Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Word Association.

Let’s play a game. I’ll say a word, you say the first one that comes into your head. Ok?

Here goes.


If you’re the journalist Allison Pearson, more than one word comes into your head. When Allison Pearson hears the word ‘Immigration’, she thinks ‘the abuse of children in Rotherham’.

Presumably, when someone says ‘Gloucestershire’, she thinks ‘Fred West’. If someone says ‘Happiness’ around AP, she hears ‘That Todd Solondz film about paedos’. If you say ‘Love’, she probably gets an image of Kurt Cobain shooting himself.

I say this, because Pearson has tweeted her anger that Ed Milliband didn’t mention immigration in today’s speech. And the reason she's angry he didn't mention immigration is  Rotherham.

How does a brain do that? How does somebody move seamlessly from the vexed, complex, vital issues of nationhood, borders, asylum, diversity and culture into a crime perpetrated by a group of sick men? How does someone hear ‘foreigner’ and go straight to ‘rapist’?

What happened in Rotherham is disgusting, troubling and upsetting. Evil men did evil things and chances to stop them were missed time and time again. Questions must be asked and blame must be apportioned- particularly, in this case, to the Labour council which screwed up.

I am sad to say that I am no massive supporter of the Labour Party. I’d like to be, but they make it so bloody difficult.  I will vote for them, but holding my nose and thinking 'least worst'.  I condemn the failures of Rotherham Council in the strongest possible terms.

Rotherham means that questions have to be answered about criminal justice. About policing. About social work. About local authorities. All of those things spring to mind when one reads about what happened because even though to cite some of them may be a little broad-brush and generalised, they all have a major part to play in the case. 

But, you know what? When I hear about something a few hundred people did, I don't assume that they're identical to another few hundred thousand. When I hear that some people who committed a crime shared a cultural identity, I don't assume that everyone of that cultural identity behaves the same way.  

And as a result, Rotherham isn't the first thing I think of when I hear the word ‘immigration’, or even- especially- the first thing I think of when I hear a speech in which immigration isn't mentioned. 
To do that, you’d have to be a massive… well, you know the word. And anyone who really cared about the awful things that happened to those poor young women would hate the idea of using them to make a cheap party political point.

I expect Allison Pearson isn’t a… well, you know the word. But she is undoubtedly a cynical opportunist who is happy to appeal to people who are.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Tinfoil hat. But then he would say that, wouldn't he?

(Note: this blog post has been tested by an independent adjudicator- well, me- and found to be totally neutral. By me. Suck it.)

So. The whole indyref thing. Isn't it awful how the BBC is totally pro-union and constantly pushing a pro-union message?

Also, isn't it awful that the BBC is totally pushing the Yes agenda and giving far too much time to that awful Salmond fella?

We've been here before, of course. Gaza is the most obvious, recent, painful example. Anyone who spends any time with any social media will know that the BBC led with a hideously pro-Israel, anti-semitic, Palestine-friendly, Zionist agenda.

There's no more telling example of confirmation bias than a nicely divisive issue. It's very, very easy to see someone one doesn't like on the news and fall into the trap of thinking 'LOOK! LOOK! THEY'RE PUSHING THE THING I HATE!' And once you've seen it, it's pretty easy to believe it.

Here are some things I know about the way the BBC works. I've been involved with providing drama and LE content to the BBC, so I have a take on the organisation as a whole, but from an outside (and generally a frustrated) perspective. On the other hand, someone who has been one of my best friends for twenty years is a Producer for BBC News. And I know a wee bit about Ofcom, owing to a combination of the above.

Firstly: Compliance is king, emperor, deity. You try putting out some content of any kind, it's going to be vetted on a lot of different levels. This is where any kind of agenda gets flagged, flayed, and put down with a lethal injection.

Secondly: In stark paradox to the above, people who DO have an agenda are nonetheless given the chance loudly to express it. This is why the Farages, the Hopkinses, the Phillipses get a platform on the BBC to shout about how they don't get a platform on the BBC. When did you last hear ITN or Sky run a report about something shitty that had happened on ITN or Sky? Clue: you didn't, ever. 

Thirdly: The neutrality which the BBC must maintain causes a kind of sibling syndrome: tougher on the 'loved ones' than on the 'enemy'. The Telegraphy, Colonelly people who bang on about the left-wing bias of the Beeb are largely right, in a way, because- surprise!- the people who choose to live in big diverse cities and work for a publicly-funded broadcaster tend to be of the left. That's WHY we keep getting, for example, the lunatic fringe of Christian Voice invited to talk about, say, abortion, or homosexuality. It's why we have to have someone like Toby Young on every time an actual scientist talks about climate change. For balance. Or, if you will, 'balance'.

Fourthly: There's regulations. Let's use, as an example, the nasty little fuckers at UKIP. Thing is, at the last-but-one EU elections, they came fourth in the public vote. What that meant, under regulations we'd all largely be in favour of in principle, is that they HAD to have a percentage of the airtime for the most recent EU elections. In which they did significantly better, so they have to have MORE airtime at the next EU elections and so... but you get the idea. Vicious circle. Question: did that initial rise in their votes, the rise that triggered the Ofcom regs, come from the BBC or the tabs? You decide. (PS: it was the tabs)

Look, I'm not a wild-eyed, naive, Beeb-lover. God knows, anyone who tries to work for them as a freelance, or as a representative of an independent provider, is unlikely ever to say 'bbc' without saying 'the pissing sodding fucking...' first. There are mistakes made all the time in the reporting of sensitive issues. That has happened with the kippers, and with Gaza, and with issues of race and gender and pretty much anything that people care about enough to invest with a news story. 

Barely a day goes by without a march or protest that people think should have been reported, and they're probably right. Because, of course, the people who decide what goes on the news- being fallible- make mistakes. One of the triggers for this post was a news report about the referendum to which my friend Kate drew my attention; a horrible, patronising report of a shortbready, tartanny, white Scotland where people sit in pubs reciting Burns to haggises. That kind of thing is, unquestionably, a fuckup.

But a fuckup is all it is. One of the great things about being British is that we have no need to hold on to conspiracy theories, because those who seek to subjugate us are so sodding incompetent that we inevitably find out about it. Our national broadcasting corporation has its incompetent moments too, but if you think it's pushing an agenda- for left or right, union or independence, Israel or Palestine, Beyonce or Jay-Z, or whatever- you should probably try projecting a little less. 

No. I'll go further. If you think the BBC pushes an agenda, you're a dick. You can go ahead and cry foul, but you *will* be being a dick as you do so.

Unless, of course, you'd rather our only broadcasters and news sources were paid-for, commercial ones. Good luck with that.