Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tommy gun scandal

Tommy Robinson hasn’t been in the news recently. He hasn’t given another speech at the Oxford Union or been arrested for some obscure offence. Nor has he been caught hanging out with any of his allegedly dodgy advocacy groups or hobnobbing with any undesirables. (As far as I know) 
But I’ve just heard, belatedly, that he has been doing something unusual. He has been to Israel. 

Some people have criticised this trip. They say  it’s disingenuous, and that he’s somehow exploiting a cause to further his own racist agenda. Why take that attitude, I wonder?
His pro-Israel critics are at pains to distance themselves from him and his support, which they seem to regard as toxic. The irony is that both Israel and Tommy Robinson have been subjected to large amounts of unfair and unjustified  vilification, yet Marcus Dysch of the Jewish Chronicle fails to make the connection.

Tommy Robinson isn’t the most eloquent interviewer who’s ever been filmed, but it’s interesting, The press coverage of this, for what it’s worth, is varied. Some reports are sympathetic, others are plain pathetic. We all manipulate the facts, some more malevolently than others.

Is 'Is the BBC biased?' biased?

The following message arrived in our inboxes yesterday. We don’t normally do ads, but this new  US site might be of interest. (I see we get a name-check.) We could compare notes.

Dear Craig and Sue,
You and your readers may be interested in the world’s first daily media bias index. Launched this week by CIW NEWS, the index tracks the ideological bias of the BBC using a simple but powerful measure. 

From today, CIW NEWS will calculate its pioneering BBC bias index each evening New York time and post the index’s latest value to its Media Bias Index page.
You can find more information here

Forever Pure: part 2.

Due to an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration I forgot to pursue my own question: Who made the film and why. Well, now I have. Here’s what I neglected to ferret out yesterday. 
You should read it, but you probably won’t so I’ll just extract the best bits.

Maya Zinshtein worked for many years as an investigative reporter for the BBC’s favourite Israeli newspaper - Haaretz. (This is where Mandy Rice Davies’s most famous quotation might be borne in mind. )
The gist of it is that Maya Zinshtein has received harassment from the ‘racist football group’. Evidently this particular ‘racist football group’ (aka Beitar Jerusalem’s right-wing supporters’ group – referred to as La Familia) didn’t like the way they had been depicted in the film.
Ms Zinshtein has received death threats, even. (This death threat malarkey is highly contagious. It seems you haven’t arrived till you’ve had death threats. All self-respecting lefties have had them.) 
I must stop being flippant. But this kind of thing makes one come over all flippant and childish.
The biggest villain in the film was the club’s former owner, the oligarch Russian-born billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak. He is too remote and unconcerned about the film to issue any death threats to Ms Zinshtein for the way he was portrayed, largely because he’s in prison in France for money laundering and tax offences.

It was a good film by the way, and it is quite right to shine a spotlight on racism wherever it occurs. 
The film made a reasonable effort to show the other side of the coin, too. The generous welcome that was given to the two players from Chechnya by the rest of the team, for one thing. But there was a none too subtle subplot - one of the Muslim players was only 19 and looked like an overgrown schoolboy; half the time he looked as though he was about to burst into tears. He even had his mother with him. Obviously this hiked up the pathos.  But if there was pathos, why not film it, I suppose.

There is politics in this. Hugely. We’re back to our old familiar bugbear, context. 
“Predictably enough, though, this was no overdue exposé of the virulent antisemitism that a site like MEMRI regularly exposes in the Arab and Iranian media. The subject of the film was - of course - Israel.”

You can see why the BBC liked this film, and why they chose to show it.  You should also be able to detect Israel’s remarkably open attitude, when it comes to responding to and exposing itself to such potentially damaging propaganda. 
“In holding a mirror to Israeli society, Zinshtein and her editors do an outstanding job of cutting together variable quality television and home-video footage along with her interviews. “Forever Pure” world premiered in competition at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July and nabbed awards for best documentary and editing”.
Dogwoof Global is a London based theatrical distributor which seems to have had a hand in the BBC and other broadcasters acquiring the film. They look like a ‘right-on’ company. 

Mick Hartley again: 
“My point isn't to criticise the film or its director. It's not only part and parcel of a free society to turn over the stones and look at what's underneath - it's absolutely vital. And this is undoubtedly a powerful piece of film-making, even though it by no means represents the norm in Israeli football. The point is that this is one side of a two-sided debate over the relations between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, and only one side is playing by these rules. It's inconceivable that such a film would be made in an Arab Muslim country - not only because the necessary freedom and culture of self-criticism isn't there, but also because the idea of a Jew playing in any football team in these countries is generally laughable. Indeed we've seen many cases of sportsmen and women simply refusing to compete against Jews.  

It's the same old story: a free society exposes its underbelly; an unfree society keeps its dirty secrets hidden. For the easy moraliser - and this is nowhere more true than with the Israel-Palestine dispute - Israel is condemned as a sick racist society, and therefore the one to blame, precisely because all we hear is this one side. A truly responsible media would make efforts to show both sides - but this is what the BBC never does.”

Monday, 5 December 2016

Islam is not feminist enough

I have not read the 199 page Casey Review, but I know some people who have. Well, I assume the BBC have. Has.

This morning the BBC were still in a seemingly never-ending loop, obsessing about sexual abuse in football, while Sky News wheeled in Haras Rafiq and Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra to discuss the matter. But it was short and sweet. Rafiq looked disconcerted when ‘time ran out’ before he was able to finish a point. I can’t remember what was said, but it was largely a case of Muslims wondering why the British expected Muslims to adapt to the British, rather than the other way round. They couldn’t quite understand the problem. It baffled them.

Not to worry, a little later, the BBC was on the Casey; that is Dame Casey herself appeared, followed by some extremely defensive Muslims.

Let’s just recap. When the debate about mass immigration first raised its head in public, people couched their concerns in the only terms they could, to avoid being (or being seen to be) racist. Surely, they asked each other, there’s nothing racist about objecting to mass immigration as long as we stick to the rules. That is, we do it in terms of numbers - especially as we’re already struggling to house, employ and educate our own. Charity begins at home, does it not? A-a-a- am I being racist?

“In order to cope with immigration at the current rate, this country needs to build a new house every few minutes.  The ‘housing shortage’ in Britain is talked about as though it is a native phenomenon – as though the British people just keep needing more and more houses.  In fact we only need to keep building on green-belt land and covering over our beautiful countryside with new houses because we keep importing more and more people.  Why do we do this?  Why do we need to keep doing it?  What is the cultural enrichment that we failed to get from the first few million Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants which we will only be able to really enjoy from the next few million?”

As if all that weren’t bad enough, there’s the underlying problem - that shamefaced ‘stranger in my own town’ feeling, which was swept under the very rug that people felt was being pulled from under their feet. Whole neighbourhoods transformed. People walking round in strange and alienating garb. Out with familiarity and its concomitant sense of security and in with uncertainty and not being quite sure what it all amounts to or where it's going.

Eventually everyone was talking openly - about numbers. Pressure on schools, surgeries, wages. In other words they spoke about mass immigration alright, but strictly in terms of anything but you know what. Unspoken, but ominously present and jumbo sized — i.e., creeping Islamisation and the BBC’s relentless attempts at normalising all those regressive cultural abnormalities.  Also, the persistent promotion of diversity and the denigration of anything dangerously resembling patriotism.

Even when the grooming scandal broke, and even when the Trojan Horse affair hit the headlines, still, full and frank debate about Muslim immigration was hobbled by political correctness and the ever present fear of being outed as a racist.

Now it looks as if Dame Louise Casey has fallen victim to a very similar type of deflection. Or perhaps it’s merely the BBC’s (and Sky’s) selective spin. They’ve homed in on the one aspect of the report with which they’re pretty sure there will be no dissent. It’s women’s lib. The feminist angle. 

They’re actually criticising Islam, but not for its homophobia, nor for its appalling antisemitism. Not for its medieval attitude to practically everything, including apostasy and blasphemy. No, it’s the one thing they feel sure everyone will approve of. That a woman needs the permission of a man to do anything remotely independent. They even pretend it’s only Muslim men who are at fault, when although the religion itself is indeed fatally misogynistic and patriarchal, many Muslim women are usually just as dictatorial, rigid and unforgiving when it comes to enforcing all that mumbo jumbo they like to live by.

This goes to show that even when someone comes near to the crux of the matter, they deflect at the very last moment and retreat to a position of safety. The safe space. "We’re not racists. It’s just that Islam is not feminist enough, and anyway the country is full." 
Well, they’re quite right. Islam is not feminist enough and the country is full, but that’s not what scares me most about mass Muslim immigration.

See? I’m openly Islamophobic. maybe I should be a football fan after all. I’m ‘racist’  and that’s the way I like it.

Football and Racism on the BBC

Did anyone watch the Storyville episode titled “Forever Pure: Football and Racism in Jerusalem”.

I don’t know if it attracted a huge amount of viewers, but I watched it and so did Sam Wollaston of the Guardian. His review provides a reasonably succinct summary of the story, so I don’t have to. 

The question is, who made this film and why?  No, not only that. What we will also be wondering is, what will the Israel-bashers make of this film? Will they use it as ammunition? Will they take it as confirmation that Jewish ‘racism’ is as bad as ‘Arab’ racism, if not worse? Will it be cited as evidence that Jews and Muslims are effectuating a straightforward tit-for-tat scenario? 

Interestingly, there’s a warning at the end of the Guardian’s review which says ominously “This article will be opened for comments later this morning.”
Well, it’s 12:32 and I’m wondering if they chickened out altogether. (In case it encourages even more racism, heaven forfend)

Okay, so there were a bunch of footballers, some officials, an unpleasant Russian-Israeli oligarch owner and a mob of fanatical fans. I’m not a football fan by the way so I really didn't know that the fans played such a crucial role in a team’s success. 

So what did we learn?

That the fans of this particular club were virulently anti-Arab. They were so anti-Arab in fact, that they called Muslims from Chechnyna “Arabs”.  Indeed they were so racist that when two “Arab” players (Muslims from Chechnya) were parachuted in to play for the team, apparently for the amusement of the oligarch, the fans deserted the club in droves. Empty seats etc. Eventually the club, in its original form, imploded.

The last line of the review says: ”One nil to the mob, and their rule. “Here we are, the most racist team in the country,” they sing, proudly. Boooooo …”

The obvious response to this strange film could be classed as ‘whataboutery’.  It would be something like: Now let’s see a Storyville episode about racism (antisemitism) amongst the “Arabs”. 

Anyway, I’m sure an argument could be made that the Israelis’ hatred of “Arabs” is reactive, whereas the “Arabs’” hatred of Jews is actually at the root of the entire Israeli / Palestinian conflict.

At the root of it, I said. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

British Muslims are the most patriotic

The BBC were quite keen to publicise that survey by Policy Exchange that found British Muslims to be more patriotic than everyone else. But on the other hand, it found that a significant proportion of them believed that the Americans were responsible for 9/11. (Or did not believe that Al Qaeda was responsible.)

MP Khalid Mahmood
There’s a thread on Harry’s Place about it, which goes into much more detail than I wish to do, but I just thought the way the BBC presented it (Mishal Husain and two quarrelsome Muslim men squabbling on the Today programme) left one asking more questions and thinking even more ‘Islamophobic’ thoughts than are absolutely necessary. 

Manuel Practices his English

I was particularly struck by the effort the BBC made to mark the sad departure of Andrew Sachs. I know the BBC goes into overdrive these days when people pass away, but there was another elephant in that room, which was of course the childish antics of those two oafs Ross and Brand. None of the BBC’s televised tributes to Sachs mentioned it at all; there was but a brief sentence on the website.

Who knows if the distress caused by that pointless escapade hastened his decline, but I couldn’t help feeling the BBC was making a futile effort to put things right. All those clips from Faulty Towers were very nice to see, but it all seemed as if the BBC was trying too hard to make amends. Which was impossible.

Some of the papers wrote about it, but the commentariat seemed to think it was inappropriate  to bring it up. Maybe so, but not for the BBC. 

(The clip is truly hilarious.)

Smiling over spilt blood

It’s reassuring to know that there’s someone in the Conservative Party with a realistic take on foreign affairs.   If you haven’t already read Michael Gove’s piece in Friday’s Times  (£) “Iran is smiling at the blood spilt in Syria”  if you can’t access the Times online it’s also here , read it now.

Here’s a taster:
“For the Iranian regime, the West’s agreement to a nuclear deal was another sign of weakness, irresolution and short-termism. Iran will be free from any constraint after 15 years, and indeed it can prepare for the rapid acquisition of nuclear capability well before then. And all the time it can use, and has used, western danegeld to build up the armed forces now merrily slaughtering Syrian civilians. 

I strongly support any action to counter Iran’s advance and help Syria’s innocents but I fear that the moment of greatest opportunity passed in 2013. If Iran now wins its war in Syria it will turn its attentions more widely. It is already supporting the Houthi takeover of Yemen, fomenting unrest in majority-Shia Bahrain, funding Islamic State’s offshoot in the Sinai, extending its hold over Iraq’s political culture and seeking to radicalise Shia minorities in other states such as Saudi Arabia. Iran has rekindled its relationship with Hamas and will deploy Hezbollah to terrorise Israel from the bases that it will shortly control on the Lebanese and Syrian borders.”

A pile of nasty comments have appeared below the line.

Gove was on Dateline today. Craig has blogged it. Today’s elephant in the studio was to do with antisemitism. Lefties have suddenly noticed that a wave of overt antisemitism has been unleashed and, ignoring the jumbo sized reality (that  the most consistent antisemitism emanates from Islam and its sycophantic toadies) they accuse the alt-Right. In a massive case of group deflection and denial they have decided that the emergence of the alt-Right (Breitbart and Steve Bannon) has suddenly made it okay to be racist. (Okay, but only for  the far / alt-right.)

I don’t know if Steve Bannon is an actual antisemite or not, but the particular examples offered by those making the allegation seem flimsy to me. 
It’s almost as if the antisemitic lefties are facing a cognitively dissonant dilemma.  They’ve suddenly become aware that their own racist (antisemitic) tendency threatens their occupancy of the moral high ground - (they go lower, we go higher etc) so they flap their arms at the opposition furiously.

Open thread

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. (Events, dear boy, events!) This may continue for a few more days. In the meantime...

A view across the Straits of Florida

Last night's Newsnight saw Emily Maitlis give us a short editorial from the shores of Cuba:

Just 90 miles behind me lies the coast of Florida, and holiday home of America's new president - a man who holds Cuba's economic fortunes in the palm of his hand. Donald Trump's position on Cuba remains unclear, but enjoy this thought: The more tempted he is to tear up Obama's reforms the more likely they are to retrench an ideology here. Donald Trump then, an unlikely hero of Cuban socialism.

[She obviously meant 'entrench' rather than 'retrench' there.]

Emily immediately reinforced her point by talking to a Cuban-American historian, Mike Bustamante of Florida International University [whose name Newsnight's caption writer misspelt]. He echoed her sentiments closely. He said he feared that if Mr Trump was "very, very regressive" that would reinforce the hold of the "most conservative" elements in the Cuban government. "So Trump could end up doing Fidel Castro a big favour?", asked Emily. "Ironically, yes", replied Professor Bustamante. 

A voice disagreeing with Emily's point of view wasn't featured. 

On a Haydn to nothing

There was a pre-recorded report by Jenny Hill from Burgenland, Austria on this morning's Today. Jenny was reporting on the re-run presidential election there tomorrow. 

Go to 15:17 and, talking of that very election election, you'll hear her say, "The role of Austrian chancellor is largely ceremonial". 

She's confusing the Austrian chancellorship (the Austrian chancellor being the head of government) with the Austrian presidency (the largely ceremonial head of state) there...

...which only adds to my impression that the BBC should stop parachuting reporters into countries they don't understand.

Michael in the lion's den

Today's Dateline London had a new pro-Brexit panellist today - one Michael Gove. 

Against him were ranged three strongly anti-Brexit regulars: Michael Goldfarb, Nesrine Malik and Rashmee Lall. 

I had to laugh at Michael Gove smiling and waiting politely to reply as all three of the latter worked themselves up into a hand-jabbing, head-in-their-hands, hair-tossing frenzy against him. "More, more please!", he said at one point, clearly seeing the funny side of it. 

Regular pro-Brexit Dateline viewers, of course, have (metaphorically-speaking) been precisely where Michael Gove was many, many times over during the past year or so, having faced many an entirely anti-Brexit panel jabbing its collective hand, wagging its collective finger, tossing its collective hair and tutting in their direction, time and time again. 

Still, at least Gavin Esler (for the second week running) did a proper, devil's advocate job and didn't join in the frenzy, instead (quite rightly) putting some counterpoints to the three attackers of Mr Gove. 

After the two Brexit discussions, the final topic today had its starting point in an article in the Guardian (naturally) by one of the guests, Nesrine Malik. Dateline asked, "Has the impending Trump presidency given permission for some to use sexist, misogynistic, antisemitic and racist language?" Nesrine, of course, thinks it has.

Here, for the record, is Michael Gove's take on the 'alt-right' - a term he prefers to avoid:
It covers too many phenomenon. At the one end you have this new generation of hipster Nazis, essentially. These are people who use the internet and who cluster under particular policy institute names - the people who greeted the president's victory with 'Hail Trump! Hail our people!'. They're a tiny group who are given disproportionate attention because they're taking a toxic legacy of the past and repackaging it. Then there are a broader group of people who are raucous, right-wing, who are in some cases vulgar and I think in many cases misogynistic, who are not Nazis. They are people whose speech I deplore but who are not in the same bracket. And then there are also others who are provocateurs, who try to make us think again, and who are in the tradition of 18th Century satirists who sometimes say things that make us shudder but who are trying to hold up a mirror to some of the corruption that they see around. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Some trends are more equal than others

As already noted by some of you, my ('oh, when will I ever learn?') hopes that BBC Trending would be nice and impartial and actually report the very-much-trending #forallhisflaws and #trudeaueulogies hashtags that swept across Twitter over the weekend, mocking Jeremy Corbyn and Justin Trudeau's statements on the death of El Comandante, were (inevitably) dashed. 

BBC Trending has simply ignored them. 

Instead, today, we've had "DJ Khaled: The making of a Snapchat superstar" and "India protests a washout, Trump called out on Twitter and Moroccans decry makeup to hide violence". 

You'll have noted "Trump called out on Twitter" there. Not "Corbyn called out on Twitter" or "Trudeau called out on Twitter". And (I suspect) you won't have been surprised.

BBC Trending missed out on some very funny jokes by ignoring #forallhisflaws and #trudeaueulogies. They may not have found them funny though, what with an "old man" dying. 

Andrew Neil again

Here's an intriguing tweet from Andrew Neil ('the exception which proves the rule'):

Wonder which "broadcasters" he has in mind exactly? I've seen and heard lots of those very vox pops on the BBC, and I'm betting he has too.

P.S. And here he is again, just now, giving an "unashamedly left wing" tweeter a less-than-140-character tongue-lashing:

He may be about as impartial as Hugh Sykes on Twitter but, unlike our Hugh, he's a basher of all sides while broadcasting for the BBC (particularly 'his own' - as my old interruptions stats showed many a year back). 

"Right-wing views"

I probably need your advice on this one. What do you make of this?:

There was a curious moment on BBC One's News at Six - which led with Paul Nuttall's election as leader of UKIP - when the BBC's reporter, Alex Forsyth, said this of the new UKIP leader: 
The former history lecturer grew up in Liverpool. He's been a UKIP MEP for the North-West as well as the party's deputy leader. And he holds some right-wing views. He's a climate change sceptic who's tough on crime.
Is being "a climate change sceptic" a "right-wing view"? (Aren't such views held more generally?) Or is that just how the BBC regards 'climate change scepticism' (and 'right-wingers')?


Talking about David Keighley, News-watch has posted a summary of their latest findings today, monitoring something we here at ITBB didn't think to monitor: BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat - and specifically Newsbeat's pre-referendum coverage. 

Among the many striking findings of the News-watch study (all summarised at David's blog) are the following:

  • Newsbeat audiences were 1.5 times more likely to encounter a Remain supporter than a Leave supporter. 238 guest speakers contributed to the various discussions on the referendum. The analysis shows that 45% spoke in favour of Remain, 30% in favour of Leave, with a further 25% giving a neutral, undecided or factual perspective.
  • In 38 Newsbeat reports with guest speakers, 19 (50%), showed a speaker weighting in favour of Remain. Only five similarly favoured ‘leave’. Fourteen had even numbers of speakers. This demonstrates a severe imbalance in favour of Remain.
  • Politicians supporting Remain outnumbered those wanting Leave by 47 to 34. In terms of the number of words spoken by politicians, Remain supporters received 64% of the airtime, compared to 36% for Leave – a ratio of approximately 2:1.
  • There was a much greater breadth of opinion in Remain contributions – they came from Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party. Conversely, the Leave side featured only Conservatives and UKIP. There were no Leave contributions from the Labour party or wider Left. There was no input at all from the nationalist parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

And that's only for starters. Many of the points are highly intriguing, eg:

  • Opponents of current levels of immigration were cast as xenophobic and inward-looking, whereas the comment from those who approved of immigration were made to appear outward-looking, open and broad-minded.
  • Opinions and alleged facts in favour of Leave were robustly scrutinised, made to look ignorant or contradictory, xenophobic or unfounded (Section 2.4). The most striking example of this was that the Leave claim that EU membership cost the UK £350 million a week was categorically said to be untrue, whereas, George Osborne’s estimation that Brexit would cost each household £4,300 annually was subjected to far less scrutiny.

The full report will make for fascinating reading. It will hopefully put a tiger among the (BBC) peacocks - though (BBC) peacocks are stubborn, proud creatures who will, doubtless, still pronounce themselves unbiased even as their last tail feather disappears into the tiger's mouth. 


When I wrote in that last post...
Read in full the statement seems reasonable and morally coherent, doesn't it? The BBC News website, however (at least to my eyes), made it sound as if Donald Trump was being 'Donnie Darkmouth' again, talking ill of the dead - and a very elderly man to boot! - so soon after the event. 
...I was referring back to Mark Mardell's coining of the phrase 'Donnie Darkmouth' (referencing 'Donnie Darko') to describe Donald Trump in campaign mode.

And guess what? Bang on cue - and backing up the point I was tentatively making there, in the most helpful way possible (to a blogger about BBC bias!) - here's Mark Mardell, making explicit the very point I thought the BBC News website was making implicitly:
Some of the old fire is there: he [Donald Trump] condemned Castro, hours after the old man's death, as a brutal dictator...
Which all goes to show that you can generally rely on good old Mark Mardell to state 'the BBC line' with even less regard for maintaining the appearance of 'BBC impartiality' than the BBC News website.

Further reading

There's a fine trio of pieces about BBC bias over at The Conservative Woman today:

Firstly, David Keighley’s 'Today' lauds a tyrant who nearly wiped out the planet -which chronicles a day in the life of the BBC's reporting of a breaking news story, namely the death of Fidel Castro. 

David makes a particularly telling 'moral equivalence' point: 
Paramount in the coverage was constant moral equivalence. Was he a dictator? In the BBC’s estimation – despite the words of Kennedy, and despite irrefutable statistics – it was a case of only some people said so.
He also comments on how the BBC spun the US President-elect's reaction:
Just as egregiously - in line with the Corporation’s all-out assault on first the prospect and then the reality of the Trump presidency – the coverage quickly cast Donald Trump’s reaction as ‘hard-line’, ill-judged and - in contrast to that paragon of virtue President Obama – inflammatory. 
Trump’s crime?  He called Castro a dictator, spelled out that he had oppressed his people and crushed dissent. He finally expressed the hope that Castro’s death would open up the way to genuine freedom for the Cuban people.  How very, very subversive! 
I noticed that mostly with the BBC News website's reporting of those remarks. It struck me at the time - though I failed to blog about it - that the BBC News website didn't quote Mr Trump's statement in full. There was nothing about the 'firing squads', etc. That struck me as odd, given that it wasn't a very long statement. Why not quote it in full?

Read in full the statement seems reasonable and morally coherent, doesn't it? The BBC News website, however (at least to my eyes), made it sound as if Donald Trump was being 'Donnie Darkmouth' again, talking ill of the dead - and a very elderly man to boot! - so soon after the event. The BBC article began:
Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro was a "brutal dictator", US President-elect Donald Trump has said, hours after the 90-year-old's death was announced. 

Secondly, please read James Bartholomew's passionate piece, The BBC buries bad news about the NHS every day

Though I've personally rarely found the NHS to be anything less than wholly admirable in how its staff have treated me, my family and my friends, appalling things do happen in the NHS and there have been some absolutely shocking cover-ups over the years. James recounts some of the latest horrors and argues, forcefully and persuasively, that such stories ought to be leading the BBC's news bulletins and the BBC website. Instead, the BBC has barely reported them. He accuses the corporation of "moral cowardice":
This story of death and incompetence in the NHS has not been  the lead item on the BBC news, the source of news on which more people rely than anything else.  It has not even been the second or third item. The BBC doesn't really want to know about the story. 
I have just checked BBC online and found the top, featured news stories as at 7pm on the 25th. There are 13 of them. No mention at all of these deaths - of the biggest, officially recognised NHS scandal since Mid-Staffordshire. Ranking above this major story is "ITV moves news for entertainment show" and "Black Friday Rush reported by retailers". Yes, there is some brief BBC coverage of the story that appeared online yesterday. But it is absurdly short. It draws no conclusions. No work has been done. 
Basically there is a rule in the media: deaths at the hands of the NHS don't count. Permanent damage to people at the hands of the NHS doesn't count. It is not really news. Contrast that with what happens when something goes wrong in a private hospital.
That does chime with my impressions. Programmes like Panorama, for example, have long seemed far more likely to focus on private sector failings - private hospitals, private nursing homes, private fertility clinics, etc - than public sector failings, and rarely touch on NHS failings, until - as with Mid Staffs a few years back, or the Morecambe Bay NHS Trust briefly - a massive scandal blows up (seemingly out of nowhere). I've always put that down to the BBC being a public sector organisation and having a public sector mentality (whatever that might be). 

Is that just 'confirmation bias' on my part, or is it fair? Check back through the Panorama archive and judge for yourselves. If you do so I suspect you'll agree that it's not 'confirmation bias', just bias.

The third TCW piece on the BBC today takes us back to the BBC and Fidel Castro, namely Paul T Horgan's The BBC should recognise that Castro was a slavemaster not a liberator

Paul gives us an interesting historical take on the BBC's use of the word 'dictator' and tells the story of how successful his own appearance on Newswatch was. (Clue: The BBC took no notice of what he said whatsoever). 


The lead story on BBC News this morning is that "the BBC has learned" (i.e. doubtless meaning that it's been told all about it by the same pro-EU campaigners who star in the article itself!) that various lawyers and a "think tank" are considering legal challenges to the government over the single market:

The article, after outlining the arguments of the lawyers, then refers to British Influence:

"Think tank" is one way of putting it. It doesn't appear to be the correct way though. "Pressure group" seems more accurate. Wikipedia says this of the organisation:

You get none of that background in the BBC article. Even the website of the organisation jokingly calls itself a "re-think tank" (i.e. a campaign group rather than a proper think tank). The BBC is making them sound like 'experts'. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Less moderate

The BBC is nothing if not predictable at times. 

Seeing (on Twitter) that the result of the race from the presidential candidacy of the French centre-right has resulted (by a huge margin) in the triumph of the more right-wing of the two candidates, M. Fillon, I immediately clicked onto the BBC website to see if the BBC had committed some act of bias (as a blogger about BBC bias inevitably tends to do, alas). 

And guess what? There it is, straight away: Bias!

Yes, M. Fillon is less moderate than M. Juppe, according to the BBC. What with being more right-wing 'n' all. 

Fake news

The US magazine Slate tells the story of how "even those outlets that pat themselves on the back for being the serious voices in an Internet filled with fakes and anonymous sources can still fall prey to fake news in the desperate search for clicks". 

One of the fake stories doing the rounds in recent days was Ivanka Trump's "response" to her father's quip that he would date her if she wasn't his daughter: "If he wasn't my father, I would spray him with Mace”. The problem is that she never said it. It appears to have originated in a joke from a comedian in 2006. 

Still, that didn't stop certain US media outlets, including the Hill and the New York Daily News, from reporting the story in recent days. 

And, as DB spotted, it didn't stop the face of the BBC in the US - Katty Kay - from retweeting it either:

She must have so wanted to believe it.

For all his flaws

Andrew Neil is still pursuing the point tonight:

  • Castro' "flaws": 5,600 Cubans murdered by firing squad; 1,200 in “extrajudicial assassinations,” 10s of 1000s jailed/tortured/died escaping.
And on a related theme...

Surely BBC Trending will be reporting the extraordinary (and often very funny) #forallhisflaws and #trudeaueulogies jokes that have swept across Twitter over the past couple of days? 

These hashtags have been a huge (Twitter) phenomenon in the UK (re Jeremy Corbyn's reaction to Castro's death) and in Canada (re Justin Trudeau's reaction to Castro's death). The UK and Canada have united (on Twitter) in derision. 

It will be a good test of BBC bias/impartiality to see if they do report this.

Here are a random selection of #forallhisflaws tweets: 

  • #ForAllHisFlaws, he was renowned for his authoritative leadership. (Attila the Hun)
  • #forallhisflaws, he got people out and about and provided free re-education for the people. (Chairman Mao)
  • #forallhisflaws, though he may have mentioned Hitler a strange amount, the congestion charge worked pretty well. (Ken Livingstone). 
  • #ForAllHisFlaws, he was a champion of European cross-border free movement and was fond of cats. (Vlad the Impaler)
  • #forallhisflaws, he was proficient at caving and could live out of a backpack. (Osama bin Laden)
  • #forallhisflaws, he deeply believed in traditional religion and sincerely sought to restore order to the cosmos. (Darth Vader)
  • #forallhisflaws, he never missed the chance to give a dog a kindly pat on the head. (Joseph Stalin)
  • #forallhisflaws, his monorail system and volcano engineering projects were great achievements. A larger than life leader. (Ernst Stavro Blofeld)
  • #ForAllHisFlaws, he was absolutely committed to ensuring healthcare was free at point of delivery. (Dr Harold Shipman).
  • #Foralltheirflaws, they were dedicated to a cohesive community dedicated to the common good of the collective. (The Borg).
  • #ForAllHisFlaws, he helped develop bonds with neighbouring Zaire and the wider provinces of Libya. (Idi Amin).
  • #ForAllHisFlaws, he didn't skimp on hospitality. (Count Dracula)


Here's a post that might sound like 'stating the blindingly obvious' (or wrong-headed), but still...

(In for a penny, in for a pound, but no euros please.)

The Govester

I enjoyed Emily ('Lady Nugee') and Michael ('Gove') on the sofa at the end of The Andrew Marr ShowIt was surprisingly agreeable.

But during that chat, and the preceding formal interview with the Govester (as Boris used to call him), a thought crossed my mind (yes, just one!): 

Michael Gove was being polite and self-deprecating about the way that 'experts' quote ("People in this country have had enough of experts") has been used against him.

It has been used, even more egregiously, against Brexit supporters in general, who have been painted (in some quarters) as 'post-truth', expert-hating 'know-nothings' as a result of it.

Mr Gove called what he'd said "notorious", and admitted that he didn't phrase it very well. But he also claimed that he'd been cut off, taken out of context and then edited.

Like you, no doubt, I've heard this quote being cited in the papers, online and - above all - on the BBC, countless, countless times.

"People in this country have had enough of experts". That's the quote in question, and I've just accepted that that's precisely what he said because 'everybody' says that's what he said and, to be honest, I couldn't remember the original interview. 

As a huge fan of experts who has spent years engaging in happy disagreement with my 84-year-old dad on the topic of experts ('experts' being a dirty word with him), I have to say that I've never been entirely comfortable with what Michael Gove 'said' there.

I kind-of knew what he meant and specifically who he was talking (the anti-Brexit organisations like the IMF, OECD, IFS. NIESR, etc) - as did you, I don't doubt for a second - but, still, felt he'd gone too far in apparently dismissing all experts.

If you look back, however, - say to the FT's initial reporting of the story - and compare it to transcripts of what he actually said, you'll see that, yes, his quote has been edited (deliberately, I'd say) to make it sound worse than it actually was.

It's now become one of those media-backed myths that has taken over the world -  especially with BBC pushing it so relentlessly (as on Newsnight with Nick Watt and James O'Brien this past week). 

In context, as he said today, it's clear exactly who he was talking about (as he told Andrew Marr, "economists, pollsters, social scientists" from the IMF, IFS, OECD, NIESR, etc):
Michael Gove: The people who are arguing that we should get out are concerned to ensure that the working people of this country at last get a fair deal.  I think the people of this country have had enough of experts with organisations from acronyms saying that...
Faisal Islam: The people of this country have had enough of experts, what do you mean by that?
Michael Gove: ...from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong because these people …
Faisal Islam: The people of this country have had enough of experts?
Michael GoveBecause these people are the same ones who have got consistently wrong...
Faisal Islam:This is [inaudible] politics this isn’t it?  This is Oxbridge Trump.
There's been a lot of 'post-truth' MSM/BBC reporting about that over the months, hasn't there? 'Everyone' (in the media) knew what he meant - despite how Faisal Islam immediately spun it - yet 'everyone' (in the media) persisted in spinning it Faisal's way rather than making it crystal clear to their audiences that Mr. Gove only had certain types of expert (the economists, pollsters and social scientists from the 'organisations with acronyms') in mind.

An impression, a smear, was thus left hanging in the air. And that impression has been exploited, again and again, ever since.


The independent, respected IFS readying itself for battle against Brexit

And talking of experts....

In Our Time continues to provide experts I, personally, can never get enough of with a huge public platform.

This week three such experts - Nora Berend, Martin Palmer and Aleks Pluskowski - talked with great fluency and depth about the Baltic Crusades (from 1147) against the pagans in north-east Europe, and very interesting it was too. 


A Helen Yaffe fan, reading her book on Guevara

Something I didn't post about yesterday was that I tried to keep up with most of the BBC News Channel's Castro coverage between about 10am to 3pm (using the scrollable 'live' online News Channel feed so that I could quickly skip most of the rest of the channel's output before finding something better to do). 

The reason I felt I couldn't post about was that I'd missed an hour and that might have undermined the truth of the point I would have made (by featuring a strong critic of the late dictator): namely that all the one-on-one interviews done from the BBC studio within that time frame were with far-leftist fans of Castro (albeit all 'experts' - as Michael Gove might say [see above!]

One of them (just before Dateline London) was a female academic from the UK (Helen Yaffe of the LSE) who painted the most Panglossian picture of Cuba and Cuban human rights imaginable. Even Gavin Esler seemed taken aback by her refusal to admit any failings on the part of the Castro regime, including over its treatment of gay people. Gavin said that he had actually seen the sanatoriums/prisons where AIDS sufferers were locked up. He didn't go any further than that though and let her blithe reply that Cuba now has low rates of AIDS go unchallenged - along with all the rest of the 'happy clappy' pro-Castro stuff she spouted. (There are some pretty morally dubious academics teaching in our universities.)

Food for thought

Harry's Place continues to give food for thought. 

The latest post there, Mehrdad Amanpour's Who gave us post truth, conspiracy culture and the alt-right?, is very strong indeed.

Mehrdad is talking to the Left, but right-wingers will most likely find it of considerable interest too. His own reaction to the (non-)reporting of the Muslim grooming scandals is of particular interest.

He could be talking about the BBC throughout (given that they exemplify many of the left-leaning behaviours he describes) and, at one point, he is specifically talking about the BBC: 
The same applies to the Migrant Crisis – who can forget how European leaders, the BBC and the left-wing press referred (and in some cases still refer) to the migrants as “Syrian Refugees, fleeing war”, sometimes adding a photograph of a woman and child.
All the right had to do here was to provide evidence (of which there is plenty from reputable sources) that most of the migrants were neither Syrian, nor women and children nor were most “fleeing” countries that were at war. With that, the establishment version of ‘truth’ was discredited and the right’s argument was won without the actual complexities of the issue even needing to be addressed.
I'd like to quote the whole thing, but you can read it verbatim at the (second) link above. Please do. 

On to a rainbow

That latest blog post of Mark Mardell's characteristically drips with one-sided mockery.

In some quarters, [Philip Hammond] is already castigated for not sticking to a "happy clappy" script. 
Sensible people agree Brexit is an economic leap in the dark, destination unknown. But to some, acknowledging this is akin to heresy. 
Our leap, they insist, will be on to a rainbow from where we will slide gently to a pot of gold.

Donnie Darkmouth

One of the unusual moments during Mark Mardell's Thanksgiving bash came when Mark called the election-campaigning Donald Trump "Donnie Darkmouth". It's a phrase he appears to like as he also used it in his latest BBC News website blog post:
Because the President-elect was so brutally frank about his extreme prescriptions on the road to power, he can afford to tone it down a bit now. Donnie Darkmouth can, to an extent, morph into Temperate Trump.
Where did he get that from? Neither Google nor Twitter are bringing up any results for 'Donnie Darkmouth'. Did he borrow it from someone or make it up himself?


The recent news that the BBC is cracking down (for cost reasons) on well-known presenters flying off on foreign jaunts to cover big stories and, instead, confining them to carrying out “two-way” interviews from the studio with correspondents on the ground doesn't seem to have reached the offices of The World This Weekend. 

BBC 'frequent flier' Mark Mardell managed to wangle himself a BBC-funded trip to Washington and Pennsylvania this week. 

The reason for going to Pennsylvania? To attend a family's Thankgiving dinner and talk Trump over the turkey. 

That's nice for him.

The focus of his report was on the 'divided nation'/'divided family' question. He talked to supporters of both candidates (though disgruntled Democrat supporters predominated). 


The paper review on this morning's The Andrew Marr Show was fun to watch. There was plenty of good-natured disagreement. 

The reviewers ran from the centre-right (Fraser Nelson) through the centre-left (Miranda Green) to the far-left (Paul Mason) - or, as they say in certain of the louder parts of Twitter, from the far-right through the right to the left. 

Such labelling can, of course, be more revealing of where the labeller is coming from, regardless of whether the labeller is actually aware of that or not.

(My labels, however, are neutral and impartial ones and, thus, wholly trustworthy. Naturally). 

Andrew Marr himself stuck a particularly striking label on Norbert Hofer, the Austrian Freedom Party candidate in the Austrian presidential election re-run, this morning:
We've, of course, got Austria, with Norbert Hofer, the neo-Nazi, possibly going to be elected as president.
That drew the following Twitter reaction from economist Andrew Lilico:

Bye, bye Aaqil. Hello James.

Here's something I missed the other day.

Aaqil Ahmed, who became the BBC's (first Muslim) Head of Religion and Ethics in 2009, is leaving the BBC. He sent out a tweet a couple of weeks ago, saying:

He's not going to be directly replaced either. Instead, responsibility for BBC religious broadcasting will pass into the hands of...

...guess who?...

Yes, James Purnell, the former New Labour cabinet minister recently promoted to BBC Head of Radio and Education - an appointment which brought accusations of empire-building even before this latest expansion of his role.

The Guardian reports that Roger Bolton, "a broadcaster and trustee of Sandford St Martin, which aims to promote religious programming", isn't a happy (Easter) bunny:
"If they think that’s the end of the process there will be a great deal of anger,” said Bolton of the decision to make one of Hall’s most senior lieutenants responsible. 
Bolton, who also presents the Feedback programme for BBC Radio 4, said the danger was that “the BBC talks the talk but doesn’t appear to do anything else”.
Maybe he should write to Feedback then.