Sunday, 17 September 2017

Mark Mardell Goes to Swansea

Dylan Thomas, quoted from by Mark Mardell today

Mark Mardell was back on The World This Weekend today. Surprisingly, the much-travelled Mark didn't go to Florence for his final item. His jaunt this week was merely to Swansea - that "ugly, lovely town". 

Still, the programme faithfully followed the by-now-painfully-familiar format which I've outlined so many times I could probably sketch out Mark Mardell's pieces for him in advance.

First came the anti-Brexit angle announced in the programme's introduction:
Mark Mardell: Welcome to The World This Weekend. This is Mark Mardell. Boris Johnson is rebuked by Cabinet colleagues for an ill-timed intervention on Brexit. The Foreign Secretary was promising to spend more money on the NHS after we leave, but what will happen to poorer parts of the UK which got buckets of cash from the European Union? I've been to Swansea.
Voice 1: My fear is that Brexit will be used as an opportunity not only to grab powers back from our National Assembly but to reduce the amount of investment that we are getting in Wales as well.
Voice 2: Cutting edge projects, like rail electrification, like Swansea Bay Lagoon, are going to be burned on the altar of Brexit.
Mark Mardell: We'll hear what the Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has to say about that. 
Then came the usual heavily one-sided report from Mark Mardell where - despite Wales (including Swansea) voting Leave - MM simply presented us with a string of voices worried about/critical of Brexit. The one exception was a Remain voter who thinks things it won't make much difference to the success of his business one way or the other. If a single one of those voices voted Leave in the referendum I'll eat Mark Mardell's hat (if he's got one). 

Finally came the final scene of the usual The World This Weekend script - the 'balancing' interview. This was the Remain-voting Conservative minister Alun Cairns, now cast as the pro-Brexit 'counter' voice to all of these Brexit doomsayers. As always happens at this stage, the interruptions started flying in as Mark questioned the minister from the perspective of those featured in his report. 

Job done for another week. Repeat again next week. 

Open Thread

The doors of Morecambe's Midland Hotel swing open to welcome you to another Open Thread. Please come inside and partake of a cocktail in the rotunda.

Oh, Boris!

Andrew Marr certainly got himself a headline-making scoop this morning, getting Amber Rudd to agree that Boris was behaving like a "back seat driver", as well as getting her to talk about him as if he was an overexcited child, or dog. ("Aww, Andrew, he's soooo full of enthusiasm and energy, bless him! And he can be reeeally entertaining too!", she almost said - several times). 

Boris was certainly the main story this morning for AM's programme. Andrew's introduction began as follows:
It's strangely easy to forget, but as a country we are under attack. The Parson's Green bomb was the fifth terrorist attack this year and the police say they have foiled another half a dozen serious plots. You'd think that would dominate today's front pages - but no, Boris Johnson has lobbed a verbal firework into the Brexit debate and snaffled the headlines. Oh, Boris! 
Well oddly, today's front pages, contrary to what Andrew said, were actually dominated by the Parson's Green terrorist attack. The Observer, the Sunday Express, the Daily Star on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror led with it. The Sunday Times led with tuition fees, not Boris, but actually put the Parson's Green story first on their front page. The Sun on Sunday and the Sunday People went with their own stories. Boris only led the Sunday Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday. Oh, Andrew!

Jokes on Sunday

(Mostly garnered from this amusing corny Twitter feed. One I heard a few times on my holiday in Spain. Can you guess which one?)

  • Took the shell off my racing snail. Thought it might speed him up. If anything, it made him more sluggish.
  • My wife accused me of being a transvestite. So I packed her things and left.
  • Have YOU had to walk 500 miles? Were you advised to walk 500 more? You could be entitled to compensation. Call the Pro Claimers now!
  • A Muslim strip club in Benidorm. The Muslim stripper comes out. The crowd gets rowdy. Suddenly someone cries out, 'Come on love, show us your face!'. And then the chant goes up, 'Get your nose out for the lads!'
  • I went to the doctors with hearing problems. He said, "Can you describe the symptoms?" I said, "Homer's a fat bloke and Marge has blue hair".
  • My wife told me women are better at multitasking than men. So I told her to sit down and shut up. Guess what? She couldn't do either!

And the biggest joke of all...

  • If you don't have a TV licence, you could get sent to prison...where you can watch TV all day, without needing a licence.

Sunday Morning Live

In other Sunday morning-related news, Sunday Morning Live had a very odd discussion on the question, 'Is religion dying out in Britain?' It was odd because there were 5 religious people on the panel (or on the video screen) who think it isn't and just one humanist who thinks it is. 

You can usually tell who's putting the 'unpopular' view on a BBC programme like this though, even when the panels are balanced. They tend to get challenged more by the presenter. Here the chap who thinks drinking alcohol is far less harmful than some people claim found himself on the receiving end of Sean Fletcher's sharpest challenges and, later, Kathy Gyngell of The Conservative Woman got the full interruption treatment from young Sean for espousing socially conservative views on the family. She also endured Sean telling her that people on Twitter will be thinking, "You are from another era", as they heard her views. (Charming!)

The Sunday Politics

The swallows must be getting twitchy. Autumn will soon be upon us, and all the Sunday morning political programmes are now back.

The Sunday Politics looks much the same, except for having a new presenter - Sarah Smith.

Smiley Smiley Sarah Smith

She may have to work on her wit and whimsy lest she makes it a glum watch every week. Dullness doesn't make for enjoyable viewing.

Will she prove as even-handed as Andrew Neil? Only time will tell, but she seemed even-handed enough to me today...

...with one possible exception: It will be interesting to see how she handles Labour Party interviews, particularly if there turns out to be a pronounced difference in how she treats hard-left and centre-left Labour interviewees. The pro-Corbyn interviewee today certainly got much tougher treatment than the New Labour interviewee. We'll see if that's a one-off over the coming months.

Also on the subject of The Sunday Politics...

Thinking again about Julia Hartley-Brewer's complaint on Question Time that she's "the sole Leaver on the BBC panel...most of the time" (which wasn't true about most of her QT appearances), that must have come about, in part, because of her appearances on The Sunday Politics where the three journalists on the panel each week almost invariably consist of 1 Leaver and 2 Remainers.

Indeed, scanning through the episode list for 2017, there have been 25 editions this year. Only one panel has been 'two against one' in favour of Leave. The other 24 have been 'two against one' in favour of Remain.

That's a striking imbalance.

Even the dodgy defence that Andrew Neil is assumed to be a Leaver and, thus, somehow balances it out (dodgy because AN was scrupulously fair on the Brexit issue) will surely no longer hold now that AN is gone, and I doubt anyone seriously believes that Sarah Smith is a closet Leaver.


This is curious. Both Sky News and ITV News are still leading their websites with the latest UK terrorist attack:

The BBC News website, in contrast, has relegated the story down its running order. (It's now a lower priority story than a piece on James Bond):

Meanwhile, and perhaps not coincidentally, Mail Online's main headline at the moment is:

Now, the Mail report is more cautious than its headline and adds caveats like "If true", but the question remains: Why is the BBC demoting the importance of this story at the moment? Is it because of where it could be heading?

Update 8.40: The story has now returned to the top of the BBC News website:

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A blast from the recent past

Regular readers of our little blog will perhaps recall our previous posts about the BBC's eloquent Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe and his many impartiality-busting reports about Hungary and the migrant crisis (and Brexit). 

His support for non-European migrants illegally entering Europe and his disdain for those who oppose their coming (the Hungarian government, the bulk of the Hungarian population, many Hungarian churches) is something his BBC reporting has never bothered to disguise. 

I've not heard him for a while but there he was on today's From Our Own Correspondent and a warm breeze of bias-filled nostalgia wafted across the Danube towards me like a memory of Tokay (a false memory as I've never been lucky enough to sample any).

I listened to him bang on about the migrant situation again this morning - his voice lowering as he described the baddies who oppose the mass entrance of people with names like 'Mohammed', his voice lifting as he described those making it through Hungary's tough anti-migrant measures (including some he's happy - on what didn't some like very long's acquaintance - to call his "friend") and those helping them do so.

And those Christian churches who don't want to bring in those migrants en masse are failing to show Christian charity, according to the BBC's Nick today.

If you read BBC Nick's Twitter feed (which he doesn't link to the BBC, despite his own website saying he's been the BBC's Central Europe correspondent since 1996), you'll see that he's no more impartial there. He's pro-immigration, anti-Brexit, Islamophile, pro-Soros, anti-Orban, etc, etc. 

If you then read the detailed posts we've posted about Nick Thorpe, you'll find most of those views reflected in his official BBC reporting. 

Were I an editor on a programme like From Our Own Correspondent alarm bells would ring over concerns about bias every time Nick Thorpe was asked for a piece. Evidently, those alarm bells don't ring for the team behind From Our Own Correspondent.

Maybe, it's his eloquence and mellifluous voice. Or maybe it's just the BBC being the BBC.

Another update

John Sweeney

There are times when you absolutely despair of the standards of reporting in this country. 

I certainly felt like that catching up with David Keighley's latest Newswatch posts about the sad death of a Polish man, Arkadiusz Jozwik, in Harlow last year and the BBC's atrocious reporting of it

A youth was sentenced for Mr Jozwik's manslaughter this week. 

Things, however, weren't as the BBC reported them. The BBC got it wrong.

It wasn't just the BBC of course - and Brendan O'Neill rips into the rest of the media at Spiked over this - but the BBC are a licence-fee-funded public broadcaster and their lapses were particularly egregious, especially John Sweeney's absolutely shocking Newsnight report, which, if you recall, ended like this:
ERIC HIND: (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .
JOHN SWEENEY:  Mention names!
ERIC HIND: But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er...yeah, it’s your call.
JOHN SWEENEY: Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons [violence and racism] have come together to a lethal result. 
The BBC asserted on the News at Six that the death of Arkadiusz Jozwik was the result of an "unprovoked attack". The court found otherwise, deciding that Mr Jozwik and his friend (both heavily drunk) had behaved provocatively, shouting racist abuse at a black man and at the English youths. 

The BBC asserted on Newsnight (through the mouth of Evan Davis) that Mr Jozwik was "beaten to death". The court found otherwise, concluding that Mr Jozwik had died from impact with a pavement following a blow from a single youth that was not intended to kill him. 

The BBC's Daniel Sandford on the News at Six asserted it was a "frenzied" attack. The court found otherwise. (See previous paragraph). 

Radio 4 Today reporter Dominic O'Connell asked the Polish deputy prime minister, "And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday. Do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?" - a linkage the court failed to find.

The whole tenor of the BBC's reporting was that 'people "fear" this was a racist hate crime provoked by the Brexit vote. (Both John Sweeney and Daniel Sandford used that form of words.) The court found otherwise, failing to find any evidence that it was a racist hate crime related to the Brexit vote - rather the reverse in fact.


Nigel Farage is understandably furious at the BBC's behaviour here - especially John Sweeney's - and no one, whatever you think of Mr Farage, could surely feel otherwise. 

John Sweeney and Newsnight owe him an apology for starters. Whether John Sweeney is big enough a man to give Nigel Farage such an apology is something that remains to be seen. It's to be hoped that he is.

(JS seems, however, to have forgotten the story completely, having tweeted nothing about the sentencing this week).


Hopefully the BBC will be held to account over this and will make a full and widely-broadcast apology. 

Such appallingly inaccurate and loaded reporting is hardly what the BBC is supposed to be about.

Accentuating the negative

Catching up with other matters (and with considerable thanks to a reader for helping me do so), the BBC engaged in some strange reporting this past week over Sir James Dyson's latest pronouncements over Brexit. 

Sir James was and is, as you'll probably know, an enthusiast for the prospects of a post-Brexit Britain, but you wouldn't have known it from the BBC's initial reporting of his latest interviews. 

Where Sky News was going with the headline UK should make a 'clean break' from EU, says James Dyson the BBC chose to go with Sir James Dyson expects no Brexit deal

If you read the BBC and the Sky reports side-by-side I suspect you'll agree that the BBC was bringing the negatives to the fore, turning it into a 'bad news' story, while Sky was presenting Sir James's views much more in the round. 

You'd think the BBC had an anti-Brexit bias from such reporting, wouldn't you?

John Simpson lives in hope

The Fallen Lady?

The BBC's John Simpson has written a heartfelt piece for the Telegraph about Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's 'Rohingya crisis' (as the BBC describes it) wherein the BBC's World Affairs Editor registers his conflicted feelings about the situation. 

He used to find Daw Suu "magnificent" but, like many others of his way of thinking, is now seriously 'disturbed' by her silence over the treatment of Burma's Muslim Rohingya population.

He's hoping for the best though. He clearly can't bring himself to give in to his deepest fear - that she's not the "captivating" liberal woman he used to fervently believe she was. 

He's still hoping she's actually sympathetic to the Muslims and is about to unleash the full force of her former moral authority at the UN to make everything right again.

He may not have noticed the much-reported comments that Daw Suu's reaction to being grilled by Mishal Husain last year was to complain afterwards, "No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim". 

Committees and Panels

For those who are hoping that Parliament might closely scrutinise the BBC's output for bias over their Brexit coverage then the new composition of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee will probably prove a deep disappointment. 

It's eleven members all opposed Brexit in the EU referendum (though one of its members, Julian Knight, has subsequently taken up cudgels against the BBC's negative reporting of Brexit).

That almost makes BBC panels look balanced. 

Julia in the Remainers' Den

Talking of which, Julia Hartley-Brewer raised that very point about BBC panels on this week's edition of Question Time. The famous David Dimbleby naturally leaped in instantly (in the manner of all BBC presenters whenever the BBC is criticised):
Julia Hartley-Brewer: The reality is, that's not what the British people want, that's why people like me...and I note, once again, that I'm the sole Leaver on the BBC panel...
David Dimbleby: (interrupting) How often are you the sole Leaver on a BBC panel?
Julia Hartley-Brewer: Most of the time...
David Dimbleby: (interrupting) Every time you've been on this programme you've been with Nigel Farage as far as I can see. (Laughter from audience).
Julia Hartley-Brewer: I've never been on the panel with Nigel Farage.
David Dimbleby: Have you not? Have you not?
Julia Hartley-Brewer: Never. Never.
Checking back, Julia has been on Question Time ten times, first appearing in 2004, and, yes, David Dimbleby was wrong. She has never been on the panel with Nigel Farage.

That said, in the past ten years she's only once before been the sole Leaver on the QT panel (8 May 2015) and in the run-up to the referendum (25 February 2016) was actually on a panel where Leavers outnumbered Remainers.

But there are plenty of other BBC panels she's been on besides QT panels. She could be right about those.


A friendly fire incident occurred yesterday on Twitter between the BBC's World Affairs Editor and the BBC's Silicon Valley reporter following the Parsons Green terrorist attack:

That didn't go down too well with the irascible John Simpson:


Hugh Sykes (r)

Having only just come back from a holiday in sunny Spain I thought that the best way to catch up with the news and see if I'd missed anything important was to click onto Twitter and see what the usual BBC suspects were saying. 

The big news yesterday it appears was that Donald Trump had tweeted something objectionable. Oh, and that there'd been another terrorist attack in London.

Apparently, the big news (the Trump tweet) was actually about the other story (the terrorist attack), but the Trump tweet was unquestionably the bigger news event for these BBC tweeters. They certainly weren't impressed with the U.S. president.

Here's Hugh Sykes, for example, representing all the others:


Meanwhile, over on the BBC website Anthony Zurcher was adding his 'analysis' to the BBC's main article about the Trump tweet. This went through several edits to tone down its opinionated nature. The title 'Changing the subject' gained a question mark (changing it from an assertion to a question), and the paragraph:
Besides his London remarks on Friday morning, the president again blasted Senate procedural rules, called for his Muslim travel ban to be "tougher", said the fight against the so-called Islamic State should be "nasty", and slammed ESPN, a US sports cable network, for being too political.
was a purged version of what had originally read: 
The president's twitter feed on Friday morning was peculiar, although not necessarily surprising. Besides his London remarks, he again blasted Senate procedural rules, called for his Muslim travel ban to be "tougher", said the fight against the so-called Islamic State should be "nasty", and slammed ESPN, a US sports cable network, for being too political.
Still even these edits didn't tone its opinionated tone down that much it must be said. His 'analysis' still reads like opinion throughout... it usually does.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

'What they are doing' etc.

This morning’s Buddhist speaker on Thought For the Day,  Vishvapani, sounded like a self-hating Buddhist.  I’m using that term loosely, as one does. Another way of putting it is that he’s a kind of “AsaBuddhist” if you know what I mean. 
“The qualities Buddhists uphold, such as loving kindness, must extend to everyone, including minorities”
He was, of course talking about Myanmar (bad Buddhists) and the Rohingya. He wasn’t exactly dissociating “Burmese Buddhism” from true Buddhism, but he dearly dislikes ‘what-they-are-doing’ to the Muslims of Myanmar, the Rohingya.

A little long-winded

I’m sure James Naughtie would have thoroughly approved of that sentiment, because he too chooses to turn a blind eye to the political, supremacist aspect of Islam, not to mention its inherent Judeophobia. Well, he’s only following the general BBC consensus on that.

Alexander Gauland from the  Alternatif fur Deutschland party is expected to win a seat in the Bundestag in the upcoming election, and James Naughtie’s interview with him this morning was quite good as it happens. It proves one thing, which is that if you ease off a bit on the aggressive and overly adversarial approach, you get a better interview. Naughtie did indeed give the man space to make his case, which made a nice change. 

Alexander Gauland

The listeners who agree with Herr Gauland would have been pleased with the way he dealt with the somewhat predictable questions that Naughtie put to him, while the others, arguably the majority, who might regard his party as Islamophobic and far-right (in the disparaging interpretation of the term) ought to have been delighted that he was given enough rope with which to hang himself, and they may feel he was hoist by his own Islamophobia. 

I thought the outcome was enlightening, therefore ultimately successful as interviews go. That’s the way to do it, as Mr. Punch might say.   However, there was little doubt as to where James Naughtie was 'coming from'. Somewhere blinkered.

“Who has to be sent back?” asked Naughtie - a passive-aggressive question if ever there was one.

“But most ordinary Muslims in this country want to be part of a functioning society”  asserted Naughtie, “to practice their own religion freely, something which you say is compatible with basic law. They don’t want to pursue Jihad against Germany, most of the five million….do they?” In other words, he made the fashionable  “Not all Muslims are Terrorists” manoeuvre.
For an answer Herr Gauland referenced the Turkish community. Despite having resided in Germany for years, they remain a ‘community within a community’ and still steadfastly support the increasingly Islamising Erdogan and have not really integrated into German society.

Then came the killer question: (a little long-winded, but you know what Naughtie’s like)
“But you know that for anyone looking in from outside, and indeed for many people in this country, there is a question that is raised, and it’s this: what is the difference between talking about Muslims in Germany, in the terms that you just have, and the way that people talked about the Jews in the 1930s?”
(emphasis added)
Obviously, any answer that might be given to such a question would be inadequate because the entire premise of the question was so misguided. There are simply too many differences between the Muslims in Germany and the Jews in the 1930s to enumerate them comprehensively and sufficiently succinctly to squeeze them all into a time-constrained Today Programme interview. Here’s the answer that Alexander Gauland actually came up with.
“That is totally different because the Jews were persecuted by the Nazis because of their race, we don’t discuss the race - the Jewish people who were persecuted by the Nazis were Germans since generations; look at some person like Walther Rathenau a famous foreign minister who was murdered here nearby,- he was integrated in the German society and the Nazis said, well, he is not a German, he is a Jew. That’s not (the same as) my problem.”

So, not a bad answer, but of course it doesn’t tackle another aspect of the dissimilarity between Muslims and Jews. The one that touches on the false allegation that ‘Muslims are the new Jews’. 
Of course the Muslims are not the new Jews at all. The Muslims share the 'oldest hatred' with the Nazis, so if the Muslims are the ‘new’ anything, it’s the new Nazis.

If the current anti-Muslim sentiment is in any way reminiscent of the propaganda against the Jews between the wars, it is only in a way that is completely superficial. It is a big mistake to be distracted by the superficial resemblance between growing anti-Muslim sentiment and the propaganda that vilified the Jews to such an extent that persuaded 'ordinary' Germans that the Nazis were justified in exterminating an entire race.
World-wide terrorism, and the violence throughout the Muslim world can be cited to justify anti-Islam sentiment, but to argue “Jewish equivalence” by citing “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians” and suggesting that that is the opposite side of a nasty coin is to ignore the terrorism and violence emanating from Islam, which necessitates the defensive measures taken by Israel that left-leaning Islam-apologists regard as obnoxious. 

Logic says that the people who disseminate that particular comparison view Judaism as a supremacist ideology as in, say, ‘the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion’ and I sincerely hope that doesn’t apply to James Naughtie   If it does, maybe he could devote an episode of his ‘meet the author’ series to it, if he could find the author. 

Another long-winded, passive aggressive, Naughtie type question effectively asked “how could you be happy, unsettling people who have lived in Germany for years, and dividing the country?”

“German society IS divided,” came the reply. “We have parallel societies, and we don’t want to enlarge the situation as long as Islam is not reformed, as, let’s say, the Catholic Church or the Protestant Church or the Anglican Church.

“None of the mainstream parties will work with you”

“No. But we don’t want to work with them”

There was another interesting item on the Today Programme, a two-parter actually, to do with science, which asked how much voice  the BBC should give to minority opinions.  They concluded that no matter what evidence or ‘truth’ was brought forth, people still ended up with the opinions that they set out with. 
So, not much point in me writing this piece then. I knew that.

Monday, 11 September 2017

'Arry Barry Batwan

I realise the BBC sees nowt wrong with the PSC, but what with all the recent fuss about extremism and hate and so on, one might think the commissioning editors would  be a little cautious about whom they choose to employ, especially at this-particular-point-in-time.

Over at Harry’s Place atl writer Habibi has posted a damning piece about Dateline London’s most frequently invited panel member, who also happens to be a buddy of the BBC’s Gavin Esler. 

Esler has recently quit hosting the Saturday morning programme, and has officially left the BBC to devote more time to writing books and retweeting uncomplimentary things about Donald Trump.

Yes, we’re talking about our old friend Abdel Bari Atwan. Craig and I have been writing about him for years. (See here and here)

Barry, as he is sometimes affectionately addressed, (or, as John Humphrys once accidentally spoonerised: “Arry Batwan” ) is openly antisemitic and believes Israel is behind all the ills of the world, let alone the mayhem and murder in the Middle East:
“He said the “Jewish lobby” was “extremely dangerous and is endangering the whole planet, the whole world”, and that it “controlled” the American Senate, Congress and media.”
He continually defends Hamas and Hizbollah and even has a good word for Osama Bin Laden. 
Yet the BBC employs him, allowing him to express his inflammatory and racist opinions regularly.

While I’m not a fan of ‘no-platforming’ people whose opinions I dislike, I can’t see any justification for offering him the BBC’s tacit endorsement and the credibility that is automatically bestowed upon Dateline London’s regular panellists. Having him as the ‘top guest’ speaks volumes about the BBC’s institutional hostility to Jews and Israel.

As I said on another thread, the commenters over at Harry’s Place aren’t quite as geeky about the BBC as we are.  After years of BBC-related specialist research we’ve absorbed an unhealthy amount of BBC-related detail, gossip and trivia. It’s the kind of ‘self-radicalisation’ that creeps up on you when you start delving into things. Craig suffers from a worse case of it than I do; that is to say he knows a great deal about matters BBC, and has a particular interest in Dateline London. 

So although there was much btl commentary on Atwan’s duplicity and extremism below the line at Harry’s Place, the realisation about the frequency of Atwan’s appearances on the BBC ’s Dateline London was  a little slow in coming. But now it has. Do go and take a look.  

three wise men

“There are two Atwans.
"The Abd Al-Bari Atwan [appearing] on CNN is completely different from the Abd Al-Bari Atwan on the Al-Jazeera network or in his Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily. On CNN, Atwan speaks solemnly and with total composure, presenting rational and balanced views. This is in complete contrast with his fuming appearances on Al-Jazeera and in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, in which he whips up the emotions of multitudes of viewers and readers."

And as H.P. btl comments are deleted after a week, here are a couple that it would be a shame to lose:

Maura Labingi 
Abdel Bari Atwan has been one of the BBC's go-to MENA 'experts' on Middle East politics for at least twenty years despite his long and well-known history of anti-Israel bias, anti-Semitism, extremism and duplicity.
At the same time the BBC have long since sidelined Hazhir Teimourian, the learned Kurdish former journalist from their own Persian service - I guess Teimourian was far too pro-Western and pro-Israel to fit in with the BBC house bias.
That said, we should never underestimate the sheer bloody laziness of news broadcasting producers and researchers. Their stories in every area are mostly sourced from pressure groups, PR companies and so on. Just pick up the phone and go to the same self-promoting and often deeply biased 'experts' you've relied on for years or even decades, it's much easier than actually doing the investigative work yourself or even finding a real expert.
You can be sure that more research goes into one of Habibi's posts than in into most broadcast journalism.
Hence Abdel Bari Atwan, hence Mohammed Shafiq, hence - straying wildly off topic - almost every Arts rentagob you can think of.

 My complaint to the BBC about the use of Atwan on "Dateline London" in March 2008 got this terse reply:
"I understand from your e-mail that you feel Abdel Bari Atwan is an
inappropriate choice of commentator on the BBC. I also note that you
would like to know if the BBC will continue to use Mr Atwan in future
While I am unaware of any forthcoming appearances of Mr Atwan on the BBC, Editors at BBC News make decisions on the use of contributors based on the BBC's editorial guidelines and as such will continue to use Mr Atwan at present if they see fit."

Is the BBC flouting its own 'no value-judgement' policy?

Not that I know much about the Rohingya, but I understand they originate from Bangladesh. It is said that they have been infiltrated by extremists who were responsible for instigating the recent crisis in Myanmar by planting bombs. This, they claim, was in response to persecution and discrimination against them by the Buddhists of Myanmar (formerly Burma.)

The progressives in the west had long revered Aung San Suu Kyi, seeing her as the epitome of saintliness. Now that the Rohingya have been forced to seek refuge in Bangladesh, she appears to be standing by and ‘doing nothing’ and not intervening to save the beleaguered Rohingya. In fact, she’s even tacitly defended the Myanmar military, citing, amongst other things, fake news (with all the connotations that has!)

For these reasons the progressives and liberals are deeply disenchanted with her. 

Another other long-held misconception has unravelled. It seems Buddhists are not inherently and uncompromisingly ‘pacifist’ after all. Other paragons of virtue, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu,  Malala Yousefzai, (and no doubt, from the grave, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela) have pleaded with Aung San Suu Kyi, begging her to ‘have a heart’. 

This tale has certain parallels. Is it me, or is there a smidgeon of deja vu about this sorry tale?
Where is UNWRA? Will the Rohingya and their descendants be granted permanent refugee status? Might this new ‘unprecedented’ refugee crisis temporarily divert the left’s righteous indignation away from the Zionist entity? 

A couple of days ago John Simpson had a good old rant about this topic. It wasn’t a report proper, but an opinion piece. Had it been aired under an Opinion Piece umbrella, like ‘A point of View,’ say, it would be fine - (or it would be if John Simpson wasn’t the World Affairs Editor of BBC News) 

He cited Aung San Suu Kyi’s heroism and resilience during her house arrest, and listed each of the above paragons of virtue, and even bragged about his meeting with her when she was still a heroine. 
Now disillusioned, he suggested that the Buddhists’ hostility to the Rohingya Muslims was due to their (the Buddhists') prejudice against all minorities.

To illustrate the reasons for his own disappointment he said: 
“When our own Mishal Husain interviewed her she insisted that there was blame on both sides.” 
He evidently judged that statement in the same way the BBC judges what they call Israel’s “claims”. Namely, with cynicism and disbelief.
“You will accept that there is a global fear that Muslim power is very great” 
said Aung San Suu Kyi in a clip from her interview with Mishal Husain. I think it’s safe to assume that neither John Simpson nor Mishal Husain would accept any such thing. Then he said disparagingly:
“Afterwards - a biographer said  of her - she muttered, ‘No-one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim’  “

In all I gathered John Simpson is deaf to allegations that the world has good reason to fear Muslims, and he was actually hinting at a kind of unseemly “Buddhist Supremacy.” 

In a resigned fashion he virtually admitted his own naïveté. 
“We all thought she was a saint. Maybe she’s just a politician after all.”  
As I said, I don’t know enough about the Rohingya to condemn them or defend them, but I do know enough about the BBC to question the decision to air such a value-judgement laden piece on the Today Programme, when such a thing goes against their own “no value-judgement” policy.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Is the BBC a lost cause?

As regular readers might know (or guess) I am a big fan of Harry’s Place. I only lurk, because I made it a rule not to acquire an online presence by commenting here, there and everywhere. I might do that when I give up this blog. Also, I’m too much of a wimp to create a load of sock-puppets and creative IDs and pretend they’re not me.
What I particularly like about H.P. is the palpable sense of ‘family’ below the line, which I think is pretty unique in the blogosphere. I’m not  saying I approve of the the vitriol, which can spring up all of a sudden for no obvious reason. It’s colourful I suppose, but that's the internet for you.

Lurkers like myself would probably have the impression that the general consensus on Harry’s Place is that the BBC is a bit of a lost cause. 
"Come on! Harry’s Place is a lefty blog," I hear you say. Well, it kind of isn’t these days, especially now, what with the rise of Corbynism. And, of course it’s a Zionist blog, and the commentariat are not just any old commentariat, they’re the M & S variety. 

So why am I saying all this? I nearly forgot. It’s about the BBC. However well informed, highly qualified, educated, literate and eloquent the btl H.P. family may be, they’re not all geeky about the BBC like we are. We seem to know all the presenters by name and can remember things they said years ago. (By the way, I see Jon Donnison is back reporting on hurricane Irma, as is Alan “I’m telling your story” Johnston.)  
So when Sarah AB wrote about Radio 5’s breakfast show, which tackled the BBC’s flavour of the month news item, namely the news concerning some members of the British Army belonging to the banned neo-Nazi organisation National Action, the discussion inevitably turned to Nicky Campbell. 

I know Nicky Campbell is, or used to be one of the pet hates of contributors to the Biased BBC blog.  If you search the site for ‘Nicky Campbell’ about 200 posts pop up, mostly concerning The Big Questions or Radio 5 Breakfast.
I myself wrote at least two of them, way back in 2011 or thereabouts.

"So nothing changes," I hear you say. "You’ve wasted about eight years of your life blogging about BBC bias, and had precisely zero effect." Well, that’s as may be, but in fact things do change. Have changed. For one thing The Big Questions has improved. I quite miss it when it’s off air. Is it that I myself have become more tolerant, or is it that the BBC has tried a little harder to get better quality guests? I don’t know, but when Douglas Murray agrees to appear on the show, it can’t be that bad. 

And Nicky Campbell is a good presenter. He handles the volatility much more competently than many a hardened BBC professional.  As to how much serious understanding of Islam-proper he has, who knows? He’s no scholar, nor does he claim to be, but let’s say he’s matured. Nowadays he seems less credulous when it comes to being taken in by the likes of Mo Ansar.

Here is another confession. I don’t listen to radio 5. I don’t even know how to tune in, should I suddenly decide I want to. I did follow the link on H.P. though, and I have to say the very tone of it wasn’t to my taste. I don’t want to be rude. Actually I do. It sounded dull, childish and irritating and I don’t think I’ll be visiting again. 
Many people on ‘right wing” blogs (you do realise that anyone right of Jeremy Corbyn is now considered right-wing) have mentioned the BBC’s disproportionate interest in the news about four or five members of the British armed services being investigated for belonging to a “proscribed anti-Semitic and homophobic group”. That’s it. That’s how the group is being described, as if the BBC believes that hearing about that particular duo of hatreds is all we need to know to ensure we are horrified at the very idea. Well, we are. But when identical dual prejudices are associated with Islam, as they famously are, it’s somehow deemed insignificant. I don’t get it. 

Incidentally, while we’re on the subject of BBC presenters, someone brought up Emma Barnett. She seems to be a BBC favourite at the moment, (you know how the BBC over-exposes its pet presenters till we’re sick of the sight of them) Grilling is Emma’s forte. One minute she’s demolishing Jeremy Corbyn’s  credibility, next she’s humiliating the gymnast Louis Smith for mucking about in a manner offensive to the Muslims. 
It’s indiscriminate grilling that grates. Yet we call for impartiality, and you can’t get more impartial than indiscriminately dishing out your grillings. Or can you? It may be technically impartial, but it seems unintelligent. Choose your victims wisely, is all I can say. 

Here’s Pat Condell. (H/T Daphne Anson)

I don’t think that would be popular on Harry’s Place, but it’s a damn sight more sincere than the feigned 'game' - ‘find the extremist’.