Monday, July 23, 2007

John Doe, Rachel Ehrenfeld, & Fairness Doctrine

Do Americans have the right to raise alarm about potential terrorist threats to their safety, or governmental designs upon their property? That's what the John Doe protection that Congressional Democrats just scuttled is about. That's what the legal battle that Rachel Ehrenfeld is fighting is about. That's what the defense of free air waves is about.

Powerline attorney John Hinderaker brings us up to date on the 304-121 House approval of protection for citizens from lawsuits when they report suspicious behavior to the authorities, dropped from the Homeland Security bill by conferees.

Robert Spencer brings us up to date about Rachel Ehrenfeld's resistance to a Saudi billionaire funder of terrorists' efforts to silence her through court costs intimidation.

Ed Morrissey brings us up to date about Norm Coleman's confrontation of Democrats' efforts to silence conservative talk radio's market-based popularity.

In all three instances, and many more, if analysis or criticism of powerful or incumbant interests are silenced, we are all not only silenced but, often and dangerously, put at grave mortal and personal risk. The First Amendment is not a political nicety.


Pervasive dishonesty at the Leftist BBC

The BBC executive board gathered for its regular meeting last Tuesday morning for coffee, biscuits and meltdown. The previous evening, at 5pm, the deadline had passed for producers to come forward confessing, in a spirit of openness and honesty, to programmes they had made that had misled the public in some way. The invitation for them so to do had been extended by both Jana Bennett, the BBC's director of vision and an executive board member, and Jenny Abramsky, the BBC's director of audio and music. They, and other BBC chiefs, were giving staff a chance to come clean after revelations that a trailer for a programme about the Queen had been less than truthful with viewers, and that the corporation had also been fined 50,000 pounds for faking a Blue Peter competition.

Much to the apparent surprise of Bennett and Abramsky, two experienced and highly respected corporation bureaucrats, a procession of contrite and nervous producers came forward to 'fess up. The public, it seemed, had been deceived with unnerving consistency, particularly over programmes with phone-in polls and competitions. And on the corporation's most noble flagship enterprises, too. Comic Relief and Children in Need, for example. "We just sat there absolutely stunned," one executive board member told me, "shocked beyond belief. Nobody had any idea that this was going on on such a scale."

Not even Bennett and Abramsky, when they asked for producers to come forward? "Nobody. Nobody at all. And we had the very powerful sense that there was a lot more to come. And we thought this time no excuses, something really has to be done."

In the short term this might mean the ceremonial defenestration, for the benefit of a baying Fleet Street and an angry public, of some high-ranking executive. Bennett perhaps, even though she is one of the corporation's most talented and savvy apparatchiks? "But if Jana, why not Mark [Thompson, the director-general]? He is about as remote in the hierarchy from what went on as she is."

The feeling within the upper echelons of the BBC is that the sacrifice of a senior figure would be a capitulation too far to critics, although how far that view is shared lower down is a moot point. There is a certain glee and schaden-freude in some parts of the corporation, long dismayed at the grubby and antiReithian business of chasing the ratings with lowest common denominator broadcasting. Either way, all those I spoke to believe the BBC needs a change of culture, that it needs to decide what it is there for and why we should continue to pay for its existence, compulsorily and on pain of imprisonment if we don't fork out.

"Why are we doing these phone-in polls?" said the executive board member. "In what possible sense are they public service broadcasting? "The programme makers tell you that it's an invaluable way of reaching the difficult-to-get C2D audience. But we need to reach them in different, cleverer ways. "The BBC has always been very good at reaching middle-class, Old Etonian audiences; in fact it has whole channels just for them. But it doesn't know how to attract the white working class, because nobody from the white working class works for it. Phone-in polls are an easy and unacceptable answer. They've been suspended now; there's absolutely no reason why they should ever start again."

According to Roger Graef, a leading independent producer, the scams and manipulations have been threatening to erupt for some time. "It was lurking under the surface," he says, "but there were more and more people coming to my company literally bursting into tears and saying, `I don't want to do this to people any more'. But they wouldn't go public because they were worried they'd never get another job."

A senior BBC journalist put it even more bluntly. "The BBC has to stop trying to get in the f****** gutter with all the other tawdry channels. When you start chasing ratings and using the foul marketing language of City spivs, it's inevitable what will happen." AH, but the trouble is, if the BBC doesn't get into the gutter it may lose its raison d'etre anyway. For the past 60 years or so the BBC has managed to straddle two poles - universality and public service - and thus justify the licence fee. But it is finding it increasingly difficult to do so.

Never mind all this stuff about a new, imported culture whereby production teams subsist under intense pressure on short-term contracts and are not imbued with the BBC ethos, such as it is. That may be in the mix somewhere, but it is not the crucial point. It is about why the BBC exists at all and where it locates itself in the future. And each way the corporation turns it finds a howl of complaint. When it attempts to achieve universality by diversifying in order to serve a specialist audience and dreams up such channels as BBC4 (audience share: 0.4%) and BBC3 (audience share: 1.3%) it is accused of spreading itself far too thinly and as a result splurging huge amounts of licence-payers' money on a vanishingly small audience. Indeed, you might wonder why there is a need for both BBC2 and BBC4 to exist as separate entities when their remits are more or less identical.

Those who accuse the BBC of doing too much, and sacrificing quality as a consequence, were given plenty of ammunition by the current fiasco: at least one of the programmes that rigged its phone-in competition did so because nobody from the audience phoned in. They were broadcasting to an audience of close to zero.

On the other hand, when the BBC attempts to fulfil its charter by providing top-quality mainstream entertainment for a mass audience, the critics attack it for trying to compete with the commercial sector in chasing ratings and paying too much money for household names. Take the Jonathan Ross contract as an example. "The BBC was burbling with happiness because it had got Jonathan Ross for `only' 18m pounds when he had asked for 24m," the senior BBC journalist remarked with some derision. "He draws only about 3m viewers every week - for which he is paid almost eight times the entire yearly budget for a programme like The World Tonight. How can that possibly be justified?"

Privately quite a few BBC executives admit that the Ross contract was a misjudgment, politically, morally and practically. One told me it had cost the BBC "a couple of hundred million quid" when it came to charter renewal because the politicians were ill-disposed towards an organisation that could be so cavalier with licence-payers' money. Others argue that the BBC should not compete with commercial organisations because the BBC is simply inept at doing so, and they use the Ross contract as a case in point. For the executive board member it's a more straightforward calculation. "If there's a commercial organisation that wants to pay Jonathan Ross 18m and thinks it can draw an audience that justifies the salary, then let them do it. It's not for the BBC. Exactly the same applies to phone-in polls."

WHAT should be done? The BBC provided an easy sacrificial victim by "suspending" all commissions from RDF, the independent production company which supplied the original shots of Her Majesty. But the firm says that they e-mailed the BBC three times asking to see its edit before transmission. Someone in the BBC jumped to the conclusion that their trail showed the Queen storming out. At no time did they ask RDF whether this actually happened.

The Beeb's director-general has also ordered that all 15,000 staffers and a good few thousand independent producers must be inculcated in the ethos of the corporation through new training schemes. You might argue that it would be prudent for the BBC to decide exactly what its ethos is before embarking on such a laudable process. At the moment it is not remotely clear. It is vague about the extent to which it should be competing with the commercial channels, and even more vague about the notion of what constitutes its "core broadcasting".

"You know, whenever I ask them about some new programme or channel they're planning," the executive board member told me, laughing, "they always tell me that it is core broadcasting. And I say to them, `Right, okay, well give me an example of something the BBC does which is peripheral broadcasting'. They can't come up with an answer." It is this lack of focus that the BBC management needs to address - as well as the simple fact of not misleading viewers. At present the BBC's default position is that everything it does is always for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. But if the BBC is still to be with us in 10 years, with a statutory licence fee, it needs not only the trust of its captive audience but a far clearer idea of what it stands for.


More BBC fraud

A SENIOR executive at Panorama is to be questioned by police over allegations that the BBC's flagship current affairs programme broke the law by using forged documents to target one of Britain's richest doctors. Detectives are expected to interview Frank Simmonds, the programme's deputy editor, under caution, following claims that Panorama used fake referral letters from GPs to send undercover reporters into clinics run by Mohamed Taranissi, a leading IVF expert. Officers from Scotland Yard want to question Simmonds in relation to the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act, according to an informed source. Using a "false instrument" under the Act carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

The BBC is already facing a crisis of trust after it admitted deceiving viewers by faking the results of phone-in competitions in shows such as Comic Relief and Children in Need. The broadcaster has also been forced to apologise to the Queen after wrongly claiming that she stormed out of a royal photoshoot. The police inquiry into Panorama, however, raises fresh questions about the BBC's core journalism, and comes as Mark Byford, the deputy director-general, faces a grilling by MPs on Tuesday.

Taranissi, 52, whose wealth is estimated at 38m pounds, is suing Panorama for libel, claiming the programme made defamatory allegations about his techniques and has caused lasting damage to his professional reputation. The BBC could face a bill for more than 1m pounds in compensation and legal costs if it loses the case.

The Panorama investigation into Taranissi, broadcast in January, claimed that one of his central London clinics, the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre (ARGC), offered "unnecessary and unproven" treatment to an undercover reporter posing as a patient. The show alleged that a 26-year-old journalist was offered IVF treatment costing thousands of pounds despite neither her nor her partner, having any history of fertility problems. It also claimed that Taranissi was running a second clinic without a licence and was sending his older and harder-to-treat patients there to maintain a high success rate at the ARGC.

Taranissi, an Egyptian who has helped mothers give birth to 2,300 babies in seven years, denies any wrongdoing. His lawyers claim that Panorama researchers forged at least four referral letters from nonexistent GPs to gain access to his clinics. Police took a statement from Taranissi earlier this year and now want to question Simmonds, who oversaw the IVF sting, about the letters. The BBC claims they were "justified" in the context of the undercover probe.

A BBC spokesman said: "We are more than happy to cooperate with the police. They indicated at the outset that they would want to speak to Mr Simmonds." A spokesman for the Yard said: " Inquiries are still ongoing."


Australian Leftist "multicultural" policies have paved a road to hell for black kids

By black activist Noel Pearson -- who sees "progressives" as the enemies of changes that Aborigines badly need

THE Calvinist conception of predestination (whether you end up in heaven is predestined and nothing you can do can alter whether you are chosen or not) is analogous to life outcomes for the indigenous children of Cape York. You can bet that a child from our community will end up poorly educated, semi-literate and ill-equipped for equitable participation in Australian society and the economy. The few who succeed are the exception. They defy predestination, but they are few and far between.

This predestination is not just about what kind of education our children receive. It is about the place they will occupy in society and the economy. They are predestined to not improve on the position of their parents or to deteriorate in their position. If we accept anthropologist Jared Diamond's thesis that Aborigines have the capacity to be rocket scientists and neurosurgeons, then strong forces must be at work to prevent social progress on the part of our children.

I do not think social progress comes naturally. Otherwise providing education for Aborigines should result in progress. Education is the principal ladder that allows unprivileged individuals to advance in capitalist societies. But obtaining a quality education does not come easily or naturally. While we hope that education would transcend our material imperatives and realise abstract ideals about human fulfilment, it still principally serves the economy of the day. In the old industrial economy, the education system responded to the need for an army of workers with basic education and skills. The economy and the influential classes had an interest in workers being trained so the labour force could be productive.

The system also allowed for the advancement of some talented working-class children. The heyday of working-class advancement produced a meritocracy that advanced into the middle class in large numbers; witness Leon Davis, working-class boy from Whyalla, South Australia, former chief executive of Rio Tinto and chairman of Westpac.

The rise of the old working-class meritocracy was almost a mass movement. Today, for the lowest classes, such advancement is not a mass movement; it is increasingly sporadic and isolated. Several decades ago, almost all Australian families were integrated in working life. The modern economy does not seem to guarantee comprehensive inclusion.

We have record low unemployment, but the number of people who depend on welfare has increased. We have an underclass of people who pass on their outcast status to their children. There have always been class divisions and underprivileged people. One of the original leftist ideas is that much of our culture serves class interests.

The educated middle class includes two groups with different societal roles. Education provides the skills and knowledge to contribute to wealth creation or to produce and disseminate ideologies and cultures. The middle-class producers of culture and ideology often see themselves as the Left. My texts have often been perceived as attacks on the Left. But I support key policies of the Left. In many areas, Aborigines can agree with the Left, including the people who have felt most hit by my criticism. I agree with them on land rights and conservation, trade unions, redistribution and the role of government in guaranteeing equitable health care and education.

The contention of mine that has caused most consternation when I have challenged the Left during the past eight years is that the result of progressive policies can be at odds with the good intentions that inspired them. My aim has been, as Dennis Glover wrote in The Australian yesterday, to "set higher standards for the Left" by critically examining the outcomes of ostensibly leftist policies. It is appropriate to set high standards because the Left's claim to the right to govern rests on its promise to lift the living standard and prospects of the lowest classes. The challenge of education facing our children should be understood as a class challenge. There are strong class forces at work that are barriers to social advancement.

The main means by which class stratification is maintained and social progress impeded is not by direct and conscious oppressive behaviour by privileged classes. Rather, the forces of class operate culturally. They are embedded in the prevailing ideologies and intellectual currents, popular and niche cultures. Their effect is to cause confusion in the minds of lower-class people about social progress and how it may be achieved, and cause them to behave in ways that are contrary to their interests.

I developed a (provocative) rule of thumb when it comes to examining the nostrums and prescriptions of the middle-class culture producers, who often come from the progressive cultural Left: whatever they say our people should do, we should look at the opposite of what they say because that will usually be the right thing to do. Therefore:

* They say substance abuse is a health issue and should be approached with tolerance. We say it is a behavioural and social order issue and we need to rebuild intolerance.

* They say education should be culturally appropriate. We say this should not be an alibi for anti-intellectualism, romantic indigenism and a justification for substandard achievement.

* They say we should respect Aboriginal English as a real language. We say we should speak our traditional languages and the Queen's English fluently.

* They say our people need to be defended in a hostile criminal justice system. We say we need more policing to restore law and order.

* They say our people are victims and must not be blamed. We say our people are victimised but we are not victims.

* They say we have a right to passive welfare. We say we do not have a right to dependency and, indeed, we have a greater right to take up a fair place in the real economy.

* They say economic integration is antithetical to our identity. We say our culture cannot and will not survive as long as we live in the social dysfunction caused by economic dependency.

* They say poverty is our main problem. We say passivity is our main problem because it prevents us from taking advantage of opportunities to get out of poverty and the resources we get are squandered.

The striking thing about this stark disagreement about what is really progressive is that we are at odds with so-called progressive thinking across vast tracts of policy. For me it is not personal antagonism that explains the gulf between me and most national indigenous leaders and intelligentsia; it is this fundamental analytical and policy gulf about what is progress and what is not. Glover is right when he says that I am a man of the Left because my fidelity is to the lot of the underclass, of whom my people are its most miserable members. It is that I believe liberal and conservative policies have more to contribute to indigenous uplift than outdated progressive thinking.

It became clear to me that some elements of leftist ideology contribute to the barriers that keep our people down. The key to understanding this is to recognise the profound change in the role of leftist theory. When the theories of the Left were originally formulated, the Left was a revolutionary force. However, the Left has merged with power and government. Leftist ideology is integral to the political and intellectual structure of our society.

The challenge for the Left today is to stop assuming that leftist policy by definition is policy that will help the most oppressed. The most obvious example that this is not the case is the rise of a political and intellectual industry that explains, defends and facilitates behaviours that keep people in the underclass. A young Aborigine today who follows the conventional leftist recipes of the past four decades is destined to stay at the bottom of society.

Of course the Left has consistently been a strong supporter of indigenous rights and indigenous people also have reason to support social democratic policy. There are encouraging signs that the Left is reconsidering its reflexive support for progressive policies. If leftist thinkers such as Glover don't effect fundamental shifts of the kind that Christopher Hitchens and the authors of the Euston Manifesto are seeking in Britain, then the Left in Australia will continue to be divided between its political wing and its cultural wing, which will seek to maintain a baleful influence on social policy.

The political wing led by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard (who told the Sydney Institute last week that "the old days of passive welfare for those able to contribute are gone") are not at all wedded to the outdated aspects of progressive thinking, attuned as they are to the expectations of the Australian community, but the cultural wing is still a strong force for stasis and, dare I say it, conservatism.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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