BBC WS WHYS initiates discussion of the apartheid trope, moderation fails

The August 18th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item about “the Israeli columnist who’s decided it’s time to call Israel an ‘apartheid’ society”. We will be discussing that programme in a future article but in this one we will take a look at the related post on the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook account on the same day.

As a reminder – the BBC uses social media and discussion boards as part of its interpretation of the public purpose remit titled ‘Global Outlook’, according to which it will “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

“BBC Trust: “The BBC should inform conversation and debate, providing forums where its international audiences can debate issues they find important.””

The WHYS Facebook post the following question:”Apartheid”: right or wrong word?

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Obviously anticipating the type of offensive comments not infrequently seen when Israel-related topics appear on such BBC discussion boards (see examples in the related articles below), the first comment on that post was posted by WHYS itself:

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Below are examples of some of the comments the WHYS moderators apparently did not consider “abusive or inappropriate” seeing as they were left standing on the thread.

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‘Powerful’ and ‘influential’ Jews:

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‘Ethnic cleansing’:

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Promoting the elimination of Israel:

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Nazi analogy:

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‘Jews are pigs’:

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Special demands of the BBC’s Jewish journalists:

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Nazi analogy:

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Nazi analogy:

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Once again we see that defamatory falsehoods, racial abuse and antisemitic tropes pass BBC ‘moderation’ with no problem at all. Perhaps the BBC would like to explain to its funding public how that can be considered as contributing to its mission of ‘informing conversation and debate’. 

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Antisemitism on BBC WS ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page

Antisemitic comments (again) on BBC WHYS Facebook post… about show on antisemitism

 

BBC R4’s ‘Sunday’ talks the talk on antisemitism

The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, John Mann MP, was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ on August 9th. The item (available here from 05:21) was introduced by host William Crawley as follows:Sunday John Mann

WC: “Last week it was reported that the number of incidents of antisemitism in the UK is on the rise and a common analysis of that spike in anti-Jewish prejudice is the inability or unwillingness of some people to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel. But antisemitism has a longer history than comparatively recent disputes about the place of the Jewish state in the Middle East and that long history is surveyed in a new book – ‘Antisemitism: The Oldest Hatred’. Its author is the Labour MP John Mann who for the past ten years has chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.”

Listeners familiar with the BBC’s response to complaints concerning a reporter who, back in January, displayed precisely such “inability or unwillingness […] to distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the politics of the state of Israel” might have found Crawley’s detached description jarring.

Following John Mann’s explanation of why he wrote the book, Crawley came in again:

WC: “It’s complex sometimes because of the language and you point this out in the book: that sometimes people use language that covers…as a cover story…for antisemitism and it can be subtle; it can be difficult sometimes to recognize. Let’s explore that a bit, can we? Where do you see subtle forms of antisemitism today?” […]

JM: “The ways it creeps in that are distinctive and unusual are because of some of the caricatures of successful Jewish people. So concepts of wealth, of ownership – for example ownership of the media, ownership of business, control of countries – and not least the United States. That comes in a lot and it allows people – sometimes deliberately, more often, more ignorantly – to cross the border of what’s acceptable in terms of discourse […] and it’s this concept that the powerful Jew, the wealthy Jew, is used a lot. One example of how that is almost in the mainstream now: in the Baltics this is the imagery that’s there – similar to the imagery used by Goebbels and the Nazis – which is of this Jewish businessman-type figure, wealthy, controlling; a hidden influence who is malevolently affecting the future of society. That is used in the mainstream in the Baltics […] and to be honest, that’s quite extraordinary for part of the European Union.”

It is of course also quite extraordinary for the UK’s public broadcaster – but nevertheless, precisely such imagery was promoted in a BBC television programme on November 8th last year and the BBC failed to respond appropriately. Moreover, promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope and claims of Jewish and/or Israeli control of the United States have been documented on numerous occasions on these pages – see for example here, here, here, here and here.

Towards the end of the item, Crawley asks John Mann “how best to challenge the normalization of that kind of prejudice?” and the reply includes the following:

JM: “…you deal with your own backyard first. You deal with those in your own local community; you deal with those in your own workplace. In politics you deal with those in your own political party.”

Until the BBC begins to ‘walk the walk’ by seriously and frankly addressing its own issues concerning the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse in its content and on its discussion boards, items such as this one can obviously only be viewed as cynical and opportunistic lip service to a very serious topic.

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Report of All-Party inquiry into Antisemitism adduces BBC content

BBC doubles down on its creative translation of ‘Yahud’

Recent weeks have seen two cases in which the BBC chose to inaccurately translate the Arabic word ‘Yahud’ (Jews) when it was spoken by Palestinian children. In Lyse Doucet’s programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ the word was translated as ‘Israelis’ and in Adam Wishart’s ‘The Train that Divides Jerusalem’ as ‘soldiers’.  

Members of the public who complained about the former programme received a template response from BBC Complaints.

template response yahud

A reader who contacted the BBC about the same issue in the second programme received a reply which included the following:

Reply complaint Wishart prog

That BBC Trust decision from 2013 – apparently viewed by the BBC complaints department as a one-size-fits-all precedent – can be found here.

Of course the real issue here – and the reason people have made complaints – is that the BBC’s substitution of ‘Yahud’ with its own choice of different words denies audiences understanding of the incitement and indoctrination to which Palestinian children are subjected. That topic has not been addressed in any of the responses we have seen from the BBC complaints department.  

Related Articles:

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The history – and the BBC Trust decision – behind Lyse Doucet’s mistranslation of ‘yahud’

BBC does know how to translate ‘Yahud’ – when it is said in the UK

BBC’s Panorama Jerusalem train programme takes viewers on a predictable journey

Hate speech, lies and antisemitism on BBC News Facebook page

One of the BBC’s defined public purposes is titled ‘Global Outlook’ and the BBC Trust’s interpretation of that remit can be seen below.

global outlook

Details provided concerning clause b) – “Enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” – include the following declarations of intent:

“BBC Trust: “The BBC should inform conversation and debate, providing forums where its international audiences can debate issues they find important.” […]

The nature of digital technology also means improved opportunities to connect with audiences – and BBC Global News will consider carefully the various access needs of its diverse audiences and continue to seek ways to give voice to its many listeners, viewers and users. From emails read out by presenters, to questions put to world leaders, to chatrooms and websites where people can debate and engage in dialogue free from fear and censorship, the BBC will make space available to support free speech and informed democracy.” [emphasis added]

The promotion of dialogue and free speech is of course a commendable aspiration but unfortunately, all too often BBC message boards become a forum for hate speech, dehumanization and delegitimisation – at least where Israelis are concerned.

A post promoting Lyse Doucet’s recent programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ which appeared on the BBC News Facebook account on July 7th was viewed by over 450,000 people and generated over a thousand comments.   

Among the comments left standing by the BBC were several promoting the notion that Israel carried out ‘genocide’, ‘extermination’, ‘slaughter’, ‘rape’ and deliberately targets Muslims.

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Numerous comments called for the expulsion of Israelis from their country.

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Violence against Israelis and their supporters was advocated.

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Israel was accused of creating ISIS and compared to that group.

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Sderot was described as a ‘settlement’ on ‘occupied land’ in numerous comments.

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Antisemitic conflation between Jews and Israelis appeared.

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Antisemitic themes of ‘Jewish power’ were also left standing.

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Israelis were dehumanised.

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The BBC cannot possibly claim that this sort of display falls into the category of ‘informing conversation and debate’. Not only do many of the comments on that thread distort reality and promote falsehoods and conspiracy theories but others clearly spread antisemitic discourse and hate speech.

Regrettably – as has been documented here on numerous occasions – this is far from the first time that BBC Facebook pages have been allowed to become a forum for the promotion of delegitimisation, hate speech and even incitement to violence.

And once again the BBC’s failure to tackle this recurring issue suggests that it is apparently still unperturbed by that fact.

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Nazi analogies and ‘apartheid’ defamation on BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ Facebook account

 

The history – and the BBC Trust decision – behind Lyse Doucet’s mistranslation of ‘yahud’

An article which appeared in the Jewish Chronicle on July 8th has been making waves on social media and in the blogosphere. Reporter Sandy Rashty revealed that:translation

“A BBC documentary has substituted the word “Israelis” for “Jews” in its translation of interviews with Palestinians, its maker has admitted.

Lyse Doucet has stood by the decision to translate “yahud” as “Israeli” in subtitles on her hour-long documentary Children of the Gaza War, which airs on BBC Two tonight.

The correct translation for “yahud” from Arabic to English is “Jew”.

The BBC’s chief international correspondent said that Gazan translators had advised her that Palestinian children interviewed on the programme who refer to “the Jews” actually meant Israelis.

In one instance, a Gazan child says the “yahud” are massacring Palestinians. However the subtitles read: “Israel is massacring us”.

Canada-born Ms Doucet said: “We talked to people in Gaza, we talked to translators. When [the children] say ‘Jews’, they mean ‘Israelis’.

“We felt it was a better translation of it.”

She added: “We checked this again yesterday.

“We are not trying to cover it up – we took advice on it and that was the advice we were given by translators.””

Anyone toying with the idea of making a complaint to the BBC on this issue should be aware that this is not the first time that the BBC has mistranslated the Arabic word ‘yahud’. In February 2013 the same issue arose in a series of multi-platform reports by Jon Donnison – the BBC’s Gaza correspondent at the time.

“Another version of the same story was also featured on Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme on February 26th […]. In that version, at 43:37, one can hear a translator interpret the words of interviewee Nour Adwan as “If we meet an Israeli and they are speaking in Hebrew..”.  Sharp eared listeners will notice that the fifteen year-old actually says the word “Yahud” – Jew – in Arabic rather than “Israeli”, but for some reason, the BBC chose to modify that in translation.” 

A member of the public submitted a complaint concerning that obvious mistranslation and in October 2013 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee produced a decision which raised some very interesting issues concerning its interpretation of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy.

The ECU wrote: [all emphasis added]

“The Committee considered that the decision to translate the girl’s words as “an Israeli” was an appropriate exercise of editorial judgement. In taking this view the Committee emphasised that no interpretation of the Editorial Guidelines requires content producers to make direct word-for-word translations without also taking account of relevant context.”

And:

“The Committee noted that the programme did not deny the distinction between “Jews” and “Israelis”, but that in this context it felt that it would be misleading not to give the audience a clearer picture of whom the girl was most likely referring to and that a literal translation would not necessarily have achieved that.”

The crucial part of that ECU decision comes in the following paragraph:

“The Committee accepted that the main editorial purpose of this news item was to report that Hamas schools were teaching children Hebrew as “the language of the enemy”. The programme-makers, based on their professional judgement, understood the enemy in this case to be Israel, and the Committee understood the reasons why the programme felt it was important to communicate that clearly.” 

As was noted here at the time:

“In other words, the programme-makers’ “professional judgement” led them to believe that Hamas makes a distinction between Israelis (the enemy) and Jews (not the enemy) and intended by means of this translation distortion to clarify that. 

Apparently that “professional judgement” has never come across the antisemitic themes which dominate the Hamas Charter or the words of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar from 2009, for example.

“The Zionists have legitimised the killing of their children by killing our children. They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.” [emphasis added]

The obvious attempt by the programme-makers to tone down and censor the type of propaganda with which children in the Gaza Strip are indoctrinated by Hamas in schools, summer camps or on television by replacing the word ‘Jew’ with ‘Israeli’ – thus making it more palatable for Western audiences sensitive to issues of racism – indicates the existence of a problem far greater than mistranslation – and one which apparently exists even in the highest echelons of the BBC.”

Two and a half years on, we see that the BBC is still shielding its audiences from the antisemitism which lies at the very heart of Hamas’ Islamist ideology (and from which other Palestinian factions are not exempt) and which shapes the indoctrination of Palestinian children from an early age.

That uncomfortable reality does not of course fit in with the BBC’s narrative on the topic of why the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip continue their attacks on Israel despite the fact that it disengaged from the territory a decade ago and so – as we see above – the BBC allows itself to use ‘professional judgement’ in order to rewrite the story according to its own political views.

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BBC Monitoring coverage of Ramadan soaps – the sequel

As was noted here last week, BBC Monitoring recently produced a written report for the BBC News website about the popular soap operas and dramas shown on television in the Middle East during Ramadan. That article refrained from informing audiences of the antisemitic and anti-Israeli content traditionally seen in many of those programmes.

On June 26th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ also devoted part of its content to the same topic.fifth floor

“It is the holy month of Ramadan – a month of prayer and fasting and for some also accompanied by a lot of television. TV soaps and dramas are commissioned for the season and often bring in the highest ratings. BBC journalist Doaa Soliman is something of a connoisseur of Ramadan TV. Not only has she watched a lot for pleasure, but in her current role with BBC Monitoring, she is also tasked with keeping a professional eye on the current selection. This is Doaa’s guide to what to watch this Ramadan.”

A clip of that segment of the programme can be found here and once again it is notable that the long tradition of antisemitic content in Ramadan entertainment is concealed from BBC audiences. 

Is OFCOM up to the job of arbitration of complaints about BBC content?

Depending upon which British newspaper one reads, the government seems to have decided (according to the Telegraph) to hand over the BBC Trust’s role to the UK communications regulator OFCOM – or not – according to the Guardian.BBC brick wall

Were that to be the case, it would not come as much of a surprise seeing as one of the conclusions arising from the DCMS inquiry into the future of the BBC was “The BBC Trust should be abolished and new arrangements made for the governance, regulation and oversight of the BBC”.

One consequence of such a step would be that late stage complaints concerning editorial issues would no longer be handled by the BBC. That topic was also addressed in the DCMS report published in February.

“…a common theme we have noted is that members of the public who believe they have reason to complain are often dissatisfied that their complaint or point of view has not been considered independently. For many the BBC Trust is essentially part of the BBC and as such the Corporation is seen as a self-regulating body and there is great dissatisfaction that there is no option for an impartial adjudication of a complaint about the BBC by an independent body.” […]

“We recommend that Ofcom become the final arbiter of complaints over BBC content including matters concerning impartiality and accuracy, but that complaints should be considered by the BBC in the first instance. Ofcom should be given additional resources for taking on this role which are commensurate with the responsibility and estimated workload. We believe this transfer of responsibility will, if anything, strengthen the independence of the BBC, and also make the complaints process simpler, and appear more transparent and fair.”

However, OFCOM’s record to date suggests that among the “additional resources” its management will need in order to effectively take on the suggested role of “final arbiter of complaints over BBC content” is a crash course in identifying antisemitism and the difference between “freedom of expression” and the propagation of pernicious antisemitic tropes.   

BBC Monitoring euphemises terror, whitewashes antisemitism, claims Egyptian Jews ‘vanished’

On June 18th an article appeared in the features section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Ramadan: Historical TV dramas break with past in Muslim world“. Written by BBC Monitoring, the piece correctly notes in its opening paragraphs that:Ramadan TV art

“The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is associated with TV dramas and soap operas across the Arab and Muslim world.

Millions of Muslims in the Arab World spend hours watching TV during and after breaking their fast.

It is during Ramadan that commercial TV channels get their highest ratings for the year. Egyptian and Syrian TV productions predominate.”

But how does the “break with past” described in the article’s headline manifest itself? The only very vague clue to that comes in this section of the report:

“Egypt goes further with historical dramas breaking tradition with a drama sympathetic to Egypt’s vanished Jewish community.

The Jewish Quarter depicts a time when Jews and Muslims lived together harmoniously.”

What BBC Monitoring refrains from telling readers is that in many cases, the television dramas produced for Ramadan are rife with antisemitic content and anti-Israel messaging. And whilst this new Egyptian series ‘The Jewish Quarter’ [Haret el Yahood] may indeed be “sympathetic” to Egyptian Jews – who did not mysteriously ‘vanish’ as this article suggests but were actually expelled or coerced to emigrate by Egypt – it too is apparently not without a specific political slant.

“The show, which presents the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Egypt in the 40s through a love story between a Jew­ish girl and a Mus­lim Egypt­ian army offi­cer, attempts to present the dif­fer­ence between “good” Jews and “bad” Jews; the good Jews are the ones who are loyal to Egypt and sup­port its war against Israel while Zion­ist Jews, who are loyal to Israel, are depicted as wicked, liars, evil and try­ing to betray Egypt. Mid­hat Al-adl, who wrote the script for the show, told Al Jazeera that the show “con­demns Israeli Zion­ism and racism.””

Two additional segments of this article are also worthy of note. [all emphasis added]

“Another series – Darb al-Yasmin – takes place in a southern Syrian village during the late 1990s and focuses on the military and intelligence work of the resistance against Israel.”

“Also popular this Ramadan is The Soil and Salt – a Lebanese TV series about Islamic resistance against Israel.”

As veteran Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari has pointed out:

“The literal translation of the Arabic word muqawama is “resistance,” but that does not reflect the full meaning of the term. A more correct translation would be “the doctrine of constant combat,” or “persistent warfare,” which is how Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas’s Khaled Mashal define it.” 

‘Resistance’ is in fact an English language euphemism for violence and terrorism conducted by those negating Israel’s existence. The fact that the mainstream BBC chooses to adopt and amplify the term uncritically and without any proper explanation to audiences of what that euphemism really means is as worthy of note as its concealment of the long tradition of antisemitic content in Ramadan television programmes.

BBC Trending airbrushes MPACUK

On June 15th BBC Trending got in on the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ carnival with an article which for some unknown reason was deemed newsworthy enough to be included in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Trending on ME HP

BBC Trending purports to be “the BBC bureau on the internet” and states that its mission is “reporting on what’s being shared and asking why it matters”. BBC blogger Mike Wendling opened his post with an unsourced description of Asghar Bukhari as a British Muslim ‘leader’.Trending shoe art

“Thousands have now mocked a British Muslim leader’s comments by using the satirical slogan “Mossad Stole My Shoe” – but the man behind the hashtag says it was intended to expose anti-Semitic attitudes in Muslim communities.”

Wendling’s description of Bukhari’s home-baked organization is no less bizarre – and heavily airbrushed.

“It all began with a Facebook post by Asghar Bukhari, a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPAC) – a UK pressure group which works to counter Islamophobia and Zionism, among other aims. He said his home was burgled, only a single shoe was stolen, and claimed it was a deliberate tactic of intimidation by Zionists.” [emphasis added]

Given Bukhari’s long-held penchant for launching personal attacks on Muslims who do not conform to his own check list of ‘appropriate’ Muslim qualities, one might very well question the accuracy of the description of MPAC UK as an organization “which works to counter Islamophobia”. And in fact, Wendling’s account of the story includes a description of Bukari’s subsequent racist jibe at one of his regular targets – Maajid Nawaz.

“In the video, Bukhari called Nawaz an “Uncle Tom nut job” and accused him of getting funding from pro-Israel supporters. Nawaz dismissed the allegations.”

Likewise, Wendling apparently has no qualms about describing an organization which sets out to “counter” the right of a particular ethno-religious group to self-determination with the bland term “pressure group” – although one would of course be surprised to find the BBC characterizing any group which opposed the rights of women or homosexuals in such anodyne terms.Bukhari tweets

Wendling writes:

“”There’s an unhealthy anti-Semitic strand to MPAC’s thinking,” Nawaz told BBC Trending.”

However, he refrains from providing readers with any further information about MPACUK’s controversial record. As ‘Harry’s Place’ reported a decade ago:

“The evidence of MPACUK’s virulent antisemitism has been available for years to anyone who cared to seek it out. Writing in 2003 for a website of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, Dave Rich revealed:

‘The Muslim Public Affairs Committee have used their website to reproduce material taken from the sites of both David Irving and The Heretical Press (a far right publisher based in Hull)… Often when Islamist organisations use far right sources it reveals a deeper antisemitism. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee’s reproduction of material from the far right sits on their website alongside open support for Holocaust denier David Irving, accusations of Zionist media and political control, lists of Jewish donors to New Labour and an investigation into whether the Talmud is “the most Powerful and Racist book in the world”. In one example which neatly illustrates the growing commonalities between political extremes, the Islamist Muslim Public Affairs Committee published an article by Professor Kevin MacDonald – who appeared as a witness for David Irving in his failed libel action against Professor Deborah Lipstadt – on the subject which is currently of so much interest to the far left and the anti-war movement: the “International Jewish Origins of Neoconservatism”’.”

Here is what the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism had to say about MPAC UK way back in 2006:

“The activities of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, MPACUK, have given cause for concern. Although its rhetoric is often extremist, MPACUK identifies itself as part of the mainstream British Muslim community, describing itself as “the UK’s leading Muslim civil liberties group, empowering Muslims to focus on non-violent Jihad and political activism”. Originally set up as a web-based media monitoring group, MPACUK’s declared first mission was to fight the perceived anti-Muslim bias in the media and to redress the balance. However, MPACUK has been criticised for publishing material on its website promoting the idea of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy, including the reproduction of articles originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denial websites, and is currently banned from university campuses under the NUS’s ‘No Platform’ policy. MPACUK are known to have removed an offensive posting from their website on one occasion, after complaints were made, but thereafter continued to publish similar material.”

So, whilst Mike Wendling may have reported “on what’s being shared”, beyond the obvious reason put forward by Maajid Nawaz (“By mocking something like this, I hope to make it more taboo and less acceptable for Muslims to spread these kinds of conspiracy theories”), he actually did not adequately address the issue of “why it matters”.

One of the main reasons this story does matter is because (although Wendling refrains from mentioning the fact in his piece) the obviously obsessive conspiracy theorist and extremist Asghar Bukhari (along with others from his organization) is a regular guest on BBC programmes – and not least the BBC’s Asian Network which even promotes the MPACUK website as a “useful link”.

That in turn matters because the BBC’s constitutional document charges it with the task of “sustaining citizenship and civil society” and civil society is not sustained by the airbrushed amplification of conspiracy theory promoting organisations with any kind of racist agenda. Obviously though, the BBC has yet to realise that. 

Resources:

Mike Wendling: Twitter or michael.wendling@bbc.co.uk

BBC Trending: Twitter

BBC News – contact and complaints