Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Emergency! Debate

Remember those ‘survival’ dramas that were popular on TV? You know, at the start the protagonists don’t realise that a deadly virus is sweeping the globe. Only the audience knows. As people die off, struggles ensue between desperate mobs. Emergency! Will humanity be saved?

This is happening in real-time. The BBC has gone rogue and joined the mob. It’s not the only news organ to do so, of course, but this is the one that claims to be the trustworthy one. The one that checks stuff out.

As readers of this and like-minded blogs and websites already know, anti-Trump mania is now a pandemic. 
As if it’s not enough that the Executive Order immigration fiasco has been deliberately misinterpreted by those that should know better and is now known as Trump’s Ban on Muslims, our MPs have surpassed even the media in their slipshod abuse of language.  

If you’ve seen Parliament TV you’ll know what I mean. 

Using Holocaust Memorial Day to perpetuate sly comparisons between Muslim refugees and Kindertransport  as Yvette Cooper and others habitually do is offensive enough, the underhand way they always get away with this insulting and totally inaccurate conflation is a reflection of the media’s appalling lack of scrutiny. Worse still is the total absence of any acknowledgement of the reason behind President Trump’s clumsy move. 

The media and the speakers in yesterday’s debate have completely airbrushed Islamic terrorism out of the equation. It has been forgotten. Not only that, but in an astonishingly cloth-eared fashion they have ignored the fact that Muslims (predominantly) have, let’s euphemistically call it ‘negative views of Jews’.

Everyone is using the Holocaust to preach the wrong lesson.
“Look what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Nazis” they say. “We must learn from the Holocaust. Muslims are the new Jews and we must take them in, or we are no better than the Nazis.” 
No. If you must generalise like that you also need to admit that the Muslims have more in common with the Nazis than we do. By all means take some of them in. But vet them, Bigly.

Ed Miliband made an impassioned speech. “Does President Trump think this will make the world a safer place?” he asked, rhetorically. “No it will not” nodded the MPs in agreement. “In fact the opposite!” they sighed. 
Maybe so; because it will anger the Muslims and they will attack us. Better not provoke such a thing. Make no mistake. Ed Miliband is arguing for appeasement.

I was a Jew

To Naz Shah, (Bradford West, Lab)Trump’s Ban on Muslims is something to do with their skin being “a few shades darker.”
AsaMuslim, Naz has put all that nasty antisemitism behind her. Her rehabilitation appears to have given her delusions of grandeur, as her performance went on and on. At the end it lapsed into pure comedy, when she recited  the famous Niemöller quotation

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Only, in a hilariously Freudian slip, she missed out the last “Not”. 
 “I did not speak out because I was a Jew” she intoned. That was almost as funny as one of Sarah Millican’s monologues about her nonnie.

Check it out.


This article is a must-read. Here are the last two paragraphs:
It might be compassion that leads the West to take in millions of Muslim refugees, but it is reckless compassion. Why isn't Saudi Arabia taking refugees temporarily until things settle down in Syria and Iraq? Do Westerners question the motivation of Islamic theocracies, as to why ultra-rich Arab nations are sending us their refugees but taking in none?
Who is really benefiting from the policy of appeasement, the acceptance of Sharia-stricken theocracies and their jihadist, hate-filled education? Some "tough love" is urgently needed if Muslims are to be motivated to change and reform.
In case you don't know about the author Nonie Darwishshe’s one of a handful of courageous former Muslim female activists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan.

Talking of fake news...

Yalda Hakim

Last night's Newsnight featured a report on the Trump executive order from the BBC's Yalda Hakim, who had her own personal tale to tell about it:
We've just arrived at JFK and I must say I've been quite nervous the entire flight over. I was born in Afghanistan but I travel on an Australian passport and I just wasn't sure if the policy had changed mid-air between London and New York.
She went on to say:
Despite the mounting pressure and criticism, President Trump is not backing down. He criticised the tears of Chuck Schumer and asked where the lefty outrage was from Democrats "when our jobs were fleeing our country". He also reminded protesters that a crackdown on Muslims was a big part of his campaign.  

As you can see, she added "lefty" to the bit about the "outrage from Democrats" (and dropped the bit about the media).

Must worse though was her characterisation of what Donald Trump said yesterday about his campaign: "He also reminded protesters that a crack down on Muslims was a big part of his campaign"

No, he didn't say that. That's highly misleading reporting.

His tweet said that "searching for terrorists before they can enter our country" was "a big part of my campaign" not that "a crackdown on Muslims" was "a big part of my campaign". 

And the BBC has the nerve to complain about 'fake news'!

A declaration of war

There's an excellent summary of the BBC's 'declaration of war' on Donald Trump over at The Conservative Woman by David Keighley (featuring quotes from a certain other blog too!) in which David looks at the BBC's partisan coverage through the perspective of history. 

It begins:

The Yalda Hakim report, cited in the post above, is just another example of how far the BBC is going with this 'war on Trump'.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Fake News

The BBC is leading with “Fake News”. 
Today Programme, defining ‘fake’, differentiates outright fakery from bias. ‘Fake’ news, for example,  means saying someone has died, when clearly they’re still alive.
Oddly enough, the examples given happen to be from ‘far right’ sources. The BBC wants us to beware of Fake News. (Only the likes of the BBC are trustworthy.)

JH: There has always been a load of rubbish in the papers - and on the BBC for that matter - we do our best to get it right and we don’t always succeed, but there is a world of difference between journalists getting it wrong and people deliberately making stuff up; sometimes stupid stuff, sometimes vicious. It’s called fake news and it seems to be all over social media and the internet these days, and today MPs are beginning an inquiry into it.
I’m joined here by two people who know about it, Jim Waterson of Buzzfeed, he’s their political editor of Buzzfeed UK, and Suzanne Franks head of the department for journalism at City University.
Um, Jim, you’re inclined to think that actually we’ve always had loads of fake news and it’s called ‘tabloid news’. 

JW. Yes. So fake news in the purest sense, of somebody completely making up a fake headline like ‘John Humphrys to be next Pope and everyone….. 

JH. Oh you’ve heard… 

JW.….and it’s a great story, we’d all click on it, we’d all share on it and someone would get a lot of ad revenue. That sort of story hasn’t really taken hold in the UK. What I’m seeing when we’ve done analyses of UK political topics on Buzzfeed is essentially what people are sharing and reading is traditional British tabloid journalism, relying on facts, exaggeration completely taken out of context. 

JH. But it’s getting worse than that, surely. 

JW No, but it’s getting worse because the incentives on Facebook and online are to ramp up the headlines even on traditional tabloids to keep pushing up the limits to get more traffic, and the end effect is that we’re seeing rubbish seeping into the news eco system, but it’s often coming in the UK from traditional outlets. 

JH. And are you worried about that? 

JH.I am worried by that. I meant the other side of it is the publishers that exist only on Facebook, for instance Britain First, the far-right group publishes a lot of stuff from Facebook, which is completely dubious, Islamophobic and made up. 

JH.But if we know where they’re coming from and if they call, themselves Britain First, that gives us a clue, doesn’t it - we can discount them if we choose to? 

JW.We can, but a lot of people don’t have that level of media literacy or aren’t viewing it in that way; it’s appearing in their Facebook feed, just one of many things that is on their feed and they just see it as an isolated piece of content. If you read The Sun you get where it’s coming from; if you read the Guardian as a paper you get where it’s coming from. If you’re jus seeing isolated stories appearing in a newspaper with no context and a headline you like the sound of, you don’t really think, where is this coming from. 

JH.Suzanne, that’s a worry? 

(Suzanne Franks) Yes it is indeed I do think that’s a worry because a lot of audiences are unable, as we’ve just heard, to distinguish between the provenance of different stories. They don’t understand that some are, you know, proper legitimate stories that have been checked, and the next thing that appears the news feed is a load of rubbish that’s been made up. 

JH.So what would you do about it? 

SF.Well, I think the select committee are looking at some kind of way of stamping different news sources, which is one thing we could look at, but i think the most important thing is to look at the big platforms, where a lot of people are getting their news from, the Googles and the Facebooks, and putting the onus on them, because they are effectively now editors. They are producing news, even though they don't like to admit to that. 

JH.Mmm. So in that case, Jim, as far as Buzzfeed is concerned, you’re an internet site, obviously, what sort of restrictions should there be on you that have been applied - not restrictions, that’s the  wrong word - what kind of er concerns should we have about websites, specifically as opposed to the newspapers. 

JW.Well I think the distinction is less between websites and newspapers, and more between professional organisations and unknown organisations, so for instance Buzzfeed we view ourselves as a professional news organisation that just happens to publish only online and not in a newspaper. 

JH.But again, if we’re illiterate in the sense that we don’t spend half our life worrying about news like people in our trade do, of course that’s our job, but most people don’t, how do they know that Buzzfeed is any different from one of another thousand websites. 

JW.Purely through a reputation we’ve built up over the last few years for doing proper reporting, and people are responding to that, but the next challenge is: previously news used to be distributed by people who owned either broadcast channels so either the BBCs and ITVs of this world, or who owned a newspaper in the sense of owning a distribution network and a load of printing presses. Now anyone can distribute the news and the problem is that while we thought that that would result in you know, a greater plurality… 

JH.It’s a democracy..

JW…. It’s overwhelmingly positive in many respects but it’s meant that it’s levelled the playing field to the extent that a link produced by the BBC can have as much value online as something that a bloke in any pub has written on his  - you know - just sat and written on his Facebook can has gone just as viral as proper news story. 

JH.D’you agree with that Suzanne? 

Suzanne Franks: Yes I mean during the, I mean the sort of high point was during the latter stages of the presidential election when you were getting these - you know- little nerds in their back bedroom in Macedonia, were, were setting up these sites and getting millions of hits full of fake news about the election. 

JH.But there are a lot of people out there who will say, um, why should I be stopped from propagating my views, if the Sun or the BBC or whatever can do it. Not of course that the BBC has views, but um… 

SF.,,,but it’s not views. What we’re talking about here is absolute wrong facts. 

JH.Right, so you’re drawing a very clear distinction between somebody’s opinion and somebody saying, the Pope supports Donald Trump. That’s a  Fact. 

SF.Yes, I mean I think that’s the kind of new phenomenon we’re having to deal with now, that, as I said, particularly during the latter stages of the election, that all these rubbish - you know - the one about Obama banning the Oath of Allegiance, and all of that, or that the Queen is going to abdicate because of brevet. These are complete, absolute fabrications, just like in Brave New World, you know, two plus two equals five - I mean these are wrong facts, which you know… 

JH.Alright. From both of you in ten seconds apiece, a single action that governments, politicians, should take to stop it happening, is there one “ Is there anything that can do.

JW..The only person who can do anything on a massive scale is Mark Zuckerberg who to my mind is increasingly the most powerful man in UK media and he’s based in California. 

JH.And runs Facebook

JW.And runs Facebook 


SF.Yes, it’s the platform. Platforms have got to take ownership of the fact that they are now the editors and producers of, of where vast numbers of people now get their news. 

JH.Professor Suzanne Franks, Jim Watson, thank you very much.

That’s covered fake news. Now, what about bias?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

On and on

It's worth noting that Sky News tonight is leading with:

...based on Boris's clarification:

,..which should take some of the hysteria out of the reporting over here, but probably won't, given that certain other broadcasters, namely the BBC, are doggedly sticking with their own inflammatory agenda: 

...complete with the following additional BBC website homepage stories:

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson's significant-seeming intervention is missing from the BBC website's homepage (and main article), remarkably. 


P.S. That 'Amateur hour at the White House?' article may come with a question mark but its BBC author, Anthony Zurcher, leaves his readers in no doubt that the answer is 'yes' and ends by opining:


P.P.S. A Twitter exchange tonight between an MP and a BBC presenter:
BORIS JOHNSON: Statement on what the Presidential exec order on inbound migration to US means to Brit nationals/dual nationals. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/presidential-executive-order-on-inbound-migration-to-us...
DOUGLAS CARSWELL: Seems some of the broadcasters' analysis of the US visa EO issue has been based on the content of their twitter timeline, not facts.
NIHAL (BBC): As someone who has been forthright in your condemnation of "angry nativism" what do you make of Trump's EO re immigration?
DOUGLAS CARSWELL: I'm still finding out about what the new US policy on visas actually means because I cannot rely on broadcasters to explain it. 

  • 1/2  - Trump's ban - Section 1 - 'US should not admit those who engage in acts  of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings)'...
  • 2/2  - ...'other forms of  violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own)'.
  • It would have been helpful if the White House geniuses had spelt out the dual nationalities exemption detail in advance....

Echo chamber

This morning's Sunday began with an intra-BBC discussion of the Trump executive order between the BBC's new religious affairs correspondent Martin Bashir and the BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

Of course, they didn't give anything approaching a disinterested, hands-off, neutral, impartial take on the story. 

They both made their disapproval very plain indeed, and piled on argument after argument against the presidential move. 

Mr Bashir, in particular, appears not to have entirely broken free from his old 'MSNBC opinionated host' practices. ("Lyse, the seven nations chosen by Trump appear to be less than carefully selected"),

And I had to smile (grimly) at Lyse, without batting an eyelid, citing the internet to fuel damaging conspiracy theories about Mr Trump's motivations. 

Again, the whole thing is worth transcribing for posterity:

Martin Bashir: At a signing ceremony in the White House on Friday President Donald Trump's signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and blocking all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. Mr Trump said the ban was necessary to protect the United States from terrorists. Yesterday, civil rights organisations issued lawsuits to release several individuals being held at US airports and last night a federal judge issued an emergency ruling to prevent the deportation of any travellers from those seven Muslim-majority countries who'd already entered the United States. Around the world allies and critics have voiced concern about what the new American policy could mean. Mr Trump told reporters yesterday that the policy was "working out very nicely". Just before coming on air I asked the BBC's Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet what reaction there'd been from Islamic Nations.
Lyse Doucet: I'm in Saudi Arabia where that the leaders are the custodians of the holiest shrines - the two holy shrines in Islam - Mecca and Medina, and talking to people here some say, well, that the right of the United States but other are very, very critical. They say it's racist, it's illegal and it's a huge black mark on the United States. So, and I think, as more and more stories continue to come out of people stopped at the airport, people whose lives will be torn apart. The stories you're hearing now are heartbreaking. People have waited years and years for their green card or to be accepted as refugees now literally been turned back.
Martin Bashir: Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the executive order, and I'm quoting a statement, "a clear insult to the Islamic world and a great gift to extremists and their supporters."

Lyse Doucet: Many said that, those who study groups like this so called Islamic state and Al Qaeda, who have long seen their mission to make the West to turn against Islam, so that this would provide fodder for recruitment, it would give more fuel to the fire - and, literally, they are fires in the Middle East caused by the so-called Islamic State fighters and this proves their point. So it is a very, very dangerous, a very potent weapon, in the hands of a so-called Islamic state. And I think the distinction has to be that former president Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Western leaders, have talked about about the need to fight against those elements who used Islam, the religion of Islam, for violence, for political reasons, But it is not the same thing as condemning a whole religion on the basis of religion. But we've seen now, not just in the United States but across Europe as well, far-right leaders, populist leaders, using this as a political weapon to tarnish an entire religion because of actions carried out by those...and those who know the faith well say that it is a distortion of of the religion.
Martin Bashir: Lyse, the seven nations chosen by Trump appear to be less than carefully selected, given that many of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, not on the list, and Pakistan, which is known to have been the location for the training of hundreds of terrorists and also housed Bin Laden for ten years, also not on the list.
Lyse Doucet: And Afghanistan. I've been speaking to Afghans since this order was issued and they're surprised and relieved that they're not on the list, because some of the attacks that have been carried out in the United States have been carried out by people with links to Afghanistan - second generation immigrants to the country. And, of course, Pakistan - the tribal areas of Pakistan -  are said to be Al Qaeda Central. And I'm in Saudi Arabia. 15 of the 19 hijackers in 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia, which had led the cynics to say - and you can find now on the internet the maps which show the countries which had been banned and the ones which haven't, and some other countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, are places where Donald Trump does business. I visit places like Syria and Iraq. We see what groups like so-called Islamic State has done. But the reaction is not to ban everyone on the basis of their religion, to condemn an entire religion, because the United States and other countries have to work with Muslim leaders worldwide to try to counter this extremist threat
Martin Bashir: Lyse Doucet.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

BBC watchdog presenter Samira Ahmed returns to her hobby-horse:

Dreams destroyed

Are you getting the impression:

  • that the BBC has now morphed into an anti-Trump faction? 
  • that there's next to no attempt to deliver ‘balance’ (bringing in counter-views)? 
  • that the BBC is proceeding from the underlying assumption that the Trump measures are morally and legally wrong? 
  • that the BBC is (with rare exceptions) bringing on people on who substantiate that perspective? 
  • that BBC presenters are acting only as midwives to the overall goal of illustrating what a dangerous man President Trump is?

If so, please join the club.


Tonight's early evening news bulletin on BBC One exemplifies all of the complaints listed above (and thanks to David Keighley at News-watch for helping to clarify them in my mind). 

At the risk of wearying you all with transcripts, this post will end with a full transcript of the relevant portions of this BBC One bulletin. It's worth studying just to see how the BBC does it. 

Note the absence (except for a short quote from Donald Trump) of voices supportive of the presidential order and the contrasting plethora of voices hostile to it. 

Note also the language of Eleanor Garnier's report, pre-describing the Trump plan as "the most extreme of his campaign policies" and the way she quite openly ticks of the UK's prime minister ("It now seems that's far easier in theory than in practice") and says that Mrs May "failed to live up to her own words". In what way is that neutral, uncontroversial reporting?  

Eleanor Garnier's report is eclipsed however by Nick Bryant's emotion-heavy piece, where critics predominate (speaking passionately) and heart-tugging stories are intended to hit home with viewers, arousing their sympathies for the 'victims' of Mr Trump's actions. His final words ("They'd spent all their money on the plane tickets and seen their American dreams eradicated with the stroke of a pen") echo his colleague, Alex Forsyth's "with a flourish of his pen" yesterday, surely implying the cruelty of 'The hand that signed the paper'.  

And then came Orla Guerin. And where Nick Bryant pulled on our heart strings by ending with "They'd spent all their money on the plane tickets and seen their American dreams eradicated with the stroke of a pen", Orla ended her comments by talking about a "victim" of the Trump policy who said that "Donald Trump had destroyed his dreams". 

They must feel that they are doing the right thing in being so openly and intensely one-sided, that Trump's actions justify the scale of the bias, but they are surely finishing off their claims to impartiality once and for all.


Transcription, BBC One Evening News, 29/1/2017

Newsreader: The government seeks assurances from Washington about how British citizens might be affected by the US travel ban. The order from President Trump came hours after he met Theresa May at the White House - now there are calls for his state visit here to be cancelled. Despite a court order - and protests against the ban - the administration has signalled today that it is pressing ahead. We'll be looking at the reaction here - and around the world. 

Newsreader: Good evening. Theresa May has ordered the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary to try and obtain assurances from the Trump administration about how its travel ban on people from seven mainly Muslim countries will affect British citizens with dual nationality. Sir Mo Farah is among those who fear they'll be affected, and politicians from different parties have been calling for President Trump's invitation to pay a state visit to Britain to be rescinded. We'll have the latest from the United States in a moment - but first, our political correspondent, Eleanor Garnier, on the growing row here. 
Eleanor Garnier: New leaders and new friends. It was all going so well. Then just hours after Theresa May left Washington, Donald Trump enacted one of what many think is the most extreme of his campaign policies. By then, the Prime Minister was in Turkey for trade talks, where she avoided condemning the President's travel ban. 
Theresa May: Well, the United States is responsible for the United States policy on refugees. The United Kingdom is responsible for the United Kingdom's policy on refugees. 
Eleanor Garnier: But then, overnight, a new statement clarifying that the Prime Minister did not agree with this kind of approach. But some, like the British Olympian Sir Mo Farah, are still worried. He was born in Somalia but lives in America and says he's deeply troubled he'll have to tell his children that he might not be able to come home. And one of Theresa May's own MPs, who is born in Iraq, says he'll also be affected. 
Nadhim Zahawi: For the first time in my life, last night, I felt discriminated against. It is demeaning. It's sad. I'm a successful man and a politician. It's the people who don't have the platform that I have who could get stuck in an airport for hours and hours, of no fault of their own. They are British citizens and they should be looked after. 
Eleanor Garnier: By this morning, government ministers were publicly criticising Mr Trump's plans. 
David Gauke: The Prime Minister is not a shoot from the hip type of politician. She wants to see the evidence. She wants to understand precisely what the implications are. There's always pressure to respond within a news cycle, and so on. The important thing is, we are saying we disagree with it and we do think it's wrong. 
Eleanor Garnier: Friends can be candid with each other. That's what the Prime Minister said before her trip to the States. It now seems that's far easier in theory than in practice. And having failed to live up to her own words once, there is now criticism she's undermined her own strategy. Plus, there are growing calls for Donald Trump 's state visit later this year to be called off.
Jeremy Corbyn: I'm not happy for him coming here until than ban is lifted, quite honestly. Because look at what's happening with those countries. How many more is it going to be. And what will be the long-term effect of this on the rest of the world? 
Eleanor Garnier: This relationship, like many, is complicated, but as the government presses for British exemption from the travel ban, Mrs May will hope she's done enough to keep Mr Trump onside. Eleanor Garnier, BBC News, Westminister.

Newsreader: President Trump - and members of his administration - have today been defending the scope of the ban, with some suggestions that it could go further. But there are legal challenges, and one judge ruled to suspend the deportation of refugees and those with US visas who've been stranded in airports. Nick Bryant reports from New York, where several protests have taken place. 
Nick Bryant: Protest is becoming a permanent feature of the Trump presidency. And at JFK Airport last night the demonstrations lasted deep into the early hours. "Let Them In", they chanted. New York has always been the great gateway into America. The protesters believe the executive order flies in the face of US values. 
Senator Elizabeth Warren: It's an attack on the very foundation of democracy. 
Nick Bryant: Demonstrations took place across the country. These are scenes in Boston as a US senator defied the US president. 
Senator Elizabeth Warren: I cannot believe this is happening. I always knew Donald Trump would be bad, but not this bad and not this fast. 
Nick Bryant: At this courthouse in Brooklyn came a late night legal challenge and civil liberties lawyers emerged claiming a victory as the federal judge temporarily blocked part of the executive order. 
Anthony Romero, ACLU: President Trump enacts laws and executive orders which are unconstitutional, and illegal, and the courts are there to defend everyone's rights. 
Nick Bryant: What started as a protest outside this courthouse in Brooklyn has now become a celebration. At the arrivals hall at Dallas Airport outside Washington, the joy of reunion. A Muslim woman from Iraq finally making it back into the country. 
Muslim man: All of a sudden I get a call telling me they are detaining my wife who is a green card holder, legal resident in this country. 
Nick Bryant: But, despite the court ruling and others making it through immigration, the Department of Homeland Security said it would continue to enforce the executive order. Prior to the court ruling, President Trump expressed satisfaction about how his ban was being implemented. 
Donald Trump: It is working out very nicely and we are going to have a very, very strict ban. We're going to have extreme vetting. which we should have had in this country for many years. 
Nick Bryant: And this morning he doubled down on Twitter. "Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting now. Look at what is happening all over Europe and indeed the world - a horrible mess". These Syrians thought their US visas offered them the chance of a new life. But this Christian family of eight was refused entry at Philadelphia Airport and forced to fly back to Beirut. 
Syrian woman: My son has been in America three years, and they did not even let me call him. There's no humanity. 
Nick Bryant: They'd spent all their money on the plane tickets and seen their American dreams eradicated with the stroke of a pen. Nick Bryant, BBC News, New York. 

Newsreader: So as you saw there, one of the countries affected is Iraq - one of America's closest allies in the fight against IS. Let's turn then to Orla Guerin, our Middle East correspondent. How does that relationship between the two countries square with the scope of this ban, Orla? 
Orla Guerin: Well certainly we've seen that President Trump isn't afraid to trample on sensitive alliances. The ally in this case is a key partner in the battle against the so-called Islamic State. President Trump says that's one of his top priorities. Predictably, we have already had calls from Baghdad for the government there to respond. The foreign affairs committee of the Iraqi parliament has called for the government to take reciprocal action and the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has said that Americans should now have to leave Iraq. There are about 5000 US troops on the ground. They're playing a very important role, largely assisting and advising the Iraqis in this battle against IS. At this stage, we don't know what action, if any, the Iraqi government may be willing to take, but certainly it's going to face domestic pressure on this. For both countries, there's a lot at stake. For individual Iraqis, they are already falling victim to this policy. We spoke to one man today who should been beginning a new life this weekend with his wife and two children in the US. Instead he was turned around here at Cairo. He had worked for a company connected with the Americans. He said he had put his life on the line, and after all of that, Donald Trump had destroyed his dreams. 
Newsreader: Orla, thank you.

"Within minutes ministerial advisers were spinning that the result was better than expected"

Here's a transcription of Dominic Casciani's allegedly headache-relieving From Our Home Correspondent talk today. 

Before you read it though, please peruse this (accurate) comment about it from an earlier thread:

And now, here's Dom:

Transcript, From Our Home Correspondent, 23/1/2017

There were so many bundles of papers submitted to the Supreme Court in the Brexit appeal that if each sheet had been placed end to end they would have stood four and a half miles high. 

The hearings and judgment in this remarkable case have felt to me like an abridged version of what happened to our country since the vote said 'Nein danke, non merci, we're off!'. 

Back in December, as we gathered for the first day, the court was surrounded by protesters.

One chap had a sign declaring his local council has stolen his taxi licence. (Adopting a mock-Cockney accent) "Britain out! Britain out!", he chanted, virtually non-stop all day.

An Irish dancer - and I use that description with some hesitation - pranced around, wearing a Star of David.

And then there was the menace towards Gina Miller - the investment fund manager and philanthropist who'd partly bankrolled the challenge. She'd endured months of death threats online, By the time this week's judgment was delivered she needed a security escort to and from the building. 

In court the scene couldn't have been more different. The Supreme Court is furnished with a remarkable carpet designed by the pop artist Sir Peter Blake. It depicts flowers from the UK's four nations. It symbolises the people coming together under one rule of law.

Outside the only way you could sometimes be heard was to shout the loudest, but inside - before eleven justices - everybody would have their turn. 

First up had been Jeremy Wright QC, the Attorney General - the government's most senior law officer, "The King is the delegate of the people", he declared. That soundbite meant ministers could use the Royal prerogative - executive powers - to end EU membership on our behalf. And without a great deal of further explanation he substituted himself in favour of James Eadie QC, first Treasury counsel - the government's go-to man when in a tight spot. Now his case appeared elegantly simple: If Parliament hasn't tied the hands of ministers then ministers have the power to trigger Article 50. 

But Mr Eadie's route to finding where they tucked away that power was torturous to us mere mortals and then, during Day Two, Lord David Pannick QC, arguably the greatest showman among today's advocates, bound to his feet for Gina Miller. He advanced. He engaged. With one flash of his legal rapier the government's gizzard was on its point. Or at least that's what he wanted you to think.

The wily old judges, combined age of 753, know him too well. Lord Sumption - he of the wild, ageing rock star hair - interrupted him after less than two minutes. Lady Hale and Lords Kerr and Mance pounced next. If they hadn't got a word in then they never would. But Lord Pannick - that's spelt with a 'k' by the way, rather than a 'c' - wasn't panicking. He took us on a tour of how constitutional authority had passed from the Crown and ministers to Parliament, And along the way we stopped at a Newfoundland lobster factory and the unpronounceable to De Keyser Royal Hotel - two cases more than a century old. 

Those and many other proved one thing: Leaving the EU isn't as easy as, well, to quote an infamous headline from the Sun, "Up yours, Delors!". 

Can we untangle the continental genes that have spliced into our nation's DNA? 

What, for example, was to court to make of devolution. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have a role in administering EU rules. Did this give their devolved bodies the veto, or at the very least a say? 

In the end what mattered was a simple constitutional point. And on Tuesday it took Lord Neuberger, the president of the court, a few clear sentences to spell out that only Parliament could make and break the law that governs our membership of the EU.

Within minutes ministerial advisers were spinning that the result was better than expected. 

Will this case still matter once Brexit has happened? In the 17th Century Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke put King James I and VI firmly in his place. "The law of the realm cannot be changed but by Parliament", he declared. There was sound and fury from the King but Coke said the rules were the rules. 

The Supreme Court's judgment means that Coke's words are still the British way of doing things.

From another planet (to the BBC)

Talking of tweets, here are a selection from former Sky foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall - perhaps suggesting why he was never the BBC's foreign affairs editor!

  • Obama increased forced deportations by more than 20% compared to Bush. Not a peep from Horrified of Hampstead.
  • Wait, many countries ban Israelis from visiting!  I feel an outraged petition coming on.  Don't you?  Hello?  Hello? Oh, perhaps not.
  • Petition signers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your memories of not signing when China, Russia and S Arabia came here.
  • I've had an idea!  To show my outrage at banning people I will try to ban people!  Simples!

and in reply to a tweet saying, "Don't recall this fuss when Obama introduced similar ban in 2011? Short term/selective memory loss. Only because it's Trump": 
  • Yup, 6 month ban on Iraqis and ..... silence.  Sigh.  If the narrative don't fit  - people don't wear the cap.

"And Michael Gove and Donald Trump"

Just as a follow-up to a post yesterday that mentioned the less-than-entirely-impartial-seeming tweets of BBC Middle East correspondent Quentin Somerville, here's another which appears to reveal about three 'BBC biases' at one go:

Quotable quote

Ah, Andrew Marr and his little jokes! Here's how he began today's show:
So, what do you do when the President of the United States grabs you by the hand and starts to squeeze? You keep gamely smiling on, remembering your inner vicar's daughter. There may be quite a lot of brave smiling still to come.

Their little secret

Talking of The World This Weekend, this week's edition ended with an interview with historian Julian Jackson of Queen Mary, University of London. 

He was on to talk about General de Gaulle and, guided by Ed Stourton, went on to give his views on what the former French leader would make of Donald Trump and Brexit. Professor Jackson ended by saying:
I think when he sees the mess of Brexit he would say, 'I told you so'.
A spot of Googling shows that Professor Jackson was part of IN - Academics for BritaINEurope - his views on Brexit surely being known in advance to the team at TWTW before they invited him on. 

And Professor Jackson wasn't the only historian from Academics for BritaINEurope to be invited onto Radio 4 today. 

Another supporter of that anti-Brexit campaign, Professor Justin Champion of Royal Holloway, University of London was invited to give the closing talk on this morning's Broadcasting House

He talked about the Supreme Court's Brexit ruling, casting Mrs May's government as arbitrary King James I and Gina Miller as that heroic champion of the rule of law Edward Coke (with not one mention of the fact that, unlike James I, the present government has a democratic vote behind its Brexit policy).  

Typically, neither Ed Stourton nor Paddy O'Connell felt it necessary to forewarn listeners that these disinterested academics were anything other than disinterested academics. Their pro-Remain activism was something listeners would have to guess for themselves, if they smelt a rat!

Reporting 'responsibly'

Samira Ahmed was impressed with today's The World This Weekend:

It met her criteria for responsible broadcasting by featuring only 'responsible' guests - namely, (a) an immigration lawyer, (b) a Democrat congresswoman, (c) an Iraqi activist, (d) a former Labour foreign secretary and (e) a Conservative MP, all of whom are opposed to President Trump's executive order on refugees/immigration. 

No 'irresponsible' defenders of the Trump order were given airtime - a situation the Newswatch presenter appears comfortable with, however one-sided the resultant coverage might be. 

In fact, this edition of TWTW has been typical of most of what I've seen and heard on the BBC over the past day. 

Last night's PM on Radio 4 was just as 'responsible' in its 'guest choices', featuring three interviews in a row about President Trump's executive order on immigration - one with an Iraqi politician, one with an American Muslims campaigner, one with a British MP - all of them appalled by the presidential order. Again, there were no 'irresponsible' balancing voices to be heard.

On Radio 4's Broadcasting House's paper reviewa similar uniformity of view prevailed. Oddly, the earlier debate between a Guardian and an Independent journalist provoked the most disagreement on any of these programmes. 

Watching this morning's The Andrew Marr Show, every guest who expressed an opinion on the subject also expressed the same view. They too were all appalled by the order. 

On BBC Breakfast and the BBC News Channel early this morning, it's was also wall-to-wall critics of the order (often highly vehement ones) - from interviewees to press reviewers.

Only The Sunday Politics broke Samira's Law and invited on an 'irresponsible' Trump defender, Nigel Farage (someone Samira believes is on the BBC far too much anyhow. As she repeatedly writes on Twitter, she thinks he shouldn't be 'normalised').

The BBC is clearly as relaxed as Samira Ahmed about the narrowing of debate on this issue to merely various shades of one particular viewpoint (with very limited and controlled exceptions). 

(Large) Snapshot

For a flavour of the BBC's output this morning (see above), here's a transcription of part of the BBC News Channel's mid-morning paper review, featuring author Matthew Green and Sunday Times journalist Sian Griffiths. BBC presenter Maxine Mawhinney's contributions are worth noting.

MAXINE MAWHINNEY: Hello and welcome to our look ahead to what the the papers will be will be bringing us today. With me are the journalist and author Matthew Green and the Education Editor of the Sunday Times, Sian Griffiths. Let's begin, and we're going to start with the Observer. All of the papers this morning reflecting on what Donald Trump has done.
MATTHEW GREEN: Indeed. America is clearly on the brink of a precipice. We're seeing paranoia and fear of the kind that accompanied the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. But what does this mean for Britain? We've seen Theresa May essentially cosying up to Trump in the hope that she might somehow provide some sort of a restraining influence, but we have seen that hope blown out of the water by what's happened over the last day with these thousands of refugees and migrants. And the Observer, with all credit to them, has laid it bare on the front page: Trump is ignorant, prejudiced and vicious in ways that no American leader has been. And I think Theresa May's refusal to join other European leaders condemning what' Trump is doing is a huge stain on her premiership and could be a defining moment for her.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: Sian, a lot of the criticism of Theresa May has been the fact that she is letting America do what America wants to do rather than condemning it. Is she stuck between a rock and a hard place, if we were playing devil's advocate on this?
SIAN GRIFFITHS: Well, I suppose in a way she is because she very much wants to sign trade deals with America post-Brexit. She has come out this morning...her spokesman has said very clearly that Britain does not agree with Trump's stance.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: But she didn't do it herself. That's what they're saying, isn't it?
SIAN GRIFFITHS: She didn't say it herself, but if you look at the papers this morning I think the Observer is the only paper that has splashed on this this morning. All credit to the Observer. They got quickly to this issue and they have seen how big it is going to be. But to be fair to her, she has come through this morning. She has made that statement. She's obviously saying if there are British citizens who are caught up in this through dual nationality, we will be looking to represent them. She's going to have difficulty, you're absolutely right, Matthew. Already this morning, members of her party are saying look, this is wrong, we don't agree it. Sarah Wollaston has come out. Ruth Davidson has said quite clearly that this is wrong. In fact we understand there is one Iraqi born Tory MP who may be banned from the States under this, under these new rules.
MATTHEW GREEN: We saw Theresa May at the press conference in Turkey ducking the question twice and then making this very weak statement about, essentially, it is America's business. We need a leader who is willing to stand up for democratic values. I'm afraid that Theresa May is failing that test. It's not good enough to issue still a very weakly worded statement saying we could not agree with what Donald Trump is doing. US newspapers are calling him a tinpot dictator. America, in the past week, has suffered its ugliest start to any republic in the history of the country. We need to be joining other Western leaders in standing up to this and not cravenly endorsing it.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: It is a completely new era though in politics, isn't it, right across the world?
MATTHEW GREEN: It is, but has Theresa May grasped this? She is surrounded by these special advisers that the papers constantly talk about being incredibly formidable and intelligent, but maybe she should consult a psychologist, who would tell her that Donald Trump is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. He is megalomaniacal, vainglorious, prejudiced, vengeful. We've seen it all clearly. It is totally obvious. It's not politics as usual and Theresa May needs to catch up with that.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: Let's move on to the Sunday Times because it's not just the rest of the world he's fighting with, it's also Prince Charles! What's happened?
SIAN GRIFFITHS: This is a great story. Donald Trump seems to be engaged in an extraordinary diplomatic row with the Prince of Wales over climate change and is actually threatening to disrupt his forthcoming state visit to the UK". On the one hand you have Prince Charles, environmental campaigner. On the other hand, Donald Trump, who is a climate change denier. There are some amazing quotes in this story in the Sunday Times and I've just highlighted a few of them here. Apparently Trump's people are saying that he's really reluctant to meet Prince Charles and they have warned it would be counter-productive for Charles to "lecture Trump" on green issues and that Trump would erupt if he were pushed! On the other hand you have got Charles's people saying that he is determined to meet Donald Trump. It's not OK that Donald Trump's people are saying that he wants to meet William and Harry.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: This is going to be a great visit, isn't it!
MATTHEW GREEN: Quite! This is Donald Trump who has tweeted about how, wouldn't anyone want to make money by tweeting topless photos of Kate Middleton... He has tweeted his desire..he would have slept with Princess Diana...I mean, why are we letting him into the country, quite frankly? And actually, I find the tone of the Sunday Times story really quite puzzling, as if Prince Charles is somehow...his advocacy on climate change is somehow problematic and is going to disrupt this visit. Let's face it, climate change is the threat to the future of organised life on Planet Earth. Donald Trump has gagged members of his government, scientists who are working on this and he has essentially confirmed that the Republican Party is now the most dangerous organisation on earth. So the idea that Prince Charles is somehow at fault here I think is wrong. We should be rallying around him and saying 'Come on! What direction are we taking the world in?'
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: We look forward to this visit, I have to say!

SIAN GRIFFITHS: I don't think at all the story says that Prince Charles is at fault here...
MATTHEW GREEN (interrupting): It implies that Prince Charles is somehow causing a problem to what otherwise would be a wonderful visit.
SIAN GRIFFITHS: No, I don't think that is the tone at all. I think it lays out the argument very clearly. And I think actually the straightforward reporting here...there's one paragraph that says that Trump has repeatedly branded climate change a 'hoax' and a 'moneymaking industry' and has said it was created by and for the Chinese to damage American industry. I think when you have that very straight reporting you think, "OK, you can make up your own mind."
MATTHEW GREEN: The story could have been written very differently. You've got "Senior government officials now believe Charles is one of the most serious risk factors for the visit". Prince Charles isn't the risk factor! Donald Trump is the risk factor!
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: Maybe he can tell Donald Trump all about climate change.
MATTHEW GREEN: I hope so and Donald Trump might possibly agree with him and tell him he's right, just like he did with Theresa May, and that's what narcissists do.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: Alternative facts again! Here we go! We're going back to Theresa May and President Erdogan in Turkey and the trade deal for that. If we just move, just tidying up the desk here, there we go... So the viewers can see this one. A double page spread there. They "shake on trade deals despite fears over human rights". She's getting into a lot of trouble with holding hands and shaking hands over the last couple of days. Sian, what do you make of this one?
SIAN GRIFFITHS: Well, yes, so she has agreed a trade deal, or is preparing to agree a £100 million deal for fighter jets which could lead in fact to Britain becoming Turkey's main defence partner. But at the same time, she has given Erdogan a very clear warning on human rights at the same time. But again it is this need to find close trade and diplomatic links outside the EU in the wake of Brexit.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: Again Matthew, it's this sense that the world order has changed. Have morals gone with it?
MATTHEW GREEN: It's musical chairs and, post-Brexit, we're out! Yeah, we never had any morals about selling arms. I mean, look at the billions of dollars we've sent to Saudi Arabia which is now being used to bomb civilians and hospitals in Yemen. So, yes, it's great that the Sunday Telegraph has flagged human rights concerns in the headline there but it obviously doesn't make any difference to British policy. Let's not be under any illusions. We're one of the biggest arms exporters in the world. Post-Brexit, as we walk away from the single market on our doorstep, we going to be even more reliant on selling weapons to anyone who will buy them.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: I just want to show viewers this other picture on the corner here with the Trump hand-clasp. I've never heard his words before: bathmophobia. This one here. There you go. So apparently he's got a fear of slopes and that's why he was holding her hand!
SIAN GRIFFITHS: It's a wonderful story, isn't it. I think that word 'bathmophobia' is going to be one of the words of the year.
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: It's fantastic, isn't it?
SIAN GRIFFITHS: Because everyone is talking about this astonishing handshake...handclasp as they walk along the White House colonnade and is it a mark of special affection, but apparently it might just be that he's quite afraid of slopes and so he just gathered her hand to steady himself!
MAXINE MAWHINNEY: To get down the slope. They'll be having that slope taken out any moment! But he's also supposed to be afraid of touching people because of germs!
MATTHEW GREEN: I think that photo though will haunt Theresa May, won't it? What a disaster! I mean, the whole thing is so embarrassing. I don't know what the rest of the world must think of Britain right now. If you don't condemn authoritarianism, you become complicit in it and she is teaching us that lesson, unfortunately.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

With a flourish of his pen

BBC One's main evening news bulletin struck a strongly negative note about President Trump's executive order blocking immigrants from a number of countries at the US's borders. Though supposedly an impartial broadcaster, the BBC didn't exactly hide its own view of the matter here. 

A transcript follows:

NEWSREADER: As referenced in Laura's report... Lawyers in the United States have lodged a challenge to an executive order - signed by President Trump - which temporarily bans all refugees, and any traveller from seven mainly Muslim countries from entering the US. The ban includes stopping those with a resident permit, known as a green card, from re-entering the country. That order has caused confusion and panic among travellers with some people being turned back from US-bound flights. Alex Forsyth reports. 
ALEX FORSYTH: On Lebanon's streets the need is clear. One in four is a refugee who has fled war in neighbouring Syria - some wanting one day to return, others desperate to move on, now all banned from the US indefinitely. And refugees from anywhere suspended for four months. Like Nivine, which is not her real name, a transgender woman persecuted in Iraq who fled to Beirut. She was in the process of being resettled in America. That now, it seems, on hold. 
NIVINE: The moment I heard the news my dreams were shattered. My parents want to kill me. I'm terrified they'll find out where I am now. I hoped I'd feel safe in the US, that I'd finally be able to sleep in a country where I have rights and no one could hurt me. 
ALEX FORSYTH: With a flourish of his pen, President Trump made sweeping changes to policies for refugees and immigrants, to improve, he said, America's security. 
DONALD TRUMP: I'm establishing new vetting measures, to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don't want them here. 
ALEX FORSYTH: The executive order specifically mention suspending entry from seven countries, with predominantly Muslim populations. People from those areas have taken to social media in confusion. One said an Iraqi friend who fled Isis was turned back from her US flight. And in Qatar a 71-year-old man heading to LA was sent back to Iraq. 

ELHAM KHATAMI (National Iranian American Council): Some green card holders have been let in. I think this was a case-by-case basis in which the family lawyers intervened. We're still waiting on getting more information on that, but in general it's a state of panic and confusion. 
ALEX FORSYTH: The extent of this order has enormous implications, not just for refugees but for many from the Middle East no able able to travel to the US. President Trump argues it will improve security but many have condemned the message it sends to Muslim communities around the world. Some refugees who have been detained at airports today are being represented by civil rights groups launching legal action. The full detail of this order may not be clear but already the consequences are being felt and challenged. Alex Forsyth. 

And the moral of the tale is...

Mrs May had left Mr Trump for Mr Erdogan. The famous Laura K draws a moral from this:
While marking the past, Theresa May is following her own path around the world. She can't choose her fellow leaders. Yet politicians, like the rest of us, are sometimes judged by the company they keep. Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News, Ankara.