Further proving John Pilger’s charge of coasting on the back of unquestioning journalism, the BBC has responded to the criticism of Ben Brown’s interview of Jody McIntyre:
We have received a considerable number of complaints about an interview Ben Brown did last night on the BBC News Channel with Jody McIntyre. The context of the interview was that Mr McIntyre was on the student demonstrations in London last week and video emerged yesterday of him being pulled out of his wheelchair by police.
I am aware that there is a web campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC about the interview, the broad charge being that Ben Brown was too challenging in it. However I am genuinely interested in hearing more from people who have complained about why they object to the interview. I would obviously welcome all other views.
I have reviewed the interview a few times and I would suggest that we interviewed Mr McIntyre in the same way that we would have questioned any other interviewee in the same circumstances: it was quite a long interview and Mr McIntyre was given several minutes of airtime to make a range of points, which he did forcefully; Ben challenged him politely but robustly on his assertions.
Mr McIntyre says during the interview that “personally he sees himself equal to anyone else” and we interviewed Mr McIntyre as we would interview anyone else in his position. Comments more than welcome.
Kevin Bakhurst is the controller of the BBC News Channel and the BBC News at One and the deputy head of the BBC Newsroom.
John Pilger in his new documentary ‘The War You Don’t See’ charges the BBC above most news organisations with a disinterest in challenging power, particularly in questioning the position of the state. Brown’s interview and Bakhurst’s defence of it proves his point as effectively as his film – Brown took the police’s position on the action at the #dayx3 protest, the rationale behind it, and only ever attacked McIntyre on the most spurious grounds, fed by the police, not from anyone else’s experience or account of the day. Again and again he lambasts him for being a ‘revolutionary’ and implies that, under any circumstances, a man with his disability could have posed a threat to riot police. Never once does he pick up on McIntyre’s complaint about the Met’s attack and outrageous treatment of Alfie Meadows; Brown just soldiers on, implicitly again and again labelling his interviewee as part of the problem that day.
Brown’s ‘polite challenges’, through making them at all, effectively supported the police’s behaviour against him, through acknowledging that their claims and only their claims might have had merit. It’s disturbing but not surprising that Bakhurst doesn’t understand why that’s such a problem. It’s what FOX News does; it’s not what most of us expect from the BBC.
Can I just say WTF? How could a man with cerebral palsy ever have posed a threat to riot police? I’ve of course blogged earlier about Jody McIntyre and the police’s treatment of him on the #dayx3 student protest against the government’s policy to allow massive rises in university tuition fees, and am utterly shocked by Ben Brown’s behaviour – bias you’d normally expect from an Adam Boulton or a Kay Burnley. The video mostly speaks for itself, but McIntyre stands out particularly for destroying the establishment (ie. BBC) narrative on the protests, and with a grace not reciprocated by his accuser/interviewer. The BBC are still completely ignoring incidents like the attack on Alfie Meadows (and the Met’s appalling behaviour towards him afterwards) in favour of rewriting the student movement as an insurgent, ‘revolutionary’ attack on the state. For reasons known only to the BBC, they continue to report what the state gives them as fact, even when the state blatantly lies through its teeth to them. As I was reminded by John Pilger in the Q & A he gave after last night’s London screening of ‘The War You Don’t See‘, there are times that journalistic ‘neutrality’ is utterly ridiculous – in this instance there couldn’t be an equally valid alternative angle on the Met’s treatment of McIntyre. For Brown to push for one at the very least makes him and his employer look monstrously stupid, at worst it smacks of outright bias on his part.
Video of what happened to Jody McIntyre can be seen below:
In my opinion Brown is guilty of a serious breach of journalistic standards and should be held accountable for it. Suggesting McIntyre was in part responsible for student violence, and refusing to acknowledge police violence even when prompted by McIntyre to do so (and which he must have himself seen on the day), is pretty shocking. His appalling journalism across the entire #dayx3 protest story has thankfully been taken comprehensively apart by John Walker. Anyone who previously thought the BBC had any interest in challenging the state on anything should probably think again after this.
You can complain about Ben Brown’s treatment of McIntyre, if you’re minded to do so, here.
After the #dayx3 student protest, timed to coincide with the parliamentary vote to skyrocket university tuition fees, much was made in the UK press about the incident that evening involving Prince Charles and Camilla. Their Royal car had paint thrown at it and Camilla was allegedly ‘poked’ through the window by a protester. In response to that, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson allegedly offered his resignation:
According to the Sunday Times, Sir Paul Stephenson, Britain’s most senior cop, offered his resignation as Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, after the car carrying Charles and his wife was surrounded by protesters in central London last week.
Now we know that HRH, number two in a constitutional monarchy, has long had ideas on architecture, planning and whatever else swims into his appalled view – if not above his station, certainly beyond the parameters of his ‘above the fray’ non-political role. But even Charles clearly baulked at the idea that he should accept Sir Paul’s resignation.
The Met Commissioner is responsible to us, the people, through the Home Secretary. His grand-standing offer to go (he admitted to colleagues, apparently, that his resignation was unlikely to be accepted) was all of a piece with the fiasco that unfolded on Thursday during the student protests against the coalition Government’s trebling of tuition fees.
Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable that the boss of London’s police should offer to resign because the heir to the throne and his wife were a little bit upset! Why not offer to resign after his force killed Ian Tomlinson? He may not have been the Met’s boss at the time but why not resign after the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes? Robert Chesshyre goes on to add:
So the question should be: if Sir Paul is seriously thinking of quitting, ought it not to be for the consequences of failures by his force other than the upset experienced by the heir to the throne?
One student, 20-year-old Alfie Meadows, was allegedly struck so severely by a police baton that he fell unconscious and required emergency brain surgery.
That is bad enough. But the story emerging is far, far worse: that police officers prevented Alfie’s tutor summoning an ambulance; that when he finally did get to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, there was a stand-off because according to Alfie’s mother the hospital was treating injured police who didn’t want an obvious protestor, however badly hurt, treated in the same building.
Even in Afghanistan, coalition Medevac helicopters will remove injured Taliban fighters for treatment even in the heat of battle.
It was only – as Alfie’s mother, Susan Matthews, 55, herself a university lecturer and also on the demonstration reported – the intervention of an appalled ambulance man, who insisted that Alfie stayed put, that stopped him being driven away to another hospital with severe (and possibly fatal) consequences.
A senior nurse then took the stricken Alfie to a separate resuscitation room to keep him away from the police who found it “upsetting” to see protestors in the hospital.
As I’ve pointed out (and will continue to do so) the incident with Alfie was hardly an isolated incident, and it’s phenomenal that Stephenson should find it so easy to trivialise the brutal behaviour by his officers. I wasn’t at the demonstration, but I acknowledge that there was violence on both sides, however this is clearly a man who has his priorities all wrong. He’s willing to sacrifice his career to impress the heir to the throne, yet not in response to wanton, excessive violence by his uniformed thugs. Speaking of those uniformed thugs I am dumbstruck every time I hear them and their superiors complaining about the missiles thrown at them. Think this through – they have said they had snooker balls thrown at them. I know from my experience at demonstration at the Millbank Tower that the harder elements at that protest were throwing missiles, but can someone tell me why a) getting hit by a snooker ball when you have body armour on is a problem and b) how many students were likely to have gone out en masse to steal balls from snooker halls? Please. For that matter how the hell does a handful of snooker balls against riot cops merit indiscriminate attacks with batons against unarmed young people?
David Cameron has repeatedly invoked the concept of a ‘broken’ Britain; this is the surest example I’ve yet seen of one. And yes, Stephenson should go, but we all know he won’t.
Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a for profit organisation, has warned that the police should not be seen as the means by which the ConDems’ will is enforced:
Asked if there was a danger to the police’s reputation by repeated clashes at demonstrations, Orde told the Guardian: “Yes, if it is allowed to be played as the cops acting as an arm of the state, delivering the elected government’s will, rather than protecting the rights of the citizen.
“We need to be clear we are doing it as operationally independent, and not subject to influence by anyone as to how we do it.
“As long as that is maintained we can rebut any allegations that we are doing what we are told by our political masters to advance a political agenda. The police are not against anybody.”
Far too little and far too late. It’s become plainly clear even to children that the opposite is true – they are the state’s enforcers. Rebel against it and face pre-emptive civil liberties restrictions and unprovoked violence. Want some proof?
Tahmeena Bax, a third-year history student at Queen Mary University in east London, said she was hit directly over the head at least three times by a riot officer when police charged a group of kettled protesters on the evening of 30 November.
The incident took place at the north east end of Trafalgar square, close to the National Gallery at around 6pm, as protesters some distance from Bax lifted barriers protecting the police line. The police charged the crowd. “The police suddenly rushed forward and I couldn’t escape. I was hit at least three times, mainly on the right side of my head,” she told the Guardian.
Bax, 20, who had become separated from her fellow protesters from Queen Mary’s, staggered 10m away from the police and collapsed unconscious on the ground.
A witness, Katia Ganfield, said: “I saw her curled up in a ball. There was no response from her. We were all in shock as we didn’t think a young girl would be hit to the ground like that.”
Mr [Jody] McIntyre described what happened: “I was in Parliament Sq with my brother and we saw everyone running to one of the corners so we ran and made our way to the front.
“One policeman hit me with his baton in the shoulder then suddenly four or five of them picked me up, and dragged me from my chair. They carried me quite violently and against my will and put me on the pavement.
“Eventually after about 5 minutes, my brother was let through.
“What was even more shocking though, later on I had moved to the other side of Parliament Sq and I was sitting in my wheelchair in space in the middle of the road. A policeman recognised me from the earlier incident and came running over, pushed me out of my chair and dragged me across the road. This was completely unprovoked.”
Mr. McIntyre has not yet decided whether he will make a complaint against police, but was eager to make the point that this is not an isolated incident. “I’ve been to a lot of these protests and people are always violent with me” he said.
“Even though I’m in a wheelchair, I like to think we’re all equal human beings. There was plenty of violence towards students yesterday, and even though I’ve had media attention, all of this violence is equally disgraceful. But this is standard police behaviour.”
The police watchdog launched an independent investigation today after a 20-year-old student was left unconscious with bleeding on the brain after being hit on the head with a police truncheon.
Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student at Middlesex University, was struck as he tried to leave the area outside Westminster Abbey during last night’s tuition fee protests, his mother said.
After falling unconscious on the way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Mr Meadows underwent a three-hour operation for bleeding on the brain.
His mother Susan, 55, an English literature lecturer at Roehampton University, said: “He was hit on the head by a police truncheon.
“He said it was the hugest blow he ever felt in his life.
“The surface wound wasn’t very big but, three hours after the blow, he suffered bleeding to the brain.
“He survived the operation and he’s in the recovery room.”
I accept that some graduates will take up jobs which do not command handsome salaries. Individuals may pursue admirable work for which there is no great monetary reward, in the Church, the arts or public service. In these cases there is a strong case for the taxpayer bearing the cost of their degree. But why should the vast majority, who go on to benefit financially from their degree, be subsidised by me?
Those of us who are net contributors to the State, graduates or not, are getting a terrible deal for our money. We could guarantee far superior healthcare and schooling for our families if only the Government gave us back the money which it confiscates from us in taxes and then spends on the schools and hospitals which it runs so badly. But of all the money wasted by the State there is perhaps no greater scandal than its mismanagement of the funds it takes to spend on higher education. The system it has built to disburse our money is inimical to equity, liberty and excellence.
Higher education is now a nationalised industry, with universities utterly dependent on state support for their survival. Like all the nationalised industries which taxpayers had to subsidise in the past, from British Coal to British Leyland, UK Universities suffer from grotesque inefficiencies, low motivation, ministerial second-guessing, poor salaries, and a stifling excess of bureaucracy.
The Secretary of State for Education wrote this in opposition in 2003, which puts an end to the lie that the ConDems’ higher education policies are about anything other than ideology. Fortunately the university students and school pupils demonstrating against him don’t agree – the marketisation of knowledge in a knowledge-based economy will only be to the detriment of us all. I wish them every success in #dayx3 today.
Commander Bob Broadhurst, head of the Met’s Public Order Branch said: “We have seen groups of youths descending on the last few student protests as the day progresses, purely with the aim of using the event as a venue for violence and to attack police.
“It has been obvious that these particular elements are not genuine protesters and they have no intention of protesting about cuts to tuition fees or any other issue. They have turned up purely to take part in violence and disorder.
“We will work with all protesters who want to peacefully protest and we acknowledge and respect their right to do so, but I would warn them to be aware of this violent element, which could harm them and their cause.”
Mr Broadhurst called for parents to advise their children of the dangers of attending a protest as youngsters are more at risk if violence breaks out.
Check out every other occasion he’s made such predictions. Every single time Broadhurst has issued such a warning there has been no violence started by demonstrators, be they students or G20 protesters. Each time he’s simply made it up, and the time before last did everything in his power to get his TSG riot officers to incite violence. Fortunately last time the students (who no doubt will be suitably prepared this time as well) were on to him, and didn’t play ball; even the so-called ‘mass arrest’ late in the day (after the demo had already finished) was a stunt.
The last line is particularly chilling, considering how pre-emptively violent his Met officers have been to unarmed, non-violent children on their last two outings. His ridiculous weasel words about ‘working with protesters’ are particularly hollow, considering the tactics the Met tried (and failed) to implement on #dayx2. May the students continue to frustrate (and evade) the Met over the next couple of days, but more importantly continue to humiliate them. The more they can show the Met to be the tool of the state which is trying everything in its power to smash their movement, the more successful their movement will be.