Thursday, 18 January 2018

Flake news

Retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona speaks out about the many and varied flaws in Donald Trump’s personality. He makes some excellent, but rather obvious points. Maybe Trump’s core supporters are being wilfully blind when they defend the most blatant examples of Trump’s narcissistic weirdness, but Flake hasn’t mentioned the benefits that have accrued from Trump’s recklessness. Maybe it takes a madman to shake things up in a way that a politically correct, measured, apparently rational personality could never do. 

Stupid boy!

The Today Programme featured Trump’s Fake News Awards.
Anyway, it amused me so much to listen to Jon Sopel (another beauty) demonstrating a staggeringly un-self-aware analysis of the fake news phenomenon, and for your enjoyment I give you this transcript:

Think of the Oscars, think of the Grammies, it wan’t anything like that! Donald tTump put up a Tweet, linked it to the Republican Party website and you couldn’t find anything out - you got an error message initially, so social media went into meltdown and this was instructive in itself of the whole fake news debate. 
Because the trump detractors said ‘look what a shambles, what chaos and the Trump supporters were saying the site has crashed because there was such huge interest in it.
I’ve spent the last hour, two hours watching the TV - Fox News which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, very right-wing and supportive of Donald Trump has been covering the fake news wars extensively, CNN, MSNBC barely mentioned them and NY Times next to nothing and the Washington Post are reporting it as a total flop. 
The specific incidences are journalists who have got things wrong, and let’s put our hands up, who hasn’t at times made a mistake. The number one on the list of things that Donald Trump found most egregious was from Paul Krugman, known well prizewinning economist who predicted that there would be a stock-market crash when Donald Trump became president. Now, that’s a prediction. Is that fake news? I mean, you know, again, if you are asked to look into a crystal ball there is a 50/50 chance you’re gonna get things right or you’re gonna get things wrong. But this to Donald Trump was the most egregious example because the US Stock-market has gone up 30% in the past year, and Donald Trump, over the past year, a phrase you hear again and again is fake news fake news, you’re all a bunch of liars, it’s untrue. Is that having an effect? Yes it is. if you look at polls a lot of people don’t trust journalists. 
Republicans take the harshest view, they say 68% have a less favourable view of the media compared to 54% of Democrats. 4/10 Republicans say that reports painting politicians in a negative light should always be deemed as fake news. That’s alarming.
I think, in America there is always the post Watergate, post Nixon effect, where every journalist looks at himself/herself in the mirror and thinks I could be Woodward or Bernstein and bring down the president. I think that has changed slightly in the Trump era. To some journalists no longer seeing themselves as holding power to account, speaking truth to power, they see themselves as the opposition. I watched, to my astonishment, a rally that Donald Trump gave, and at the end of it the TV presenter, in the studio, it cuts back to him and goes “Man! That was unhinged! What an embarrassment to have him as our president!” This is mainstream media. Now, could you imagine, Sarah, you coming onto the Today Programme and saying ‘Theresa May, she’s unhinged! What an embarrassment to have her as our Prime Minister” By all means invite guests on who might make that point, but when the news organisation itself is saying that I think it is starting to see itself, not just as holding power to account but as the enemy and I think that plays into Donald Trump’s hands as well. 
So is this all down to editorial decisions then? (said Sarah Montague) 
No. There is commercial element to this too. There is money. Because actually in this present climate, CNN’s audiences, for example, and it was a CNN presenter who talked about the president being unhinged, their audiences are up! Their advertising revenue is up! They are trying to ‘marketise’ the unpopularity of Donald Trump among certain quarters. The NY Times! Their digital subscriptions are going through the roof! Because they are getting more and more people wanting to subscribe to the NY Times. Does that mean they are widening their readership in terms of are they reaching pockets of Republican supporting kind of mid-west America? No, they’re not. What it is, is that more and more liberals think this is the constitution under threat, we think we must subscribe. And so you have people living ever-more in an echo chamber, where the news that they read in the newspaper or they listen to on the radio or they watch on the television are just their own views coming back to them. And fewer and fewer Americans are hearing anything other than what they already believe.


Does anyone watch HARDtalk? It’s usually on TV at unsocial hours. I watched Stephen Sackur's disappointingly lacklustre interrogation of the co-founder of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, even if you didn’t.

BBC Watch rigorously unpacks the falsehoods that Zahar got away with in a two-part blog post.

I sense that many of the BBC’s regular viewers are uncertain about whether Hamas is a designated terrorist organisation, and if so, by whom. Sometimes the BBC mentions that Israel deems Hamas a terrorist organisation, and they would, wouldn’t they,  but it’s unclear whether the BBC knows which other countries agree, if any. 

One minute the EU thinks it isn’t …. the next the ECJ decides it is. There’s profile of Hamas on the BBC website that I don’t think even includes the word 'terrorist'. Of course this could be because the BBC is loath to make controversial value judgments. It’s understood that the BBC’s policy is to avoid using the term at all, except within reported speech, or in connection with specific cases of deadly terrorism here or in continental Europe. The BBC won’t use the term when terrorism occurs in Israel (as to do so would imply ‘taking sides’.)  

One might put this apparently selective ruling down to the fanciful, idealised picture of the Palestinians that quietly seeps into the BBC’s language. Yolande Knell, for example, will pay lip service to impartiality by giving us an empathetic version of, say, Bassem Tamimi, and an impersonal, ‘othered’ picture of the Israeli voice she is obliged to include. I believe the general public is not at all sure what to think. Quite a few people seem to be thoroughly bored with the lot of it. They end up wishing a plague on both (Israeli and Palestinian) houses.

Pro-Palestinian activists undoubtedly do see Hamas as freedom fighters, and the numbers who agree are bound to increase as Jeremy Corbyn’s influence widens. Many western politicians regard the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as a credible partner for peace, perhaps because they are unaware of his true intentions, though he makes little secret of them. Make no mistake, Mahmoud Abbas says it loud and clear, he wants Israel eliminated and vows he will settle for nothing less. No matter how loudly or how often he says this, the media ignores it or makes sure the true meaning of his words is lost in translation, perhaps assuming everyone would prefer not to know. Like, too much information.

We didn’t see much of Stephen Sackur's HARD talking that the programme promises. It’s all very well claiming that the entire premise of Hamas’s existence is founded on so many falsifications of the actualité that it’s not worth picking up on every single one of them otherwise we’d be here all day. (not that anyone has claimed such a thing) I’m merely preempting possible excuses for a half-hearted performance.

Distilling BBC Watch’s detailed analysis, I offer this: 
The introduction includes a list of cruelties inflicted upon Zahar’s family by the Zionists, seemingly for no reason: 
“My guest today[…]was imprisoned, deported, his home was targeted, family members – including his son killed.”
But he and his Hamas colleagues remained committed to an armed struggle whose ultimate objective they characterise as the liberation of all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. “
The word “But” obfuscates here. It should be “and”.  
“To Israel, Hamas is a terrorist organisation and Mr Zahar is a terrorist with blood on his hands.”
To Israel? As Hadar says, Sackur is simply reminding us that 'one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.'  
Not everyone knows that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 so Sackur shouldn’t have let Zahar imply otherwise. Conflicting and confusing BBC reports in the past about the on / off relationship between Hamas and Fatah haven’t been helpful, but at least we now know that there is no reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions. The one thing they do agree on is that they are both committed to a Jew-free ‘Palestine’. I wish a wart on both their noses.

As for Hamas’s new, improved Charter. It isn’t. As far as I know it’s a softened, image-burnishing policy document, not a revised charter. 
Zahar attributes the poor quality of life in Gaza to Israel and Trump, and says it has nothing to do with Hamas “management”. This is untrue. He complains that Israel is somehow interfering with “Our human rights in the most important third shrine in Islam, al Aqsa Mosque.” The opposite is the case. Bizarrely it’s actually Jews who aren’t allowed to pray there, and this lie should have been challenged.
More, still. Zahar gets away with accusing Israel of “destroying our medical, our social, our economic life” and says that “nobody is interested about human rights where 2 million Palestinian people are living in this area.”
The BBC has never attempted to rectify this widely believed falsehood. Zahar freely admits that Hamas considers the whole of Israel to be an occupation of Palestinian lands.
  “Listen, listen: this [Israel] is Palestine. This is Palestine occupied ’48. Occupied by ’48 by the support and by a built by the British occupation.” 
“The people in the West Bank have their right to defend themselves by all means. […] 
"We have to defend ourselves by all means in the West Bank in order to avoid the expansion of the settlement not only on Jerusalem but also on the rest of the West Bank.”
Surely the BBC is obliged to challenge the justification of terrorism? Zahar sees Israel’s evacuation (in 2005) of Gaza as a triumph for terrorism. Does that not merit a robust challenge from the BBC? Zahar declares that Israeli Jews are “foreigners”:
 “These people left their homeland from America, from Russia and come. For this reason we are against foreign people took our land, violated our rights.”
Even if historically illiterate BBC journalists doubt the Jews’ connection to the land, isn’t this precisely the kind of racism the BBC despises. So why let it go?

As BBC Watch rightly says,
“the fact that Zahar’s lies, omissions, distortions of history and blatantly bigoted messaging falls on ears which for the most part have a poor understanding of the history of the region and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should have been reason enough for Stephen Sackur to challenge his remarks and at least set the historical record straight for viewers and listeners.”
I’ve already touched on the way the BBC ignored the content of Abbas’s speech
The media doesn’t want to know.
“For years some of us have argued that Abbas should be considered instead a political and diplomatic pariah. We have said he is a deep-dyed antisemite, having written his “doctoral” thesis on denying the Holocaust. We have drawn attention to his regime teaching its children about seizing the whole of Israel, and that their greatest goal should be to murder Jews. 
We have circulated the hideous antisemitic caricatures published in his regime’s media outlets. We have pointed out that he and his henchmen have repeatedly said not one Jew would remain in such a state of Palestine. We have referred to his repeated attempts to write the Jews out of their own history by denying their historic connection to the land of Israel, a central feature of the Jewish religion.

“Now Abbas has come out in his true colours in an utterly vile and deranged speech yesterday to the PLO central council. 
“Abbas’s speech should be sent to every member of the British parliament, and the Prime Minister, Theresa May, should be asked how Britain can continue to give any money at all to such open antisemites and Holocaust deniers. She should be asked how the British government can continue to support giving such people a state of their own. She should be asked why the British government has ignored this horrifying reality, and the constant mortal danger it poses for the Israelis, for so long. 
But then, many British people will be unaware of the appalling nature of Abbas’s speech since the BBC chose to bowdlerise it…”

A person called Christine Shawcroft has been elected on to the Labour Party committee responsible for dealing with antisemitism, deposing the person who was committed to ferreting it out. It remains to be seen what line the BBC will  take over this.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Open Thread With The Gigantic Hare

Yes, I know it's a rabbit, but if it was good enough for the creators of Bugs Bunny...

Thank you all so much for your comments. Please keep them coming.

And if you prefer reindeer to rabbits, please read this from News-watch's David Keighley:

It tells of how Lord Lawson achieved a victory against the BBC over inaccurate reporting and how the BBC then mangled their 'apology' so much as to make it seem like a Pyrrhic victory. 

BBC, pourquoi ne signalez-vous pas les critiques du président Macron à l'encontre des organisations caritatives et des activistes?

The Guardian's report on President Macron's visit to Calais goes begins: 
Emmanuel Macron has vowed there would never be another large refugee camp in Calais and warned those people remaining in the area who hope to reach Britain that they were at a “dead end”.  
The French president also accused certain organisations of lying about police brutality and encouraging people to remain in Calais and attempt the crossing to the United Kingdom.
The Telegraph's report on the same story begins: 
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, vowed there would be no return of the so-called "jungle" migrant camp in Calais on Tuesday, as he urged Theresa May to take on greater responsibility for the refugee crisis. 
Speaking in an aircraft hangar in Calais, Mr Macron said: "In no case will we allow another jungle here . . . all is being done so that the illegal passage [from Calais to Dover] is not possible." 
He also attacked "certain organisations" for spreading "lies" - referring to volunteers and charities accused of encouraging migrants to enter Britain illegally, and of fabricating claims of police brutality against them.   
Such groups were "far too great in number" and were "harmful to our collective effectiveness," Mr Macron said. 
The Times (online) tonight includes the following lead headline:

The striking thing when you read the BBC's report on the story is that M. Macron's sharply critical comments about those NGOs, activists and charity workers - groups and individuals who have featured so often, so sympathetically and so uncritically in BBC programmes and reports over the years advancing the migrants' cause -  criticisms which both the Guardian and the Telegraph and The Times make central to their reports, are simply not being reported by the BBC News website. 

Why is the BBC failing to report these criticisms, when even the Guardian thinks they are an important part of what President Macron said today?

The BBC is outdoing the Guardian here - and not for the first time.

Now, it might have been possible to just dismiss this as sloppy reporting on the BBC's part were it not for the fact that, to make matters even worse, the BBC report does (repeatedly) note the criticisms made by such of people against President Macron for being too "hard line" on immigration!

That suggests outright bias to me - and something approaching activism.

The BBC's bias on issues like this is blinding it to the need to report things in full and without spin. (Nothing new there of course). 

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t unelectable after all!

Watching the Daily Politics (yesterday*) a couple of thoughts struck me. 
One: Why did Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan come in fancy dress? (What as? I’d take a punt at Sandy from Grease.) (the musical) 

Two: I have to question a system whereby Labour MPs like Emma Reynolds have collectively decided to place party loyalty above all else. To a certain extent party loyalty is understandable, I get that. However, when it means continually having to say “I don’t agree with Jeremy, but I respect his decision” it’s quite alarming. Astonishing even. For non-Momentum Labour MPs, (assuming there will still be some) the consensus has settled on an approach that seems to be, ‘well, anything is better than the Tories.’ But when Corbyniste ideas positively endanger the country then it’s time for what people might call ‘a reality check’.

How can the likes of Emma Reynolds (I may be wrong, but she doesn’t come across as an ardent Momentumiste) or, say, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, John Mann or any sane member of eg., Labour Friends of Israel, justify toeing the party line, when the party line is halfway along the road to ruin?

Sunder Katwala of “British Future” looked as though he was about to burst into tears, which might account for the encouraging smiles from both the ladies on the other side of the desk. “Please don’t cry!You can do it” 

Don't Cry!

You can do it!

Reporting the findings of a survey carried out by his group, he revealed that the public takes an extremely nuanced view of immigration. So we’re not such racists as we’re cracked up to be. I was surprised to see that “British Future” is a left wing, pro-immigration outfit which heavily promotes stories about “good” Muslims; no-one hinted at this when he was introduced. 

I didn’t enjoy watching the news editor of Huck magazine (see Dawn Foster’s contribution here)
But as I’m not one of those bigot who are always clamouring for people I disagree with to be no-platformed. I respect his views and will reluctantly suck them up.

* I wrote much of the above yesterday but life intervened, so it was with a nuanced amount of glee that I read this piece in today’s Times
 “Moderate Labour MPs are threatening to quit and sit as independents in the Commons if they are deselected as the left tightens its grip on the party. 
Three Momentum-backed candidates, including Jon Lansman, founder of the pro-Corbyn network, were elected to Labour’s influential governing body yesterday. The leftwingers won the national executive committee (NEC) seats by a landslide, beating moderate and independent candidates including the comedian Eddie Izzard, who came fourth. The result prompted fears among centrists that the left would push ahead with trying to deselect MPs in favour of candidates who were more aligned with Jeremy Corbyn. The NEC presides over Labour’s rule book, guarantees the propriety of its selection process and helps to oversee policy development. 
Branches of Momentum have been vocal about wanting to make it harder for incumbent MPs to be confirmed as candidates for the next general election without facing an open contest. At present an MP needs to win a simple majority of nominations from local party branches and affiliated trade unions and socialist societies in a “trigger ballot”, the vote to confirm them as the candidate. Momentum has proposed raising the threshold to two thirds of nominations. 
Other left-wing backers of the Labour leadership want to go further and introduce mandatory reselection before every general election, forcing incumbents to face challengers."

All traces of glee evaporated when I saw this:
“Michelle Harris has been shortlisted to stand as the Labour candidate in Amber Rudd’s (very marginal) seat of Hastings and Rye.  Her previous form with regard to antisemitism was revealed a few days ago by @GnasherJew, an account dedicated to exposing Labour antisemitism.  One particularly egregious moment came in 2014 when she shared a David Icke post referring to ‘Rothschild Zionist Israel’. “

I wonder if Emma Reynolds will still be rejoicing at the fact that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t unelectable after all. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Slaps in the face

It’s plain that the BBC is ideologically anti-Israel. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. It’s their way of expressing their impartiality. 

Image of amusing mic joke/ gent 2nd left

The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made a two-hour speech in Ramallah yesterday. The BBC has reported it

Well, when I say “reported it” I mean the BBC told us that the speech took place, but if you happen to be interested in what President Abbas actually said, you’d be disappointed because the bulk of the BBC’s report is about Trump. You’d have to make do with what appears under the sub heading “What did Mr Abbas tell the meeting?”
“Speaking to Palestinian faction leaders in Ramallah on Sunday, he said: "The deal of the century is the slap of the century and we will not accept it."

"I am saying that Oslo, there is no Oslo," he added. "Israel ended Oslo.”

So, what else did Abbas say in his ‘slap of the century’ speech?
Well, to find out you’d have to look elsewhere, say, here ,    here or here or here

EoZ commenter Y K  summed it all up:

“Abbas clearly believes the nonsense he spews. The reason that he keeps spewing it, however, is not due to his stupidity (he's no Einstein, but underestimating him would be a mistake), but to a fact he's very well aware of: that with a few exceptions, nobody in the Western (and even mainstream Israeli) media would actually reproduce his verbal diarrhea in full. What will be presented to the audiences is a version carefully doctored in order to make the guy appear as a tragically misunderstood embodiment of “moderation".

It’s equally plain to see that the BBC isn’t alone in its ideological attitude to Israel. Our MPs are even worse. Alistair Burt is at it now.  He’s not only defending Ahed, but the whole Taimimi clan, with whom he appears to be ‘friends’. So Corby isn’t the only one with mates. 

Burt has stated: “The truth is the soldiers shouldn’t have been there and the young woman shouldn’t have needed to do what she did,” 

As others have pointed out - using the word “needed” in this comment is tantamount to justifying all sorts.

I understand there is to be a parliamentary debate on Hezbollah on 25th of this month, secured by Labour Friends of Israel. All I can say is  - be careful what you wish for.

"Israel Policy Forum expresses its disgust over President Abbas’s words to the Fatah Central Committee delegitimizing Zionism, denying the Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and peddling conspiracy theories about the plight of European Jewry. It is impossible to view Abbas as a viable negotiating partner when he continues to deny ​the ​right​ of the Jewish people​ to their own national movement and when he continues to insist that the basic recognition of a Jewish homeland is the original sin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The injustice of Palestinians remaining stateless cannot and will not be rectified by a fever dream that wishes for a world in which Jews w​ould also be stateless and ​in which ​Israel ​would not exist. 
Words matter, and if Abbas’s commitment to nonviolence is worthy of praise, his commitment to vitriolic rhetoric is equally worthy of condemnation. Abbas’s unhinged screed provides ammunition to those who insist that the sole obstacle to peace is Palestinian denial of Israel’s legitimacy, making his hateful words instrumentally harmful as well as being utterly without merit in their own right. With his distortion of history and denial of reality, Abbas makes himself part of the problem rather than part of the solution. 
Israel and the Palestinians must reach a two-state solution that recognizes both sides’ legitimate claims and narratives, ​and President Abbas must unequivocally recognize these mutual rights if he is to be a credible partner in the quest for peace."
Update: (another)
"Too many media reports whitewashed Abbas’ coverage. Perhaps editors didn’t attach enough importance to the speech to give their correspondents a longer word count, which might account for the short, sanitized reports by Reuters, BBC News, CNN and Sky News. "

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sunday Morning TV.

Good grief, the Beeb’s Sunday Morning viewing provides a pot pourri of bad sights and peculiar people and peculiar sights and bad people.

Let’s take Emily Thornberry. It is said that Emily, or Lady Nugee, as they prefer to call her on Guido’s website, is positioning for Corby’s job. No, surely not! But worse things happen at sea. 

Admittedly she is thought to have eclipsed old Steptoe when she stood in for him at PMQs, but how hard is that?

Isn’t she a bit of a square peg in a shitround hole? I mean her demeanour is not that of your bog standard Labour M P. Unlike your standard, labourite, glottal-stop estuary English (gettin’ on down wiv the workin’ class) favoured by all Labour MPs during the Blair - Miliband era, Emily talks a bit posh, with her slightly Sloaney vowels and a hint of mid-Atlantic drawl; the sort of accent Beatrice and Eugene from W1A might pick up at the Golden Globes. She begins all her sentences with “I think”, confident that we care. At her most irritating she will blink and half-close her eyes, a look often given by the very smug after successfully making A Very Important Point.

On the Marr show she said:
“He is an asteroid of awfulness that has fallen on this world. I think that he is a danger an’ I think that he is a raycust.” “That shays that he doesn’t have a real grasp of what a trade agreement actually uhs.” 
Hmm. And I thought Trump was a businessman. Oh well. 

Watching the insufferable Meryl Streep was not pleasant. Nicola Sturgeon may not be my favourite politician, but she’s smart and articulate in a way that knocks poor Lady Nugee’s performance into the proverbial cocked hat.

Yippidee dooda, The Big Questions is back!! When you get your first glimpse of the ‘front row’, your immediate  challenge is to see how quickly you can spot the regulars. Today there were only two. Angela Epstein and Abdullah al-Andalusi

The debates were a little lacklustre, but when they turned their attention to the troubling question of the persecution of Christians I was relieved to see that no-one even mentioned Israel.  Thank goodness I didn’t have to write an infuriated blogpost about that, for once. Here’s a list of the offending top 50.

Put that in your pipe, Lucy Winkett, the Rev Stephen Sizer and Sarah Montague.

The Sunday Politics has lost its sparkle since Sarah Smith took over from Andrew Neil. I wonder if she gets equal pay? My attention wandered till Barry Gardiner came on. Garry Bardiner. Barry Gardiner painstakingly explained, as if to a class of severely mentally disadvantaged infants, the Labour Party’s policy on the single market and the Customs Union. I think he’s saying we want the best possible deal. We will be leaving the EU by the way. Let me be clear. What we want, what people voted for, what we’re trying to do, each “what” enunciated with a kindly but slightly patronising Barry Gardiner whoosh. When challenged about Jared O”Mara’s and John McDonnell’s obnoxiously misogynistic remarks  a steely look came into his eyes that sent a chill down my spine. Gentle Barry has a nasty side. 

Ukip! Poor old Henry Bolton. His girlfriend made him look enough of an idiot even before she said all that stupid stuff.  I don’t think even Nige could salvage what’s left of the party. But you never know what’s around the corner. Now I’m off to watch the Queen.

Matthew Price depresses the nation again

Representing the Swedish health service (as per Swedish media) 

As I usually post something about The World This Weekend on a Sunday I suppose I should do so today too. 

I read a comment elsewhere before listening to it today, and as Matthew Price (a man who always sounds as if he's got the weight of the world on his SJW warrior shoulders) was presenting, I suspected the comment would ring true once I'd listened to it. 

The comment, which went into interesting detail, accused The World This Weekend of not telling the truth about the Swedish health system, of pushing the left-wing BBC view that more tax payers money is the only way forward for our NHS, and of not featuring one dissenting voice.

The commenter wrote:
Sadly for the BBC some of us are aware that the old tax payer funded NHS styled health service is no longer available in Sweden. The Swedes found it didn’t work, (surprise!). Instead doctors charge for an appointment, about £12, and a fee is paid for a hospital examination. All prescriptions are paid for. The private sector provides about 20% of public hospital care and about 30% of public primary care.
On listening to it myself I found that Matthew Price did actually say, though only in passing and rather vaguely, that Swedish people do have to pay fees and that the private sector is involved in the Swedish system. The commenter must have missed that. (In fairness, it was so short if you blinked you could have missed it). And two Tory voices - Nick Boles and Andrew Lansley - gave differing right-leaning views on the matter. 

I think the problem here is that Matthew isn't exactly Mr Cheery and is prone to emotive, 'award winning' reporting. As a result it sounded more of a SJW piece than it actually was.

Well, that's my theory anyhow. As ever, please feel free to disagree.

P.S. If you read Matthew's Twitter feed - @BBCMatthewPrice - you'll find him being very 'Matthew Price' too.

And re-tweeting pro-EU, government-bashing tweets from prominent Remainers. And backing Carrie Gracie. And linking to a controversial far-left Israel-bashing blog and calling a strongly Israel-bashing piece of its an "interesting read".

He's very 'BBC', our Matthew, isn't he?

In which Craig becomes a Samira Ahmed-style snowflake...


Today's Radio 4 Profile of Oprah Winfrey, presented by the accomplished John Peel impersonator Mark Coles (one of those people who always sounds as if they're being sarcastic even when they aren't being sarcastic), featured the following anecdote: 
Mark Coles: And there were plenty more says Sandra Pinckney, who shared a flat with Oprah Winfrey for a while. 
Sandra Pinckney: Oh my God, her dates! I mean, this one night she was going out. It was a Friday night. She said, "Sandra, when he comes don't say one word to me!", and I said, "What are you talking about?". So the doorbell rings and I'm waiting for her to answer the door. She's nowhere to be found. I answered the door  and [laughing] here's this guy. I mean, with all respect to short people, I mean, he was short and he was very funny-looking. And [laughing] so I said, "Oh! Well, come in and let me just get Oprah. She's ready. She's somewhere. Just hold on". I looked into my room, the closet, her room, the bathroom. And then I heard something in her closet. I opened the closet door [laughing] and there she is sitting in the dirty clothes hamper, hysterical, tears running down her eyes cos she knew what this guy looked like, and she knew what I was thinking.
Well, I have to say, as a short, funny-looking man myself, I found that anecdote grossly offensive and am appalled at the BBC for broadcasting it. 

I will be writing to Newswatch, Feedback and Points of View and tweeting about it endlessly for the next five years until Mark Coles, Sandra and Oprah are sent to join Toby Young in Virtual Reality Siberia. 

It's completely unacceptable.

As Samira Ahmed might say, there's surely a case to be answered that broadcasting anecdotes like this has an assault/normalising effect.

Should the next President of the United States be a heightist, appearance-obsessed bigot like Oprah - someone who can't see beyond a short man's funny face to the human being who shines like an angel behind it, and who laughs with her friends at the expense of funny-faced, short men? 

The worse-than-Carrie-Gracie-level problem here is that short, funny-looking men just don't have the social media clout of other vulnerable minority groups. We're never likely to get taken up by BBC Trending.

That won't stop me though. I'm on a mission to interfere in the next US election now. I'm like Nick Bryant, Katty Kay, Anthony Zurcher and Jon Sopel on steroids. Oprah will become the next President of the United States over my (short) dead body!

Let's get ready to rumble!

If you've been missing our weekly round-up of the Twitter mayhem that invariably follows The Andrew Marr Showspecifically editor Rob Burley's doughty engagement with all manner of charming, fair-minded people - here's a selection of today's action...


Rob Burley: This one goes out to all those who said the only French politician we are interested in is Marine Le Pen because, you know, some bias claptrap.
Stewart Lewis: Before the French election, the only politician you showed interest in was Marine le Pen.  Glad to see you now also interested in the person who beat her by a massive margin to the Presidency
Rob Burley: Brilliant analysis Stewart but ignores fact that we actually booked Macron on the show before Le Pen AND tried to book all the other leading contenders including EM during the election. So we were interested in all of them, consistently and for ages.
Stewart Lewis: Apologies if you had Macron on the show, which I missed.  You might perhaps have communicated that you tried to book others; in the absence of that, and with the fawning nature of the le Pen interview, I think our conclusion is understandable
Rob Burley: I repeatedly stated I was bidding for all candidates. And it wasn't remotely "fawning".
Stewart Lewis: We'll have to agree to differ, but I'll just say this: Marine le Pen tries to avoid scrutiny of her party today by discussing how she distanced herself from her father's racism. Most journalists are now wise to that, but Andrew played right into her hands. Check it back
Rob Burley: I don't need to check it back, it was my show. So..
Stewart Lewis: Interesting - I wrote many reports in my career, but if a client or colleague ever asked me to look back and check something in a new light, I'd do it without hesitation. I guess you have greater certainty.  Thanks for discussing (up to a point) anyway
Rob Burley: It's not an unfamiliar complaint though is it? And you are a regular complaint too!

Rob Burley: This one goes out to all those who said the only French politician we are interested in is Marine Le Pen because, you know, some bias claptrap.
David Aaronovitch: It wasn’t untrue when it was said (of the serious media generally). Not all criticism is wrong, comrade Burley.
Rob Burley: True but this specific charge against us ignored the fact that we had already had Macron before Le Pen AND that we were bidding for all of the main candidates. We can't make 'em come on. So repeated charge we were only interested in MLP utter, well, testicules.

Alf Bibby: why do you interupt labour and snp people yet yougive tories a free rein #torybias
Rob Burley: We don't.
Alf Bibby: Evidence says different #torybias
Rob Burley: You havent got any evidence.
Alf Bibby: Just re run the shows and see
Rob Burley: Soz Alf that's your job if you have "evidence".
Alf Bibby: Whats the point you are blindfolded to bias like this tory gov is blindfolded to the problems of the country
Rob Burley: What's the point indeed Alf.
Alf Bibby: Put it another way do you think it is right to have a known Tory #marr to interview opposition party spokespeople
Rob Burley: I detect a problem in your question Alf.

Alf wanted the last word though....

Alf Bibby: Throwing the dead cat on th table a typical tory trick

Kevin Peters: The MSM shills like #Marr and #Peston will steer well clear of #Carillion as heaven forbid they should ask ministers what they are going to do before they are ready. As perusal what are the topics the corporate media avoids is most telling.
Rob Burley: Very astute analysis barring the fact that we asked Brandon Lewis about #Carillion on the telly earlier today.

Pete Heskett: Hi @RobBurl curious about @toryboypierce and @BrandonLewis being allowed to spread fake news about @johnmcdonnellMP on #marr this morning. Given @DominicRaab also did so on @bbcquestiontime on Thurs would it not be the producers job of Marr to tell them beforehand not to do this?
Rob Burley: We don't stop people saying things. But both times it was said we put John McDonnell's side of the story.
Pete Heskett: Intrigued - so am I to conclude that senior BBC executives such as @bbcnickrobinson want fake news from @TheCanarySays or @skwawkbox censored but when it is Mail journalists or Conservative politicians spreading fake news about @UKLabour on a flagship BBC politics show it’s okay?
Rob Burley: I can't be bothered with your snark Pete. If you want a civilised conversation about it let me know.

Lek Black: #marr Why do all you sheep watch this clown.
Rob Burley: Do sheep watch clowns? Is this a thing?

Mary McGonigal‏: Andrew #Marr and what he does or says is irrelevant to me. He’s virtual reality. In the real world in Scotland he matters very little. If he matters in London then more fool you.
Rob Burley: Well I do work on his show so he does kinda matter..

"Perhaps they deserve each other"

The BBC's omnipresent Media Editor Amol Rajan (does he ever sleep?) has just written a piece for The New Statesman about Michael Wolff and his book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Amol describes Mr Wolff as a "scumbag" and says that his book is, in part, "fake news", though he did find it "riveting". The piece ends, ever so impartially, like this:

Saturday, 13 January 2018

We can't all be perfect

One way of putting the BBC’s political bias into perspective is to compare the BBC’s overt Obama worship with the BBC’s wall-to-wall anti-Trump narrative, which replaced it even before The Donald had won the presidency. I accept that a modicum of cynicism crept in towards the end of Obama’s second term, so it’s possible that the more knee-jerk excesses of the BBC’s Trump-bashing will abate one day.

Such hidebound attitudes obscure sensible reporting. It was bizarre to watch an Iranian delivering some home-truths on the state of his country, while the panel of western left-liberal commentators allowed their Trump-bashing to lead them up the cul de sac to a dead end which entails defending the Ayatollahs (Dateline) The ordinary Iranian-on-the-Tehran-omnibus, said he, has no beef with America or Israel. In other words, topple the theocracy and make Iran great again. Anyway, I’m no expert on Iran’s internal dynamics so I’ll leave it at that.

Over at The Conservative Woman (or ‘Con Wom’) Kathy Gyngell has written a fine piece about one of Trump’s recent effronteries; cancelling his trip to London. 

Who can blame someone for not going where they’re not wanted? The BBC had been wasting its time trying to tease out the ‘real reason’ behind Trump’s decision when another bombshell hit the fan in the name of shit-hole. The new outrage subsumed the old outrage. Snub v shit-hole. Which is more Trumpish?

 Although it has been mildly amusing waiting to hear which BBC anchor would repeat the offending word - bonkers when you consider the language that’s now virtually common currency on TV - this shit-storm, and the Toby Young one, forces one to ask oneself whether we really do need our leaders to occupy a particular sort of holy pedestal. It’s bit like the Queen going to the toilet lavatory. She must, but we’d rather she didn’t. 

We want our leaders to be better than us, but at the same time we want them to be the same. There’s a worthwhile debate between Brendan O’Neil and the Guardian’s Dawn Foster about this topic, and this time I have to say that both of them made a good case. I’m with Brendan, but Dawn was good too.

If you haven't come across Dawn Foster (despite the fact that she’s on TV a lot) let me tell you that she has transformed herself from - let’s be brutal - an overweight, bespectacled, far-left, fast-talking plain-Jane with a lisp,  to a far-left, fast-talking slimmed down, lilac haired, pouting seductress whose lisp no longer matters. I don’t share her views, but I respect her quick witted intelligence. She does spend a helluva lot of time on Twitter in a slightly more narcissistic manner than average. I don’t tweet so I claim the moral high ground.

Back to Kathy Gyngell, who calls Theresa May ‘priggish’. That sums it up. Even the P.M.'s rebukes are priggish. In a nutshell, Donald Trump is so obnoxious, his appearance is so weird, his personal fragility is so visible and his conduct is so unconventional that in some ways he’s got nothing to lose. He may as well say what he thinks and offend whom he pleases. 

Theresa May, on the other hand, is all tied up. Hidebound by political correctness and priggishness, she tries to please everyone and ends up pleasing no-one. She’ll never woo the Corbynistas, and she’s all but lost the “true Conservatives”. 

Prepare for a Labour government. Steel yourselves. 


There’s something truly bonkers going on at the BBC. Here we have Carrie Gracie, having secured both a pay rise and a ‘desk job’ working beside the beleaguered John Humphrys, who is proud to admit that he earns shedloads. Many times more than the women on the staff. You may well disagree, but I don’t think Carrie Gracie is very suited to the radio. Her voice is more querulous (or do I mean quavery) than mellifluous, and when she’s on with Nick Robinson -  that makes a pair. 

The latest hullabaloo about Humphrys and Sopel is, if you like that sort of thing, 'popcorn time'. Consider Kathy Gyngell’s colourful description of mummy’s boy Private Pike, aka:
 “the incontinent North America correspondent himself, Jon Sopel. Yes, the man at the heart of the bias and venom, the reporter who’d displayed his prejudice against ‘the populist’ Trump at every opportunity, even at the White House and to Mr Trump’s face, in swaggering displays of hubris. 

I stumbled across an earlier (pre Graciegate) example of unintended self denunciation by Humph, through Sarah Montague’s Twitter. For a reputed salary of around £600,000 “I wouldn’t want to be a politician because I wouldn’t want to work that hard.”

Doesn’t look good, John. We don’t want our presenters to be greedy or self-important. We want them to be humble and modest and they must never be caught with their trousers down.

The BBC is reporting the protest against a 'puffed up pompous popinjay' whose speech at the Fabian Society revealed an astounding lack of self-awareness.

Roger Harrabin is Opinionated (shocker)

The Roger Harrabin

I like Alex Deane and trust his judgement on most things, so when I read this...

...I suspected that Alex might, most probably, have a point - especially given that it was the BBC's (environmental activist) environment analyst Roger Harrabin who was doing the reporting for the BBC here. 

Alex then added:
0.28%. Not the UK, the whole of Europe, 0.28%.  
Of course we should pollute less. But the way some environmentalists get the hair shirts out for us seems to ignore the facts.
And by "some environmentalists" he clearly included the BBC's Roger Harrabin.

Was he being fair to the BBC's very own Green Man here though? Was he unfairly doing down his own country to promote an environmentalist cause?

I'm pretty sure that Alex was, above all, referring to Roger's stony-faced appearance on BBC One's News at Ten this Thursday where the Not-So-Jolly Green BBC Reporter said:
Yes, it's ironic actually that she [Mrs May] did focus on plastics because that is one of the weakest areas of the document that they've produced today. If she wants to be a world leader in plastics, which she says she does, maybe someone should have told her that Bangladesh banned plastic bags back in 2002. We are lagging in the UK behind many African countries on that.
Well, yes, from that I'd say that Alex raises a serious question mark over the factual accuracy of Roger Harrabin's reporting on that news bulletin but, as I'm no expert, I won't pronounce judgment on that

I will, however, find Roger Harrabin guilty here of giving a highly-charged opinion (or two) at the BBC licence fee payers' expense. He was being very opinionated.

Ah yes...

And talking of Iranians who go 'off message', please give today's Dateline London a try. You'll see Iranian-born Amir Taheri (always a favourite of mine) making everyone else on the otherwise very 'BBC' panel explode with utter disbelief by repeatedly defending Donald Trump, both over Iran and 'shithol*s'. Poor Jane Hill, listening to Mr Taheri, occasionally looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. What fun!

Some credit must be given to the Dateline team for booking Mr Taheri. No credit to them for assembling the panel, however, when it came to talking about Brexit...and I bet you can get which way the bias went on that subject!

A linguistically-convoluted post

Kasra Naji

If you've been watching the BBC News Channel today you might have spotted Kasra Naji from the BBC Persian Service talking about Trump and Iran. 

Though he came across well, I was struck by just how linguistically convoluted he became when talking about Ayatollah Larijani, the hardline head of the judiciary in Iran. He could just have say that the hanging ayatollah has been "accused of human rights abuses" or that he is "seen as responsible for human rights abuses" or that he faces "allegations of human rights abuses"; but no, he had to double-up on the distancing language each time:
He's the head of the judiciary, accused of a whole range of allegations of human rights abuses, 
He's responsible or at least seen as responsible for allegations of human rights abuses 
It's probably a 'BBC Impartiality' thing.

That said, there was no linguistically convolution whatsoever from him when it came to choosing a term to describe the kind of people who think that the Iran nuclear deal is 'a bad thing': 
But obviously hardliners in the US and President Trump are unhappy with this and they want to get rid of it.
Still Kasra was otherwise quite impressive and offered an opinion that I didn't expect to hear from a BBC reporter in reference to the US sanctions on Ayatollah Larijani:
So in terms of Iranians hearing this, I would have thought it's a popular thing for the US to do.
I wonder if it is popular.

Trump joins the EU

The lead item on the BBC News website this morning was:

Iran's "anger" at Trump was the BBC's main angle on the story, which concerns the US's imposition of sanctions on the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli-Larijani.

As so often with BBC reports you have to go elsewhere to find the context to the news, including answers to such questions as 'Is the US move merely a whim of Donald Trump's?'.

The answer to that question turns out to be 'no'. The White House is merely joining the E.U., which sanctioned Ayatollah Larijani in 2012 for personally approving and overseeing the imposition of horrific punishments: 

Those sanctions are still in force (being separate to those relating to Iran’s nuclear programme, lifted back in 2016). 

Wonder if anyone at the BBC knows this?


I've always loved Bradford-born composer Frederick (nee Fritz) Delius's short but lovely tone poem On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, so this week's Tales From the Stave on Radio 4 was right up my paradise garden, clarinets going 'cuckoo' and all. 

The piece feels quintessentially English, though - and Donald Trump would like this - its main tune is a Norwegian folk tune borrowed from a piano piece by Fred's friend from the land of fjords, Edvard Grieg. 

Ed took the tune from a gloomy folk tune about a women's drowned baby and turned it into a Norwegian pastoral idyll. Fritz took Ed's tune and turned it into an English (or French) pastoral idyll.

Bells became cuckoos.

Whatever. I love Delius. I love Grieg. I love the English countryside. I've never heard a live cuckoo. And this piece is glorious.

And this was a great BBC programme. 

Cuckoo. Cuckoo. On Clarinet.