Posts Tagged ‘‘Focus on Fact’’

Vox Political on Ian Hislop and the Beeb’s Anti-Corbyn Bias

December 17, 2016

Mike early today put up a post commenting on another example of the Beeb’s bias against Jeremy Corbyn, this time on last night’s Have I Got News For You. Hislop had made the comment, When you find yourself agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn, you know the country is in a mess.’

Mike states

If the BBC had any real interest in its stated commitment to political impartiality, one of the other panel members, or guest host Gary Lineker, would have jumped in to say that agreeing with Theresa May and the Tories is what put the country in a mess in the first place. But that didn’t happen.

And concludes

This man is the editor of Private Eye. Do you think he bothers to keep his political bias out of the magazine? Neither do I.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/17/hislops-jeremy-corbyn-jibe-what-happened-to-bbc-impartiality/

I don’t have to speculate if Hislop is keeping his own personal political bias out of Private Eye. I’ve stopped reading it because he blatantly hasn’t. There are plenty of stories attacking Corbyn and the ‘click-bait’ web site that supports him, The Canary, but absolutely none supporting the Labour leader. The satirical magazine has been running a feature, Focus on Fact, which is devoted to attacking him. This seems to come from embittered Blairites, as many of the stories in there seem to be about internal party disputes from the 1980s.

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve stopped reading the Eye because of this consistent bias against Corbyn, despite the excellent work the magazine has also done attacking privatisation, including that of the NHS. But it needs to remembered that Private Eye and its founders were very much part of the establishment. Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh, Peter Cook and Ian Hislop himself are all very middle class, ex-public schoolboys. Auberon Waugh was notorious for his own extremely Tory and reactionary views, writing columns for the Torygraph sneering at the Greenham women and teachers, for example. His family were also connected to MI5, and he may have been one of the conduits for the intelligence agency’s attempt to smear Harold Wilson as a KGB agent in the 1970s, according to Lobster.

The Eye is not just biased about domestic politics. It has frequently run pieces about the Ukraine in its Letter from… column, which has unwaveringly presented the line that the current vile regime in Kyiv is entirely democratic and is under threat from Putin, the new Grand Duke of Moscow, who is trying to set himself up as the next Tsar of all the Russias and the true heir to Ivan the Terrible. There is no mention that the current Ukrainian regime includes neo-Nazis, determined to persecute genuinely independent journalists, and who have beaten and brutalised members of the Ukrainian left, just as the regime is genuinely responsible for persecuting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

As for the BBC, I recently posted a piece about a book I found in Waterstones, The BBC and the Myth of Public Broadcasting, which makes the case that the BBC is extremely biased towards the corporate establishment and the Conservatives. This should surprise no-one on the left. Mike and several other left-wing blogs have published articles about the finding by academics at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities that the Beeb is more likely to favour Conservative MPs and managing directors and spokespeople for the stock exchange over Labour MPs and trade unionists. And the Corporation is also very culpably silent about the privatisation of the NHS.

Hislop’s comment last night is another example of this bias. It’s also the reason why I don’t buy Private Eye, and indeed, can no longer stand watching Have I Got News For You.

Why I Didn’t Buy ‘Private Eye’ Yesterday

September 3, 2016

I regularly buy Private Eye, but for the first time in a very long while, I didn’t buy it. I’ve put up a couple of pieces here talking about the very pronounced anti-Corbyn bias there is in the magazine. The ‘In The Back’ section, and its predecessor, ‘Footnotes’, before that exposed the privatisation of the NHS by the Tories and Blair, along with the sell-off of the buildings owned by the Tax Office, the transformation of the schools into increasingly expensive academies and the privatisation of the Royal Mail. The magazine has also attacked the Work Capability Tests, benefit sanctions and workfare. This has all been excellent, but I’ve found this outweighed in recent weeks by the space it gives the Blairites to smear the Labour leader, with no attack on them. There’s a regular strip, ‘Focus on Fact’, which is supposed to expose the dirty dealings of Corbyn and his supporters. This mostly seems to be a rehash of events 30 years or so ago in the 1980s. There have also been pieces attacking The Canary, and smearing the various YouTubers, who didn’t buy Angela Eagle’s lie about the Corbynists throwing a brick through her constituency office window. The Eye attacked them as ‘conspiracy theorists’.

This fortnight’s issue had on its cover a piece about ‘Traingate’, with a headline about Corbyn lying. Now I might be wrong, and the magazine could have been making a critical comment instead about how Corbyn was maligned by the papers yet again, when they reported Virgin Trains’ claim that there were spaces available for him to sit. But I didn’t think so at the time. It looked to me like another in the magazine’s long list of smears. And so I didn’t buy it. I spent part of the money I’d saved instead on a big bar of chocolate. And very nice that tasted too.

Corbyn’s really our only hope in the Labour party of undoing the harm done by nearly forty years of Thatcherism, and particularly all the evils the magazine has done so much to investigate and expose over the years. But Hislop has decided instead to throw his lot in with the corporatists and profiteers, who oppose him. Some of this might be due to the magazine’s links to MI5 through Auberon Waugh, as described in a piece in Lobster many years ago, ‘Five at Eye’. Corbyn opposes the current military build-up on the borders of Russia and the Ukraine. He also talked to the Republicans in Northern Ireland in an attempt to find a peaceful solution, just as he went to Israel to talk to the Palestinians. All actions which currently undermine British foreign policy, which is pure neoliberal corporate imperialism, not so different from what Hobson described over a century ago in his Imperialism, and by Lenin in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. But this makes him a threat to the British state, and particularly its role in supporting Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And so no effort is being spared to destroy him, including hit pieces in the Eye.

My refusal to buy Hislop’s dangerously biased magazine yesterday on its own will have absolutely no effect whatsoever. Indeed, the magazine over the years has taken a kind of perverse pride in offending readers. Its letters page over the years has often been filled with angry readers deeply outraged about their treatment of some issue or another, and cancelling their subscriptions. The most notorious example of this was their cover criticising the mixture of hysteria and voyeurism amongst the crowd at Lady Di’s funeral. To balance the negative correspondence, the Eye also prints letters supporting the controversial piece. Again, there was no shortage of them when it came to Di’s funeral.

If enough people stop buying the magazine, it might have some effect even then. All the newspapers’ profit margins are under attack from the rise of the new media and telecommunications generally, and I doubt that Private Eye is an exception. Though even there, I doubt it will do much harm. As I said, the Eye has always taken a kind of pleasure in outraging and alienating its readers. Nevertheless, it might be vulnerable if enough left-wing readers do it. My guess is that despite the magazine and its founders being very middle class establishment, most of its readers are probably left-wing. It ran a piece a few years ago about a proposal in parliament to give a vote in support of the Eye. Very few Tories gave their support; more Lib Dems did, but most of the votes came from the Labour party. Perhaps if enough left-wingers recognise its pro-corporatist Blairite bias and stop buying it, that might nevertheless shake Hislop up a bit.

And then again, perhaps not. But speaking for myself, I decided yesterday I was sick of its lies and smears, and passed over it at the magazine racks. You make your own decisions about supporting the magazine or not.

Private Eye Anti-Corbyn Jeering and Anti-Democrat Party Revolt in America

August 13, 2016

Last week I put up a piece commenting on the considerable anti-Corbyn bias in Private Eye. The Eye has run a series of articles attacking the Labour leader since he won the election, including a series of cartoons, mainly raking over controversies from the 1980s from the angle of the Blairites, entitled ‘Focus on Fact’.

In its issue for 5th-18th August 2016, the magazine ran another series of pieces attacking Corbyn. One of these was the following satirical commentary.

Private Eye Anti-Corbyn Joke

It shows a photograph of Corbyn side by side with the American Democratic Party politicians and presidential nomination hopeful, Bernie Sanders. If you can’t read it, the text runs

Spot the Difference 2

America

Grey-haired old socialist politician with a cult-like following accepts that for the good of his party he must step aside to end party infighting that will gift government to their ultra-right opponents.

Britain

Grey-haired old socialist politician with a cult-like following refuses to accept that for the good of his party he must step aside to end party infighting that will gift government to their ultra-right opponents.

It’s a spectacularly bad piece of political analysis, but it shows very clearly the very strong bias towards the Democrat and New Labour political establishment running through the Eye. Bernie Sanders, who campaigned against Hillary Clinton, was denied the Democratic nomination through dirty tricks. The Democratic establishment and party machine under Debbie Wasserman Schultz rigged the caucuses in Shrillary’s favour through the use of superdelegates, along with other machinations. The result has been a major political scandal. Sanders’ supporters turned up to protest at the Democratic National Convention the other week complaining that they were silenced. Sanders stepped aside, and urged his supporters to vote for Hillary, despite the fact that she stands for everything that he and they oppose: corporate power and corruption, the indiscriminate use of military force, the overthrow of democratically elected left-wing regimes and their replacement by brutal fascist dictatorships, further welfare cuts and poverty in the American heartland. It’s been pointed out by The Young Turks that Sanders was massively more popular than Shrillary, and stood a far better chance of beating Fuehrer Trumpf. But Bernie was too left and radical for the Democratic establishment to stomach. So they knifed him in the back, just like the Labour rebels are doing to Corbyn.

And the discontent generated by the Democrats’ betrayal of Bernie Sanders is challenging the entire American two party system. Counterpunch has run a series of articles commenting on the way younger, radical Democrat supporters are now turning to the Green party and Jill Stein. Geoff Dutton ran a piece in the magazine, ‘Let’s (Third) Party’, arguing for the inclusion of third parties in the American ballots to stop Clinton and Trump. See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/05/lets-third-party/
More recently, the magazine’s columnist, Barbara Ellis, wrote a piece entitled ‘Found – A New Major Opposition Party’, arguing that a third mass party was emerging from voters dissatisfied with the way the two dominant parties follow the agenda of the major corporations against the wishes and interests of the 99 per cent. This is partly based on the history of American third parties, like Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor party, which emerged in the 1930s, and became so powerful that the Democrat party sought to make it part of their umbrella organisation. See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/10/found-a-new-major-opposition-party/

The Young Turks and related radical internet news programmes have also commented on the growing support for Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, and the bitter resentment against a corrupt political system that denies severely ordinary Americans a voice. In the clip below, for example, The Turks’ reporter Jordan Cheriton talks to a young political scientist professor, Rex Troumbley, at the Green Party convention. Troumbley teaches at Rice University, and was a supporter of Bernie Sanders. He then switched to the Greens when the Democrats did the dirty on the people’s candidate. Troumbley explains very clearly why young millennials are dissatisfied with the two party system, a system that is ‘set up to disenfranchise’. He makes the point that they are far more receptive to radical views about their nation’s history – those that take into account the fact that the Founding Fathers hated and feared democracy, the genocide and dispossession of the Amerindians, slavery, Jim Crow and the rest, rather than the upper-class White male perspective pushed by establishment outlets like Fox News and the Republicans. And these kids want radical change.

In the piece from The Young Turks below, Jordan Cheriton talks to Bernie Sanders supporters, who have formed the Demexit campaign, modelled on Britain’s Brexit. Just as Britain, in their opinion, left the Union when it felt it was no longer part of it, so the Bernie Sanders’ supporters are leaving the Democrats to move to Jill Stein and the Greens because of the way they are not represented by Shrillary and the establishment Democrats.

And I could go on. Clinton and Trump between them are the most unpopular presidential candidates in American history, ever. In a recent poll, only 27 per cent of American voters were happy with Trump’s finger on the nuclear button. And Clinton was only marginally higher at 38 per cent. And the dissatisfaction is growing. The Liberal hosts of one American political programme on MSNBC went into absolute meltdown the other day when they found out that John Negroponte had endorsed Hillary Clinton. Negroponte’s a truly heinous individual. He was one of Reagan’s people responsible for arming the death squads in Latin America, amongst his other crimes against humanity. Jimmy Dore, another reporter from the TYT, made a point of criticising them for only just waking up to how horrible HRC was, after they had criticised her opponents, like the Turks, as ‘misogynists’ and ‘Bernie Bros’, and derided Susan Sarandon as ‘insane’.

I’m putting this up because, although it’s American, it parallels what’s happening over here with the attempts of the Labour establishment to stick the knife into Jeremy Corbyn. The Blairites are corporate warmongers exactly like Clinton. Tony Blair modelled New Labour on Clinton’s New Democrats, which took over the pro-corporate, anti-worker, anti-welfare policies of the Republicans. Private Eye and the Blairites sincerely wish that the Labour left, who have found a voice with Jeremy Corbyn, will shut up and abandon him, leaving them to continue the same policies of courting the middle classes and the corporate establishment, including the right-wing media, while privatising everything and destroying the welfare state. They’re aghast that the working class they have marginalised, ignored and sneered at are supporting Corbyn and abandoning neoliberalism. But, looking at what’s going on in America shows that removing Corbyn won’t change anything. He’s started a grassroots movement. If they get rid of him, people will leave the Labour party en masse, and a major third party will emerge from his supporters. It could be either the Greens, or parties like the TUSC, the Socialist Party, or Left Unity. Or it could be a completely new third party. Either way, the demand for a genuine, socialist alternative will remain, and it will challenge the Labour establishment. Regardless of the lies and spin the Blairites and Private Eye want us to believe.

Losing Patience with the Anti-Corbyn Bias in Private Eye

August 7, 2016

I’ve finally lost patience with the persistent bias against Jeremy Corbyn in Private Eye. I read the magazine regularly, and much of it I agree with and admire. It has over the years published some superb pieces attacking privatisation, the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the persecution of the severely disabled by Atos and its successor Maximus. It has also shown itself quite willing to challenge British foreign policy. For example, it has published numerous pieces rebutting official claims that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, and instead pointed the finger at Syria, who were not accused as George Bush senior needed their help during the first Gulf War. It has also done admirable work defending the bereaved relatives in the Deepcut inquiry, challenging the official story that all of the victims committed suicide and attacking the Army’s and police’s apparent cover-up of what looks very much like murder on an army base that was out of control, with rampant bullying and the sexual abuse of female squaddies.

And yet, despite all this, the magazine has joined the rest of the press pack in attacking Corbyn as ‘unelectable’, mocking, smearing and denigrating his leadership at every turn. For the past few weeks, it has been running a strip, ‘Focus on Fact’, which appears to have been written by the Blairites, and mostly revisits spats with Jeremy Corbyn and the extreme Left back in the 1980s. They’ve also published other pieces firmly showing their pro-Blairite bias. For instance, in this fortnight’s issue, there’s a piece defending Angela Eagle’s claim that Corbynistas threw a brick through her window, and attacking the good folks on the internet that have attempted to refute it as ‘conspiracy theorists’. They’ve also decided to criticise Corbyn because – gasp – he’s dared to appear on RT and Press TV. I intend to blog more deeply about both these issues. However, for now I’ll just say that the story about the brick thrown at Eagle’s office is false. It didn’t come through her window, and the area is marked by vandalism. There’s no evidence linking it to the Corbynites, and the entire accusation just comes from Eagle. As for RT and PressTV, this is more or less a return to the ‘red baiting’ of the Thatcherites in the 1980s, when they attacked Ken Livingstone and his group as Communists. This included members of the left-wing Tribune group, who had written articles for Soviet and Marxist magazines, but were themselves not Communists. RT stands for Russia Today, and is the Russian state broadcaster, while PressTV is run by the Iranian state. Both of these are extremely authoritarian countries which are notorious for their persecution of independent journalists. But I’ve used material from RT, because it gives a genuinely left-wing perspective on politics and events in America and the West, such as American imperialism and the exclusion of radical voices from official American politics. Very few others broadcasters are going to discuss these issues, with the noble exceptions of internet programmes like The Young Turks and Democracy Now. They put on the stuff that you won’t read about in our papers, or see on BBC TV, and increasingly not on Channel 4.

So what has prompted the Eye to attack Corbyn? I can’t be sure, but it strikes me that it’s probably due to the very upper middle class background of the magazine itself, and the fact that, despite its excellent record in many areas, none of its founders were in any sense radicals. Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and John Wells were all stout fellows, but they were very ‘establishment’. They were public schoolboys, a point I can remember being made by the panel at an event on the late Peter Cook one year at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. John Wells, who in my opinion was one of the funniest of British comedians and comic actors, was the former French teacher and headmaster of Eton. You don’t get much more establishment than that. I once heard Humphrey Carpenter describe Auberon Waugh as a ‘Tory anarchist’, presumably meaning he that he was instinctively a man of the Right, but was also acutely aware of their stupidities and failings as well. I think this characterisation probably applies much more to Peter Cook. Cook seemed to me to be resolutely cynical in his politics. When he was at university, he joined all three mainstream political parties so he could laugh at them equally. By contrast, Waugh, who also wrote columns for Private Eye, always struck me as just a sarcastic right-winger sneering at the Left. Ingrams was notorious for having a bitter hatred of gays. After leaving the editorship of Private Eye, he founded the Oldie, a magazine for the elderly. I asked my mother once if she’d read it. She had, but didn’t like it, declaring it to be ‘snobby’. The only genuine left-winger on the team was Paul Foot, and he fitted in because he came from the same privileged background, and had the same very upper-middle class tastes in food and drink as the rest of them.

Ian Hislop, the current editor, is no different. He’s very public school, and his father was some kind of army officer or colonial administrator in Nigeria. And he also shares other parts of the accepted political wisdom. A few years ago on Have I Got News For You he declared that, regardless of the attacks the Tories were getting for their austerity policies, Labour would also be required to cut spending on the welfare state. This is very much the standard view, which is also followed slavishly by Beeb broadcasters. The Kushners attacked it, and the media consensus surrounding it, in their book Who Needs the Cuts?, which contains numerous examples of BBC broadcasters and journos uncritically repeating what is basically Neoliberal propaganda. Hislop wasn’t mentioned, but he was clearly another who had uncritically accepted this view.

And Corbyn isn’t the only Left-wing politician to be have been unfairly attacked by the Eye. Tony Benn was regularly pilloried as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, despite the fact that the people, who knew him said that he wasn’t a fanatic, but a thoughtful man who carefully considered what the people around him were saying and consulted their opinions before reaching a decision. But the received, Fleet Street wisdom in the 1970s and ’80s was that Benn was a fanatic and a madman.

As was ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone. Livingstone was also attacked as a ‘Communist’, despite the fact that he wasn’t. He used them, and occasionally used the same type of language, but wasn’t, in fact, a Marxist. But hasn’t stopped the Eye from calling him Ken Leninspart. And most of what Livingstone talked about in his interviews with the press when he was head of the GLC was boringly mundane. However, this was routinely ignored, and the only parts of the conversation – which in actual fact were only very small parts of what he said – which were printed and repeated were those which presented him as an extremist – profoundly anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-gay. Which was too much for a Britain that was much more traditional and conservative in its attitudes towards race and gender than today. This was a time when the Black and White Minstrels were mainstream TV with a mass audience, despite being based on 19ith century parodies of Black, slave entertainment.

Benn and Livingstone were both attacked by the media because they were left-wing Socialists. Benn advocated extending nationalisation to a further 25 companies, as recommended in a report by his own party. One journo for the Sunday Times said that this was probably the reason why the press hated him, because editors and proprietors feared that eventually he would nationalise them. And ‘Red’ Ken was similarly reviled because he was in favour of industrial democracy and worker’s control, which shocked and outraged the media. The press did not, however, try to refute their ideas, and so took the tactics of sheer ad hominem abuse. My guess they were afraid to, because either they couldn’t, or they were afraid that simply discussing them would make them popular with the proles.

And I think this is true of the press today and its attacks on Corbyn. They’re motivated by the same fear of genuine Socialism after the neoliberalism and privatisation of the Blairites. And this terror is shared by Hislop and Private Eye, which despite its subversive tradition of satire and exposing abuse of power, isn’t really a radical magazine. Hislop and no doubt many of his contributors come from the upper middle classes, which own industry and continue to expect to take a leading role in British government and society. Jeremy Corbyn threatens them, just as Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone did before him. And so Private Eye joins in the abuse sneering and smearing him.