"so laughably inaccurate that I thought I must be hearing things"

Now, to be fair, it may be that Jeremy Paxman’s researchers are totally ignorant of British history – in other words, have been educated by leftist teachers. Because, after all, the tale of the Sudan spun by him last night sounds like the Guardian version of history. But as that CP Scott was always saying, facts are sacred.

Apparently his series “Empire” is a flagship programme. Pity the flagship is the Belgrano.

“Paxman’s version of the story of General Gordon in Khartoum was so laughably inaccurate that I thought I must be hearing things. I had to watch again on BBC iPlayer to check that my ears hadn’t been playing tricks. In a few minutes of television, Paxman managed to misunderstand every stage of the tale.”

Let David Blair at the Telegraph tell the whole sorry tale.

Paxo went IIRC to Malvern – where history obviously wasn’t taught that well. He should have gone to a decent state grammar like Bromsgrove County High School – Miss Scatchard would have put him right.

I can’t resist appending this family memory of General Gordon, taken from Hilary Hook’s memoir Home From The Hill. This chap, sitting under a tree in the 1950s, knew that the Turks ruled Sudan in 1885 – which is more than the makers of ‘Empire’ do.

“The chief brought us native beer in dirty calabashes, we gave him a mug of rum and sat under a council tree outside the village. The talk ranged through the usual topics, rain, cattle, raids, crops and recruits for the buluk…

‘You must be a great age,’ said Denis jokingly and then added, ‘perhaps you knew Gordon Pasha?‘ The chief considered this for a moment and then said gravely. ‘No, but my father often spoke of him, he worked under “Gordoon” Pasha when he was Governor here in the south. “Gordoon” Pasha was a God, he destroyed the slave traders. My father said that “Gordoon” Pasha’s eyes were like spears – no man dared tell him a lie. He was here many years, then he left us and the slavers came again but worse than before. They slew the great “Gordoon” Pasha in Khartoum and the Turks were driven from the Sudan.

Then terrible years came – we lived in fear. One day from over those hills …”

The BBC and the Euro

Peter Oborne in magisterial voice :

Very rarely in political history has any faction or movement enjoyed such a complete and crushing victory as the Conservative Eurosceptics. The field is theirs. They were not merely right about the single currency, the greatest economic issue of our age – they were right for the right reasons. They foresaw with lucid, prophetic accuracy exactly how and why the euro would bring with it financial devastation and social collapse.

Meanwhile, the pro-Europeans find themselves in the same situation as appeasers in 1940, or communists after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are utterly busted.

Oborne and Frances Weaver go on to quote the pro-Euro partisans. Among whom (and this will shock you) ….

Now let’s turn to the BBC. In our Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet, Guilty Men, we expose in detail how the BBC betrayed its charter commitment and became a partisan player in a great national debate – all the more insidious because of its pretence at neutrality.

For example, in the nine weeks leading to July 21, 2000, when the argument over the euro was at its height, the Today programme featured 121 speakers on the topic. Some 87 were pro-euro compared with 34 who were anti. BBC broadcasters tended to present the pro-euro position itself as centre ground, thus defining even moderately Eurosceptic voices as extreme.

But this was not the worst of the unfairness. The Eurosceptics were too rarely given time to state their reasons for favouring sterling. Their position was too often covered through a paradigm of deep, “explosive” splits within the Conservative Party rather than the merits of the policy argument. Again and again the BBC led its news coverage on scare stories that failure to join the euro would lead to economic or industrial disaster. When those reports turned out to be false, it failed to correct them. In fact Britain was enjoying record levels of foreign investment: but when Office for National Statistics figures showed this, the BBC made very little of it.

As Rod Liddle, then editor of the Radio 4’s Today programme, said: “The whole ethos of the BBC and all the staff was that Eurosceptics were xenophobes.” He recalls one meeting with a senior BBC figure over Eurosceptic complaints of bias. “Rod, the thing you have to understand is these people are mad. They are mad.”

And the fish is rotten from the head :

One urgent lesson concerns the BBC. The corporation’s twisted coverage of the EU is a serious problem, because the economic collapse of the eurozone means a new treaty may be needed very soon.

The problem is that the BBC cannot be trusted not to become part of a partisan propaganda operation: just look at the membership of the BBC Trust. Both its chairman, Lord Patten, and the vice-chairman, Diane Coyle, took a heavily partisan position in the euro debate.

The facts concerning Lord Patten are well known, but we have unearthed very troubling evidence of bias concerning Ms Coyle as economics writer for the Independent 10 years ago. Take this: “The defenders of sterling are, in the main, a group of elderly men with more stake in their past than in our future. They clothe their gut anti-Europeanism and Little Englandism in the language of rational economic argument.”

Of course Ms Coyle is welcome to voice whatever insulting assumptions she wants about the motivations of Eurosceptics – but they call into question her membership of the BBC Trust.

(browsing I see that commenters John Horne Tooke and Gerald were first to spot this)

Comment As Fact

Before :

Correspondence from Frank Fisher :

{Feedback Type:} I would like to… Make a complaint

{Summary:} You have published a Polly Toynbee opinion piece in your News section – it is not factual, it is opinion

{Complaint:} Separate news from opinion, make clear that the views expressed in the article are opinions, suggest that other views regarding ‘equality’ exist, for example cite the debunking fo the Spirit Level arguments in “The Spirit Level Delusion”.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this. Putting a byline on a piece doesn’t make it clear to people that it’s stepping outside your usual zone. It sits *within* your usual page and menu structure and appears for all the world to be a factual article, rather than the routine Pollyanna ravings of the country’s leading champagne socialist.

Remedy it please.

Reply :

Subject: RE: Complaint Reply Required

Date: Thu, 1 Sep 2011 11:56:13 +0100

From: newsonline.complaints@bbc.co.uk

To: frank@frankfisher.org

Dear Mr. Fisher,

The piece was not clearly-enough labelled as a personal viewpoint. It has now been changed. We will also be running pieces in the near future from commentators from different parts of the political spectrum.


BBC News website

After :

“We will also be running pieces in the near future from commentators from different parts of the political spectrum.”

Hmm. Notice “different”, not “all”. I guess that means Iain Dale and maybe Michael Gove for the far-right view, plus half a dozen Greens.

Listening to the trailers for their 9/11 coverage its like deja vu all over again – they’ve learned nothing and forgotten nothing. While I don’t think we’ll get quite so much “they had it coming” this time round, we’re already getting the “why didn’t Bush sit down and negotiate” splashed all over the news. Given that Bin Laden’s demands included the restoration of the Caliphate and the return of Al-Andalus i.e. Spain, Bush might have had a few problems doing a deal.

I can’t imagine what Michael “Private Peaceful” Morpurgo’s view (one of the 5 literary types writing their “9/11 letters“) of the War on Terror will be, can you?

The BBC’s a bit like one of those small sects that occasionally announce the end of the world or the imminent socialist revolution – you almost have to admire the dogged disconnection from reality which, for example, gave Ms Toynbee, former BBC social affairs correspondent and one of the chief architects of the decline in social mobility over the last 40 years, a R4 programme last week bemoaning the decline in social mobility. But we’re not forced to pay for the small sects.

I Make No Comment – I Merely Report …

Kaye Adams, the BBC broadcaster, has been accused of being unfit to present a top current affairs programme after she tweeted in response to Boris Johnson’s suggestion that rioters should face tough punishments, “P*** off back to boarding school, Boris”.


The former presenter of Loose Women, the ITV talk show, who presents a popular Radio Scotland show, was on holiday in Tuscany when she made a series of expletive-filled Tweets about London’s mayor.

UPDATE – Adams attended St. George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh – boarding £5,800 a term!

Quote Of The Day

Blogger Dumb Jon, commenting below on David Starkey :

I could almost put up with the whole BBC collapsing with a fit of the vapours over Starkey’s comments, except that in almost any other context these guys are desperate to tell us how ‘edgy’ they are and how much they like pushing boundaries.

Hell, if Starkey had just dropped his trousers and called for the age of consent to be abolished, they’d probably have signed him up for his own show right then and there.

Relevant to Starkeygate – this Guardian piece from 2006.

I always enjoyed him on the Moral Maze, even when I disagreed, which was often. He said what he thought. But that’s the last thing that’s wanted on the BBC. As that school sneak Owen Jones said in the Guardian : “I fear that some people will now say that David Starkey is right“.

Incidentally, don’t think that suppressio veri about the riots is restricted to national BBC news. I was in Birmingham on Tuesday night, which was quiet as could be because of the anger and threatened backlash after the deaths of three Asian men. I don’t know who was presenting the evening show on Radio WM which replaced the sports, but he kept talking about the tragedy of the men who died after “a collision” or “after a road traffic accident”! You’d think they’d hit a truck on the M42.

This Just In From The BBC

In a series of incidents last night, a drawing room was severely damaged.

Our reporter at the scene :

“Well, I can tell you this morning that this drawing room has been almost totally destroyed. The china cabinet has been destroyed and its contents smashed, all the furniture looks as if it’s been sat on by something heavy – even the doors are smashed off their hinges. Witnesses have spoken of scenes of mindless violence. It almost looks as if some large animal had been in here wrecking everything …” (noises of trumpeting and cries of ‘it’s coming!’) … “I’m afraid I have to go now because the situation looks dangerous.”

Ancestral Voices Prophesying War

BBC news journalism to a very large extent relies on reporting stories that fit an existing left-liberal narrative and ignoring stories which challenge this narrative – the classic example being the enormous disparities in their reporting of racist murder – those disparities relating to the ethnicity of both perpetrator and victim.

Where BBC journalists go looking to make the news, by unearthing new facts or obtaining an admission from a politician or businessman, the same rules apply. Sending undercover cameramen into BNP meetings hoping to hear bad things being discussed? Sure. Sending them into mosques with the same brief? Er … we’ll leave that to Channel Four, thanks very much.

A favourite sport of Today presenters is to try and create the lunchtime news headlines by getting some interviewee to either “drop a clanger” or “reveal their real agenda“, depending on your viewpoint. Even a Victoria Derbyshire can do it if the interviewee is ill-briefed and ill-prepared enough.

But sometimes the quest for what’s perceived to be the killer admission can ruin the interview – for some reason I always think of Evan Davies interviewing anyone at all on drugs policy, where he seems incapable of keeping his personal enthusiasms in check.

And sometimes the quest for a not-very-important admission can blind the interviewer to the most remarkable statements being made by the interviewee – which go straight past the journalist’s head because they’re nothing to do with the little verbal traps he’s setting.

That failure to actually listen to the interviewee constitutes IMHO diabolical journalism. John Humphrys (for it is he) should listen to his Patrick Mercer interview from yesterday morning, then tear up his NUJ card and announce his retirement.

The subject of the interview was a leaked letter written by Defence Secretary Liam Fox to the Prime Minister, expressing concern that the Government planned to make a legal commitment to increasing its overseas aid spending at a time when armed forces budgets are being cut heavily. The subtext of the interview, as Humphrys revealed, was Conservative division.

In the studio were Patrick Mercer, a former army officer and former Conservative security spokesman, broadly sympathetic to the Fox concerns, and Lib Dem MP Malcolm Bruce, very much against them. You’d imagine Mercer is reasonably close to current military thinking, and current M.O.D. thinking.

It was near the end of the interview, emboldening is mine :

Mercer :

“At a time when the armed forces are being cut and cut hard, when they’re at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan and indeed in Libya, with other conflicts on the horizon … you can see why the defence secretary is concerned”

Humphrys, completely missing the above and intent on his ‘Tory division’ narrative (I paraphrase) :

“But .. Liam Fox wrote to the Prime Minister and addressed him as ‘Dear David Cameron’ .. now we know he would like to be Tory leader – isn’t there an ulterior motive?”

Mercer :

“at a time when money is stretched … at a time when we are at war on at least two fronts, and probably a third front to come, no doubt Liam Fox is fighting his corner as any other Secretary of State would do”.

Now it may be that Mercer’s statement that we are at war in Pakistan is a slip of the tongue, and he’s thinking of the Americans, who do seem to have made one or two trips across the Durand Line recently. But what are these “other conflicts on the horizon“? What is this “third front to come“, assuming Front 1 to be Afghanistan and Front 2 Libya? Have I been asleep lately – should I know all about this war to come?

Syria ? Seems unlikely. Iran ? Ditto. Are the Argentinians planning another crack at the Falklands (and if they were, how could we possibly form a front down there once Mount Pleasant was lost, having no carrier capability?).

I would really love to have known what Mr Mercer was talking about – and I imagine BBC listeners might have been interested, too. Pity the BBC couldn’t find a journalist to ask him!

Tony Robinson ‘airbrushed from Yes to AV leaflets’

As not quite seen on the BBC.

Campaigners for the AV voting system have been accused of “airbrushing” white actor Tony Robinson out of leaflets sent to part of the country.

The “Yes to AV” campaign used his picture on literature used in most parts of the UK, but featured another supporter – the black poet Benjamin Zephaniah – in London, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The “No” campaign said its rival was “ashamed” of the actor’s backing.

But the “Yes” campaign called the allegation “a new low”.

It said it varied the celebrity backers featured on its leaflets as there were “a number” to accommodate.

Yes to AV’s literature urges people to support a switch from first-past-the-post Westminster elections to an alternative vote in the nationwide referendum to be held on 5 May.

Celebrities Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, Colin Firth, Honor Blackman and Stephen Fry appear on both sets of leaflets shown by the Sunday Telegraph.

In locations including Sussex and Cornwall a picture of Mr Robinson, the star of the BBC comedy Blackadder and the Channel 4 archaeology show Time Team, is reportedly included, with the actor quoted demanding an electoral system that “makes everyone’s vote count”.

But in near-identical leaflets, reportedly sent to London, he is apparently replaced by Mr Zephaniah, the poet and musician.

Impeccable Sources

Lefty blogger (and New Zealander) Kate Belgrave :

At the start of last week, I was surprised by what I felt was a relatively quiet national political and press response to the battles that were raging at council meetings as people protested about council cuts.

The BBC spoke to me about using some of my stuff for segments on cuts last week, and there have been stories here and there on protests.

Any right-ish bloggers, even English ones, getting calls from the BBC ? Do let us know …

* tumbleweed blows across road *

* You wait. Time passes. Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold *

Pass That Violin

The BBC are running a series on the rise of the ‘far right’ in Europe, and leveraged their investment with a report on The World Tonight featuring the Danish People’s Party*, and the hopes of human rights (aka open borders) activists that the judiciary may change some of the unsatisfactory immigration legislation resulting from the unrestricted use of democratic elections and the universal franchise. I’ll pass by the writer’s assertion that the unauthorised use by the DPP of an Abba song is ‘a scandal’ and note instead the concern that DPP influence was changing something essentially Danish :

“All this feels very different from Denmark’s reputation as a place of generous Scandinavian welfare and international solidarity … shortly before his death last month one of Denmark’s leading political commentators told me about the change he’d observed from the country he grew up in“.

Words fail me. I would love to listen to a British Broadcasting Corporation programme which asked elderly Brits about the changes they’d observed in the country they grew up in. But somehow they never quite seem to find the time or resource – what with tape recorders being so expensive, old people always being too busy to talk, and scarce resources being devoted to that vital Secret History of Social Networking, The Truth About The Roma, and Greta Scacchi’s Celebrity Activists. Anyone know what’s Danish for ‘chutzpah’?

UPDATE – they could have asked Tim Lott’s mum what she thought.

* from their Wiki entry the DPP are ‘far-right’ in that they wish to restrict immigration, outrageously seeming to want to keep Denmark Danish. Otherwise I see no plans for massive rearmaments, paramilitary wing, minorities to wear special clothing, invasion of Sweden etc. The only places in Denmark where God’s creatures are imprisoned in inhumane escape proof camps before being slaughtered in their millions are pig farms.