Monthly Archives: November 2019

BBC: We Made A ‘Mistake’

If there’s one thing The Cat hates it’s being thought of as stupid. The French have a great saying: tu me prends pour de la merde, meaning ‘you take me for shit’?

Taking us for shit is precisely what the BBC has been doing for a long time. In the space of a mere couple of weeks, the Corporation has doctored video footage of Boris Johnson laying a wreath at the Cenotaph and only a couple of days ago, it edited out the laughter at his response to an audience member’s question on the issue of trust. Instead of admitting it deliberately edited out the laughter and stitched applause into the soundtrack, the Corporation has insisted it was a “mistake”. It’s as if those in positions of authority at the BBC believe everyone outside their world is stupid.

However, those of us who know how digital editing platforms work understand how footage can be manipulated to tell any story you like. Media Studies and Media Production students know this and it is perhaps for this reason that politicians especially dismiss these subjects “useless”. Their claims barely conceal their anti-intellectualism and authoritarian tendencies. These people hate the idea of an educated working class and fear a politically conscious electorate.

The Corporation’s attitude in this and other matters is high-handed and arrogant, and this air of condescension and smug superiority comes from the social and cultural capital of its executives and editors, who are mainly drawn from the social institutions of Britain’s bourgeoisie. That’s the Oxbridge and public/independent schools to you and me.

There may be some decent people at the state broadcaster, but they’re rather thin on the ground these days. There is a culture of bullying at the BBC and many are too scared to step out of line, while others are only to eager to promote the government’s narrative during this General Election campaign.

Ironically, three years ago, the BBC announced that it would “help students to identify false news”. Given their penchant for misleading the viewing public through their use of creative editing, perhaps they could use themselves as an example of how to really generate false news.

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Propaganda, Lies And The BBC

I don’t think anyone can convincingly argue that the current general election is a fair fight. The Tories and their friends in the establishment media will never concede when they’re in the wrong nor will they admit to doctoring photographs or editing video footage to flatter their hero, Boris Johnson, nor will they admit that the words they’ve chosen to use in each political, news or current affair programme have been carefully selected to implant messages in voters’ minds.

The BBC’s so-called Question Time leaders’ debate on Thursday was such an occasion. Few people, apart from those with agendas or whose senses have been so badly compromised that they fail to see what’s in front of them, can say that Boris Johnson performed well, nor can any of those people claim that Jo Swinson did well. Yet, former Blairite SpAd, propagandist and wannabe comedian, Matt Forde tweeted.

He must have been watching a different leaders’ ‘debate’ because I found Swinson to be superficial, lacking in detail and all too quick to fall back on the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite’ slur to get her out of trouble. Swinson may be quick to use anti-Semitism as a political weapon but when it comes to Hostile Environment and Windrush, she’s nowhere to be seen. Indeed, a hierarchy of racism and suffering has been constructed over the course of the last 5 years, in which non-Jewish minorities come a long way down in the taxonomy of ‘races’, and politicians like Swinson promote and perpetuate it through their words and deeds.

In the aftermath of that ‘debate’, only one poll surfaced, which laughingly claimed that the Conservatives were 17 points ahead of Labour.

Yesterday, Murdoch hack, Tim Shipman tweeted his seat projection based on that fake poll.

But that isn’t the worst of it. In the BBC News bulletins that followed the ‘debate’, newsreaders and reporters kept telling us how each leader faced questions of trust. Be in no doubt, this is the BBC’s way of telling you that, if you don’t trust any of the leaders, then you may as well vote Tory (because they’re the natural party of government). This is the same cynical “they’re all as bad as each other” approach that was used by David Cameron in 2015 and Theresa May in 2017. Only this time, it’s the BBC, the state broadcaster, who are using it.

Even when the BBC are caught editing video footage, they continue to lie about it. Take this tweet from Peter Oborne, who’d noticed what thousands of other viewers had noticed about the editing out of laughter when Johnson gave his reply to the question of trust.

Instead of putting their hands up and admitting to the doctoring of video footage, they doubled down and added a lie instead.

Tory Fibs tweeted the doctored footage:

Steve Brookstein added.

Ironically, the BBC’s technology editor, Rory Cellan-Jones wrote this piece for the BBC website in October in which he says:

New research shows an alarming surge in the creation of so-called deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months. There is also evidence that production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business.

And while much of the concern about deepfakes has centred on their use for political purposes, the evidence is that pornography accounts for the overwhelming majority of the clips.

As Orgreave and ‘Wreathgate’ show us, the BBC isn’t above producing deepfake videos of its own.

The BBC has a fact-checking service that it’s named ‘Reality Check’. It may want to reconsider that name in the near future.

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The Jo Swinson File

Jo Swinson often accuses Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism without any proof. She lies, then she lies some more and few media commentators challenge her lies or questions her tactics. Jo Swinson likes to pretend she’s some kind of opponent of racism, but there are qualifiers.

Swinson has said nothing about Hostile Environment, which disproportionately affects people of colour, and she’s said very little about the Windrush Scandal. She’s said absolutely nothing about the government’s policy of persecuting Britain’s Romani Gypsy and Traveller communities. She’s less than vocal about the rise in hate crimes against people of colour and has nothing to say about Islamophobia, but she can smear Corbyn as an anti-Semite all day long.

Over the course of this year, Swinson was silent as Sir Paul Beresford stood up in the Commons and called Travellers a ‘disease’. She welcomed former Tory Philip Lee into the Lib Dem ranks. Lee has often resorted to dog-whistle racism when speaking about immigration. Lee also has some rather unpleasant views about LGBT, a fact that has upset many of her supporters. Former Labour and Change UK MP, Angela Smith was also welcomed, despite her off the cuff ‘funny tinge’ comment about people of colour. In Swinson’s mind, evidently, that kind of racism is permissible.

In 2018, Swinson told her party conference that her party needed to ‘own the failures of the coalition’. These are just empty words. There’s no sincerity behind them. Hindsight is great but it’s only valuable when the person in question is acting self-reflexively and given her propensity for lies, it’s likely that Swinson uttered those words simply to placate her following. She’s learnt nothing at all.

There are signs that not all Lib Dem members are happy with their leader. Points of irritation include her fantasies about becoming Prime Minister and her refusal to adopt a more conciliatory tone. Swinson will lie about almost anything. The Cat is surprised she hasn’t told porkies about being the first woman in space and having discovered a cure for cancer in her kitchen.

Here’s Swinson appearing on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge programme. Ridge catches her out, but watch how Swinson doubles down on the lie.

Recently, Labour’s Equality Spokesperson, Dawn Butler, accused Swinson of ‘failings’ over a Commons racism row. The Guardian’s Kate Proctor writes:

The Liberal Democrats’ leader, Jo Swinson, has been accused by Labour of not properly investigating an activist who claimed one of their MPs had made up her experience of racism.

Swinson said it was right that Steve Wilson, the husband of parliamentary candidate Angela Smith, had apologised to the shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler, for writing on social media that she had lied about her experience of racism in the House of Commons.

In a letter seen by the Guardian, Swinson said she believed Butler encountered racial discrimination and that Wilson’s apology had been “essential”. However, she was criticised for not suspending him or revealing whether he faced any kind of disciplinary process. Butler is also demanding Wilson and Smith undergo diversity training.

Butler herself is reported to have said:

“By protecting a white man who denied a black woman’s experience, the Lib Dems are actively condoning racism in their party and promoting it in wider society. Steve Wilson should be suspended from their party immediately.”

Before 2019, there were no people of colour among the Lib Dem MPs. They’ve relied entirely on defectors to give them a couple of Black MPs: Chuka Umunna and Sam Gyimah. The latter stands accused of lying about Emma Dent Coad, the Labour candidate for Kensington, who is also a local councillor, of being involved in the decision to clad Grenfell Tower in flammable materials. She has reported Gyimah to the police.

It seems that Swinson’s constant lying has spread like a contagion throughout her party, because Gyiamah isn’t the only one to have been telling lies and defaming a fellow candidate. Dr Geoffrey Seeff has been resorted to dog-whistling and lying about Faiza Shaheen, the Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green.

The Lib Dem candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green in east London wrote that the IHRC had “been quoted saying some very unpleasant things” and criticised its support for the Iran government.

Seeff, who said he had sent a copy of the letter to the local paper, wrote that it “seems clear that the IHRC is nothing but a front for the mullahs of Tehran” and highlighted Jeremy Corbyn’s previous support for the London-based organisation, which was formed in 1997.

He wrote: “What I and the electorate want to know is how you stand on this. Can you respect and work under a person who shares the views of this unsavoury organisation or is so gullible that he has been duped by them?”

Shaheen tweeted:

This isn’t the first time the Lib Dems have run dog-whistling campaigns: there was Langbaurgh in 1991 in which the local party produced leaflets which urged voters to cast their vote for a ‘local candidate’. In 2009, the Lib Dems in Islington were accused of dog-whistle politics over Gypsies and Travellers. When they were running Tower Hamlets Council in the 1990s, they used similar tactics to pander to BNP voters.

If Swinson isn’t lying, she’s fantasising about becoming Prime Minister. If she isn’t doing that, she’s claiming that her spokespeople are a ‘shadow cabinet‘. In September, Swinson was heckled by her own party members who were unhappy that she’d admitted Tory defectors into the party. Come 13 December, I’m hoping the voters of East Dunbartonshire do the right thing and vote Swinson out.

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Brace Yourselves, Here Come The Tory Lies About Immigration

I’ve just been listening to the very unpleasant, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary talk about what he called Labour’s ‘open door immigration’ policy. This is not just a signal that the Tories intend to revert to their comfortable default position, it’s also a glaring example of racist dog-whistling. We know that over the decades, the British press has sold its readers stories of how immigration is bad, how it drives wages down, how immigrants are coming here and ‘taking our jobs’ and so on. Petty nativism and small-minded xenophobia sell papers, but don’t provide the public with the details they need to make informed choices. Instead, many members of the public internalize these lies and accept them as truths.

The Tories, Brexit Party and UKIP all talk about how they want to see an ‘Australian points-based system’. When I hear politicians use that phrase, I think of Australia’s whites only immigration policy, which I suspect they really want to implement here. Raab also repeated the line, also uttered by his fellow Randroid, Priti Patel, that they wanted the ‘best and the brightest’ to come to this country. Somehow, I can’t see ‘the best and the brightest’ wanting to come here. Why would they? Why would they want to come to a small backwater off the north-west coast of Europe, especially if they’re well qualified? They’ll go to Canada or the United States. I’ve read stories of how doctors and dentists from African countries and the Indian subcontinent come here, only to be told that their qualifications aren’t recognized. They end up working as cleaners, cab drivers and security guards.

Kenan Malik, writing in The Guardian in this April, wrote about the flaws in the Australian points-based system and its baked-in racism.

Australia introduced its points-based immigration system in the 1970s. The idea was to create a kind of non-racist version of the “white Australia” policy that had held sway for almost a century. Middle-class professionalism now came to replace “whiteness” as the measure of a good migrant. The trouble is, being middle class and skilled guarantees neither a job nor social acceptance.

A study last year showed that of skilled migrants from non-English speaking countries who came to Australia between 2011 and 2016, fewer than a third had found a professional or managerial job. Another study revealed that such migrants were 25% more likely to be in the bottom income quintile than either migrants from English-speaking countries (primarily white migrants) or those born in Australia. The unemployment rate for recent migrants on a permanent visa is more than 50% higher than it is for Australians in general.

He adds:

There is also the question of racism. A study by the economist Andrew Leigh showed that an individual with an Anglo-Saxon name is far more likely to get a job interview than someone with the same qualifications and experience, but with a Chinese, Middle Eastern or Indigenous Australian name.

We haven’t left the European Union, but already we have people being told to ‘go home’ because they look different and speak with an accent. The Australian points-based system that right-wing politicians long for are just words that are used to placate xenophobes and racists. In reality, such a system would still discriminate against people of colour.

Whether politicians like Raab, Patel, Farage et all want to admit or not, Britain relies heavily on immigrant labour to plug the gaps in the workforce. Our NHS especially relies on immigrant labour and so does agriculture. Last month when I tweeted about fruit being left to rot in the field because there was no one to pick it, I was rounded on by angry Brexiteers and self-styled Lexiters, who first claimed that ‘farmers hadn’t prepared’ for this, while someone else said ‘I hope they go out of business’. Others told me that the unemployed should be forced to pick fruit for their benefits. The fact of the matter is that fruit pickers from EU countries don’t want to come here anymore, because they’ve heard how foreign workers aren’t welcome. None of the people who attacked me, especially the Lexiters, would admit that this was a factor. Worse, they seemed to have no problem with food waste. Ironically, the papers which usually publish lies on their front pages about immigration, also complained about millions of apples being left to rot.

These people really don’t know what they want.

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Lies, Disinformation And Guido Fawkes

Last year, I had an encounter on Twitter with Kevin Mousley who is a producer with BBC News, In that exchange, I’d accused the corporation of sourcing news stories from the Guido Fawkes site. He denied it, then he tried to bully and browbeat me. I had a similar tussle with Rob Burley, the editor of the Marr Show on BBC 1. I ended up blocking him.

It’s not just the BBC that sources some of its stories from Guido, other broadcasters do too. The BBC also invites Tom Harwood, Guido’s tea boy into its studios, thereby legitimating him and the fact-free sewage that pours forth from the site.

Today on Twitter, I was alerted to the following tweet, which claims, without any evidence, that Jeremy Corbyn has had a stroke and which uses a doctored image to reinforce the message.

I’ve taken a screenshot of the tweet in case Guido takes it down. I’ve also taken the liberty of reporting it, for all the good that it will do.

This feeble attempt at propaganda may have played well in the 1920s or the 1960s, but these days, people aren’t so easily fooled. They know what Photoshop is and what it does.

Of course, Guido and Harwood, who is mostly likely the culprit behind the tweet and the shitty Photoshop effort, may try and pass this off as ‘satire’, but that would be a lie – much like the crap that passes for ‘scoops’ on its site. But what kind of satirist thinks having a life-changing event like a stroke is funny and uses it to score a cheap political point? Only bullies and their mates. That’s who.

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Who Is Tom Harris?

This morning, the Today programme on Radio 4 told its listeners that Tom Harris, who they described as a “former minister in the Blair government” had announced that he was voting for the Tories in the General Election and urged others to do so. There’s a reason why Today chose to do this: to take the sting out of former Tory minister, David Gauke’s, harsh words and his intention to stand as an independent.

So who is Tom Harris? Harris was Labour MP for Glasgow Cathcart and then Glasgow South from 2001 to 2015. He served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to a few government ministers but was never elevated to cabinet rank. He served as Shadow Environment Minister under Ed Miliband from 2010 to 2013 when he abruptly resigned, claiming that he “wanted to spend more time with his family” – a likely story. Around the same time, he began writing regular columns in the Daily Telegraph, replacing the extremely bitter hack, Dan Hodges, who had moved to the Daily Mail.

Harris also founded a public affairs firm called Third Avenue. In March 2016, he became the executive director of the Scottish branch of Vote Leave. He left the Labour Party last year.

So, is Harris important? No. If you look at his Twitter feed, you’ll see that he retweets CapX, the website belonging to the Thatcherite think-tank, Centre for Policy Studies, as well as prominent Tories.

Here’s his tweet in which he claims to have “lived, ate and breathed Labour”.

For someone who was an MP, he doesn’t appear to have grasped the fact that we don’t directly elect Prime Ministers. Personally, I think Harris has always been Tory. In fact, he’s just as racist as the rest of the party to which he now pledges his support. Take this Telegraph article from 2013 in which he rails against immigration and spews forth hatred for Roma people.

It’s not bigoted to worry about filthy and vastly overcrowded living arrangements, organised aggressive begging and the ghetto-isation of local streets

On, but it is bigoted, Tom but you’re clearly in the right company now.

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Why Won’t He Press The Button?

Listening to Nick ‘Blue Robbo’ Robinson’s interview (actually more a mix of bullying and hectoring) with Emily Thornberry on this morning’s Today programme, reminded me of how infantilized British mainstream political discourse has become in the last 10 to 15 years, perhaps more so since the Tories came to power in 2010.

Today is Armistice Day, a fact that seems to have escaped Blue Robbo, whose questions were framed to suggest that these weren’t questions at all, but statements produced by Conservative Central Headquarters to be put to any Labour politician who entered the studio. I would argue that Robbo’s questions were an insult to the memories of those who perished, both military and civilian, of all the wars since World War One.

The person who posted this YouTube clip of the ‘interview’ clearly has an ideological agenda, as the title suggests. Ignore it and listen to the interview.

This isn’t so much an interview as it is a ideologically-charged inquisition. Robbo says “he [Corbyn) hasn’t backed the use of British armed forces” and goes on to list every single conflict since the Falklands in 1983 that he’s opposed. Many of the interventions that Robinsons lists have proved disastrous and have caused more problems than they solved. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and on the list goes. Doubtless Robbo supported every military intervention, but hasn’t discovered the benefits of self-reflexivity. For if he had, he wouldn’t have allowed his prejudice to colour this interview.

Predictably, Blue Robbo demanded to know why Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t ‘press the button’. Such a juvenile question demands nothing more than disdain and contempt. The idea that a potential Prime Minister should state their desire to annihilate millions, possibly billions of people without a moment’s hesitation, as proof of their suitability for office is not only absurd, but shows how mainstream political discourse has been systematically degraded. The blame for this degradation falls squarely on the shoulders of moronic, bloodthirsty politicians and the media, which thinks it and it alone has the right to choose the next government. Worse, they see each and every conflict as an opportunity to reduce bloodshed and destruction to some morbid team sport.

Robinson also brought up the subject of British troops being given immunity from prosecution for war crimes. This is little more than an unarticulated claim that British troops are above committing war crimes, which is patently untrue as veteran, Joe Glenton, makes clear in this article for The Independent.

If the legacy of allegations concerning killings and abuses, indeed the legacies of the wars themselves, are ever to be settled then we must look to the greatest, most far-reaching and effective war crimes trials of all, those at Nuremberg, where generals and politicians were put on trial. We should follow in their footsteps.   

In the minds of Tory politicians and their media helpers, like Blue Robbo, such views, coming as they do from a former soldier, are tantamount to heresy. ‘Our boys’ don’t kill for sport or so the sentiment goes.

No wonder people go around throwing about words like ‘treason’ with such casual abandon when we have so-called journalists like Nick Robinson using the BBC as his bully pulpit. Not once does Blue Robbo mention the fact that our service personnel are under-paid and under-equipped. Not once does he acknowledge the terrible condition of married quarters in the British military nor does he comment on the numbers of veterans sleeping rough on our streets. Instead, he’s more concerned with whether or not Corbyn would be willing to ‘press the button’. It’s as reductionist as it is absurd (ad reductio absurdum). Objectivity and impartiality, my arse.

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