Posts Tagged ‘Orange Order’

A Conservative Accusation of Liberal Bias at the Beeb

February 15, 2020

Robin Aitken, Can We Trust the BBC (London: Continuum 2007).

Robin Aitken is a former BBC journalist, and this book published 13 years ago argues that the BBC, rather than being unbiased, is really stuffed full of lefties and the broadcaster and its news and politics programmes have a very strong left-wing, anti-Conservative bias. Under Lord Reith, the BBC upheld certain core British values. Its news was genuinely unbiased, giving equal time to the government and opposition. It also stood for essential institutions and such as the monarchy, the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity at home, and peace through the League of Nations abroad.

This changed radically between 1960 and 1980 as the BBC joined those wishing to attack and demolish the old class-bound institutions. Now the BBC stands for passionate anti-racism, ‘human rights’, internationalism and is suspicious of traditional British national identity and strongly pro-EU. It is also feminist, secular and ‘allergic to established authority whether in the form of the Crown, the courts, the police or the churches.’ This has jeopardised the ideal at the heart of the Corporation, that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan.

Aitken does marshal an array of evidence to support his contention. This includes his own experience working for BBC Scotland, which he claims was very left-wing with a staff and management that bitterly hated Margaret Thatcher and made sure that the dismantlement of the old, nationalised industries like shipbuilding was properly lamented, but did not promote it as ‘creative destruction’ as it should, nor the emergence of the wonderful new information industry north of the border. A later chapter, ‘Testimonies’, consists of quotations from other, anonymous rightists, describing how the Beeb is biased and bewailing their isolated position as the few Conservative voices in the Corporation. He is particularly critical of the former director-general, John Birt. Birt was recruited in the 1990s from ITV. He was a member of the Labour Party, who brought with him many of his colleagues from the commercial channel, who also shared his politics and hatred of the Tories. He goes on to list the leading figures from the Left, who he claims are responsible for this bias. These include Andrew Marr, the former editor of the Independent, and the left-wing, atheist journo and activist, Polly Toynbee.

Aitken also tackles individual topics and cases of biased reporting. This includes how the BBC promoted the Labour Party and the EU before Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The Conservatives were presented as deeply split on the issue and largely hostile to EU membership. The EU itself was presented positively, and the Labour Party as being united in favour of membership, even though it was as split as the Tories on the issue. Another chapter argues that the Beeb was wrong in challenging the government’s case for the Iraq Invasion. He claims that in a poll the overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported the invasion. The government did not ‘sex up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ in order to present a false case for war, and it was wrong for the Beeb to claim that Blair’s government had.

The chapter ‘The Despised Tribes’ argues that there are certain ethnic or religious groups, who were outside the range of sympathy extended to other, more favoured groups. These include White South Africans, the Israeli Likud Party, Serb Nationalists under Milosevic, the Italian Northern League, Le Pen and the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, American ‘Christian Fundamentalists’, conservative Roman Catholics, UKIP ‘and other groups who have failed to enlist the sympathies of media progressives’. These include the Orange Order and Ulster Protestants. He then claims that the Beeb is biased towards Irish Republicans, who have successfully exploited left-wing British guilt over historic wrongs against the Roman Catholic population. He then goes on to claim that Pat Finucane, a lawyer killed in the Troubles, was no mere ‘human rights’ lawyer but a senior figure in the IRA.

The chapter, ‘The Moral Maze’ is an extensive critique of a Panorama documentary claiming that the Roman Catholic condemnation of premarital sex and contraception was causing needless suffering in the Developing World through the procreation of unwanted children and the spread of AIDs by unprotected sex. This is contradicted by UN evidence, which shows that the African countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS are those with the highest Catholic populations. The Catholic doctrine of abstinence, he argues, works because reliance on condoms gives the mistaken impression that they offer total protection against disease and pregnancy, and only encourages sexual activity. Condoms cannot offer complete protection, and are only effective in preventing 85 per cent of pregnancies. The programme was deliberately biased against the Roman Catholic church and the papacy because it was made from the viewpoint of various groups with an explicit bias against the Church and its teaching on sexuality.

Aitken’s evidence is impressive, and I do accept part of his argument. I believe that the Beeb is indeed in favour of feminism, multiculturalism and human rights. I also believe that, the few remaining examples of the Beeb’s religious programming notwithstanding, the Corporation is largely hostile to Christianity in ways that would be unthinkable if applied to other religions, such as Islam. However, I don’t believe that the promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism is wrong. And groups like the Northern League, Front National and other extreme right-wing political and religious groups, including UKIP, really are unacceptable because of their racism and should not be given a sympathetic platform. Their exclusion from the range of acceptable political and religious views is no bad thing.

But the book also ignores the copious documentation from the various media study units at Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities of massive BBC Conservative bias. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a chapter in their book on the gradual, slo-mo privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, on the way the media has promoted the Tories’ and New Labour’s project of selling off the health service. And this includes the Beeb.  The Corporation was hostile to Labour after Thatcher’s victory, promoting the SDP splinter group against the parent party in the 1983 election, as well as the Tories. This pro-Tory bias returned with a vengeance after the 2010 Tory victory and the establishment of austerity. Barry and Savile Kushner show in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, how the Beeb excludes or shouts down anyone who dares to question the need for cuts to welfare spending. Tories, economists and financiers are also favoured as guests on news shows. They are twice as likely to appear to comment on the news as Labour politicians and trade unionists.

And we have seen how the Beeb has pushed the anti-Labour agenda particularly vigorously over the past five years, as it sought to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Quite apart from less sensational sneering and bias. The guests on Question Time have, for example, been packed with Tories and Kippers, to whom presenter Fiona Bruce has shown particular favour. This has got worse under Johnson, with the Beeb now making it official policy not to have equal representation of the supporters of the various political parties in the programme’s audience. Instead, the majority of the audience will consist of supporters of the party that holds power in that country. Which means that in England they will be stuffed with Tories. Numerous members of the BBC news teams are or were members of the Tory party, like Nick Robinson, and a number have left to pursue careers at No 10 helping Cameron, Tweezer and Boris.

The evidence of contemporary bias in favour of the Tories today is massive and overwhelming.

With the exception of particular issues, such as multiculturalism, feminism, a critical and sometimes hostile attitude towards the monarchy, and atheism/ secularism, the BBC is, and always has been, strongly pro-Tory. The Birt era represents only a brief interval between these periods of Tory bias, and I believe it is questionable how left-wing Birt was. Aitken admits that while he certainly was no Tory, he was in favour of free market economics.

This book is therefore very dated, and overtaken by the Beeb’s massive return to the Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Not Hate on the Links between the DUP and Loyalist Paramilitaries in Ulster

June 14, 2017

Last Sunday, Nick Lowles and Matthew Collins published a long piece in the anti-racist/ anti-religious extremism site, Hope Not Hate, on the links between the Democratic Unionist Party, led by Arlene Foster, and Loyalist terrorist groups the UDA, Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commandoes, for example, in Ulster. The DUP are the Unionist party with whom Theresa May is trying to negotiate a confidence and supply pact, in order to prop her increasingly wobbly Tory government.

The article notes that various commenters have decried the DUP’s opposition to abortion, gay marriage and disbelief in climate change, before going on to state that what should really alarm people is the party’s links to the UDA, a link which may imperil the Northern Irish peace agreement.

For example, on the last day of May, a week before polling, Arlene Foster just happened to pay a visit to the UDA ‘Brigadier’, Jackie McDonald at a community office in the Taughmonagh area of South Belfast. Foster claimed that the visit was not pre-arranged, and she was just in the area canvassing for votes. She also said that she had not asked McDonald to disarm the UDA, because he knew her views that there should be no terror groups in Northern Ireland already.

The article also reports how the Irish newspaper, the Sunday World, had run an expose on the terrorist group, which began:

“In an unprecedented glimpse inside the UDA, terror group members reveal the fascist-like regime that forces them to hand over membership fees, dish out beatings of their own and force families from their homes.

“UDA veterans, shackled to an organised crime gang, tell of a paramilitary leadership that has no intention of going away.

“And they reveal how foot soldiers are begging terror boss Jackie McDonald to let them walk away – without a beating.”

McDonald was jailed during the Troubles for blackmail and extortion. In 1994 he became a leading figure organising the paramilitary ceasefire in Ulster. But he is still widely believed to be responsible for violence, racketeering and assassinations.

The Northern Irish government has given funds to community and sports associations run by UDA members and supporters, in return for which the UDA has called on its supporters to vote for the DUP. The article notes the various DUP politicos, who have been members of terrorist groups or imprisoned for terrorist offences, such as Sam ‘Chalky’ White, and John Smyth. The father of Emma Little Pengelly, the DUP candidate for South Belfast, was Noel Little, a gunrunner for Ian Paisley’s Ulster Resistance. Foster was also photographed last October with North Down UDA commander, Dee Stitt, a convicted armed robber, who runs Charter NI, an organisation dedicated to tackling unemployment in East Belfast, which has also received funding from the Ulster government. Foster has also been photographed with Adrian Bird, the UDA brigadier for Lisburn, who has been given funding for his work tackling racism and calling on Loyalists to support integration.

The article also describes how one DUP member of the Northern Irish assembly, Christopher Stalford, opened an office in a building owned by Belfast South Community Resources. The company is managed by Garnet Busby, who has been convicted of multiple murders. Jackie McDonald was also one of its officers. The top floor of the building is apparently still used by the UDA as a kangaroo court, in which punishment beatings are dished out. And Paul Givan, the current MP for South Antrim, visited a building in the Shankill Road, which the BBC had claimed was the UDA’s headquarters.

The article concludes

Publicly, the DUP is strongly opposed to the UDA and recently put out a statement claiming that: “There is no place for the UDA, or any other paramilitary group in our society.”

The DUP went on: “Their existence never was justified and is not justified now. We will work with those who wish to leave their past behind, but anyone involved in any kind of illegal activity must face the full weight of the law.”

The evidence linking the DUP – and more specifically Arlene Foster – to several current UDA commanders seems to suggest otherwise.

It is ironic that in a General Election dominated by claims of links between the Labour Party leadership and Sinn Fein and the IRA, the Conservative Party are attempting to negotiate an agreement with a political party that itself has disturbing links with a paramilitary organisation.

We totally understand the need to involve former paramilitaries in the peace process, but surely it cannot be right to give away millions of pounds of public money to people and organisations still involved in paramilitary and criminal activity.

See: http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/06/11/arlene-foster-takes-tea-uda/

I’m not sure how much of this is any surprise to anyone, who has any knowledge of Northern Irish sectarian politics. Back in the 1990s the Mail on Sunday, if I recall correctly, ran an article on Ulster terrorism which stated very clearly that both Loyalist and Nationalist paramilitaries were involved in crime and racketeering. I also remember reports on the 6 O’clock news in the ’70s about various Ulster terrorists, who had been convicted for these crimes. The Daily Mail itself has been very long opposed to the Northern Irish peace agreement on the grounds that, despite both sides officially abandoning violence, killings and punishment beatings were still being carried out. The Mail’s coverage, however, was biased. It said little about Loyalist terrorism, and almost exclusively concentrated on Sinn Fein and the IRA. This was partly due to a real threat from dissident Republicans, like the Continuity IRA. On the other hand, Private Eye also ran a series of articles sending up David English, the-then editor of the Mail, as he was a member of Orange Order, who used to go on their marches, complete with bowler hat and sash.