Tag: George Galloway

Fantasy Island

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I haven’t written anything on this site for a while now.  It’s actually rather difficult to know what to write when confronted with the astonishing spectacle of national self-destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Nowadays hardly a day passes without another  reminder that the UK has entered a new political dimension in which delusions of grandeur, magical thinking and ideological fantasy have replaced anything that we once thought had any connection to the real world.

These tendencies reach across the political spectrum.  You can find them in George Galloway, doing the full UKIP/Churchill thing on Arron Banks’s Westmonster website (sorry not linking to this) and reminding Europeans that WE saved them during WWII and that ‘If not for us not a single European politician would hold office anywhere unless as a Quisling collaborator of the German Reich.’  For the Churchillian war-child Galloway this means that ‘ when I hear a “Schnell” or an “Achtung” from the Junkers (sic) of this world I don’t consider it music in my ears.’

Let no one spoil this demagogic rant by telling Galloway that Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg not Germany. He already knows that.  But for Galloway, anyone who has anything to do with the EU is close enough to Nazis to make no difference, and anyone who says otherwise, like Churchill’s opponents, belong to what he calls ‘the gang of appeasers and fifth columnists within the British elite.’

Such idiocy, as we have seen for some time now, is not confined to the fringes.  Take Boris Johnson’s latest fatuous suggestion comparing the border between  Northern Ireland and Ireland to a congestion zone between Westminster and Camden.  Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, Johnson reminded Radio 4 listeners ‘ when I was mayor of London we anesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people traveling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks.’

Many people have pointed out that it may not be so easy to ‘anesthetically and invisibly’ bypass Irish history or a conflict that cost 3,000 lives.  It’s a bleak testament to the current state of things that such points even need to be made, or that a self-aggrandising buffoon like Johnson has any influence on anything at all.  But his continued presence in the corridors of power is a symptom of a detachment from reality that only seems to grow wider as the Brexit process slouches incoherently  towards political Neverland.

For eighteen months the May government has been asking for things it cannot have, promising things it cannot deliver, bluffing, posturing, and pursuing things that cannot be achieved, even as its own impact assessments predict that the country will be worse off in every single Brexit scenario.   Yet when civil servants point out the potential damage that the country is likely to inflict on itself, they are dismissed as traitors, quislings, closet Eurocrats or members of the ‘pro-European elite’.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote TS Eliot, and Brexiters cannot bear any reality at all that conflicts with their fantasy of a global buccaneering Britain, freed of EU red tape and the unwanted immigrants that the country depends on, able to smoke in pubs as we surge toward a brave new world that we now know will not be a ‘Mad Max-style’ dystopia.

In fact a country that allows its politics to be driven by ideological fantasies and straw man constructs is likely to find itself inhabiting a reality that is more dystopian than its opposite, and the right aren’t the only dreamers in Brexittown.  On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn once again demonstrated that the left is no less prone to magical thinking than the Rees-Mogg/Nadine Dorries crowd.

Corbyn’s speech was hailed by his fans as a ‘ bold Brexit vision’, because his fan base will never say anything different about anything he says.  But despite – or perhaps because of – its attempt to be everything to everyone, his speech was littered with little reminders of why His Majesty’s Opposition have presented very little opposition whatsoever to the Brexit process,  and has largely fallen over itself in its desire to wave it through.

There was a leftwing version of the ‘£350 million for the NHS’ pledge in Corbyn’s promise to ‘use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.’  While insisting that there should be ‘no scapegoating of migrants’, Corbyn once again promised that ‘Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the European Union.’

So migrants won’t be scapegoated, but freedom of movement – one of the great progressive achievements of the European Union – will end  in order ‘ To stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions’.

When Corbyn last mentioned this ‘importation’, it was in relation to the construction industry, which has a skills shortage and where wages are actually rising.   But Corbyn clearly believes that immigration is a ‘bosses club’ ploy and in Brexit Britain believing is everything.   Corbyn won’t accept a ‘ deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’ even though the EU has made it quite clear that it will not accept cherry-picking deals that allow the UK to continue to enjoy a privileged position without any obligations.   Then there is this:

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands. Brexit is what we make of it together, the priorities and choices we make in the negotiations.’

Not really.  Because whatever priorities and choices we decide upon, the UK is negotiating within a very limited set of parameters and is almost certain to find itself worse-off than it was before, no matter what is ultimately decided.  The tragedy is that neither the government nor the opposition want to admit this. Mesmerised by their own narrow party or personal interests, wide-eyed and prostrate before ‘the will of the people’, they offer fantasies and pipedreams and demand the impossible in an attempt to square circles that cannot be connected.

Sooner or later the consequences of this political cowardice and dereliction of duty will become impossible to ignore, and when that happens things may get even uglier than many of us imagine.  Because there are historic mistakes that cannot easily be undone, and Brexit is one of them.

For now, it seems, the millions of us who are unwilling passengers on this runaway train can merely sit while it heads towards the buffers, hostages to a political nightmare that we seem incapable of waking up from, shouting out warnings that those who are driving this process seem unable or unwilling to hear, and from the point of view of a writer – and a citizen – that is not a comfortable position to be in at all.

The above article was written by Matt Carr and originally published on his excellent blog, Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine at:

http://www.infernalmachine.co.uk/fantasy-island/

 

Black Friday & the Red Scare

By Daniel Margrain

The decision last Friday (August 12) by three Appeal Court judges to overturn High Court judge Hickinbottom’s determination four days earlier, ostensibly to prevent the right of 130,000 members to vote in the forthcoming Labour leadership election, is arguably among the most strangest of decisions to have been made in an English court. The five Labour members – Christine Evangelou, Edward Leir, Hannah Fordham, Chris Granger and an unnamed minor – who initially brought the case and whose legal fees were crowdfunded, had claimed that Labour’s rulebook made no provision for treating them differently and none had ever been made in any of the party’s previous leadership elections.

They also argued that when they joined, the Labour website and other communications said they would be ‘a key part of the team’, and thus eligible to vote in any leadership election as the graphic below illustrates:

Mr Justice Hickinbottom agreed. In last Monday’s initial written judgment on the six-month cut-off point, Hickinbottom said:

“At the time each of the claimants joined the party, it was the common understanding as reflected in the rule book that, if they joined the party prior to the election process commencing, as new members they would be entitled to vote in any leadership contest. That was the basis upon which each claimant joined the party; and the basis upon which they entered into the contract between members. For those reasons, the claimants’ claim succeeds.”

Hickinbottom said that a refusal to allow the 130,000 a vote was an unlawful breach of contract, adding that any attempt to reverse the decision “would have no chance of success at appeal”. And yet four days later after Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol had used Labour members’ money to fund the appeal to challenge the right of members to vote, the anti-Corbyn plotters were celebrating the reinstatement of a six-month cut-off point.

The bizarre nature of the judgement that is widely acknowledged to disadvantage Corbyn and to vindicate McNicol – at least temporarily – effectively endorses ballot rigging and gerrymandering as well as setting a precedent in terms of allowing the retrospective altering of contracts. Announcing the appeal court’s decision last Friday, Lord Justice Beatson said:

“On the correct interpretation of the party rules, the national executive committee has the power to set the criteria for members to be eligible to vote in the leadership election in the way that it did.”

This announcement came on the back of revelations by Wikileaks that the second of the three Appeal Court judges, Sir Philip Sales QC, who overruled the previous High Court decision, had been a Blair insider for years, having been recruited as Junior Counsel to the Crown in 1997.

The literature cited by WikiLeaks  reveals that Sales used to be a practising barrister at law chambers 11KBW, of which Tony Blair was a founder member and, as a key part of Blair’s legal team, he defended the Government’s decision against holding a public inquiry into the Iraq War in the High Court in 2005.

The conflict of interest issue that is raised by Sales’ close connection to Blair is bound to raise eyebrows given the nature of what clearly amounted to a breach of contract which was nevertheless overruled in favour of the NEC of which the Blairite establishment is embedded.

It has since come to light that the Labour machine broke the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) code after having advertised that a promise to vote for a leader was a condition of membership. There are also serious questions to be answered in terms of the basis in which the appeal which was instigated by the ‘NEC Procedures Committee’ was brought. But, as Eoin has highlighted, no such Committee is mentioned on the official list of NEC Committees.

The wider context to all these shenanigans stems from the moment Corbyn was elected leader of the party. From the outset, the intention of the Labour Party establishment has been to depose Corbyn through a sustained strategy of subversion and attrition. The latest wave of attacks began following the failed attempt – instigated by multi-millionaire donor, Michael Foster – to keep Corbyn off the ballot paper.

This was followed by ballot rigging in which 130,000 members who joined the party after Corbyn’s election victory were prevented from voting. The Labour machine did this by invoking a back-dated retrospective six month rule. Members were then informed that there was a legal problem with that because these members were told when they joined they had a right to vote in leadership elections.

In order to get around this, the machine introduced a 48 hour window in which anybody at all could join if they paid £25. Then they discovered that an enormous amount of people had paid the £25 and so began to ‘weed out’ anybody who they discovered had used the word ‘Blairite’ on social media sites. This was regarded as sufficient enough reason to debar members from voting.

Finally, the 130,000 members got justice in the High Court last Monday only to be confounded four days later. The attempt by Labour members of parliament to overthrow their democratically elected leader using this kind of war of attrition strategy will start all over again the day after Corbyn is re-elected next month.

We know this because Blair apologist John Rentoul – who is himself heavily implicated in the propaganda offensive against Corbyn – conceded as much on George Galloway’s Talk Radio Show last Friday evening when he insisted that Corbyn will continue to be subjected to a war of attrition including yearly elections that “will result in his eventual defeat.”

Rentoul tripped up on his own propaganda after admitting to Galloway that there are no more than 4,000 Trotskyite entryists out of a total of 600,000 members who have joined the party under Corbyn. He then contradicted himself by claiming that the small minority of ‘dormant’ Trotskyist members had ‘flooded back’ into the party having “taken advantage of naive and idealistic new members.” This is classic ‘reds under the bed’ scare politics.

The notion that hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised, social media savvy members are having their arms twisted by a relatively tiny handful of ‘shady individuals’ influenced by a revolutionary political figure who died more than a century ago, is clearly ludicrous.

Nevertheless, this is all part and parcel of a far reaching ‘scorched earth’ media propaganda offensive against Corbyn and his supporters, the latest and arguably the most repugnant of which was the recent Mail on-line edition in which anti-Corbyn Labour donor, Michael Foster, was quoted as describing Corbyn’s team as ‘Nazi Stormtroopers’. Clearly the irony is lost on Foster that during the 1930s, the Daily Mail supported Hitler and campaigned against the admission of Jewish refugees into the UK.

The establishments demonization of the left is not new. It fits into a wider media narrative that depicts all those who oppose the neoliberal hegemony of the state as subversive, dangerous and an inherent threat to civilization  As Craig Murray argues:

“A key weapon of the neo-liberal establishment in delegitimising the emergence of popular organisation to the left, is to portray all thinkers outside the Overton window as dangerous; actively violent, misogynist and racist.”

Murray illustrates, by recourse to various evidence-based case studies, “the obvious and glaring disparity” between what the media purports are the kinds of violent actions activists supposedly engage in, and the actual peaceful protests they collectively involve themselves in.

George Galloway emphasized that the kind of biased anti-Corbyn propaganda, which he claims is an integral part of a coup that has been coordinated by Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandleson is:

“unremitting, it is Goebbelian; it is a shame and a disgrace on anyone who calls themselves a journalist or a broadcaster. All rules have been thrown to the wind; all journalistic norms have been abandoned. It is open season on a good and honest man. It fills me with disgust.”

The abandonment of journalistic rules outlined by Galloway is not restricted to what is considered by many to be the tabloid end of the spectrum. On the contrary, it often includes the ‘respectable’ and ‘liberal’ journalism of which Channel 4 News, for example, is part. The analysis of the Cathy Newman interview below is an excellent dissection and exposition of the propaganda system as it operates as part of the latter:

Whether, the media will wear Corbyn down leading to his eventual removal as Rentoul suggests, or whether the former wins the war is an open question. The fact that Corbyn has recently secured a majority of his supporters on the NEC is a massive boost to his leadership and would seem to indicate that Corbyn’s arch enemy, Iain McNicol’s days are numbered. Nevertheless, it’s clear to me that the time has now come for Corbyn to come down much harder than he has done thus far on the traitors who are unremitting in their determination to undermine his authority.

 

 

Why it’s inappropriate to charge the killer of Jo Cox under terrorism legislation

By Daniel Margrain


A message from the vigil for Jo Cox in Leeds

A message from the vigil for Jo Cox in Leeds (Pic: Andrew Brammer)

 

It is my contention that it is wrong that Thomas Mair, who allegedly killed MP Jo Cox, be charged under terrorism legislation on the basis that such a determination is bound up with all kinds of ideological connotations. The argument of many of those commentators on the political left of the spectrum who take the contrary position and believe that it is appropriate to describe the violent actions committed against the Labour MP, as well as other far right-wing inspired attacks such as the Orlando massacre, as acts of terrorism, seem to have arrived at that conclusion based solely on the question of media’s lack of consistency when describing other similarly planned attacks – albeit motivated by the other end of the political or ideological spectrum.

While on the surface, the ‘lack of consistency’ observation is arguably an accurate one – as evidenced, for example, by the media’s hypocritical response to the case of Ryan McGee who built a nail bomb to attack Muslims – I will attempt to show, however, that it is not a necessarily commendable position to take. Over the last 15 years, the killing of individuals or groups in Western societies have to a greater extent involved a political subtext as a result of the media’s response to them, particularly within a context in which Western-instigated wars waged against Muslim countries have resulted in their ruination and destabilization.

Given that there is no universally accepted definition of terrorism, it follows that the political-inspired violence of individuals or groups, either in support of wars of aggression enacted by the state against its official adversaries, or in what is often perceived to be in opposition to them, illustrates the limitations of this narrow conceptual framework. Specifically, this can be seen, firstly, in terms of the difficulties involved in ascertaining what constitutes a terrorist act and, secondly, relates to the question as to who determines the conceptual framework by which those who are accused of terrorism are legally bound?

The widely used definition of terrorism which pertains to the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”, does not preclude the violence undertaken by states to similarly achieve political ends. Based on this understanding, it’s clear that all politically-motivated violence – whether undertaken by individuals, groups of state actors that include illegally constituted wars – amount to acts of ‘terrorism.’ Ostensibly, therefore, politician’s like Tony Blair and G.W. Bush who illegally led the rush to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003, are as equally culpable of committing terrorist acts as somebody like Osama bin Laden or Timothy McVeigh.

However, whilst on the surface such a determination sounds positive and is seen to serve a need for those who desire justice to be achieved, this consensus level playing field approach is paradoxically one that the state is keen to resist. Moreover, given the absence of any universally- defined legal framework for terrorism, the term is subjective. As Bruce Hoffman has noted:

“Terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore. Hence the decision to call someone or label some organization ‘terrorist’ becomes almost unavoidably subjective, depending largely on whether one sympathizes with or opposes the person/group/cause concerned. If one identifies with the victim of the violence, for example, then the act is terrorism. If, however, one identifies with the perpetrator, the violent act is regarded in a more sympathetic, if not positive (or, at the worst, an ambivalent) light; and it is not terrorism.”

As Hoffman also notes, for this and for political reasons, many news sources avoid using this term, opting instead for less accusatory words like “bombers” and “militants”.

It’s my argument that from an activists point of view, it’s important that the media make a distinction between illegal wars undertaken by state actors and the non-state politically-inspired violence of individuals and groups irrespective of whether the latter emanate from the left or right of the political spectrum. By charging some individuals or groups with terrorism offences predicated on politically-inspired violent actions but not others, potentially lends itself to accusations of double-standards and propaganda by the state. Those who doubt the veracity regarding the intention of the state to selectively invoke terrorism legislation need to look no further than the case of Pavlo Lapshyn – who murdered a Muslim and bombed mosques. This case represents the tip of a very large ice berg. As Craig Murray put it:

“Mair, McGee and Lapshyn would all, beyond any possible shadow of a doubt, have been charged with terrorism if they were Muslims. The decision is made by the Crown Prosecution Service, which has also recently decided that Tony Blair, Jack Straw, John Scarlett, Mark Allen et all will not stand trial for extraordinary rendition and complicity in torture, despite overwhelming evidence presented by the Metropolitan Police, including my own. There is a dark cloud of Islamophobia hanging over the Crown Prosecution Service. Given the totality of these decisions, there has to be.”

UK terrorism legislation which built up following the events on 9/11 and 7/7, is clearly intended as an ideological weapon whose purpose is to perpetuate this propaganda offensive in a highly selective and discriminatory way. This explains why the media resisted all attempts to describe the likes of the alleged far-right fascist killer of Jo Cox and the ultra-Zionist who hospitalized MP George Galloway as terrorists, but nevertheless regularly use the terrorist epithet to describe Islamist-inspired violence. The reality of the situation is that all charges of terrorism are legally unnecessary.

Instead, the appropriate course of action for the state to take is to invoke perfectly adequate murder and conspiracy to murder charges. Rather than running with the notion that Mair was a murderer who was almost certainly inspired by far-right politics, the line of the right-wing Daily Mail preferred the suggestion that the killer of Jo Cox allegedly targeted the MP due to a history of mental health problems. The implication is that these alleged mental health issues – in isolation – led to the attack on the Labour MP as though being mentally ill somehow makes one immune, as opposed to being sensitive, to the world which is the reality. The reality is that the mentally ill have no more propensity to violence than anybody else. As one commentator put it:

“The mentally ill are not other. They live in this world. They see the same media. And when the media tries to whip people into a frenzy, it is no surprise that some are whipped into a literal frenzy.”

The truth is that the right-wing media are using the issue of mental illness as a scapegoat for the crimes committed by a far-right politically-motivated murderer. As somebody who is currently diagnosed with anxiety and depression, the notion that some of the media are attempting to attribute the cause of the murder of Jo Cox to similar symptoms, is deeply offensive. This is not an attempt to absolve the murderer of any mental illness he may be suffering with, but merely to highlight that on its own it would have been highly unlikely to have been the cause.

It’s about time the media became unequivocal in emphasizing that, for the most part, wars are illegal state-sanctioned forms of collective violence, on the one hand, while on the other hand, they need to attribute lone killings – whatever their ideological motivations – as murders. In turn, the state needs to stop charging these murderers under terrorist legislation.

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Speech

By Daniel Margrain

I, like many other Labour supporters, spent yesterday afternoon glued to the telly in eager anticipation of the speech that was to come. I thought Corbyn looked, understandably, somewhat nervous and at times his frequent glances at the auto cue reflected a measure of uncertainty. He’s not the greatest of orator’s in say, the Galloway mold, but paradoxically, therein lies his strength. It’s the man’s humility that is arguably his strongest quality. It’s a quality that cannot be measured in the objective sense but you know it and feel it when you see it. And make no mistake, hundreds of thousands of us do see it.

But alongside that humility comes a level of integrity and steely resoluteness to get stuff done. One senses that here is a man who doesn’t suffer fools, and the media spin machine that plays to their tune, lightly. Underpinning this resolve, which is borne out of decades of principled and committed campaigning on issues that the establishment would rather whitewash away, is a man who is an idealist as much as he is a realist.

The image the media portray of him as a man out of time and place – a kind of naive and reluctant hero for the masses in the style of the Peter Sellers character in the film Being There – cannot be sustained for much longer. Indeed, I suspect that it’s a cliche that’s already run its course. Ultimately it’s his raw humanism and plain speaking that people seem to warm to the most.

I’m convinced that what people want more than ever are these kinds of politician’s. Somebody like George Galloway also has these qualities in abundance but with Corbyn you don’t get the self-centred inflated ego that comes with it. As you’ve by now realized, I’m a huge fan of the bloke and his policies as well as the new direction he intends to take the Party.

As for the speech itself, I thought it was refreshing and inspiring. I thought Corbyn was at his strongest during the middle section when he attacked the Tory government for the scaremongering tactics used against him when he was accused of threatening the economic interests of the public and the security of the country. The following extract from his speech was Corbyn at his most powerful:

The Tories talk about economic and family security being at risk from us the Labour party, or perhaps even more particularly, from me. I say this to them. How dare these people talk about security for families and people in Britain.

Where’s the security for families shuttled around the private rented sector on six month tenancies – with children endlessly having to change schools?  

Where’s the security for those tenants afraid to ask a landlord to fix a dangerous structure in their own homes because they might be evicted because they’ve gone to the local authority to seek the justice they’re entitled to?

Where’s the security for the carers struggling to support older family members as Tory local government cuts destroy social care and take away the help they need?  

Where’s the security for young people starting out on careers knowing they are locked out of any prospect of ever buying their own home by soaring house prices?

Where’s the security for families driven away from their children’s schools, their community and family ties by these welfare cuts?  

Where’s the security for the hundreds of thousands taking on self-employment with uncertain income, no sick pay, no Maternity Pay, no paid leave, no pension now facing the loss of the tax credits that keep them and their families afloat?  

And there’s no security for the 2.8 million households in Britain forced into debt by stagnating wages and the Tory record of the longest fall in living standards since records began.

And that’s the nub of it. Tory economic failure. An economy that works for the few, not for the many….

…It didn’t help our national security that, at the same time I was protesting outside the Iraqi Embassy about Saddam Hussein’s brutality, Tory ministers were secretly conniving with illegal arms sales to his regime.

It didn’t help our national security when we went to war with Iraq in defiance of the United Nations and on a false prospectus.

It didn’t help our national security to endure the loss of hundreds of brave British soldiers in that war while making no proper preparation for what to do after the fall of the regime.

Nor does it help our national security to give such fawning and uncritical support to regimes like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – who abuse their own citizens and repress democratic rights.

This is the spin Ian Dunt of politics.co.uk put on the speech:

Of all the speeches Jeremy Corbyn could have made, this was the most predictable and the most useless. There was no thematic content, no idea unifying what he was saying, no quality in delivery, no attempt to speak to the public outside the hall, no plan for the future and no sign he is prepared to work with the media to communicate his appeal more widely. It was the speech of someone who either doesn’t care or isn’t capable of speaking to anyone outside of his immediate supporters.

This was the common refrain of many within the wider media establishment spectrum. Clearly Dunt and me both witnessed two completely different speeches.

The vile Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC claimed, without evidence, that Corbyn will have difficulty getting the middle ground voter on-side, implying that his politics are somehow Marxist as opposed to essentially humanist. Kuenssberg’s assertion went unchallenged. So much for the BBCs alleged impartiality. Her tone in all her commentaries on Corbyn thus far have been condescending at best and outright dishonest at worse. But she is far from being alone on that front.

The mainstream media and the establishment elite cannot handle the idea that Corbyn can be both a campaigner and a leader, or that decision making can be a democratic process emanating from the bottom up. They just can’t seem to get to grips with the rapidly changing nature of British politics in 2015. In that regard, the people of Britain are a country mile ahead of a media that is frankly out of touch and becoming increasingly irrelevant as each day passes.

This also explains why people are turning to alternative and social media sources for their information. I think it was a positive move that Corbyn made when he tasked Watson to work on the social media aspect of his campaign which is, of course, important. But equally, we ought not forget that the majority of people in this country still consume their news through traditional methods.

I believe Corbyn can, and will, capture the centre ground because ultimately he is essentially a humanist at heart and humanism is centrist. But you would never believe that after having analysed the media who continue to portray him as “hard left” although that particular epithet is starting to wane. There is currently a campaign doing the rounds that has almost reached the 100,000 signatures required to ensure that, in the name of parity, pressure is put on the BBC to describe Cameron as “hard right.”

If Corbyn does win over the party and eventually get elected as PM, the turn of events will have an uncanny resemblance to the plot line of the brilliant television drama A Very British Coup. Unlike, Being There, such an eventuality would be akin to a situation in which life imitates art. Let ‘Corbynmania’ continue long into the nights and days ahead.

Is the BBCs Ian Pannell complicit in crude anti-Syrian propaganda?

By Daniel Margrain

This is Ian Pannell’s latest BBC report on Syrian chemical weapon use (September 10) allegedly by the Syrian government. Apparently this is yet more evidence of chemical attacks.

I want to declare from the outset that I am not a conspiracy theorist. That’s not to say, historically, there have not been genuine conspiracies’ undertaken by the state against adversaries that have served the political agendas of their protagonists.These have come in many guises from false flag attacks such as the Russian apartment bombings in 1999, the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 and the nurse Nayirah affair in 1990.

After having studied the contents of Robert Stuart’s blog in which he has meticulously and tenaciously examined the September 30, 2013 edition of the BBC Panorama documentary, ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and other related BBC news reports by presenter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway, Stuart has attempted, without much success, to negotiate around its Orwellian complaints procedure.

Pannell’s reports’ appeared peak time on BBC TV a few days after the attack in Ghouta and were seemingly intended as a propaganda tool in the prelude to war. After having studied Pannell’s work and Stuart’s detailed analysis, it’s impossible to disagree with journalist Jonathan Cook who said that we, the news consumers, “are being constantly spun by the media machine that’s the modern equivalent of “soma”, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World that its citizens were fed to keep them docile and happy.” 

What the Panorama documentary and related reports actually illustrate, in line with Chomsky and Herman’s Propaganda Model, is the media’s apparent ability to be able to keep many of us in a state of perpetual hypnosis. Stuart contends that sequences filmed by BBC staff and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a school in Urm Al-Kubra are largely, if not entirely, staged.

Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns. In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress.

My first impression after having seen the film was that it was totally contrived and staffed by actors. What initially led me to this conclusion were the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looked directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Many other anomalies and contradictions too numerous to mention here in detail were evident throughout the Panorama documentary and the related reports’. These included conflicting and contradictory accounts, a “victim” who appeared to be grinning, implausible demeanours’ of alleged victims, questions as to the authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors, apparent choreographed behaviour, unconvincing injuries and testimonies’ that challenge the BBC version of events.

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of all was the participation of Dr. Rola Hallam who appeared anonymously to report on the aftermath of another attack in Syria. Her emotional call for humanitarian intervention in the shape of bombs drew parallels with “Nurse Nayirah“‘s lies to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the run up to the US vote on the 1990-91 Gulf War.

But arguably most significantly of all, in a report headlined BBC Crew returns to Aleppo on 30 September 2013, rehashed footage from the original programme was aired again. The BBC explains “In a special edition, Panorama travels with British doctors inside Syria to exclusively reveal the devastating impact of the war on children caught in the conflict”  It is a heart-rending report of the suffering of the Syrian people, made so as to demonise the Syrian government.

Close inspection of the two different versions reveals that there were actually two or more takes of this scene.  The easiest tell is the arm position of the man in the fluorescent jacket next to the doctor.

If Dr Rola was as “overwhelmed” as the video claims, why take time off to do multiple almost identical takes of an interview?

The BBC portrayed this as a live action piece with casualties being rushed in. But clearly this is nonsense given that it must of been rehearsed because several takes were done. Furthermore, nobody else in the courtyard is wearing a face mask. One would have thought that if the doctor had time for various takes she would also have time to take her mask off to talk to camera.

Both Panorama programmes talk of two British female doctors, “volunteers for the Charity Hand-in-Hand-for Syria“, suspected to be Dr Rola Hallam and Dr Saleyha Ahsan. The BBC did not mention the backgrounds of either of the “charitable volunteers”. Dr Rola’s connections to the SNO and FSA and the fact that she was shilling for military action under medical/charitable/ altruistic volunteer credentials, all of which the BBC clearly understood but deliberately witheld from the viewer.

Her father is Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, a senior SNO member – who actually taught Assad at university; the Dep leader of the FSA is Col Malik al-Kurdi. Her on-site colleague is a former Captain in the British Army Medical Corps. There is plenty of other clear corroborating evidence of her support for the rebellion too.

All of it was hidden by the BBC who gave the impression she is just an ordinary doctor with selfless humanitarian concerns and plays to the Western interventionist agenda perfectly.

The BBC has not addressed any of the legitimate issues raised. All of the anomalies and contradictions call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack. George Galloway said:

The Bush-Blair Corporation as it became known leading up to the Iraq war has lost almost all journalistic integrity. A full inquiry must be launched into why the BBC used a piece of material that was not just wrong but was falsified…for the purpose of propelling our country into war. That’s not what the British public pays its TV license for so that it can be tricked into a war

It’s my view that it’s probable some kind of chemical attack did indeed take place but in a different location to the one depicted but the BBC embellished, fabricated and falsified the aftermath for propaganda purposes. The claims made throughout were that the Assad regime was responsible for the alleged attack despite the fact that there is no evidence supporting the assertion that he was responsible for the chemical attacks in Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus on September 16 prior to the BBC documentary.

What both Pannell’s latest BBC report and Jonathan Rugman’s recent piece for Channel 4 News before that highlight, is that once again, the British public is being conditioned for war. Two years ago, when the majority of MPs voted against intervention in Syria, would seem to suggest that MPs were sensitive to the views of a highly sceptical and hostile public. But Cameron’s cynical exploitation of the little boy found washed up dead on a Turkish beach, might change all that.

The Rise of the BNP: Time To Question Freedom?

The BBC’s long-running political debating programme, Question Time, entrenched itself in controversy recently, following the decision by BBC executives to allow on to the show the  British National Parties (BNP’s) leader Nick Griffin. In western liberal democracies like Britain, which supposedly value democratic free speech, is it right that Griffin be granted a major political platform such as the BBC as a vehicle with which to air his organizations views?
The intention in the first half of this article, is to provide the reader with an outline of the nature of the party, its historical trajectory and what the implications are for granting the BNP the oxygen of media publicity. In the second half, the educational and professional backgrounds of those responsible for the decision-making process which allowed Griffin on to the programme, in addition to the possible grounds by which he was invited, will be evaluated.
The BNP is widely regarded to be a far-right fascist political organization (1) (2) (3). In this sense, the party represents a unique threat to all forms of democracy at every level of society. This includes the removal of the rights of all working class people – black and white, Jewish and non-Jewish, Muslim and non-Muslim (4).
The Standards Board for England ruled in 2005 that describing the BNP as Nazi was “within the normal and acceptable limits of political debate” (5). The Daily Mirror newspaper described the party’s MEP’s as “vile prophets who preach a Nazi-style doctrine of racial hatred” (6).
An editorial in The Guardian characterizes the BNP as “a racist organization with a fascist pedigree that rightfully belongs under a stone” (7).  The European Parliament’s Committee on racism and xenophobia described the BNP as an “openly Nazi party” (8). When asked in 1993 if the party was racist, its deputy leader Richard Edmonds, who has been convicted for racist violence, said: “We are 100 percent racist, yes.” (9).
The BNP was formed in 1982 in Britain under the leadership of John Tyndall, one of the countries foremost post-war fascists, who proclaimed that “Mein Kampf is my bible” (10). At that time the BNP remained in the shadow of the larger National Front (NF). The NF split, torn as they were by internal conflict, created a space which the BNP filled (11).
One of the BNPs main activists in 1985 was Tony Lecomber. Lecomber was sent to prison for attempting to detonate explosives at the offices of a rival political organization. He was also caught with hand-grenades and was jailed for three years for assaulting a Jewish teacher (12). He was propaganda director at the time of the latter conviction (13).
Lecomber is not alone:  Many other BNP members  have been convicted for racially-motivated violence.  Kevin Scott, the BNP’s North East regional advisor, for example, has two convictions for assault and using threatening words and behaviour against ethnic minorities (14). In addition, Joe Owens, a former BNP candidate, has served eight months in prison for sending razor blades to Jewish people in the post, and another term for carrying CS gas and knuckledusters (15).
Other BNP members and supporters, that include Stephen O’Shea and Simon Briggs, have been convicted for violent racist attacks (16). In 1998, Nick Griffin received a nine-month prison sentence for inciting racial hatred (17). Griffin subsequently became leader of the party in 1999.
During the early 1990s, much of the BNP”s activities were focused on East London, where, in 1993, it secured a council by-election victory in the Tower Hamlets ward of Millwall. The price to pay was a massive rise in racial attacks (18).
At about the same time, the BNP spawned the violent Combat 18 (C18) as its security force. C18 later emerged as a Nazi terror group, responsible for a letter bomb campaign and a series of murders. C18 thugs, made up of football hooligans and Nazi skinheads, protected both BNP meetings and the BNP leadership during party marches.
In 1993, the BNP became increasingly embarrassed by Combat 18 violence. After its victory in Millwall, it decided it no longer needed the street thugs and banned dual membership. However, most BNP members ignored this plea. In September 1995, four of the five London BNP branch organizers attended a C18 meeting (19).
The Millwall seat was lost eight months later. The BNP lost momentum, with younger members going over to C18. Tyndall reversed the slide by adopting a more hardline strategy, which included bringing veteran US Nazi leader, William Pierce, to London.

William Pierce
Pierce penned the tract, The Turner Diaries, which inspired both the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the politicised BNP supporter, David Copeland, who was convicted for the bombing of a London pub (20).
During this period in the mid-1990s, the organization began to adopt a more respectable image:
It campaigned on rural issues and, publicly at least, watered down some of its more overt racism, co-opting many of the policies which have traditionally been the domain of the political left (21).
In 1999, it  exploited the debate in relation to proportional representation as an opportunity to begin the biggest racist recruitment drive ever to have taken place in Britain, launching a new party political broadcast and delivering 15 million leaflets (22).
Since this apparent surface shift in strategy in the mid 1990s, the BNP’s support has relatively increased, albeit intermittently. In 2002, for example, the BNP won three council seats in Burnley, and averaged 28 per cent of the town-wide vote. In Oldham, the party came second in four of the five wards it contested, and took an average 27 per cent.
Across the country, the BNP averaged 16 per cent in the council wards it contested – the best election results in its history. However, this must be offset against the fact that it only challenged less than one per cent of all seats up for election. Since then, they have added further seats, a total that currently stands at 46 out of around a possible total of some 21,000.
In the 2005 General Election, the BNP stood 119 candidates across England, Scotland and Wales. Between those candidates, they polled 192,850 votes, gaining an average of 4.2 per cent across the several seats it stood in and 0.7 per cent nationwide – more than three times its percentage at the 2001 election (23). Of these votes, half originated from disaffected New Labour voters (the governing party) consisting of semi-skilled manual workers, pensioners and the unemployed (24).
However, it is important not to exaggerate the overall reach of the BNP: It did not stand nationwide, meaning its national share of the vote was substantially lower than that of other minor parties and exit poll predictions of 3 per cent (25).
Still, indications are that relatively the BNP is increasing its support amongst sections of the UK voting population (26) (27), against a background and climate of increasing racism (28). Consequently, the ugly face of racially-motivated violence appears to be never far away.
In October 2006, for example, Robert Cottage, an BNP candidate to represent Colne and Pendle Council earlier that year, was arrested under the Explosives Act on suspicion of possessing chemicals that may be capable of making an explosion (29).
Cottage was also reported has having in his possession the largest quantity of explosives of its kind found in the country (30).
On 31st of July 2007, Cottage was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment for the charge of possessing explosives (31).
Electorally, the European elections of 2009 resulted in the BNP attracting one million votes, which translated into them winning two seats in the European parliament. One of these seats was won by Griffin, who was elected for the North West region with 8 per cent of the vote (32).
So, how can the current growing relative popularity amongst sections of the British people for the BNP, be reconciled with the organizations historical tendency for racially-motivated violence?
For the answer to that question we need to examine the specific socioeconomic circumstances and conditions which arguably provide the catalyst for such violence.
Historically speaking, the defining characteristic of fascist parties has been their apparent propensity to be able to exploit prevailing unstable economic conditions. To a large extent, fascism thrives on the support it receives from what are frequently perceived as the disenfranchised in society, who suffer disproportionately from any global downturn in the economic cycle.
Thus, the uneven growth or decline in the fortunes of fascist political parties such as the BNP, is mirrored by the economic conditions in society at any given time. In short, during periods of low unemployment and relative economic stability, workers are less likely to vote for, and support, fascist political parties. On the other hand, when workers feel socially and economically vulnerable during periods of economic downturn, then some people are prone to translate their internal frustrations and anger in an external way by terrorizing minority and immigrant communities and/or towards supporting fascist political parties who cynically channel this anger and frustration into violent actions themselves (33) (34) (35).
Moreover, support for parties like the BNP appears to be predicated on the perceived failure of mainstream established political parties in addressing many of the legitimate concerns that working people face in their everyday lives as evidenced by half of the BNP’s support (as of 2005) originating from the New Labour government as highlighted above. One of the main concerns is the lack of availability of affordable social housing in the UK, the construction of which have dropped by 99 per cent in the last 12 years of the New Labour government (36).
The BNP are a major beneficiary of this kind of disaffection which they are able to exploit electorally, as evidenced for example, by their by-election victory in Kent which stemmed from fears over unemployment and issues around immigration and race (37). In this regard, the BNP have been able to play on mainstream concerns about the economy, crime, housing and unemployment, while also exploiting more traditional far right subjects such as immigration and fears about Islamist extremism. Their use of the issue of migrant workers in particular, combines fears about immigration with the reality of rising unemployment (38).
So a direct correlation appears to exist between economic crisis or downturn, the inability of established governing political parties to address the legitimate concerns of a large proportion of the electorate, and the rise of political parties like the BNP. Given that the current global economic downturn is predicted by many experts to be a medium to long-term problem (39), the consequences for ethnic minorities who are the brunt of the BNP’s message (40), appears to be less than a rosy one. The growing popularity for the BNP is echoed in respect to the corresponding mainstream and corporate media coverage and publicity they have increasingly garnered in recent years – coverage that nevertheless, is seemingly disproportionate to the relatively small number of votes they receive (41).
In a democracy, ought not all views, no matter how potentially repugnant, be heard by the population at large, particularly if such views are apparently representative of an increasing amount of people?
If the level of support for the BNP has grown to the extent as to warrant their exposure on the popular television debating programme, Question Time, what possible grounds could there be to censor such views?
This might be a valid argument, if it was the case that the BNP are a political organization whose ideology was not fascist. As distinct from all other UK political parties, the BNP’s leader has denied the reality of the existence of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews, alongside millions of others, perished (42). Further, unlike any other party, the BNP discriminate against people on the basis of their ethnicity over which they have no control, and openly advocate the repatriation of “non-whites” (43). Up until October, 2009, the BNP required that all members must be of the “Indigenous Caucasian” racial group (44). This requirement was challenged legally by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who won their case against the BNP. Since October, 2009, ethnic minorities have been allowed to join the party (45).
It is for these, and other reasons, such as their use of intimidation and racial violence, that the claims for the legal legitimization of the BNP have been called into question – the case being that the agenda of the BNP is not a political, but a criminal one. All the evidence points to the fact that where the BNP have been politically active, have targeted its election campaigns or have otherwise had a presence, the resulting publicity has resulted in an increase in the amount of race attacks (46) (47).
In 1993, following their local council by-election victory in the Tower Hamlets ward of Millwall, for example, racial incidents increased by 300 per cent in the three months following the election (48). Barking in East London, has seen a 30 per cent rise in racist attacks since the BNP’s successful campaign in the borough (49). Two years ago, Griffin generated a significant amount of publicity following the controversy surrounding Oxford universities decision to allow him a public platform to address students at the universities campus. In the days following his speech, racist attacks in the Oxford area increased significantly (50).
At the time of  Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, the BBC attracted an audience of almost 8 million viewers, three times its average (51). Following the publicity generated by Griffin’s appearance, The Daily Telegraph newspaper revealed the results of a UK Gov opinion poll which indicated that 22 percent of British people would “seriously consider” voting for the BNP (52). Moreover, the BNP claimed that 9,000 people applied to join them after the programme aired (53).
It is usual for the BBC to announce the line-up of the show one or two days prior to broadcast, but on this occasion it stated that Griffin would be appearing many months in advance of it going to air. This generated further interest from amongst others, BBC Radio One and Channel 4 News.
Was this a deliberate cynical attempt by the BBC to increase their viewing-figure ratings in the almost certain knowledge that such an increase would by turn increase the profile of the BNP?
What does appear inconceivable, is that BBC management would have been unaware of the consequences for Britain’s ethnic minority population of granting the BNP this “gift horse” amount of public exposure.
Was the decision by the BBC to invite Griffin on to the show based partly on the shared professional and educational backgrounds of those concerned?
Many of the individuals who were directly responsible for overseeing Oxbridge-educated Griffin’s appearance, had themselves been educated at one of two of Britain’s elite educational establishments – Oxford and Cambridge. For example, BBC director-general, Mark Thompson was educated at Oxford, where Griffin was granted a public platform to speak. Following his appearance on the show, Griffin, who graduated in law, told the Guardian newspaper that he admired Thompson’s “personal courage” by inviting him (54).
Nicholas Kroll, director of the BBC Trust – an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the viewing public – was educated at Oxford. At least three of the 12 members of the government-appointed trustees, were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge, while the remainder have a background in either law, business or economics (55).
So what were the grounds for the BBC inviting Griffin on the the Question Time programme?
BBC deputy director-general Mark Byford defended the BBC’s decision on the grounds of impartiality, insisting that Griffin’s invitation was not based on boosting viewing figures. Byford said it was “not for the BBC” to engage in censorship, echoing the views of his boss, Thompson, by saying that such issues were a matter for government (56). The Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was also educated at an elite university, Edinburgh, responded that the responsibility to allow Griffin on to the programme was the BBC’s (57).
In words that would have been music to the ears of Griffin, Brown said:
“I think the days of Britain having to apologize for our history are over….I think we should celebrate much of our [imperialist] past rather than apologize for it, and we should talk, rightly so, about British values” (58).
The “values” that Brown was referring to were not made clear.
After having the ‘buck’ passed back to them by Brown, the BBC were effectively compelled to pass the issue over to the government-appointed business-friendly and Oxbridge-educated BBC Trust, after cabinet minister Peter Hain and others, appealed against the decision to allow Griffin on to the programme (59).
Although in principle the BBC Trust is able to intervene in cases like this, in practice the body never interferes in individual programme content prior to transmission. A BBC Trust spokeswoman told MediaGuardian:
“The trust is the sovereign body of the BBC and could, in principle, intervene before a programme is broadcast. However, there is a long-established convention that it does not take a view on the editorial content of individual programmes before transmission, but only reviews them after transmission” (60) – cold comfort for Britain’s ethnic minorities, many of whom would have been verbally and racially assaulted as a direct result of the programme airing.
Does the decision to allow Griffin on to the programme on the grounds that not to do so, would break the corporation’s alleged impartiality guidelines, stand up to scrutiny?
The BBC frequently break their “impartiality” guidelines. This often takes the form of  BBC journalists  accepting the views and pronouncements of those in political power uncritically and as a given. In 2007, for example, Justin Webb, then the BBC’s North America editor, rejected the charge that he is a propagandist for US power, saying:
“Nobody ever tells me what to say about America or the attitude to take about the United States. And that is the case right across the board in television as well” (61).
Webb began a radio programme from the Middle East thus:
“June 2005. US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice flies to Cairo and at the American University makes a speech that will go down in history: “For sixty years my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East; and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”
Webb told his listeners in all seriousness:
“I believe the Bush administration genuinely wanted that speech to be a new turning point; a new start” (62).
Nobody had to tell Webb to say these words; he genuinely believed them.
Consider too, the pronouncements of one BBC correspondent, reporting from Iraq:
“This is not promising soil in which to plant a Western-style open society.”
And:
“The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights” (63).
When investigative journalists challenged BBC news director Helen Boaden on whether she thought this version of US-UK intent perhaps compromised the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting, she replied that such “analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many of the speeches and remarks of both Mr Bush and Mr Blair” (64).
In March, 2009, BBC reporter Reeta Chakrabarti was asked why she had claimed that Tony Blair had “passionately believed” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After all, an alternative thesis – based on a mountain of compelling evidence – is that Blair was lying. Chakrabarti responded:
“I said Mr Blair passionately believed Iraq had wmd because he has consistently said so” (65).
In other words, for the BBC it appears to be a given that the unchallenged pronouncements of Western political leaders who speak on behalf of powerful economic interests, are the truth.
In 1999, the BBC  made the clear political decision to allow its own high-profile newsreader, Jill Dando, to present a DEC appeal for Kosovo at the height of NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign against Serbian “genocide” in Kosovo (claims that have since been quietly abandoned). Shortly after broadcasting the appeal, with bombing still underway, the BBC reported:
“Millions of pounds of donations have been flooding in to help the Kosovo refugees after a national television appeal for funds” (66).
This article linked to related reports on the conflict, which included comments from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair:
“This will be a daily pounding until he [the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic] comes into line with the terms laid down by NATO” (67).
This contrasts with the BBC’s decision not to broadcast the Gaza Charity Appeal in response to Israel’s violent 22-day attack on Gaza late last year. The attack resulted in the killing of a minimum 1,300 people and the wounding of 4,200 others. Israeli forces repeatedly bombed schools, medical centres, hospitals, ambulances, UN buildings, power plants, roads, bridges and civilian homes. The BBC’s refusal to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, breached an agreement that dates back to 1963 and left “aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations” (68).
The BBC apparently had no concerns that this might damage its alleged reputation for impartiality. The BBC argument is made absurd by its consistent and very obvious pro-Israeli bias. An early version of January 28 BBC online article (since amended) commented:
“Israel has carried out an air attack in the Gaza strip and launched an incursion with tanks and bulldozers across the border….The incursion follows a bomb attack which killed one Israeli soldier and wounded three near the Gaza border” (69). As usual, the BBC presented the Israeli attack as a response to Palestinian violence in which it was falsely claimed that they (the Palestinians) had broken an earlier ceasefire. In fact, Israel forces had already violated the ceasefire at least seven times (70).
The BBC’s claims of impartiality, are further compromised in relation to the nature of their senior management appointments. These are made by the government of the day. At the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, both the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies and his director-general, Gregg Dyke, were supporters of, and donors to, the Labour Party. Davies’s wife ran Gordon Brown’s office; his children served as pageboy and bridesmaid at the Brown wedding. Tony Blair has stayed at Davies’s holiday home. “In other words”, noted columnist Richard Ingrams, “it would be harder to find a better example of a Tony crony” (71).
BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan lost his job after intense government flak in response to Gilligan’s report that the Blair regime had manipulated intelligence over Iraq’s supposed WMD (72).
Consider too, the establishment links of the members of the BBC Trust whose duty it is to uphold its public obligations, including impartiality. Notwithstanding the unrepresentative nature of the trust, as reflected in its members educational and professional backgrounds (see above), the BBC’s claim for impartiality cannot be sustained on the grounds of ideology alone.
One of these trustee worthies is Anthony Fry, formerly of Rothschilds and later the ill-fated Lehman Brothers where he was head of UK operations. Fry boasts on the BBC website:
“Having spent my career in the City as an investment banker, for over a decade specializing in the media industry, it’s a great privilege to bring my commercial understanding of the sector to help the BBC deliver value for licence fee payers in today’s rapidly changing broadcasting environment” (73).
Are we to believe that these individuals are independent of the government that appointed them and of the elite corporate and other vested interests in which they are deeply embedded?
Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, was honest in his assessment of the corporation and its relationship to the establishment:
“They know they can trust us not to be really impartial” (74).
What these clear examples of double standards and bias illustrate, is that the notion the BBC were obliged to invite Griffin on to the Question Time programme on the spurious  grounds that to deny him an invitation could conceivably undermine their claims for impartiality, are clearly bogus.
The BBC’s close ties to the British establishment undermines their credibility for impartiality at the first hurdle.
To recap: Many of their top executives were educated at one of the two elite universities Griffin was educated at and allowed to speak at. Moreover, having clearly made contradictory and politically-motivated decisions in the past – the latest of which was to invite the leader of a fascist political organization, whose existence is legally open to question, on to one of their flagship-political debating programmes – further undermines the BBC’s credibility.
The kind of cosy relationship the corporation has with the government of the day and with people like Nick Griffin and the BNP, makes sense when one considers the British establishments well documented historical links with the political far-right. The Daily Mail newspaper, for example, whose then owner Lord Rothermere, was both a supporter and friends of Hitler and Mussolini (75), propagated anti-Jewish sentiment at the end of the Second World War, as a catalyst for the then government to stem the flow of Jewish immigration into the country (76) (77).
This is the same establishment newspaper which, under the guise of the “war on terror”, regularly sensationalizes anti-Muslim stories on to its front pages, whilst relegating the relatively higher amount of terrorist activities of the far-right in its inside pages (78) (79).
Were the BBC justified in granting Griffin a slot on the programme on the grounds of freedom of expression?
This brings into sharp focus the concept of freedom in a liberal democracy like Britain. Unlike the First Amendment of the US Constitution, Britain does not regard unconditional freedom of expression as a right. In this sense, Britain (and most of Europe) regards such freedoms as necessarily restricted by the interventions of the state. The aim of such intervention is the restriction of some freedoms which are deemed to undermine the public good and society in general. In this regard, a persons freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded public space like a theatre, is limited by the right of other people not to be crushed to death in the resulting stampede.
In theory, existing UK law is designed to restrict the freedom of individuals like Griffin to publicly use inflammatory language that is intended to incite religious and/or racial hatred and violence. Perhaps the BBC thought Griffin’s arguments would be sufficiently ridiculed by the other panelists on the show?
Indeed, this kind of argument is often used by those who defend the right of people like Griffin to be heard. In theory, this might appear to be a plausible position to take. Clearly though, Griffin’s arguments were not adequately challenged by members of the panel on the Question Time programme (80).
Government minister Jack Straw’s performance, for example – whose position on race relations had itself been compromised by his refusal to meet with a female Muslim constituent at his Blackburn surgery – was regarded by many as inept and ineffectual (81) (82).
This begs the question as why it was the government hierarchy made the decision to use Straw as their representative (and therefore, by extension, the people) on the programme?
Could it of been that in the almost certain knowledge of Griffin’s arguments surviving the programme unscathed, they would have been aware of the likelihood of an increasing potential for racial tension and social conflict in the country?
The social policy objective of  “divide and conquer” implied by such a strategy, has served various governments both past and present very well (83). Thus, there is no reason to believe why such a strategy would not be repeated.
But Straw was not the only guest on the show who failed to expose the policies of the BNP. Many of the audience would have felt alienated by what seemed to be an attack by the whole establishment on one individual. Griffin was attempting to tap into this alienation. The biggest problem with Question Time was the lack of a genuine workers’ representative that could have punctured this attempt. Instead, Griffin was on a panel with establishment politicians, all of whom support anti-working class and pro-big business policies (84).
Whatever the reasons were for the government and BBC establishment deciding on their choices to confront Griffin, the fact that the latter effectively side-stepped the laws relating to conditional freedom of expression by granting him the platform of Question Time, highlights the limitations of applying existing British law in what clearly is a legal “grey area”.
Such a controversy would not be an issue in a country like the US, on the basis that one of the principles of the US constitution is the notion of unconditional or unlimited freedom of expression. Many people clearly remain convinced of the merits of unlimited freedom of expression and the First Amendment that overrides it, on the basis that all views in a “free” society, no matter how potentially offensive and repugnant, ought to be heard. The American, Michael Harrison, editor of “Talkers Magazine” is one such person.
When questioned by talk show host and British MP George Galloway on this subject, Harrison defended the rights of Nazis and their supporters to provocatively goose-step up and down the streets of a Jewish community in a major city, openly preach support of Hitler and to deny the Holocaust in which the relatives of the people living their would have probably been gassed to death (85).
For Harrison, the clear potential for civil unrest and violence resulting from the state legitimization of such behaviour, was a price he considered was worth paying in the defence of unconditional unlimited freedom of expression (86).
It is worth remembering that Hitler, under the guise of unlimited freedom of the kind espoused by Harrison, came to power as Chancellor in Germany in 1933 with one-third of the vote, only for him to abolish freedom altogether. Democratic freedom and the right to vote was only restored following the overthrow of the fascist regime by the allies over a decade later.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin, in countering this unlimited notion of freedom from which emerged Hitler fascism, put it well when he said:
“One is free to move ones fist in the direction of my face, but ones freedom ends at the point at which the fist makes contact with it” (87).
Sadly, for many of Britain’s ethnic minorities, the price to be paid for allowing people like Nick Griffin on to programmes like Question Time, is an increase in the incidence of the fascist fist and jackboot to their faces.
Copyright: Daniel Margrain, 2009.
For details of specific references applicable to the above article, contact the author at: margrain.daniel@yahoo.co.uk
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