Posts Tagged ‘Guardian’

Private Eye Criticizes Israel, But Continues Smearing Labour as Anti-Semitic

November 28, 2018

Here’s another example of Fleet Street’s double standards over Israel and the Labour party. In last fortnight’s Private Eye for 16th to 29th November 2018, there was an article in the ‘Street of Shame’ column attacking Israel and its attempts to censor criticism. But the magazine continues to spread the smear that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party are anti-Semites, as shown very clearly in a review of Jonathan Coe’s Middle England.

The article, ‘Value Judgment’, was about the Israelis’ refusal to let British journalist Sarah Helm, the author of an article on suicide amongst young people in Gaza, enter the country. It ran

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt announced this month that media freedom is at the heart of his new “values-based” foreign policy. “Democracy, the rule of law, and freedom of expression mean nothing unless independent journalists are able to hold the powerful to account,” he declared, “however inconvenient this might be for those who find themselves on the receiving end.”

Hunt’s promise is being put to the test at once by the Israeli government’s refusal to give veteran British correspondent Sarah Helm a press pass to enter Gaza.

In the 1990s Helm covered the first Gulf War and the Oslo accords as diplomatic editor of the Independent, and later served as its Jerusalem correspondent. She has reported on the Middle East regularly ever since. But her latest application produced this reply from Ron Paz of Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO): “It has not been proven to the satisfaction of the GPO that your primary occupation is News Media. Therefore the GPO is unable to issue a GPO card for you.”

Shome mishtake, shurely? In the past four years Helm had applied seven times to enter Gaza through the Erez checkpoint, and had never been turned down before. She reported on these visits for the Observer, Sunday Times, Guardian and Indy as well as Newsweek, New York Review of Books and New Statesman – all of which look remarkably like “News Media” to anyone except Mr Paz.

Last month Hunt said he was “very concerned” by the Hong Kong authorities’ rejection of a visa for Victor Mallet, Asia editor of the Financial Times. “in the absence of an explanation from the authorities,” he said, “we can only conclude that this move is politically motivated.” The same applies to the banning of Helm, since the official reason is so patently absurd. Was it something she wrote? Such as, perhaps, a harrowing 5,500-word long read for the Guardian in May this year on the rising number of suicides inside Gaza, particularly among the young and bright?

Helm has hired the Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard to challenge the ban. Following Hunt’s announcement that he is now a global champion of press freedom, the Eye asked the Foreign Office if he would be taking up Helm’s case with the Israelis. At the time of going to press there was no answer. (p. 8).

All good stuff, showing the Israeli state’s determination to silence foreign reporting of its gross maltreatment of the Palestinians, and the double-standards over this by Jeremy Hunt at the Foreign Office. And the paper has many times in the past satirized the Israelis over this. But like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, they too have joined the rest of the press in attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party as anti-Semites, simply because Corbyn does stick up for the Palestinians.

The Eye’s ‘Literary Review’ in that same issue carried a very critical review of Jonathan Coe’s Middle England, ‘Remoans of the Day’. The novel, one gathers, is a fictional description of the state of modern Britain in the run-up to Brexit. The Eye’s anonymous reviewer attacked it for its pro-Remain bias, in which all the Leave characters are described as racists and no discussion is made of those who voted Leave on the issue of sovereignty, rather than immigration. It also criticizes the book for its sympathetic portrayal of a female supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, despite her anti-Semitism. The review states

Coe’s sole attempt at balance appears to be a portrait of Doug’s daughter, a vindictive Corbynista. His heart isn’t in it. Coe explains away her “knee-jerk antisemitism: as the product of “passionate support for the Palestinian cause” rather than, say, two millennia of racial prejudice. He forgives her and reflects that the young were right to be angry “at the world his generation had bequeathed”. Nowhere, of course, does Coe explain away knee-jerk Islamophobia among Leave voters as the result of “passionate opposition” to the oppression of women or righteous anger at being bequeathed a world where Islamists murder schoolgirls at Arianna Grande concerts. (p. 34).

But as the Eye should know, Corbyn never has been an anti-Semite, and nor are his supporters. Corbyn has always stood up for people of all races and religions against persecution, as Mike has shown on his blog, where he listed the number of times Corbyn supported Jews against what he perceived as prejudice and intolerance. And Corbyn’s supporters not only include decent, anti-racist non-Jews, but also entirely self-respecting Jews, who are far from being ‘self-hating’, as they are smeared by the Israel lobby. But the Eye’s determined to maintain the lie that they are.

Coe also seems to believe this lie, despite his apparent sympathies with the character. Which suggests that Coe, despite his liberalism, appears to have swallowed all this bilge about anti-Semitism absolutely uncritically. Unless he, and his agent and editor were also afraid of the Israel lobby and what might happen to his literary career and their book sales if he really told it as it is and also got accused of anti-Semitism.

And it’s more than possible that the Eye is also afraid to debunk the anti-Semitism smears, because they fear being smeared as anti-Semites in turn. The Eye has frequently been hit with libel suits, the most notorious being Cap’n Bob Maxwell’s attempts to shut them down in the 1980s. All of the pieces in the Eye are anonymous, and while the magazine has attacked Israel and the British secret state in the past, there appears to be lines that the magazine definitely isn’t prepared to cross. Perhaps there also afraid that if they reveal that, er, Corbyn and his supporters ain’t anti-Semites, a similar smear against them will close the magazine down. Quite apart from the issue of the magazine’s own political bias. Even before the anti-Semitism smears erupted, the Eye was attacking Corbyn for being ‘far left’, especially in its ‘Focus on Fact’ cartoon.

It also casts doubt on the political convictions of the Eye’s deputy editor, Francis Wheen. Wheen, like Hislop, is another public schoolboy, but appears to be firmly left. He’s written biographies of both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as publishing a collection of the Eye’s literary reviews in the 1990s as Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion. But his magazine’s determination to smear Corbyn and prevent a future Labour government on the basis of accusations of political extremism and anti-Semitism suggests that his heart is very much with the Neoliberal Thatcherite wing of the so-called ‘Moderates’.

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Vox Political on Jeremy Corbyn Turning Down Media Hustings

August 20, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political yesterday also put up a very good article about a piece in the Huffington Post. This article claimed that leaked emails from Corbyn’s office showed how paranoid the Labour leader was, because his campaign manager, John Lansman, had attacked the Mirror, Guardian, New Statesman and Channel 4 as hostile outlets, who could not be trusted. The three papers and TV channel had offered to hold hustings debates between Owen Smith and Corbyn. Mike makes the point in his article that Corbyn and Lansman aren’t actually paranoid about turning them down. All of these organisations have been hostile to Corbyn, including the Huffington Post itself. They aren’t impartial and can’t be trusted as moderators. He also shows how the press distorts any pro-Corbyn message by pointing to the way Billy Bragg was treated by the Times, Mail, Express and Metro.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/18/corbyn-is-right-to-turn-down-hustings-events-due-to-concerns-about-bias/

Rather than undermining Corbyn, this may have the opposite effect of further isolating and undermining the press. James Curran and Jean Seaton in their Power Without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain (London: Routledge 1987) point out that large corporate conglomerates purchased many of the newspaper chains in order to influence public policy in their favour. But the press is in serious decline. It’s threatened by the rise of social media and bloggers. People are getting their news from other sources, and the reaction of the established old media is defensive. I’ve commented before about how journalists and news people, including those in the Beeb, have huffed at the supposed threat to journalistic standards by the rise of independent media, and warned that this is a dire threat to society as it will break up the social consensus provided by the major news outlets. Which is a frank admission that they’re very worried about the decline in their power and ability to influence public thinking towards what they see as the correct view. Obama was credited as winning the election that thrust him into the White House eight years ago largely through support on the internet. This was put forward on British television by the American comedian Reginald D. Hunter at the time. Mike’s also blogged about a piece on the Skwawkbox blog, pointing out how well Corbyn has done by cutting the Tories’ lead from 16 points to five when the entire press is against him, arguing that the Fourth Estate has shot itself in the foot. See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/18/as-corbyns-labour-closes-to-five-points-has-the-establishment-shot-itself-in-the-foot-the-skwawkbox-blog/ and follow the link to the original article.

Corbyn is therefore a major threat to the media’s corporate power. They depend for much of their income on advertising. One of the radical Labour papers that folded in the 1950s/60s did so because, as a working class paper, it couldn’t attract the advertising it needed to keep itself afloat. At the time it had 1.25 million readers, which was five times more than the Times. The section in Curran and Seaton on this issue in the above book. The circulation of the Times and Torygraph is rapidly plummeting to the million level, if it hasn’t done so already. The Torygraph has shed reader at a colossal rate, not least because of the shameless way it distorts content to please the advertisers. If Corbyn gets re-elected as leader of the Labour party, as it’s almost certain he will, this would demonstrate the increasing inability of the press to influence politics. And if, as I sincerely hope, he becomes Prime Minister, then that’s it. It’ll show just how impotent the press and broadcasting corporations have become. And they will suffer for it. Advertisers will probably want reductions in the fees charged because their proven inability to influence the population as they claim. They will also find themselves treated much less seriously as sources of news and information by the rest of the population, which will really damage their sense of importance.

In short, the press has far more to lose from being ignored by Corbyn than he has. And as this carries on, their desperation will become very evident.

Another Appeal to Sign 38 Degrees Petition against Anti-Corbyn BBC Bias

July 14, 2016

I received this email this afternoon from Maria Patrick, who launched a petition at 38 Degrees, the internet petitioning group, against the Beeb for their appalling bias against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. She asks for everyone, who shared her petition to do so again, so that it can get the necessary numbers of signatures. She says

Dear Friends,

Thank you all so much for signing my petition. The response has been overwhelming.

However, I am appealing for your help once more.

The political situation within the Labour Party at the moment is absolutely outrageous. The MPs responsible for the ‘coup’ have now turned their attention to discrediting Labour members and Jeremy Corbyn supporters. The narrative within the Labour party at the moment is one that brands all Jeremy Corbyn supporters are as violent thugs and loonies. This sensationalist labelling of people from all walks of life has been adopted and propagated by the main stream media and has led to Labour effectively barring new members and supporters from voting in the upcoming leadership election. The BBC is the main culprit in this subversion of democracy as it is a trusted broadcaster funded with public money, and many people are making supposedly ‘informed’ opinions based on the news stories they cover – or not.

My petition was never meant to be a rallying point for Jeremy Corbyn supporters, but a platform for anybody, regardless of their political leanings, to speak out against blatant BBC bias, imparticality and inaccuracy.

I have spoken with the Media Reform Coalition and received some very useful advice and practical help with the petition and complaint, but in order for this campaign to have the impact it needs it needs to have at least 100,000 signatures.

https:​//you.​38degrees.​org.​uk/petitions/hold-the-bbc-to-a​ccount-for-it-s-smear-campaign​-on-jeremy-corbyn?source=facebook-share-button&time=​1467286909​

Please, please, please can you share the petition again? Share it far and wide. If everybody who signed can get just two people to sign the petition we’ll have over 70’000 signatures in total. That’s a huge step towards this goal and will give the complaint more weight.

I know that there are gazillions of petitions going round at the moment in response to the outrageous machinations of the coup MPs and the NEC, but we must not forget how the media is influencing public opinion and reaction with it’s campaign of misinformation and distortion.

I would also like to ask for those of you who have made individual complaints to the BBC relating to bias, impartiality and accuracy please can you contact me directly at maria.patrick78@yahoo.co.uk. I am collecting complaints and responses and passing them on to the Media Reform Coalition. They will then form part of a professional dossier which will ultimately be sent on to the BBC and OFCOM.

Once again thank you for your support.

Maria xx

I am very happy to do this, as I share her disgust at the very blatant bias of the BBC and the rest of the media, included the allegedly left-wing papers of the Mirror, Guardian, and the supposed, but not really, ‘Independent‘. If you haven’t signed the petition, but would like to, please do so at the address contained in her email.

Vox Political: New Graphic Novel about Calais Refugee Camp

May 24, 2016

I put up a few pieces two years or so ago lamenting the fact that the underground comics now seemed no longer to be about attacking and commenting on contemporary political issues, in the same way that the radical comics underground in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s did. I was later proved wrong with the publication of graphic novel collecting pieces by various British comic artists commemorating the beginning of the First World War from a left-wing, anti-war perspective. One of those behind the project was the veteran comics writer, creator and serial offender against the establishment, Pat Mills. Now Mike has news on his blog about another graphic novel, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of the refugees in the ‘Jungle’, the Calais refugee camp.

The graphic novel, Threads, is based on the experiences its writer and artist, Kate Evans, in a very short stint she did volunteering. Mike reproduces a few panels from the strip, one of which shows a Russian plane bombing Syria, which is one of the causes of the mass migration of refugees to the West. A few chapters can also be viewed on Evans’ own website, to which Mike provides the link. The panels shown are in full colour, and the whole graphic novel is due to be published by Verso next year, in Spring 2017.

Mike’s article quotes Evans herself that the work is to counter the attacks on the migrants in the right-wing press, who make them both anonymous and present them as a demonic threat. Mike himself points out that many of those objecting to the arrival of refugees forget that they are also people, and that it’s the function of art and culture to remind us of the realities.

This comic story gives a human face to Calais refugees

This is comic art and literature once again serving the vital function of holding a mirror up to reality, to provoke and upset in the cause of humanity. When graphic novels first appeared as an adult literary form in the 1990, Julie Burchill, ranted against them, screaming in her column that anyone over 18 who read them should have their right to vote removed. Of course, Burchill herself has done nothing but spout poisonous, infantile nonsense from her pen and keyboard during her long, literary career, in a series of journals and newspapers including the NME, Spectator, Guardian (how?) and, unsurprisingly, the Daily Heil. This latest graphic work seems to show the opposite: that it’s now the comics medium that increasingly takes a mature look at complex issues, while the supposedly ‘adult’ right-wing press does nothing but scream abuse and create simplistic stereotypes.

Vox Political on Nick Gibb Address to Teacher’s Conference

April 6, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political ran this story from the Groan, which reported the kind and courteous welcome Nick Gibb got when he spoke to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers at their conference in Liverpool. Of course, I’m being ironic when I say that it was ‘kind and courteous’. In fact that they jeered him. And I don’t blame them. What Gibb said was pure rubbish.

The Tories are, of course, determined to turn 17,000 primary schools in England into academies. Gibb made the usual attempt to try to justify this massive privatisation to the Tory party’s corporate backers by saying that it would lead to an improvement in quality. He told his audience of educational professionals that if they spoke to the headmasters, who had become heads of the academy chains, they would hear that academy schools were flourishing. Because they’re professionally led.

This is, of course, complete twaddle. The same could also be said of the state schools under LEA control. They’re also managed by professionals, in the sense that the Local Education Authority is staffed by people, who earn their living from managing schools. Just as the actual teaching and administrative staff in the schools themselves, the teachers, teaching assistants, school secretaries, dinner ladies and caretakers are also educational professionals. After all, the work in education.

Mike has already pointed out, along with very many other bloggers, time and again, that standards in academies and free schools are actually worse than state schools. In the comments to the article, he reproduces the following graphic, which shows how the number of academies which are rated ‘inadequate’ far outstrip LEA schools.

leaVacademyschools

In fact, 25 academies last year had to be handed back to state administration because their standards were so bad. Charlie Stayt made a valiant attempt to get Thicky Nicky Morgan to admit this, but the minister with the mad staring eyes just carried on chuntering about how terrible it was that schools were being left under the control of local authorities, which continued to inflict their low educational standards on their impressionable young charges.

The opposite is true. Of course, the government likes the idea of privatising, are part-privatising the education system, because it hands over a very lucrative state enterprise to their corporate backers. They, and their big business paymasters also like it, because it means that private industry can set the terms of pay and conditions much lower than in the state sector. For example, it was the case that to teach in a state school, you should have a teaching qualification. You either did a teaching degree, or you completed a normal degree, and then took a PGCE. I don’t know if the situation’s changed now, but a few years ago you didn’t need a teaching qualification to teach in a private school. This is, I should repeat, private schools rather than academies. But my point remains. Pay and conditions for the teaching staff are lower, and the staff themselves may not be as well qualified as their counterparts in the state sector.

So where does the money spent on academy schools actually go? The obvious answer is the pockets of the senior managers and shareholders, who are obviously looking forward to doing very well out of it, thank you very much. And this also gives the lie to the claim that private enterprise is somehow more efficient and less bureaucratic. Clearly it isn’t, as there’s a whole bureaucracy in the academy chains themselves, as well as the extra expense of giving lucrative dividends to the shareholders.

No doubt as the teaching unions continue to voice their opposition to the privatisation of England’s schools, the Tories will start to bang their usually drum about how ‘loony-lefty’ teachers are threatening their pupils’ future with their doctrinaire opposition to the government’s wonderful new policy. And here again, the truth is the precise opposite. Teachers teach because they enjoy imparting knowledge. Not always successfully, and very often not to receptive pupils. But they do it because they find it rewarding. And, in general, they are very concerned to make sure that their pupils perform to the best of their ability, and get the best available opportunities for their education. It was the teaching unions in the 1930s who kept up the pressure for compulsory state secondary education. But you are very definitely not going to hear that from the likes of Nick Gibb or Thicky Nicky Morgan.

Forget the government’s hype. The conversion of the primary schools into academies in England will lead to worse standards. It’s the teachers opposing the government’s reforms, who are really trying to maintain and improve them.

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/04/teachers-heckle-schools-minister-over-academy-plans/#comments. Go and see what he says.

The Guardian on Corporate Corruption of Medicine

November 1, 2015

The information on the corporate corruption of parliament keeps on flooding in. I’ve received this reply from Florence, pointing out that there’s been an article on today’s Groaniad about the fraudulent science in medicine. She writes

Further to the comment I made about the corrupting effect of money & medical research, is a timely article in the Grauniad today.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/01/drugs-pharma-doctors-patientshttp://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/01/drugs-pharma-doctors-patients
Quotes of note include
“Medical journals and the media can also be manipulated to serve not only as marketing vehicles for the industry, but also be complicit in silencing those who call for more independent scrutiny of scientific data.”
“Earlier this year, the editor of the Lancet, Richard Horton, wrote that possibly half of the published medical literature may simply be untrue and that science had “taken a turn towards darkness”.”

“Corporate greed and systematic political failure have brought healthcare to its knees. There are too many misinformed doctors and misinformed patients. ”
Well worth a read, and following through the links to the Lancet and other journals quoted.

If as much as half of all the medical papers published are spurious or fraudulent, then this is indeed a very dark time for medicine. People’s lives and welfare are at serious risk, and this should concern everyone.

Throwing Stones in Glass Houses: Cameron Criticises Miliband for Having Two Kitchens

March 14, 2015

The Tories have been demonstrating their own double standards again. Mike over at Vox Political has this story, ‘Two-kitchens Miliband’, Tories? At least he didn’t use public cash like Cameron! about the latest Conservative ad hominem attack on the Labour leader. The Tories have accused him of not really being a ‘man of the people’, because in addition to the main kitchen, he has a ‘functional kitchenette’ in his home.

As Mike points out, this is all rather hypocritical coming from team Cameron. Miliband may have two kitchens, but at least he spent his own money. Unlike Cameron, who according to the Guardian spent £680,000 of our money in 2011 renovating 10 Downing Street. And part of the money was also spent on improvements they’d made the previous summer to No. 11.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/14/two-kitchens-miliband-tories-at-least-he-didnt-use-public-cash-like-cameron/. Go to it for the fuller story, plus piccies.

This is not, of course, by any means the first time the Tories have made a personal attack on a Labour leader and his domestic life. Some of us can remember how way back in the 1980s, when Kinnock was head of the party, the Sunday Express really laid into him. Part of the suggestion there was that he wasn’t the perfect father. Supposedly his children had been playing happily with a train set, until he came up to show them how it was done. He was so bad at this, that his children were supposed to have left the toys crying, leaving him the only one still using it.

My guess is that, if this incident really happened, it was pretty much has happened in thousands of families up and down Britain and across the world ever since Adam and Eve. A lot of dads try to show their kids how to work a toy properly, only to find it much harder than they thought. It’s provided material for humourists right across the generations. Like Michael Rosen’s poem, ‘My Dad’s Thicker Than Your Dad’, in which two children compete to see which of them has the most stupid father. Nothing to see here, and nothing to show that Kinnock was a bad father, or particularly incompetent either.

Of course, there was never any suggestion that Maggie and Dennis were less than the perfect parents to Carol and Thickie Mork. Mind you, I don’t think I read any story about Dennis actually playing with the children, let alone the Leaderene. Probably beneath their dignity.

Cameron Has Killed at 2,200 People’ : Frankie Boyle at the 2014 Television Festival

January 24, 2015

boyle_1510448c

This follows on from the question Mike raised in the previous post Class divide in the arts – are they just for the toffs? at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/24/class-divide-in-the-arts-is-it-just-for-the-toffs/. The controversial Scots comedian, Frankie Boyle, was interviewed last year at the Guardian’s International Television Festival last year by Pointless’s Richard Osman. The interview was a review of the state of television. And Boyle made it very clear that he though British television was being held back by the desire of TV commissioning editors to remain safe. Boyle made it very clear that class attitudes were very definitely a part of this. The interview can be found on Youtube with the title GEITF 2014 – Frankie Boyle: State of the TV Nation.
Boyle on the Two Most Offensive Jokes

Boyle is one of Britain’s very edgiest comedians. Osman tackled him about two of his most controversial jokes. These were about Katie Price being raped by her mentally disabled son, and a disparaging comment about the appearance of the Paralympic swimming heroine, Rebecca Adlington. Osman states that he’s a fan of Boyle, but makes it clear that he feels those jokes should never have been broadcast, and an apology should have been issued. Boyle defended the Katie Price joke by stating that he thought very hard about it. He told it because he felt it was a valid comment about Price. She had two points on which she sold herself: her looks, and her disabled son. She had other, non-handicapped children, who you never heard anything about. Boyle felt that the joke was a suitable comment on Price’s self-publicity.

False Banter on Comedy Panel Shows

Boyle made the comment that television panel shows, like Mock the Week, now relied on banter. It looked like normal conversation, but was all false. It was all scripted. And it was there, because the TV companies did not want to tackle other, more difficult issues. He specifically mentioned the two land wars in which Britain was involved at the time. Five years ago, Boyle said, you could mention them. Now they were verboten. He tried on Mock the Week to make a joke commenting on them, but was told that he couldn’t. As an example of the depths the show how reached now, he said that the last time he watched it had to make jokes about the Ryder Cup. He told the Katie Price joke because for the past ten weeks they’d been making jokes about the Olympics, and then they were being asked to return to them. Boyle’s controversial joke followed soon after.

No Challenge to Cameron’s Murder of the Disabled by Atos

As a further example, Boyle gave the murderous campaign of Cameron against the disabled. He said outright that Cameron had killed at least 2,200 people ‘bottom line’ through Atos and the fit for work test. But he was never challenged. Osman raised the topic of the Channel 4 conspiracy drama, Utopia, as an example of television tackling difficult topics. Boyle stated in his usual forthright terms that the show was rubbish. It was based very much on the type of comics produced by Alan Moore and his ilk. However, Channel 4 had taken all the good material out of it. If they were really determined to produce quality television, they’d hire Alan Moore and co. Instead Channel 4 produced endless programmes genuinely exploiting deformity and sneering at the working class, explicitly mentioning Benefits Street.

TV Bosses’ Misogyny

He criticised the channel bosses for their peculiar ideas of what was ‘fringe’ and ‘mainstream’. He’d tried to get Andrew Newsom on a programme, only to be told that she was too fringe. He felt this was rubbish, as he’d just seen her play at the Royal Albert Hall. He was also sharply critical at television’s very misogynist attitudes. When asked about the issue of quotas, and putting more women and members of ethnic minorities on screen, Boyle said he agreed with them. Regarding the proportion of women on panel shows, he felt it should be 50/50 with men. This, however, was definitely unwelcome to channel bosses. He told how he heard the regular host of a panel show use an extremely crude term for women comedians. It’s extremely coarse, so be warned. The bosses had very definite ideas about how many women should be allowed on a panel show. He tried to get a female comedian on Never Mind the Buzzcocks four times. One of these times he tried to get them to bring on Sarah Millican. He was told that this was not possible, as they already had a female comedian on for that week.

Sack the Bosses, Not Cancel BBC 3

He was very critical of the efforts of the television bosses themselves and their personal failure to increase diversity. He noted that Alan Yentob and the others bewailed the fact that there weren’t enough women and Black people on TV, while doing absolutely nothing about it, despite the fact that it was their jobs. On the subject of the scrapping of BBC 3, the Corporation’s youth channel, Boyle said that the Beeb had admitted they had made a mistake. They had been trying to get young people to watch TV instead of other media. The age demographic for the other channels was very high – in the 50s. Yet they had scrapped the channel in order to concentrate on the internet, which was precisely the thing that was taking da yoof away from TV. When Osman asked Boyle where Boyle would cut to save money, he replied that it would be with the bosses. They formed a useless layer of people, whose job was to stop programme being commissioned, often for the most bizarre reasons.

Class Bias in Satire and the Westminster Bubble

Boyle considered that such satire that was permitted, was only allowed because it came from an upper middle class voice. He gave as examples Peter Cook and Patrick Morris, the creator of Brass Eye. Anything that did not come from that social echelon, which could be easily identified as ‘ironic’, or ‘playing with concepts’, was therefore dangerous and unsettling.

He felt part of the problem was that satire in this country was very newspaper-based. He gave Have I Got News for You and Private Eye as examples. They were stuck in the Westminster bubble and the Westminster cycle as a result. Comedians like Boyle presented a problem, as editors and producers wanted them to produce party political satire, which Boyle didn’t.

Jeremy Clarkson’s a Cultural Tumour

They got on to the different way Boyle and Jeremy Clarkson had been treated by television. Clarkson, like Boyle, made controversial jokes and comments. Boyle, however, declared that Clarkson, whom he described as ‘a cultural tumour’, was acceptable because there was no context for what he said. For example, Boyle had been criticised for a comment he made about Israel during the Gaza conflict. He was attacked as anti-Semitic, an accusation which he denied. Yet when Clarkson was attacked for using the ‘N’ word in nursery rhyme, the head of BBC 1 appeared to defend him and state that he wasn’t racist. Boyle felt this might have been due to rights issues. Most producers, Boyle said, would be happy with 3/4s of the ratings, if the content was less controversial. Clarkson, however, still had his job, which suggested to him that they were afraid to sack him because of the problem of who owned the rights.

The Beeb and Scots Independence

Boyle was also one of those, who support Scots independence. He remarked on the media bias against the independence campaign, and the weird behaviour of David Cameron and the leaders of the ‘No’ team, when they ventured north of the Border. He stated that the Beeb were against independence, because the licence money from Scotland acted a subsidy for the corporation as a whole. Altogether, the BBC gains £300 million from the licence fee in Scotland. Of this, only about £40 million is spent on Scottish programmes. Another £60 million is spent ‘finessing’ programmes produced elsewhere, but which travel up to Scotland. Thus the Beeb effectively got a subsidy of £200 million from Scots viewers.

As for David Cameron, Boyle stated that when he and the ‘No’ coterie travelled up to fair Caledonia, they were so out of place that they looked like time travellers trying to find oil to power their time machine. He was particularly amused by Cameron’s comments about the ‘silent Scottish majority’. He’d never known Scots to be silent about anything.

The Sun

Osman raised the topic of Boyle’s writing for the Sun. Boyle was a left-wing comedian, but there he was, writing for Murdoch. Boyle replied that there were no ‘good’ papers, as far as he was concerned. The Observer, for example, had also cheered on the war in Iraq. He started writing for the Sun because they censored him less than the BBC. He also developed a particular technique of making sure they didn’t take too much out of his work. However, during one newspaper and magazine media event, Boyle had found his material disappearing. He asked why it was suddenly being edited out. He was told that it was because Murdoch himself was up for the event, and liked to edit everything in person. Boyle didn’t believe it was true, but went into the cafeteria early one morning to see Murdoch sat at a table, going through everything with black marker. So perhaps, he concluded, it really was true.

Upbringing of the Ruling Class

As for the ruling class, they were so appalling because of the way they were raised. It was exactly like the Spartans. At seven or eight they were taken away from their parents and placed in an all-male environment. They were then bored with Latin and other useless subjects, in order to inculcate the right attitudes into them ‘like a brainwashing cult’. And then finally and suddenly, sodomy. With this background, no wonder they were like they were.

Drama, Brothel Keeping and the Hedge Fund Managers

And as an example of the way television was reluctant to tackle anything too challenging, he gave the example of a friend of his, who was a professional television writer. The man had been hired to write a story about people trafficking for one of the cop dramas. In the script he subsequently produced, the villain was a hedge fund manager, who went into people smuggling because the returns were so good. This was very definitely not what the Beeb wanted. They told him that instead of a hedge fund manager, the villain was going to be a Russian gangster called ‘Sergey’.

So he subsequently revised the script. The villain was turned into the gangster, Sergey. But in his treatment, Sergey had gone into the people smuggling business, after borrowing money from hedge fund managers, because the return was so spectacular. This was, against, unacceptable. The villain was a Russian gangster called Sergey. He had a black leather jacket and a gun, and he was into people smuggling because he was evil. End of. The story was taken away from the writer for someone else to work on.

A few months later, the cops in New England raided a brothel. It was one of string of them, all run by a hedge fund manager. Because the returns were spectacular. It was a reality that the Beeb had literally not wanted to imagine.

Here’s the interview. Warning: Boyle’s language is at times very coarse, and the jokes about Price and Addlington are offensive.

It’s a fascinating perspective from the state of television today from someone, whose frequently tasteless jokes have almost made him an outsider. Nevertheless, Boyle makes it clear that he thinks very hard about what he says. As for the comments about satire being acceptable if it comes from an establishment voice, he has a point. Even so, Private Eye and Brass Eye at various points in their careers were barely acceptable. When it started out, Private Eye was only stocked by a very few newsagents. I remember ten years ago I took a copy of the Eye into work, and was asked by an older colleague, ‘You don’t actually read that, do you?’ Some of the Eye’s jokes have been considered in such bad taste, such as their cover satirising the mass adulation at the funeral of Princess Di, that newsagents have refused to stock it. As for Brass Eye, that was indeed so extreme in its satire that Grade had to fight hard to save it from cancellation.

As the founders of Private Eye, Richard Ingrams and co themselves made clear, they, Ingrams, Peter Cook and Willie Rushton were all far from outsiders. They were privately educated members of the middle class. Auberon Waugh was the son of the novelist Evelyn, and John Wells had been the headmaster of Eton. You couldn’t get much more establishment than that.

Private Eye also inspired David Frost’s That Was The Week That Was, the ’60s ancestor of popular satirical television. While it’s now regarded as a classic, it was intensely controversial at the time. Even in the 1980s Robin Day, the heavyweight interviewer of politicians on the Beeb, disliked it so much that he described it as ‘deplorable’ in his autobiography, Grand Inquisitor. Satire has become acceptable on TV, only because so many of its producers were respectably middle class, and even they had to work very, very hard.

A Russian Joke about Jeremy Clarkson

December 6, 2014

Earlier this evening, in my post about Mike’s article asking that we all look out for and care for those, who will be alone, disabled, depressed and vulnerable this Christmas, I told an old Russian joke about the propagandistic nature of the Soviet press. The joke’s a pun on the names of the two major Soviet papers, Izvestia, ‘News’, and Pravda, ‘Truth’. The joke ran, ‘There’s no truth in the ‘News’, and no news in the ‘Truth”. I remarked that the situation was actually reversing, and that despite the considerable restrictions on the press in Putin’s Russia, the Russian press seemed to want to present a far more objective picture of the suffering of Britain’s poor than our own, supposedly unbiased, ‘free’ press.

Well, Communism has fallen, but Russian journalists were swift to point out that, at least when it came to the road infrastructure, capitalism still suffered from glaring contradictions as per Marxist ideology. The Russian newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, succinctly summarised this with a joke about Jeremy Clarkson.

Apart from being the celebrity motoring journalist with Top Gear here in Britain, Clarkson is also a Right-wing media pundit, issuing diatribes and tirades on TV and in his newspaper column against environmentalists, Guardian ‘yoghurt knitters’, political correctness and foreigners. All the usual targets of Right-wing populist ire. Komsomolskaya Pravda’s journos found it highly ironic and amusing when Cameron’s government last year announced that road pricing was to be introduced. Private companies were to be allowed to purchase, maintain and expand Britain’s road network, in return for which they would be able to charge a toll on certain roads. It’s really just a return to the 18th century toll road system. The major contender for purchasing and running Britain’s privatised roads, however, was the Chinese.

The world’s largest remaining Communist state.

And so Komsomolskaya Pravda’s report about this in their online edition concluded that ‘Jeremy Clarkson had collapsed through internal contradictions’.

A friend of mine found it online, and really enjoyed it. Okay, so it’s probably not the greatest backslapper, but it is a pithy comment on a bizarre and contradictory situation. And shows that the more outspoken media personalities over here are also something of a joke on that side of the Baltic.

Seumas Milne on Why Thatcher Should Not Be Celebrate

April 4, 2014

thatcherburn

Former PM Margaret Thatcher, whose infernal glamour still captivates the Tory faithful

Mike over at Vox Political suggested that there should be a day celebrating the life of Tony Benn as a response to the suggestion by a Tory MP that there should be a national holiday celebrating former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Guardian Columnist Milne on Streep’s The Iron Lady

The Guardian’s columnist, Seumas Milne, was alarmed by the trend towards the rehabilitation of the dictator of the British bourgeoisie signalled two years ago by the release in 2012 of the Meryl Streep biopic, The Iron Lady. In his column for the fifth of January, he wrote

In opposition David Cameron tried to distance himself from her poisonous ‘nasty party’ legacy. But just as he and George Osborne embark on even deeper cuts and more far-reaching privatisation of public services than Thatcher herself managed, Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady is about to come to the rescue of the 1980s prime minister’s reputation.

As the Hollywood actor’s startling Thatcher recreation looks down from every other bus, commenters have insisted that the film is ‘not political’. True, it doesn’t explicitly take sides in the most conflagrationary decade in postwar British politics. It is made clear that Thatcher’s policies were controversial and strongly opposed. But as director Phyllida Lloyd points out, ‘the whole story is told from her point of view…

Lloyd herself is unashamed about the film’s thrust: this is ‘the story of a great leader who is both tremendous and flawed’. Naturally, some of Thatcher’s supporters and family members have balked at the depiction of her illness.

But her authorised biographer, the High Tory Charles Moore, has no doubt about The Iron Lady’s effective political message. The Oscar-bound movie is, he declares, a ‘most powerful piece of propaganda for conservatism’. And for many people under forty, their view of Thatcher and what she represents will be formed by this film.

Milne notes the narrative strategies the film uses to generate sympathy for Thatcher. Her enemies are shown – angry protestors, and striking miners, but their motives are never explained and the communities she devastated with her policies are also never shown. He notes that the concentration on the onset of her dementia is also calculated to make the audience feel sympathy for a human being struggling with such a terrible disease. The film also presents her, absurdly, as a feminist icon when she strongly rejected feminism. In another depiction of the opposite of the truth, she is presented as battling class prejudice when she launched a naked class war.

You can understand why Maggie’s life would appeal to the film industry, and to an actress of Streep’s stature. It’s a strong female role, in an industry where such roles for mature women are few. Thatcher was a pioneering female figure, the first female prime minister and one of those, who held office the longest in the last century. Crucially for a film, it also has lots of drama, as well as personal tragedy – Alzheimer’s disease, rather than the antics of her stupid, arrogant and wastrel son, ‘Thickie’ Mork. You can also see how it would be presented as a rags to riches story, as she goes from her parent’s shop in Grantham to hold the highest public office in the UK, an angle she herself spun, even though she hated and despised the working class.

Yet the film neglects the horrific harm she did to Britain, the poor and the working class. And Milne himself later points out in the article that the people who were hit hardest by her policies were women. Just as they are now, under her successor, Dave Cameron. As for the lack of context or explanation given for her enemies, Roland Barthes in his book, Mythologies, states that is one of the techniques film uses to establish the villain: you know less about them than the hero.

Milne on the Economic Devastation and Impoverishment Caused by Thatcher’s Policies

Milne was particularly shocked by Gordon Brown’s suggestion that she be given a state funeral, and in the rest of the article presents the argument why this is an iniquitous idea.

Gordon Brown absurdly floated a state funeral in a fruitless attempt to appease the Daily Mail. But the coalition would be even more foolish if it were to press ahead with what is currently planned. A state funeral for Thatcher would not be regarded as any kind of national occasion by millions of people, but as a partisan Conservative event and affront to large parts of the country.

Not only in forming mining communities and industrial areas laid waste by her government, but across Britain Thatcher is still hated for the damage she inflicted – and for her political legacy of rampant inequality and greed, privatisation and social breakdown. Now protests are taking the form of satirical e-petitions to the funeral to be privatised: if it goes ahead, there are likely to be demonstrations on the streets.

This is a politician, after all, who never won the votes of more than a third of the electorate; destroyed communities; created mass unemployment; deindustrialised Britain; redistributed from poor to rich; and, by her deregulation of the City, laid the basis for the crisis that has engulfed us twenty-five years later.

Thatcher was a prime minister who denounced Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, defended the Chilean fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, ratcheted up the cold war, and unleashed militarised police on trade unionists and black communities alike. She was Britain’s first woman prime minister, but her policies hit women hardest, like Cameron’s today.

A common British establishment view – and the implicit position of The Iron Lady – is that while Thatcher took harsh measures and ‘went too far’, it was necessary medicine to restore the sick economy of the 1970s to healthy growth.

It did nothing of the sort. Average growth in the Thatcherite ’80s, at 2.4 per cent, was exactly the same as in the sick ’70s – and considerabl6y lower than during the corporatist ’60s. Her government’s savage deflation destroyed a fifth of Britain’s industrial base in two years, hollowed out manufacturing, and delivered a ‘productivity miracle’ that never was, and we’re living with the consequences today.

What she did succeed in doing was to restore class privilege, boosting profitability while slashing employees’ share of national income from 65 per cent to 53 per cent through her assault on the unions. Britain faced a structural crisis in the 1970s, but there were multiple routes out of it. Thatcher imposed a neoliberal model now seen to have failed across the world.

He concludes by suggesting that Thatcher’s rehabilitation is connected to the Coalition’s need to shore up support now that they are implementing the same policies, and experiencing the same opposition.

It’s hardly surprising that some might want to put a benign gloss on Thatcher’s record when another Tory-led government is forcing through Thatcher-like policies – and riots, mounting unemployment and swingeing benefits cuts echo her years in power. The rehabilitation isn’t so much about then as now, which is one reason it can’t go unchallenged. Thatcher wasn’t a ‘great leader’. She was the most socially destructive prime minister of modern times.

‘Thatcher’s Rehabilitation Must Be Resisted to the End’, in Seumas Milne,The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century (London: Verso 2013) 245-8.

Thatcher, Churchill and the Tories View Organised Working Class as Nazi-like Threat

Milne is absolutely right about the destructive effect Thatcher and her policies have had on British society. He also in the above article criticises the attempt to present Thatcher as possessing the same stature as Winston Churchill. This show very strongly the Tory attitude to the working class and organised labour – a mighty force for evil on a par with Nazi Germany, which should be resolutely destroyed no matter what the cost. Not that she didn’t share some of Churchill’s views. He too hated the working class and was fully prepared to use military force against them. He is still bitterly hated in parts of Wales for his use of the army to put down striking workers in Newport. Martin Pugh in his book on Fascism in Britain between the Wars argues that one reason why the 1926 General Strike ended without much bloodshed was because the Conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, removed Churchill from any direct responsibility. When the strike broke out, Churchill announced that the army would stand ready to do their duty if called upon by the civilian authorities. A cabinet aide suggested to Baldwin that perhaps a post in the Telegraph office would suit the future minister. ‘Yes’, replied Baldwin, ‘he can do no harm there’.

Left and Liberal Parties Should Not Court Tory Press

It also shows the folly of any Labour or left-wing party expecting support from the Tory press. Any support given by Messrs Dacre, Murdoch and Desmond is contingent on following a series of policies that will punish and harm the poor in support of the rich. Labour, or any other party, such as the Lib Dems, will automatically act against the interests of their own constituencies if they do so. Moreover, the same press barons will automatically move back to their default position of supporting the Tories, as has been shown by Murdoch’s move back to the Conservatives from supporting Blair.

Thatcher and Mugabe: Both Politicians Destroyed their Nations for Sectional Gain

As for Thatcher’s destruction of British manufacturing industry, and the massive growth in poverty, what actually struck me there was not the parallel with Churchill, but with another politician entirely: Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has, after all, comprehensively wrecked what was one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. Before Mugabe unleashed his reign of terror, Zimbabwe actually exported food. Now he’s reduced it to absolute poverty, while, like so many dictators around the world, enriching himself and his coterie.

And just in case anyone disputes how divisive Thatcher was, remember the mass celebrations that broke out at the news of her death.

Milne is quite right: Thatcher was not great politician. She was a disastrous one, and her rehabilitation by the political elite needs to be strongly resisted at every turn.