Saturday, May 22, 2004

Heroic BBC Expose Hideous Massacre

OK, so five nights of rioting in Peterborough didn't make it onto the Today programme, which concentrates on more serious issues like 'should nipples be shown in an EU broadcast ?' or the damage caused by urban seagulls.

But this morning the Radio 4 Today programme exposed a massacre of innocents which will outrage Britain, one which makes Abu Ghraib, Oradour and My Lai pale into insignificance.

Wyevale Garden Centres are a large capitalist organisation with 124 branches in England and Wales. According to the Today account, at their Thornbury branch some robins had nested in a greenhouse by the cafeteria, and were soon flying in and out with food for their young. What a pleasant sight for the shoppers, you might think. But the management saw it as potentially a health and safety issue in litigious Britain. They might defecate on someone's lunch. A pensioner might be startled by a low-flying robin.

So pest controllers were called in. The nest with the young robins inside was taken way and the young killed. The garden centre and pest controllers have refused to confirm or deny that the parents were shot.

Ironically the nest was close to a display of nesting boxes and wild bird food.

Words fail me.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Our Rainbow Nation

Apparently they've been rioting in Peterborough for four days now, and I haven't heard a whisper of it on BBC radio news. This low profile is probably because no evil white racists are involved.

Peterborough - isn't that where 17-year-old Ross Parker was killed ten days after 9/11, in one of those racist attacks that don't seem to get any media attention ?

"Cambridgeshire Police Ch Supt Nigel Sunman said the long-established Pakistani community and the asylum seekers had clearly articulated what was disturbing the other community.

"It is cultural differences in the large part. We are getting to understand those issues and what we are trying to do is feed back to each of the communities what it is that is antagonising them," he said."

More details on Claire's Liberty and Livelihood Blog.

Perhaps something on Channel Four set it off.

UPDATE - several news reports at Peterborough Today. I await David Aaronovitch's piece on the bigotry of the locals with interest.


Via Harry, a link to a wonderful site. Here's a sample, but read the whole thing. And link to it. As I shall.

"At a local StW Coalition meeting I attended the question was raised, “What do we want the outcome of the war to be?” On a personal level, my view was that, although I opposed the decision to go to war, I felt that the least worst outcome would be a swift coalition victory, ending the whole business as quickly as possible and causing the minimum amount of suffering to the Iraqi people. Others at the meeting, took a different view. They stated that what they hoped for was for Britain and the US to receive, as they put it “a bloody nose.” By this they meant they hoped for the coalition to lose the war with massive casualties.

This was too much for me. Quite apart from the unpalatable issue of being asked to hope for the mass slaughter of one’s own countrymen, which I was not prepared to do, the only way such a scenario could conceivably come about would be one in which Iraqis, soldiers and civilians alike, died in even greater droves. What happened to this being about compassion for the people of Iraq? Within days, I had stopped attending StW Coalition events.

It’s a safe bet that those at that meeting who were praying for the War in Iraq to turn into a gigantic bloodbath are now cheering on the guerrilla attacks on coalition troops that have continued after the war, in full knowledge of the fact that by far the greatest number of casualties caused by the guerrillas are Iraqi civilians."

More Liberal Self-Censorship

Channel Four, that challenging and controversial broadcaster, has decided that some things are just too challenging to broadcast. (Thanks Gary for the link). BBC also have a story.

"Channel 4 has pulled a documentary about Bradford social workers dealing with child abuse from its schedule tonight after local police warned the programme could inflame racial tension in the city.
The network, which normally takes great pride in its reputation for stirring up controversy, has made the self-censorship move "as a responsible broadcaster" and because of "exceptional circumstance", a Channel 4 spokeswoman said."

I hate to say it, but perhaps some people are a bit more prickly when challenged than others ....

The Dependency Class

EurSoc has a lovely post on the Sun's revelation that yesterday's Guardian carried 'job' adverts worth £10 million p.a. in the 124-page Society section. I reported on the Guardian's monopoly of public sector advertising back in December.

I particularly like the description of the Guardian as "the in-house journal of Britain's dependency class".

But the bad news is that the Sun's drop-down listbox no longer appears to feature the towering genius that is Richard Littlejohn.

Has Murdoch agreed to drop him in exchange for privatising the BBC ? I only asked.

BBC Bias Part 948

John Humphrys displays his liberal conscience on the latest Abu Ghraib photos.

"I've seen them ... they're actually waving, grinning ... quite shocking stuff to see ... ".

Fair enough. It's just that I've never heard him emoting about Iraqi children abusing dismembered Americans or Palestinians waving body parts around and using human heads as press conference props.

Instead the BBC report says without comment that 'many ordinary Iraqis want revenge' for the photos. Presumably revenge to be exacted on any Brit or American - exactly the attitude which Humphrys would condemn if expressed by an ordinary Brit.

But like so many other things, revenge is for 'them' and not for 'us'.

And I do love the BBC use of quotes on the Falluja mutilations. The headline is

"Horrific" Iraq deaths shock US

and in the report we get

White House spokesman Scott McClellan blamed "terrorists" and supporters of ousted Iraq leader Saddam Hussein for the attacks in Falluja.

After all, one man's "terrorist" ....

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Bishop Bashing Latest ...

Following the defeat of the attempt to install Canon Elton John as Bishop of Reading by a small but determined sect calling themselves "Christians", those progressives attempting to get the Church Of England's historic struggle against homophobia back on track have appointed him Dean of St Albans, an appointment in the gift of one T. Blair.

In an attempt to pre-empt the groundswell of opinion which forced the Reading decision to be reversed, he will be confirmed in his post three months earlier than expected. Opposition is certainly not lacking, and one church is already witholding its diocesan funding in protest. They could do worse than to send the money to the Church in Africa.

Not a bad site, They also have reports on the treatment of Tatchell & Co. on the Palestine march, and the really big story - that Julia Volkova of Tatu is pregnant.
State Educashun

Watching my son play cricket last night, chatting to another parent. He gave up a well-paid but stressful job in sales to teach physics at a comprehensive with a poor reputation, and after one year was approached by the only decent State comprehensive for thirty miles around - he starts there in September. "A-level physics now" he said, "is about the level I did at O-level" (he's forty). We talked about discipline and I asked him how he coped. "Never shout - you're just providing entertainment for them."

I missed this Private Eye piece, a fortnights diary written by a comprehensive maths teacher, but I read the anguished mailbag it produced from teachers.

I think I'll ask my children to read it on the weekend - they attend a not-very-good comprehensive in the same town. My eldest's maths teacher was sacked last year when a pupil struck him in the face, drawing blood. Instead of reporting him, the teacher knocked the boy down, then picked him up off the floor and hit him again. His replacement was a woman with a heavy South African accent, who had trouble with keeping order - some of the boys mocked the way she spoke, which was difficult to understand. He has had six maths teachers in three years at comprehensive.

At this year's pre-SATs test the school told me my son's maths attainment level was still level 5, which it was in his last year of primary school. We took him to an excellent private maths tutor who said he was the fourth child from that maths set he'd been asked to coach.

The school has been awarded Specialist School status in Maths and Computing.

"We teachers often control the behaviour of the class with the work that we set. Easy work that creates no insecurity will result in reasonable behaviour. Difficult work that creates self-doubt will be meet with aggression. This constantly leads to the dilemma: do we set hard work that will stretch them but also lead to poor behaviour and so cost learning time? Or do we set easy work and get reasonable behaviour - and more teaching time - in return?

I kept them quiet by giving them work that did not make them feel insecure (ie easy work) and by not challenging them about their work rate. I should have been able to stop them after 15 minutes, explain harder work and push them to think. I didn’t because of the issues of controlling them that this would have created. There are times when we mistake activity and silence for learning."

New Blogger In Town ...

Well, sort of (three posts this year) ... one Richard Thompson, musician, late of this parish. Strange how many old folkies (Donovan and Robin Williamson come to mind) end up in California, while the metal musicians (Ozzy, Robert Plant) seem to end up in what's left of the English countryside. Another of life's little ironies I suppose.

Monday, May 17, 2004

She's At It Again ...

AL Kennedy in the Guardian.

"Last night Mr Blair - contacted by cell phone - also had nothing but praise for the troops who have reduced his state dining room to a glowing shell filled with the stench of burning flesh. "I can only send my heartfelt support to the coalition forces. I think I speak for all of us here when I say that we welcome their cluster bombs, their re-branded napalm and their intermittent tracer fire."

Haven't the Guardian realised yet that they are paying over and again for what is essentially the same article ?

I must get one of her books out of the library. She can't be as bad a writer as she appears, surely.

(The library, declining as it is, is sure to have some. An organisation staffed by nice, middle-class, vaguely feminist women tends to stock a lot of books by vaguely feminist women. I like to measure the 'Waugh/Weldon ratio' in a library - the number of Evelyn Waugh books on the shelves against the number of Fay Weldons. Usually a 1/5 ratio. But try, say, asking for Thomas Moore's poetry, of which there's not one copy in the whole of Gloucestershire's libraries, including the Reference sections.)

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Liberal Self-Censorship - is the tide on the turn ?

I reported a while back on the case of Mohammed Dica - a Somali asylum seeker convicted of deliberately infecting his lovers with HIV (he's since appealed), and how every UK news source described his asylum status save for two - the Guardian and BBC.

In the similar case of Feston Konzani things seem to be changing somewhat. The Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Mirror, Scotsman, Sun, Ananova, Scotland on Sunday and Tyne Tees TV all describe Konzani as an asylum seeker.

So do five out of the ten BBC stories. It must be difficult - to reconcile the BBCs ancient mission to report news and its more modern mission to produce the perfectly tolerant society, even at the price of - shall we say suppressio veri ? Five out of ten ain't bad - someone at the BBC is showing positively Solomonic news judgement.