We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Zig, hurl, zag, hurl.

The BBC is like a drunk zig-zagging down the street, throwing up on the left because last time he threw up on the right.

It declined to run a Newsnight programme alleging that one of its own dead stars, Jimmy Savile, carried out multiple acts of child sexual abuse, on grounds of insufficient evidence. The evidence was sufficient for ITV, which broke the story.

Facing criticism for its timidity from all sides someone at the BBC had a really great idea about how to make amends… run a Newsnight programme alleging that someone else carried out multiple acts of child sexual abuse, and do it on near as dammit no attempt to gather evidence whatsoever. And this time pick someone still alive and able to sue because it’s more glorious that way. The makers of the programme seem to have thought that by not actually naming Alistair McAlpine in so many words they would be immune from the laws of libel. You would think that the training of journalists (the BBC’s is meant to be world class) would include the fact that any indirect statement capable of being understood by the average reader is by that very fact capable of bearing a defamatory imputation.

The left wing Guardian comes out better than most in this affair; it said on November 9th that this was a case of mistaken identity.

One can see the appeal of this story from the BBC’s point of view. Third, it would be a belated show of anti-paedo crusading zeal; second it would add weight to the BBC’s “everybody was at it in the 70s” defence of its record in allowing Savile to get away with his crimes for decades, despite persistent rumours and allegations; and first, oh, very much first, Lord McAlpine was a senior Tory from the Thatcher era. That made the story too good to check. Specifically, to good to waste time either with contacting Lord McAlpine, who might have mentioned if asked that he lived in the South of England during the period in which he was alleged to be regularly abusing boys in North Wales, or with showing a picture of Lord McAlpine to the man who claimed to have been abused by him, Steve Messham. Having now seen a picture, Mr Mesham has stated that Lord McAlpine was not the man whom he alleges abused him.

So now Entwistle’s gone. ITV would be looking good in comparison were it not for the efforts of Phillip “Paedofinder General” Schofield. Really, one would expect no better from the BBC’s top investigative team but what is the world coming to when you can’t even trust ex-children’s TV presenters to back up their allegations? While it is true that the internet has made it quicker to research a story, three minutes is even now not usually considered quite time enough.

The BBC and ITV have made what may turn out to be a very expensive mistake (and I doubt that the Guardian’s George Monbiot has slept well these last few nights), but it would be unfair to lambaste the media and let their audience off scot-free. Why do so many people seem to flip between denial and paranoia with no intervening pause for thought? What is it about the human mind that seems to prefer any extreme to the idea of judging each individual case on its individual facts?

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29 comments to Zig, hurl, zag, hurl.

  • This is all so boring. Can we just abolish the BBC and forget about it?

  • David Crawford

    Why would the BBC care about losing a libel suit? They would just increase their license fee to cover the costs. It’s called a “no-lose” proposition.

  • Quick, put a stake through it’s heart and cut off it’s head before it reanimates. The time to strike the BBC down is now, while the ‘liberal’ collectivist scum that feed it (rather than the unwilling multitude that finance it) are confused by the glamour of a victim being ‘mistaken’.

    Kill it! Kill it with fire!

  • Regional

    t’s no good suing the Corporation they’ve got heaps of taxpayer’s money, sue the presenters, producers, script writers, cameramen, the Board Members etc and make it hurt.

  • Allan Ripley

    “What is it about the human mind that seems to prefer any extreme to the idea of judging each individual case on its individual facts? ”

    This is pretty easy to answer. Extremes are easy to accept- they will support a particular narrative without effort. Any particular case, to be judged by fact, is much more difficult, requiring actual thought. Actual thought requires effort and is not one of those areas of life benefitted by the largesse of entitlement receipt so it is in no one’s best interest to actually think about anything,

    Exceptions exist for libertarians who are, you know, peculiar to start with.

  • Paul Marks

    No Natalie – the BBC tried to vomit on someone on the right (not the left) and it was not a drunken act, it was a part of a deliberate policy that the BBC has followed since at least “That Was The Week That Was” in the early 1960s.

    After 50 years one would have hoped that even most stupid Conservative would understand that the BBC is out to destroy them – but no…..

    Agreed Michael – let the BBC be abolished and then lest us forget about it.

  • Paul Marks

    John Galt.


  • MakajazMonkee

    It really is disgusting, the moment the story dropped you knew it was all about damage control, like try find an evil Tory to deflect public attention of a terrible group of crimes by trying to focus the public’s attention on their usual punch and judy bad guys (ie us).

    You really have to wonder what kind of childish minds are at work in that institution to think such logic would work. Its like having a multinational corporation that’s immune to economic pressure run by bitchy little 17 year olds. Its a government institution surely a Conservative government can try and fix it?

    Sack all the management, and don’t let anyone join until they reach the age of thirty because they just seem to take student activists at their most naive and dumb then further indoctrinate that hideous Gaurdian culture.
    The BBC probably represents to British Culture what the Anglican church did a century ago. We need to send it the same way

  • Gareth

    The thing that most puzzles me about the McAlpine/Newsnight story is that what was being alleged is not what was given in evidence to the Ronald Waterhouse tribunal.

    The reported allegations were that a man *with the same surname* as a prominent Conservative supporter was abusing children. If it had been Lord McAlpine who was being accused of doing the abuse there would have been no need to say ‘with the same surname’.

    Introducing a prominent Conservative supporter into the description of the accused was a blatant attempt to expose the accused not the prominent Conservative supporter.

    Added to that Steve Messham told the Ronald Waterhouse tribunal that he believed that abuser to be dead and Lord McAlpine clearly isn’t.

    I can’t understand how such basic mistakes were made.

  • I can’t understand how such basic mistakes were made.

    Then they weren’t mistakes but deliberate actions.

  • Stephen Willmer

    Whilst I bear Lord McAlpine no ill will, and indeed wish him well after what he’s recently endured, I’m in favour of the Tories being damaged by the BBC, and by anyone else. Ditto damage to the BBC.

  • Rob

    The claim was that it was a senior Tory from the Fatcher era. This automatically removed any need for thought.

    When your entire political philosophy is based on demonising your opponents as evil, believing an opponent to be a paedophile despite having no evidence is perfectly consistent.

  • Although many here will find the whole issue here beyond belief, it is entirely consistent with the über liberal culture at the BBC, it’s complete disconnection with the views of the general public and it’s pathological hatred of the right, especially the Tories, UKIP and the (admittedly contemptible) BNP.

    The BBC’s usual attitude to a Tory election win is “The voters have spoken, the bastards!”. Their contempt for the Tories even after they have become the government is breathtaking and barely concealed.

    So this whole episode with Lord McAlpine was not just an error of judgement by the BBC it was inevitable that their pathological hatred of the Tories would explode in their face at some point, it was just a matter of time and circumstance. That it skewered the BBC Director General as well is just an interesting bonus.

    If Fat Pang had any balls, he would appoint a non-BBC executive into the role and force a root-and-branch reform to ensure a genuinely balanced and neutral editorial policy, but Chris Patten was never exactly known for having balls, especially when it might cost him his cushy job as BBC chairman.

    So I return to my original position, the Tories are the government of the day and they should use this opportunity to kill a political opponent, but with “Call Me Dave” in charge they wont.

    Kill it! Kill it with fire, before it lays eggs!

  • M. Thompson

    Anti-Paedophilia is the modern era’s witch-hunting.

  • When institutional hatred over-rides journalistic integrity that organization is in serious trouble.

  • mdc

    It’s interesting to compare BBC’s self-reporting of this matter to everyone else’s reporting.

    The other week when the Savile scandal broke most of the media was calling for heads to roll at the BBC. Radio 4 news quoted a quanto-charity claiming that focus on the BBC detracted from focus on child abuse. Today, the Telegraph runs the Director of the BBC Trust refusing to resign; the BBC runs the Director of the BBC Trust saying it was Very Very Sad that even the Director-General has had to go.

  • pete

    The BBC is like a posh, rich drunk zig-zagging down the street – a drunk who has no worries about how he behaves because he can afford the fines, he has friends in high places and he doesn’t need to worry about earning a living.

  • ThatFeelGuy

    Newsnight never named McAlpine.

    Scallywag named him in 1994, and that is where people got his name from. That is where the internet speculation derived.

    Why did he not takle action 18 years ago when the claims first surfaced?

    There is a list of around 20 politicians circulating the internet, openly discussed on 4chan, Reddit, etc.

    Indeed, one of the names on the list allowed Savile into Broadmoor.

    The fact remains that Sian Philips and Keith Gregory have said there are at least 2 MPs involved in the Wales abuse.
    Keith Gregory, on Channel 4, said the Freemasons need to be investigated, as pretty much all the abusers were Freemasons.
    There are alot of Freemasons in the police and judiciary, which is probably why the evidence was destroyed. The QC, Mr. Elias, was a leading Freemason.

    Why have Freemasons not been banned from entering the police, civil service, and judiciary?
    This secret society of weird scumbags are a cancer on this nation and need to be eradicated.

    Keith Waterhouse was either an incompetent failure or a Freemason stooge.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    ThatFeelGuy: You are of course correct that that loathesome publication, ScallyWag, referred to some of these people many years ago.

    The point, however, is that the BBC “journalists” failed to undertake basic due diligence on this story, including contacting the persons being smeared. That is astonishingly stupid.

    As for the stuff about the Freemasons, well, it is a neat little conspiracy theory to keep us diverted on a Sunday evening, I suppose. It sounds like a lot of rot, to me. One might as well blame it on being members of Facebook, or wearing red socks. Grow up.

  • You beat me to it, Johnathan.

    The only thing I would like to add is that the answer to

    “Why have Freemasons not been banned from entering the police, civil service, and judiciary?
    This secret society of weird scumbags are a cancer on this nation and need to be eradicated.

    is that, though our institutions have decayed in many respects, we have not yet reverted to imposing a religious test for office.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Why do so many people seem to flip between denial and paranoia with no intervening pause for thought? What is it about the human mind that seems to prefer any extreme to the idea of judging each individual case on its individual facts?

    Because it’s enormously easier and nearly as effective.

    One of the things computer guys have to learn is that the cost of controls for greater optimization is very often greater than the benefits of the optimization.

  • Stephen Willmer

    “…we have not yet reverted to imposing a religious test for office. ”

    Au contraire, Natalie, an applicant for the judiciary must needs demonstrate his commitment to the gods of equality and diversity.

  • Rob

    Still, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the BBC’s squirming over this. The question: are they a fit and proper organisation to hold a broadcasting license?

  • RAB

    Keith Waterhouse was a rather witty columnist and playwrite (Geoffrey Bernard is Unwell, Billy Liar etc) ThatFeelGuy. I think you meant this gentleman… Sir Ronald Waterhouse QC. And I can’t help but feel that you embody the rot that is at the very heart of this matter; namely the inability to check basic facts so as to stand up a story, which is fundamental to the craft of Journalism.

    Nothing substantive will change in the BBC I’m afraid, until someone clears out at least the top five layers of so called Management. That will never happen, as it is as revered as the NHS in the myths of our Island Story.

    What exactly did Entwistle do all day for his £450,000 go to lunch? What matters went routinely across his desk of a day, if not the Savile/Newsnight hysteria which he had already appeared in front of a Commons Select Committee to explain himself for earlier blunders; the running order of hymns on Songs of Praise? For that kind of wedge I’d be monitoring their trips to the bathroom!

    Humphreys tore him a new asshole with his interview (an old time print trained journalist)…

    Did you watch the Newsnight programme?

    No, I was out…

    Oh for fuck’s sake!

    And it gets worse. The bloke who is now temporarily the Director General of the BBC has never been a journalist or ever produced a programme! Just how do you get a job for 450 grand a year and a fat pension, without knowing the first thing about the industry you head? It’s like being appointed head of an electricity company and not being able to wire a plug up correctly, or know AC from DC. I’d like to know cos I want one!

    As for Fat Pang Patten, I could do another 20 minutes!

    But the dust will settle, minor heads will roll, and dear old Auntie will be back on the afternoon sherry just like before. It beggars belief!

  • RAB

    I thought you was fixing this smiting malarky?

  • ThatFeelGuy

    I’m shocked to discover Savile was a Catholic, shocked I tell you!
    Its so unusual for Catholics and Muslims to be involved in child abuse, isn’t it? Ain’t religion a wonderful thing.

    Perhaps the real question is why, when Jerry Sadowitz openly called Savile a pedophile way back in 1987, no one in the press, no one in the BBC, no one in the police, followed it up. I recall Victor Lewis-Smith called him a creepy child-botherer years ago.

    I have always utterly despised Savile, and am amused it has taken others so long to see what I saw immediately the first time I saw him on TV. The man had “creep” written all over him.

    The dumb media and press kissed this man’s ass, this man who was a darling of the press and the establishment, who stupidly allowed him into Broadmoor..

    The tabloid press worshipped Savile because he did work for “charidee”, the same tabloid press who ruthlessly hounded Freddie Mercury and Russell Harty, who harmed no one, would not touch Savile because he was heterosexual and an Establishment figure.

    Trust the police? Only if you are a guillible clown.

    The same overpaid, parasitic police who have destroyed evidence of pedophilia and repeatedly protected pedophiles. Yeah, you can trust them. You can trust the guys whose behavior is entirely self-serving and who are completely incompetent.

  • Au contraire, Natalie, an applicant for the judiciary must needs demonstrate his commitment to the gods of equality and diversity.

    Touché, Mr Wilmer.

  • Its so unusual for Catholics and Muslims to be involved in child abuse, isn’t it? Ain’t religion a wonderful thing.

    In 2001, Prime Minister John Howard appointed a chap named Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General. Prior to being G-G, Hollingworth had been an Archbishop. Given that Australia is historically a deeply divided country on sectarian grounds and has a clear constitutional division between church and state as a consequence, this was deeply foolish. (Governor-Generals are usually chosen from the ranks of retired judges, retired senior military officers, and the job is occasionally given as a consolation prize to former politicians who didn’t quite become Prime Minister).

    In 2003, Hollingworth was forced to resign, due to (shock, horror) various child sex abuse scandals in his church when he had been an active archbishop.

    Hollingworth is an Anglican, however. I suppose in some way he did manage to bridge the sectarian divide.

  • James Metcalfe

    Rather suspect that you could now bring the definition of ‘barking moonbat’ up to date after Monbiot’s idiotic statement in the face of a massive lawsuit from McAlpine. How about “a pretentious imbecile who tries to back out of being held to account for his actions by claiming temporary insanity”

    Then again … Monbiot, the BBC and Sally Bercow all in one feel swoop. Life suddenly looks good again.