Friday, 23 February 2018

A poll the BBC probably won't be tweeting about

So according to the latest YouGov poll...

...nearly half of Leave voters think the BBC is biased against Brexit and only 13% of them give the BBC believe the BBC to be unbiased over Brexit. 

Not surprising that of course - though the 5% of Leave voters who think the BBC is pro-Brexit is quite something!

The more interesting finding is that - despite Lord Adonis and Alastair Campbell - there's no equivalent result among Remain voters. Nearly three times as many Remain voters think the BBC is unbiased. And most startling of all,  more Remain voters (14%) think the BBC is anti-Brexit than pro-Brexit (13%) - so Lord Adonis and Alastair Campbell are a minority of a minority of a minority here!

Wonder what the BBC Press Office will say about this one?

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Open Thread

All tracks lead to a new open thread. 

A kind reader suggested this image for an open thread and provided me with the background to it:
This is a painting by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson The Soul of the Soulless City (‘New York - an Abstraction’) 1920. An extract from the Tate write-up: New York - an Abstraction was painted in London after Nevinson's return from New York in 1919 and before his next visit in October 1920 for a second exhibition at Frederick Keppel & Co. The poor reception of this exhibition may have accelerated Nevinson's disaffection with the city. His growing embitterment is perhaps reflected by the change of title. Originally exhibited in 1920 at the Bourgeois Galleries, New York, as New York - an Abstraction, it was retitled The Soul of the Soulless City in the Faculty of Arts Exhibition, Grosvenor House, London, in 1925 probably at Nevinson's instigation. The new title may have been a reference to Karl Marx's comment that religion was the 'heart of a heartless world'.
Thanks for all of your comments.

Did you see this coming?

Looking at Twitter this afternoon/evening, there are (literally) thousands of people with Twitter handles like 'Despise the Tories' or with '#FBPE' after their names or who more generally identify themselves as supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and/or the Labour Party who are joining together to sing an exultant hymn of praise to a BBC interviewer - namely Andrew Neil.

It's amusing (to me) just how many of them begin their praise for Andrew Neil by writing 'I've been critical of Andrew Neil in the past but' and 'I'm no fan of Andrew Neil but...' or 'I confess to not being your greatest fan, but...' or 'I don't particularly warm to AN but...' (and many other variations thereon) before immediately going on to say 'I applaud you today' or 'this was very good' or 'fair play to him with this interview' or 'Biff! Take that, Baker' or 'or 'this is brilliant journalism from him here in skewering Steve Baker' or 'this is a lesson in political interviewing - well played!' or 'credit where it’s due'. (And 'credit where credit's due' is proving particularly popular).
From zero to hero, it seems!

And this is why:
Naturally, Rob Burley has seized the moment:
Alan White: Can someone pls fetch a bodybag for Steve Baker we have a casualty here.
Sianushka: "The real scandal is the outright lies and disinformation that your Tory colleagues are spreading". I rarely say this, but well said Andrew Neil.
Rob Burley: Some welcome converts to Andrew Neil's interviewing skills. Will be good when people praise him when it's their side being put under pressure by him. He does it to everyone, irrespective. 
Rob Burley: Those who oppose BBC covering "Czech spying" story should watch back Andrew Neil interviewing Steve Baker on The Daily Politics today - scrutiny of a story, even one that is apparently damaging to "your side", helps reveals whether there's any evidence and can be hard for your opponents.
James Mills: I have criticised Andrew Neil in the past, but here he does a v. good job pointing out the absurd unfounded smears being made at Cabinet level.
Kevin Schofield: So he’s only OK when he’s giving Tories a hard time? Andrew Neil is equally tough on politicians from all parties.
Rob Burley: This. Exactly. 
And so has Andrew himself:
Tory Fibs: Full credit to Andrew Neil. He just demolished the Tories for sinking to new lows in their Corbyn "Soviet Smears".
Mo Ansar: Fair play to Andrew Neil. I've been a staunch critic when I don't agree. I cannot deny him when he's on the money. This is how you cross-examine. Fearsome.
Andrew Neil: I’m on the money even when you disagree!


BBC One's News at Ten reported on the 'Cob' story last night, devoting a whole 15 seconds to it. Here's what they said about it in full: 
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn has warned the press that "change is coming," as he accused them of publishing "lies and smears" over his contacts with a Czech spy back in the 1980s. He suggested the reporting showed how "worried" media bosses were by the prospect of a Labour government. 

Irony Klaxon!

And so are you, BBC Radio 4!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

On not trusting Mark Easton

If anyone knows who the blonde lady on the left is (and which party she represents) please let me know. She's a missing link in this post.

Last night's BBC One News at Ten featured a report from Mark Easton. 

I've long been in the habit of treating reports by Mark Easton with suspicion - especially if they've got anything to do with Brexit or UK regionalism (please see here for why I'm suspicious about his reporting on the latter. I class him as an advocate for UK regionalism rather than a neutral reporter on the issue).

This report dealt with both subjects, so I was doubly suspicious. 

In this mood, I thought I'd better transcribe the whole thing and then try to judge whether I'm wrong to keep on distrusting his reporting:

Newsreader: The leaders of nine British cities, among them Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol, have held talks in Brussels today with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. The city mayors insist they're not interfering with the UK Government's negotiations but they want to make the case for more European money and power to be devolved to the UK's regions and nations after Brexit. Our home editor Mark Easton reports.
Mark Easton: They've not been able to get a meeting about Brexit with the UK Government, but today the leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain, travelled to Brussels to talk to the man on the other side of the negotiating table, the European Union's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council: Really important to emphasise that we're not here to undermine the Government's negotiations. Brexit is happening next year. The cities have got a really clear agenda in terms of how we can move things forward on behalf of our citizens. And we're here to start the ball rolling today. 
Marvin Rees is Mayor of Bristol, where almost two thirds of voters were for Remain. He believes local people want to be reassured that, in its talks with the EU, central government will reflect the concerns of this proud trading city.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol: The voices of cities, the voices of particular sectors, even, are not being heard, not being sought, and not being reflected. Our job, as city leaders, is to make sure that those voices are heard and that it's not just a Westminster Brexit. 
The boss of this precision engineering company says EU membership has protected quality and reduced red tape. The kind of Brexit Britain negotiates is vital, he says, for his business.
Andrew Varga, managing director of Seetru Engineering: Central government is very removed from our concerns. They don't have time to understand the detailed, very detailed issues that affect us. We are looking for a mechanism to get our voice heard. 
The argument of leaders in cities like Bristol is that Brexit is an opportunity to devolve power away from the centre. For local people to take back control from Westminster, as well as Brussels. For more than an hour, Michel Barnier listened to the concerns and the hopes of city leaders representing a quarter of the UK economy. But, for them, the Brexit negotiator they really want to talk to now is in London.
Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council: From this, we will go back to Government and say, look, we have an enormous amount to contribute to the discussions, to the negotiations. Let's get around the table and talk urgently, because the clock is ticking. 
Britain's Department for Exiting the EU says it does meet with stakeholders from local and regional government. But these city leaders say they want to make sure that power and influence over Brexit is not only in the hands of a Westminster elite. Mark Easton, BBC News, Brussels. 

To me this painted a picture of a diverse group of UK city leaders ("the leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain") going to talk to the EU's top negotiator. All goes well, and M. Barnier "listens" to their "concerns and hopes". 

This is contrasted with their shabby treatment by the UK Government. As the report keeps on stressing, the UK government has (unlike the EU man) so far refused to listen to their "concerns and hopes". 

The report's point seems to be: Why won't the UK government listen to them?

Mark Easton's language is very striking. Note how he uses Leave language ("take back control" and "elite") and turns it against Westminster - the very parliament Leave campaigners wanted to restore sovereignty to. Even the random pro-EU businessman Mark brings in (for what reason???)  echoes this language ("Central government is very removed from our concerns").

As a result, the UK Government is made to look like the bad guy and M. Barnier a good guy.

Isn't this just Mark Easton pushing the cause of these nine city leaders? 17 words for the other side of the argument ("Britain's Department for Exiting the EU says it does meet with stakeholders from local and regional government") doesn't seem like proper balance to me.

More pointedly, isn't this just Mark Easton pushing his own views on regional devolution yet again?

Curiously, while writing this post, it struck me that it might be worth checking out exactly who these "leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain", are - especially given Mark Easton's track record. I've believe I've identified eight out of the nine, namely the Labour leader of Leeds Council, the Labour leader of Birmingham Council, the Labour Mayor of Bristol, the Labour leader of Cardiff Council, the Labour Mayor of Liverpool, the Labour leader of Newcastle Council, the Labour leader of Nottingham Council, and the Labour deputy leader of Manchester Council.

I'm sure you'll be able to spot a pattern there!

The final one, I presume, must represent Glasgow City Council, but I can't find any evidence that the SNP leader of that council, Susan Aitken, was present. (She's certainly not the mysterious blonde in the photo at the top of this post. Ms. Aitken doesn't look anything like her - unless she's dyed her hair, lost some weight and changed the bone structure of her face). 

Shouldn't Mark Easton have made at least some kind of nod towards telling his audience that these are local leaders every one of whom belongs to parties opposed to the UK government (mainly if not entirely Labour), and that their criticism of the UK government could perhaps be seen in that light too? 

Hmm, so, no, I'm not giving up on feeling suspicious about Mark Easton's reporting any time soon then. I think this report absolutely reeked of a BBC reporter's personal agenda-pushing.

What do you make of this report? Do you agree? Am I wrong?. (If I'm missing something, please let me know).


And, thanks to Humourme in the comments below, we now know that the mysterious blonde who met Michel Barnier is Olivia Blake, Labour deputy leader of Sheffield Council.

So, yes, every single one of Mark Easton's apparently diverse "leaders of British cities, both those that voted Leave and Remain" turns out to be from the Labour Party.

And that makes BBC News at Ten's claim that the leaders of nine British cities were involved with the meeting with M. Barnier, among them Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol, FAKE NEWS!

SNP-run Glasgow (the tenth of Core Cities ten citiesweren't involved. (I knew it!!!) .And, yes, it was Labour-run cities all the way...

...something Mark Easton 'forgot' to mention.

(Apologies for the crazy Blogger emphases here!)

Further Update: This gets fishier and fishier...

A very reliable source has informed me that Mr Varga "is not random at all" and that he's been "flaunting and touting his anti-Brexit views on the BBC" for some time, including on Today....

...and I've been given a transcript of a Today interview from October 13th last year which shows Mr Varga sounding off against Brexit very strongly - e.g.:
Lucy Burton (BBC): And is this something you blame entirely on Brexit? It sounds like it . . .
Andrew Varga: Yes, yes, no, no question.  No question. These are...this is uncertainty at the moment, it’s all due to uncertainty at the moment.

It's striking that it's only been the Guardian, various local papers and the BBC who've made anything much of this story.

That makes it all the more intriguing. 

Mark Easton trotted over the Channel with these exclusively-Labour Party 'Core Cities' folk (without telling BBC viewers that every single one of them was Labour).  His report showed him reporting from Bristol in connection with the Labour Mayor of Bristol's gripes about a "Westminster Brexit" before both him and the Labour Mayor Bristol re-appeared, across the English Channel, in Brussels, and his report ended with the words "Mark Easton, BBC News, Brussels". 

Hmm, so Mark Easton was obviously involved in this even before they went to Brussels.

So the obvious questions about Mark's involvement here are: (a) But how involved and (b) why? And (c) how early and (d) who instigated it?

Mystic Craig strikes again (maybe)

Talking of Marks at the BBC (as we were in the post now bumped up above this one!)...

One I trust vastly more than slippery Mark Easton - namely Newsnight's Mark Urban -  has been digging into the 'Corbyn=Czechoslovak spy' story

And, yes, as I result of what I've read from Mark (on Twitter) this afternoon, I'm going to go out on a blogger's limb and firmly predict (with no other evidence yet to to support it other than knowing what the BBC is like) that...

...drum roll please!...

...yes, Newsnight is finally going to report the story tonight - and, even more,  is actually 'go big' with it.

And why do I think that? Because Mark has sounded the 'All Clear' for the far-left Labour leader. 

Yes, from his digging, all's apparently coming up smelling of Bohemian, Moravian and Slovakian roses for Agent Cob...
  • 1/3 spoke to some fmr British spooks about the Corbyn 'Czech spy' claim. They consider it nonsense, 'he had no secrets to give away' says one, E. Bloc officers in London 'had a pattern of exaggerating the importance of their contacts' says another
  • 2/3 most intelligence agencies define an agent as 'under control', or 'taskable', say former spooks, & having had full access to Czech StB files post cold war, MI6 evidently do not consider Corbyn met that definition
  • 3/3 one former case officer jokes Corbyn 'may have been naive in his contacts [with a Czech spook] but I'm not looking for any more evidence of his naivety'.
  • p.s. British intelligence officers had the run of Czech & Stasi files at the end of the Cold War + Mitrokhin gave them the KGB's crown jewels. For many years they've had the evidence who betrayed what and to whom.
After its most respected reporter has now found the Labour leader innocent of being a Soviet bloc agent, shall we take bets on how long Newsnight will spend on the story tonight, having spent no time whatsoever on it up till now?

What do you reckon? No time at all? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 15 minutes? More? 

Guido Fawkes, however, isn't sounding the 'all clear' and is continuing to do its own digging.

If Newsnight takes the impartial high ground and doesn't much a lot of Mark Urban's researches today, after ignoring the story for nigh on two weeks, I'll give them credit tomorrow. 

I really doubt they'll be able to contain themselves though.

We'll soon know.

Update: And the answer is: They didn't cover it. I'm about as 'mystic' as 'Mystic Meg' herself!

Mad World

I agree with Julia:

More's to the point, why is this on the BBC News Home page? Is it 'news'? And should the BBC be encouraging such lunacy by making such a big deal of it?

Further Reading

If you feel that our esteemed 'Brexit Bulldog' David Davis has been rather letting people with the name 'David' down today with all his Mad Max talk, then please have a read of another David - namely David Keighley at The Conservative Woman:

David's piece looks at how "the Jo Cox label" became "a BBC dog-whistle fulcrum to bring on a raft of people – including especially Brendan Cox himself – who wanted to attack those who were perceived to be against her saint-like espousal of causes such as open immigration, Remain (in the EU), and cultural diversity". 

Mad David?

David Davis is a seasoned politician and I'm sure he's much, much wiser than me when it comes to the art of politics so I probably shouldn't lecture him but I can't help feeling that he's made a big mistake by even raising the possibility that post-Brexit Britain could be a “Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction”. The enemies of Brexit were surely bound to pounce on such language and make hay with it. 

And pounce they most certainly have, and the fun has already begun.
Chris Bryant MP: Somehow the line that Brexit won't plunge us into a Mad Max dystopia isn't very reassuring.  #Imagineiftheyhadjustputthatonthebus. 
Jay Rayner: I don't know about you, but that's me reassured. (Still, I'm stockpiling petrol, chainsaws, and a fine collection of leather chaps; better safe than sorry, eh). 
Lord Falconer: Boris’ speech suggests building bridge across Channel, Davis’ speech says post Brexit UK won’t be as bad as Mad Max. 27 are currently fixing  negotiating guidelines. What must they think of our govt? 
Alex von Tunzelmann: I for one am certainly not now panicking and working out how to distil drinking water from my own bodily fluids. 
The Guardian immediately made David Davis: Brexit will not plunge Britain into 'Mad Max dystopia' their main headline last night, and they were closely followed by the BBC doing the same thing, with the headline Post-Brexit UK won't be 'Mad Max-style world' and a photo of a worried-looking David Davis alongside it:

This morning's BBC Breakfast put it like this:
Britain will not be "plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction" after it leaves the EU. That's what the Brexit Secretary David Davis is expected to say in a speech he'll make in Austria later today. 
And one of the presenters said:
And it does seem an extraordinary use of language, to be talking about Mad Max, even if he is saying that is not what will happen.
Well, yes.

And Emily Maitlis, on last night's Newsnight, outlined the story and then laughed, asking "So that's good news?"

P.S. Former Newsnight economics correspondent Duncan Weldon puts it like this:


And for that minute a blackbird sang...

typical blackbird song phrase

This morning's Tweet of the Day on Radio 4 looked at my favourite bird - the blackbird. I agree with every word of what Professor David Rothenberg said and, being the dutiful blogger that I am, I thought I'd post a transcription of it for your delight:
The blackbird is incredibly musical and beautiful, and the best book is in Danish by Torben Dabelsteen, although most of his articles are also published in English, about the way they use sound back and forth. I believe every year they start relearning their song in that they kind-of build it up again, so towards the end of the season they're better. And yet it's so melodic, it's so much using the intervals that humans recognise as musical. And they're so different from each. Each blackbird sounds different from every other blackbird, and that's quite fascinating It's why birdsong is different from a bird call. Bird calls, you can quickly decide what they mean - this means "Watch out, a hawk is flying overhead!"; this means "I'm hungry!" - and they have very specific short meanings that are much more like words, much more like language. But these songs are more like performances. They have a beginning, a middle, an end. There's this whole emotional shape. And you can't reduce it to its function. You can't say, "I've explained the song away by saying it for attracting mates and defending territories". The musical shape and form is still there. It can't be denied. There's nothing controversial or irrational or unscientific about saying that birds are making music. It's just quite likely to be true. 
One year, only a few year's back, I would listen to a blackbird singing just on a tree or a wall near our back door and I listened as his tune got better and better as the season went on. His tune always began with the same little melodic hook and then, jazz-like, went its own sweet way. The next year he began again. The melodic hook at the start was a little more sophisticated but it was still recognisably the same tune and the improvisations thereon where unquestionably more sophisticated still. So practise makes perfect, even with blackbirds! Unfortunately, I found him dead soon after, so never found how his song developed over the course of a second year. I suppose I should have called him 'Charlie Parker' but didn't. I called him Percy. True story.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Watertight oversight - 'Cob' and the BBC

Please bear with me on this one (as I weave my way through my thoughts on this), and please also try to remember that not all tl;dr posts are really 'tl', and that (maybe) they should be 'r' after all...

Stephen Glover of the Daily Mail has excoriated the BBC for "ignoring" the allegations about Jeremy Corbyn being "a Czech ‘asset’" - and agent codenamed 'Cob', approved by the Soviet Union in the dying years of the Cold War: 
Far more worrying is the way the all-powerful BBC has hitherto avoided Sarkocy’s allegations, which have been met with vehement denials by the Labour Party. If you relied on our public service broadcaster for your news, as about half the nation does, you wouldn’t know anything about ‘Cob’. 
I watch and listen to the news on BBC television and radio almost obsessively, and I have picked up only two fleeting references [on a Today newspaper review and The Andrew Marr show yesterday - the bit where Andrew called the story 'rather thin] to the extremely grave charges against Mr Corbyn. All I can find on Auntie’s voluminous website is a tiny mention of a newspaper report....
There may have been other passing references, but it can be fairly stated that the BBC has done its utmost not to give this story wider circulation even though it contains the mind-boggling suggestion, of course unproven, that as a young MP Jeremy Corbyn betrayed his country.
Oh Stephen! Much as I like and admire you and much as you may have a point here, the canny BBC's tradition of 'watertight oversight' means that it was never going to be that easy for a critic of the BBC like you here (though please bear with me!)...

...and, sure enough, Dino Sofos, Senior Social Media Producer at BBC News, found a 'gotcha' answer for you (and, specifically, for Guido Fawkes) :

And so did Rob Burley, the Ed-Sheeran-averse editor of The Andrew Marr Show:

So (apparently) John Pienaar's Radio Sunday show covered it "at length", and so did today's Daily Politics. 

QED for the BBC? (Not really. See below).

And, similarly, when Guido Fawkes asks, "Any chance the BBC will cover it properly now the PM has commented?", the BBC will point to a report on BBC News website this evening headlined Corbyn should be 'open' on spy's claims - May and say 'Yes, we did report it'.

Ah but....

...(long sigh).... the venerable tradition of BBC 'watertight oversight', just check out where on the BBC website the BBC published this headline story (and where it's stayed ever since). [You'll have to click the image to enlarge it, and then you'll see that the BBC hasn't made it a prominent story.] Yes, it appeared near the exit door of the BBC's Home page, so to speak. But, yes, they have reported it on their Home page, so....'watertight oversight' kicks in and the BBC is off the hook.

Or is it?

Read that BBC report, however, and it's mostly 'the case for the defence' as far as Jeremy Corbyn is concerned.  The caption to the opening image puts Jeremy's case for him, rebuttals of the claims against Mr. Corbyn get the lion's share of the reported speech, and the BBC itself gives its own imprimatur to those rebuttals. Plus the whole report is full of 'health warnings' ("claims", "alleged", "reportedly", "possible") about the claims against Mr. Corbyn.

The BBC, rightly or wrongly, is essentially rubbishing the story here - 'belatedly reporting it and frantically trashing it', unkind folk might say!

As I'm wary of taking the BBC on trust these says (even those BBC people I like), I've also checked out Dino and Rob's claims. 

As for John Pienaar on Pienaar's Politics, yes, the story was discussed - for fully 5 minutes - but John Pienaar himself immediately rubbished those claims that Jeremy Corbyn might have been an agent for the Soviet Bloc by describing them as "pretty absurd" and ended the big discussion (twently minutes later) by saying, flippantly, "this story may be going absolutely nowhere but it doesn't stop us talking about anything!" - both of which statements clearly signalled to the Radio 5 Live listener that the BBC's Deputy Political Editor personally doesn't reckon much to the story. 

As for the discussion itself, two defenders of Jeremy Corbyn (Labour's Peter Dowd and pro-Labour journalist Jenni Russell) rubbished the story for nearly all of and then, just before the end, the Sun's David Wooding got a brief say and voiced some criticism of Mr. Corbyn's past. 

So, yes, Pienaar's Politics did devote a whole segment of the programme to the story yesterday, though John Pienaar began and ended his programme's coverage of it by strongly suggesting his own sense that the story doesn't amount to much and doesn't really merit reporting, and - separately - the 2:1 imbalance of the discussion (made worse by David from the Sun getting far less time than either of the two Labour-defending guests) didn't really cover this segment in impartial BBC glory either, did it? 

So, Pienaar's Politics is classic BBC watertight oversight in action. 'See, we discussed it after all!' , says the BBC. Yes BBC, you did. But HOW did you discuss it on this rare occasion when you seemingly reluctantly consented to finally discuss the story? That is the question.

As for The Daily Politics, well, yes, they too did discuss it today, as Rob said. ('What took them so long?' I imagine many people crying). Did they, as Rob contends, discuss it "at length"? Well, I think Rob is definitely stretching it there! So how long did they discuss it for? For 3 minutes and 2 seconds.

And Jo Coburn began the segment by stating, "Our man in Prague has spoken to the head of the Czech secret service archive who has reiterated that there's absolutely nothing in the archive to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn was an informer but he was a 'person', according to her, 'of interest' to the secret service."

Again, this is classic BBC watertight oversight in action. The story that many people claim the BBC is "ignoring" is then (after those complaints have been pouring in for days) finally discussed on the flagship Daily Politics...albeit for just three minutes and with the BBC presenter sounding a very strong 'health warning' about it from the word go.

So there we are. The BBC - like the Guardian but unlike several right-wing papers - isn't buying these claims about Jeremy Corbyn.

And it's not encouraging you to buy them either.

And what does that say about 'BBC impartiality'?

For a firmly non-BBC take on all of this you might want to read the latest article from Douglas Murray. It's quite a 'think' piece.

Just a reminder...

Just a reminder: the BBC's World Affairs Editor is as impartial as impartial can be...

Hair-raising matters (again)

Contrasting hairstyles

Whilst catching up with Mark Mardell's Twitter fan mail from the Corbynista Left and anti-Brexit hardliners, I spotted another fan (albeit a more qualified one) - this time an anti-Israeli obsessive called Richard Sunningdale

Richard was tweeting, via Mark Mardell, to the BBC's James Reynolds about a news bulletin report broadcast on the 13th February edition of The World at One

Richard began his tweet by saying:
@jreybbc Good report.
But anti-Israel Richard (as ever) wanted more: 
 - but you did not mention that Israeli troops had shot #AhedTamimi s brother in the head beforehand. Which rather contextualises Israel's acusation (sic) that Ahed was inciting violence. 
Richard, as is the way of people who live their lives on Twitter, was factually wrong about it being Ahed Tamimi's "brother" who was shot in the head beforehand. It was Ahed's cousin.

Now, what was it about James Reynolds's brief report that so appealed to anti-Israel Richard (despite it not going far enough in its anti-Israel bias for him)?

Well, this is James Reynold's brief report in full:
Ahed Tamimi arrived in court with her hands and feet in cuffs. She's being tried as a minor, so the judge ordered the session to take place behind closed doors. Journalists and diplomats were ordered to leave, to the frustration of the Tamimi family who'd wanted observers in court. Prosecutors argued that the 17 year-old is guilty of assault and incitement. Her family and her defence say that she was simply resisting occupation against a much more powerful enemy. Her trial will continue next month if found guilty and Ahed Tamimi may face more than a year in prison. 
As regular readers will know, Ahed Tamimi is a young female Palestinian activist, groomed by her hardline father since around the age of 12 to take part in high-profile anti-Israel protests. Her extended family contains two murderous terrorists and the family as a whole, including young Ahed, haven't been shy in their support for terrorism against Israelis - hence the incitement part of her trial.

So what to make of James Reynolds's report and anti-Israeli Richard's (qualified) enthusiasm for it?

Well, for starters, pro-Israeli folk could easily reverse-weasel Richard and demand that BBC James provide the context I provided in the last-but-one paragraph of this post - something that James didn't provide. 

But as for why anti-Israel Richard otherwise approved of this BBC report, well, I don't think that's hard to guess. The language of the piece gives it away. 

It starts with the image of girl being taken into court "with her hands and feet in cuffs". And then we're told that she's "a minor", and that the judge has "ordered the session to take place behind closed doors". "Journalists and diplomats" are "ordered to leave" (a loaded play on the multi-faceted word 'ordered'). The family feel "frustration" as a result. One side says that a 17 year-old girl is guilty; the other - two groups of people - say that she's "simply resisting occupation against a much more powerful enemy". And if found guilty she could "face" more than a year in prison. 

So here's the idea of a "simply-resisting-occupation" girl who slaps and kicks a soldier and who is then taken into court "with her hands and feet in cuffs" and who is subsequently prosecuted "behind closed doors", beyond the sight of "journalists and diplomats", and to the "frustration" of her family and her defence team. It really doesn't sound good at all - especially IF PUT THAT WAY. And now she "faces" prison.  

The language reporters choose and they way they frame their reports remains key and I don't believe any of it simply on trust anymore. 

That said, no wonder anti-Israeli obsessive Richard found that such a "good report". It surely raises doubts in the minds of people who might otherwise be neutral or sympathetic towards Israel about Israel's actions here. 

Omissions there certainly are, but are there any factual errors? Not that I can see. The bias is all in the framing, the loaded language and those telling omissions.

I think this James Reynolds piece pleased anti-Israel Richard for obvious reasons - i.e that it was biased against Israel - but I would appreciate your take on this.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Mark Mardell and his admirers

Mark Mardell must feel blessed.

He's just about the only BBC reporter/presenter to be on the receiving end, week in and week out, of complimentary tweets concerning his impartiality as a reporter.

(Jeremy Bowen is another of these rare beasts).

I noticed this unusual trend a year or so ago and have been following it, and I've found a bit of a pattern. See if you can spot it too from this very representative sample:

"Got a lot of respect for you as a journalist" (from Marx Media
"I like @BBCMarkMardell  Intelligent.  Knows and understands Europe" (from David Randall #FBPE)
"BBC News on TV, radio & website is dead & buried. Main culprits: Radio 4 Today prog #r4today  BBC TV #bbcaq. However, give @BBCMarkMardell & BBC #r4 'The World This Weekend' a listen - Sunday at 1pm - Investigative balanced journalism inc. Brexit" (from BremainInSpain)
"Been catching up with the political programs I've missed, partly due to oversleeping. But switched on @BBCRadio4 in case Mark @BBCMarkMardell is presenting the Sunday edition of #wato. He is. So I'm listening to that now. #RespectGoodBroadcasters" (from Tom Delargy #StopToryBrexit #PCPEU)
‏"he's a class journo..." (from tudor lomas, anti-#brexshit citizen of nowhere)
"@BBCMarkMardell hon exception" (from Jenny Cooper #FBPE)

Perhaps not coincidentally, the criticism he gets on Twitter (and he does get some) overwhelmingly (indeed almost exclusively) comes from pro-Brexit people, and/or right-wing people. 

No 'complaints from both sides' for Mark Mardell then.

I suspect that the people quoted above will have broadly enjoyed Mark's report from a Labour gathering in Leeds today (starring Owen Jones, Angela Rayner, Jasmin Beckett and Aaron Bastani).

It started at an anti-Brexit protest, and Mark later pushed their cause with Aaron Bastani.

And the claims of bullying (being reported today, but not pushed far by Mark) were dismissed by his 'talking heads'. Everyone's happy, apparently (except about Brexit). A jolly lady said everyone in the hall was "jeering". She meant "cheering", but an ironic malapropism got in her way.

But after the Labour bit came and interview with former Portuguese Europe minister Bruno Maçães about the concept of 'Eurasia' and Mark introduced him as being "positive about Brexit" and someone who "sees an opportunity for Britain".

I wasn't expected that.

Curiously, however, Mr Maçães didn't say anything to that effect whatsoever. I was expecting to hear something positive about Brexit from him and it never came.

All we got, instead, was Mark and his strangely targeted questions.

It's the oddest interview I've heard in a while. It's as if Mr Maçães was talking about what he wanted to talk about and Mark Mardell was pushing an agenda at a complete tangent to what Mr Maçães was actually saying.

We got Mark talking about "Britain and Europe", and suggesting that the Chinese want to impose a European Court of Justice-style overseeing body and that we could end up in a worse-than-the-ECJ situation, and that talk of 'Eurasia' is Putin-like talk....and Bruno Maçães completley failing to pick up on Mark's agenda.

Mark Mardell was talking Brexit, Bruno Maçães wasn't.

Please listen to it for yourselves though. Maybe I'm missing something.

Another view

Laura Perrins

On the subject of Brandon Cox, this is quite a statement from Julia Hartley-Brewer:

And what do you make of this from Laura Perrins in response?

  • What the story about Brendan Cox reveals is how ruthless and dishonest the MSM, especially the BBC are. They knew about these allegations (see @JuliaHB1) and yet were happy to use him 2 push anti-Brexit agenda.
  • The BBC&MSM knew Brendan Cox was in a weak position to begin with, and eventually would have been brought down. It is why he didn't run for Jo Cox's seat. They didn't care about that or the two young children in this family.
  • Brendan Cox was useful 4 the BBC at the time. Now, he and more importantly the family are just collateral damage in this entire anti-Brexit agenda. Some1 else will come along for them 2 push.
  • The BBC also used Brendan Cox to push the increase in hate crime agenda when we know the evidence is weak. The image of him they put across was dishonest. They manipulated the public for the last 18 months or so. Now the extended family have to pick up the pieces.
  • The BBC and the use of Brendan Cox and the family as a whole, in such circumstances known to them at the time, is despicable and disgusting. They knew the further destruction of this family was inevitable. BBC didn't care.

Nothing to see here!

Unintentional comedian Paul Mason tweeted what Frank Carson would doubtless have called "a cracker" this morning. His tweet began reasonably enough: 
The Telegraph’s “spy” smear  @johnmcdonnellMP is literally fake news. 
but then his tinfoil hat went straight back on again:
The whole operation seems co-ordinated from Tory HQ...
Lovely use of the word 'seems' there, Paul!

Now, Brother Paul isn't the only one who doesn't reckon much to the Sunday Telegraph's lead story today:

They've also got the story about Jeremy Corbyn and the Czech agent. I should say that this has been comprehensively and absolutely denied as "lies and rubbish" by all of the politicians concerned and it does seem, reading through it, fairly thin." 
and Martine Croxall & her fellow paper reviewers judged it to be a "non story" on the BBC News Channel last night

So that's that then for the poor old Sunday Telegraph it seems! 

"Whatever else it is it's a sad, sad story for him"

There was a striking statement from Andrew Marr this morning, during his run-through of the newspaper front pages:
And finally the Mail on Sunday, the interview there with Jo Cox's widower - a very sad story actually, given what that man has gone through. Whatever else it is it's a sad, sad story for him. 
That echoes what he said last week, when he again called it "a sad story".

This was followed by an even more striking gesture: His paper review chose not to discuss the Mail on Sunday story.

Brendan Cox has been interviewed twice by The Andrew Marr Show. I suspect that Andrew & Co. have developed protective feelings towards him and that they would say that they were just being "nice and friendly and human" by drawing a veil of sympathy over his fall from grace. 

Martine Croxall

Last night's The Papers on the BBC News Channel, presented by Martine Croxall, were also notable for their treatment of this story. They did discuss it. In the first paper review, Martine began by saying, "Oh right. Here we go. Mail on Sunday", looking and sounding as if she was talking about this story with a heavy heart. And in the second paper review, she said, "Let's start with the Mail on Sunday, and Brendan Cox" and then she sighed. Both times she immediately took issue with the Mail on Sunday:
Oh right. Here we go. Mail on Sunday. '"Yes, I was a sex pest" confesses Jo Cox's husband'. This is Brendan Cox, "sensationally admitting"...This is not quite what he admitted if we read the quotes...
Let's start with the Mail on Sunday, and Brendan Cox. (Sighs). We have to take issue though, straightaway, with the headline. "Yes, I was a sex pest, confesses Jo Cox's husband". He didn't say that in this article.
She also said that of Brendan Cox's the phrase "years later" to describe now as compared to then - when the alleged incidents took place - even though they are alleged to have occurred in 2015 (2-3 years ago), and read out in full the Jo Cox Foundation's tribute to Brendan before saying, "So he's taking a step back because he does not want this [the 'inappropriate behaviour'] to get in the way of all of that [the Jo Cox Foundation's good work]".

I don't doubt that she was trying to be 'nice and friendly and human' too towards someone she feels sympathetic towards.

Of course, as you'll know, plenty of others feel very little sympathy for Brendan Cox. You only have to read the comments under the Mail on Sunday article to know that.

And the criticisms of Andrew Marr and his editor are already coming in, some measured in tone -
Hi @RobBurl I’m curious to know why #marr felt the need to express sympathy for Brendan Cox considering he’s only got himself to blame. No one else.
Thought @RobBurl perhaps it cld be useful to suggest to editor of @newswatchbbc to interview the editor of #Marr about when why and how stories are selected to be covered or not on newspaper reviews (for legit editorial or legal reasons doubtless) but just help deflect critics. [Ed - For those who don't already know, Rob Burley is also the editor of BBC Newswatch!]
- others less so:
Defender of sexual abuse, and you’re the editor! Shame on you!  #partofthecoverup
Rob is yet to reply.

Update: Rob has replied:

"We don't dictate to the reviewers which stories they must do. They chose".

That's fair enough, and answers that charge:
MrMacphisto #JRM4PM: He’s admitted it and resigned since last weekend, which I think is newsworthy. Or am I missing something? Tony Young treatment was rather different I recall.
Rob Burley: It was in the news and we reported the front page. The reviewers didn't chose the story. That's it.
And one of the paper reviewers, the Sunday Express's Camilla Tominey, has backed Rob up:
As a reviewer I can confirm we didn't choose it - we felt it had been done last week and that there were other stories more relevant to the public. 
As to Mr. Marr's overt expressions of sympathy for Brendan Cox, it will be interesting to read Rob's take on that too.

Further Update: Actually, Andrew Marr himself has saved Rob the need and responded first:

It's admirable that Andrew has responded to viewers' concerns (just like his editor), though it must be said that the comments (in response to his response) could be going a lot better for him (e.g. '"Sorry if taken the wrong way"= it's your fault for not understanding. Unbelievable' and 'Still no condemnation of his behaviour!').

Further Further Update: On things go...


Andrew Marr is making the news again. (See posts above). But today's programme should be best remembered for him describing the women's skeleton in the Winter Olympics as "basically a supersonic tea tray." 

I'm guessing that was a reference to this from Ian Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me: