal grooming. (Nice eyebrows, by the way.)
Well, “this is character assassination - not against me - against my husband.” Suha did look, momentarily, a little shifty.


I must digress a minute. You know how the BBC crew will ‘stage’ these films? (well, they do) They’re inclined to fiddle with elaborate lighting contraptions and turn off any humming fridges. They spend time artfully placing the subject before a suitable background. 

I just thought it was hilarious that a huge portrait of Yasser must have been wheeled in on a whacking great artists easel so he could leer down on the proceedings throughout the interview.  I wonder if they brought the easel with, as a prop? Perhaps Suha is a painter.



(Something about the Arafat countenance belies Suha’s insistence that her husband was a fitness fanatic before being poisoned with polonium. Yasser Arafat the health freak. Hmm.)



However, when it comes to the nitty gritty, it wasn’t clear who Suha fears most or regards as the greatest enemy, Hamas or Israel. 

She said, or has decided to say, that she and Yasser hadn’t put all that effort, suffering and struggle “all our life” for Palestine to become an Islamic state. But “it should have Muslim law” “We want the Muslim laws, but not the Muslim state.”

So what’s the actual difference? I must say this seemed confusing, and if Zeinab had her wits about her she might have insisted on clarification.

Suha also said what happened in France was terrible, a crime, and France opened its arms to immigrants who should have been appreciative of the Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité they were lucky enough to experience in France

Zeinab turned to the subject of Yehuda Glick who had also been a guest on a recent HardTalk, and mentioned the ‘religious dimension’ to the problem. Suha then adamantly  defended the Muslims. “It’s not the time to provoke the Muslims.” 

Suha keeps saying: “This is not a religious...it’s a nationalist cause”  Well if Mr and Mrs Arafat sincerely ever thought it was simply a nationalist cause, it sure ain’t now. Of course in truth, the whole basis of the Arabs’ rejectionism is religiously based. It is and always was a religious cause. 

 Regarding Hamas’s aspiration -  the extermination of Israel:

 “You’ve also said recently that the armed struggle is no longer plausible. When you look at your husband’s legacy, with the olive branch in one hand and the gun in the other, do you believe that he was wrong, then, to believe that there could be an armed struggle that would bring results” 

Suha decided to say,  “In the beginning Yasser Arafat agreed that there would be an armed struggle” History, not me,  will judge him, she declared.

She seemed to be saying that Hamas is making the people pay too high a price. She said: “Why did they not build shelters instead of tunnels?”

“Should now the armed struggle recognise Israel?” Asked Zeinab, with an inscrutable expression. Is Zeinab for or against?

“Listen. Come on! They have to recognise Israel” replied Suha. “They have to recognise Israel because there’s no other way. Don’t tell me they are going to banish Israel from the river to the sea.”

It all seems a bit vague. A little bit woo and a little bit waay; a bit dodgy.
So what does Suha really think? 



A few days ago, Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement posted the above picture to their official Facebook page. It demonstrates that the movement still favors violence as the way to obtain statehood. 
A stone, a knife, a Molotov cocktail, a gun, a hand grenade, an assault rifle and an RPG illustrate Fatah's progress in terms of more and more sophisticated weapons. These are the means with which it works toward its goal - to "finish with a state," as the poster states: "We started with stones .... and we will finish with a stateThe Palestinian National Liberation Movement [Fatah]"[Facebook, "Fatah - The Main Page", Jan. 18, 2015]
For years, the Palestinian Authority and Fatah have promoted violence. Palestinian Media Watch has documented numerous statements emphasizing their adherence to "armed struggle" and veneration for the rifle. This week's stabbing attack in Tel Aviv was encouraged by such promotion of violence by the PA and Fatah who have both explicitly encouraged attacking Jews and Israelis with knives.

Does she not know about this? Perhaps she doesn’t do Facebook.

Hadar had treated us to a comprehensive list of Suha’s propagandist nuggets:
“When there’s a rocket on Israel we have 1,000 people who are killed in the same day.”“Gaza…the most crowded city in the world…”“…more than 1,000 people who are still in the coma…” [after the conflict last summer]“….nothing happen [with the peace process] because Israel continue to do settlements, Israel continue to build the wall….”
as well as some of Zeinab’s, including the reference to “some progress being made on the diplomatic scene”, meaning Mahmoud Abbas’s ICC manoeuvre. Progress on the diplomatic scene? What an odd way of putting it, for an impartial BBC employee I mean.

Finally this brings me to Zeinab’s pronunciation. Like Yolande Knell, she’s gone native on “Ramallah”. Rumul-lah!


I thought this carefully made-up Suha came across as much more reasonable than the Suha who made hysterical claims about Israel poisoning the old rogue. Perhaps everything she said was as carefully made up as her face. She wasn’t wearing her mad hat for HardTalk, and Zeinab seemed disappointed. No doubt she would have preferred to play the voice of reason against widow Arafat’s histrionic anti-Zionism. Instead Zeinab took the role of part sycophant, part interlocutor and part fellow anti-Zionist, slightly deflated at her failure to coax as much virulence from her subject as she’d hoped.    As Hadar said, a puff piece.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The BBC's ECU partially upholds a complaint against the 'Today' programme


Hot off the presses, here's a BBC Editorial Complaints Unit ruling that partially upholds a complaint against the 'Today' programme:



Today, Radio 4, 1 July 2014 & Labour - working with or against business?, bbc.co.uk: Finding by the Editorial Complaints Unit

Craig Oliver, Director of Communications at 10 Downing St, complained about coverage of a Labour Party publication, “Mending the fractured economy”, in reports by Nick Robinson and news bulletins in Today. He maintained that, as well as being inaccurate in some respects, it had uncritically reported figures for private sector job creation which were incorrect and contradicted by data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), thus supporting a Labour narrative. The ECU acknowledged two inaccuracies, one of which had been rectified both online and on air. The other had been rectified online, but not on air, and the ECU upheld the complaint of inaccuracy in that respect. However, it noted that the discrepancy between the reported figures and those of the ONS arose from differences in methodology, not inaccuracy, and that those figures and similar data from the same source had been relied on by all the main parties on occasion. It therefore did not agree that the BBC’s coverage amounted to supporting a Labour narrative on the basis of erroneous data. Outcome: Resolved/ upheld/ not upheld

Complaint
Craig Oliver, Director of Communications at 10 Downing St, complained about coverage of a Labour Party publication, “Mending the fractured economy”, in reports by Nick Robinson and news bulletins in Today.  The publication’s claim that 80% of new private sector jobs created between 2010 and 2012 were in London had been reported as “stark fact”, whereas it was incorrect and contradicted by data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and it had been erroneously said to apply to “the past four years”.  In reporting the claim uncritically and inaccurately in the first instance, the BBC had supported a Labour narrative, and in later coverage it had presented the matter as a dispute between Conservative and Labour about statistics, when it should simply have admitted error and made an appropriate correction.

Outcome
The term “stark fact” was used only in Nick Robinson’s blog, though the early Today reports gave a similar impression that the claim in question was undisputed.  When this inaccuracy was pointed out, Nick Robinson updated his blog to explain how the figures were contested, and reports later in Today were similarly emended.  In the view of the ECU, this sufficed to resolve the issue of complaint. It was also acknowledged that the figures related to 2010-2012, not “the past four years” (a misunderstanding which originated from an error in the executive summary of the publication, perpetuated in the accompanying Labour Party press release), and Nick Robinson’s blog was corrected accordingly.  However, items in subsequent news bulletins in Today repeated the error, and the ECU accepted that this was a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards in relation to due accuracy.

However, the ECU did not accept that the figures in question, taken from the Centre for Cities report “Cities Outlook 2014”, were incorrect or contradicted by the ONS.  The apparent disparity arose from methodologies which differed, primarily in their definitions of the public sector and their use of different data sources.  When “Cities Outlook 2014” was published in January it was prefaced by forewords by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Cities, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had cited earlier figures from the same source in his 2010 Budget speech. So, although the figures were in fact disputed on this occasion, they came from a source which appeared to have been relied on at one time or another by all three major parties, and the ECU saw no grounds for the view that reporting them implied support for the narrative of one party. 

Resolved/upheld/not upheld

Further action
The Editor of the Radio Newsroom has reminded staff of the need to check press releases for factual accuracy, and of the importance of correcting errors as soon as they are pointed out.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Stabbing attack

BBC Watch discusses the way the BBC has been presenting this morning’s stabbings in Tel Aviv. I hadn’t heard Kevin Connolly’s version of this event, but just as I was about to go out this morning I was unlucky enough to catch Yolande Knell’s piece on this incident on the BBC News channel.

I’m alway conscious that a whole generation nurtured by the Oz soap “Neighbours” has been permanently influenced by Oz pronunciation. I’m not talking about the upward inflection, which I sense has died down. It’s the way they pronounce “Here.” With a silent ‘r”.  “Hee.”
Several BBC broadcasters of a particular age do this, but Knell, she who pronounces Ramallah like a native, does it most of all.

Yolande Knell described the knife attack that took place on a bus in Tel Aviv. She recounted what happened, giving a potted account of other attacks on Israelis by Palestinians in the recent past. 

“The Har Nof Synagogue attack”

“In November, an Israeli soldier was killed in a knife attack in Tel Aviv” 

“An Israeli woman was stabbed to death in the West Bank in a separate attack” 

She then spent the rest of her report setting out the many and varied reasons why, in her (and the BBC’s) view, Palestinians who carry out these attacks feel motivated to do so. She omitted to mention the gross incitement by the Palestinian leadership or the praise meted out to the heroes and martyrs who carry out such attacks, including the motorist who drove into and killed a baby. What a hero.

So much time did Yolande spend explaining why a Palestinian might want to stab Israeli civilians, virtually appearing to justify such attacks as she did so, that this aspect of her report all but eclipsed the news of the attack itself. 
One of the reasons she gave was “The settlements, built on land that the Palestinians want for their state, illegal under international law, though Israel disagrees with this.”

Need I say that there’s a difference between disputing the validity of the so-called International law and disagreeing with it. We might disagree with something we don’t like, say, pronunciation of a word. That’s a matter of opinion and perhaps related to our right to be offended.

‘Israel’ does indeed disagree that settlements are illegal under international law, and obviously ‘Israel’ dislikes Israel-bashers believing that they are. Nor is ‘Israel’ delighted when people like Yolande Knell reiterate it at every opportunity.  However ‘Israel’ not only disagrees with the concept that settlements are illegal under international law, it definitely disputes the legality and validity of the claims that settlements are illegal under so-called international law.

The BBC has reluctantly taken to using the more accurate term ‘dispute’ with regard to Israel’s position on settlements, and Yoland Knell shouldn’t be muddying the water.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Technical message


Due to the fact that our Comments system is absolutely dreadful and that quite a lot of comments appear to have vanished into cyberspace, we're in the middle of moving over onto the famous Disqus system. The move began about 15 minutes ago.

Neither Sue or I have the foggiest idea what we're doing with this techie stuff, so this could be a complete and utter disaster. I'm just following some barely accurate advice from some blogging blog. 

At the moment, all the existing comments seem to have vanished but are, hopefully, migrating over onto the new system (legally, and not in the back of a lorry) and should arrive safely within the next 24 hours.

I thought it best to let you know. I will now go back to being a gibbering wreck until it's worked (if it works).

Oh Gawd, please let it work!

Update: Well, it looks as if Disqus works for new comments (thanks, Alan), so Phew! to that. We just need the existing comments back now.

So to repeat...Oh Gawd, please let it work!

Update 21:30: Grrrr! Time to sleep on it and hope the old comments turn up tomorrow.

(Of course, I could always uninstall Disqus and revert back to normal but, given the way thinks are going, I'll probably end up deleting the whole blog in the process, #whatapessimist)

Update 21/1 - 17:45: Thanks for the feedback so far.

I didn't realise until recently just how hard it must have been to comment here before. (I was wondering where you were, Grant). We had what looked like a completely open access comments system before - no annoying word verification or moderation and you could post anonymously if you fancied. The downside was, it turns out, that for many of you it was pure pot luck if your comment ever got through in the first place. So apologies for that.

I didn't realise there was going to be a voting up and down function with this new system. I should have known really as every other site that uses Disqus seems to have such a thing.  I've never much liked that function, but as I can't work out how to get rid of it (and I have tried) it looks as if it's going to stay. (Darn it!)

All that remains to happen is for the old comments to come through. The 24 hours is not yet up, but I'll admit I was hoping to see that everything had migrated successfully by the time I got in from work tonight. I hasn't yet, though. My fingers remain firmly crossed.

Update 22/1 - 20.15: Well, so much for the original comments migrating over. At this rate they're going to have to scale the fences at Calais and come across in the backs of lorries.

I will keep trying.

Update 23/1 - All ye Bloggers you enter Disqus without a clue, abandon hope! - especially if the "easy" process of transferring existing comments onto the new forum turns out to be anything but easy.

All the old comments are still there. The snag is that only me and Sue can see them. Grrr!

Rant about right rant

Before I started blogging, from time to time I would send letters to newspapers. Always in retaliation to intense provocation you’ll understand. 

In 2007 I wrote to the then TV editor of the Sunday Times to question a headline in that paper’s preview of an upcoming programme. The headline was: “Right Rant.”

Can you guess what it was yet? 

Don’t blame you, unless you’ve been reading the Daily Mail. Yup. It was about Richard Littlejohn’s programme on C 4 about antisemitism in the UK. The War on Britain’s Jews, broadcast in July 2007.

I hadn’t seen the programme when I wrote my message to the editor of the Sunday Times. My objection was merely to the way it was being described, so I wrote something like this:
As so many pro-palestinian programmes have been broadcast on TV recently,  why do you have to dismiss the forthcoming programme about antisemitism in your critics choice page as ‘Right Rant.’Obviously I haven’t seen the programme yet, but this begs the question, does anything in the British media that might not concur with the usual anti-Israeli postulation deserve to be sneered at in this way?Yours, 
(Yes, I did use the word ‘postulation’.) I was surprised that the editor responded promptly, and at length:
“Hopefully, you have now seen the programme and can understand why our critics dismissed Littlejohn's programme as an incoherent rant from an extreme right-wing perspective. He had some valuable facts, but was shoehorning his tired old polemic on top of an argument that raised disturbing matters about which every sane person in the country should be alarmed. Should we really blame the left-wingers for the BNP painting swastikas on synagogues?
 Simply put, Littlejohn does not have the credibility or authority to convince in a television programme arguing against violence towards one community when he himself has been guilty of prejudice towards other communities (have you ever read some of the things he has said about the Roma people, for example?). A serious journalist would have been able to put up an argument that was not simple bias riddled with holes. That's not Littlejohn, though, is it?
 I, too, deplore the rising incidence of attacks on Britain's Jews, and on any other community, but none of our critics wanted to be accused of siding with Littlejohn. The fact is, in the television section, it is our jobs to rate the programmes as such, not to support or attack their polemics. Littlejohn's record as a television and radio presenter is pretty atrocious, I think it was obvious for all to see why last night. What might pass for intellectual debate in the pages of the Mail or Sun does not necessarily pass muster over an hour on Channel 4. 
 Compare our previews of the "pro-Palestinian" programmes broadcast and you will see we judge them on their merits as documentaries, not on the thrust of their arguments. The Rod Liddle film, for example, was made by a supporter of Israel and a journalist with a laudable record, and we did not snear at it. The fact that Liddle has become exasperated by certain aspects of Israeli actions in the Middle East was not our concern as long as he presented his case in a manner that was good and responsible television. 
 I look forward to a serious film about the alarming growth of intolerance and prejudice in Britain, and I hope it is made by serious and responsible reporters. 
           Yours sincerely,
 
By that time I had seen the programme. I could see why the Sunday Times wished to distance itself from Richard Littlejohn, but I still thought the label “Right Rant’ was poor. My reply went something like this:
Thank you for replying to my e-mail.
I did watch the programme and I agree that it was a bit of a disaster.
I still think the way your preview was phrased simply revealed an anti-right wing bias, and wasn’t related to the failings of the programme.  You  allowed the right-wing label to obliterate your capacity to judge on merit.
 If Richard  Littlejohn had set out to make a film sympathetic to Jews he failed. The intention was sabotaged by the editing and the camerawork. Take the way they chose to disguise the rabbi’s identity. Normally the speaker’s image is pixellated or blurred. I’ve never seen identity concealed by filming from inside someone’s nostril, but this is how they chose to disguise the identity of a rabbi who had been attacked. The malicious camera angle was tantamount to another attack.
All the Jews in the film came across as stereotypical and alien. Only the non Jews looked normal, particularly the kindly policeman in Manchester. More ammunition then for the Israel-bashing majority. The subject of Israel was sidelined altogether. Although most Brits, left or right do not like to think of themselves as antisemitic, the vilification of Israel that has swept through the media is inextricably linked with the public’s attitude to Jews. (Obviously if it wasn’t for historical worldwide anti-semitism there would be less of a case for a Jewish state as a haven for the persecuted.)
Until recently the world was wondering how ordinary people could have gone along with Hitler. But the way the British media has allowed itself to be manipulated recently explains that very well.  
 Rod Liddle, supporter of Israel or not, was perfectly entitled to become exasperated with the actions of Israel. But dwelling on the victimhood of individual Palestinians without  any balance as he did in his documentary just fueled the viewer’s sense of injustice and took advantage of our natural inclination to side with the perceived underdog. I have never seen a sympathetic portrayal of an ordinary Israeli - not a settler or other fanatic - on British TV.
This is an absolute travesty - when its obvious that there are far more fanatics and Jew haters amongst the Islamic community dating back from time immemorial.
Rod Liddle is certainly allowed to criticise Israel’s political strategies, it’s a free country. (As is Israel) But you as journalists know you have tremendous power to influence public attitudes, and you bear some responsibility for the consequences if you turn a blind eye time and time again to the other side of the story, merely to suit a preconceived agenda.
 The media has broadcast mountains of ill-informed and slanted material over many years which has culminated in the recent calls to boycott of all things, Israeli academic institutions. The press has published reams of ill-researched and blinkered nonsense and has allowed itself to be used by propagandists and has itself become a propagandist. Journalists are also calling for a boycott of Israel and nowhere else.
I too would like to see a credible programme on the rise of anti-semitism which also included discussion of the media’s portrayal of the conflict in the Middle East. But I doubt it is likely to happen.Yours,

Then this came:
I agree with pretty much every word you say here - and I am going to spend much of today trying to think of a programme that has focused on an ordinary Israeli - I'm pretty sure there must have been at some time in the past 50 years of documentaries, but it wouldn't take too long to run up a list of anti-Israeli films (made by people who would argue passionately that they were not anti-semitic). Something in the back of my head says there was one a couple of years ago about a boys football team with both Muslims and Jews, and that we gave it a positive review ... I could be wrong.
 The general consensus this week appears to be that our header was wrong, our preview was fairly accurate, the programme was either not very good at all and nobody wants Richard Littlejohn on their side, or perfectly balanced and presented by a terrific journalist, and that I am an idiot. All fair comment.   And with that I shall go back to trying to appease all the people who wrote in to say we shouldn't have reviewed Dexter because it was on a channel we don't list ...   Best wishes,”

Well, if you’ve ploughed through all of that, well done. Go and have a fag and/or a beer. Can you cast your mind back to that programme? The War on Britain’s Jews? I can’t, but I can refer to a message I tried to send to RL at the time (edited)

“Your film could have been a pleasant change from endless tales of Palestinian hardship. Clearly the media’s vilification of the Jewish state has gone so far that this topic would indeed have to be for another, hypothetical, future time. We wait with unbated breath. Israel was alluded to in your film; you did point out its size on a map but frustratingly failed to develop the argument. 
The general assumption, made by almost everyone who learned that you were making this programme, that you “must be Jewish” was the most striking thing that the viewer will learn from this programme. It was memorable for that alone, if nothing else. Who else but a Jew, they implied, would be interested in tackling this distasteful subject? 

Sadly, most of the Jews chosen to appear in the programme were a bit weird, and the peculiar way they were filmed made matters worse. I see why the poor rabbi who had been beaten up wanted to disguise his identity, but was it necessary to make him look utterly repulsive to do so?  Who could sympathise with a disembodied mouth?  
 The media is fond of showing Orthodox Jews wandering around in the distance in their weird garb. Sometimes it’s done as a deliberate way of making them more ‘other‘ - both sinister and alien. The decision to use ‘the same old’ footage of “Jews in Stamford Hill” was clearly counterproductive in a programme supposedly decrying anti-semitism.
In fact you managed to film all Jews so that they looked stereotypically Jewish. Almost cartoon Jews to amuse the viewers. The Jewish school, not a child in sight, looked like a mysterious fortress, the subliminal implication being that something nasty lurked within.  A few cute Jewish children might have done wonders, image-wise, in terms of sympathy and empathy, as it has for the Palestinians.
Only the non-Jews in your film looked normal, especially the personable and sensitive policeman in Manchester. The brevity of the interview  with the two nice-looking Israeli professors was another conspicuous flaw.
 What coverage did you give to the premier league Jew-haters, our fellow countrymen, with their megaphones preaching the word of Islam? Blink and it was gone. You probably had incriminating footage but I guess the threat of reprisals had to be taken into account.
 Criticism of the extreme left and the extreme right might be regarded as part of the knockabout of politics, but criticism of ‘the Muslim Fanatic’ is a different story. Better not to annoy him.
 The fact that the left has shown support for terrorist organisations was stated, but why wasn’t it put to a credible spokesperson from the left for comment? That subject needs to be aired. 
Yours, 

It’s pretty obvious that the Sunday Times TV editor had a low opinion of Richard Littlejohn, and that none of his colleagues would disagree. with that view.  However, the recent article in the Daily Mail by the man himself adds another element. 

“Back in 2007 I made a film for Channel 4 exposing the rise of anti-Semitism in this country. One of the most profoundly depressing interviews I conducted was with a Jewish student who intended to emigrate to Israel because he thought there was no long-term future for the Jews in Britain.The idea was originally pitched to the BBC after a producer approached me to present a documentary on a subject close to my heart. Ever since 9/11, I had become aware of a growing sense of disquiet among my Jewish friends and neighbours and wanted to investigate the root causes.I proposed that the programme should be broadcast to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street.

[...]When the BBC learned of the direction I wanted to take the programme, they ran a mile. It was later picked up by Channel 4 but missed the Cable Street anniversary.

Now, was the BBC’s decision not to commission the programme because of Richard Littlejohn’s “atrocious reputation as a broadcaster and a journalist” ? Not if they really did entertain his proposal until they realised  what it was going to be about.

Was it really an incoherent rant from a right wing perspective? Even if so, would that automatically put it beyond the broadcastable pale? 


If Richard Littlejohn is so crap, why not commission someone who has sufficient credibility to do it.  If Theresa May acknowledges that antisemitim exists, why not give it a whirl?

As for Rod Liddle, I can’t remember his film, but it seems he fell for the usual Palestinian propaganda in quite a big way.  I wonder if he would still stand by it.