Saturday, 19 August 2017

Are we done with Sarah Champion?

When “former race tsar” Trevor Phillips spoke out “On abuse it's time to call a spade a spade” it caused a mere ripple. Did his words carry less weight that Sarah Champion’s?


What about Trevor Kavanagh? The backlash from his “Islamophobic” piece in the Sun mainly concerned his ‘extremely poor choice of words’. His critics felt “The Muslim Problem” sounded a little too much like “The Jewish Question” and by implication, well, everyone knows how that ended up.



Sarah Champion has received much publicity, mainly praise and support, for what turned out to be a short-lived bout of truth-telling. Her subsequent apology for her ‘extremely poor choice of words’ and resignation from her post in the Labour Party (did she jump or was she pushed) was equally welcomed and derided. 
Is she weak for caving in or was she strong for speaking out? We who will not be divided, are divided.

I thought we were done with Sarah Champion, but no.  The affair still simmers. People who agreed with what she said in the Sun  are still praising her for having the courage to speak out, despite her subsequent resignation and, if I may say so, imprecise apology. Exactly which words were the extremely poor choice? All of them? We should be told.

Most people assume she was silenced by Jeremy Corbyn, but 'they would say that wouldn’t they' because they choose to see her as a political martyr rather than a vacillating self-publicist. 

For the record, I too agree with what she said in the Sun and I don’t doubt that Jeremy Corbyn welcomed her resignation and probably encouraged it, yet I still see her as a vacillating attention-seeking self publicist.  I’ll just have to accept that if it takes a vacillating, attention-seeking self-publicist to initiate a taboo-busting debate about the relationship between Islam and ‘British values’ I’ll have to lump it. But I don’t much like it.

Sarah Champion’s initial fifteen minutes of fame came about via the documentary ‘Inside the commons.” The cameras followed her rushing eagerly round the HoC learning the ropes and getting to grips with being a new MP. She was entertainingly portrayed as energetic and driven; ready willing and able to ‘do good’. Fantastic free publicity for the brand.

I repeat, many people agreed with her Sun piece; it was about time someone came out with it, and as she herself said in the Sun:
“British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls… and it’s time we faced up to it”.
Or did she? Not quite sure - later she was to claim it was the Sun wot wrote it. Maybe the Sun fiddled with the original content, who knows, (they deny it) but assuming she did write, in the body of the piece:
“There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?”

No-one who has seen her on YouTube castigating Israel over ‘the Palestine issue’ and telling an audience of Pakistani men just how passionate she was about the Palestinians could accuse Sarah Champion of being an Islamophobe. The video was so good I posted it twice. I thought it was remarkable, partly because of the inappropriate way she was 'exercising her right to bare arms' and almost flirtatiously flaunting her ‘immodesty’.  Goodness knows why she would do that, when simply denouncing Israel would have been enough to guarantee unanimous support from that particular audience - some sort of committee of local councillors. Rotherham folk.
Her disgust for Israel was peppered with references to herself:  “to me” or “for me”- a habit that surely begs a psychological diagnosis. 

Even if the only MP  brave enough to say so is an attention-seeking opportunist, the truth is that there are issues (as Jeremy Corbyn might or might not put it) with British Pakistani men and underage white girls. 
Of course the term  ‘Pakistani men’ is a euphemistic one. It’s an improvement on the  BBC’s default ‘Asian men’, but technically inaccurate since the perpetrators in the Newcastle case were not solely British Pakistanis; some originated from elsewhere; the elephant in the room is their religious/cultural  backgrounds. They’re Muslims.

If Sarah Champion was genuinely brave, she might have called them ‘Muslim men’, but either way, be it Pakistani men or Muslim men, it did turn out to be an ’extremely poor choice of words’, or extremely unwise words from an MP whose constituents are predominantly Pakistani and Muslim.

Shortly after expressing pleasure at the way the Sun presented her article, she rowed back, claiming the Sun had fiddled with it, apologised for the article and promptly resigned as ‘Shadow Secretary of State for women and equalities’.

If you’ve got that feeling of deja vu all over again but are wondering why, it’s probably because Sarah Champion has form when it comes to resigning when she sees fit. 
For example, when she thought Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable, she quit  - and when that particular bandwagon appeared to be hurtling off piste she ‘unresigned’ again, resuming her post as  “Labour’s domestic violence spokesperson” (officially “Shadow minister for preventing abuse and domestic violence) first-hand experience, evidently, qualifying her for the post, though her role as perpetrator rather than victim would ordinarily seem something of a drawback. 

Because of my dismay at Sarah Champion’s shameless sucking up to antisemites (call me paranoid) I have probably monitored her roller coaster political journey with more interest than absolutley necessary, and I know I judge her negatively / see her through a negative prism and so on.

However, praising her courage for speaking out, and for ‘saying the unsayable’ is easy. For one thing it provides cheap ammunition against Jeremy Corbyn - as if more of that was needed.
It’s just a pity that there was so little praise for the courage of people whose words can genuinely be taken at face value on the numerous occasions they have spoken out and said ‘what Sarah Champion said’. 

Can one unequivocally praise Sarah Champion for her courage without her track record diminishing the impact of her words? Former MP Denis McShane believes so, for example.  Accuracy may not have been Denis McShane’s priority; for example he wrote: 
“My plea was triggered by a young South Yorkshire Muslim, groomed by British-based Islamists, who blew himself up in Tel Aviv in a failed terrorist mission.” 
Correct me if I'm wrong, but was he referring to the 2003  terrorist Omar Khan Shariff who I understand hailed from Derby?
  

In 2004 Denis McShane was a Foreign Office minister representing the same Rotherham seat where Sarah Champion is a presently “hard-working Labour MP”, and he believes she was badly let down and harshly treated by her political masters. Here is a passage from his Times article:
“No one came to me when I was an MP to speak about the awful sex crimes committed against local children by groups of men whose family roots lay, as is the case with much of the British Pakistani community, in rural Kashmir.”

Read on for more of his thoughts about the incredibly difficult question of sexuality in the Pakistani Kashmiri community.
However, according to Mr McShane, he learnt about the situation  in 2012, “when years of failure by Rotherham’s child-protection authorities to act against known abuse gangs” was exposed by “painstaking journalism” in The Times. 
But Sarah Champion was MP for Rotherham at the height of the abuse. To quote from an earlier article about Denis McShane in the Telegraph  “I was too much of a ‘liberal leftie’ and should have done more to investigate child abuse”.  

Surely if Denis McShane felt he should have done more to ‘burrow into’ the problem then, it might have occurred to him that Sarah Champion could also have done some burrowing, or that she appeared positively blinkered by showing far more concern about Palestinian children than about what was being done ‘right now’, by Muslim men to children under her nose. Did no-one at all in Rotherham raise the matter with their MP while all this was happening?  

I still see Sarah Champion as opportunistic, vacillating and irresolute, but her antics have attracted publicity to  the malevolence of Corbyn’s Labour Party and that’s almost enough to forgive her for everything. Almost.



Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Regrets

Goodness me. What is going on?  




Is this the end of the story





Discuss

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Open Thread


This isn't how I remember Tom and Jerry:
In the meantime, please post any thoughts about BBC bias below as usual. And thank you.

Charlottesville


I read a tweet last night:


Well yes. Here's something I saw cited at B-BBC:


I assumed the B-BBC link would take me to a blog-post by someone like the ever-righteous Katty Kay or the ever-sarcastic Anthony Zurcher - BBC journalists who appear to have carte blanche to be as opinionated as they like (for some reason) despite that whole 'BBC impartiality' thing - but no, the link took me to a bog-standard, byline-free BBC report instead.

So even bog-standard, byline-free BBC reports about President Trump now read as if they are blog posts by opinionated BBC journalists.

(Ed - Shock horror! As if that's really something new!)

******
Laura Bicker

Those self-same BBC types have been going into a frenzied overdrive against Donald Trump after what the BBC's Laura Bicker (on BBC One's main news bulletin) called his "failure" to denounce white supremacists for yesterday's violence in Charlottesville. 

I happen to agree with Laura there. I think it was a "failure" too.

That said, I'm entitled to express my opinions. I'm not a supposedly impartial BBC journalist. She is.

Yes, President Trump should have specifically slagged off the neo-Nazis, whilst acknowledging that, yes, the violence did initially come in roughly equal amounts from both sides until the neo-Nazi rammed his car into a crowd of protesters from the other side, killing a woman and injuring many more, of course - something which changed that equation considerably.

Slagging off people who bellow Nazi slogans ("Blood and soil"), give Nazi salutes (and yes they did give Nazi salutes!), spew antisemitic chants, march with torches, and tell black women to their face to 'go home' (complete with swear words), etc, is something a democrat ought to be happy to do - indeed consider it their duty to do (whilst simultaneously granting their right to free speech).

******

Back to the BBC though...

I'd challenge anyone who wishes to be considered fair-minded or objective to read any of the following Twitter feeds and then say that these BBC journalists are tweeting and re-tweeting as neutral, disinterested, purely objective reporters: Laura Bicker, Anthony Zurcher, Nick Bryant, Jon Sopel, Nick Robinson, Hugh Sykes, and Katty Kay.

Each and every one of them expressed (or 're-expressed') strong opinions galore there, and all of them said (or 're-expressed) pretty much the same things. They've been anything but impartial on Twitter.

Is this BBC groupthink in action? Of course, but shouldn't the BBC, which ought to promote democracy, be taking sides against neo-Nazis? Isn't it their duty to promote and protect democracy at the expense of totalitarians of all shades? So isn't this 'good' BBC groupthink?

Yes, of course, the hardcore 'antifa' types are deeply violent and have strong anti-democratic strains too, and it's significant (and predictable) that their violence, despite being much more pervasive, isn't dwelt on by the BBC anywhere near as much...

...but still Donald Trump should have distanced himself from the neo-Nazis - and questioning why he appeared to go all 'Jeremy Corbyn' by criticising violence from "all sides" (quite right actually) without adding that he personally abhors white supremacists (and any other shade of modern-day Nazi) and wants nothing to do with them, is surely appropriate questioning, isn't it?

Well yes, if it doesn't go beyond questioning into outright editorialising.

How fine a line is that?

******
Heather Heyer

As I wrote earlier, until a white supremacist terrorist, aping Europe's Muslim terrorists, repeatedly rammed his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a woman (Heather Heyer) and injuring many others, the equation of violence at yesterday's 'alt-right' rally in Charlottesville appears to have been fairly evenly spread between the fascists and the anti-fascists - both sides brawling, and clubbing each other, and chucking pepper spray.

A lot of the BBC's early reporting, from what I saw of it, acknowledged that in passing.

Only later did reports like Joel Gunter's begin appearing on the BBC website, painting a different picture of largely one-sided violence (from the violent far-right against peaceful anti-fascist protesters who, according to Joel, only threw bottles and chucked pepper spray).

And then came the terrorist attack from James Fields Jr.
******


Joel was a candle in the wind. By this evening any sense that the 'antifa' crowd had any violent intentions has vanished - if the reporting I'm seeing on the BBC News Channel is anything to go by. And it was all Democrats (not that the BBC report itself declared any of them as such):
Newsreader: One of the organisers of Saturday's far-right rally in the U.S. city of Charlottesville that resulted in a woman being killed by a car has been forced to abandon a media briefing following protests. Meanwhile the White House defended President Trump after it was claimed he didn't go far enough in condemning violence by white supremacists. Our North America correspondent. Laura Bicker reports.
Laura Bicker: After a violent day of division, Charlottesville has come together to pray, to show that this city condemns the hate brought here by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The Virginia governor went from row to row, hugging worshippers in this Baptist church. He promised to keep politics out of the pulpit, but there is a message he felt he had to give:
Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia (Democrat): It is about politics in that the political rhetoric in this country today is breeding bigotry.
Laura Bicker: The streets here simmered with tension yesterday before finally erupting into violence, as white supremacists gathered for a rally. The group, which included members of the Klu Klux Klan, said they wanted to take America back. Counter-protesters and anti-racism activists challenged them. Police tried to disperse the crowd but this day was not to end peacefully. A car, at speed, rammed into protesters. Shocked witnesses captured the aftermath. The crash killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who'd fought racism all her adult life. Many others are still being treated in hospital. Those who captured the scene on camera said they were not shocked the day ended in tragedy. The police have charged a 20-year-old James Alex Fields Junior with second-degree murder.
Brennan Gilmore (former Democrat aide): The Nazis who came to town yesterday clearly had the intent of causing violence. You don't come to town with shields and helmets and weapons and have a militia with automatic or semiautomatic weapons around their shoulders if you are here to peacefully express an opinion.
Laura BickerOthers, who have lived here all their lives, say the scenes do not represent Charlottesville, and they want politicians to challenge those responsible.
Dr. Wes Bellamy, Charlottesville deputy mayor (Democrat): It is important to call these people what they are - white supremacists. I don't understand why that is so difficult, that is what they are. They're not hiding this behind a statue, they didn't come here because of a statue, they came here because just as David Duke said yesterday, they came here to fulfil the promise of President Trump and take their country back.
Laura Bicker: This city did not want bigotry on its streets. Its people now want to remember those who died trying to challenge it and to keep the peace. Laura Bicker, BBC News.
******

(Is this a coherent post? Answers on a postcard to the comments thread below.)

A word from Anne Marie Waters's would-be stylist

The BBC is making a fuss about Anne Marie Waters being selected as a potential UKIP leader. To be fair, so are several other channels. 
In case you haven’t heard of her, she’s the Islamophobic Irish lesbian who once said Islam is evil. How very dare she say such an audacious thing. 
Anne Marie joins Tommy Robinson as one of the MSM’s pantomime hate-figures and just as Robinson is forever tied to the discredited EDL, AMW will always be inextricably linked to the one particular ‘stranded soundbite’ of a millstone. 


There is of course much more than that to AMW’s opposition to Islam, and the way she is currently being presented by the media says more about them than about her.  I’ve never voted UKIP by the way, principally (amongst other reasons) because it’s so amateurish. But then, which party isn’t at the moment. 

There are ten other (may I say obscure) candidates of whom no-one has ever heard. The exception is Peter Whittle who’s supposed to be the strong favourite to win, but if I may opine on the matter, I don’t think he has the presence to lead a party. He’s a nice man, but no.

For that reason alone Anne Marie Waters might stand a chance of making UKIP great again. With a bit of work, UKIP could be the anti-Islam Party as well as the party that exists to keep a watchful eye on Brexit.

Mike Hookem strongly disagrees with Anne Marie Waters

MEP Mike Hookem - (yes, the very same Hookem who lived up to his name by flooring former UKIP leadership contender Stephen Woolfe and hospitalising him; whereupon he (Woolfe) withdrew, not only from the leadership contest but from UKIP itself)  - Hookem has resigned in a self-sacrificial gesture of protest. (Although, won't all enraged UK MEPs  be out of a job soon?)

The BBC tells us “Former leader Nigel Farage has warned that UKIP will be "finished" if it becomes an anti-Islam party.” To me, UKIP looks just as “finished” if it doesn’t.

The media is making such a big deal out of this, partly because it’s the silly season and, apart from imminent nuclear armageddon, there’s not much going on. AMW’s eligibility to stand hardly seems uniquely controversial, given that Paul Nuttall stood on a platform of a ‘burka ban’, a policy that seems like more of a provocation than a grown-up, properly thought-through political strategy. I’d strongly advise AMW to drop that one; it’s too confrontational, too soon.  

Googling from the starting point that Anne Marie was a one-time prospective Labour candidate - and a lot of Waters have crossed that bridge since then - I came across Socialist Unity website circa 2013. Andy Newman’s article “Anne Marie Waters - the worst possible potential Labour PPC” indicates that he wasn’t too keen on the idea.  Do have a butchers.
Looking at the hard left’s impassioned defence of all things Islamic with one’s retrospective specs on, one can’t help wondering if those sycophantic, philo-Islamic sentiments are wearing at all thin with those particular authors.  Having witnessed terrorism, mass Muslim immigration, ISIS, Syria, grooming gangs and all the rest of it, I’d hope their attitude towards the matter is somewhat more thoughtful now.  At any rate, as trends go, I imagine an older and wiser general public is presently slightly more inclined to sympathise with AMW than with the Socialist Unity circa 2013. 

Here’s a theory. When many people voted ‘Leave’, Islam was very much at the back of their minds. It was forcibly driven back there for fear of being branded racist. “Suppress those bad thoughts!”
The acceptable, non-racist  justification for opposing free movement and mass immigration was “Numbers”.  “No room! We’re full! Eastern European immigrants, Polish plumbers, Bulgarian fruit pickers. They’re taking our  jobs/ housing /schools /hospitals.” But underlying all this rationalising was the (verboten ) fear of creeping Islamification.

In truth, the driving force behind the victory for “Leave’ was the awareness that continued membership of the EU meant mass Muslim migration was ‘coming your way’. Fear of non-Muslim EU immigration was the pretext. Displacement on a grand scale.

How about that, then? Feel free to disagree, as Craig is apt to say.

Maybe we’re not yet ready for an openly anti-Islam UKIP, but maybe one day we’ll have to be. 
  
Big smile

If I were advising AMW ( I don’t know why she hasn’t asked me yet) I’d say if you are serious about your leadership bid, you need to consider your image. If other politicians have to do so, then so should you. Rather than present yourself as an “I don’t care what I look like” lesbian, you might take a leaf out of the Ruth Davidson book. Get a decent haircut, a hint of lipstick and a tailored jacket. You can be smart and still be butch. Work on that troubled look. Big smile. 
Don’t think of Jeremy Corbyn as a sartorial role model. Even he has been known to dress to impress.
There. That’s my advice. Sexist and old fashioned, that’s me. 

Friday, 11 August 2017

When Jacob met James




News of James Chapman’s proposed new party, imaginatively called the Democrats, has been floating around for a day or so, but it was this morning’s performance on the Today Programme which set the www. buzzing. Guido has the sound clip. The BBC saw fit to introduce its customary balance by inviting the unflappable Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg into the studio as well.

I suspect listeners were more impressed by the ferocity of Mr. Chapman's interruptions and his somewhat hysterical delivery than by his message, which was roughly that:

  • He has several supporters or sympathisers including 7 ministers, including 2 cabinet members.
  • The Tory brand is damaged and can never again be elected. 
  • A Hard Brexit will make Black Wednesday look like a picnic. 
  • 60% of the Tory Party are/were for Remain.
  • The gap in the centre leaves people politically homeless.
  • We were sold a pack of lies during the referendum campaign.
  • Where is the £350?
  • Brexit is undeliverable and will be disastrous to the economy.
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg has captured my party.



Jacob Rees-Mogg managed:

  • The democratic process.
  • Undermining the democratic process.
  • The will of the people.

Anyway, one of the most un self-aware remarks one is likely to ever hear was John Humphrys saying indignantly  “Let him finish his sentence!”

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Misogyny: Pakistani style

Newcastle Grooming Gang


Is Sarah Champion as opportunistic as she looks? It seems like only yesterday that we were looking at the video of Ms Champion in her constituency (Rotherham) giving an impassioned speech to some sort of committee, mainly consisting of Pakistani gentlemen. A council meeting or something. Ms Champion was demanding that Israel must immediately stop slaughtering Palestinian children. Under the circumstances it seemed quite odd that she was sitting at the head of the table with a disconcerting amount of bare flesh on show. I mean, tut tut. A little modesty, surely.  
Condemning Israel must have seemed the most  appropriate way to serve the interests of her constituents at that time.

When the Pakistani grooming cases were coming to light, Rotherham in particular having occurred under her nose apparently without her noticing, Ms Champion switched her attention from the children of Gaza to the children in her own constituency and became the people’s Champion, with the welfare of children 'closer to home' as her area of special interest.

On the Today programme, having courageously announced that the latest scandal concerned mainly Pakistani men, she thought it was time someone did a study to find out what is going on. Are these cultural issues? Why are we not commissioning research to see what’s going on?

“Do we need the research?” asked Humph. “We know what’s going on.”

“We don’t know why it’s going on though” countered Ms. Champion as if she hadn’t seen any of the headlines that screamed: “ NEWCASTLE GROOMING GANG ‘White women are good only for people like me to use as trash’ "

Of course the BBC has been playing its usual tricks with this story, trying to make the main issue about the police using a convicted child abuser and rapist as an informer, and paying him a tidy sum for doing so.  I’d say it’s pretty obvious to (almost) everyone but the BBC that in this particular case the end (very probably) justified the means. (I don't want to stick my neck out here because I don't know all the facts) but this unfortunate side issue shouldn't be allowed to eclipse the main story.

The only thing ‘new’ is the fact that people are naming ‘Pakistani’ rather than Asian. This might seem like progress, were it not for the fact that people are reminding each other that some of the infamous 17 were from countries other than Pakistan. No-one has so far mentioned anything else that the men might have in common.

Poor Ms Champion is losing sleep over it. “because I know every time I talk about it the level of Islamophobia increases.” Hmm. Since no-one has specifically mentioned the religion of peace, why should that be?

Another Sara (without the H) was interviewed towards the end of the Today programme. Speaking to John Humphrys were the real life heroine of BBC one’s “Three Girls” dramatisation of the Rochdale sex abuse case, (played in the drama by Maxine Peake) health worker Sara Rowbottom, and Nazmin Akhtar, vice chair of the Muslim Women’s Expert (.....when it’s at home.) 

Rochdale Grooming Gang

The one common factor, opined the latter, is that the perpetrators are all men, targeting women. This is about misogyny, and nothing to do with you know what.

You absolutely couldn’t make it up.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Telegraph crumbles



We’ve long been aware that the Telegraph no longer merits its affectionate nickname 'Torygraph' since it turned sharp left. These days it’s virtually a Guardigraph.

Senior Telegraph reporter Andrew Gilligan has cross-posted one of his own blog articles on Harry’s Place, complete with all the details, proper reporter style. 

It’s a sad and worrying tale about the Telegraph’s weak response to aggressive ‘anti-Prevent’ activists, i.e., Islamists who oppose the government’s Prevent strategy.

The BBC is also involved. It aired a story about “Muslims being picked on” and falsely presented an activist in the ‘anti-Prevent Strategy’ group as an ‘ordinary’ parent. 

The Telegraph has adopted a gutless policy of total capitulation to vexatious games played by aggressive anti-government Islamists and has paid out considerable sums in settlement rather than fight. The total surrender of the Torygraph.

A woman scorned

I was in the mood for Poldark and Diana on Sunday evening so I watched Diana on Channel 4 till 9pm,  then switched over to catch Poldark on BBC 1 and finally caught up with the last part of Diana on Channel 4+1.  A kind of sandwich, courtesy of “+1”.

This could have been confusing as the plots were similar, being primarily about women whose husbands loved another. Eventually both Diana and Demelza emerged with glory as they were fundamentally strong women. It could easily be forgotten that one has sadly died and the other was fictional.


The Diana film got a pasting in the Times. Andrew Billen said it was  pretentious and trashy. 
But isn’t everything these days? It was a little ‘long drawn out’, but entertaining, if mainly for its archive footage of Diana. I don’t imagine it will increase the popularity of the future monarch and his good wife, but that will soon blow over. The best thing about the film was that it didn’t feature (or even mention) Paul Burrell.


Poldark got good reviews in the Times, and according to their stats, it won the ratings war. It’s fundamentally a strip cartoon with more emphasis on the ‘fun’ than the ‘mental’ and it has a couple of real bad baddies, particularly George, who is as blatantly evil than anyone in EastEnders.
As it’s a strip-cartoon it seems churlish to complain when certain fictional characters behave inconsistently, but surely George wouldn’t capitulate so easily, let alone be reduced to a quivering jelly at Elizabeth’s new-found defiance, when he had been so cruel and cold for the last few episodes? And surely Elizabeth wouldn’t swear a porky pie on the actual bible? 

There is to be another series. No doubt the BBC will squeeze it dry, as is their wont. They seem determined to do that with everything that proves a hit. They’ll probably introduce the obligatory quota of BAME and religiously diverse characters, just to finish it off completely.

Meanwhile, they could exploit the revival of Princess Diana themed entertainment by dramatising the latest conspiracy theory concerning mysterious circumstances surrounding her “murder“. This talk, by a far-right group named “Keep Talking” was to have been held tonight (I think) in Holborn, but the event has been stopped by police. 
“The Daily Mail reported that at a recent Keep Taking event had seen Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom  booked to speak, but that event was postponed after complaints to the council. 
Mr Kollerstrom was stripped of his research fellowship at University College London (UCL) after writing an article entitled The Auschwitz Gas Chamber Illusion for a known Holocaust denial website in 2007. 
A regular attendee of previous events put on by the group was James Thring who has links to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.  
Another earlier Keep Talking event was addressed by Piers Corbyn, the climate change-denying brother of the Labour Party leader. 
In a statement at the time, Mr Fantom said that the presence of the Labour leader's brother at the meeting was a "set up by the press in order to smear his brother", and that the "distortion and manipulation" was coming from "the Israel lobby”.

Can you picture that Diana-themed tale, fictionalised and dramatised by the BBC in strip-cartoon fashion, hopefully not set in Cornwall,  but with a full complement of baddies and very, very baddies.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Another update



Here's an update on a sad story you may remember from last year... 

In the months following the EU referendum a Polish man in Harlow, Arkadiusz Jozwik, was killed during an altercation with local youths. 

It was a big story at the time and there was frenzied speculation in certain quarters that it was a 'hate crime' provoked by the Brexit vote. 

BBC One's main news bulletins, featuring reporter Daniel Sandford, gave the 'hate crime caused by Brexit' angle a very strong headwind (transcript here), and John Sweeney on Newsnight also vigorously pushed the 'hate crime caused by Brexit' angle (transcript here).

Both DS and JS also vigorously tweeted about it at the time. 

Newsnight's John Sweeney report was framed by Evan Davis saying, "Also tonight: a Polish man beaten to death in Essex, could it be the latest example of hate crime post-Brexit?". 

John Sweeney himself asserted, "This is not an isolated experience. What happened here isn’t only a story of the ugly mood in our country post-Brexit. It’s also a story about antisocial behaviour, of people at night being afraid to walk down a British high street".

So, according to JS, it was a combination of the "ugly mood" post-Brexit and "antisocial behaviour" - a point he ended his point by repeating, saying "the fear is that two poisons have come together to a lethal result".

And those closing comments contained a particularly harsh charge - or, more accurately, a smear - against one particular UK party leader at the time. Here's how the interview ended:
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 have come together to a lethal result.
So what happened next? Well, the police, towards the end of last year, charged one youth with manslaughter and decided not to pursue the 'hate crime' charge. 

I spotted at the time that both Daniel Sandford (the BBC reporter who reported for the BBC's main bulletins at the time) and John Sweeney (Newsnight's man) each put out a short, factual tweet about it (minus the 'not a hate crime' bit), neither adding any further comment, and neither in any way repenting of their reporting sins. 

At the end of last month, the trial came to an end and the verdict was given. A boy was convicted of manslaughter and it's now clear that the fracas was a case of people drinking, youths cycling too close, an argument ensuing, a youth getting violent, a tragic death. Nothing to do with Brexit. 

Now, I will admit that I didn't see the BBC online report about it, even though I check the BBC News website closely. But, yes, there was a report about it (albeit a brief one).

I only found it after specifically Googling to find it, after a tip-off from David Keighley at News-watch, and I suspect that the BBC never made it a prominent story last week. 

The BBC online report fails to mention that it was widely - and wrongly - suspected of being a racist, Brexit-provoked hate crime at the time, and there's been no contrition from the BBC. 

Curiously, neither Daniel Sandford nor John Sweeney have tweeted about the outcome of the trial, despite both of them making the initial incident a major story on the BBC.

Nor have they reported the outcome for the BBC.

In fact, they've both been silent on the story. 

In fairness, checking his Twitter feed, Daniel may be on holiday as he's gone completely quiet. 

Not so John Sweeney though. There's no such excuse for him. 

He spent 31 July, the day of the verdict, tweeting away in a total frenzy. His concerns were Trump, Scaramucci, paintings he likes and animal videos, and he banged out scores and scores and scores and scores of tweets about them (as impartially as you'd expect - he says sarcastically) - but nothing, absolutely nothing, about the outcome of the trial for the 'hate crime' incident that he'd gone all sensationalist over for Newsnight last year.

And, as far as I can see, he didn't even notice the verdict. (Some BBC star reporter, eh?)

[Update: I hope she won't mind but I must share Sue's brilliant summation of John Sweeney's behaviour here: "Sweeney's indifference to the outcome of a story he had been so keen to Brexify".]

As for BBC TV - those BBC One news bulletins and Newsnight - which made so much of the story as a possible Brexit-related hate crime at the time - well, I've done thorough search after thorough search on TV Eyes (which picks up pretty much everything) and found nothing. Literally nothing. No follow-up reports on the BBC's News at Six and News at Ten. No follow-up segment on Newsnight. Nothing.

That raises serious questions: Why isn't the BBC setting the record straight here? And: Is it because it doesn't fit their narrative?

Well, I don't know but this is obviously either one of two things: It's either extremely shabby reporting or its extremely biased reporting. (Or both).

It's yet another sign that there's something deeply rotten in the state of the BBC.

News-watch pursued this energetically through the Cretan, Minotaur-filled BBC Complaints system and got lost in the BBC Complaints maze - a maze whose every dead-end features a large sign saying 'Not upheld'. I suspect they'll try again after this latest development.

RIP Subtlety

The strange death of subtlety.  Forgive my unsubtle wordplay, but two recent laments at the strange-but-true obsolescence of *subtlety* appeared in the press recently. 

Forget subtlety, nuance or shades of grey. Your opinions must be black, white, or squeezed into 140 character soundbites. You. will. take. sides.

Douglas Murray’s Spectator article  was titled: “Kevin Myers’ eager critics should feel ashamed of themselves.” 
I have to ask myself, was I an eager critic? I suppose I was in a way. But then again, I wasn’t. 
I agree with 99% of Douglas’s argument.  Kevin Myers shouldn’t have been ‘written off’, either as an antisemite or a ‘Holocaust denier’ for all the reasons that are set out in the piece.  Sacking him was unfair, considering the bile that so many others with far fewer redeeming qualities have been able to get away with recently. I mean much more ill-intended stuff. But in the current climate NOT sacking him would have looked almost as bad. What can you do? 

Maybe being socially ostracised is just collateral damage; the fall-out from recent events. He may merely have been a scapegoat, an example, a warning to others; beware.

However, where Myers has been given a little too much of the benefit of the doubt by Douglas is in his generous reading of those crass innuendos about Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz as “a joke along the lines of ‘They’re no fools, these Jews’. 
“The point I imagine Myers was trying to make would appear, if anything, to have been somewhat philo-Semitic.” 
That is stretching it a bit. I mean, as if! 
Anything can be made to sound straightforward or deeply sarky, according to delivery and context. But in print - nah. Risky and show-offy, as Douglas himself willingly admits. It was an ill-judged throwaway, and if not antisemitic in itself, it pandered to antisemites. And in his subtle and nuanced defence of Myers, so, in some ways, does Douglas. Some of the below-the-line comments testify to that.

Subtlety, RIP.

The other article is a more straightforward lament about the demise of subtlety. It’s by Caitlin Moran,  who concludes that “there’s little to be gained in making a nuanced point in what is basically a medieval marketplace.”

While making the broader point that civilisation is functioning a-okay, despite the conspiracy theories that have been ushered in by social media in what she sees as “The Golden Age of Paranoia”, Ms. Moran also addresses the fallout from the revelations about BBC salaries.  With less subtlety than the thrust of her article would intimate, she expresses her contempt for critics of the BBC.
“But what surprised me, […]was the sheer number of people, from the left and the right, who were convinced the BBC was a wholly corrupt news organisation, devoted to perverting the truth and screwing the public.”

Oh noes! How can that be??

Is it not deeply ironic that the author of this Tweet concerns herself about the strange death of subtlety?

The BBC likes their 'bad boys’. Perhaps we’ll soon be watching Kevin Myers reviewing the newspapers and being controversial on the panel of Question Time or on the Daily Politics.


Anyway, I like subtlety. It will be back.

Light Relief


This should have been the 'funny video' for the latest Open Thread, if it had come on time. 

It's the BBC's Simon McCoy showing all the necessary enthusiasm for a report about surfing dogs:
Now that's how to frame a report like that!

We'll tak a mug o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne



Being up with the blackbird for an absurdly early start at work I heard this morning's Farming Today live, presented by one Dr. David Gregory-Kumar (recipient, several years back, of a 'You Betcha!' mug from our very own David Preiser. Wonder if he still has it?). I was so surprised by some of the statistics on UK salmon farming that I made a mental note to share them with you here. 

Farmed salmon - an industry that's been around for some forty years now - accounts for around 40% of the value of Scotland's food exports. It's worth £2 billion to the UK economy. This year it's set to become the UK's largest food export, with some £650 million-worth of salmon being exported to 64 countries. That's quite something, isn't it?

It's controversial though. Anglers and fish conservationists have big problems with it, and a fair airing of both sides of the argument was given today. (Credit where credit's due, and all that).

All very interesting, if you're interested in such things (as I am). And this fine feature apparently kicks off a week of pieces on Farming Today looking at salmon, which I won't be listening to live as I ain't getting up that early for work again any time soon, if I can possibly help it! 

I've got my fingers firmly crossed though that there will not be a feature this week focusing on 'concerns' that salmon will stop jumping up rivers like the Severn, the Lune, the Tweed, the Tay and the Dee or some such thing after Brexit as I really don't want to start worrying that my supply of wild salmon, caught on Lune by a friend, will dry up simply because I failed to heed the wise words of white, middle-class, tuition-fee raising old men like Sir Vincent Cable.


By the way, David G-K, a self-professed "salmon enthusiast", says that he'll be "once again standing with other salmon enthusiasts by the River Severn, just south of Shrewsbury, "watching the salmon fling themselves up over the weir as they arrive back from the icy Atlantic and head up the warmer river waters to spawn". 

Sounds like a good day out to me. Maybe I should pop down, surprise him, say 'hello' and ask him about David's mug - unless, on popping down, I immediately see him drinking from a 'You Betcha!' mug, in which case I won't bother, and will have to talk salmon and BBC bias instead. 

P.S. Talking about salmon...

I'm just watching the sunset tonight over Morecambe Bay from my window. 

A few minutes ago the sky was a mix of light blue, incandescent orange and dark grey clouds tinged with purple. Now the light blue has spread, the orange has turned salmon pink and the shrinking clouds (just declared "the globe's most purple clouds" by the Guinness Book of World Records) are turning deep purple. And now the salmon in the sky has returned to the sea (unlike actual adult salmon who, if they succeed, make love upstream to the crooning of Fish from Marillion and then, alas, die. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis) and it's all weak light blue, a weary time-for-bed patch of halfhearted yellow, and micro-clouds where the purple is becoming grimly, brush-your-teeth grey again (prompting the purple-obsessed Guinness Book of World Records mob to shake their heads and walk off in disgust).

I do love living in Morecambe.

Open Thread

Here's one for the Chinese and the Indians at the moment (and it's nothing to do with food):
And while they're busy sorting that out (with John Simpson's help?), here's a new open thread.

Thanks, as ever, for your comments and support. 

The real reason (Update)



Overkill


Libby Purves, writing in The Times, makes a good point I think:

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The MSM clears itself



Poor old John Simpson. He reads a piece in the Observer (naturally), sends out a tweet:


and fails to find that his Twitter audience has fully appreciated it. 

Indeed, his Twitter audience has been downright unappreciative in response.

People are saying that his tweet is "arrogant", that the 'Observer' piece doesn't "show" anything; it merely "claims", that JS has "lost his marbles", that the BBC is biased, etc. Others are being downright sarcastic (e.g. "This is the kind of honest introspection your industry needs John"). 

The Observer article in question - a long read - certainly defends the likes of the BBC. The author, Andrew Harrison, thinks that they getting it about right, and aren't biased. 

Naturally (as you do) I followed the links to see who Andrew is. He belongs to Remainiacs. ("REMAINIACS is a no flim flam Brexit podcast for everyone who knows that leaving the EU won't be un morceau de gateau. We're not sick of experts and we won't shut up and get over it.") 

Incidentally, one of the voices featured in the article is Newsnight editor Ian Katz. He acknowledges some problems. Here's part of what he had to say:
“It’s plainly the case that shows like ours could benefit from a greater degree of diversity,” says Katz, “not just ethnic diversity but of background, class and education. It’s a criticism that hurts because it’s got some truth to it.” Viewers need to see people on TV who look and sound like them if they’re going to be confident in what they hear. Katz describes an endless battle to ensure that Newsnight discussion panels are not solely composed of middle-aged white males. “If you were in here, you would see us with our heads in our hands looking at the guest list going, ‘This is ridiculous’.”

Martin Bashir makes a point


The go-ahead Bishop of St. Albans

Radio 4's Sunday featured the following exchange this morning:
Justin Welby: I'm really quite bowled over by the genuine level to which Uganda has accepted a volume of refugees which, proportionate to their population, is the equivalent of us taking, I don't know, two-and-a half to three million. And this is in a poor country that's led by the president who says, "We don't use the word 'refugees'. These are fellow human beings, fellow Africans". And what a challenge it is to our own politics!
Martin Bashir: Do you mean by that that it's a contrast with some of the rhetoric that we've heard perhaps since the referendum?
Justin Welby: I think it's a very powerful contrast, but some of the political rhetoric is so much in contrast to the rhetoric we heard today, which we saw lived out in communities that are by any European standards poor beyond our imagining. 
Martin Bashir's question there showed him taking the opportunity to make a point. 

The programme also ended with a discussion about Brexit, framed in the following fashion: 
Good morning. On this week's Sunday a Church of England bishop goes head to head with the Farming Minister over  his fears that mishandling Brexit could bring about a food crisis in the United Kingdom.
It has to be said though that the The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith, considerably toned down his language during the actual discussion with George Eustice, which was handled fairly by William Crawley. 

Fisking Roger Bolton


Funny old statement from Roger Bolton on this week's Feedback:
But first a political earthquake with devastating consequences: On August 15th 1947 British rule on the Indian sub-continent came to an end and it was partitioned into two countries: India, predominantly Hindu and Sikh, and Muslim Pakistan. 
Well, India is not "predominantly Hindu and Sikh". It's predominantly Hindu, yes, but Sikhs have always been a much smaller minority than Indian Muslims. The latest census shows that India is 80% Hindu, 13.4% Muslim and just 1.9% Sikh.

A small point, but there you go!

What was the real reason for the 2017 general election? Andrew Marr provides the answer


Is this common knowledge? Is it true?


P.S. Fans of Twitter exchanges might enjoy this, presently still ongoing:
Jim Al-Khalili: Reminds me of time on hol in Med when I was mistaken for @MarcusduSautoy. But then he was once mistaken for @ProfBrianCox. Go figure. 
Thomas Morris: When I worked at the BBC I was once approached in a bar and called a tw*t by a man who'd mistaken me for @bbcnickrobinson. 
Nick Robinson: Sorry. No-one has ever said that to me! Other things...Think someone approached @AndrewMarr9 to say "You look like Andrew Marr you poor sod". 
Andrew Marr: What happened was: Man in supermarket pursued me from aisle to aisle, silently. Then suddenly popped up at the cashier and said, "Ere you look just like that Andrew Marr (longish pause)... you poor sod!" Which I found curiously  difficult to respond to.
P.S.S. And for those who like Twitter rants from BBC journalists, here's BBC World's Julia MacFarlane describing her flight today (well, it made me laugh anyway):  

  • No clearer sign of the decline of @British_Airways than their codesharing with Vueling, rickshaws of the skies. Makes EasyJet look luxurious. 
  • So many children are screaming and a woman is fighting with a man because he clipped a hole in her jumper. It's like feeding time at the zoo. 
  • Now a spotty Spanish teenager is testing my patience and sanity by playing the drums on the back of my seat with an empty drinks bottle.
  • He's going to get a proper Scottish lamping if he doesn't cease and desist.
  • If things couldn't get any worse, someone in the row behind sounds like he's contracted bubonic plague.
  • He just coughed up a galleon of phlegm and I am searching for something I can use to end my life.
  • If this plane crashes may my final tweets please be used in the court case to shut down this god awful airline.
  • Never even heard of Vueling before today. Is it even real? The plane, judging by its state, appears to predate the magna carter.

Weekend Ramble (II)


What else?

******

John Simpson is aghast again:


He didn't link to precisely what he was aghast about so, naturally, I Googled, and I'm guessing he read about it in the Guardian. They published a piece about it some three days before JS's tweet, and they were aghast too.

Weirdly, the Guardian didn't note that this "hate-filled" NRA video was posted three months ago. (It's been on YouTube since 10 April). 

When I read JS's tweet I (naturally?) assumed it was a piece threatening the NY Times with violence, what with the NRA being a gun lobby. What else could provoke such an extreme reaction from the BBC man?

But then I watched the video, as you can too, and - as I suspect you'll agree, having done so - that JS, the BBC's World Affairs Editor, was swallowing a Guardian angle hook, line and sinker without engaging either his ears or his brain. 

Seriously, please watch the video and then re-read JS's tweet. What did the NRA lady, Dana Loesch, threaten to do to the NY Times?  She 'threatened' that the NRA would "fisk" the NY Times, "laser focus" on their journalism.

And, yes, that's it! That really is all she 'threatened'.

(Maybe JS doesn't know what 'fisk' means? Maybe he thinks it means 'shoot'?)

Is John Simpson losing the plot? 

I hate to keep criticising him, given all of the brave work he's done for the BBC over the years and his obvious fundamental decency, but he does seem to be going seriously off the impartiality/credibility rails at the moment. 

He probably should have kept off Twitter. It's doing his reputation no good whatsoever.

******

David, in the last/present open thread (well, the one with the ducklings), pointed to a fascinating Proms-related story - one that I've also been following closely over the last few days after listening to the Prom in question.

Our friends at the BBC presented us with a concert containing two pieces. In the second half came the annual performance of Beethoven's glorious Ninth Symphony, which - partly due to a pro-EU stunt earlier in this Proms season but mainly due to post-referendum mania - has recently become far too entwined with its offshoot, the EU anthem (a fit of madness that will hopefully pass very soon). And in the first half came the European premiere of Sir James MacMillan's European Requiem

Many people saw that programme, put two and two together and made five. 

Sir James is an admirer of European culture not the EU. And both Sir James and his good friend Damian Thompson at the Spectator have made it very clear that this piece was not an anti-Brexit piece. It's a piece by a Catholic composer about the common European tradition of writing requiems, strongly tinged with elegiac concerns about the fate of European civilisation.  

The BBC appears to have been at the forefront of those putting two and two together and making five. 

Damian was not wrong in describing the BBC's presentation on the night. Sir James, being interviewed by the BBC presenter, kept having to insist it wasn't a Brexit-related requiem and the presenter rode the applause at the end by saying ‘as a young man James MacMillan had a lot to say politically and his work was rather politically engaged but over time that has rather changed’ - which Damian notes is "nonsense". James MacMillan has simply moved from being a politically-engaged left-winger in his youth [much favoured by the BBC] to being a politically-engaged right-winger in his middle years.
But the BBC can’t get its head round the notion of an internationally renowned composer who believes, as MacMillan does, that Europe needs defending from ‘the self-hating, elitist Left’ and ‘the incoming Islamofascist Right’. So it doesn’t try. 
The headline to Damian's Spectator piece sums up his piece very well:
The BBC Proms broadcast a piece of gloriously subversive new music – without realising it.
I suspect that's true.


And it was a superb piece too, which I've been listening too again and again in recent days, enjoying it ever more and more with every listen. 

The interval of the concert was a discussion about Europe between two BBC 'new generation thinkers' who weren't fans of Brexit (being "turfed out" of "Europe") - something that will only have added to the impression that the BBC intended this as a pro-EU blast of the trumpet (featuring lots of actual trumpets).

The BBC is a strange old beast at times.

******

Musical joke (courtesy of Les Dawson): "I toyed with the idea of playing Ravel's Pavane pour une infante defunte but I couldn't remember if it's a tune or a Latin prescription for piles".

******

It is very easy hereabouts (but not here, I hope!) to slip into the habit of mentioning (in passing) some piece of fine BBC reporting which goes against the bias we expect from the BBC and then instantly shrugging it off by mockingly saying (or implying) that such reporting is so untypical of the BBC as to make the BBC even more guilty than it already was!

Radio 4's The World at One has pursued a UK public relations company over four editions this week for helping Jacob Zuma play the 'anti-white race card' in South Africa. The company has now apologised, and BBC reporter Manveen Rana merits the credit for reporting that and for pursuing it so vigorously.

A BBC online report can be read about it here.

******

I'm still listening to Tweet of the Day. (As a slightly obsessive bird-lover, how could I not?). It's a while since I've blogged about it though (for some strange reason).

Alas, it's gone all celebrity-based recently. Less natural history, more personal (celebrity) anecdote.

(A parable for the BBC as a whole?)

That said, Olympic gold-medal-winning rower Alex Gregory's tale of Sparky, his childhood pet - a female house sparrow he rescued and took care of - warmed the cockles of my heart.

She loved scrambled egg, and couldn't get enough of it. She quickly learned to fly and flew into the trees but would always come when her name was called and land on Alex's shoulder. But then, sinking heart!, a story all too familiar to lovers of garden birds, two years later, one day, she didn't reply to his call. And never did again. Deep sigh. 

It's one of the joys of this year that I've not seen as many sparrows in my garden for years. They've done well.

******

That said, we're all doomed. Or at least many of us, possibly even Sparky's descendants.

Why? Well, according to the main report about the story on BBC News website this morning, extreme weather - the result of climate change - really has it in for us. We're going to die in our hundreds of thousands by the end of this century, every year.

The funny thing about this is the photos the BBC chose to accompany its article. They made me laugh, especially the final one.

Writing this piece I returned to that article in order to list the photos, but one of them had gone.

Yes, one of the BBC's photos is missing!

The picture of low levels of water in the River Po remains. The picture of flooding in Southern Germany remains. The picture of woodland fires in Southern France remains.

Now, yes, all of these might be signs of climate change or might just be occasional weather events. We'd probably need to know how regular or irregular all three of the above are to properly judge.

Regardless of that, the final picture is one I'm struggling to remember, given that the BBC got rid of it - even though it was the one that made me laugh out loud because it seemed so OTT. It contained lots of ice and was somewhere far from the Poles.

Did anyone else see it? Does anyone remember exactly what it depicted? (Oh, how I wish I'd 'snipped' the image at the time! And how I wish my memory was sharper!).

Update: I'm pretty sure it was a snow-and-ice bound Alpine resort.