Posts Tagged ‘Radio 4’

Radio 4 Programme on Journalistic Impartiality

April 16, 2019

According to next week’s Radio Times, for 20th-26th April 2019, Radio 4 are due to broadcast a programme questioning the notion of journalistic impartiality, ‘Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?’, hosted by Jonathan Coffey. The blurb for the programme by Simon O’Hagan on page 138 of the magazine runs

In a febrile political age, fuelled by social media, the BBC has felt the heat as possibly never before – guilty, in its accusers’ eyes, of failing to reflect the full spectrum of opinion over not just Brexit but such culture-wars issues as transgenderism. With the BBC due to publish a new set of editorial guidelines in June (the first since 2010), Jonathan Coffey explores the idea of impartiality and whether any sort of consensus around it is possible. Contributors include the Spectator columnist Rod Liddle, the BBC’s director of editorial and policy standards, David Jordan, and Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor of online media The Canary.

The programme’s on at 11.00 am.

I don’t think there’s much doubt about the Beeb’s political bias. Academics at the media monitoring units of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff universities found that the Beeb was twice as likely to seek the opinions of Conservative MPs and financial experts as Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Savile Kushner also describe how the Beeb pushed the austerity agenda in their book, Who Needs the Cuts?, to the point that the opponents of austerity were rarely invited onto their news and politics programmes to put their case. When they were, the presenters actually tried to silence them, even by shouting them down. And years ago Tony Benn in one of his books said that the Beeb considered itself impartial, because its bias was largely slightly to the left of the Tories at the time, but way to right of everyone else.

There could be some interesting things said on the programme, particularly by the excellent Kerry-Anne Mendoza, but my fear is that it’s going to be like the Beeb’s programme, Points of View, and just be an exercise in the corporation justifying itself and its own bias. 

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No! Asking if the Labour Splitters Are Funded by Israel Is Not Anti-Semitic!

February 21, 2019

With the departure of the Maleficent Seven, as they’ve been dubbed by left-wing vlogger Gordon Dimmack, the witch-hunters for anti-Semitism in the Labour party have been in full cry. Not only have they, and their most recent addition, Joan Ryan, been lying about there being a culture of bullying and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, but Margaret Hodge took it upon herself to accuse another Labour MP, Ruth George, of anti-Semitism.

Why?

Because George suggested that Umunna, Berger, Gapes, and co. could be funded by Israel.

George had posted this on Facebook:

Support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour ‘Friends of Israel’, of which Luciana [Berger] was chair, is possible and I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group’s financial backers are not being revealed.

It’s important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy.

She later apologized, saying that she had not meant to invoke a conspiracy theory.

The incompetent, foul-mouthed and mendacious Margaret Hodge had appeared on Radio 4’s PM programme to denounce it as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. This was at the prompting the interviewer, Evan Davies, who said, ‘Raising questions about finance and Jews is the no-no here?’. Furthermore, Hodge also claimed that criticizing America was also anti-Semitic, because of the power of the Israel lobby there. Which caused one of Mike’s fine commenters’ Jaws to gape open in absolutely astonishment.

But as Mike pointed out in his article on it, there was no anti-Semitism in George’s statement. She did not repeat the classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Jews, or a cabal of Jews, being the secret power behind world politics, or controlling the press, Hollywood, international finance or communism. She spoke simply about Israel. And Mike quotes the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, which says that accusations of anti-Semitism can only be made about Jews, not the state of Israel.

He also makes the point that the Independent Group have formed themselves as a company, so they can avoid the electoral laws which demand they identify their backers. So Mike concludes that it is perfectly reasonable question whether the state of Israel is funding them. And we won’t know, and won’t be able to trust them, no matter who is funding them, until the Independent group actually open their books to show who their donors are.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/19/deplorable-behaviour-over-claim-that-independent-group-is-funded-by-israel/

But it’s also a good question for another reason. Gordon Dimmack, a left-wing broadcaster on YouTube, has pointed out in one of his videos that Luciana Borgia, sorry, Berger, was head of the Labour Friends of Israel. And the other six were all members. And the Israel lobby has form in interfering in British politics. Al-Jazeera filmed Shai Masot of the Israeli Embassy in their documentary, The Lobby, plotting with a Tory functionary about deciding who should be a member of the Tory cabinet. They wanted Alan Duncan out, because he’s a critic of the Israeli state’s brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians. Instead, he wanted him replaced by Boris Johnson, who was an absolute disaster as Foreign Secretary.

Many have people have pointed out that the campaign to smear the critics of Israel in the Labour party looks very much like hasbara, the Israeli term for their civilian propaganda. One of those was Cyril Chilson, a British citizen, who was formerly an Israeli. Chilson is Jewish, his mother was a Holocaust survivor, and his father a member of the Red Army, who participated in the Soviet liberation of the death camps. Mr Chilson served in the IDF, including part of their propaganda department. This man, who in no way should be regarded as an anti-Semite, recognized the accusations for what they were: Israeli psy-ops. And because he called it precisely what it was, the anti-Semitism smear machine swung into action, and called this son of heroic Jewish parents an anti-Semite.

Dimmack also goes further in one of his videos, and accuses the media people claiming that George’s question was anti-Semitic, of anti-Semitism in their turn. This includes Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Murthy was one of those, who replied to George’s post claiming, or suggesting that she was an anti-Semite. But Dimmack points out that it is anti-Semitic to claim that all Jews share the same qualities or opinions. Murthy’s comment suggested that all British Jews were supporters of Israel, if he genuinely believes that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic. But all British Jews very definitely don’t. The Jewish long-term critic of Israeli racism and general avowed foe of Fascism, Tony Greenstein, and other Jewish bloggers have made the point, over and again, that many Jews don’t support Israel. Many Orthodox Jews don’t, because they believe that Israel can only be refounded by the Lord through the Messiah, and until then they, as the Lord’s servant nation, are commanded to remain in exile. The Yiddish-speaking Jewish masses of eastern Europe, who backed the Bund, the Jewish Socialist party, followed its slogan of ‘Wherever We Are, There’s Our Homeland’. They wanted to remain in Poland, Lithuania and elsewhere as equal citizens with their gentile fellow-countrymen.

And the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has also joined in with the hysterical accusations of anti-Semitism, also doesn’t represent all Jewish Brits. It doesn’t represent Orthodox Jews, or the third of the Jewish community in Britain which is secular. It only represents the United Synagogue. And even there, it’s questionable who it represents. Its members are elected by their synagogues. But some of them don’t hold regular elections, as they have sitting members, while others don’t allow women to vote. And the Board explicitly defines itself as a Zionist organization in its constitution, so anti-Zionist Jews can’t become members.

George asked a perfectly reasonable question, and one to which she, and the rests of us are entitled to an answer. She wasn’t being anti-Semitic. But the real anti-Semitism comes from claiming that all Jews are supporters of Israel, with its accompanying accusation that those Jews, who don’t, are also self-hating anti-Semites. Repulsive!

Andrew Neil’s ‘This Week’ BBC Show Axed

February 18, 2019

Last week was not a good one for Andrew Neil, the presenter of the Beeb’s politics shows ‘This Week’ and ‘The Daily Politics’. It was reported on ITV News on Friday that his show, ‘This Week’, was being axed. The article about it in this weekend’s I for 16-17th February 2019, by Keiran Southern on page 16, entitled, ”This Week’ ends as Neil quits his late-night show’ read

The BBC’s long-running politics show This Week is to end after presenter Andrew Neil announced he was stepping down.

The BBC1 show, which airs on Thursdays after Question Time, will be taken off air this summer when its current series ends, the corporation said.

Neil has fronted the show since it began in 2003 and regular guests include the former Tory MP, Michael Portillo, and Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott.

Fran Unsworth, BBC’s director of news, said: “We couldn’t imagine This Week without the inimitable Andrew Neil, one of Britain’s best political interviewers. After 16 years, Andrew is bowing out of late-night presenting on the show, at the top of his game.”

Neil will continue to present Politics Live on Thursdays, Ms Unsworth added, and the BBC wants to keep the 69-7ear-old “at the heart” of its political coverage.

This Week is known for its informal look at politics, while Ms Abbott and Mr Portillo formed an unlikely TV double act, despite being on opposite sides of the political divide.

The announcement comes amid uncertainty surrounding the BBC’s news output – it is under pressure to cut £80m from its budgets and to attract younger audiences.

Earlier this week, BBC journalists wrote to the broadcaster’s director-general to oppose the decision to shorten its News At Ten programme after it emerged it would be cut by 10 minutes to make way for youth programming and Question Time.

Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen and other foreign correspondents have asked Lord Tony Hall to reconsider.

Last year, Sunday Politics, hosted by Sarah Smith, was axed and replaced by Politics Live, which airs Monday to Friday.

Other people, who are sick to death of the Beeb’s right-wing Tory bias, including Andrew Neil, are actually quite delighted and amused. The good fellow at Crewe, who does the Zelo Street blog, posted a piece on it on Friday, whose title said it all ‘Andrew Neil Nearly Out the Door’. He noted that despite Hall defending Neil over his ‘crazy cat woman’ remark to the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, the cancellation of one of Neil’s vehicles shows that the comment and the outrage it sparked has had an effect.

The deputy political editor of the Heil on Sunday, Harry Cole, was furious, tweeting

“A bloody outrage. Will only give succour to Corbynistas and sad sacks like Jukes and Carole who are modern equivalent of green ink dickheads who pester management. Since when did boss class start listening to loons before the viewers? Bring back #ThisWeek and make @afneil DG”. Which brought forth the reply from Peter Jukes

Harry Cole defending Andrew Neil, and desperately trying not to look like a member of the boss class.

Rather more damaging to Brillo and his supposed impartiality was another photo Carold Cadwalladr unearthed, showing Neil in the company of the former Ulster Unionist MP, David Burnside, who was formerly the PR man to Cambridge Analytica shareholder, Tchenguiz, who was in his turn the publicity man for Dmitryo Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the FBI. And Nigel Farage, now desperately trying to claw his way back into British politics with his wretched Brexit Party.

Zelo Street also noted that this was in addition to the discomfort Neil was bringing the Beeb with his continued association with the Spectator, now increasingly Alt Right, which specializes in climate change denial, pro-Brexit propaganda, and vicious islamophobia from pundits like Douglas Murray. As well as the snobbery and elitism of James Delingpole and anti-Semitism and Fascist propaganda from their other long-running contributor, Taki. Who a few weeks ago embarrassed the magazine by praising the Greek neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn, as just ‘patriotic Greeks’, who were just a bit rough around the edges. Like when one of them murdered left-wing journalist, perhaps, or when the attack and demolish market stalls belonging to illegal immigrants and attack and beat asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East.

The Zelo Street article concluded

In any case, Andrew Neil should be grateful that he’s been allowed more or less free rein to reinvent himself as a broadcast journalist after falling out with Rupert Murdoch. Now he’s got more dosh than he knows what to do with, it’s time to yield to youth.

He’s at the top of his game? Good. Then he may be remembered well. Time to go.

See: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/brillo-almost-out-of-bbc-door.html

Unsworth’s cancellation of his show, rather than handing it over to someone else to present, also says something about the show’s audience. It’s viewers are clearly people, who want it to be helmed by an older White man, whose backgrounds is very much in establishment, centre-right journalism: Neil was editor of the Sunday Times and The Economist. And Zelo Street has quoted other journos at the Spectator that he is another Thatcher cultist, who wishes Maggie was still around running the country. Presumably it’s the same kind of audience that avidly supports John Humphries on Radio 4’s Today programme, another massively overpaid, right-wing White man of mature years. Which would indicate that the audience for these two is also largely made up of right-wing, very establishment White men who are middle-aged to elderly.

It seems to me that Neil’s show needn’t be axed, but could easily be handed over to someone else, someone younger, who was rather more impartial, or at least less publicly biased. It struck me that the team on the Beeb’s breakfast news could probably do it, Charlie Stayt, Naga Manchetti and Louis Minchin. And the rise of the new left-wing media on the internet has show what very incisive minds there are well outside of the establishment media. Like Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar, and The Canary’s Kerry-Ann Mendoza and Steve Topple. They’re all young, Sarkar and Mendoza are both BAME, while Topple definitely had a countercultural appearance with his Mohican coiffure. But they’re all very shrewd reports, who keenly analysed and dissected the news. And their example shows that out there is a vast pool of talent, which is currently being ignored by the current media political establishment.

Of course the Beeb’s refusal to appoint someone else to present the show may also be partly based from their experience of what happened to Newsnight after Paxo left: its audience collapsed. But rather than cut back on current news reportage and analysis altogether, the Beeb could actually launch a replacement instead, presented by younger people and aimed at younger people. You know, all the millennials and younger, who are trying to make their voices heard in a political climate dominated by the old and middle-aged. The people a genuinely functioning democracy needs to get involved and interested in political debate.

But I’m sure this would be a step too far for the Beeb. You’d have the establishment media whining that the Corporation was dumbing down, that it was ‘Yoof TV’ after the various tasteless disasters in youth programming spawned in the 1990s by Janet Street-Porter and others of her ilk. As well as the more serious fact that the establishment is absolutely terrified of millennials and what the Victorians used to refer to as ‘the rising generation’ because they’re generally more left-wing than their elders in the political establishment. You know, all those pesky kids in America and Britain, who are backing Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn against the corporatists in the Democrat Party, Trump and the Republicans, and Tweezer, the Tories and the Blairites over here. Young people, who want socialism rather than the tired, destructive Neoliberalism of the past forty years.

But the political, media and industrial establishment is absolutely petrified of them and their views. They don’t want them to be heard. And so they’d rather axe one of Neil’s shows than hand it over to them. Which shows how paralyzed the Beeb is in trying to hang on to its aging, establishment audience at the expense of trying to bring on board young, and potentially radical talent.

Radio Programmes Next Week on Homelessness, Conspiracy Theories and Aliens

February 6, 2019

Looking through next week’s Radio Times for 9th-15th February 2019 I found a number of programmes which might be of interest to some people following this blog.

On Monday, 11th February at 8.00 pm on Radio 4 there’s Beyond Tara and George, about rough sleepers. The blurb for this programme reads

Last year there were nearly 600 deaths on the streets of the UK. In this follow-up to last summer’s Radio 4 series on east London rough sleepers Tara and George, presenter Audrey Gilan catches up with the pair to ask what it would take to prevent the unnecessary deaths of homeless people. (p. 137).

Then a half hour later at 8.30 on the same channel, Analysis covers conspiracy theories. The Radio Times says of this

Professor James Tilley explores the current spate of political conspiracy theories, and examines what belief in them tells us about voters and politicians.

The next day, Tuesday 12th February, at 1.30 pm on the Beeb’s World Service there’s Documentary: So Where Are the Aliens?, which the Radio Times describes thus

Space, to quote the late, great Douglas Adams, is mindboggling big. So huge, in fact, that the probability of there being civilized life elsewhere in the universe is almost a mathematical certainty. This begs an obvious question, to which Seth Shostak – chief astronomer of the Seti institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has devoted his career. He speaks with fellow scientists Frank Drake and Jill Tarter about their pioneering work chasing extraterrestrial radio signals as well as the new listening and light-based techniques designed to open up the sky like never before. Last year’s tantalizing fly-by of the mysterious cigar-shaped Oumuamua has revived interest in this topic, although in 2019 ET could be forgiven for giving Earth a wide berth. (p. 138).

Regarding the programme on preventing the homeless dying, one way to stop it would be to fix the welfare state so that poor and vulnerable people didn’t become homeless in the first place. Giving more funding and expanding the number of homeless shelters so that they were safe and able to provide accommodation for rough sleepers would also be very good. As would support schemes for those with drug, alcohol or mental health problems. And as Mike’s pointed out in his reports on attacks on the homeless, it would also be very good idea for the right-wing media to stop portraying the homeless, as well as the disabled, the unemployed and those on benefits generally all as scroungers committing welfare fraud and generally demonizing them. But as the Tory party, the Scum, Express and Fail all depend on this for votes and sales, it isn’t going to happen.

The prgramme on conspiracy theories could be interesting, but I doubt it will actually face up to the fact that some conspiracies are real. Not the malign and bogus myths about a Jewish plot to destroy the White race, or that the business and political elite are really evil Reptoid aliens, a la David Icke, or have made a demonic pact with grey aliens from Zeti Reticuli to allow them to abduct us for experimentation while giving them the benefits of alien technology. Or similar myths about the Illuminati, Freemasons or Satanists.

The real conspiracies that exist are about the manipulation of politics by the world’s secret services, and secret big business think tanks and right-wing pressure groups. Such as the various front organisations set up by the CIA during the Cold War, the smears concocted by MI5 during the 1970s presenting Harold Wilson as a KGB agent, and the contemporary smears by the Integrity Initiative, funded by the Tory government, claiming that Corbyn and other left-wing figures across Europe and America were agents of Putin. And, of course, the real conspiracy by Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy to have Tory cabinet ministers, who didn’t support Israel, removed from government. As well as the embassy’s role in making fake accusations of anti-Semitism against entirely decent people in the Labour party.

But I’ve no doubt that the Beeb will shy well away from these real conspiracies, not least because of Britain’s sordid role in the West’s history of regime change in Developing nations that dared to defy the Americans and ourselves. The Beeb has put on similar programmes before, and the person being interviewed or presenting the argument was former Independent journo David Aaronovitch. And his line has always been to ignore these real conspiracies, and concentrate on all the mythical rubbish, which he presents as typical of the conspiracy milieu as a whole. Which you’d expect from an establishment broadcaster, that now seems to see itself very much as the propaganda arm of the Conservative British state.

Moving on to the programme on SETI, Shostak, Tarter and Drake are veterans not only of the search for intelligent alien life, but also of programmes and documentaries on the search. Drake was the creator of the now famous equation which bears his name, which is supposed to tell you how many alien civilisations we can expect to exist in the galaxy. He was one of the brains behind Project Ozma, alias ‘Project Little Green Men’ in the 1960s to listen for alien signals from two nearby, roughly sun-like stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. Which found zilch, unfortunately. Shostak and Tarter were two of the leaders of the new wave of SETI researchers in the 1990s, and Shostak wrote a book about the possibility of alien life and what they would possibly be like. This concluded that they wouldn’t be anything like us, ruling out aliens like Mr Spock in Star Trek. In size they would probably be the same as Labradors.

It’s been known now that the Galaxy is old enough and big enough, with the right kind of stars and an increasing multitude of known planets, some of them possibly suitable for life, for alien civilisations to have emerged several times. And if they only advanced at the speed of light, they should be here by now. But they’re not. So far we’ve detected no sign of them. Or no absolutely indisputable signs. So where are they? This problem is called the Fermi paradox after the Italian-American physicist, Enrico Fermi. Suggested answers are that life, or perhaps just intelligent life, is extremely rare in the universe. Space travel may be extremely difficult. Aliens may exist, but they may be completely uninterested in talking to us. In this respect, we may even be a ‘protected species’ considered too fragile at our current level of civilization for contact with the rest of the Galaxy. Or perhaps there really are predatory alien intelligences and civilisations out there, who automatically attack any culture naïve and trusting enough to announce their presence. In which case, all the alien civilisations out there are paranoid and keeping their heads well down. One of SF writer even wrote a collection of short stories, each of which gave one solution to the Paradox.

Rapper Fab 5 Freddy to Host Beeb Film on Renaissance Art

January 25, 2019

More arts news. Also according to yesterday’s I for Thursday, 24th January 2019, the New York rapper Fab 5 Freddy is due to hos a Beeb documentary about the Renaissance. The article, written by Adam Sherwin, ran

Move over Simon Schama, Fab 5 Freddy wants your spot. The New York hip-hop pioneer and former graffiti artist is the unlikely choice to present a BBC 2 documentary on Italian Renaissance Art.

Fab – real name Fred Brathwaite – was approached to do the film, ‘A Fresh Guide to Florence with Fab 5 Freddy’, after the BBC learnt that he was an art lover who worked closely with Jean-Michel Basquiat in the early 80s, curating the cult artist’s Manhattan shows.

“Amidst superstar artists such as Michelangelo and powerful patrons such as the Medicis, Fab discovers groundbreaking images of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society that have slipped through the cracks of art history,” the BBC said. (‘A ‘Fresh’ take on the Renaissance’, p. 21).

It might be a surprising choice, but it seems to be a good one in line with current arts policy of getting different voices to open up the arts. A number of BAME artists have appeared in the news complaining that there aren’t enough Black artists shown in museums and art galleries, and that when they were small they weren’t interested in visiting them because there was nothing for them there. It therefore looks like the Beeb is trying to appeal to a younger, Black audience with Fab 5 Freddie in order to stop it being viewed as just something made by old White guys for White guys.

I am also not surprised that they chose a former graffiti artist for other reasons. Archaeologists have been working with graffiti artists for several years now in order to explore rock art and its links with modern graffiti art. I can remember attending an archaeological seminar at Bristol university at least six years ago in which one of the speakers presented a piece about their research about the graffiti in a particular area of one of the Spanish towns. And Radio 4 a few years ago also presented a programme about rock art which included comments from some of Britain’s leading street artists.

As for the Renaissance, Florence was a major centre of trade and industry, but historians have pointed out in books like The Renaissance Bazaar that many of the commercial innovations that made the Renaissance possible had their origins further east in the Islamic world. This was also a period when Europeans were turning from the Slavic east to Africa for a supply of slaves, so that you do find Blacks portrayed in art in this period. Not that they weren’t here before, of course. A 12th century manuscript from London in the National Archives shows a Black person, while one of the books that used to be stocked in shop in Bristol’s M Shed was on Blacks in fifteenth century England.

I’ve no doubt critics of the programme will decry it as ‘dumbing down’ and complain about ‘diversity’, but this could be a programme worth watching because of the original insights Fab 5 Freddie could bring.

Radio Programme on Controversy over Space Launch Site in Scotland

January 22, 2019

Radio 4 this Thursday, 24th January 2019, is broadcasting an edition of their Open Country programme on local attitudes and debate over the proposal to build a space launch complex in Scotland. The programme is entitled ‘Journey into Space, in Sutherland’, and the blurb for it in this week’s Radio Times runs

The A’Mhoine Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands has been chosen as the potential site of a spaceport that would launch small satellites at the rate of three a month. Many local people are enthusiastic about the plans; others are angry about building on a wilderness virtually unchanged since the last Ice Age. Ian Marchant travels to the peninsula and hears from people on both sides of the debate. (p. 137).

The programme is going to be broadcast at 3.00 pm in the afternoon, and will be repeated next Saturday at 6.07 am.

Latest Train-Wreck Idea from Hunt: Recruit Business Leaders as Ambassadors

November 1, 2018

I hope everyone had a great Hallowe’en yesterday. I can remember going to Hallowe’en parties as a child, and enjoying the spooky games and dressing up as witches, wizards, ghosts and goblins and so on. At the time, it was good, harmless fun, based on children’s fantasy stories. Adults had their own parties, of course, and there was also something in keeping with the season on TV or the radio. One year, the Archive Hour on Radio 4 looked back on the history of horror stories on the wireless, going all the way back to Valentine Dyall and The Man in Black, and Fear on Four. Actually, I think the only really frightening part of a genuinely traditional British Hallowe’en were the stupid section of the trick or treaters, who threw eggs and flour at your front door, and Carry on Screaming on the TV. This is the Carry On team’s spoof of Hammer Horror movies, in which Fenella Fielding appeared as the vampire Valeria. Fielding died a month or so ago. She was a very accomplished actress, but sadly got typecast because of her appearance in the movie. She was also a staunch Labour supporter, in contrast to her brother, who was a Tory MP. The film was a spoof, but it terrified me when I was in junior school. One critic of such movies once reckoned it was more horrific than anything Hammer produced. All good fun in its time, but I completely understand why some Christians and churches prefer to ignore it.

The Tories, however, chose yesterday to announce something equally ghastly. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, has decided that he wants to create a thousand more ambassadorial posts. And he’s looking to fill at least some of these with business leaders.

Mike reported on this latest bad idea, and put up a few Tweets from Andrew Adonis. Adonis was a minister for New Labour, and he was very scathing about the idea. In one of them he said

we have 20 yrs experience of recruiting Trade Ministers from ‘business.’ Each of them have lasted about a year, having bagged the peerage & achieved little if anything. Think Digby Jones.

He also challenged Hunt to name one business leader who has been a successful ambassador, pointing out that they are different skill sets. It is, he said, the difference between being a successful foreign secretary and a student politician.

Mike also reminded everyone how the Tories tried a similar scheme with their free schools project. They decided to release free schools from all that stifling legislation the requires them to hire properly qualified teachers. The schools hired unqualified staff, and standards plummeted.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/31/hare-brained-hunt-wants-to-hire-business-leaders-as-ambassadors-remember-when-free-schools-hired-untrained-teachers/

It’s not hard to see that Michael Gove’s plan accomplished for schools, Hunt’s wheeze will do for British diplomacy. Ultimately, it comes from the peculiar social Darwinism the Tories share with their Republican counterparts over in the US. They consider businessmen the very best people to run everything, including essential state functions and services. Adam Curtis ripped into this idea, which was developed by the Libertarians in the 1990s, in one of his documentaries. This featured a clip of a Libertarian declaring that, in contrast to politicians, business leaders were better suited to running society because they knew what people wanted and were eager to give it to them through the profit motive. It’s a complete falsehood, as you can see from the way public services and the NHS have deteriorated thanks to Tory and New Labour privatization. Its part of the corporate takeover of the state, which has seen important posts in government go to businessmen and women, a process that has been extensively described by George Monbiot in his book, Captive State.

It also doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that not only are the skill sets involved in business and diplomacy different, but that the appointment of businesspeople in government leads, or can leads, to conflicts of interest. Trump caused controversy when his daughter attended him during talks with the Japanese. This was unethical and inappropriate, as she was the head of a business which could gain a material advantage over its competitors from the information she gained at these talks. Trade negotiations have always been a major part of diplomacy, with ministers and foreign office staff flying off to different parts of the world in the hope of achieving a trade agreement. It really isn’t hard to see how business leaders would be tempted to use their position as ambassadors to enrich themselves and their businesses.

And its also blindingly obvious that this situation will also lead to some deeply unethical foreign policy decisions. Just about the first story in this fortnight’s Private Eye is about how the government’s connections to the arms industry has kept them selling arms to the Saudis despite the butchering of civilians, including women and children in Yemen. Human rights activists and opposition groups have been calling for an end to the war and arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, Private Eye notes that

The final decision on licensing falls to international trade secretary Liam Fox. His priority is business at any cost, and his department is judged on exports and investment into the UK.

See ‘Flying Fox’ in Private Eye, 2nd-15th November 2018, p.7).

Which shows you the Tories’ priorities in these cases: trade and business first, with Human Rights a very long way behind. But it will stop the government suffering embarrassments from ambassadors, who get concerned at the way the British government is propping up foreign dictators simply for the sake of profitable business deals. Like Craig Murray, who was our man in one of the new, central Asian states that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was appalled at the way Britain was doing just that with the local despot, spoke out, and was sacked and smeared for doing so.

It’s also a move which seems squarely aimed at preventing further social mobility. A few years ago, the government had a policy of recruiting ambassadors and staff from suitably capable people of working class background. I don’t know if the policy is ongoing. Somehow I doubt it, given the nature of this government. In theory, as currently ambassadorial staff are part of the civil service, anyone from any background can apply, provided they have the necessary skills and qualifications. In practice, I’ve no doubt most of them come from upper middle class backgrounds and are privately educated. But the ability of working class people to get these jobs will become much harder if they’re handed over to business leaders. A little while ago the newspapers reported that about half of the heads of all businesses had inherited their position. Also, by definition, working people don’t own businesses, though many aspire to have their own small enterprises, like shops or garages. But these posts are very definitely aimed at the heads of big business, and definitely not at the aspiring Arkwrights of these isles.

Hunt’s decision to start recruiting ambassadors from the heads of business will lead to the further corporate dominance of British government and politics, less social mobility for working people, more corruption and conflicts of interests. And Britain continuing to sell military equipment to despotic regimes that don’t need them and which use them to murder civilians in deeply immoral wars. But it’s a Tory idea, so what else can you expect.

BBC Drama about Horror Writer H.P. Lovecraft

October 30, 2018

This looks like it could be one for fans of the 1920s Horror/SF writer H.P. Lovecraft. Next Tuesday on Radio 4, 6th November 2018 at 2.15 pm Radio 4 are broadcasting a drama, ‘Talk to Me: H.P. Lovecraft’, by Sara Davies and Abigail Youngman. The blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

The strangest of all HP Lovecraft weird tales isn’t fiction at all but concerns his marriage to businesswoman Sonia Greene. The horrors which make Lovecraft’s fiction so chillingly effective may not have been merely a product of his imagination. (p. 139).

Weird Tales was the name of the magazine that published Lovecraft’s horror stories. Lovecraft is famous as the creator of the ‘Cthulhu mythos’, about a pantheon of evil alien gods – the Great Old Ones – that seeped down to Earth from the stars. They have been banished, but nevertheless still wait for their chance to return, when the stars are right and Great Cthulhu himself rises from the deep in the submerged city of R’lyeh. Either to destroy humanity, or bring about an unhallowed age of reveling and killing.

It’s hard to see how the cosmic horrors he described had any basis in reality. But Lovecraft himself was racist. He was anti-Semitic, despised Blacks and the non-White immigrants then entering New York and America. Recurring themes in his stories are racial decline, inbreeding and miscegenation. Not just with evil, non-human races, as in his short story The Shadow over Innsmouth, but also with other, human peoples. Cthulhu is worshipped by mixed race ‘mongrels’ like the rural people of Louisiana and the docks districts of the ports. He also had contempt for the rural ‘White trash’ of the southern US as well.

It’s questionable just how racist Lovecraft was. He was racist, but at the time so were many other Whites, and it’s actually debatable whether he was worse than most other people. I don’t know much about his personal life, except that he spent most of it in his home town of Providence, Rhode Island. I also think that his wife was Jewish. She said that she did her best for him, so that he would become a chrysalis out of which would emerge a great writer. She lamented that the great writer did indeed come forth, but that he became ever more distant from her. See the biography, The Strength to Dream. I suspect the drama’s about his deteriorating relationship with his wife, as he moved away from her to produce his tales of cosmic horror.

Radio 4 Programme Next Week on Press Censorship and Election Rigging

October 30, 2018

According to the Radio Times for 3rd to 9th November 2018, next Monday’s edition of Radio 4’s ‘Analysis’ is about the increasing destruction of democracy. Entitled ‘How to Kill a Democracy’, for blurb for the programme runs

Matt Qvortrup examines how democracies around the world are being dismantled through the silencing of the press and manipulation of elections.

The programme is being broadcast, appropriately enough, on the 5th November at 8.30 pm.

This has been going on for years. The Groaniad’s John Kampfner wrote a book about it years ago, Democracy For Sale, about how government across the world were trying to make a pact with their peoples by giving them prosperity at the expense of genuine political freedom. The countries discussed included not only Lee Kwan Yew’s Singapore and Putin’s Russia, but also Sarkozy’s France, Berlusconi’s Italy and Britain under that well-known ‘centrist’, Tony Blair.

But the curbs on free speech and publication aren’t just extending to the press. They’re also attacking the internet under the pretext of protecting us all from ‘fake news’. Facebook recently took down 800 pages, mostly of left-wing and oppositional sites, including those critical of the government. The Real News has recently posted up a report showing that this was done under the supervision of a Neocon American politico, who was gloating that this was just the beginning. I’ll post that one up later.

Democracy and free speech and press are under attack right across the globe, including here in the UK. It’ll be interesting to hear what the Beeb has to say about all this, and whether they’ll mention the corporate assault on the Net. This could be a dodgy issue for the Beeb, as more people are turning away from them and other established and establishment news sources for the Net. And groups on the internet, like the circle of new news media journalists Mike, the Canary, the Skwawkbox and Another Angry Voice belong to. As the Beeb can’t mention Corbyn without a sneer or depicting him as a wild, anti-Semitic extremist, I can see the programme shying well away from the subject of internet censorship.

Radio 4 Series of Political Interviews Next Week with Nick Robinson

October 23, 2018

According to the Radio Times for next week, 27th October to 2nd November 2018, Radio 4 are broadcasting a series of 1/4 hour interviews with various politicos daily, from Monday to Friday. The show’s hosted by the Macclesfield Goebbels, Nick Robinson. They’re on a 1.45 pm.

The first, on Monday, is with Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson.

Tuesday’s edition has him talking to the general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, who talks not just about his political beliefs, but also his love of poetry and the end of a friendship.

On Wednesday he talks to Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Thursday it’s Andrea Leadsom.

And it concludes, on Friday, with Tony Blair.

The only one I would really like to listen to is Len McCluskey. Tom Watson could be interesting, if it reveals just why he’s spent the last three years or so trying to undermine his leader and shore up a dying and murderous neoliberalism in the party’s ranks. Truss and Leadsom don’t interest me at all, and I think listening to them will only annoy me. As probably would the edition with Watson. And I’m sure Tony Blair’s interview would make me incandescent with rage about what he’s done to this country, the Middle East, and how the arrogant, power-hungry maniac still desperately wants to return to power to make the world safe for free market capitalism and the worse for everyone else. All while simpering about how well everyone’s doing with a cheesy grin on his face.

And it hasn’t escaped me that all the politicians Robinson is talking to, with the exception of McCluskey, who’s a trade unionist, are right-wingers. Watson and Blair are Thatcherite Labour, Truss and Leadsom Tories. So in turns of political philosophy, there’s not a lot of difference between them. But there of different parties, so the Beeb can say it’s unbiased.