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Monday, 16 July 2018

Raheem Kassam - A Suitable Case For Reporting?

Some wear their Twitter privilege lightly; others misuse it wilfully. There are, for rather too many, no half measures, although “half-measure” would be one way to accurately describe professional loser and amateur human being Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, who has recently threatened legal action against Zelo Street, but then demonstrated that no man is of perfect courage. He’s yellow, but he’s loud with it.
Pretentious? Who, moi?

Kassam, an appallingly immodest being with much to be modest about, has along the way obtained a blue tick for his Twitter feed. This has not deterred him from being abusive, bullying, threatening, intimidating, or indeed congenitally dishonest. This abuse of his privilege deserves bringing to a wider audience. So here it is.
Lying comes naturally to Kassam, something he does with the regularity of drawing breath. So when 250,000 took part in last Friday’s protest in London against Combover crybaby Donald Trump, out came the whopper. “Tiny protests against Trump in London today. Even with all the rabble rousing by Sadiq Khan and thé [?] establishment media. Losers!!!
But that was a mere hors d’oeuvres for a rather more challenging entrée as he then switched to a combination of mental health smears and hypocrisy to smear Lisa McKenzie of the LSE. “Obviously she’s a total fruitcake who has clearly written her own Wikipedia page as if it’s a book on her (really very boring) life. Someone fix it plz”. Kassam’s first Wikipedia page was removed as he was not famous enough to warrant one.
From there, it was a short hop to vicious and aggressive misogyny as he tried to throw his lack of weight about with Carole Cadwalladr of the Observer over the Steve Bannon LBC row. “Why didn’t you call in? We were hoping you would! Frigid old loon”.
He’s all charm is Ray. But then he really abused that blue tick with a gratuitous attack on LBC host Matthew Stadlen. “Closeted freak show who turned down debate w/ me accuses me of cowardice. Maybe someone will be outside LBC with a camera before his next show to challenge him”. Homophobia, intimidation and more. And he wasn’t finished.
Stadlen correctly deduced that Kassam was trying to threaten him. So “call me Ray” decided to threaten him properly. “Come on snowflake, if I were threatening you I’d just send the boys down to Notting Hill. You’re not worth the taxi fare”. Anyone still think this witless SOB is worth that blue tick? And we’re not through with him yet.
One observer of the LBC Bannon ruckus was unimpressed with Kassam’s lack of intellectual heft (same as most of the population, then), telling him “Your level of come back needs work mate”. What the hell, Kassam went in with both feet. “Your level of not looking like a rapist needs work, mate”. More? There certainly is.
His defence of Bannon garnered so much adverse comment that he ultimately resorted to snapping “Lemme guess you’d rather him shag little boys in Westminster apartments? Or young white girls in Rotherham cabs?” Heard enough now, Kassam fans?
If Twitter could remove Stephen Yaxley Lennon’s blue tick, it can certainly take away Kassam’s. That kind of abuse should not be merely waved away. End of story.

Tommy Robinson Bankrolled By Foreigners

When Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, had his moment of glory at the “Day for freedom” gathering in London’s Whitehall, some wondered who paid for it all. Journalists were told that donations had covered most of the cost - all those supporters, you see. Then, after Lennon was sent to prison after admitting his second contempt of court, came the “Free Tommy” protests.
Who had paid for these? The speakers, we were told, had been flown in the cheap seats and put up in inexpensive chain hotels. All that crowdfunding had come to fruition. Except that this never really rang true, and now a far-right group in the USA has not merely owned up to being behind the funding - it has positively boasted about it.

As i News has reported, “while the groups organising the rallies have previously claimed to be self-funded or from donations, a hardline US conservative think tank, Middle East Forum, have said they have actually been funding the demonstrations. In a post on its website last week, the group took responsibility for financing both the Free Tommy Robinson rally on June 9, and the rally on 14 July”. There was more.

This is the third rally organised since April in support of Robinson. The first, the ‘Day For Freedom‘, was prompted by the far-right figurehead’s ban from Twitter, and saw a variety of street-level activists, right-wing politicians and fascist online provocateurs speak. A number of them also went on to speak at the rally in June”. That was the rally which later turned violent, with attacks on the Police and several arrests.
Middle East Forum is the innocuous-sounding name for another anti-Muslim group. As Hope Not Hate has explained, “MEF was founded in 1990 by Daniel Pipes – an influential and ‘respectable’ figure in the American ‘counter-jihad’ milieu – as a neoconservative think tank on Middle Eastern affairs. MEF campaigns against Sharia law and the supposed ‘Islamisation’ of the United States”. Fake scares to whip up paranoid whites.

The level of paranoia can be seen from the presence at last Saturday’s event of Rep. Paul Gosar, who has “suggested that the August 2017 alt-right Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which led to the murder of counter-protester Heather Heyer, may have been organised by an ‘Obama sympathiser’ and raised the possibility that it may have been funded by Hungarian philanthropist George Soros”. Wibble.

But despite clear cut evidence of foreign interference - the objective of the protests, after all, is to intimidate the judiciary into freeing Lennon - the Government has done nothing, and will continue to do nothing, about it. Why does that matter?
Because, as Sunny Hundal has told, “To summarise, a hardline American group is funding violent, far-right rallies in the UK. If a Saudi group was known to fund violent Islamist rallies in Britain, there would be outrage and people demanding an investigation. So why not now?” It the interference was from a Muslim group, something would be done.

Stephen Yaxley Lennon and his pals are free to speak as they see fit. That isn’t a problem. Foreigners interfering in this country’s affairs - now that certainly is.

Piers Morgan PWNED By Real Journalists

The fawning sycophancy displayed by former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan towards Combover Crybaby Donald Trump reached peak grovel last Friday as he secured a characteristically craven softball interview aboard Air Force One, although he did not get to fly in it; the aircraft was sitting on the tarmac at Stansted Airport.
As befits a former tabloid editor, Morgan has been milking his achievement for all it is worth, which, when the content became known, was not very much. Nothing of any substance was divulged by The Donald, not even the advice he gave Theresa May - which in any case was revealed yesterday on The Andy Marr Show™ - but we did get to see what was on the menu, and that Trump has his own branded M&Ms.
Morgan went wrong from the word go. “WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Inside Air Force One. My world exclusive interview with President Trump on the planet's most elite plane”. Most elite plane? It’s an ageing Boeing 747-200, and already slated to be replaced soon.
Adam Parsons of Sky News was unimpressed. “Well done to him for getting the story. But a cosy chat, where you deliberately avoid confrontation and worry about getting a selfy, is not a news interview. Trump still hasn't done a proper interview with a British broadcaster”. And he won’t ever do a proper interview - ask John Sweeney.
That did not go down well with Morgan, who was clearly expecting praise verging on adulation. “Oh pipe down you patronising little turd. Go get your own Trump interview than we can judge YOUR interviewing skills”. Everyone he dislikes is by definition “little”. If Arnie had displeased The Great Man, he too would be dismissed as “little”.
His response meant that the house was about to fall in, and Jo Maugham was ready with the verbal wrecking ball. “Inadvertently revealing from Piers. What matters is that he got the interview - not the questions he asked. That's the right test for self-promotion but it's no test of journalism”. Just being there is not journalism.
Morgan in response went full Norma Desmond. “My interview is making news around the world. That’s MY idea of journalism”. My interview IS big - it’s the critics that got small!
Then came an intervention by the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr, which was to put the pid on Morgan’s pretentiousness once and for all: “That ain't no journalism, bruv”.
The Great Man could not resist taking the bait. “So why is the Guardian reporting on stories broken in it, sis?” Ms Cadwalladr works for the Observer, but hey ho.
But she was about to put him straight about the content of his interview. “‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.’ You're in marketing, m8”. OUCH! Fancy a comeback, Piers?
But by this point he was floundering, and it showed. “Being lectured by the Guardian about journalism is like being lectured on brain damage by Love Island contestants. There's a reason nobody reads your paper - m8”. Observer, Piers. Observer.
Now he had left himself wide open. And whoever was in charge of the Byline Media Twitter feed - one has one’s suspicions - was on hand to administer the coup de grace. “Being lectured on journalism by the man who turned the Mirror Group into a criminal enterprise... no metaphors for that”. And another OUCH!
The problem Piers Morgan has with Twitter is that he can’t shout anyone down, there is no possibility of selecting who gets into the discussion, and he is therefore reduced to just being another of those “little” people he and his press pals love to crap all over.

You can collect your arse on the way out, Piers. Better luck next time, eh?

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Enabling Of Steve Bannon

What helped fuel political parties like UKIP, especially in the run-up to the EU referendum, was the access given to them by broadcasters. Newspaper columns and other print coverage were fine, but to inject the virus directly, you need to be on air. And that is what drove the message of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his pals. Now, post-referendum, UKIP is old hat, and the access has been given to the far-right instead.
Steve Bannon - given a platform

How that has come about is for those giving the access to explain, but the result these last few days has been the appearance of Steve Bannon, a white supremacist who supports the likes of the French Front Nationale and Geert Wilders’ party in the Netherlands. He supports the Identiarian movement, which is, let us not drive this one round the houses for too long, a bunch of actual Nazis, some of whom are now on trial in Austria.
He didn't know it was going on, honest

Yet Bannon was invited on to ITV’s Good Morning Britain last Friday, where former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, to his shame, was craven in his questioning, his co-host Susanna Reid left to put The Great Man on the spot. This contrasted with Morgan’s aggressive and dishonest attack on Ash Sarkar of Novara Media.
Susanna Reid - got the same insult as Theo Usherwood

And then came Bannon’s appearance with Farage on his Sunday morning LBC show. What might have been expected to be a softball session got an unexpected hard edge when the station’s political editor Theo Usherwood called Bannon out for his support of Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson.
Usherwood noted the reaction. “Bannon to me off-air: ‘Fuck you. Don't you fucking say you're calling me out. You fucking liberal elite. Tommy Robinson is the backbone of this country.’” Remember the “Liberal elite” part of that.
Bannon’s grovelling Mini-Me Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam was unhappy. “LBC’s @theousherwood introduced himself to Bannon before the interview as the ‘neutral’ political editor of the station. He then proceeded to attack him both on and off air, and then tweet a private conversation. @Ofcom”. Tough. Run along, Ray. Grown-up talk.
In any case, Usherwood put Kassam straight. “For the record, nothing was agreed beforehand … If he wanted the conversation to be off-the-record, he should have said”. Meanwhile, Owen Jones, who had taken an interest in Morgan’s inexcusable shouting down of Ash Sarkar, observed “Two leading British broadcasters - ITV and LBC - have given an uncritical platform to this fascist little thug Steve Bannon, in both cases interviews by personal friends of Donald Trump (Piers Morgan and Nigel Farage)”.
And then came an intervention from Ms Reid. “My approach to Steve Bannon on @gmb was entirely critical to the point where he accused me of insulting questioning and being part of the liberal elite”. Hey, it’s that “Liberal elite” rant again! Stock response to proper questioning. But Bannon being that Good Ol’ Gen-tle-man, he held the swearing.
That revelation was one thing; Morgan’s weaselling out of Owen Jones’ questioning was quite another. “Hi @piersmorgan. Can you please explain clearly why you conducted a hectoring, aggressive interview against a left-wing Muslim woman, but a respectful, unchallenging interview with the Mussolini-admiring far right extremist Steve Bannon?” he asked The Donald’s bestest buddy and softball interviewer.
Morgan’s answer was deflection at its less than finest. “Sure, Bannon answered every question we put to him - and we (very sexist of you to pretend @susannareid100 wasn't involved...) challenged him repeatedly. Your communist friend didn't so I had to keep repeating the questions. The fact she's a woman or a Muslim was irrelevant”. That Jones did not mention Ms Reid is irrelevant, but if that’s how he wanted it, fine.
Jones duly mentioned his co-host. “You aggressively shouted down Ash Sarkar and made up her opinions. Susanna didn't. When the Mussolini-admiring white nationalist Steve Bannon was on, you treated him as a respected guest. Susanna challenged him. You're the problem, you're the disgrace, not Susanna”. Ouch!
And, in case we had forgotten, the Tweeter known as Briefcase Mike let everyone know what Bannon had been defending before Usherwood called him out. “Steve Bannon says it's a disgrace that Tommy Robinson is in prison and calls for his release saying he broke the law ‘only in a technical sense’. In UK you've either broken the law or you haven't. And in any case Robinson pleaded guilty. #LBC”.
Steve Bannon called someone with a string of criminal convictions “the backbone of this country”. He tried to reinvent the law. His sole response to being held to account is to whine about the “Liberal elite”. He supports actual Nazis.
Evening all

Small wonder that when Piers Morgan once again invented attributes for someone he was trying to shout down - this time Owen Jones and inventing a connection to the Trump “baby balloon” - Jones dismissed the Trump toady with “I have nothing to do with the Trump balloon, but at least it will go down in history for something other than being a disgraced newspaper editor who sucked up to a grotesque Nazi praising sexual predator”.

The enabling of Steve Bannon needs some explaining. And my Occam’s Razor tells me that the one who needs to do the most of that explaining is Piers Morgan. Giving the far-right a legitimacy they do not merit is worrying. And it’s bang out of order.

Alex Wickham Keeps On Lying

When BuzzFeed News obtained the services of Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, soon to be former teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, there were many across the political spectrum who were prepared to give this deeply unpleasant individual their congratulations. Others took issue with anyone passing adverse comment on Wickham’s propensity to talk well, while lying badly.
Milk, no sugar, hold the smears

It was put to me that my view of Wickham would be more favourable, had I met the SOB. The idea that all the lying and smears would be forgotten was yet another self-awareness failure of the media establishment, and that view remains unchanged. And, as ever, to demonstrate this, the opposition has come riding to my rescue. Yes, Wickham has pulled a blatant whopper this morning, one he cannot possibly stand up.
The soon to be ex-teaboy was watching The Andy Marr Show™ this morning, and at one point told his followers “Everyone did a really good job of disguising that planted question”. His future colleague Mark Di Stefano concurred: “May’s acting… first class”. Wickham, clearly made up that he had someone else on board this fake ship, added “maybe she was surprised No10 managed to deliver an actual news line”.
What was the alleged “planted question”? We’ll get to that. BBC editor of live political programmes Rob Burley was perplexed. “What on earth do you mean? No planted questions”. Who to believe, someone who is open and candid on Twitter, or someone who is full value for his nickname of “Billy Liar”? It’s not such a tough one.
Burley and I do not always agree - see the Cambridge Analytica scandal, for instance - but he served some years as Marr Show editor. The idea that questions get planted for interviews is bunk. Still, back came Wickham. “It was clipped up and she gave out the news line almost before he’d finished asking the question!
He’s been immersed in his Big Book Of Proper Journalism™, hasn’t he? This continued to make no headway with Burley, who repeated “Well I can tell you 100% categorically there was zero prior warning”. Then we got to find out about the alleged planted question.
Di Stefano explained “Theresa May flat out reveals what Trump told her she should do in the Brexit plan: ‘He told me I should sue the EU’” and continued “Marr set up this line with a clip. May delivered it as if she'd rehearsed it”. No, Mark. Just no.
Let’s take this nice and slowly. Marr showed a (quite long, because of Trump’s rambling) clip of The Donald saying he’d given Theresa May some advice, but that she had not taken it. Marr then asked the PM what the advice was. But what should have been obvious to these supposed media professionals is that the length of that clip was easily sufficient for Ms May to have the answer ready. There was no planting; none was necessary.
If Wickham and Di Stefano want to blame anyone for the PM having her answer ready, they should go after Trump for his verbal diarrhoea. Not Marr or the Beeb.

Perhaps the Fawkes teaboy is trying to get in on the row Sky News is having with the BBC over access to Ms May. If so, lying won’t get him a seat at this particular table. As for everyone else - d’you still think he’s worth trusting, and calling a real journalist? Er, no.

BBC Under Fire - From Sky News

As if the BBC did not have enough on its plate after last week’s disquiet over its handling of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal, a most unseemly row has broken out over the amount of access it gets to the Prime Minister - at least, compared with other broadcasters. The assault is being led by Sky News.
She was to appear on The Andy Marr Show™ this weekend. Sky News head of politics Dan Williams had seen enough. “Another interview with Marr and the BBC in the space of a few weeks. Last time we got the ‘BREXIT Dividend‘. Is the PM avoiding others like @SkyNews”. Marr’s former editor Rob Burley suggested it was about audience size.
The “ours is bigger than yours” argument did not cut any ice with Sky political correspondent Tom Rayner. “In this instance, isn't the audience thing a red herring? All channels and newspapers will run the clips/quotes, as would the BBC if she was speaking to Sky/ITV. A fair mix of who gets to ask questions of the PM part is part of ensuring proper accountability”. Burley disagreed. The spat dragged in Beth Rigby.
It’s a monopoly Rob. Think you’ve had three PM interviews in four/five weeks and she barely takes a Q from us at presser. It’s not good, particularly given head of coms was in your former job” (she probably means Robbie Gibb, and the job that Burley is in now).
What say he to Sky’s senior political correspondent? “I didn’t mind you being annoyed, obviously, but suggestion has something to do with where the director of comms used to work is daft. We are the biggest programme, with a big audience that’s why we do best on Sundays. We always have and we having been going longer than any govt”. Ooh, I’m having an Italian Job moment. Big, y’know … big! BIG!!
Ms Rigby was not interested in merely blowing the bloody doors off. “Perhaps we should do away with plurality then, and just have BBC covering all politics, because Downing Street seems not to want to deal with anyone else (ITV gets the occasional look in).”
Was Burley going to try being a touch more diplomatic? Er, no. “Didn’t say that. Just think there are positive reasons for Marr doing well which are being ignored while Sky feeling sorry for itself. After all May did the Ridge show and Peston in recent times. Fact they get tiny numbers not irrelevant”. His was still bigger than theirs.
Ms Rigby was done with the exercise. “Twice in five weeks. Plus an interview with BBC after Chequers last weekend. Ridge first & last interview with May in Jan 2017. I never even get Q at press conference. Happy to discuss further offline”. At this point, Burley became a little more understanding. Well, up to a point.
Btw, for many years I worked on and then edited ITV’s programme up against Frost then Marr. So am all for media plurality. Also recognise that audience is the key”.So his was still bigger than theirs. But Sky News people were clearly not happy.
So unhappy, in fact, that Tom Rayner was back with a decidedly barbed observation. “Obviously nobody is expecting you to be anything other than pleased you’ve got the PM. But journalistically, if the audience argument is allowed to be taken as a given, it damages accountability. It’s same argument Trump would use to only give big interviews to Fox News”. Ouch! BBC compared to Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
And Sky producer Tom Larkin underscored the point: “Since the head of the BBC’s political programmes went to No 10, @theresa_may has exclusively done her set-piece TV interviews with...BBC political programmes. Why not try to reach a different audience? Or take questions from someone other than Andrew Marr?
It’s not as if Theresa May got an easy ride from Marr today - anything but - although the point stands. One can understand politicians wanting to talk serious politics avoiding the likes of ITV Good Morning Britain when self-promotion artiste supreme Piers Morgan is holding court there, but Sky News? Channel 4? Robert Peston? Come on.

Criticism of the BBC from those of a partisan nature is routine. But after the Corporation’s indifference to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it began to come from other journalists. Now it is coming from other broadcasters. Perhaps something really is amiss.