Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More BBC Hate Speech

We read:

"The BBC has been forced to remove statements from its website referring to Jesus as a 'bastard'. It is the latest in a string of offensive comments that BBC editors have allowed members of the public to post.... The comments were allowed to remain for a week despite complaints. But after The Mail on Sunday contacted senior BBC officials, they were deleted....

One website user wanted to see if BBC editors were allowing these offensive remarks to remain while blocking others. He wrote: "No one can surpass the Muslims for denial of their role in Terrorism and Suicide bombing." The remarks were almost immediately deleted.

The BBC has also been criticised for allowing allegedly anti-Semitic posts from a contributor called "Iron Naz'. In a message left on the site for more than a month, Iron Naz says: "Zionism is a racist ideology where jews are given supremacy over all other races and faiths. This is found in the Talmud...which allows jews to lie as long as its to non-jews."

The remarks brought complaints from the Board of Deputies, the organisation that represents Britain's Jews and its Community Security Trust. They say the post draws on a discredited 19th Century text, the Talmud Unmasked, which is still distributed by neo-Nazi booksellers. However, the BBC said the remarks did not merit removal.


"Islam = good; Homosexuals = good; Christianity = bad; Israel = bad" is the BBC formula. And they accuse conservatives of being simple-minded!

Oldster couple live on Maccas

Shriek! How did these people live to be 84! They should have died years ago according to the faddists

AN 84-year-old British couple who have eaten at their local McDonald's every day for the past 17 years have spent nearly $50,000 on hamburgers and fries. Lee and Mary Humphrey have scoffed the same meal - a double hamburger each with a shared large fries - more than 6000 times and have never dined out anywhere else, Metro.co.uk reported. The couple have their own table at the fast-food outlet and moved house two years ago to East Sussex so they could be within walking distance.

They admitted that McDonald's supplied the bulk of their diet. "We don't eat big when we come home. We like to sit down in the afternoon and watch Deal or No Deal with a Magnum chocolate covered ice cream," Mrs Humphrey told Metro.co.uk. "Lee will have a bowl of cereal in the morning and I'll make him a pre-cooked roast beef at the weekends."

Despite the high amounts of fat they consume, the couple said they were fit and walked 6 km every day. "McDonald's is all we need and we're never ill, in fact I'd say we're fighting fit," Mrs Humphrey said. "I think it's the best restaurant in the world".


British mother forced to give birth alone in toilet of 'flagship' NHS hospital

A young mother had to deliver her own baby in the lavatory of a flagship hospital because there were no trained midwives available. Surveyor Catherine Brown had made the agonising decision to undergo a chemically-induced abortion after being told her 18-week pregnancy was risking her life. But when the time came to give birth she was on an ear, nose and throat ward and had only her mother to help her through the ordeal. Her premature son Edward died in her arms minutes later.

The traumatised mother-of-one said: "I just howled and howled. I remember sitting there looking at him and thinking, 'What do I do next?'. I just sat there on the toilet looking at my dead baby. "It was dreadful - a terrible nightmare. Then I started crying my eyes out and repeating, 'I'm sorry baby, I'm so sorry'. I still can't believe the hospital had no trained staff who could help me." To compound Miss Brown's agony, the body of her child was almost discarded with hospital waste.

Her MP has called for an independent review of what he called "one of the most harrowing medical cases I have ever had to deal with". The catalogue of errors unfolded at the 238million pound Queen's Hospital in Romford, Essex, which opened last December. Eleven weeks into her pregnancy, Miss Brown, 30, started suffering abdominal pains. She was told she was suffering from a urinary infection which would not affect her pregnancy. But on the evening of February 21 she started bleeding and was rushed into hospital.

Her condition was stabilised with intravenous antibiotics and in the early hours of the following morning she was moved to a mixed-sex ear, nose and throat ward where a bed was available. She was placed in a doorless annexe of the ward and told to expect a scan in the morning. By 5pm that evening she had still not had a scan. The procedure was only arranged at 7pm after her mother, Sheila Keeling, 51, threatened to make an official complaint. Doctors discovered there was no amniotic fluid around the baby, meaning his chances of survival were minimal. Miss Brown was told her own life was threatened by her condition and, following a consultant's advice, she took the devastating decision to undergo a chemically-induced abortion late that evening, after which she was moved into a private room.

At 4am on the following morning she went into labour but complained she had to wait an hour for gas and air to help with the pain. With no professional help available, she decided to go to her en suite bathroom and stand over the toilet, which had a disabled bar for support, because she had given birth to her son, 18-month-old Matthew, in an upright position. Her mother spoke of her fears that she was going to lose her daughter as well as her grandson, because she was bleeding so heavily. "I was running around frantically trying to find gas and air for her and pleaded with nurses, who seemed very matter of fact, to assist," she said.

"The staff I did find told me they did not have the training to help. Catherine was left to deliver the baby alone with just me for help before cleaning herself up and going back to bed. It was horrific."

But their trauma was still not over. Miss Brown said staff almost took Edward's remains away for disposal despite her informing the hospital she wanted to hold a funeral. "They didn't even record the details of Edward's birth. But he did exist. And more than that, he was a very special little boy. "Hopefully he has made sure that other families won't have to go through what we did. We'll never forget him."

Tests later revealed Miss Brown had septicaemia, possibly caused by the placenta failing to implant properly. Miss Brown, who lives in Hornchurch and has split with Edward and Matthew's father, said the mental and physical toll of her experience meant she had to stop work as a utility surveyor and is only now close to recovering.

Fighting back tears, her mother said: "It was really hard watching my daughter go through that. No one was there to reassure us and make us think they knew what they were doing."

Miss Brown's MP, Conservative James Brokenshire, said: 'The catalogue of errors and blunders is quite disturbing. There appear to have been systemic issues and potentially issues about individual members of staff. "While changes have been made by the hospital it is such a horrific story I want everything to be closely scrutinised. "This has to be one of the most harrowing medical cases I have ever had to deal with. "Catherine almost died and she later discovered the baby had nearly been disposed of with medical-waste."

Queen's Hospital was opened at the end of last year, taking over maternity services from Oldchurch Hospital in Romford. Women more than 20 weeks pregnant who experience complications are seen by A&E and sent to the maternity unit if necessary. Those under 20 weeks also go through A&E but are referred to gynaecology if problems continue. However, there was not a dedicated gynaecology unit when Miss Brown was admitted, meaning patients were sent to a ward where a bed was available.

The Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospital NHS Trust offered its "sincere condolences" to Miss Brown. A spokesman said: "We have now established a separate gynaecological A&E service, staffed by gynaecological, medical and nursing staff with access to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit. "From the end of this month, there will be a dedicated gynaecological ward, with the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit situated within it. This will ensure dedicated and appropriate care."


The anti-elitist pose of the elites

It's defensive, it's camouflage and it leads only to dumbing down

We are told we live in an anti-elitist age. We no longer accept the word of the old elites such as newspaper editors who handed down tablets of stone in the past. Instead we have a blogosphere that we create. Indeed, the old elites seem rather nervous, on the back foot, humble in our wake, especially in front of the young. At a big launch event for the 2012 Olympics in London attended by all the great and the good, one of the most powerful and key members of the elite in London, Keith Khan, head of culture for the 2012 Olympics and chief executive of London arts centre Rich Mix, turned to a group of teenagers in the front row and told them earnestly, "I have got to learn from you." What's more, he meant it.

We are told that this is the end of deference, and not being one for being deferential, that should appeal to me. But I've got serious reservations about today's anti-elitism, and as Khan's sycophancy suggests, anti-elitist deference is just as distasteful as more traditional subservience.

And while it is always an attractive idea to someone like me to give a metaphorical kicking to the elites -- especially those in Britain with their old school ties and their class and privilege who snobbishly conclude that they naturally merit access to the best of education, arts and culture while the rest of us can rot on the sidelines -- in truth, contemporary anti-elitism is not the answer to such prejudice. In fact, there is nothing attractive about contemporary anti-elitism. By its terms I'm regularly branded with the elitist tag.

In Britain I have been accused of elitism for defending expertise and for arguing that authority gained from acquired insights and knowledge is more insightful than subjective prejudices: doctors really do know more than their patients; teachers really do know more than their pupils. I have been called an elitist for arguing against the proposition that J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are as good as Jane Austen's, or for arguing that Beethoven is superior music to hip-hop. And I've been called an elitist for arguing that degrees in media studies, golf studies and tourism are not as rigorous as degrees in physics, English literature or the classics.

In other words, you can be branded an elitist if you don't buy the fashion for cultural relativism, that pernicious orthodoxy that refuses to distinguish between the second-rate and the excellent. Contemporary anti-elitism is a con and at its heart lies a real scorn for ordinary people, dressed up in the language of democratisation. It reflects a crisis about the elites' role in society and their failure to inspire or have anything to offer ordinary people. It is the elites and establishment organisations who often champion anti-elitism. They are constantly trying to suck up to ordinary people. There are British institutions that are rebranding themselves as we speak to become more "relevant", their new logos invariably featuring graffiti-style graphics, their mission statements suddenly written in street-cred language.

The Church of England recently decided its image was too elitist and announced plans to hold services everywhere from skateboarding parks to pubs and cafes. It is the elites that spend all their time chasing after us, trying to include us, empower us, listen to us. In Britain, politicians are consulting the electors daily on what policies they should adopt. MPs have been told to set up blogs. Researchers from mainstream political policy circles proudly boast they read Facebook on the internet every day to see what we are interested in. It feels like stalking!

Kevin Rudd isn't the only one flirting with young people on YouTube. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown listens to Arctic Monkeys on his iPod, as he gives government grants to local authorities with the requirement that they consult young people about what they think about council services and initiatives. Every government green paper has a youth version (think big writing and lots of cartoons), and there are youth parliaments and shadow youth councils everywhere.

Another institution that has declared war on elitism is the BBC, which seems to be having a bit of a nervous breakdown and an extended bout of self-loathing, worried that it is too distant from its viewers and listeners. In recent years it has commissioned numerous reports and internal reviews that have concluded that the BBC comprises middle-aged men in suits and is too metropolitan, middle class, white, elite and distant to appeal to the majority. As a result there is a big initiative to give viewers the right to answer back. And you have the ludicrous situation in which chief political editor Nick Robinson is told to blog daily and use such rambling, ill-informed bar-room responses from viewers as "an important part of developing his judgments".

Time magazine, one of the most elite, old-school journalism outfits around, has had its prestigious person of the year award since the 1920s. Winners have included Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, Bono, George W. Bush and even Adolf Hitler. You get the gist: they are people of substance. Last December they put a mirror on the cover of the Person of the Year issue, literally reflecting the fact that YOU and I had won the coveted award "because it is you, not us, who are transforming the information age", "wresting power from the few", and "democratising the web for 'the people"'.

It has become de rigueur at every policy event in the arts/media/politics to have a youth speaker. Some hapless 16-year-old stands up and gives some rather mediocre speech and gets rapturous applause and a standing ovation regardless of what they say. Of course, they are not applauded for what they say; they are simply being patted on the back for being young and being there.

And these fawning adults are using these children as a stage army to ensure their institution is in touch. The obvious point is that teenage speakers are often self-indulgent, banal, derivative and cliched, but why wouldn't they be, they are teenagers. That wouldn't matter if the adults didn't tell them their views were interesting regardless. The problem here is not the teenagers but the spinelessness of a sycophantic elite.

In Britain there has been a major overhaul of science in the general certificate of secondary education exam to make the curriculum more relevant and partly because too many students have been failing physics, biology and chemistry. And in anti-elitist Britain, you cannot have pupils failing! The authorities justified these changes by citing a national survey that asked pupils why they were failing and the majority said they thought physics and the hard sciences were "dull and boring". So the Education Department took these 15 and 16-year-olds at their word and reformed the curriculum to create the 21st-century science course that wouldn't be dull and boring. Out went periodic tables of elements and the structure of the atom or anything too abstract, and in came modules on mobile phones, healthy eating and the drugs debate.

But while cannabis may be more fascinating to teenagers than quadratic equations, letting the immature, philistine opinions of teenagers dictate education policy is obviously worrying. I'm not blaming the pupils. The tragedy is that these views are wheeled out and cited by adults who should know better. It is supposed to be an example of the great anti-elitist education revolution when, in fact, it is the institutionalisation of ignorance.

Among the worst culprits to have bought into the anti-elitism orthodoxy are the museums and the heritage world. Curators, scholars with specialist knowledge derived from incessantly studying the Ming dynasty or Egyptology, are now packed off on re-education courses in audience development, participation and access. Now every museum has invited everyone from the homeless to people from old folks' homes to curate their own history by donating objects that "mean the most to you". Heritage has been rebranded as "personal place-making". The Heritage Lottery Fund has a "your heritage" project, and English Heritage has a "my heritage" project. It will be the punters who define what should be part of heritage. One major report suggests that "historic properties should consult with local communities and visitors, as well as those who do not visit, about what they would like to experience in order in increase their relevance to everyone". But seriously, how will people know what they would like to experience after the leaders of the heritage industry have abandoned trying to introduce the public to anything unfamiliar in case it alienates them?

There is a similar story back at the BBC where the head of television news, Peter Horrocks, confessed in a speech to the Reuters Institute last year that some broadcasters of his generation went into TV to produce "journalism that would change people's understanding of the world and shape the views of the audience". That sounds like an admirable aspiration but for Peter and his peers it is a mea culpa because they have abandoned trying to shape audience's views. They are too busy chasing them. Like the rest of the elite, they have lost faith in their own mission and, worse than that, they have no faith in us, the public, and our capacity to be stretched.

In anti-elitist news, every issue, however complex, has a simplistic explanation. The big stories are accompanied by a video wall of flashy graphics and quirky camera angles in case we get bored. It's as though we have the attention span of gnats. I'm not making it up, they really do think the majority of people are stupid. In their own reports, we are told that the majority (the working class) would be put off by professionally detached presenters. We are told that this socio-economic group will relate better to news if it is presented by an emotional, "your-heart-goes-out-to-them" style. With stories told in accents that audiences recognise, presented by I'm-your-friend-matey journalists.

It reveals a gross caricature at the heart of the anti-elitist agenda, that the working classes are incapable of thinking or analysing and can only feel and empathise. The noble savage is back in fashion. Without admitting it, the anti-elitist elite is saying the higher reaches of cultural ideas could not possibly be of interest to most people, so there is no point in offering them these things.

In Jonathan Rose's book The Intellectual Life of the British Working Class, a wonderful study of 19th-century autodidacts and the early workers' education movement, a cowman's son, on discovering the joy of literature, declares "it was like coming up from the bottom of the ocean and seeing the universe for the first time". In today's anti-elitist culture, we would probably leave this agricultural worker on the seabed and give him a hand-held camera to film himself and then broadcast it on BBC News. We'd tell him not to bother reading at all and that his natural aptitude for cowherding was just as valuable as any skill in literature, and having deprived him of those elitist novels, we would then give him a degree in rustic studies.


Deadly British bureaucratic bungling: "Emergency services were expected to begin a search this morning for two people still missing after a fire erupted in a Cornish hotel. The fire has already claimed the life of a man who tried to escape by jumping from the third or fourth floor of the Penhallow Hotel, in Newquay. Anybody left in the rubble would have little chance of survival, police said. As the rubble of the hotel smouldered yesterday, the Fire Brigade faced criticism that firefighters were hindered by a 90-minute wait while vital equipment arrived from Plymouth, more than 50 miles away. The fire spread at devastating speed in the early hours of Saturday as firefighters waited for an aerial ladder platform. Both Newquay and Truro, 15 miles away, possess the equipment but both were under repair."

Anti-Israel "Greens": "Young "climate change protesters" attacked an Israeli warehouse yesterday near the Heathrow Airport outside of London where they are campaigning against Heathrow's planned expansion. They took down the Israeli flag at the warehouse... And... They hoisted the Palestinian flag. It was part of their protest against carbon emissions(?)"

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