Blog Archives

Media 112: Is the BBC a far from neutral public-service broadcaster?

Richard House’s formal complaint to the BBC


On the Chiles on Friday show just now (19/6), a Labour Party representative just referred to the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn being “riven with anti-semitism” – she said this with great emphasis.

Adrian Chiles made no attempt to challenge this lie and smear – as, indeed, your organisation never did when it gave wall-to-wall coverage of alleged anti-semitism in Labour when Corbyn was leader.

I immediately sent in the following text, which was received in plenty of time to be read out while the offending person was still being interviewed – it said:

“It’s a total lie to say that Labour is ‘riven with anti-semitism’ – why are you allowing people to say such blatant untruths without challenge?”.

It was not read out. All of the evidence shows unambiguously that anti-semitism is less prevalent in Labour (Ed: see FactCheck) than either in the other main political parties, or in society as a whole – but hey, why let the truth get in the way of another opportunity to hammer the Labour left?

The BBC has had huge numbers of complaints about this outrage (Ed: including JVL, 2018, 2019) – yet you allow it to continue. You are institutionally anti-left – a disgrace for an allegedly neutral public-service broadcaster.

I await the robotic reply-in-complete-denial that you’ll send me to this complaint without holding my breath.

 

 

 

 

.

Post election: misdirected venom

Richard House draws attention to a letter by Prof Diane Reay (left) in the Guardian, in which she urges all to accept collective responsibility rather than engage in a futile and spiteful blame game.

Noting that in this post-election period all the venom seems to be directed at Jeremy Corbyn, she reminds readers that the ex-coalmining families on the council estate that she grew up on, impoverished and barely scraping a living together, were betrayed not by socialist-led Labour but by a toxic coalition from the right and liberal wings of the establishment:

  • first there is the Tory party, with such contempt for ordinary people it lied to them throughout the campaign,
  • then a media elite of TV presenters and journalists who pretended impartiality while peddling distortions,
  • and finally the right wing of Labour who weaponised antisemitism to undermine Corbyn when the overriding concern should have been directed at the rise in antisemitism and all other forms of racism in British society.

But, as Prof, Reay points out, none of these groups will suffer directly as a consequence of the neoliberal free-market capitalism which will soon be unleashed on a divided, mistrustful and misinformed nation.

It is the working-class people who spoke to her of not being valued, respected or listened to, whose lives will be further diminished as poverty intensifies and the privatisation of public services continues apace.

 

 

 

o

Former BBC Political Editor Harangues Britain’s Right-wing Media Bias

It’s fashionable for people on the progressive left to call out and highlight the anti-left and anti-Corbyn bias of the BBC, but this claim needs some careful unpacking.

Academic research (e.g. LSE: Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press: From Watchdog to Attackdog) certainly seems to support this view; but assuming it to be true for a moment, it by no means follows that all, or even most, journalists working for the BBC are themselves politically right-wing. 

Parallels can be drawn here with the right-wing press. I’ve been reliably informed by a former Daily Telegraph journalist, for example, that at that newspaper, many of the journalists working there are well left of centre.

At the institutional level however, everyone knows what’s required by the paper’s owners and so a culture of right-wing and right-oriented commentary is created, which becomes an accepted norm to which all journalists employed by that title conform. In such organisations, moreover, the management are likely to be right-wing in orientation.

Something similar to this seems to be happening at the BBC, as political commentator Owen Jones pointed out at length on Radio 5 Live last Saturday evening (Saturday 30 November).

So perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to see a former very senior BBC journalist and editor ‘coming out’ on the political left. I remember Nick Jones (right) very well from the miners’ strike in the early 1980s when he was chief political editor at the BBC, and when he was clearly doing his best as the time to be as even-handed and neutral as possible. Jones left the BBC in 2002 (aged 60), and I’ve heard nothing of him since. So I was mildly amazed to read in a recent issue of the Morning Star a feature article by him on media bias. Titled ‘Boris Johnson’s shock troops in the commentariat’ we read about how, ‘when the PM runs into trouble, he’s not short of obliging media pundits to rush to his rescue and deliver a hatchet job on Corbyn’.

Jones evocatively writes of what he calls ‘attack journalism’, their ‘character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn’, and their ‘conjuring up yet another hatchet job on Corbyn to help bolster the brilliance of Johnson’.

Listing a number of obnoxious headlines from an array of Tory propaganda comics, Jones then points out the sobering fact that Conservative-supporting newspapers account for 80% of UK newspaper sales.

But it’s far worse than even this, as the likes of the BBC pick up on and report the right-wing editorial lines of these papers, ‘feeding through to the commentary on television and radio programmes’. And the right-wing press commentariat also ‘command a far higher proportion of broadcast interviews and invitations to newspapers reviews on radio and television’, with press headlines commonly treated as news.

Jones concludes his article with a chilling observation: ‘Media coverage in 2017 was the vilest of any general election of my 60 years as a reporter’.

I fear 2019 might be even worse.’ From what I’ve seen to date, I think his worst fears have already come to pass, with the Cummings-driven Tory Dirty Tricks Department leaving all previous Tory attempts to propagandise the electorate trailing in his wake.

When a widely respected journalist of Nick Jones’s seniority and professional stature speaks so scathingly about the flagrant bias of the right-wing press, we really have to take it seriously. But just what we can do to neutralise the propaganda impact of this outrage to democracy is something that the left urgently needs to address – and preferably well before 12 December 2019.

Guest-blogged by Richard House Ph.D., former senior university lecturer in psychology, psychotherapy and early childhood studies, and now a full-time Labour Party and environmental campaigner-activist.

 

 

 

o

Are Boris and Donald playing ‘The Great Game’?

A Sunday Times allegation that nine wealthy Russians have donated to Britain’s Conservative Party is leading some to suspect that disturbing evidence is being withheld at this time in order to safeguard its election prospects. Two expatriate oligarchs named, former allies of President Putin, are now British citizens. As David Slinger asks, (Gloucester Citizen, 2811.19) “Do we have a democratic right to see the reports?”

Would publication of the parliamentary report – which has passed security checks – shine a spotlight on the bankrolling of their party by disaffected millionaire Russian oligarchs?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has – to date – refused to publish the findings – thought to present evidence of covert Russian attempts to influence the outcome of 
the referendum and 2017 general election gathered by UK intelligence.

David Fromkin (Foreign Affairs) once wrote that the history of Britain’s participation in ‘The Great Game’ (see Kipling) ‘gains interest and possible significance from the American decision in our own time to contest Russian expansion on much the same battlefield’. Despite a temporary parliamentary setback pictured above, is the ‘Game’ afoot and will America – as usual – expect British diplomatic, intelligence and military support when required?

The US government is understandably apprehensive as Russia is increasing its influence in the Middle East and has also been co-operating with China – the latest move being a partnership in a $55 billion pipeline which the WSJ sees as ‘challenging the economic and strategic clout of the U.S’.

Work on the Power of Siberia pipeline project

Richard House wonders why opposition parties haven’t made the report a major general election issue, as it is ‘potential dynamite for the whole Brexit cause’.

Foreign Policy mentions ‘pervasive reports—never quite conclusively denied by the Foreign Office—that during Johnson’s time as foreign secretary, direct oversight of MI6, the foreign intelligence service, was quietly moved out of his portfolio because of his rather startling ‘Russian connections

If the report does cast significant doubt on the narrow referendum result to leave, Richard House adds, the whole legitimacy of Brexit would be thrown into doubt and the Tory Party would be in total meltdown.

 

 

 

o

Why did Tom Watson time his resignation to distract attention from Tory grief?

Richard House notes that – after over three decades as a (Ed: very sharp) operator in politics, Tom Watson ((below, taken on Thursday). knows all about copy deadlines for Tory newspapers – and asks:

“So why on earth did someone who claims to be “as committed to Labour as ever – spending this election fighting for brilliant Labour candidates” carefully time his resignation announcement such that it would be seized upon by the Tory press to distract attention from:

  • Rees-Mogg’s foot-in-mouth toff’s blundering into Grenfell sensibilities;
  • Tory MP Andrew Bridgen’s ham-fisted attempt to defend him;
  • the resignation of the Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns;
  • Tory propagandists caught doctoring a Keir Starmer Brexit interview;
  • Gower Tory candidate Francesca O’Brien’s disgraceful comment about “putting down” Benefits Street folk;
  • the shameless Tories being stopped from using the civil service to “cost” (for which, read “condemn”) Labour’s spending commitments;
  • and The Met Police’s mimicking of Johnson’s far-right contempt for the law in illegally banning Extinction Rebellion’s lawful demonstrations”.

‘The enemy within’

As he perused the “red-neck Tory-press headlines” in his local newsagent next morning, Richard thought “Well done, Tom” [not] – “Tory mission accomplished!” and reflected, in his letter today on Page 19 of the Morning Star:

“Who needs Dominic Cummings’ dead cat strategies” when Watson is around to do his and the Tories’ bidding for them? And with turncoat former Labour MP Ian Austin now publicly urging people to vote Tory to keep Jeremy out of 10 Downing Street, the Blairite rump in its terminal death throes is still clearly determined to do as much damage as they can to the possibility of a progressive government winning power”.

In a nutshell: Ken Loach, quoted in the Spectator, said: “The right, embodied by Tom Watson, aims to destroy the socialist programme. In the party there is the leadership and a core of socialists backing it. Then you have a huge membership which is very supportive of and excited by the socialist programme. And in the middle you have this layer of right-wing MPs doing all they can to frustrate it…

 

 

 

o

Corbyn – “a different kind of leader . . . the kind I want for our country”

Richard House draws attention to a letter from Mark Trotman in the Western Daily Press, 11 October 2019, p. 23 

Unaccustomed as I am to praising your political columnist Chris Moncrieff, I almost choked on my Rice Krispies this morning on reading his (albeit somewhat grudging) praise for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (WDP, October 8). I’ll give Chris the benefit of the doubt and assume his praise is genuine – and that there isn’t a mischievous tongue lurking in his ample cheek. And I’d like to add to it.

There are three common criticisms made of Corbyn by the mainstream commentariat: i.e. that he’s “not a leader”; that “he’s weak”; and that he “sits on the fence” (e.g. in relation to Brexit).

Corbyn is a different kind of leader – one who’s a co-operative team player rather than a narcissistic individualist, and who prefers to listen thoughtfully, rather than hearing the sound of his own voice fuelled by a puffed-up ego.

Now that’s the kind of leader I want for our country.

On strength – I’d like to know if there is any political leader in living memory who could have withstood the most vicious character-assassination campaign on record, and this over a period of four years.

In spite of this unremitting tirade of propaganda assaults, many of which must have been deeply hurtful (e.g. the outrageous slurs and smears about racism), Corbyn is not only still standing, but is touring the land speaking to many hundreds of his admirers and supporters.

As for sitting on the fence, Corbyn has the maturity to realise that infantile polarisation is emphatically not what the nation needs right now.

Only Corbyn can heal the deep divisions

Rather, our country desperately needs healing and bringing together – and of all current and recent political leaders, Corbyn alone possesses the emotional intelligence and magnanimity to achieve it.

Corbyn is a shy and unassuming man who is refreshingly free of ego-driven self-centredness and personal ambition, but one with a deep strength, reliability and consistency of vision that a modern age filled with division, fake news and hate-filled rhetoric so desperately needs.

I seem to remember that in 1945, another shy, unassuming Labour leader beat a bombastic Winston Churchill at the general election, despite the latter’s determination to paint Attlee as some kind of proto-Communist stooge.

Corbyn “is touring the land speaking to many hundreds of his admirers and supporters”

Mark Trotman ends: “In the forthcoming election, I think this particular history might be about to repeat itself”.

 

 

 

 

o

 

o

Media 99: Anti-semitism campaign a fabrication – Norman Finkelstein charges the British elite & its media

Richard House has drawn attention to the latest Media Lens report: ‘Suspending Chris Williamson – The Fury And The Fakery’ – which includes a comment in a forceful and eloquent video by American political scientist, activist, professor and author, Norman Finkelstein (right), whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps and whose father was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. He writes:

‘Corbyn . . . did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign . . . this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.’ 

Media Lens points out that more than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the “infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party have added to the propaganda blitz by protesting against the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson”. 

A recent blog on the Jewish Voices for Labour site also stated that a “hostile, personal campaign is being waged against Chris, who is a hard-working and diligent MP with great standing in his constituency and a strong record of anti-racist campaigning”.

It adds: “This country stands in desperate need of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, aiming to unite people around protection and promotion of hard won rights and services, the party needs the dedication and principled commitment of Chris Williamson and others like him”.

In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign: ‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018).

He commented on these issues again this month in correspondence with journalist Matt Kennard:

‘The way charges of anti-Semitism are being used in Britain to undermine the Corbyn-led Labour Party is not only a disgrace, but also – to put it simply – an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The charges against Chris Williamson (right) are a case in point. There is nothing even remotely anti-Semitic in his statement that Labour has “given too much ground” and “been too apologetic” in defending its record of addressing “the scourge of anti-Semitism” beyond that of any other party, as he himself had done, on public platforms and in the streets.’

Media Lens’ challenging conclusion asks what sanction the Labour Party should put on those politicians who personally voted to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – acts which did not merely offend but killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.

 

 

 

0

Jeremy Corbyn has made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory

The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

With a general election possibly on the horizon, the Establishment propaganda assault on Jeremy has already started. Odious right-wing propaganda sheets have been noticeably upping their anti-Corbyn smear-ridden stories over recent days and weeks. The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

Over the months we have repeatedly witnessed Jeremy’s extraordinary will and courage being tested in the most extreme of ways — and we are hard-pressed to think of any present-day politician who would have been able to withstand the ferocious onslaught that the Establishment has unloaded on to him — and continues to, as we write.

Let’s be clear: Jeremy would be the first to admit — I’m sure with characteristic modesty — that he’s not a perfect party leader

But the very idea of a “perfect” leader always was a fiction and every mortal human being will have weaknesses.

This allegedly “weak” leader has inspired a huge, unprecedented surge of new party members (who else could conceivably have brought hundreds of thousands of new members into the party? — Chuka Umunna; Dan Jarvis; David Miliband?); forced embarrassing U-turns from an arrogant, uncaring government; shifted the political centre of gravity in Britain significantly to the progressive left; brought morality, fairness and peace into previously moribund political narratives; performed very well in local elections before the putsch last summer by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) elite; has consistently out-performed Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions in recent weeks; has had the courage to take a nuanced, thoughtful view of Brexit — rather than adopting a tabloid-esque, grandstanding “pro” or “anti” position — and has remained dignified and calm in the face of daily vituperative attacks from the media, the entire Establishment and even his own party.

Rather than using any weaknesses Jeremy might have to criticise him from the left, everyone around him should be doing everything possible to complement the brilliant and unique qualities that he does possess.

He has been bullied, betrayed and ridiculed, and yet he carries on with the same grace and care he always shows to others — however objectionable their behaviour and treatment of him might be. The genuinely warm send-off Jeremy recently gave to resigner and serial Corbyn-critic Tristram Hunt is a case in point.

We also know no other politician in this country who possesses the maturity and dignity to have walked out of the unprecedented PLP meeting of June 27 last year with all its scarcely believable bully-boy nastiness directed viciously at him and to immediately urge his many thousands of supporters in Parliament Square to act respectfully, even to those we disagree with.

In the months and years to come, it is our strong conviction that it will increasingly dawn on more and more people that in Jeremy we’re looking at a deeply powerful and courageous human being.

No other Labour leader would have had the strength to withstand the relentless assault that Jeremy has had to endure from all quarters since he became party leader. Nobody else in the PLP could have rescued the Labour Party from the jaws of neoliberalism as Jeremy has; and his proud place in our class’s history is already assured for having made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory.

This post interlards a letter by Richard House with paragraphs – purple font – from an article by Richard and Skeena Rathor

 

 

 

o

Jeremy Corbyn: brutal Communist, European socialist or mainstream Scandinavian social democrat?

Corbyn smears escalate

Yesterday came a warning: “With a general election possibly afoot, we must all be alert to the orchestrated dirty tricks and the ferocity of the propaganda assault that will inevitably be launched against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour by the terrified establishment”. It was issued by Richard House, after replying to ‘absurd views’ in the Independent alleging that Jeremy Corbyn would usher in ‘a communist government’ of a brutal nature.

Articles in the Murdoch Times today bore these headlines

  • MPs launch angry revolt over leaders’ Brexit talks: Breakthrough hopes fade after May meets Corbyn
  • Brexit talks: Dark clouds gather as Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn work out what to do next
  • The PM, as we must still call her, was numb — perhaps past caring
  • Two-party cartel would regret an election now: The electorate is more volatile than ever and many will be looking for a home beyond the Conservatives and Labour. 

Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity with Europe’s socialist leaders was highlighted some time ago with a standing ovation noted in the Financial Times:

“UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was given a rapturous reception by his Socialist allies in Brussels on Thursday, as he warned that leaving the EU without a Brexit deal would be “catastrophic” for the UK economy. Mr Corbyn was met with a standing ovation by Europe’s centre-left parties as he addressed delegates at the Europe Together conference, just hours before prime minister Theresa May was scheduled to meet her EU counterparts at a European leaders’ summit”. We omit the description of Ms May’s very cool reception. 

Corbyn’s negotiating skills are appreciated by senior EU figures, including Michel Barnier.

 

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn walk prior to a meeting on July 13, 2017 in Brussels.  

Another perspective: Jeremy Corbyn is a mainstream [Scandinavian] social democrat 

That is the view of Jonas Fossli Gjersø, a Scandinavian who has spent more than a decade living in Britain (full text here), who opens:

“From his style to his policies Mr Corbyn would, in Norway, be an unremarkably mainstream, run-of-the-mill social-democrat. His policy-platform places him squarely in the Norwegian Labour Party from which the last leader is such a widely respected establishment figure that upon resignation he became the current Secretary-General of NATO.

“Yet, here in the United Kingdom a politician who makes similar policy-proposals, indeed those that form the very bedrock of the Nordic-model, is brandished as an extremist of the hard-left and a danger to society”.

British media’s portrayal of Corbyn, and by extent his policies are somewhat exaggerated and verging on the realm of character assassination rather than objective analysis and journalism.

Mr Corbyn’s policy-platform, particularly in regard to his domestic policies are largely identical with the Norwegian Labour Party manifesto. They enjoy near universal support among the Norwegian electorate and, in fact, they are so mainstream that not even the most right-wing of Norwegian political parties would challenge them. They include:

  • railway nationalisation,
  • partial or full state ownership of key companies or sectors,
  • universal healthcare provisions,
  • state-funded house-building,
  • no tuition fee education,
  • education grants and loans

Jonas (right) adds that such policies have been integral to the social-democratic post-war consensus in all the Nordic countries, which. enjoy some of the world’s highest living standards and presumably should be a model to be emulated rather than avoided, and continues:

The whole controversy surrounding Mr Corbyn probably betrays more about Britain’s class divisions and how far the UK’s political spectrum has shifted to the right since the early-1980s, than it does of the practicality of his policy-proposals.

Reflecting this is British media whose ownership is highly concentrated: 70% of national newspapers are owned by just three companies and a third are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK . . . the British media has focused its reporting on the personal characteristics of Mr Corbyn, usually in rather unflattering terms, and shown scant or shallow regard to his policy-agenda.

He notes that a direct comparison of Britain with other similar European states would reveal both the dire condition of British living-standards for populations, particularly outside London and how conventionally social-democratic are Mr Corbyn’s policies.

Jonas Fossli Gjersø ends: “You might agree or disagree with his political position, but it is still far too early to discount Mr Corbyn’s potential success at the next general election – particularly if he manages to mobilise support from the circa 40% of the electorate who regularly fail to cast their ballot in elections…

“(J)ust as few recognised the socio-economic and ideological structural changes which converged to underpin Margaret Thatcher’s meteoric rise in the early-1980s, we cannot exclude the possibility that we are witnessing the social-democratic mirror image of that process today, with a prevailing wind from the left rather than the right”.

 

 

 

 

o

 

Desertions are good for Corbyn

This is Richard House’s challenging assertion as anti-Corbyn Labour MPs deserted the party in recent days. He continues:

“It’s too easily forgotten that the deserters are the same people who never accepted Corbyn’s leadership of the party from day one, and who’ve continually done everything possible – eagerly aided by their establishment media friends – to undermine him at every turn, so making his leadership job quite impossible.

“Remember the attempted MPs’ coup led by these people in their unconstitutional attempt to get rid of Corbyn? – this was long before the Labour Party anti-Semitism hysteria had ever been heard of.

“And having failed to displace Corbyn with their spiteful coup attempt, their fall-back was to concoct a carefully choreographed plan: namely, create a hysterical (but fictional) media storm about anti-Semitism; allow it to rage for a few months; then re-kindle it (literally making it up as they went along); and finally, when the fire was raging again, use this as a baseless pretext for splitting the Labour Party so we can have another five years of heartless Tory rule. Establishment job done.

“These “courageous” people have discharged their quasi-Tory bidding very well.

“Oh, and of course it’s just a coincidence that these deserters are all virulent Remainers who’ve never accepted the democratic result of the EU referendum, and will continue to do anything possible to reverse it.”

“One thing that May and Corbyn do have in common is that at least they’re trying to stay true to the democratic result of the EU referendum.

He concludes that – rather than having to devote huge amounts of time and energy defending themselves from relentless attacks from ‘serial underminers‘ within their own party – Corbyn and his team can now spend all their time on exposing the nation’s headlong social disintegration under Tory austerity.

 

And above all “inspiring us with their stellar policy portfolio”.o

 

Dr Richard House

Stroud, Gloucestershire

 

Source: Western Daily Press, 25 February 2019, p. 16–17

 

 

 

 

0