Sunday, 31 December 2017

How fake news plagued 2017

Georgina Rannard

Ah yes, fake news!

Never mind about Lord Adonis's famous career as an elected MP (fake news!),  Georgina from the BBC has a 'thorough' review of this year's fake news for you on the BBC News website.

Or at least the kind of fake news that the BBC considers 'fake news'.

Read it and you'll come away with the impression that fake news appears to come exclusively 'from the Right' and from social media ("right-wing blogs" get a mention).

What about 'respected' media outlets who messed up badly this year (the major US networks especially, who've had to fire staff for fake news reports about the Trump administration)?

And what about those "left-wing blogs" like The Canary, Skwawkbox and Evolve Politics who have been accused (often fairly) of pushing fake news? Why not mention them too?

InfoWars is, of course, at Number One in Georgina's run-down, followed by 'the Muslim girl on Westminster Bridge'.

Naturally Georgina doesn't mention, say, the unravelling of the BBC's own fake news over the alleged Brexit-related anti-Polish hate crime in Harlow that turned out to be no such thing, and which was even worse than 'the Muslim girl on Westminster Bridge' in that it wasn't just some Russian bot insinuating something that wasn't true but the 'respected' BBC itself insinuating something that wasn't true. 

(The BBC's reporting over this is considered biased, though the BBC disputes this.)

It's an easy game, this cherry-picking, isn't it? 

Take the beam out of your own eye please, Georgina.

Hurray for 'Hootenanny'!

As it's New Year's Eve, I thought you might like to read John Dugdale in The Sunday Times (eagerly) looking forward to that BBC festive staple (though I've never watched it), Jools’ Annual Hootenanny

Guess who?

And to round off today's string of posts about this morning's Broadcasting House on Radio 4, can you guess which three public figures the programme selected to express their hopes for 2018?

(Samira Ahmed will be pleased. Nigel Farage wasn't among them).

Well, there was space scientist Monica Grady, League of Gentlemen member Mark Gatiss...and, somewhat provocatively, anti-Brexit crusader Gina Miller.

Yes, that Gina Miller!

Gina, naturally made the kind of anti-Brexit point you - and, surely, the BBC too - would expect her to make.


Paddy O'Connell mounts his high horse and promptly falls off

Lord Adonis

Returning to this morning's Broadcasting House on Radio 4, I really do have to note this startling confrontation between presenter Paddy O'Connell and Leave Means Leave co-chairman John Longworth: 
John Longworth: I find this quite remarkable because Lord Adonis, of course, is a classic example of somebody's who's not been elected, has been appointed, doesn't represent anybody and is a classic of the Whitehall problem which is...
Paddy O'Connell: [interrupting] But he was a minister, he was elected, he was an MP.
John Longworth: Well....he has been in the past...yeah...
Paddy O'Connell[interrupting] But unlike you and me he has been elected. 
John Longworth: He has been in the past...
Paddy O'Connell[interrupting] That's a point of fact! He has been!
John Longworth: OK, OK, fair enough, but...but...
Paddy was very assertive there and temporarily put Mr Longworth off his stride.

But there's one major problem with his rant at Mr Longworth: He was wrong.

Lord Adonis has never been elected as an MP. He tried to become an MP but didn't succeed. The only time he's ever been elected was in 1987 when he was elected (for four years) for the North Ward on Oxford City Council. He was appointed to the House of Lords in 2005, making it possible for him to become a government minister.  

Hopefully Paddy will start the New Year on next week's edition of Broadcasting House by publicly apologising to Mr Longworth and putting the record straight for Radio 4 listeners. 

What Jeremy Vine Learnt, plus Samira Ahmed's Nigelophobia

Someone Samira Ahmed wants to hear less from

This morning's Broadcasting House featured an opinion piece from Jeremy Vine (brother of comedian Tim Vine) based a book he's going to publish next year called What I Learnt: What My Listeners Say - and Why We Should Take Notice

Jeremy's argument was that the views of you and I are more valuable than those of experts. Experts have disgraced themselves over everything from diesel in cars, to fat 'making us fat', to the financial crash of 2008; indeed, they've done serious harm. He'd rather hear first-hand accounts from the man and woman in the street than listen to experts, as the people have a wisdom derived from lived experience. He'd rather hear from the astronaut than the astronomer. "An expert in parenting is a mother of five. An expert in Lyme Disease is someone who's had it for five years. An expert in ladders if someone who's fallen off  one." This is the future, he said.

Well, well! Jeremy Vine the Populist!

What followed was a lively discussion between expertophile Samira Ahmed of the BBC's Newswatch (who disagreed strongly with Jeremy) and expertosceptic Toby Baxendale of the Legatum Institute (who thought there was some truth in his argument). It's well worth a listen.

Incidentally, in the course of this discussion, Samira mounted one of her favourite hobby-horses again. Citing "viewers", she said, "They'll challenge, 'Why does Nigel Farage get on so often?'".

Now, as regular readers will know (see here and here and here and here and here), that's also Samira's own view, expressed umpteen times on Twitter over the past year or more. She doesn't believe it's "responsible" of the BBC to give him such airtime.

The discussion ended:
Samira Ahmed: What really worries me as a person listening to the audience is how often it's the same privileged people who are pushing their personal point of view. That's not expertise, and that's not experience either. Nigel Farage is not the experience of the nation. 
Paddy O'Connell: No. I think that is one is going to write to disagree with you there. Thank you very much indeed, both of you. 
Does anyone fancy proving Paddy wrong and writing to suggest that the man who led a often lonely-seeming campaign to get us a referendum on the UK's EU membership and whose apparently unpopular cause eventually received the support of 52% of the UK population (17.4 million people) might just reflect more of 'the experience of the nation' than, shall we say, Samira Ahmed? 

Another sign of the times

Another sign of the times. 

I'd already read a similar story in The Times, headlined The female NHS nurse I asked for came with stubble which began, "A woman who requested a female NHS nurse to perform her cervical smear test was “embarrassed and distressed” after a person with stubble and a deep voice summoned her for the intimate procedure." 

Being a good Guardian gal (if I'm allowed to say that), Helen declared, "But what we need to remember here [a very Guardian way to put it] is we're not talking about men. We're talking about transgender women who who've taken the very difficult decision, a very painful, costly decision, which will probably mean they're subject to a lot of abuse, to transition into a woman and I just don't think they'll be there to perv on woman in the changing rooms". 

So far, so predictable. But then came the two male press reviewers (if I'm allowed to call them that). The first said, "I'm not sure it's my place to comment on it". The second said, "Probably not" to Paddy's question, "Do you want to wade into these waters?".

Paddy read out feminist Julie Bindel's response. 


Interesting times. 

Nick Robinson has just tweeted a plug to his Mail on Sunday piece, From robots stealing jobs, to mob rule online – and even what it means to be a man or woman, 2018 will be a year of instability and uncertainty. And our so-called leaders have never been more impotent. 

Can you guess the response he's got from the outrage chamber on Twitter? 

Well, it can be summed up in just one phrase: "Oh. My. God. The Daily Mail!!!" 

Here's a flavour:

  • You are using #BBC account to promote Daily Mail. Inappropriate use of Public funds. Also trust in #BBC erodes with your actions. 
  • What on earth are you doing writing for the Mail?
  • Don't work for the Mail.
  • Shocking misjudgement to write for this vile rag.
  • Too much hatred, anger and intolerance - a large part of which has been fueled by the"Mails" - what on earth are you doing writing for that appalling group - very disappointing. 
  • Excellent article: just a shame it was in the Mail
  • I cannot believe you write for that hate rag...thought you were better than that.
  • I used to respect you. But the Daily Heil? Shame on you.

OMG,  the Daily Mail!!!


I was told at school that pointing is rude

Anyhow, here's part of Nick's 'opinion piece'/'impartial take' (the bit on Brexit and immigration):
Social attitudes are changing not just the roles of men and women but the very definition of what is a man or a woman. Much of this change has liberated millions from misery, poverty and oppression. Very little of it is, though, within the grasp of those who are theoretically ‘in power’. Take migration, and the flood of humanity that now seems perpetually on the move. 
A new forecast suggests that the number of migrants attempting to settle in Europe each year could treble by the end of the century based on current climate trends alone. It is against this backdrop that in 2018 we will have to debate the design of our new post-Brexit immigration system. 
The principles won’t be hard for most to agree to – an end to freedom of movement, open borders for those with the skills we need and new curbs on those with low skills. 
The questions will begin when we must ask what we mean by low skilled – does it include the barista who knows how you like your morning coffee or the waitress in your local pizza place, or what about the carers who look after your mum and dad? 
It will all be so much more complex and so much more important than the divisive and often preposterous row about the colour of our passports. 
Well yes, but if you frame it like that in advance - raising the question of the value of low-skilled immigrants in emotive language about "your mum and dad" - doesn't that already tilt the question in a pro-immigration direction?

Couldn't other questions be at the forefront of the BBC's collective mind, such as the impact of low-skilled immigrants on our own low-skilled population?

The choice of questions to prioritise can suggest bias, can't it Nick?

As for the bit about "the divisive and often preposterous row about the colour of our passports", well, you can read that both ways as far as who was being 'preposterous' over that, but it does betray, doesn't it (despite Nick's attempt to be non-committal), a telling disinterest in something that does matter to many Leave voters who deeply value the UK's sovereignty?

Leading the way

Maureen from 'Driving School'?

Who says ITBB doesn't lead the way in incisive commentary about the BBC? (Not me.)

Where I led on Christmas Day Peter Hitchens of the evil Mail on Sunday has followed on New Year's Eve (and with some brilliant jokes): 

As Nick Robinson would say, LOL!

Correspondents Look Ahead

As I've written before, I've been tuning into (and enjoying) Radio 4's Correspondents Look Ahead for decades now, and this year was no different. 

A few years back, in the early years of this blog, I posted a review of the predictions made on the previous year's edition and found them to be almost entirely wrong, and I had great fun pointing it out (especially at Paul Mason's expense). The post even got a mention on that year's Correspondents Look Ahead where I was cast as "a rather unkind blogger". 

Unfortunately for me, however, it backfired. I really do think that the programme became far more cautious - indeed boring - as a result, especially for the next couple of years when hardly any concrete (i.e. potentially embarrassing) predictions were made. 

Thankfully, especially as I've held back recently in pointing out the wrong predictions recently, we've finally arrived back the stage where caution is being thrown to the wind again - though, that said, quite a few of this year's predictions weren't exactly that daring!

Here's a list of the predictions for 2018. Should we all rush out to the bookies?


James Naughtie 
  • Donald Trump will be devastated by insider revelations about chaos in the White House.
  • The Democrats will win control of the House of Representatives in the November election.
  • Donald Trump's tax bill is going to prove "spectacularly unpopular with voters".
  • Russia will have a successful World Cup.
  • Joe Biden will announce that he's running for the presidency but won't win the nomination.
  • There'll be some form of internet collapse.

James Robbins

  • The Democrats will win control of the House in the November election.
  • There will be a Cuba+++ moment in South Korea with the mass evacuation of Seoul due to US/North Korean tension.
  • There will be "a non-disastrous rumbling on" of the Brexit talks. 
  • The UK government will suffer at least one substantial House of Commons defeat led by Remainers but will then narrowly squeak through a confidence motion and avoid a general election.
  • Russia will not have a successful World Cup because of its far-right and outside media scrutiny.
  • 2018 will be the year of renewables and batteries. 

Carrie Gracie 

  • Donald Trump will announce a series of "robust measures" to try to deal with the enormous trade deficits that the United States suffers in relation to China.
  • There will be negotiations on the Korean peninsula between China, the United States, South Korea and North Korea. A deal will be struck whereby North Korea agrees to freeze its nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for the US and South Korea "dialling back" their military exercises on the peninsula.
  • Either the Dalai Lama or the Pope will make a visit to China.

Yolande Knell 

  • The Democrats will win control of the House in the November election.
  • Donald Trump will launch and pursue a peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians which won't succeed.
  • Donald Trump will reimpose US sanctions on Iran but the Iran Nuclear Deal will survive thanks to its other signatories.
  • Russia's Syria peace conference will fail to bring about peace.
  • PM Haider al-Abadi and President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi will win their respective elections.
  • Yair Lapid (a "moderate") will lead the next Israeli government after the fall of Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Mohammed bin-Salman's popularity will drop with the young because of his austerity measures and the contrast with his own lavish lifestyle.
  • Mohammed bin-Salman to squeeze Jordan and the Palestinians over accepting the terms of a Trump peace plan.
  • There'll be a resurgence of al-Qaeda.

Owen Bennett-Jones 

  • Imran Khan to become PM of Pakistan.

Kevin Connolly 

  • The Democrats will win control of the House in the November election.
  • Because of his "terrible" polling numbers Donald Trump might be content to be a one-term president and stand aside.
  • Brexit is going to rumble along "a bit less disastrously than you might think".
  • Russia will have a successful World Cup.
  • Trouble for the EU will come from Poland and Hungary for the EU and they may be more awkward for the EU than the UK ever was.


  • Vladimir Putin will win the Russian election.

The one that made me chuckle was OB-J's prediction that Imran Khan might become PM of Pakistan. Imran Khan's big breakthrough has been a regular prediction on Correspondents Look Ahead, on and off, for years now. And it's never happened so far. Will it finally come true?

Bah, humbug!

I don't feel it's Christmas unless I've watched or listened to or read a version of A Christmas Carol (if not the original)

Having starred as the scary, silent, black-clad Ghost of Christmas Future in my primary school days, memorably tripping over Scrooge's bed, I feel very close to the story. 

This year I watched the classic Alastair (Campbell) Sim version where the (spin doctor) miser Scrooge scowled and later danced a jig in black and white, as superbly as ever. 

(His performance is admirably consistent, year in and year out, despite being dead these one-and-forty years. Now that's acting!). 

Tiny Tim and Mrs Cratchit 

From reading Twitter and the comments at Biased BBC, it's clear that the social media wing of the TV-viewing public was split last night. 

The majority view seems to have gone heavily with me though - namely that BBC One's A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong was very funny.

I don't think I've laughed so loudly at any BBC comedy since last year's Peter Pan Goes Wrong (which I enthused about here at the time). 

Now, yes, this one wasn't as funny as the last one, but was very funny. 

The BBC perhaps ought to go to non-BBC theatre companies (like the Mischief Theatre Company) more often, rather than relying on its samey-samey in-house 'talent' so much. 

From the (BBC) House of the Dead

A comment at Biased BBC (from David W) strikes me as making an interesting point about the BBC:
In its 2017 online death roll, the increasingly ludicrous BBC has managed to forget the death of Jiří Bělohlávek, principal conductor of its own BBC Symphony Orchestra from 2006 to 12.
That 'online death roll' is headlined In memoriam: Entertainment and arts figures we lost in 2017 and contains many names (including the odd classical music figure) but, yes, poor old Jiří Bělohlávek is missing, even though his near namesake Japanese manga artist Jiro Taniguchi is present-and-correct.

That is extraordinary, isn't it?

"But then who cares about some silly elitist old white bloke?", asks David W. 

Well, I do (and many a silly elitist old non-white bloke too). And here's Jiří performing a rousing masterpiece worthy of New Year by his compatriot, Leoš Janáček: 

As they say in Moravia, Šťastný Nový rok!

In Praise of Baron Bragg

As it's New Year's Eve, here's a tweet from Tim Montgomerie:

Though I wouldn't agree that it's "on its own, just about worth the licence fee" (that would be going way too far), but it is "unparalleled in its consistent excellence" (and forget the 'almost'!). Plus Baron Bragg of Wigton FRS, FBA, FRSA, FRSL, FRTS is incomparable as its guiding light.

So well done Melvyn, and please keep up the good work in 2018!

P.S. Here's an ITBB exclusive. Lord Bragg's name actually came first on this year's Honours List - at least according to the Government's official NY18 Queens List page

And, ITBB 'has learned' (from reading the same government website) that he shares his Order of the Companion of Honour will just one other person this New Year: Lady Antonia Fraser (of history, champagne socialism and Harold Pinter fame). 

Saturday, 30 December 2017

But the truth is we all say that...

This year's Correspondents Look Ahead featured a new member of the cast - namely BBC Special Correspondent James Naughtie.

As you might guess, his first answer was so long and laboriously delivered it swallowed up around half of the 50-minute programme, leaving little time for any other predictions or anyone else to speak. The rest of the BBC reporters just sighed, gave up and went home, and Jim just carried on talking. I fell asleep.

Here's how it began, with Jim's 'take' on President Trump:

Owen Bennett-Jones: We're going to start with the United States and Donald Trump. And we've all followed the last year of Donald Trump, Jim. What's ahead for Donald Trump in 2018? 
James Naughtie: Well, I think we've got to start with the fact that some people forget, Owen, which is this: that his rating at the end of one year in office is lower than the ratings, on equivalent poll findings since the '50s, than any other President in our lifetimes. I mean, a CNN poll in December, which is following on the whole Gallup/ORC thing over the years - same questions, same timing - had him at 35%. Obama at the same time was at 75%. Now, this is extraordinary. It doesn't mean he can't excite that base - and he does, every day on Twitter and with these regular rallies - but the truth is he is fantastically unpopular among Americans. If you were a Republican member of Congress in a, what the Americans would call, an 'upscale district' - you know, a reasonably affluent district, let's say in California, where there are five Republicans very worried about their seats now. If you look at what's happened to women voters vis a vis Trump, they're deserting him like snow off a dyke. (I speak from a very frosty Edinburgh.) I think that, you know, we all say that, you know, this can't go on, he does things that no-one else has done but he does it. I mean, my feeling about Trump is that at some point I suspect - and this is my prediction on Trump, Owen - that somebody somewhere in the administration, either in the White House or very close to it - will break cover this year and tell us what the chaos in the White House (which it's generally accepted to be) has been like. And I think that will be devastating for Donald Trump. Of course, there's a section of the American public which simply won't believe it, but I think it will be out there. 
Owen Bennett-Jones: That 35% may well stay loyal.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

"BBC News itself is impartial and does not offer opinions"

As noted both here and at Biased-BBC (and, probably like you, I've also been spotting examples of it all over the BBC website in the past couple of weeks or so), the BBC is now attaching to numerous BBC News website articles a link to a piece called Why you can trust BBC News.

Please read it for yourselves. Hamlet's famous phrase 'The lady doth protest too much, methinks' springs to mind.

As Monkey Brains points out in the latest Open Thread, this linked-to piece includes the following: 

That worthy claim, as MB writes, "could be shown to be false by any number of examples".

And indeed it could, from innumerable pieces from Katty Kay to Anthony Zurcher, from Mark Mardell to Mark Easton, etc...

....but Exhibit A against the BBC here might just as well be BBC News North America Correspondent James Cook's BBC much-tweeted website piece Giving succour to the far right, Trump breaks with American ideals (about which we've written before) - an out-and-out opinion piece by a so-called impartial BBC reporter which made no bones whatsoever about not being impartial as far as Donald Trump is concerned; indeed instead raises its lack of impartiality proudly like a banner of truth: 
But it falls to reporters to describe in plain language what we see, and promotion of fascism and racism is all too easy to observe in the United States of 2017.
....and, yes, James Cook was explicit in that piece about blaming President Trump for that 'promotion of fascism and racism'. 

Now, however much you might (or might not) think that James's piece is bang on the mark and right on, if you read that piece in full and are being honest you surely can't deny that James - a fairly high-profile BBC reporter - is forcefully expressing his opinion on the matter. (He even says so himself!)

Thus, the claim that BBC News "is impartial" and "does not offer opinions" - at least in this case - is baloney. That piece certainly offered a 'personal view' - and a very passionate one too. 

The reason why blogs like this exist is that this is so far from being an isolated example that it makes the BBC's claim laughable (or worse). 

Tougher even than Brexit

Today business reporter Rob Young was tasked this morning with answering Prince Harry's question about the link between mental health and the nation's productivity. Rob's reply began with some typical BBC 'Project Fear' language:
Yes, good morning. Productivity is the biggest challenge that our economy faces, tougher even than Brexit.
 Good grief!

New Year's Resolution Foundation

For those who recall the BBC's fondness for reports from the Resolution Foundation, here's a bit of festive gloom from the main headlines on their News website this morning:

And guess what's to blame? Yes, the Brexit vote.

Here's to 2018!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Some festive cheer!

Fascinating economic news in the Independent about the latest widely-reported economic forecasts from the 'respected', 'independent' Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) which, every year at Christmas, produces its 'prestigious' World Economic League Table plus various economic prognostications. 

It's great news for Mr. Modi and the Indians, and good news for us too (if Cebr's predictions are correct).

Yes, Brexit’s effects on Britain’s economy will allow us to overtake France again in 2020. 

Pleasingly, there are also mea culpas in the air....

'We got it wrong on Brexit gloom, economists admit' is the headline take of the Daily Mail, and the Daily Telegraph goes with 'Project fear was wrong about Brexit, global economic ranking concludes, as UK looks set to overtake France'. 

And on we go...

'CROCKED MONSIEURS. Britain to shrug off Brexit and leapfrog France in global economic rankings' gloats The Sun.

'BRITAIN is set to thrash France’s economy after it leaves the European Union by becoming bigger and stronger by the end of the decade, experts suggest', crows the Daily Express.

Even the Daily Mirror rather sulkily reports the prediction that "the UK will “bounce back” to overtake France in 2020 because quitting the EU will have less impact than feared".

Excellent news!

The Guardian reports the great India news but, typically, keeps shtum about the good news about Brexit Britain. How very Guardian of them!

And the BBC News website? It says...well, it says nothing so far.

Hopefully Kamal Ahmed, Simon Jack, Dominic O'Connell & Co. will be in full flow about it shortly. (They're already hours behind much of the rest). I'm now holding my breath in expectation of being able to release it very soon. (Emergency doctors are already on standby). 

Spinning Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa

One of the things mentioned by BBC Watch in connection to the BBC's coverage of the Pope's Christmas messages (mentioned in the previous post) was that, as BBC Watch puts it:
Contrary to the impression given by that presentation, the Pope’s Christmas address did not include any mention whatsoever of the US president or his December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
By coincidence, I was thinking exactly the same about part of another BBC report concerning the senior Catholic in the area around Bethlehem and Jerusalem - the splendidly-named Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa :

That worried me because I'd read earlier reports from before Midnight Mass saying that the Archbishop was doggedly attempting to stay clear of politics, and - as, alas, I'm doing ever more often - not trusting the BBC to report this fairly or accurately, I sought out a video of that Midnight Mass and transcribed what Archbishop Pizzaballa actually said from it (it's from around an hour in):
I do not need to repeat here what I've already said many times in various institutional meetings about what we are living these days. I imagine you want me to talk about Jerusalem. We've already talked about Jerusalem many times in these days. We already said, Pope Francis said, many things. We as Church, as Latin Patriarchate, already said many things we don't need to repeat. You've already heard from us what we have to say. Also because I want to keep the religious dimension of the celebration, otherwise we will give to our celebration a narrow dimension. But something - it's not written in your text - I need to say. We are in the Holy Land, blessed land - wonderful, fascinating and also difficult land, full of history, traditions, places. Land that talks to billions of believers all over the world. And we are called here as inhabitants of this land not to possess it but to serve it. What we do here is a service for all humanity, not just for ourselves. Pope Francis said, repeating what many others said before him, it's not new, that Jerusalem is a city of peace. There is not peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude. A mother - Jerusalem is our mother - loves all her children. If one is missing the mother cannot be in peace. So we have to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, according to what the psalm says. But with have to continue or otherwise we go too much into politics. We have to remain in our religious dimension.    
As with the Pope, the BBC evidently decided to give its audience the impression that the Catholic leader in the region had "condemned President Trump's decision" at Midnight Mass. However, the above is what he actually said (in my own transcription). 

Do the words "At Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, local Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa condemned President Trump's decision" really match up to what the Archbishop really said here? Or was the BBC 'reading between the lines' for us and spinning it?

Well, I know what my answer to that is! 

To paraphrase BBC Watch: Contrary to the impression given by that presentation, the Archbishop's Christmas address did not include any mention whatsoever of the US president or his December 6th announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Papal indulgence

The compulsion to fact-check the BBC is growing in me. There really was no reason, other than not trusting the BBC to be accurate, for me to rush to Google to check the following (from one of their main News website reports) - after all, how likely was it that the BBC could get the Pope's family background wrong?:

Well, it turns out that calling Francis "the grandson of Italian migrants" isn't entirely accurate. Surely the more important fact is that his father was an Italian immigrant to Argentina -  though, yes, both of his father's parents were Italian migrants too. (See here and here). On his mother's side his grandfather was Argentinian-born and his grandmother Italian-born (and, therefore, also an Italian migrant. (See here). 

So, as you can see, the BBC was partly right. It turns out that it's a bit more complicated than simply the Pope being "himself the grandson of Italian migrants". On his paternal line, he himself was the son of an Italian migrant, and on his mother's line only one of his grandparents was an Italian migrant.

As I wasted a few interesting minutes researching all of that I thought I'd share it with you (as it's Christmas)!


Anyhow, BBC Watch has been crunching the numbers and has proven that the BBC's account of the Pope's Urbi et Orbi address got a very specific focus from the BBC. The BBC made it largely about Israel and the Palestinians, despite the vast bulk of the papal address not being about Israel and the Palestinians.

Focusing the blame

One of the BBC's hallowed Christmas Eve traditions is their now yearly piece from Bethlehem about how hard-done-by those poor Palestinian shepherds abiding in the fields (or in concrete buildings) are thanks to those horrible Herod-like Israelis.

This year, however, there was an added twist: Caesar Donaldus was also to blame. 

Take the BBC's very own Christmas fairy Yolande Knell.

She was on Radio 4's Sunday on Christmas Eve, and here's how Edward Stourton introduced her piece:
Later this morning the head of the Latin Catholic Church in Jerusalem will, in accordance with tradition set off on a journey to Bethlehem where he'll celebrate Midnight Mass tonight. But these days the route means he'll have to go through Israel's West Bank separation barrier - a reminder that even at Christmas the politics of the place aren't far away.
The problem this year, according to Yolande, wasn't just Israel and its separation barrier and its "military watchtower built into the high wall at the edge of Bethlehem". No, it was Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital that is scaring off the tourists, leaving the streets of Bethlehem mostly empty. People there aren't happy bunnies.

And Yolande wasn't the only one at it. Martin Bashir was all across the BBC on Christmas Day, reporting from Bethlehem. Here's just one example (from BBC Breakfast):
And, at the very beginning of the Christmas narrative, here in Bethlehem, in a land defined by walls of separation, a renewed call for reconciliation. Here in Manger Square, a midnight service has been held that the Church of them as nativity, where the Archbishop of Jerusalem said that, while Jesus was born in a town under Roman occupation, he was identified as the Prince of peace.
For him too though, it was mainly about Big Bad Donald Trump.

For much more on this please read a couple of posts from BBC Watch:

Didn't the Palestinians with their reputation for violently rioting, especially after their leaders calls for (days of quiet prayer) 'days of rage', also have something to do with the fall-off in tourists? Didn't Palestinian leaders calling for - and enacting - the cancellation of non-religious festivities in Bethlehem also have something to do with it? 

If it did, the BBC wasn't saying. Easier to blame Trump and the Israelis. 


I think I'd put this one down as an example of 'Bias by Vocabulary Choice', though perhaps 'Bias by Insinuation' might cover it too...

It was Steph McGovern reading the autocue on BBC Breakfast at 6:07 on Christmas Day:
Guatemala will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, echoing a move by the United States of America. It was one of only nine nations to vote against a UN resolution urging America to reverse its decision. President Donald Trump threatened to cut aid to nations that voted against America. The US is an important aid donor to Guatemala, an impoverished Central American country
Doesn't that make it sound as if the Guatemalan decision isn't a pure and principled one? In fact, through vocabulary choice and implication (i.e. it's all about US aid), it makes it sound as impure and unprincipled as can be. 

Well it might be, but it also might not. Guatemala has an unusual history as regards Israel. It's been particularly close to Israel since before its inception. (This is something I've been reading up on - and very interesting it is too). 

Many towns and cities in Israel, including Jerusalem, have Guatemala Streets and streets named after the Guatemalan diplomat Jorge García Granados. Guatemala, through Señor Granados, cast the first vote at the UN for the creation of the State of Israel and was the first Latin-American country to recognise Israel. Without Guatemala's campaigning on behalf of the new state, the UN might not have backed it. It also was the first country to open an embassy in Jerusalem back in 1956, with Señor Granados as ambassador (though they later moved it to Tel Aviv). Israel continued to be unusually close to successive governments during the Cold War (closer even, by some accounts, than the US). Pro-Israel sentiment remains strong in Guatemala. After natural disasters, it's Israel who invariably first comes to Guatemala's aid. When Jimmy Morales - the present Guatemalan president - made his first foreign trip beyond the Americas he went to Israel. 

I've not read or heard a word of this in any of the BBC's coverage. 

Did anybody at the BBC bother to do any research on this, or did they just go with their guts and think 'Oh, it's all about US aid and Trump!'? 


Every other news outlet I've looked at just has managed to get it right. It's 'Doctor Who', not 'Dr Who'. 

Truth-seeking on the Mongolian Steppes

Big G

I know I really shouldn't but sometimes you just have to for the sake of your own sanity (and while Rob Burley away drinking cocktails - cheers! - surely someone needs to do this kind of thing)...


Here's something that someone got up to post at 6:39 on Christmas Day on a neighbouring blog (perhaps eager to see what Father Christmas had brought). It's got 36 'likes' and counting so far too. Well done, sir!

It concerns a BBC News website article headlined Modern women in the land of Genghis Khan, about which I also penned a world-conquering piece a few days ago:

I have been waiting for a fortnight or so in the hope that someone more knowledgeable and accomplished would tackle this one.
No one has, so this is my best effort.
TWMTB has an article. About women, naturally. Non white women naturally. muzzies, naturally.
Entitled “Mongolia: Modern women in the land of Genghis Khan”
Which starts with a panoramic view of a 100m high statue of a man on a horse.
Not just any man, but Ghengis Cunt, one of the all time, by Confucian, Christian, Hindu and Bhuddist (ie the highest) ethical standards, Grade A assholes.
Ghengis Cunt, and his immediate, islamic, descendants, killed about 25 million people. Some feat, given they were armed with swords and bows. They were dedicated.
However, the muzzie Mongolians must have been disappointed, since the stated aim of GC was to destroy all the agriculture in the Chinese Sung Empire. About 200 million people would have died. But that is what muzzies do.
They failed. However GC did succeed in destroying the Northern (Hsia) branch of the Chinese empire. All agricultural land replaced by pasture for their horses.
GC, and islamic progeny, also destroyed the Khwarezmian Empire. Iranian based with an intellectual and political history since Cyrus the Great. So successfully that the infrastructure for the water supply has never been restored.
The islamic descendants of GC exacted tribute from Kievan Rus and its successors for over two hundred years.
The (islamic) Crimean Tatars continued the depredation until c19. That is what you do when you are a superior muzzie.
islamic al-beeb starts frothing at the mouth when a photograph of the Venus of Willendorf (100mm high) is displayed. Because it’s “European”.
900 million dead due to the muzzies, it’s only a statistic, uncle Joe said so, so it is OK.
Do not be disappointed lefty beeboids, your predecessors murdered nearly as many as the muzzies, and the future is yours.
Let us celebrate the muzzie murders together. And exceed their “achievements”, you know it makes corbynsense.

Love the "Islamic a-beeb starts frothing at the mouth" bit there!

Alas for this particular truth-seeking chap, Genghis Khan wasn't a Muslim, and nor were any of his immediate descendants. They were all either Tengrists (pagans) or Buddhists. It was several generations before the first one of them converted to Islam, by which time the truly heavy-duty slaughter was over.

And it wasn't 'muzzies' who destroyed the Khwarezmian Empire. That was actually a case of pagans destroying a Muslim empire!  

And as for, "TWMTB [code for the BBC, 'the world's most trusted broadcaster] has an article. About women, naturally. Non white women naturally. muzzies, naturally", well, I very much doubt that any of the women featured in that article are 'muzzies'. They don't have Muslim-sounding names and, besides, there are very few Muslims in present-day Mongolia. 

Other than that....!!

Monday, 25 December 2017

It may be Christmas Day, but I'm still on my soapbox

As it was

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm already stuffed to (and beyond) the gunnels with fabulous food, especially pigs-in-blankets.

And I'm heavily merry with festive ASDA wine too. 

In fact, I'm undoubtedly far, far, far too merry with wine in that I could have sworn I've just seen my entire family turn into giant pink mice and Doctor Who into a woman. 



So the new Doctor Who really is a woman. 

About time! 

As I was only just this minute saying (on Twitter) to Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism and Jane Garvey of Radio 4's Woman's Hour, isn't it fabulous that a really good-looking young woman is the new Doctor Who? The BBC is listening to us!

I also tweeted that only Brexit-supporting misogynists could find fault with that, or even make an issue of it. (I thought they'd appreciate that. Especially Laura.)

The new female Doctor Who....

Hopefully the BBC will relentlessly continue the fight against institutional sexism, say by replacing David Dimbleby on Question Time with Ellie Harrison from Countryfile.

(Oh please, please let that happen!)


I actually even saw that rarest of things today - an elderly female presenter on the BBC.

And she was truly excellent.

In fact, to be honest, she was by far the best BBC presenter I've seen all year.

Yes, HM the Queen was on BBC One and BBC Two this afternoon, delivering her annual Christmas speech.

Except for the even-more-regal Mary Berry, HM the Queen is possibly the first elderly female presenter to appear on BBC One since the infamous cull of those wellington-boot-wearing old bags on Countryfile and their replacement by fit young blondes and brunettes.

That's more progress!

I do hope that Miriam O'Reilly was watching. (Go Miriam!)

Queen Elizabeth II (no less)

One step forward, two steps back though. 

Institutional sexism at the BBC, pace Samira Ahmed, remains rife. 

Firstly, as we know, far too many top female reporters and presenters at the BBC haven't been allowed to share in the massively over-inflated salaries of some of their male counterparts and, quite rightly, won't rest until they've become just as obscenely overpaid (at the licence-fee-payer's expense) as their non-privilege-checking male colleagues. 

Secondly (and far worse), on tonight's Doctor Who Christmas special the new female Doctor Who was immediately - quite literally within seconds! - shown losing control of the TARDIS.

Her driving was so awful that the larger-on-the-inside-than-on-the-outside time machine immediately careered off the space-time line and the helpless new Doctor found herself getting sucked out into time-space.

I haven't seen such dreadful driving since the once-famous Maureen on Driving School.

....takes over the driving. And this is what happens next. The Scream!

To me this is clear evidence of deeply ingrained sexist thinking at the BBC.

As we all know, women are wonderful drivers and such disgusting patriarchal thinking about their allegedly poor driving abilities only encourages misogynists to make stupid, flippant, deeply sexist jokes about so-called 'women drivers'.

I was absolutely appalled.

And offended.

And on Christmas Day too.

Sunday, 24 December 2017


People can be very mean about the BBC. You hear them complain that it's end-to-end cookery programmes on the BBC most days. That's rubbish, of course. I'm just watching the end of The Prince and Me on BBC Two, and that's not a cookery programme. It's a romantic comedy. Plus I'm betting the BBC has a wonderful variety of programmes for me, even if I stick to this one BBC channel. OK. Let's click on the onscreen guide and see what's coming up. Oh, well yes, the next programme at 9.15 is The Big Family Cooking Showdown. Oh, and that's followed at 10.15 by Saturday Kitchen Best Bits. But that's just two programmes. You must judge the BBC over time! Oh, and then it's Mary Berry's Absolute Christmas Favourites at 11.45 and The Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas at 12.20 and Alex Polizzi's Perfect Christmas at 1.20. Good grief, it's only Christmas Eve! By 2.20, when Alex Polizzi's Perfect Christmas ends, I'll already be sick of food and starting my diet.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

This is a local blog for local people...

In this house we always liked The League of Gentlemen, and it was very kind of the BBC to bring it back after 15 years for three final episodes on consecutive nights just before Christmas.

It was horrifyingly funny.

It was magnificent.

I loved almost every second of it.

(I got very squeamish about one thing  - no, not the exploding hedgehog scene - but I'll only share that with a psychiatrist and/or Sue).

Times change. The old The League of Gentlemen had us laughing at Barbara, the gruff-voiced, hairy-armed transsexual taxi driver. The new The League of Gentlemen also featured Barbara, the gruff-voiced, hairy-armed transsexual taxi driver, and gave her a speech on how times have changed (oh whoops, did I say 'she'?) whilst once more making us laugh at her (oh whoops, did I say 'her'?) - a delicious example of what Boris might have called 'having your cake and eating it':
Barbara: So, is it good to be back, Benjamin, after all this time?
Benjamin: It is, though under sad circumstances, obviously.
Val: Do you two know each other?
Benjamin: Yes - Barbara was the first person I met in Royston Vasey. She was very friendly, as I remember it.
Barbara: Hey, hey, hey, hey! We'll have none of that in here! No hate speech.
Benjamin: Hate speech? I...
Barbara: Gender neutral pronouns only. People used to make fun of the likes of us. Well, that's all gone now - the world's moved on. We are no longer a source of cheap humour and laughs. No. And this cab is a safe, friendly, mutually respectful, and above all, tolerant space!
Benjamin: What pronoun do you use?
Barbara: Well, if you don't know, you can piss off out of it - I'm not fucking telling you! 
Barbara: Oh, no, I don't like to use LGBT - it's too limiting. The acronym I prefer is ACRONYM. Actively Considering Reassignment Or Not Yet Made Your Mind Up. 
Now, the original The League of Gentlemen had something even more 'controversial' (in today's Twitter Age terms) than a gruff-voiced, hairy-armed transsexual taxi driver, and I surely can't have been the only fan to wonder if the BBC would dare, in 2017, to bring back the very wicked Papa Lazarou.

Indeed (not very good spoiler alert!), it's very obvious that the makers of The League of Gentlemen knew we'd be thinking that too, hence the blackface-sporting circus ringmaster being kept till almost the closing minute of the final-ever episode.

But, yes, they did indeed dare. Papa Lazarou was back, and still sporting blackface.
Yes folks...

Sporting blackface. On the BBC. In 2017! 

Where's the Twitter storm? Why aren't the writer, actors and BBC commissioners fleeing for their lives from the (Twitter) mob? Why hasn't Lord Tony Hall been put through a mincing machine? 

Funny old world, eh?

(Ed - Princess Michael of Kent, a regular reader, has just emailed us to say, 'Yes'.)

Anyhow, where the BBC bias in all of this? Well, it was there. Oh yes.

The programme's other most notorious (and popular) characters, the inbred, psychopathic Edward and Tubbs, were back and slicing people's faces off. Lots of local, stupid, ordinary people in Royston Vasey rallied to their inadvertent cause - a cause with slogans based on the couple's famous catchphrase 'This is a local shop for local people'. And the local, stupid, ordinary people won. 

Yes, The League of Gentlemen was satirising Brexit and Brexiteers. (Even Matthew Parris appeared, playing a pro-Edward and Tubbs commentator.)

Do I really care? No - especially as this angle played such a small part in the programme. Blink and you might have missed it (if you're a complete idiot).  

That said, the chances that a revival of The League of Gentlemen or of anything on the BBC would ever result in anti-Remain satire remain very, very, very low - vanishingly low even.

And, thus, I've managed to turn a 'fan post' about the brief revival of The League of Gentlemen into a piece about BBC bias.

I think even Pauline might have been impressed enough by that to have given me one of her pens. (Alas, poor Pauline!)