Saturday, September 04, 2010
A hopelessly politicized public broadcaster
Is the 'biased' BBC now try to cosy up to the Con/Lib Coalition? Corporation boss lets slip notes for meeting at No 10
The BBC was caught in a political row last night after its boss Mark Thompson was apparently attempting to cosy up to the Government following complaints over Left-wing bias.
The corporation's director general was photographed arriving at No 10 clutching a memo insisting the BBC is ready to put its coverage of public spending cuts into 'context'. The move will prompt claims that the broadcaster is trying to curry favour with an increasingly hostile Coalition Government to preserve its generous licence fee funding.
Labour leadership contender Ed Miliband said Mr Thompson appeared to be offering to 'showcase' Government proposals for spending cuts in the middle of delicate negotiations over the future of the levy.
The Daily Mail understands Mr Thompson was hauled int o Downing Street for showdown talks with David Cameron's strategy chief Steve Hilton amid increasing Government displeasure over the BBC's coverage of the forthcoming spending review.
The Tories and the Liberal Democrats have become concerned that BBC reports rarely mention the reason for budget reductions - the £15billion deficit left behind by the Labour government.
A Government source said: 'Coverage of spending cuts always seems to take the most negative slant possible and never sets out the context of why they are necessary or of how the mess we have been left to clear up is not of our making.'
As he arrived at No 10 yesterday, Mr Thompson was pictured with a memo from his head of news Helen Boaden clearly on view. It revealed she had met Mr Cameron's press chief Andy Coulson for lunch, at which he had expressed 'concern' about the impartiality of a forthcoming BBC 'season' on the spending review. The memo promised to make viewers aware of the 'whys and wherefores', adding: 'I said that's what we always try to do.'
Miss Boaden went on to defend coverage of cuts over the summer – including claims that the poorest would be hardest hit and the possibility, now ruled out, of free school milk being axed.
She said the BBC had been 'driven by news lines'. The document went on to list plans for various output, including Newsnight, the Today programme and Five Live, and suggest an interview with Chancellor George Osborne.
A BBC source said Mr Thompson had discussed upcoming coverage and which ministers might appear on various shows to explain the cuts. The source insisted the director general was 'not embarrassed' to have unwittingly revealed the content of his meeting.
As part of an apparently concerted charm offensive by the BBC, earlier this week Mr Thompson admitted the corporation had in the past been guilty of 'massive' Left-wing bias but said it was now a 'broader church'.
The BBC governing body is also thought to be preparing to postpone a planned rise in the licence fee by 2 per cent next April, from £145.50 to £148.50, to fend off deeper cuts being imposed by the Government.
Mr Miliband said: 'The BBC must remain a fully independent organisation without bias. It is deeply worrying that when he was summoned to Downing Street, the director general of the BBC had a list of programme ideas which appeared to showcase Tory economic policies of savage, indiscriminate cuts.
'David Cameron must stop his bully boy tactics and threats to withdraw the licence fee now, before they undermine the status of the BBC as a valued and trusted institution.'
Labour MP Michael Dugher said: 'The political independence of the BBC should be absolutely sacrosanct and it is very odd that the director general is going into Downing Street for this kind of meeting. The BBC is within its rights to publicise the cuts to public spending in whatever way it sees fit.'
Last night, a Downing Street source responded: 'For the Labour Party to attempt to suggest that we somehow are trying to bully or control the BBC is a bit rich considering their track record.'
The BBC said it had regular meetings with parties of all sides. A spokesman said: 'The director general has made it repeatedly clear that the impartiality and independence of the BBC is paramount.
'In the meeting today, the director general, in his role as editor-in-chief, discussed the possible participation of a number of members of the Government in the BBC's coverage of the spending review this autumn.'
Little Girls and Mad Men
Two little girls I know, age 6, showed up the other day at a public pool in Washington for a swim. They were excited by the prospect of escaping, if only for a little while, the heat pushing the thermometer close to 100.
Alas, they were wearing the only bathing suits they had: bikini bottoms, no tops. No go, they were told by the pool manager. There was a dress code, and no one was allowed to dress "inappropriately in a way that may offend others." Did I say these were 6-year-olds?
"Don't worry," their grandfather said. "They're boys." The enforcer at the gate was not amused. Rule-enforcers, as a rule, rarely are.
The enforcer told the disappointed little girls they could wear their dresses in the pool, or she would find inflatable tops that children who can't swim wear so they're covered up "up there." The little girls knew how to swim, and they didn't want to ruin their dresses. They left in tears.
I've heard similar stories about rigid dress codes for small children at pools, and I've been surprised that many adults are so terrified of perverts and molesters that they applaud such harsh rules. I understand the fear, but have we gone nuts?
Our "liberated" culture, drenched in anything-goes sex (or "gender," for those who regard the very word as something as scary as a topless 6-year-old) now demands that we cast a dark shadow over genuine innocence in the name of protecting children. We must send innocence underground, robbing children of their incorruption.
I thought about all this the other night watching an episode of "Mad Men," the television drama enthralling millions, set in the long ago, the early 1960s. The ad men and their clients argue about how to sell Jantzen bathing suits. The ad men prescribe a "sexy" campaign for a "two piece" -- not a bikini. The Jentzen folk want to maintain modesty; the ad men want to sell bathing suits.
We've changed a lot in six decades, and not always for the better. At its best, television drama holds up a mirror to a reality we can measure ourselves against, for better or worse. The appeal of "Mad Men" is its drama-in-costume, entertaining us with retro-fashion trends. But it's also a reminder of how sexual mores operated in a more repressed time, before we made everything illicit explicit.
Few of us want to go back to the '50s, though the decade was better than its reputation, but "Mad Men" warns us not to be so smug about our hyperactive "progressive" world. Rebellions then were about the individual, not so much about society. We've come to think of the two decades following World War II as an "Age of Conformism," but passion in a sea of conformity required more self-reliance, more "gumption" than the oppressive political correctness that smothers us in the name of protecting us.
When one of the "girls" in the office of "Mad Men" submits to a brief sexual fling -- a "quickie" -- with her boss, they both regret it. They show their regret in different ways. He gives her money, in the form of a bonus, and she wrecks his office to punish him for giving her money, not respect. She has the last word, screaming an anachronism: "You're not a nice person." Her hurt feelings resonate today, when "hook-ups" reflect no discernment of what's even meant by "nice."
Critics speculate why "Mad Men" drew an estimated 3 million viewers to its opening episode this season. Some suggest that we like to feel superior (sexually liberated) and healthier (less booze and fewer cigarettes, more organic celery and fewer sweets, more exercise and the war against flab and blubber). Others applaud the way women are no longer the "second sex," having burst at last through the glass ceiling.
The writers are canny (as well as occasionally campy) when they intrude between the actors and the audience in life-parodies of the way we were. When the boyfriend of one of the "girls" in the office tells her that they should do "it" the moment they feel attracted to each other, "like they do in Sweden," she knows better. She understands that the problem in Utopia is that the "good life" quickly becomes the tyranny of a new norm.
And before you know it, 6-year old girl children must wear a bikini top or get out of the pool.
Misogynist and violent Islam, gaining hold, requires passionate opposition
Why isn't the poison gassing of Afghan girls simply for attending school generating international outrage? Blood tests have verified that a main ingredient of chemical weapons was the cause of the severe sicknesses suffered by hundreds of girls in two schools in Kabul this last week--just the latest in a series of nine poisonings spanning the last two years. Many of the girls rushing to escape the scene fainted; some collapsed hours later. Scores were hospitalized, requiring oxygen and intravenous drugs.
And yet, the still-ailing girls resolutely resume their educations. "One 12th grader, 18-year-old Khalida Bashir Ahmed, said she was determined to return to school even though she still felt dizzy; she still had a medical tube dangling from her right wrist," reports the New York Times. "As she recounted her ordeal, she fainted and fell to the ground."
The attacks were more than a week ago, but only now, with blood tests revealing the nerve gas ingredient organophosphates, earn any attention: "Many local officials had dismissed the cases as episodes of mass hysteria provoked by acid and arson attacks on school girls by Taliban fighters and others who objected to their education," the article notes. Those pesky Taliban.
Where are the feminists? Where are those vocal for "women's rights" to abortions, who now seem painfully quiet about girls' rights to learn to read without biological attack? It's not enough that the custom of female genital mutilation continues, affecting 140 million women worldwide, most in Africa, though The London Observer reported a few weeks ago that in England this very summer, 500-2,000 girls have undergone the horrifying procedure designed to preclude any sexual pleasure.
Muslim women are regularly beaten by husbands, with little international protest--and complicit support by local authorities. "Wife beating in Islamic countries is more prevalent than one can imagine," writes Brigitte Gabriel in They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It. Stories of "honor killings" abound internationally, and Muzzammil Hassan, the Muslim head of the "Bridges" TV outlet, formed to reconcile Muslim and American feeling, beheaded his wife last year in Orchard Park--a murder widely attributed to his religious bent.
And it seems things are getting worse. "In a world where education for females was generally accepted only a generation or two ago, women are again being infantilized, writes journalist Jan Goodwin in The Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World. "In the name of religion, they are being banned from traveling, working, studying, divorcing, voting, holding positions of power, in effect, from making their own decisions about major and minor aspects of their lives."
A page of discussion by an assortment of "moderate" Muslim thinkers in today's Wall St. Journal includes Akbar Ahmed's distinguishing Muslims into peaceful "mystics," "modernists" who want to fit in with present culture, and "literalists" who seek a throwback to "seventh-century Arabia," often employing violent tactics. Mr. Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to Britain, doesn't quantify percentages in each group, but if, as many writers assert, just 10% of the total are the "literalists" who use violence in the name of heaven, there are millions willing to kill to oppress women and convert "infidels," including those of differing Muslim strains.
I suspect it's difficult for "progressive" American feminists to defend Muslim women while honoring the "diversity" of Islam. Most Americans are taught that criticizing others' religions is taboo, and certainly post 9-11 there's a tiptoe-on-eggshells sensitivity about implying that Muslims' faith is in any way inferior to those who would not tolerate violence. The right to placement of the Islamic Center within a couple of blocks of 9-11 Ground Zero is universally defended; only the propriety of doing so is questioned, on the basis of compassion for those who lost their lives to fervent Muslims who, at the time of their deed, screamed their motivation.
So, here we have a cluster of stories, as we do every day. Girls gassed for attending school. Women mutilated and oppressed. A discussion of "moderation" in this murderous religion. On other days, we see suicide bombings of one Muslim sect to another, and uneasiness here about tolerating the proximity of potentially-threatening Muslims. Meanwhile, around the world, Muslims celebrate whenever America is injured or embarrassed.
Daniel Pipes, after exhaustively analyzing studies to determine the quantity of Muslim extremists, concludes: "Negatively, 10-15 percent suggests that Islamists number about 150 million out of a billion plus Muslims – more than all the fascists and communists who ever lived. Positively, it implies that most Muslims can be swayed against Islamist totalitarianism." Today's WSJ Opinion page on moderate Islam, however, suggests to me that "moderate" means "milquetoast" --and that some of the passion that motivates the extremists better spread to the Muslim masses, or that violent 10% will wreak havoc on our world.
Australia: Another big blunder in government ratings of websites
Such nincompoops are far too incompetent to be trusted with censoring the internet. A major and mainstream Australian news site rated as "adult"!
An audit of politicians' internet use that claimed the scalp of a state minister ranked news.com.au as the most visited "adult website".
NSW Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay resigned this week after results of the audit were revealed. The audit supposedly showed whether MPs had been visiting adult links such as gambling and pornography sites.
However Legislative Council president Amanda Fazio yesterday revealed the audit had incorrectly classified news sites as adult because they contained links to or advertisements for adult dating sites. Both news.com.au and smh.com.au were classified as adult sites in the audit.
"The definition of what has been classed as an adult site is something we're reviewing," she said. "What surprised us... the biggest (site) of what is classed as an adult site being hit by the parliament is the news.com.au site. "Because there are adult matchmaking links or ads on their site, every time someone accesses news.com.au and they go from one article to another, that's counted as an individual hit on an adult site."
The bungle is one of the most embarrassing examples to date of the problems that can occur when governments and organisations try to regulate internet use.
The revelation could also absolve some MPs tangled in the web porn scandal at NSW parliamentary offices that erupted this week. Christian Democratic MP Fred Nile, for example, has defended his office's viewing of certain "adult websites", saying they were merely for "research purposes".
Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said every politician had been tainted by the scandal and asked for the matter to be settled quickly. His office had questioned a Nationals MP whose name emerged as part of the audit into online activity, including gambling websites.
But the nature of the audit has thrown up even more questions.
Earlier this week Ms Fazio and Legislative Assembly Speaker Richard Torbay said internal audits covered site categories but they did not commission any reports on MPs' internet use. Ms Fazio said she did not know how the internet use patterns of MPs were gathered.
News.com.au editor David Higgins said the auditing error showed governments could not be trusted to censor the internet. "News.com.au is one of Australia's most visited news websites featuring award-winning journalism from the country's most respected newspapers," he said.
"The fact that a government agency has classed us as an adult site only demonstrates the deep flaws in government-mandated internet filtering of the type put forward by the Gillard Government."
"If governments can't get it right within their own IT departments how could we possibly trust a nationwide mandatory web filtering system based on a secret list of banned websites put together by politicians?”
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.