Steve Bell’s ‘If’ strip in the Graun has recently been concerning itself with imagery about Murdoch, Netanyahu and a glove puppet, plus references to a so-called ”Aunty Semitic” “Trope.” Guardian readers who are unaware of the background to this will have been mystified as to the meaning of it all – but then that’s not unusual with a Bell cartoon. Regular readers of Shiraz should be aware of what lies behind it: a Bell cartoon back in November was was widely criticised for reproducing the long-standing antisemitic “trope” (ie: “stereotype”; in this case, that of the puppet-master, as widely used in Nazi and contemporary Middle Eastern propaganda). Eventually, the Guardian‘s reader’s editor agreed (to a very limited degree) with the criticism. Bell refused acknowledge even the possibility that his cartoon was ill-judged and seems to have been smarting ever since.
dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word
‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued…
“.. they throw it around with such abandon. If there really is
antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored…”
I wasn’t going to comment on the Gerald Scarfe cartoon published in the last Sunday Times, especially as Rupert Murdoch has apologised for it and Scarfe himself has stated that he hadn’t realised it would be published on Holocaust Memorial Day.
My personal view is that, on balance, the cartoon cannot fairly be considered antisemtic, but it certainly sails close to the wind, and its publication on Holocaust Memorial Day was a very serious misjudgement.
Political cartoonists frequently depict political leaders as blood-smeared, and they (the cartoonists, that is) sometimes seem unaware of, or indifferent to, the significance of the “blood libel” in the history of antisemitism.
Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, very sensibly comments that the artist’s subjective intention is not necessarily the crucial consideration:
“As ever, we are immediately drawn into the old ‘is it antisemitic, isn’t it antisemitic’ routine – as if anybody could ever prove what actually goes on in Gerald Scarfe’s head; and as if what goes on in his head is the most important thing in all of this.
“For sure, Gerald Scarfe has ‘a thing’ about blood. It is a theme that repeats in his cartoons. For example, his Sunday Times cartoon of 26th February 2012, literally shows Syria’s President Assad guzzling blood from a cup that has “children’s blood” written on it. So, he has not singled out Benjamin Netanyahu for the blood treatment and he is perfectly capable of drawing a full-on blood libel should the mood take him. Neither has Scarfe singled out Netanyahu for physical disfigurement. This is how he draws people, regardless of their nationality or religion.
“Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists – antisemites and antisemitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose. It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.”
But, as I said, I wasn’t going to comment until I heard Steve Bell “defending” the cartoon on the Today Programme this morning. Bell’s rant (against Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle who didn’t, in fact, want such cartoons banned) was vile, full of stuff about “you people,” the ”Zionist lobby,” how strange that even Murdoch has been forced to apologise (the “Zionist lobby” you see), an extraordinarliy ignorant claim that the blood libel is never used these days, and the alleged “fact” that the root cause of the problem is the foundation of Israel itself, based as it is (according to Bell) on “ethnic cleansing.”
This quote from Bell, in the course of this morning’s discussion, must never be forgotten:
“Extraneous notions like blood libel are
dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word
‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued…
“.. they throw it around with such abandon. If there really is
antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored…”
When the Guardian published this much-criticised cartoon by Bell last year,
I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt against charges of antisemitism. I wouldn’t anymore.
The present crisis at the BBC is probably more serious than any in its history. Even the “honourable” departure of “Incurious George” Enwistle has turned into a fiasco, what with the indefensible £450,000 payoff after 53 days in the job. More heads seem certain to roll, including the scratch team at Newsnight responsible for elementary journalistic errors that would have embarrassed a student newspaper, and (if the gloating Murdoch press has its way) the Corporation’s chairman Chris Patton.
In this febrile atmosphere, two essential points need to be constantly bourne in mind:
1/ It was John Humphrys’ merciless interrogation of Entwistle on the Today programme that played a big part in bringing matters to a head and effectively forced the wretched man’s resignation. What other media organisation would allow one of its jounalists to publicly humiliate the boss in that way? Can you imagine such a thing happening in, say, News Corp?
2/ The crucial matter remains child abuse, and the large number of victims who dare not come forward, or who are not believed when they do. The loathsome David Mellor’s description of Steve Messham (an unreliable witness, for sure, but most certainly a genuine victim) as a “weirdo” shows the degree of prejudice and ruling-class closing of ranks, that victims are often up against. It’s come to something when it takes another Tory, the former children’s minister Tim Loughton, to point out (in today’s Guardian) what should be obvious: “We’re forgetting that this whole issue is not about management of the BBC, it’s not about the Leveson inquiry, and it’s not about celebrities and politicians. It’s about the fact that a lot of children have been abused over many years and many of them have never had their stories believed or investigated.”
Hear, bloody hear.
Tonight at 10.35 something extraordinary will happen: a TV programme will call into question the competence and integrity of its own Chief Editor.
BBC Panorama will air the fact that BBC Newsnight journalists (notably reporter Liz MacKean and producer Meirion Jones) do not accept the explanation given by the Corporation’s top brass for having pulled Newsnight‘s Savile exposé in December of last year. The clear implication will be that pressure was brought to bear from the very top of the Corporation to pull the film.
Those who heard Newsnight editor Peter Rippon trying to explain away the decision, or who read his original blog account (now amended) of the reasoning behind the decision, already know that his ’explanation’ stinks. But for nearly three weeks the Beeb’s official line on the matter held firm in its denial and compacency – which makes Rippon’s ”decision” (allegedly forced on him by the new director general George Entwistle) to “stand aside” today and the admission that his account was “inaccurate or incomplete” all the more remarkable.
In tonight’s Panorama, Liz MacKean will state that she knew at the time the Newsnight report was nearing completion on 30th November of last year, that the previously supportive Rippon had changed his mind and would not be prepared to see the film aired. She does not, it seems, offer any explanation as to why Rippon backed down, and Panorama has no proof that any pressure was brought to bear on Rippon.
It’s hard to escape the obvious explanation: the BBC had a number of grovelling “tribute” shows scheduled to celebrate the national treasure, tireless charity worker and serial paedophile Savile over the Christmas period. The Newsnight exposé would have been, to say the least, a bit embarrassing.
But now comes the most interesting bit: what did the new BBC director general (at the time head of BBC TV) George Entwistle, know about the allegations against Savile and the Newsnight report in the period immediately before the film was pulled?
According to Panorama, Helen Boaden (head of BBC news), warned Entwistle in December that something was about to be broadcast on Newsnight, that might cause him to have to re-think his planned Savile tributes over Christmas. Entwistle acknowledges that this conversation happened, but insists that he didn’t ask Boaden for further details – something that I am not alone in finding difficult to believe.
What we know for sure is that shortly after that convesation, Rippon pulled the programme and later gave reasons for doing so that have now been withdrawn as untrue (sorry: “inaccurate or incomplete”).
Naturally, the Murdoch press, the Mail and the Tories are having a field-day at the Beeb’s expense over the Savile affair as a whole, the Newsnight business in particular, and the BBC’s monumental mishandling of the whole fiasco. And it has to be admitted that the Corporation’s compacency, dishonesty and ineptitude has played into the hands of its enemies. If today’s reports that BBC has been briefing against its own Newsnight journalists are true, then heads will have to roll, starting with Enwistle’s.
But it must be borne in mind that tonights’s Panorama will be something that no commercial broadcaster would ever allow: a devastating and potentially career-threatening attack upon its own senior management. It was encroaching commercialism (ie: the imperative to protect Savile’s reputation during and after his life) within the BBC that got it into this mess in the first place. It’s the public service ethos (to be demonstrated by Panorama tonight) that may yet save it.
He didn’t like it up ‘im (-self):
From Alex Thompson’s Channel 4 blog:
Mr MacKenzie has not given any interviews at all since the publication of last week’s Hillsborough report.
Channel 4 News repeatedly called him requesting an interview. We called yesterday in person to relay that message to him via his family at his large house in a private development in Surrey.
This morning I arrived there. I went straight to his house without any camera or recording equipment and asked Mr Mackenzie if he would kindly put on camera the remarks in his statement last week and generally give his side of the story.
Mr Mackenzie explained he was in the middle of writing an article for The Spectator and did not wish to do a TV interview with me. He then added: “F*** off.”
So I did. But not far. Just around the corner in fact to meet our cameraman and put on a radio microphone.
We called again. And you can see what happened on the next two meetings at his house. This time, Kelvin MacKenzie had changed rapidly from the shorts and t-shirt of the earlier visit into a smart shirt and trousers.
I sensed he was going out. In fact he went in. He again said he did not wish to be interviewed and that he was ‘not going to let (Channel 4 News) set the agenda’. He slammed the door in my face.
What the camera doesn’t pick up is that, from within the house he said: “I’m not afraid” when I ask him why he’s afraid of speaking to us.
Equally, when we returned a second time, what you don’t quite hear is Kelvin Mackenzie emerging from his house to leave.
As he does so he says jauntily: “Ah Alex – you still here? And still employed?”
I confirm on the tape that I am, still, employed and the rest is all there for you. And needs no words from me.
But as a postscript, consider this from Chris Horrie and Peter Chippindale’s fascinating account of life under Kelvin Mackenzie at The Sun – “Stick It Up Your Punter: Rise and Fall of The Sun”:
“As MacKenzie’s layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office but MacKenzie’s dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch.”
“The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn’t a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight. Nobody really had any comment on it, they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a classic smear.”
A smear for which Kelvin Mackenzie adamantly refused to apologise for many years. He still refuses to explain why he came to over-rule his staff and set in train a smear that hurts many to this day.
By David Kirk (Workers Liberty)
After 23 years of struggle the Justice for 96 Campaign have forced out the truth about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and the deliberate cover up and smear campaign by the ruling class to shift the blame to the fans. The report of the investigation by the Hillsborough Independent Panel has not only vindicated the campaign by the victims’ families: it has made plain the cover up was much more widespread and calculated then even they realised.
This was a entirely avoidable and also entirely predictable illegal killing. From the 70s onwards fans, journalists and managers had been pointing out the dangers of tightly penning in fans on crumbling terraces. There had been plenty of previous disaster and near disasters that should have been heeded. However most football club owners were more bothered about maximising paying customers and spending the least possible money on safety or renovation. The police and the government treated fans with contempt; they were a “public order issue” to be penned in and treated as cattle.
Just before 3pm on 15 April 1989 South Yorkshire Police started forcing far too many Liverpool fans into one particular section of the Lepping’s Lane end of the Sheffield football ground. Because of the cages and barriers a crush quickly developed. Instead of responding to the fans cries for help the police treated the crush as “crowd trouble” and literally beat back fans trying to climb out.
Ambulances were kept out of the ground by the police who were still insisted it was hooliganism even as the fatalities became apparent. Only one ambulance crew defied the order and drove on to the pitch.
This latest Hillsborough investigation argues that up to 41 of the deaths may have been avoided if the police response to the crush had been prompt.
Within hours of the disaster the cover up and smear campaign began. The local leader of the Police Federation, senior police officers and a local Tory MP met to decide the official line. That line was to blame the Liverpool fans themselves.
Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper repeated these lies saying fans had urinated on the dead and dying, that ambulance workers had been attacked, the dead people had been looted. They also said fans had been drunk and violent. The lies were printed under the headline, “The Truth”. The Hillsborough Panel have proved these stories to be sick fabrications.
The campaign for justice and truth throughout has had to take on the police, the rightwing press and both Labour and Tory governments. Even though an earler inquiry and report, the Taylor Report, led to vastly improved safety in football grounds, the police made sure that the real truth did not come out. Over 100 police officers statements were changed to avoid evidence of police culpability.
The Tory press and party’s contempt for the people of Liverpool was well known. Liverpool’s trade unionists were too militant, their politics too socialist. So when the Labour government was elected in 1997 there was hope for justice. However these hopes like so many others were dashed by New Labour.
Through years of demonstrations, campaigning in the press, through the unions and through Labour Party branches the campaigners kept the issue to the fore. This still did not stop the smears and accusations of self pity coming from the right, including from Boris Johnson.
Now the apologies are coming thick and fast. The campaign will continue to demand police officers are brought to account and that the inquest be re-opened.
Hillsborough, along with the cases of Stephen Lawrence, John Charles De Menzenies and Iain Tomlinson, remind us how far the ruling class will go to cover up police brutality and incompetence. The families’ campaign also remind us how vital it is despite all the smears and obstacles to continue the struggle for truth and justice.
Justice for the 96!
From today’s Guardian letters page:
Tory government, dodgy coppers, Murdoch press? We’ve come a long way in 23 years, haven’t we?
Phil Thorp, Bury, Lancashire
[The Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) was set up to help the families of the victims and the survivors of the tragedy seek justice. Their shop is located right across from “The Albert” on Walton Breck Road and they sell various merchandise to raise funds].
Dave Quayle, Chair of Unite’s National Political Comittee, was recently interviewed by Solidarity, paper of the AWL, on the subject of Unite’s strategy for the Labour Party.
You can read the article here.
Now The Sun has picked up on it:
Union’s vow to go left
HARDLINE union bosses have vowed to drag Labour further to the left before the next General Election — sparking civil war in the party.
Dave Quayle, a leading figure in Labour’s biggest financial backers Unite, issued the chilling warning in an interview. He said: “We want a firmly class-based and left-wing general election campaign in 2015.
“We’ve got to say that Labour is the party of and for workers, not for neo-liberals, bankers and the free market. That might alienate some people — but that’s tough.”
Mr Quayle, who is chairman of Unite’s national political committee, added: “We want to shift the balance in the party away from middle class academics.”
His comments are further evidence of the union’s plot to take over the party — as revealed by The Sun in March. General Secretary Len McCluskey has said he wants Labour to have more “working class” candidates.
But figures on the right of the party fear more left-wingers will be elected — and drag Labour back to the 1980s, when they lost two general elections.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who visited Corby, Northants, yesterday, was urged to act.
A source said: “This is a test of the party leadership to see if they’re serious about being a modern party capable of winning.”
…something that cannot be said of the Blairite Labour Uncut website, which really is a classic. It also seems likely that Labour Uncut tipped off the Tory press about Quale’s interview.
Dave Quayle has since been leant on by “senior figures” from the Party about the article, but is standing firm. Here is what he posted on the United Left email list:
“First of all apologies to comrades for having to read this in the Scum/Sun [...] I’m a former hot metal newspaper printer who did his time on picket [duty] outside Wapping so won’t buy or even read under normal circumstances any of Murdoch’s publications.
“I attach a copy of the publication in question so you can read it all. I was asked to do the interview by ‘Solidarity’ the newspaper of the AWL. I have no problem doing this but it has become an issue in itself. Now I think the article is a balanced view of our Political Strategy which was overwhelmingly endorsed at the recent Policy Conference and I stand by every word of it.
“The article was picked up by the uber Blairite blog site ‘Labour Uncut’ who went hysterical in denouncing me and UNITE, check it out it’s a good laugh! For example the piece under the denunciation of me/us is about the need to come clean and tell people about how much we ‘need’ to cut the NHS by. I kid you not.
“Then the mainstream right wing press picked up on the the blog, which was also [reported] in the Daily Telegraph.
“Now at least a good many of our activists and members know about our strategy!
“I have been contacted by, shall we say, senior figures in thge Labour party, very off the record saying they have no major problems with the article but please don’t do any more interviews for Trot papers (their words not mine). So ever onwards!”
Lest we forget:
Tony Blair is godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter
Tony Blair is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s young children, it has emerged in an interview with the media tycoon’s wife Wendi.
Blair and [Alastair] Campbell took to heart the advice of the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, on how to deal with Murdoch: “He’s a big bad bastard, and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength.”
Blair and his team believed they had achieved exactly that. A deal had been done, although with nothing in writing. If Murdoch were left to pursue his business interests in peace he would give Labour a fair wind.
In the footnotes to his book, Price, who worked at No 10 as Campbell’s deputy, attributes that final sentence to “private information”.
Pisses all over the culture, and then complains of the stench.
Nicked from Impossible Songs.