The March 24th edition of the BBC Radio London late-night phone-in show ‘Duncan Barkes’ was hosted by stand-in presenter Chris Rogers.
Under the title “Terrorism and roadworks”, one topic put forward for discussion was the potential further arming of police in the UK in light of the terror attacks (interestingly, termed as such) in Brussels and Paris.
However, during the first hour of the show (available for a limited period of time here) listeners heard very little discussion of that topic. What they got to hear instead was the repeated promotion of bizarre conspiracy theories.
In relation to the Brussels attack two days previously, from around 22:17 ‘Steve in Streatham’ told listeners that:
“This is a terrorist false flag. Anyone who knows about false flags will know that these covert operations include Israel’s Mossad, the CIA and MI5 to blame other countries for their agenda in the Middle East and this is what’s going on time and time again. […] Those Zionists out there that are doing all this, they wanna blame certain sections of people to achieve their agenda of taking over the Middle East….”
Describing his guest’s views as “pretty contentious”, Rogers continued the conversation and even encouraged him to elaborate on his conspiracy theories so that listeners were exposed to the notion that:
“Obviously…there are terrorists about – I’m not denying they’re not terrorists [sic] – but a lot of the cases they train them up and they’re joining in with them – as sick as it might sound – they’re joining in with them, turning the gun on the terrorists at the last minute and getting away with it.”
“OK: let’s get this straight, right. America and Israel are the biggest terrorists in the world.”
Rogers interjected at that stage with a cautionary “steady on” – for which he later gave an interesting explanation. Following that caller, Rogers told listeners:
“So I do apologise if you found any of his views offensive or insulting. But he’s entitled to those views. We live in a free country and that’s what we’re fighting for, isn’t it?”
After having acknowledged that “there’s a lot of conspiracy theorists listening tonight”, at 36:26 Rogers introduced a caller named Ian who told him:
“I don’t think it’s any longer plausible for […] radio stations and TV stations to dismiss the role that the US and Israel have had to play.”
Rogers interrupted him, saying in relation to his previous conversation with ‘Steve’:
“I wasn’t dismissing that. I was dismissing the barmy conspiracy theories that President Bush blew up the Twin Towers in New York to create an excuse to go to Iraq. But I know what you’re saying…”
The conversation continues with ‘Ian’ repeating the claim that “the US and Israel are the biggest terrorist states in the world at the moment” and “just in the last three months Israel has killed 200 people”.
Failing to inform listeners that those “200 people” were for the most part terrorists caught in the act or violent rioters, Rogers did however say:
“That doesn’t make Israel a terrorist organization. That makes Israel a state that is protecting itself – they would argue – from terrorism.”
‘Ian’ was allowed to continue:
“Remember, they [the US] stole land they invaded and they kept the land. Israel’s done the same thing.”
“Just because the US and Israel claim that they’re doing it to protect themselves, that doesn’t make it right. You know Hitler had a claim. Mussolini had a claim. It doesn’t matter.”
Having told ‘Ian’ that he “made some really interesting points” Rogers went on to speak to ‘Michael from Fulham’ at 50:38 and in that segment he found it appropriate to interrupt his speaker as follows:
Michael: “There are actually verses in the Old Testament of the Bible – the Jewish Bible or the Christian Bible or the Torah – that are very, extremely violent. They are unbelievably violent. They….it was all about God’s wrath, you know…”
Rogers [interrupts]: “And the right to take Jerusalem by force as well.”
In the speech he made last summer about fighting extremism, the British prime minister spoke about “certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish”.
“And ideas also based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam. In this warped worldview, such conclusions are reached – that 9/11 was actually inspired by Mossad to provoke the invasion of Afghanistan; that British security services knew about 7/7, but didn’t do anything about it because they wanted to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash.”
As we see above, BBC Radio London defends its propagation of conspiracy theories on the airwaves of a station broadcast to over eight and a half million people by defining them as ‘free speech’. Whether or not the BBC would be equally sanguine about broadcasting conspiracy theories concerning other groups is debatable but obviously the ‘free speech’ clause was in this case used to excuse the broadcast of inadequately challenged conspiracy theories and antisemitic discourse. License fee payers funding that might well ask how that meets the BBC’s public purposes.
Mainstreaming antisemitic discourse on BBC Radio London
BBC Radio London contact details