Posts Tagged ‘Emily Maitlis’

Establishment Media Bias and the Cheltenham Literary Festival

September 23, 2019

Someone really ought to do a study of the way the big literary festivals – Haye-on-Wye, Cheltenham and the others – select the books and media celebs they want to push and the way they try to manipulate public opinion towards the establishment consensus. Because, believe me, it is there.

In a couple of weeks’ time, right at the beginning of October, it’ll be the Cheltenham Literary Festival. As it’s booklet of coming events tells you, it’s been proudly going for 70 years. I think it was set up, or given a great deal of assistance when it was set up, by Alan Hancock, who owned a secondhand bookshop on Cheltenham’s Promenade. It was a fascinating place, where you could acquire some really fascinating, valuable academic books cheaply. But it had the same internal layout as the fictional setting of the 1990’s Channel 4 comedy, Black Books, but without Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey or Tamsin Grieg.

The festival’s overall literary stance is, very roughly, broadsheet papers + BBC, especially Radio 4. It pretty much shows what’s captured the attention of the newspaper literary pages and the BBC news team, several of whom naturally have books coming out, and who are appearing. In past years I’ve seen John Simpson, Simon Hoggart, Quentin Letts, Giles Brandreth and John Humphreys talk or appear on panels. This year they’ve got, amongst others, Emily Maitlis and Humphrey’s again.

Much of the Festival’s content is innocuous enough, even praiseworthy from a left-wing perspective. For example, there are a number of authors talking about their books about empowering women and ethnic minorities. These include Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene talking about their book, Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which is what it says: a guide for Black girls. Other topics and books discussed are on how empowered Black men are, and various feminist works about how gynaecological problems should be discussed openly, and the changing nature of the female muse. Rather than being passive creatures, modern muses are active, liberated women conquering business, sports, the arts and science. There’s also a piece on the future of masculinity, titled ‘Will Boys Still Be Boys’, which asks what will happen to boys now that the idea that there is a natural realm of masculinity, such as superiority and aggression, has been disproved. The concern with ethnic minority authors has always been there, or at least since the 1990s. Then, and in the early part of this century, a frequent theme of the Festival was ‘crossing continents’, which gave a platform to prominent literary authors from outside Europe and the West. It also gave space to Black and Asian literature from the UK. I can remember too, how one of the events staged at the Festival was a celebration of Black British poetry, much of it in Caribbean Patois.

The Festival also caters for more popular tastes. In the past it had speaking the Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, along with the approved, heavyweight literary types. It has events for children’s books, and this year features such media celebrities as Francis Rossi from Status Quo and Paul Merton. So, something for everyone, or so it seems.

But nevertheless, the Establishment bias is there, especially as so many of the speakers, like Maitlis and Humphreys, are drawn from the mainstream media. Back in the 1990s the Festival was sponsored by the Independent. Now it’s sponsored by the Times, the Murdoch rag whose sister paper, the Sunset Times, has spent so much time smearing Corbyn and his supporters as Communist infiltrators or vicious anti-Semites. Maitlis and Humphreys are BBC news team, and so, almost by definition, they’re Conservative propagandists. Especially as Humphreys is retiring, and has given interviews and written pieces for the Heil. Any chance of hearing something from the Cheltenham Festival about the current political situation that doesn’t conform to what the Establishment wants you to hear, or is prepared to tolerate? Answers on a postcard, please. Here’s a couple of examples. One of the topics under discussion is ‘Populism’. I don’t know what they’re planning to include in it, but from previous discussions of this in the media, I’m prepared to bet that they’ll talk about Trump, possibly Boris Johnson, the rise of extreme right-wing movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world, like Marine Le Pen former Front National in France, the AfD in Germany, Orban and so on in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Five Star Movement in Italy. All of whom are definitely populists. But they’ll also probably include Corbyn and Momentum, because Corbyn is genuinely left-wing, challenges the Thatcherite neoliberal consensus and will empower the masses. All of which threatens the Establishment. There are also individual politicians speaking this year, but the only one I found from the Left was Jess Philips. Who isn’t remotely left-wing in the traditional sense, though she is an outspoken feminist.

The other topic is about what should be done with Putin. Now let’s not delude ourselves, Putin is a corrupt thug, and under him Russia has become once again a very autocratic state. Political and religious dissidents, including journalists, are being attacked, jailed and in some cases murdered. Among the religious groups he’s decided are a threat to Mother Russia are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not a member of the denomination, and find their doorstep campaigning as irritating as everyone else. But they are certainly not a dangerous cult or terrorist organisation. And they have stood up to tyrants. They were persecuted by the Nazis during the Third Reich, with their members imprisoned in the concentration camps, including a 17 year old boy, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. For which I respect for them. The Arkhiplut has enriched himself, and rewarded his cronies with company directorships, while assassinating the oligarchs, who haven’t toed his line. And I still remember the genocidal butchery he unleashed in Chechnya nearly two decades ago, because they had the temerity to break away.

But geopolitically, I don’t regard Putin as a military threat. In terms of foreign policy it seems that Putin is interested solely in preserving the safety of his country from western encirclement. Hence the invasion of the Ukraine to protect the Russian minority there. If he really wanted to conquer the country, rather than the Donbass, his tanks would be in Kiev by now. I’ve blogged before about how Gorbachev was promised by the West that in return for allowing the former eastern European satellites to break away from the USSR, they would remain neutral and not become members of NATO. That’s been violated. They’ve all become members, and there are NATO military bases now on Russia’s doorstep. The Maidan Revolution of 2012 which overthrew the previous, pro-Russian president of Ukraine was stage managed by the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. There’s evidence that the antagonism against Putin’s regime comes from western multinationals, who feel aggrieved at not being able to seize Russian companies as promised by Putin’s predecessor, the corrupt, drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin. Putin also seems to be quite genuine in his belief in a multipolar world, in which his country, as well as others like China, are also superpowers. But the Americans are interested only in maintaining their position as the world’s only superpower through ‘full spectrum dominance’: that is, absolute military superiority. The US’ military budget supersedes both the Russian and that of the four other major global countries combined. Arguably, Russia ain’t the global threat. America and NATO are.

Festivals like that of Cheltenham are important. They’re business arrangements, of course. They exist to sell books. But they also encourage literacy, and allow the public to come face to face with the people, who inform and entertain them through the written word. Although here the books’ pages of Private Eye complained years ago that the Festival and others like it gave more space to celebrities from television, sport, music and other areas, rather than people, whose primary living was from writing. But the information we are given is shaped by the media – by the papers and broadcasters, who give the public the news, and the publishers, who decide which books on which subjects to publish. And then there’s the bias of the individual festivals themselves. And in the case of Cheltenham, it is very establishment. It’s liberal in terms of feminism and multiculturalism, but other conservative, and increasing Conservative, in others. It’s through events like Cheltenham that the media tries to create and support the establishment consensus.

But that consensus is rightly breaking down, as increasingly more people become aware that it is only creating mass poverty. The Establishment’s refusal to tolerate other, competing opinions – their demonisation of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Nazis, for example – is leading to further alienation and disaffection. Working people don’t find their voices and concerns reflected in the media. Which is why they’re turning to the online alternatives. But Festivals like Cheltenham carry on promoting the same establishment agenda, with the odd voice from the opposition, just like the Beeb’s Question Time. And this is going to change any time soon, not with lyingt rags like the Times sponsoring it.

Aaron Bastani of Novara Media Exposes BBC Anti-Labour Bias

March 16, 2019

The Beeb has been hit with several scandals recently about its right-wing bias, and particularly about the very slanted debates and the selection of the guests and panel in Question Time. Members of the audience have been revealed as UKIP and Tory plants, the panels frequently consist of four members of the right against only one left-winger, chair Fiona Bruce intervenes to support Conservative speakers and repeat right-wing falsehoods. When she and other members of staff aren’t making jokes for the audience against Diane Abbott, of course.

In this eleven minute video from Novara Media, presenter Aaron Bastani exposes the anti-Labour, anti-socialist bias across BBC news programming. He begins with Brexit, and a radio interview by Sarah Montague of the Beeb’s World at One and Labour’s John Trickett. Trickett talks about how they’ve been to Europe, and suggests changing the red lines and forming a consensus. He is interrupted by Montague, who tells him that May’s deal has been struck, and gives Labour the customs union they want. She asks him why Labour would not support it. Bastani points out that the government is not in favour of a customs union. If they were, the Irish backstop would not be an issue. Does Montague not know this, or is she laying a trap for the opposition when now, more than ever, it is the government that needs to be held to account.

The Beeb’s Emily Barnett asked a simply question of Labour’s Emily Thornberry the same day. Barnett states that the EU have said that it’s May’s deal, and asks her if she has any evidence that they’re open to another deal. Thornberry replies with the letter Labour had written to the EU, with its entirely viable suggestions. Barnett repeats that they aren’t supported by the EU. Thornberry responds by saying that Michel Barnier said that it was an entirely reasonable way they could have negotiations. Bastani points out that Barnett’s assertions aren’t true. Guy Verhofstadt, Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk have all welcomed Labour’s suggestions. Tusk even told May that Corbyn’s plan could break the deadlock.

Bastani states that it isn’t just on radio that there’s bias, where basic facts are not mentioned or denied and where there is a great emphasis to hold Labour to account than the government. He then goes on to discuss the edition of Newsnight on Tuesday, the day before those two radio broadcasts, where presenter Emily Maitlis talked to the Tories’ Nadim Zahawi and Labour’s Barry Gardiner. This was the evening when May’s withdrawal agreement was voted down for the second time, but it looked like there was a tag-team effort between Maitlis and Zahawi against Gardiner. He then plays the clip of Maitlis challenging Gardiner about what will be on Labour’s manifesto. Gardner replies that it will all be discussed by the party, which will decide what will be put in the manifesto. Maitlis rolls her eyes and then she and Zahawi join in joking about how this is ‘chaos’. Bastani says that the eye roll was unprofessional, and states that the Guardian talked about it because it was anti-Labour.  He goes on to describe how Maitlis has form in this. In 2017 she tweeted a question about whether the Labour party still had time to ditch Corbyn. She’s not impartial and, when push comes to shove, doesn’t have much time for democracy. He plays a clip of her asking a guest at one point does democracy become less important than the future prosperity of the country.

Bastani goes on to discuss how the Beeb had a live feed outside parliament during the Brexit vote. This was, at one point, fronted by Andrew Neil, who had as his guests Ann McElroy from the Economist, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Matthew Parris. He submits that this biased panel, followed by Maitlis’ eye roll and the shenanigans the next day by Barnett shows that the Beeb’s current affairs output simply isn’t good enough.

He then moves on to Question Time with its terrible audience and panel selection. He says that there is an issue about right-wing activists not only getting access to the audience, but to the audience question, but on last week’s edition with Owen Jones the rightists asked five questions. Bastani states that the purpose of Question Time is to show what the public thinks beyond the Westminster bubble. But if the audience is infiltrated to such an extent, then what’s the point. He also argues that it isn’t just the audience that’s the problem. You frequently see the panel set up four to one against the left. There may be some centrist figures like the economist Jurgen Meyer, who voted Tory, but in terms of people supporting a broken status quo against socialists, it is anything but a fair fight. And almost always there’ll be a right-wing populist voice on the panel, whether it be Isobel Oakeshott, Nick Ferrari, Julia Hartley-Brewer, and their function is simple. It’s to drag the terms of the debate to the right. You almost never see someone from the left performing the same role.

He goes on to discuss how some people believe that since in 2017 election, the Beeb has recognised some of its failing and tried to correct them. Forty per cent of the electorate is barely represented in our television and our newspapers. Bastani states that he finds the changes so far just cosmetic. You may see the odd Novara editor here and there – and here he means the very able Ash Sarkar – but the scripts, the producers, the news agendas, what is viewed as important, have not changed. This is because they still view Corbynism a blip. They still think, despite Brexit, Trump, the rise of the SNP and transformations in the Labour party and the decay of neoliberalism, that things will go back to normal. This is not going to happen as the economic basis of Blairism – the growth that came out of financialisation and a favourable global economic system and inflated asset prices – was a one-off. This was the basis for centrist policies generally, which is why the shambolic re-run with the Independent Group is bound to fail. And there is also something deeper going on in the Beeb’s failure to portray the Left, its activists and policies accurately. Before 2017 the Beeb found the left a joke. They would have them on to laugh at. In June 2017, for a short period, it looked like it had changed. But now we’ve seen the Beeb and the right close ranks, there is class consciousness amongst the establishment, who recognise the danger that the Left represents. They don’t want them on.

The radical left, says Bastani, has made all of the right calls over the last 15-20 years. You can see that in innumerable videos on social media with Bernie Sanders in the 1980s, Jeremy Corbyn in the Iraq demonstrations in 2003, or even Tony Benn. They got everything right since 2000. They were right on foreign policy, right on the idiocy of Iraq, right about Blairism, as shown by the collapse of 2008. They were right about austerity and about the public at large being profoundly p***ed off. mainstream print and broadcast journalists missed all of this. They want to be proved right on at least one of these things, which means they have a powerful incentive to prevent Corbyn coming to power and creating an economy that’s for the many, not the few. Corbyn represents a threat to Maitlis and her colleagues, because it’s just embarrassing for them to be wrong all the time.

This is a very good analysis of the Beeb’s bias from a Marxist perspective. In Marxism, the economic structure of society determines the superstructure – its politics and culture. So when Blair’s policies of financialisation are in operation and appear to work, Centrism is in vogue. But when that collapses, the mood shifts to the left and centrist policies are doomed to fail. There are many problems with Marxism, and it has had to be considerably revised since Marx’s day, but the analysis offered by Bastani is essentially correct.

The Beeb’s massive right-wing bias is increasingly being recognised and called out. Barry and Savile Kushner describe the pro-austerity bias of the Beeb and media establishment in their book, Who Needs the Cuts? Academics at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities have shown how Conservatives and financiers are twice as like to be asked to comment on the economy on the Beeb as Labour MPs and trade unionists. Zelo Street, amongst many other blogs, like Vox Political, Evolve Politics, the Canary and so on, have described the massive right-wing bias on the Beeb’s news shows, the Daily Politics, Question Time and Newsnight. And Gordon Dimmack posted a video last week of John Cleese showing Maitlis how, out of 33 European countries polled, Britain ranked 33rd in its trust of the press and media, with only 23 per cent of Brits saying they trusted them. Now that 23 per cent no doubt includes the nutters, who believe that the Beeb really is left-wing and there is a secret plan by the Jews to import Blacks and Asians to destroy the White race and prevent Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson getting elected. But even so, this shows a massive crisis in the journalistic establishment. A crisis which Maitlis, Bruce, Barnett, Montague, Kuensberg, Robinson, Pienaar, Humphries and the rest of them aren’t helping by repeating the same tired tactics of favouring the Tories over the left.

They discrediting the Beeb. And it’s becoming very clear to everyone.

Gordon Dimmack Urges John Cleese to Look at and Support Independent Media

March 14, 2019

In this 17 minute long video from the left-wing vlogger Gordon Dimmack, he talks about John Cleese’s decision to move from the UK to the Caribbean. When the papers covered the story a month or so ago, they very much gave the impression that it was all about a feud between Cleese and the Beeb. Cleese was angry at the Corporation for not showing Monty Python and annoyed that it was no longer rated over here as one of the greatest comedies ever. In short, he was going because of personal bitterness.

That appears to be part of it, sure, but from this wider coverage it’s clear that there’s much more to it. Cleese is concerned about the massive corruption in British politics and the major part played in this by the press. Dimmack plays a clip from an interview Cleese gave to Emily Maitlis of Newsnight, in which he talks about how terrible and mendacious the press is. He supports his point by showing Maitlis a graph illustrating a study done by the  EU into the trust the citizens of its countries have in their press. Of 33 countries, Britain comes 33rd, with only 23 per cent of Brits saying they trust their media.

That’s damning.

Maitlis tried to get round this by pointing to a statistical outlier, Albania, which is near the top of the list, where 98 per cent of its citizens believe their press to be trustworthy. Albania under Hoxha was a Stalinist dictatorship. After the Fall of Communism it became a mass of seething corruption which destroyed several governments as the economy collapsed through pyramid schemes. So it very probably doesn’t have a remotely trustworthy press. But Maitlis’ remark ignores the greater trust other, stable countries with a history of open, democratic politics, like the Netherlands, have in their media. When Maitlis tries to object to Cleese’s point that the British press is not trusted and untrustworthy, he just laughs in her face.

The conversation then moves on to Cleese’s complaints about Python, which Dimmack supports, although he says he like Ricky Gervaise’s latest comedy, Malcolm. Dimmack then moves to another interview Cleese gave, in which talked more about his departure from these isles. He was going first to Nepal to see the tigers, then going to do another tour of America before finally settling in Nevis, which he and his wife saw and fell in love with. He states that he’s leaving because it’s nearer to his daughter in Los Angeles, and that he does most of his business in America. But he’s also moving because he’s sick of the corruption in British society. He states that he was personally involved in British politics, first for proportional representation and then in the Leveson II inquiry. But these were stifled by the British press. He’s also critical about the banks and their destruction of the economy. He’ll still be interested in British politics, but he won’t return until we get a government that is serious about changing things in Britain for the better. This is possible, but he fears he’ll be away for some time.

To show how genuinely politically engaged Cleese is, Dimmack flashes up a couple of tweets from the great man about Russiagate and sources supporting his belief in Russian involvement in Trump’s election. Dimmack fully agrees with Cleese about the corruption of the lamestream media, and says he has tried to point him in the direction of people, who do tell the truth. Like Max Blumenthal about Venezuela, and Jimmy Dore. People Cleese could more easily contact in America. Dimmack admits that there’s hardly any chance that Cleese will read his tweets, as he’s got 597 million followers. But perhaps if enough people follow Dimmack and tweet to Cleese recommending he look at the above journos of the new media, this may change and Cleese will start supporting them. Which would be great, because Cleese’s support would obviously be highly influential. Dimmack states very clearly that he is trying to change the world, and if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem and should step away.