The BBC and the Incredible Invisible Apology
On January 12th, BBC Radio 5 Live, for reasons that can only be speculated about, brought on a Tory donor, John Cauldwell. Cauldwell made a series of statements about Corbyn, one of which was that Corbyn ‘is an antisemite’. (Cauldwell also called him ‘a Marxist’.)
About 40 minutes later, the presenter, Rachel Burden, made a slightly panicky-sounding statement that there was ‘absolutely no evidence’ Corbyn is or had ever been an antisemite.
I decided to test whether or not this was BBC’s ’official’ position as an institution, because otherwise it could be dismissed as a ‘personal take’. So I made a complaint that Burden had not explained whether or not her statement was ‘on behalf of’ BBC.
A few months later I had a reply, which I think is worth examining in some detail.
1. ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s views and actions in relation to this issue have been closely examined or commented upon many times over the years but he has always denied the allegations of antisemitism that have been made against him.’
Not, you note, ‘many accusations have been made that have been without evidence’, but just ‘he has always denied them.’
Accused people nearly always deny the accusation, this tells us nothing and serves to reinforce the idea that there is some validity to the accusations, but that this validity has been ‘denied’.
2. ’Unlike the party he led, however, the charges that have been levelled against him have never been formally proven, however strongly you feel them to be true.’
Interesting on a number of counts. First, ‘Unlike the party he led…’ is claiming that ‘charges’ about the Labour Party under Corbyn have been ‘formally proven’. The ‘charge’ against the party was that it was ‘institutionally antisemitic’: EHRC does not say this. The EHRC report found two cases, both now subject to legal review, and some muttering about ‘training’. The ‘charge’ against the party of ‘institutional antisemitism’ was not ‘formally proven’ at all. I’ve made a further complaint about this.
3. ’… the charges that have been levelled against him have never been formally proven’.
Well that’s one way of putting it, I suppose. Had he been accused of witchcraft, beating dogs or being addicted to ketamine, these ‘charges’ would also have ‘never been formally proven’. BBC mulishly refuse to accept that the ‘charges’ are simply false, and manage here to suggest that he somehow got away with it, that there was some technicality that allowed him to wriggle free. ‘Never been formally proven’ suggests that they could have been formally proven, and could still be at a later time, but for some reason have not been yet. This, obviously, is grossly misleading phrasing.
4. ‘…however strongly you feel them to be true.’
This reveals that this is a stock reply to, presumably, many complainants who objected to Rachel Burden’s statement. (The Campaign Against Antisemitism, one of the main sources of accusations, have said they made a complaint.) I, of course, did not, but rather requested that BBC confirm it was a BBC statement and not a personal one. That there exists a stock reply to questions about Burden’s statement shows BBC have had significant hostile response.
But here’s the money-shot:
5. ‘We felt it was important for our presenter to make this point on Mr Corbyn’s behalf’.
The key word here is ‘We’. ‘We the BBC’. We the BBC felt it was important. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark made in the heat of a fast-moving live news magazine show, but was dictated by the BBC. This would explain the 40 minute gap between Cauldwell’s accusation and Burden’s comments: someone, presumably at Legal, had said they just couldn’t get away with it and would have to issue a statement to ward off a lawsuit, which they duly did.
But there, shyly smuggled in at the end of a characteristically dishonest BBC reply to a complaint, which manages to contain both insinuations that Corbyn was guilty but got away with it and a straight-out lie about ‘formally proven charges’ against his party, is the admission: this was a BBC statement.
It’s worth taking a moment to consider what this means. Whilst BBC have never, to my knowledge anyway, actually used the words ‘Corbyn is an antisemite’, they have been at the forefront of the ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ fraud from the outset, shaping and crafting it, uncritically amplifying the hysteria and bigotry and hate, allowing the accusations to be made innumerable times, encouraging obvious fraudsters to peddle their dubious wares unchallenged. We probably all have our favourites: mine will always be a World At One interview with then Labour Friends of Israel Vice Chair Louise Ellman MP, in which she was allowed to say she ‘suspected’ that Jeremy Corbyn and the left have ‘antisemitic thoughts’. This was broadcast, with a perfectly straight face, as news. I think future historians will look at this in much the same way we look at the ‘spectral evidence’ allowed in the Salem witch trials.
But then, abruptly, in the 7th year of this hateful and monstrous campaign, BBC, with no fanfare, blow up one of the central planks of the story, that Jeremy Corbyn himself is/was an antisemite. Without this, the narrative immediately falters because the ‘Corbyn is an antisemite’ theme was what was driving it. Under his leadership of the party, BBC claimed there was an ‘antisemitism crisis’: inevitably, simply by association, this raises the question of whether or not he himself is an antisemite. Without this, without him, it’s a show with no star, just some supporting cast wandering around. There really is no circus without Corbyn, and BBC took him off-stage.
It’s a stunning development in this story, immediately throwing doubt over the entire narrative of the ‘antisemitic left’. It changes everything. And how did BBC make it? A quick statement by a Radio 5 Live presenter, never repeated, never referred to. One they had to be forced to confirm was a BBC statement at all.
And one that has not, as far as I’m aware anyway, been reported anywhere, certainly not on BBC, except obviously for the statement itself.
But it exists now, however grudging and hedged-about and quiet, and it is hugely significant. The ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ has no star, and with another libel win being reported, that of former Corbyn staffer Laura Murray vs Ian Austin and Daily Telegraph, the whole cabaret is looking shabbier, more forlorn, every day.
Too late, of course, the damage has been done. But BBC here, presumably under legal threat, are beginning the long, long journey back to reality and away from the Ellman-esque woo and the hate-mongering.
I listed ten frauds in a blog post. Four of them relate personally to Corbyn — the wreath, the mural, the irony and the ‘friends’. All four of these are now obsolete: anyone attempting them after this can simply be told, ‘Go argue with the BBC. Here’s the link to the complaints form.’
That phase is over. There are six frauds remaining in my list of ten. Now the leading man has been retired, let’s see how long any of them can last.