Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Although television coverage of the Israeli attacks on Gaza is extensive, it is uninformative.

The BBC, in particular its reporter Jeremy Bowen, seems to be in thrall to the images it can project. But, by its Charter, the BBC has a duty to educate, and what is missing in so much of the coverage is context. What is Hamas? What does it believe? Why is it not reported that the Arab press carries numerous attacks on Hamas for exposing the Palestinian people to suffering? Why is Hamas, despite being a Sunni organisation, close to Shi'ite Iran? What are the politics of the situation on both sides? Why, in short, is what is happening happening? The rise of Hamas adds to the idea, much loved by the BBC, that the authentic leaders of Muslim societies today are all political Islamists -- the intellectual model being that of Sinn Fein: terrorists as the people who make peace. As a result, we are told about very little else. Just before the end of the year, for example, Bangladesh, which has one of the largest Muslim populations in the entire world, returned to democratic rule.

British officialdom, notably the Muslim adviser to the Foreign Office, Mockbul Ali, and the Muslim Contact Unit of the Metropolitan Police, have liked to say that Jamaat Islami, the party of political Islamism in Bangladesh, can help control militancy in this country, where the Bengali population is extensive. Its extremist leaders have been invited here. Mosques like the East London Mosque, which furnishes the current leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, are close to Jamaati elements. In the Bangladesh elections, though, Jamaat was left with only two seats in the 300-seat parliament, and the secular Awami League was victorious.

Virtually no attention from the BBC. Perhaps they would say faraway elections among darkskinned people are boring -- but then let us not hear their self-justifications about their unique educational role.

Among the cards dropping on to our mat before Christmas was a bright purple communication, not in an envelope. 'Are you under 25?' it asked. 'Ever had unprotected sex?' it went on. Since the questions stood beside a picture of glamorously dressed boys and girls, I thought it might be an invitation to the young to rush out and find some unprotected sex, but it turned out to be an offer from East Sussex Downs and Weald and Hastings and Rother PCTs to have a free test for chlamydia. At no point did the card explain what chlamydia was, beyond asserting that it can make people infertile. It then claimed that '1 in 10 people have chlamydia'.

This figure seems unbelievable, and certainly unverifiable. Why do public bodies think that it is all right to say big, frightening, serious things without establishing whether they are true?

As mentioned in previous Notes, this technique is used constantly by TV Licensing when it threatens people who do not have televisions and therefore do not have television licences. In its menacing letters and oral communications, it implies legal powers it does not possess. A reader who moved into his new flat and received a demand within a week of arrival tells me that he wrote back immediately to explain that he would be in Africa for most of the summer and so had no plan to get a television. …

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