The media career of Z-lister Rachel Riley, famous for doing the letters and numbers for Channel 4’s Countdown and not much else, seemed to be taking a favourable turn yesterday when she was awarded the privilege of being interviewed by fellow Channel 4 stalwart Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Sadly for the ambitious Ms Riley, this was to be a campaign that developed not necessarily to her advantage.
She had recently waded in to debates on alleged anti-Semitism. So it was no surprise at all when Guru-Murthy put the question “So what is your own Jewish identity?” This does not sound particularly challenging. But it was enough to allow Ms Riley to open mouth and insert foot in no style at all. “Well, it is line one or line two of my Wikipedia entry. I’ve not spoken about being Jewish. My surname’s Riley”. No shit, Sherlock.
But there was more. “You wouldn’t know, I don’t look like a typical Jew, or anything like that”. Er, hello? What does a “typical Jew” look like? The thought entered that if that had been spoken by someone who was not Jewish, the accusations of “anti-Semitic trope” would soon have come raining down. Writer Michael Rosen wanted to know more.
“Here Rachel Riley says, ‘I don’t look like a typical Jew,’ pulls a face and laughs. What does a ‘typical Jew’ look like? Perhaps Dan Hodges can help? @lmharpin ? @JohnMannMP @IanAustinMP @sajidjavid @JewishNewsUK @JewishChron @MelanieLatest ? Is there a style guide?” And he was only getting warmed up.
“Hello @JewishNewsUK @JewishChron what does ‘look like a Jew or anything like that’ mean? What is the ‘that’ ? Who is ‘anything like that’ ? What is ‘anything like that?’ Are there facial and bodily characteristics that I need to know about?” One cannot imagine that Stephen Pollard of the JC took much comfort from this intervention.
Rosen turned his questioning on Ms Riley. “Hello @RachelRileyRR you said that you ‘don’t look like a typical Jew or anything like that’. Can you give a quick rundown of what a ‘typical Jew’ looks like (as distinct from you) and ‘anything like’ what? What is the ‘that’, here? Thanks”. One cannot imagine she took comfort from it, either.
And when one clumsy intervention pleaded “There are many good people and organisations ‘educating’ people about the problem of anti-Semitism in society. Unfortunately, Rachel Riley’s approach of calling everybody anti-Semitic is doing more damage than good. Whilst her comment is unmistakably anti-Semitic, she is not”, Rosen had rather more to say, which is something one could not say about Ms Riley.
“‘Whilst her comment is unmistakably anti-Semitic, she is not.’ What? What does this even mean? We’ve had a year in which single comments have been pored over as evidence of antisemitism. Along comes a line out of Alfred Rosenberg’s Nazi textbook and you say this?” Quite. Worse, during that interview Ms Riley managed to conflate Jewish people with the state of Israel, which meets one IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
But all that Stephen Pollard could muster was “Do watch this. It's an honest, open and moving interview - and so very eloquent”. Was he watching the same interview?
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