Just simple preachers.

In the comments to David’s recent post on Jacqui Smith’s list of people denied access to Britain, Not A Sheep has pointed out an example of BBC bias that achieves a sort of holy perfection.

Take a look at this BBC effort to inform the public: Who is on UK ‘least wanted’ list?. What do Abdullah Qadri Al Ahdal, Yunis Al Astal, Safval Hijazi and the wonderfully named Wadgy Abd El Hameid Mohamed Ghoneim all have in common? That’s right. They are all preachers. Of something or other. Mike Guzovsky, however, is a Jewish militant.

Oops, sorry. I got that wrong. Amir Siddique is the fourth preacher-of-no-particular-message. Wadgy Abd El Hameid Mohamed Ghoneim is actually a “speaker and writer”. He speaks and writes about we know not what.

As Not A Sheep says:

…there are eight Muslim “extremists” on the list (four of whom are described as preachers) but only one is identified as a follower of Islam, there is one Jew on the list and his religion is identified in the first word of his description, the American pastor’s religion is not directly named but as he is a “pastor” of a “Baptist church” that is not too tricky to deduce.

So my question to the BBC is this: why is it relevant to identify the religions of the one Jew and the one Christian (couple) on the list but in the majority of cases to leave the religion of Muslims on the list unidentified?

Two quick links

  • When David Mills, somewhat-estranged husband of Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison by an Italian court, what was the headline those fearless BBC newshounds with their keen nose for a story came up with? Er… “UK lawyer guilty in bribery case”. Bet that one pulled in the punters.
  • Freeborn John is thinking of starting a list of awful things caused by Conservatism. His first entry was provided by what the BBC calls the “conservative views” of one Abdurraheem Green. Funnily enough, the preacher himself describes his own views as “radical” rather than conservative:

    Despite these conservative views the Metropolitan Police has sought Abdurraheem Green’s advice recently.

    And the preacher himself insists that in spite of his conservative views about life in Britain he is “part of the solution” to extremism because young people listen to him.

    “I surely have said some pretty radical things and maybe even written some radical things in the past,” he told Panorama. “But one thing I have been very consistent on is terrorism, participating in terrorist activities, violent revolution – is not something that I have ever thought was part of the religion of Islam.”

    Some senior police officers argue it is vital to work with radicals because they have credibility amongst young British Muslims.

    But some moderate scholars warn this is a dangerous road.

    Sheikh Musa Admani, imam at London Metropolitan University, says if advice is sought from the radicals, or if they are funded with public money, then “Muslims are going to endorse them as a whole and so there’s the danger”.

    All emphases added. It is not clear to me whether Sheik Musa Admani actually used the term radical himself, but the sentence about senior police officers is certainly the wording of the BBC writer. How odd that he or she uses the antithetical terms “conservative” and “radical” almost interchangeably.

The usual suspects.

Robin Horbury made this comment a few days ago:

BBC drama once led the world. Today, it is little more than political correctness and pantomime agitprop.

Did anyone see the latest BBC1 example, Hunter? (Sunday and last night 9pm). The plot was that a group of Pro-Lifers (natural BBC villains because they don’t support sexual free-for-all)were so incensed that they decided to start killing children unless the BBC showed footage of a post-24 week abortion.

It was license for some horrendous images of the Pro-Lifers abducting and injecting innocent children with various lethal drugs – sequences that were so graphic that they would not have been shown on terrestrial television a few years back. And of course to portray the villains as heartless, callous, evil scum.

I have combed the internet to see if Pro-Life groups have ever done anything remotely like this. I found a few nastly examples of intimidation and violence in the US where staff of clinics have been targeted.

But – tell me if I’m wrong – there’s not one example anywhere in the world of a Pro-Lifer killing children, under any circumstances.

So Hunter looks to me to have been an example of a BBC coterie sitting down somewhere and deciding how they could find new ways tovillify a group that the corporation hates. Any passing resemblance to something called reality was abandoned in favour of the political need.

I personally do not support a lot of what Pro-Lifers want. But I do support their right to say and camapign for their goals – and not to be attacked in this wholly ridiculous way by the BBC.

The other ludicrous element of the plot was that the Pro-Lifers believed that exposure on BBC news bulletins would change attitudes. Of course, that was yet another reflection of the puffed up self-importance of BBC types.

A commenter called Tom replied,

I seem to remember the first of BBC’s Spooks (or the first I ever saw) had a similar plot – pro-lifers as terrorists.

They’re clearly into recycling their rubbish.

Meanwhile, back at the batcave …

… Peter Rippon, editor of Newsnight, has responded to the complaints about how an audio clip of President Obama’s inaugural speech was spliced, had its order altered, and then was rejoined to make a new sentence never actually spoken by Obama.

The original post in Harmless Sky can be read here. My B-BBC post on the subject is here.

Mr Rippon writes,

We did edit sections of the speech to reflect the elements in it that referred to Science. The aim was to give people an impression or montage of what Obama said about science in his inauguration speech. This was signposted to audiences with fades between each point. It in no way altered the meaning or misrepresented what the President was saying.

I don’t think Mr Rippon’s response answers the objections raised.

Point one: fades, what fades? Listening to the audio clip there is a change in the quality of the background sound at the first splice point, which I initially heard as a faint sound but now think is just a discontinuity. No one who was not listening specifically for the break point would ever think it was anything other than a continuous flow of speech. Fades are meant to, you know, fade.

Point two: there is not even that at the second break point – it runs smoothly on.

Point three: what about the alteration of the order? Someone just offering up a montage of phrases doesn’t mess with the order such that a new, coherent (but never actually spoken) sentence is created.

Point four: the meaning was altered and TonyN’s original post in Harmless Sky explained very clearly why. He wrote, “Paragraph 16 does not refer to climate change in any way, but to economic and infrastructure problems. The reference to harnessing the sun, wind and soil could as easily refer to energy security as global warming.” But in the BBC version it does appear to refer to global warming.

I would add that in the original sentence as spoken by Obama, “We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost”, the fact that science being restored to its rightful place is immediately followed by a reference to healthcare gives me the strong impression that it was meant to refer to lifting restrictions on the federal funding of research into embryonic stem cells. The BBC version, “We will restore science to its rightful place – roll back the spectre of a warming planet”, makes it sound as if the restoration of science to its rightful place refers to President Bush’s alleged scepticism over global warming. This interpretation is reinforced by the whole tone of Susan Watts’ blog post and video essay: “But in climate change and other key challenges of science, Bush wouldn’t listen to the scientists. He didn’t like their view of the world, and he didn’t like what they were saying.”

Blimey, that sounds like something aimed at ten-year olds. I am not Obama’s biggest fan, but at least when speaking in his own words he sounds like he is addressing adults.

BBC spliced and joined separate parts of President Obama’s speech in order to make it appear to take a stronger line on global warming.

Steve T in comments pointed out this post by TonyN of “Harmless Sky”.

TonyN links to an audio clip of Obama apparently saying, “We will restore science to its rightful place, [and] roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

But, as TonyN writes:

I didn’t seem to remember him saying that at all.

When the program [i.e. Newsnight – NS] was over, I went back to the text and this is what I found.

It would seem that someone at the BBC had taken the trouble to splice the tape so that half a sentence from paragraph 16 of the inauguration speech was joined on to half a sentence from paragraph 22, and this apparently continuous sound bite was completed by returning to paragraph 16 again to lift another complete sentence.

Read the rest of his detailed analysis. Incidentally, I couldn’t hear an “and” at the first splice-point of the audio clip, just an unidentifiable noise.

(Added later.) To make one sentence out of two widely separated half-sentences would be shabby and manipulative enough for a broadcaster. To then interfere with the order in which things were said, so that the sentence fragment about “a warming planet” has been falsely interposed between other phrases to which it had no real link, is yet worse. The BBC has gone beyond “dowdification” into something else. “Beebification”, perhaps.

(Another update.) You can hear the spliced audio clip directly from the BBC in the “video essay” at the base of this blog post by Susan Watts, Newsnight‘s science editor. Quite apart from the splicing, the Susan Watts post itself would provide material enough for another B-BBC post (“Scientists have grown used to attempts to silence them”) – but I have to be gone.

UPDATE 24 JAN.: There is a further post discussing the response of the editor of Newsnight to complaints about this here.

BBC unfair to President Obama!

I’m afraid I wasn’t paying complete attention during the inaugural speech. Too busy scanning the skies waiting for the mothership to descend. But it seemed pretty inclusive. Bush was thanked for “his service to our country.” Lots of mention of “our forebears” and George Washington, to make it very clear that Obama knows what country he is president of and, despite certain unfortunate remarks, fully identifies with it. Yeah, there was some slightly partisan stuff about “We are ready to lead once more” but, look, you can scarcely come in as a new president having campaigned on a slogan of “change” then say, “well on second thoughts, I am now firmly resolved to run things in exactly the same way as the previous administration,” can you?

It was all so nice. (I also liked the bit where there were no explosions.) I’m not sure I didn’t have a sentimental tear in my eye as I wandered out into the kitchen to inaugurate a celebratory packet of digestive biscuits.

So twenty seconds after the man calls it a wrap with “… and God bless the United States of America” down stomps the BBC in size eleven hob-nailed Doc Martins. The first, the very first, thing that comes out of the post-speech commentary just had to be that Obama’s comment blah blah blah was “a missile into the heart of the previous administration.” Something like that anyway, and I think, but only think, it was Huw Edwards doing the idioting. Like I said, by this time my attention had wandered. So after all that I missed the moment when the prophecies were fulfilled: because, surely brothers, the BBC was destined to speak thus.

Obama did no more than indulge in some standard “new dawn” rhetoric. The man may be an economic ignoramus but – and this skill at performance may bring us good or ill – he knows very well indeed how to vary his demeanour to match the mood of the occasion. The BBC doesn’t.

Doubts not raised.

You may recall this B-BBC post which linked to a BBC story titled “Doubts raised on US ‘plumber Joe'”:

Doubt has been cast over the story of “Joe the plumber”, the man who unexpectedly became the star of this week’s US presidential debate.

Joe Wurzelbacher, of Ohio, was thrown into the spotlight after he was used by John McCain as an example of who might suffer under Barack Obama’s tax plans.

But it now emerges he is not a licensed plumber and owes $1,200 in back taxes.

So, Joe Wurzelbacher is suddenly thrown into the spotlight – and in about five minutes flat the BBC makes sure we all know about his lack of a licence, his back taxes, and even that the name on his birth certificate is not actually Joseph.

Compare that to the BBC’s approach to another man who has found sudden fame: Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor currently working in Gaza, has been quoted in media outlets all over the world, including multiple mentions on the BBC:

  • Israel ‘is nearing Gaza goals’

    Doctors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse said half of their patients were civilians, some of them young children with shrapnel and blast wounds.

    They also said 12 ambulance staff had been killed in shelling, despite their clearly-marked vehicles.

  • Israeli raids as reserves move in (includes a video interview with Dr Gilbert)

    Doctors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse said half of their patients were civilians, some of them young children with shrapnel and blast wounds.

  • Inside Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital (another video interview with Dr Gilbert)
  • Fighting flares outside Gaza City

    Israel says it is not targeting civilians but Dr Gilbert said he had only seen two fighters among hundreds of casualties.

No doubts raised there as to Dr Gilbert’s motives or veracity as a witness. The video interview within the second “Israeli raids” link is not exactly challenging (“You look exhausted. Tell us what it’s been like”) but does raise a teensy doubt an inch or so (“It has been said that you’ve turned political. What do you say to that?”) the better to set the stage for Dr Gilbert’s impassioned reply about the Hippocratic oath and being the voice of the voiceless.

Yet there are things in Dr Mads Gilbert’s past and present of a little more consequence than unpaid back taxes. For one thing, he didn’t “turn political” after seeing the sufferings of the Palestinians this month. He has long been very definitely political, a Maoist in fact. He is a member of the Norwegian Rødt (i.e. Red) party, formerly known as the Workers’ Communist Party. That alone tells us something about his attitude to objective truth that should raise doubts about anything he says as a witness. Note, I am not here throwing random abuse along the lines of “he’s a lefty, so he must be a liar.” I am stating that Maoists, in common with other Marxists, consciously hold as a matter of doctrine that “objective truth” is a bourgeois construction and truth is whatever the Party says it is.

In the BBC interview Dr Gilbert describes his unspecified politics as merely part of the “whole person” working in Gaza. Another aspect of his whole personhood is that he supported the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Here, via Harry’s Place, is a link to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet in which when asked “Do you support the terrorist attack on the United States?” he replied “Terrorism is a bad weapon but the answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned.” You don’t need to understand Norwegian to be able to spot where he says this.

I have not yet touched on the biggest doubt of all: a doctor wrote to the Little Green Footballs website stating his opinion that Mads Gilbert participated in a staged video purporting to show CPR being executed in an unsuccessful attempt to save a mortally injured Palestinian boy. Numerous other doctors have agreed with the original correspondent that the man shown performing “chest compressions” could not possibly have believed that his light bouncing movements would actually restart the heart. Dr Gilbert is to the left. There are also odd editing discontinuities, and unexplained discrepancies between the order of events as shown on CNN and on Channel 4.

Isn’t that at least as interesting as “…a bit of media digging has uncovered that Mr Wurzelbacher’s first name is actually Samuel and he does not have a plumber’s licence, although the company he works for does”? The fact that the video was first withdrawn and then reinstated by CNN is a story in itself. It all remains undug by the BBC, though.

General BBC-related comment thread.

Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.