Dr Who: The Empty Gesture.

John Melbourne wrote regarding the Dr Who two-parter just aired, The Empty Child.

A two part edition has just finished showing on BBC 1 this Saturday.

On the 21 May edition, a group of feral children use the cover of an air raid to rob houses of food. The home we are shown inside has a lavish spread on the table, far more than could be fairly obtained using ration cards. Indeed, there is so much food that about a dozen children can be fed. The good Doctor, upon seeing this behaviour, observes “I see, practical Marxism in Action”.

There’s something odd about this.

Wartime Britain was supposed to be the epitome of socialist planning in action. Rationing made sure that everyone got fair shares – egalitarianism in action. Of course all systems are abused, but black marketeers were punished if they were caught. Let’s assume for the writer’s benefit that this particular family is a “deserving” victim. If the children repeat their stealing on other days they must inevitably rob from families who will be “undeserving”. Does the writer want us to think that feral children have a right to steal?

We learn little of why the children are living like this. One of them starts a story about his evacuation experience: “there was a man…”, but stops. My thought was that the writer wanted me to assume it was child sex abuse but couldn’t actually put that in. Leading the group, we have Nancy, our heroine, because she helps others less fortunate than herself. At the end, we learn that she was the teenage mum for the dead boy, who is the title character. Good victim points here: homeless, starving, orphaned, teenage-mum, lost her child and female role model.

Oddly, all the children are dressed for an audition in Enid Blyton’s Famous 5 or else they just left their schools in uniform. No ingrained dirt, raggedy clothes or strong cockney accents spoil this delightful scene – the best mannered group of feral children you are ever likely to meet. Perhaps the makers thought that some “rougher” children might not gain our sympathy.

In the second episode, the Doctor saves the day as usual and makes a parting request to the blitz era Londoners who owe him their lives: “… and don’t forget to create the Welfare State.” Odd that he didn’t ask them to nationalise the utilities, the telephone service or the British car industry etc. Surely that is practical Marxism in action?

Despite travelling in time, the Doctor seems to have acquired an early twenty first century left-liberal perspective on politics. Knowing the future as he does, he could have made some “improvements” to our own day:

Dr Who: “and don’t use DDT to eradicate Malaria in Europe, let alone Africa.”

Dr Who: “and don’t let Jews emigrate to Palestine”.

Perhaps that would be too far even for the BBC.

Once upon a time, the BBC would never have permitted politics to enter into a children’s TV show. Now they permit glib ahistorical asides to pander to their own views. When the writer includes remarks referring to Marx and the Welfare state, he knows that no child will understand what they are. The only purpose is to link the ideas with the kudos possessed by the character of Dr Who. Given the millions of people who have died in the failed Marxist experiments of USSR, China, Cambodia, and so on, and the lack of any Marxist state that even approaches a decent human rights record, one would have thought that Marx would be a slightly controversial choice and maybe not the first benevolent historical figure to come to mind. The BBC ought to have questioned the merit of putting a partisan statement concerning Marx into the mouth of a children’s hero.

Good of the BBC to rescue Marx from the scrap-heap of history.

Once again a cheap shot from the scriptwriter has the effect of making adult viewers who a second earlier were rigid with terror, wishing they could join their offspring behind the sofa, suddenly slump, look at each other and say “huh?” in voices conveying disappointment and diminishing suprise.

Just imagine the outrage if one of these little asides had been directed the other way. “Oh, by the way,” says the Doctor, “that welfare state stuff is a bad idea. You end up with loads more fifteen year old mothers…”

Earlier B-BBC Dr Who posts here and here.

Stop the War!

George Galloway is currently being fawned over by BBC Radio Scotland, on of all things football programme ‘Off the Ball’.

‘…It’s a pleasure and a privilege…’

‘…You showed them…’


‘…Americans are thickies, just look at the president!…’

UPDATE ADDED 29 MAY: USS Neverdock saw this post and expanded on it, including an audio clip.


, can I draw your attention to a fiery post from Dash Riprock:

…after ignoring the incitement story for, oh, ever, the Beeb dutifully reports on the “Jews are HIV, Jews are Cancer” sermon broadcast on the official Palestinian Authority television station. Unable to resist, they then gratuitously add this:

The state broadcaster is only watched by an estimated one percent of Palestinians, who prefer Arab satellite channels.

Well then, no harm, no foul! I mean, it’s almost like the BBC thinks that a national station can broadcast murderous propaganda, as long as it’s limited to Jews and Israel, and there are other channels to watch…hey, wait a minute!

I don’t think the BBC deliberately broadcasts murderous propaganda. I do think it has a blatant double standard regarding other people’s murderous propaganda. Watched by few it may be, but this sermon came from the official Palestinian Authority station. And you might be forgiven for getting the impression from the BBC that the “Arab satellite channels” that the Palestinians prefer to the PA channel are preferred because they are less extreme. Since one of the most popular is Al-Manar, which is run by Hezbollah and recently featured a series called Al-Shatat (The Diaspora), a drama that portrayed Jews seeking out Christian children for ritual slaughter, I don’t think so. MEMRI churns out translations by the bushel of similar incitement to racial hatred from government and mainstream sources all over the Arab World. It is all considered scarcely worthy of comment by the BBC.


Auntie: “How do you like your news little dears?”

Public: “If you’re asking whether we like our news rancid and shot through with mould in a congealed puddle of grease or fresh, we’ll take the latter. Somehow, Auntie Beeb, this does not seem like a real choice.”

It may be a bit rotten and unfounded but the BBC (al Reuters , Amnesty International and the ACLU) think you need another serving of a two-year-old ‘story’ alleging Koran-flushing. Recall that the “allegators” are suspected terrorists with no love for the USA passing unverified charges to people whose sole purpose in life seems to be sliming the USA. This is news? Power Line looks at the misleading headline by Reuters but their analysis fits the Beeb like a wart on a witch’s nose.

This story has been marked by two features, I think: lousy reporting, and a desperate desire on the part of leftists worldwide to believe that assertions made by Guantanamo detainees, no matter how outlandish and uncorroborated, are true.

I need some Alka Seltzer!

UPDATE: John Podhoretz notes the following in The Corner:

The Washington Post has a big story about the charges of Koran desecration at Guantanamo and how they appear in an FBI report. Big deal. All this means is that the terrorists at Guantanamo were retailing the story about a Koran flushed down the toilet and told interrogators about it. There are a few possibilities here. One is that the allegation is true, which seems to be a common presumption even though there is no evidence for it but the same prisoner tales repeated over and over until they sound like a cascade of differing reports. It seems at least as likely that the whole allegation is a gigantic game of telephone where the prisoners exchanged stories, the stories got retold and this is where it all ended up. It’s also very possible that the whole thing is an Al Qaeda distortion game of the sort discussed in the infamous training manual uncovered in Manchester, England — in which terrorists were instructed to use the softness of liberal democracies against liberal democracies should they get captured.

These are sociopaths we’re talking about here. Andrew Sullivan would do well to remember that. As would the Washington Post. And Newsweek. And Amnesty International. [And the BBC!-kb]

I’m feeling a bit better.

UPDATE 2: And now the BBC is reporting that the US military is able to confirm that the Gitmo detainee who alleged flushing of the Koran retracted his allegation.

The inmate who made the original allegation about the Koran being flushed down the toilet had retracted it, he said. A Pentagon spokesman characterised the incidents as mainly inadvertent handling of the Muslim holy book.

And how many confirmed incidents were there since 2001? Five.

How does the BBC headline read? Inquiry finds Koran ‘mishandling’

How does the al Reuters headline read? Pentagon says detainee retracts Koran allegation


When is a 55.5% increase “almost double the amount”?

A. When it’s BBC London* reporting today on Camden Council’s planned increase in school dinner spending from 45p per head to 70p per head.

This is most likely straightforward incompetence rather than bias – but the tendency for journalists to hype and over-hype stories is ever present, particularly among younger journalists reporting on run-of-the-mill stories like this – but please, BBC London, next time you’re reporting on Camden’s school dinners, do pop into a maths class while you’re there!

Since I’m in a generous mood today, here’s a suggestion for genuinely revving up this story a bit – try contrasting Camden’s school dinner spending per head with Camden’s town hall canteen spending per head – might be interesting! Or, if you’re feeling even more righteous, how about contrasting school dinner spending per head with prison food spending per head – that’s an angle that’d be worth exploring further too.

* I don’t know if it’s a result of Camden’s schooling or not, but I note that BBC London appear, at long last, to have dropped their silly ‘BBC LDN‘ affectation. Either that or they’ve finally got the ‘O’ on their keyboard fixed!

Boris Johnson broadsides the BBC in today’s Daily Telegraph

– as spotted by one of our ever observant commenters. Here’s a taster:

Do you remember Today’s James Naughtie, who gave the game away in the run-up to the general election by referring to Labour as “us”? Do you remember on election night how Andrew Marr said that things were going “worse” than expected, when what he meant to say was “worse for Labour”. You have only to imagine Marr saying that things were going “better”, meaning “better for the Conservatives” to see how unthinkable that is, and how the mental default position of the BBC journalists is essentially Left of centre.

All their instinct and culture is to support state funding over the private sector – which is not surprising, since they are state-funded themselves. They are all located on a political spectrum running from Ken Clarke, via Menzies Campbell, towards Robin Cook and Clare Short. They are instinctively anti-American, though they of course make much of how they “love” American culture. It is an axiom that Bush is a dangerous lunatic, the war in Iraq about oil, and so on. They are anti-Israel, but also find Christianity – or any strong expression of Christian faith – deeply embarrassing. In any argument, they will instinctively gravitate to what they think is the most civilised and liberal option, irrespective of the merits of the case; so they tend to be completely caught out by events such as the re-election of George Bush (all the fault of loony Christians, says the Beeb) or the total failure of the British economy to suffer in any way for the rejection of the euro.

Do read it all!

“An Aunt With an Attitude.”

The following article by Scott Norvell ran on May 20th in the European edition of the Wall Street Journal. It mentions Robin Aitken, Justin Webb and this blog. There is also quite a bit about the coverage of Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Man U.

Robin Aitken has nailed it.

Those of us who pay the BBC’s annual £120 license fee but grit our teeth every time we watch one of its news programs have floundered for some time in search of a term to describe what ails the corporation. Mr. Aitken, a 25-year veteran reporter now retired, has put his finger on it: institutionalized leftism.

The phrase is a play on one — “institutional racism” — currently in vogue among the professionally aggrieved. It’s frequently lobbed when the forces of multicultural goodness can’t point to specific proof of racism in an organization but just know deep down that something is amiss.

Mr. Aitken told London’s Daily Telegraph (and subsequently confirmed in a telephone conversation) that Britain’s taxpayer-funded behemoth, arguably the most powerful media brand in the world, sports a world view remarkably at odds with a good percentage of the population to whom it purportedly answers.

The BBC’s world is one in which America is always wrong, George W. Bush is a knuckle-dragging simpleton, people of faith are frightening ignoramuses, and capitalism is a rot on the fabric of social justice. Through this prism, the United Nations is the world’s supreme moral authority, multiculturalism is always a force for good, war is never warranted, and U.S. Republicans sprinkle Third World children over their Cheerios for breakfast.

One could be inclined to dismiss one voice on this topic, but Mr. Aitken is hardly alone in his frustration. British conservatives complain constantly (largely in vain) about the political bent of the BBC, and bloggers, like the gang at Biased BBC (www.biased-bbc.blogspot.com), maintain exhaustive online records of its ideological imbalances.

The task isn’t a difficult one. Let’s just listen to the BBC’s U.S. correspondent Justin Webb: “America is often portrayed as an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible (sic) bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry, a place lacking in respect for evidence based on knowledge.”

“I know that is how it is portrayed because I have done my bit to paint that picture,” he confesses, “and that picture is in many respects a true one.”

Whole article here. It’s about the Schiavo case. To be fair, Webb is saying that America is, in his opinion, not always trashy, superstitious etc.

The recent takeover of Manchester United by American sports magnate Malcolm Glazer was the perfect platform for these biases to poke through. The hostile takeover of a football team is obviously more emotional than the takeover of, say, a car manufacturer, but the Beeb has so far proven itself to be everything a public broadcaster shouldn’t be on the topic.

Not being into football – sorry, guys – I hadn’t really thought of this one as a B-BBC issue. (One ought to be equally annoyed by bias when it concerns matters where one has no axe to grind, but without the oomph given by personal belief it’s harder. I do think the BBC is biased in favour of legalizing drugs, which I also favour.)

On the evening Mr. Glazer’s two-year effort to take over the club gelled, the flagship Ten O’Clock News’ take on it was a two-minute ad for the anti-Glazer camp. Effigies were burned. Angry fans marched. League officials expressed dismay. The correspondent closed the report claiming the deal would be bad for shareholders, bad for fans and bad for Manchester. Bad bad bad.

I’m guessing some of our commenters might agree with that verdict. But, as Mr Norvell goes on to say, it’s not the BBC’s place to speechify on the issue. This article, What options do United fans have? reads like a Green Paper issued to help the anti-Glazer fans settle on the best strategy. The very title assumes that no one who is a United fan will be indifferent to or actually support Glazer’s bid.

The tone has persisted. The BBC’s online product continues to portray the takeover as an effort by a rogue financier with a funny beard and no heart, who wants to “take Manchester away from the people and into the hands of market forces.” Never mind that Man U has been a public company for 14 years and, as one of the most valuable sports brands in the world, market forces are as much part of the team as red face paint and the smell of stale lager.

The wrong here is not that the BBC is portraying Mr. Glazer and his bid as unpopular — they are. It’s that the BBC’s mandate is not to pander, tabloid-style, to its audiences or use the story as a springboard for its anti-free market ideology. Its mandate explicitly calls for “impartial” coverage, and that’s not what I and millions of other U.K. residents are getting for our license fee in this and many other cases.

Nor is it wrong that lefty voices are heard on the BBC. There is a place for them, but not to the exclusion of rightish ones. Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly. And those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren’t subsidizing Bill’s bombast; we payers of the BBC license fee don’t enjoy that peace of mind.

Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories. That’s our appeal. People watch us because they know what they are getting. The Beeb’s institutionalized leftism would be easier to tolerate if the corporation was a little more honest about it.

Few with a grip on reality believe that there is a cabal at BBC House wringing their hands and plotting the re-nationalization of the coal industry or state-mandated racial sensitivity training for all six-year-olds.

Dunno about the coal industry, but the state-mandated racial sensitivity training for six-year-olds is up and running. It’s called Children’s BBC. That’s OK by me, done with a light touch. It’s the state-mandated Gaia worship that makes me long for an Establishment Clause.

But there is little doubt that, as Mr. Aitken puts it, a center-left groupthink dominates at the BBC and colors its entire output. It’s not deliberate. It’s worse. The producers just can’t imagine that someone could possibly oppose European integration or any of the other left-wing causes because to them, and their friends, these are self-evident truths. It simply doesn’t even occur to them that reasonable people could disagree with them.

The influence of this groupthink goes far beyond the BBC and now permeates the cliquish world of British broadcasting in general. Almost everyone in the television business has worked for the BBC at some point, sipped the Kool-Aid, and now carries the torch of institutional leftism. With few exceptions, every newscast in the country looks and sounds like a knock-off of the Ten O’Clock News, and the nation is not better for it.

Mr. Aitken is said to be the first BBC insider ever to come out of the conservative closet, and he is now putting his opinions into book form. He says that he tried to convince his bosses at the BBC of the problem, going to the trouble of documenting the bias for its Board of Governors, but none of them could be bothered.

If for nothing else, Mr. Aitken deserves high accolades for his contribution to the lexicon and his willingness to challenge a status quo that serves no one except the people who perpetuate it.

Mr. Norvell is the London bureau chief for Fox News.

I am rebuked.

Anon writes:

Natalie, whoever moderates this site.
The day the left-wing bottom feeders decide to slough off work, whilst promising a summer’s worth of skiving, all the while HOOVERING up licence fee cash from people they threaten and imprison, and this is the best you can do…’Robert Ayers writes to say that you can read an interview with three prominent Iraqi citizens here’…?

Caaaaam on, let’s be having you.

**Lady, if you can’t do it, don’t have the time, etc., then step away from the website.

Actually, I am not that interested in the strike. Sure, I think the Beeb is extravagant, that its extravagance is made far worse by its having money on tap from the taxpayer, and that it should be less extravagant. But if the strike ends in complete victory for the management who then go on to make such savings that the licence fee is not only kept static but actually reduced (not that anyone has seriously suggested that’s gonna happen), you know what? I’ll scarcely care. My beefs with the BBC are:

(a) The very existence of a government funded news and entertainment service. Ugh. Only familiarity blinds us to the banana-republic awfulness of this idea. It it should be consigned, along with the idea of government-run newspapers, to the great cat litter-tray of history.

(b) Contrary to its Charter the BBC is not impartial. It’s the Guardian on stilts yet unlike the real Guardian I cannot choose not to buy it.

(c) It justifies taking money by force on the grounds that it promotes the national interest, liberal democratic values and the public good and then affects to be neutral between this country and its enemies and between random killers and their victims.

If one of my fellow posters wants to disagree, that’s fine. Debate is good. If the comments boxes are radioactive with schadenfreude over the strike that’s fine too. For me, though, I am concerned by the waste in the BBC’s budget only in the same way that I am concerned by waste in the NHS or in the schools. It’s a bad thing. But not what I want to blog about.

Robert Ayers

writes to say that you can read an interview with three prominent Iraqi citizens here.

Part way through, Nasir Flayeh Hassan is discussing the pluses and
minuses of the American occupation, and remarks:

What I think is definitely an American failure is the inefficiency of their media, comparing with the anti-American media, like Algazira and Alarabia, BBC (especially the Arabic department), Radio Monte Carlo, etc. This was a very serious point which gave a wide free space for all those who hate the Americans to ruin the deeds, changing continuously the scales of things, especially in such a critical period. This point cost us and the Americans much.