Sunday, 30 October 2016

Pundits; what do they know?

Isn’t it unsettling when the TV pundits evidently know less than you do? I want them to know more than I do otherwise what’s the point?

I’m not talking about the I/P conflict for once - you’ve undoubtedly already written that off as the topic no-one wants to know very much about. A few judicious cries of “What Israel is doing” and “Shame on you” should suffice.

No, I’m referring to the extraordinarily pedestrian discussion about the UKip leadership contest on today’s Sunday Politics, with Tim Shipman, Isabel Oakeshott, Steve Richards and of course Andrew Neil. 
They began talking about Raheem Kassam, whom some people believe is a strong contender.
“He’s something to do with Breitbart, isn’t he?” said Andrew, looking rather pleased with himself.
“He’s extremely right-wing” asserted Isabel,” he has a picture of Enoch Powell by his bed” (or words to that effect)

Well, did you know, as I’ve just found out, that Raheem Kassam’s favourite journalist is Rod Liddle? (I thought Rod was supposed to be a bit of a coconut - wobbly leftie on the outside, wibbly righty on the inside. Or something like that. Did you read his amusing piece on Baroness Tonge in the Sunday Times (£))

I actually read that scintillating insight (and others) into Raheem Hassam on Buzzfeed. It’s not a site I’d normally look to, and I don’t expect the BBC would see it, as you’d have to go to the trouble of Googling ‘Raheem Kassam' to find it. And interestingly it also sheds a tiny bit more light on the intriguing bust-up between Kassam and his former business partner Robin Shepherd. It’s weird that hardly anyone brings up this mysterious and very acrimonious fight when the UKip leadership issue comes up, since skeletons in closets are the driving force behind much of our current political discourse.

So here, for the information of the Sunday Politics team, is the link, and a brief extract. 
“By this point he had become a pundit, and sought funding from “pro-Israel, anti-Islamism” American neocons to run a blog called The Commentator with fellow activist Robin Shepherd. The pair split in incredibly acrimonious circumstances in 2013. 
“Working with Raheem Kassam was a nightmare,” Shepherd said when contacted by BuzzFeed News this week. “I formally reported him to the police on suspicion of fraud. Since I had never before reported anyone to the police, perhaps a reasonable observer might wonder why that seemed necessary. Kassam is a psychopath, and a crook. Kassam is a nasty piece of work, and prides himself on being so. Being a ‘wrong ’un’ is something he relishes, as do the shabby characters who associate with him. 
“Raheem Kassam is a danger to British democracy, and the rule of law. I saw at first-hand behaviour that was so appalling it was, and remains, difficult to internalise.” 
In response, Kassam says Shepherd wrongly accused him of taking thousands of pounds from the blog when the business venture collapsed: “We never codified the relationship between us. When we had a bust-up he said I was sacked.” 
Kassam said he went back to the American donors. “I said, who do you want to keep the money? Me or Robin?” He says the donors chose him, much to the anger of Shepherd, who struggled to deal with this and has written furious posts about the situation ever since.

Oh well, we still don’t know exactly what has happened, but then, neither do we know the fine details of various other game-changing revelations that have been given the full-on  press coverage, which (arguably) are designed to scupper certain political ambitions. I just wish the pundits knew what they were talking about so that they could tell us.

More of the same

As we wrote here the other week:

This week's The World This Weekend was much the same with a strong anti-Brexit angle (the risks posed to peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic) opening the programme and then, after the news, a string of anti-Brexit/pro-EU voices (three nationalist voters, a Republican writer, Senator George Mitchell, a harbour chief executive, a businessman and the Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan) piling up a damning case against Brexit and, finally, a pro-Brexit interviewee (DUP leader Arlene Foster) appearing to answer all the charges (with Mark interrupting) - though this time the pro-Brexit interviewee was led into (briefly) by a selection of pro-Brexit DUP members.

So we had 16 minutes of Brexit gloom-mongering followed by a 7 minute pro-Brexit response

The programme began with:
Welcome to a special edition of The World This Weekend live from Belfast. This is Mark Mardell. Northern Ireland will leave the European Union; The Republic of Ireland will stay. What will that mean for the economy, identity and the border?
The news bulletin began with:
The government has revealed more about the deal that persuaded the Japanese car maker Nissan to invest in building two new models at its site in Sunderland despite the vote for Brexit.  
The main section began with:
I'm in Belfast and here in Northern Ireland a majority - 52% - voted to remain in the European Union. The Irish government says Brexit means confusion and uncertainty for the island of Ireland, and it's called a meeting of parties and interest groups from north and south later this week to discuss its impact. [Actually Northern Ireland voted by 56% to Remain, so Mark Mardell was factually incorrect there].
The programme ended with:
Bringing us to our closing headlines. In the last half hour the US secretary of state John Kerry has said Brexit must not put the peace process at risk. Mr Kerry was speaking to Ireland to received the Tipperary International Peace Award.
All rather relentless really. All very BBC Radio 4.

This BBC Brexit storm

That feeling of drowning in a tsunami of BBC anti-Brexit bias swept over me again as I was listening to this month's From Our Home Correspondent on Radio 4. The programme's website pre-announced one of the features like this:
Torcuil Crichton looks at the issues raised by Brexit from the perspective of those living and working in his native Western Isles.
Would it be positive? Would it be negative? Would it be neutral?  

It was a foregone conclusion really. Of course it was negative. This is BBC Radio 4. Nothing else should ever have been expected.

Torcuil Crichton of the Daily Record, one of the programme's guest correspondents, talked of "Brexit storms", "this Brexit storm" and our "Brexit quandary". (At least he didn't call it what he's called it on Twitter, a "nightmare"). 

He also talked of all the good things the EU had done for the Western Isles and explained how the EU wasn't to blame for any of the bad things that have happened there: 
Over 40 years the Hebrides have been transformed by large tranches of European funding for everything from crofting to causeways to community businesses. In this part of Brexit Britain they will genuinely mourn the loss.  
Islanders don't blame the Spaniards or the EU for decimate fish stocks. We know it was east coast trawlers who scooped out the herring and everything else years before a common fisheries policy was even thought of.
His lament ended on this glum note:
Although the water was so still that we were able to see the ocean floor we found on our little boat that we could not plumb the depths of Scotland's or Britain's Brexit quandary. And who can?
Still, at least it wasn't just Brexiteers who might have found this biased. The cybernats might well have raised a grim eyebrow too at this emphatically unionist-sounding take on matters:
Some (Scottish fisherman) would prefer fishing to the a UK-wide policy, as if they don't trust it in the hands of their own parliament. Scotland, you see, is not one uniform national identity but many cultures. These differences, these divisions, will surface again if - as she threatens to - First Minister Nicola Sturgeon presses for a second independence referendum during this Brexit storm.
Why is it no surprise that this feature came from an anti-Brexit, anti-Scottish independence reporter? Will the bias ever go the other way on From Our Home Correspondent? (I very much doubt it).

Despite Brexit

There was a classic example of the media phenomenon known as 'despite Brexit' on The World This Weekend's new bulletin this week:
The government has revealed more about the deal that persuaded the Japanese car maker Nissan to invest in building two new models at its site in Sunderland despite the vote for Brexit

Questions, questions

Following on from the previous post...

I suspect that some of you might find the following links - and the discussion below the posts - highly interesting: 
In a nutshell, it concerns Derek Bateman - a leading BBC presenter in Scotland who quit the BBC before the Scottish independence referendum to support the independence cause. His blog regularly (and wittily) lays into his former employer, the BBC, over what he sees as the corporation's anti-independence bias, and his insider revelations caused the BBC establishment in Scotland a wee bit of embarrassment over their links to Labour. Naturally, he became popular with those BBC-hating Scots nationalists often described as 'cybernats'. 

Derek and some of his loyal readers have had something of a falling-out this week. They (the loyal readers) think the BBC has "a plan to tilt opinion against the SNP and independence" and that "BBC journalists are willing participants or perhaps convenient stooges" in this "conspiracy"; He (Derek) thinks that "not true" and "not possible":
Anyone with common sense or any experience inside an organisation understands there is a collective ethos or corporate mindset and subconsciously follows it – which does happen at the BBC whose origins, management configuration and internal protocols tend towards reflecting a status quo. In this case that means Britain.  
But that’s not the same thing as journalists conspiring to twist announcements to read like criticisms of the SNP. That needs a structure in which word comes down through layers of staff to the journalists. It means telling a journalist what to say or what to write even against his better judgement. It means over 200 staff keeping quiet and never spilling the beans. It suggests all staff are party to an undeclared plan and word doesn’t leak out. Nobody complains. Everybody is malleable or has no political views of their own.
His readers, overwhelmingly, disagree. The common refrain is, "Sorry Derek, I think you are way off the mark here." They do think that the BBC has "an agenda", that "the BBC controllers have a bias and do control the agenda of what makes the news and the order and orientation of the presentation", that  the BBC is engaged in "a deliberate attempt to discredit independence".

That, of course, is a familiar issue of considerable relevance to the BBC's present behaviour over Brexit.

Is the BBC being anti-Brexit because of many at the BBC sharing a collective ethos and subconsciously following the corporation mindset (against Brexit)? Or are the BBC controllers actually pursuing an (anti-Brexit) agenda in their choice of news stories and their presentations of those news stories in order to discredit Brexit (as those Westminster parliamentarians in the previous post suspect)?

Or is it a bit of both? (I'm discounting the 'Or neither?' option!)

Those Westminster parliamentarians that David at News-watch has been hearing from are making the claim that some of the top brass at the BBC appear to be deliberately attempting to discredit Brexit. Could this be true?

The bit I missed from that quote from Derek's blog was this:
This idea of conveying the coherence of the UK is now written into the new charter settlement. It means that when there is a threat to the status quo, as there was in the 90s over a Scottish Six [ie. a Scottish BBC One News at Six] the Director General went to the Prime Minister to move jointly against it in case it threatened the Union. Which makes you think about the indyref.
Is something like that also informing the BBC's biased behaviour against Brexit? 

A question and some speculation

Over at The Conservative Woman, David Keighley asks a telling question:

Given how many programmes have been genuinely negative about Brexit and have explored Brexit from the perspective of potential harmful outcomes since June 23, the nation is unquestionably owed at least one such programme in the very near future, surely? 

David (who has the ear of a number of parliamentarians) adds the following, which I found particularly intriguing:

Are those parliamentarians correct in their speculation that there's "a group within BBC senior management" who "have decided that they seen their job as actively campaigning to thwart Brexit"? 

If Radio 4 and its exceptionally anti-Brexit-biased Brexit Collection are anything to go by (and that's just one example), it's very tempting to believe it.

Recommended viewing (though not by me) recommended by Andrew Marr

Well, if anyone's able to get onto Twitter and you click on 'Michael Moore', the American satirist's kind of rant about why people are voting for Trump and why Trump might win, it's well worth watching - even though we can't show it because it's very four-lettered. 
It's not something I'd have recommended, but then I'm not a BBC type. They do seem to like Michael Moore at the BBC though. (Maybe it's something to do with the fact that he looks like Mark Mardell's scruffy identical twin).

Still, I've followed Andy's advice and watched some of Michael Moore's rant. Of course, he's no Trump fan (to put it mildly) and his point is that those Trump voters will come to severely regret their vote...just like us silly Brexit-voting Brits.

I have to say that Mr Moore didn't convince me that he actually has much of a clue what he's talking about. I've transcribed the following gem (from the passage Andrew Marr was referring to). Mr Moore was saying that a Trump victory will soon turn sour for his supporters. His grasp of the Brexit situation, however, shows that he' shall we say, putting it politely?...extremely ill-informed:
It will feel good...for a day, maybe a week, possibly a month, and then, like the Brits, who wanted to send a message so they voted to leave Europe only to find out that it you vote to leave Europe you actually have to leave Europe, and now they regret it. All [the Trump-supporting types] of Middle England, they all voted to leave and now they regret it, and over 4 million of them have signed a petition to have a new vote. They want another election. It ain't gonna happen because you used the ballot as an anger management tool. And now you're f***ed. The rest of Europe? They're like 'Bye, Felicia!'
That, of course, is complete tripe from start to finish. It's staggering how many misreadings of reality he managed to cram into just those few sentences. His eager American audience seemed to buy it though and doubtless his eager British audience (the Andy Marrs and Hugh Sykeses of this world) will be nodding their heads in approval too. 

Of course, that's not the bit of Mr Moore's rant that got Twitter exercised. They were more concerned about this gem:
No women ever invented an atomic bomb, built a smoke stack, initiated a Holocaust, melted the polar ice caps or organized a school shooting.
He even got feminists accusing him of being patronising and sexist because of that. After all, several women played pivotal rolls in the Manhattan Project. Many hundreds, possibly thousands of woman were involved in inventing the atomic bomb, including a handful of women scientists. Even on one of his own specialist subjects - school shootings - his seems misinformed. Apparently there have been murderous female gunpersons in the US.


The BBC might not report Lewisham Islamic centre’s response to the recent judgment against Shakeel Begg, but not to worry, it’s been cross posted at Harry’s Place.  (Do read the comments before they're deleted automatically  at the end of a week(?) )
Behind all the legalese waffle there is a message. Essentially, they're telling us that the revered Imam is not an extremist. He’s not even a very naughty boy, but a beloved pillar, and represents what-we-call Normative Islam.
So there.


Oh yes, and did you hear the one about the repulsive scene at UCL? Possibly not. The BBC might not have heard about it - probably because of the cuts - so it’s up to well funded news outlets like the Telegraph and Sussex Friends of Israel to bring it to you instead. 


You might have seen the report (not necessarily on the BBC) about an animal loving Palestinian Solidarity Campaigner who’s been fighting racism all his life who went to meet President Assad of Syria. The trip was funded by an organisation called the “Palestinian return centre” that campaigns for the UK government to ‘apologise for Balfour’.

Oh well, it was in 2009, such a long time ago; and how was Jeremy to know that President Assad would turn out to be so unpleasant? I’m sure his travelling companion Baroness Tonge, for one, only sees the good in people.

"Qashqai or cash cow?"

Lots of people across social media have been echoing the following point made by David Vance a couple of days ago:
Yesterday was a day of positive economic news for the UK economy. Clearly this does not suit the BBC narrative of post-Brexit vote doom and gloom. So we have the perfunctory acknowledgement that the Government has done well to keep Nissan manufacturing in Sunderland and then …the immediate conspiracy theories as to what “deal” has been given to the Japanese car manufacturer. Behaving like an echo-chamber of an enraged Labour Party, the BBC has been postulating what “sweetheart” deal May may have offered Nissan. Is this the same BBC that damned the Government for NOT offering Port Talbot a sweetheart “deal”? 
Andrew Marr's introduction this morning pursued a similar course:
Nissan's decision to reinvest in Britain is the single biggest piece of good news since the Brexit vote. But what is behind this decision? Nobody will tell us. It it political reassurance or private deal? Optimism about tariffs or taxpayers' money? Qashqai or cash cow? Well, the man who did the deal, Business Secretary Greg Clark is with me this morning. Can he, will he, shed light on this absolutely crucial question?
Mr Clark did indeed shed light on "this absolutely crucial question". Lots of light. "There’s a lot more meat here than I was expecting", said a surprised Mr Marr.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Hugh Sykes on 'Regrexit'

We've not had a tweet from BBC tweeter Hugh Sykes for a while. Here's one of his latest (so good he sent it twice):

He tweets elsewhere, "But I know many people who now believe they were lied to by #Leave much more than by #Remain, & want to reconsider". (Wishful thinking on Hugh's part there most likely.)

Rape culture

I haven’t written anything on Poldark yet, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. It has been dissed by people who don’t see it like I do - as a kind of strip cartoon; no pun on Aidan Turner’s physique intended. 

Some of the casting is a bit odd, as is the generic, “Westcountry” accent that directors always settle for, as if they think Cornwall is so far from civilisation that if they can’t be arsed to capture the Cornish accent with the precision routinely applied to the American one, no-one will notice. I have to say, however, that some of the Poldark cast have made a braver attempt at it than usual. 
Anyway, you need to suspend your disbelief and get into the spirit of the tricorn hat, the Cinderella-ness of the story and feast your eyes on the scenery. 

But what’s all this about ‘rape?’ 

Ross, the bugger! ‘e d’go down big ‘ouse, scat down the front door an ‘av ‘is wicked way w’lizabeth. 

Hence the outrage. What’s the BBC trying to do? Make it look as though  all women mean yes when they say no? Make it look as though, when raped, they all ‘want it’ really. 

No, not really. It’s all in the story. It’s panto. Ross and Elizabeth have a smouldering longing for each other, but poor Elizabeth, like many other female heroines of the era, must suppress her desire. Convention has forced them to pretend their relationship is purely platonic because, when everyone thought Ross was dead, Elizabeth became engaged to Francis and Ross married Demelza. See? Simples. 

Anyway I mention that only because it illustrates the new definition of rape, which seems to have invaded our culture and caused no end of exaggeratedly prudish moral indignation. 

Look at Trump. I mean look at him. He comes across as just the kind of person who would behave with a mixture of extraordinary immaturity and bravado, and would boast about the audacious sexual advances he felt empowered to make a few years ago - because of his “stardom” - whenever a  glamorous women hove into view.  But he now says it was all bravado, and I somehow think that’s quite credible. It makes him look rather foolish, even. 

Anyway, Trump, and all the current outrage about historical sexual abuse adds up to a weird disconnect between the past (a different country) and the present. I understand Cliff Richard intends to sue the BBC for the way they colluded with the police when his property was raided. If he does so, who knows what accusations will surface, but for now public opinion is on his side. 

I’m not talking about paedeophillia, which is a dangerous mental disorder and a different matter altogether. I’m talking about old fashioned, pre 1960s chauvinistic and maybe misogynistic standards ripped out of context and grafted onto the confused mixture of laddish women, rabid feminists and effeminate, emasculated and narcissistic men that appear to make up the bulk of a certain vociferous strand of society today. People in the media and so on.

Yes, we can all look back with awe and wonder at what women had to put up with in the olden days, obliged to be prim and proper, ashamed of their bodies, ignorance or denial of female sexuality and all the rest of it, and I think the feigned apoplectic outrage at Ross’s ‘rape’ is a pure misunderstanding of the genre; a mass exercise in missing the point. There’s mass indignation and outrage at a fictional rape-that-isn’t-really, outrage at a bunch of alleged sexual-assaults-that-might-or-might-not-have-happened, accusations against various well-known figures, dead and alive. 

However, the only reason I’m bothering to articulate any of this is because of something I read the other day, which has bearing on the whole business of attitudes to rape and sexual abuse. In Germany a spate of sexual assaults and rapes have been swept under the carpet because of the identity of the perpetrators.  We all know by now that mass immigration from Africa Asia and the Middle East has been problematic. We also remember the grooming cases in Britain that were persistently suppressed by the press and the police until the news could be contained no more.  And there’s this: 
“Germany's migrant rape crisis — which has continued unabated day after day for more than a year — has now spread to cities and towns in all 16 of Germany's federal states. Despite the mounting human toll, most of the crimes are still being downplayed by German authorities and the media, apparently to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments. 

The German Press Council (Presserat) enforces a politically correct "code of media ethics" that restricts the information journalists can use in their stories. Paragraph 12.1 of the code states: 

"When reporting on criminal offenses, details about the religious, ethnic or other background information of the suspects or perpetrators is to be mentioned only if it is absolutely necessary (begründeter Sachbezug) to understand the reported event. Remember that such references could foment prejudices against minorities." 

On October 17, the Press Council reprimanded the weekly newspaper, Junge Freiheit, for revealing the nationality of three Afghan teenagers who raped a woman at a train station in Vienna, Austria, in April 2016. The press council said the nationality of the perpetrators is "not relevant" to the case, and by revealing this information the newspaper "deliberately and pejoratively represented the suspects as second-class persons." 

In the interests of "fair reporting," the council demanded that the newspaper remove the offending item from its website. The newspaper refused to comply and said it would continue to publish the nationalities of criminal suspects. 

Lutz Tillmanns, the Press Council's managing director, said that self-censorship is necessary to avoid discrimination: 

"An essential human rights-related principle is not to discriminate. When we refer to an individual we do not want to harm the entire group. This is, of course, a bigger issue for minorities than for the majority." 

According to Hendrik Cremer of the German Institute for Human Rights, the Press Council's code of ethics also applies to German police, who often censor the information they release to the media: 

"The police are not to provide information about the skin color, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin of a suspect to the media or to the public. They may only do this if it is absolutely necessary, which is the case, for example, when they are searching for a suspect.”
Is Germany any worse at manipulating this situation than we are?
Rape and sexual assault can be manipulated by the media and the authorities in the way they choose.  It can be wielded to destroy some people, or concealed, in the name of ‘fair reporting,’  to protect others; whichever way the wind blows. What remarkable inconsistency.

Diverse matters re 'Autumnwatch'

The newly-famous (and, apparently, now very popular) ladybird spider

I very much enjoyed this week's Autumnwatch.

It had everything from sika deer to ladybird spiders, from edible dormice to golden eagles, from sand hoppers to spoonbills, from fungi to (that fun guy) Martin Hughes-Games.

Plus it had a daily mouse maze competition which, frankly, put the likes of Strictly Come Dancing and the Great British Bake (Off to Channel Four) to shame in terms of sheer excitement. 

I learned a lot too. I didn't know that our poor old red squirrels now have leprosy to contend with (on top of everything else). Or that there may be now around a million non-native edible dormice leaping around the woods of southern England, devouring everything in sight - including vast swathes of bird's eggs and young birds. Or that smooth snakes are the top UK snake - at least in terms of frequently devouring other snakes and, thus, adding to the woes of our adders (which are being subtracted at a worrying rate). 

On the more typically blog-related stuff, however...

You may recall the strange tale of Martin Hughes-Games tweeting that he was getting the push from Springwatch because the presenters were considered too white and middle-aged and that the BBC wanted more "diversity". 

You may also recall that the BBC strenuously denied that, saying that Martin's career move (being dropped as a main presenter) had nothing to do with 'diversity'. 

Viewers of Autumnwatch this week, however, were introduced on a daily basis to Gillian Burke ("biologist, filmmaker, narrator, voice-over artist"), and will have noticed that Gillian is black and that she has something of a 'non-British' accent.

Gillian Burke

Michaela Strachan then let slip to The Sun that Gillian is going to be Martin's replacement and the BBC had to (abruptly) confirm that  Gillian would appear on both Autumnwatch and Springwatch. 

The BBC continues to deny, however, that this was to make the show more "diverse", despite the new -Watch regular being from an ethnic minority. 

Please excuse me for not believing the BBC here. 

Still, she seems like a worthy addition to the programme (and she's far less of a 'character' than Martin). I've got no complaints whatsoever about her (so far). I enjoyed her contributions. In the interests of ITBB impartiality though, I'd note that some on Twitter moaned that she mispronounced 'Brownsea Island' (the nature reserve near Poole, close to where Autumnwatch was being broadcast from), which, maybe, isn't quite what might be expected from a 'narrator and voice-over artist'.

Anyhow, on the other hot Springwatch/Autumnwatch controversy - Chris Packham's off-air campaigning against grouse hunters over hen harriers - I ended a post last Monday by writing:
As I'll be watching Autumnwatch (one of my favourite BBC programmes), I'll let you know if Chris Packham uses it to proselytise on behalf of his favourite cause.  
If he does, then it definitely won't be a grey area in any way, shape or form...
Well, on Wednesday's edition there was a piece on hen harriers. It featured two enthusiasts for hen harrier conservation and alluded, briefly, to the issue of hen harriers being killed on grouse moors. 

So, yes, Autumnwatch was going out of its way to include the issue - despite all the previous controversy. 

Chris, keeping shtum while Michaela talks hen harriers

However, Chris Packham didn't narrate the report and when the report ended it was Michaela Strachan who praised the hen harrier supporters' commitment (without criticising the shooting fraternity). Chris Packham himself just listened and - very conspicuously - said nothing. He merely quipped about something else before the programme moved on.

I'm sure they all felt very clever about that (and rightly so). They got to (subtly) stick two fingers up to those pro-hunting campaigners - who have been campaigning against Chris Packham's campaigning against them this summer - whilst, at the very same time, 'proving' Chris himself to be the very embodiment of BBC impartiality.

Classic 'Newswatch' interview with a BBC editor

Toby Castle

We often joke about BBC editors always going on programmes like Feedback and Newswatch and trotting out their old, favourite, tired and easily-debunked argument, "We get complaints from both sides. Therefore, we must be getting it about right", to any complaint about BBC bias." The joke (such as it is) only works because it's true. They do say that, again and again. 

The BBC's coverage of the clearing of the Calais migrant camp was the main topic on this week's Newswatch. Two complaints were read out criticising the BBC for broadcasting the views of a 'racist' member of the public and then three criticising the BBC for having a liberal bias and being over-emotional on the migrants' behalf. Samira Ahmed twice acknowledged that "the majority" of those complaining were complaining about the latter (the BBC's liberal, pro-migrant) but that still didn't stop the BBC editor, Toby Castle (Deputy News Editor, BBC News), from starting his interview with Samira by saying: 
Well, I think your viewers prove there are two very differing views of the BBC's coverage and I would say that that reflects that we're actually getting it right.
The fact that Newswatch aired samples of both types of complaint doesn't show that the BBC "actually" got it right at all. The two types of complaint are different in character. The first is weak; the second is strong.

The first set of complaints basically came from a few people who don't like hearing views they disagree with and want the BBC to restrict the broadcasting of such 'offensive' views. The second set of complaints (from the majority of Newswatch complainants) came from people arguing that the BBC has betrayed a systematic liberal bias by reporting emotively and one-sidedly on the migrant issue - a much more substantial type of complaint. 

It's a lazy response to say that getting 'complaints from both sides' proves BBC impartiality. It does no such thing. In fact, the striking prominence given to the very callous-sounding 'racist' man in news reports - a prominence the liberal viewers were complaining about - might be considered as evidence for the majority's view: The BBC were pushing someone who makes the anti-mass immigration viewpoint look cruel and stupid.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Imam loses libel action against the BBC

I read about this in the papers, then on Harry’s Place, now here, and here

'Jekyll and Hyde'
In November 2013, BBC presenter Andrew Neil alleged on the Sunday Politics that the imam had said that jihad was the greatest of deeds. 
Jihad typically refers to a personal struggle to do good - but violent extremists use it to refer to fighting holy war. 
Despite the imam's protestations during the libel trial, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said four of his speeches showed he had promoted such violence and two that he had espoused extremist positions. 
"Shakeel Begg, is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character," he said.
"He appears to present one face to the general, local and inter-faith community and another to particular Muslim and other receptive audiences. The former face is benign, tolerant and ecumenical. 
"The latter face is ideologically extreme and intolerant."

It’s one up for the BBC, good for Andrew Neil, and three cheers for  Mr Justice Haddon-Cave.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Jenny Tonge - déjà vu all over again

I wonder when the BBC will report the appalling event hosted by Jenny Tonge in the House of Lords yesterday? Only it’s caused a bit of a stir elsewhere.

It has even caught the eye of David Lidington MP. 
“Speaking in the Commons, Mr Davies asked Mr Lidington: “May we have a debate on the use to which these premises may be put following reports that outrageously a member of the House of Lords presided over an event at which Israel was compared to Islamic State, and the Jews were even blamed for their own genocide? 

“Could we discuss this and also whether we should be issuing an apology for these outrageous comments to the Israeli government and the Jewish people.”

It now seems Dr. Tonge has been suspended by the Liberal Democrats (again?)

Guido has this:  Libdems suspend Jenny Tonge having only just posted this: Jews blamed for Holocaust at Jenny Tonge event.

Susan Cramer, Sarah Olney and Baroness Tonge

The lady in the centre - Sarah Olney,  a Libdem candidate - was on The Daily Politics today. Not that Andrew Neil said anything about Jenny Tonge's antics.

The Libdems seem to be making quite a habit of suspending Jenny Tonge, but nothing seems to daunt her zeal.

The event itself has been reported widely - anywhere apart from on the BBC. But now she’s been suspended, how can they not?

Even The Times (£) had a prominent report of the event. They called it ‘shameful’. Blogger David Collier was there, as was the survivor of a horrific attack by a couple of deranged Palestinian terrorists  Kay Wilson  (to whom Jenny Tonge tweeted sarcastically “What a lovely reasonable person you seem to be”  See more here.

“Putin’s mouthpiece” RT reported the event too, and a number of vicious antisemites responded btl. 

Even though most of the btl responses in papers like the Times are supportive of the Jewish community it’s chilling that so many rabid antisemites are out there and willing to rear their ugly heads.

ITV is on the case .........and so is the BBC .    They’ve given Baroness Tonge a  more than generous hearing.

Baroness Tonge said the comments had been a rant that "made no sense" and said she was "irritated" by the row.  

Speaking to the BBC, Baroness Tonge blamed the "power of the Israel lobby" and its sway over UK political parties for her suspension.She added: "Is it a cardinal sin to chair a meeting? I made no speeches or pronouncements. I'm extremely sad and frankly just irritated by it all."

"trouble in the banlieues of Paris"

A comment from esteemed blogger  Daphne Anson citing two pieces about  anti-Chinese sentiment in France prompted me to have a further look. 

The Telegraph piece by David Chazan, is a  report about a demonstration that took place in August. The Chinese demonstrators were demanding protection from “muggers who they say prey on them because they are seen as easy targets.”
Chazan gives this fatal incident the passive treatment: 
“The death of a 49-year-old Chinese tailor after being badly beaten in a robbery earlier this month has lent new urgency to the long running complaint that Asian immigrants are systematically attacked and robbed in the French capital.”
“……Chaoling Zhang, the father of two who died on August 14 after being punched to ground in the north-eastern suburb that is home to some 4,000 Chinese immigrants. No arrests have been made over the attack.”

(The BBC did report the incident at the time) 
“The father-of-two had been attacked by three men while walking with a friend, a police source said.”
The BBC’s recent article by freelancer Kevin Ponniah A killing in Paris: Why French Chinese are in uproar was published on 26th October 2016 and includes the following passage:
“During a recent trial of three youths accused of 11 attacks in a three-month span in Aubervilliers, the defendants insisted the ethnicity of their targets was just a coincidence. But when interrogated by police, they reportedly admitted to seeing Chinese people as "easy targets" with money on them.”

So it seems that the police did make some arrests. The BBC’s piece describes the killers of “Zhang Chaolin", a 49 year old Chinese tailor as  “three teenagers” and all reference to ‘ethnicity’ is confined to the term “ethnic Chinese”. Kevin Ponniah deals with the tribulations of various ethnic Chinese individuals and the wider issue of anti-Chinese racism in France. He focuses on a Paris suburb, apparently a kind of Chinatown, Aubervilliers, which he describes as:
“A working-class and immigrant-heavy area, home to more than 1,200 mostly Chinese wholesalers, Aubervilliers is an important European textile centre. Buyers come from far and wide to haggle over Italian-made coats and Chinese-made shirts.”
Here is a nice piece about Aubervilliers, “Europe's made-in-China clothing capital.” 

In stark contrast to the BBC’s standard reporting of murdered ‘nameless’ Israelis, the article gives the victims of French anti-Chinese racism the ‘full Palestinian victimhood’ status without any mention of the ethnicity of the perpetrators.  As Daphne Anson says, this leaves the impression that the anti-Chinese racism is coming from the indigenous “white” French.

The Telegraph has this, albeit somewhat buried in the depths of the article:
“Community workers say many muggings are committed by members of other minorities living in the area, generally of Arab or African origin.

Paris officials corroborated the figures but declined to identify the robbers by ethnic origin.”

A link takes you to this Telegraph report about trouble in the banlieues of Paris from 2005. 
"A country in flames… French cities teeter on the edge of anarchy"

But is this *“NTDWIist” attitude unique to the BBC?  I Googled, and came up with several pieces from France 24 which were just as evasive.

France 24 - lots about the victims, nothing about the perpetrator.

Reuters, a similar story, but the piece did include this ‘random’ information:
“Tourist traffic in Paris has dropped significantly since attacks by Islamist militants last November, leading to sharp declines in sales for luxury goods makers but also for the capital's retailers, hotels and restaurants.”

Googling ‘Aubervilliers’ produced this: European 'No-Go' Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 1: France
Soernn Kern. January 2015.

“Another township of Seine-Saint-Denis is Aubervilliers. Sometimes referred to as one of the "lost territories of the French Republic," it is effectively a Muslim city: more than 70% of the population is Muslim. Three quarters of young people under 18 in the township are foreign or French of foreign origin, mainly from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. French police are said to rarely venture into some of the most dangerous parts of the township. 

The southern part of Aubervilliers is well known for its vibrant Chinese immigrant community along with their wholesale clothing and textile warehouses and import-export shopping malls. In August 2013, the weekly newsmagazine Marianne reported that Muslim immigrants felt humiliated by the economic dynamism of the Chinese, and were harassing and attacking Chinese traders, who were increasingly subject to robberies and extortion. The situation got so bad that the Chinese ambassador to France was forced to pay a visit to the area. 

In response, the Socialist mayor of Aubervilliers, Jacques Salvator, suggested that the violence could be halted if Chinese companies would agree to hire more Arabs and Africans. The Chinese countered that Muslims do not work as hard as the Chinese, that they are more demanding, and that they complain too much, according to Marianne.
After local officials refused to act in the face of increasing Muslim violence, the Chinese threatened to "call on the Chinese mafia" for protection. Muslims responded by launching a petition to have the Chinese expelled from the area. 

Also in Aubervilliers, the magazine Charlie Hebdo reported in 2012 that the town hall was obligating non-Muslim men who want to marry Muslim women to convert to Islam first, even though France is ostensibly a secular republic. One such man, Frédéric Gilbert, a journalist, was told: 

"You can convert in any mosque in three minutes. All you need do is to repeat 'with conviction and sincerity' this sentence: 'I recognize that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet,' and the Imam will agree that you have converted to Islam.’”

Well I never. 

My friend, a fusspot, once deconstructed a burger he was suspicious of, only to find a beetle-like corpse within. 
“Seek and ye shall find” said a onlooker, disapprovingly.  In other words it’s your own fault;  if you’d been less picky and just eaten it you’d have been none the wiser.

Is this what I’ve just been doing, seeking and finding, and if so, would we have been better off none the wiser?


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Muslim Mumpreneurs

File under the heading “Any other matters that take our fancy”

An example of the normalisation of Islam in The Times: 
“Islamic toy store puts children on the path to peace” says the headline.

Unlike the paper version, the online piece doesn’t illustrate the products this unfortunately named mum, “Nazia Nasreen”, is marketing. It just has a picture of two innocent youngsters, boy and girl, happily playing with toy alphabet bricks. The Arabic variety.

In fact the Times presents it as a good-news business story - a young mum with entrepreneurial ambitions - what’s not to like?  Oh, and her aim is to put children on the path to peace.

The OMG Daily Mail has the story too. 
“She is in a group of leading British 'Muslim Mumpreneurs', which also includes Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, who juggle bringing up children and running successful businesses in what has traditionally been a male-dominated world.” 
[...] She said: 'A lot of times children learn the wrong things and that's where the extremism kicks in. If the right educational toys and books are provided from a young age, we can instil the correct Islamic ethos and values in our children'.

That’s what it says in the Mail, and they have illustrated some of her wares.

Muslim Barbie (sold out) As far as I can tell it’s your bog standard Barbie wearing a Barbie headscarf - why can’t anyone just customise their infidel Barbie? 

The above is possibly a poster.
Three little girls who look about 7 or 8 years old dressed in black, with hijabs plus a handy epithet from Abu Dawud:
“The prophet said: “If anyone cares for three daughters, gives them a good upbringing, marries them (to good husbands) and treats them well, they will enter paradise”  “

There must also be a booklet on how to be a good husband. Possibly.

The oddest thing of all is….. three leaflets or booklets entitled: (in order:)

These items ("toys") will put Muslim children on the path to peace and instil the correct Islamic ethos and values in them. 

Is this a joke?

Who knows; the cover illustrations are straight out of South Park.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Grey areas/green areas

A hen harrier and a man in a Chris Packham suit

The BBC treats the countryside... one would expect from an organisation so long divorced from country life that it thinks The Archers is real, probably because it is made in Birmingham, which from a London perspective is practically a village.
So (quite wittily) says Ian Coghill, chairman of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

Just in time for the start of Autumnwatch tonight, the Daily Telegraph is today reporting Mr Coghill's view that those who enjoy traditional country pursuits, such as shooting and fishing, are treated as 'whipping boys' by some parts of the BBC. 

His main target is Chris Packham - the Springwatch/Autumnwatch star whose extracurricular activities include (very vigorously) campaigning against certain kinds of shooting (on behalf of his beloved hen harriers). 

Mr Coghill rejects the BBC Trust’s ruling in Chris's favour (after the latter posted an article in the BBC's inhouse magazine Ariel calling grouse-hunters "the nasty brigade)". 

The BBC's defence, if you recall, was that Chris Packham (like Gary Lineker) is not a BBC man but a freelancer, and not "associated with news or public policy-related output". 

Mr Cogham, according to the Telegraph, regards that as bunkum, alleging that Chris worked for the BBC "for 119 days last year" and should, therefore, be subject to the BBC's guidelines on impartiality.

This whole thing remains a very grey area impartiality-wise - and it was made even greyer by the BBC, having cleared him, then saying he would be monitored for impartiality and telling him not to use the phrase 'nasty brigade' again. 

As I'll be watching Autumnwatch (one of my favourite BBC programmes), I'll let you know if Chris Packham uses it to proselytise on behalf of his favourite cause.

If he does, then it definitely won't be a grey area in any way, shape or form.