BBC Monitoring = BBC Parroting

The alleged remit of BBC Monitoring is to supply monitoring of news from around the world accompanied by basic fact-checking of the veracity of assertions made by politicians, activists and commentators.

An alleged “analysis” of the causes of fires in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil In debate over Brazil fires, by Rose Delaney, listed (and debunked) untrue claims by supporters of alt-right president Jair Bolsanaro and by his opponents.  All false claims by both sides were obviously wrong and had been mocked by the public.  The article offered no conclusion, it was determinedly “balanced,” both qualitatively and quantitatively, and it did not mention the multi billion-dollar arrangements between Brazilian agribusiness and USA investors and corporations.

In Russia’s Navalny narrative creates Skripal deja vu Vitaly Shevchenko reported and dismissed a variety of inventive causes given by politicians, journalists and others for the illness of far-right Russian political activist Alexei Navalny, causes that disputed Navalny’s belief he was poisoned by the Russian state.

Both Delaney and Shevchenko offered basic reporting of facile comments made by others accompanied by easy rebukes of false statements.  There was little substance to their articles. 

Lightweight “monitoring” – lists of silly reported remarks followed by dismissal – is the essence of BBC Monitoring.  The service provided is minimal, almost pointless.  Its purpose is to haughtily decry the most fanciful claims with an undertone of derision aimed at an imagined group of people who chose to believe such claims.

In the UK, BBC Monitoring’s objective is to provide a parrot service for the Tory government and the government’s associates.  Alistair Coleman, from the BBC’s “Anti-Disinformation Unit,” tackles any criticism of the government or its associates by asking them if the details of the criticism are true and, when they deny, he states that the criticism is invalid. 

For example, at the foot of a BBC report on the Covid-19 test and trace application Coleman provided his version of fact-checking:

There have been calls on social media to boycott the app because some people think their personal data is in the hands of a private company.  The BBC spoke to both the Department of Health and Social Care and Serco, and both tell us that the app was made by a partnership led by the NHS involving Accenture, Alan Turing Institute, Oxford University, VMWare Pivotal Lab and Zuhlke Engineering.  Serco has no connection with either the making or the running of the app.  Additionally, Serco has told the BBC that it does not run the physical NHS Test and Trace scheme.  That, too, is run by the NHS, with Serco providing about 50% of the phone operations staff for tier 3 contact tracing.”

Coleman believes that the most dishonest and corrupt government since 1828 and a business with an endless CV of wrongdoing, theft and incompetence should be trusted to answer questions honestly.  His behaviour was the opposite of fact-checking and a vile extension of client journalism.  

(Coleman’s “journalism” background includes producing “worst tweets” lists for Buzzfeed and his current occupation includes trolling real journalists on social media platforms.)

AlistairColeman
Alistair Coleman (right); (Scary Duck is not affiliated with Ducksoap)

The industry of fact-checking is a fast-growing enterprise.  The necessity for politicians and businesses to be dishonest and secretive, coupled with the ease at which untruths can spread globally, created a need for independent voices to referee disputes over accuracy of information.

The supposed role of a fact-checking body is to, as far as it is able, determine if an assertion is true or not.  By doing so, fact-checking bodies acquire trustworthiness.  The desire people have to trust something is exploited by people or groups that describe themselves as fact-checkers but who fail to fulfill the role. 

Throughout its coverage of the presidential election in USA in November (2020) fact-checking analysis on BBC news lagged behind other networks and BBC provided uninterrupted yes-platforming of charlatans when most other broadcasters had taken an editorial decision to not broadcast the same events. 

BBC’s unwillingness to check facts in real time is a facet of Director-General Tim Davie’s philosophy of allowing all opinions to be broadcast no matter how dishonest or absurd they are.  He explained in his introductory speech to BBC staff that “we [BBC] need to explore new ways of delivering impartiality, seeking a wider spectrum of views, pushing out beyond traditional political delineations and finding new voices.” (Davie speech to BBC staff)  He failed to say any of the “wider spectrum of views” need to have an association with facts, truth or honesty.

Coleman’s fact-checking is a swindle: In the example above he made no attempt to check facts but claimed he did because he asked those accused of lying if they lied.

The gradual descent in quality of BBC news reporting from 2010 onwards is steepening under Davie’s misguidance.  The absurdity of BBC Monitoring’s practices is a symptom of the accelerating decline.  Its fact-checking methodology is an insult to intelligence.  BBC Monitoring is unfit for purpose.

BBC Monitoring = BBC Parroting

President Biden: An ordinary imperialist

President-Elect Joe Biden knows to whom he and his government are accountable.  He understands that a democratic government is elected by the public and is employed by others.

In USA, power is in the hands of large corporations and their financial partners and associates, and it is delivered via Wall Street and The Pentagon in a two-laned channel of instruction to the White House and to Congress.  Biden’s lifetime of ‘public service’ ensures he won’t need any coaching on who pays and on what the payers demand and expect. 

Consequences of a change of presidency will be limited in USA.  There will be cosmetic changes to healthcare provision – in the election campaign Biden emphasised his opposition to socialised healthcare, and there will be some pullback on Trump’s destruction of environmental protections.  The infrastructure of systemic inequality accompanied by physical control (violent racist policing) will remain wholly intact.

Outside USA, diplomacy with political allies will be restored, including rejoining a variety of international agreements – Paris Climate Accord, World Health Organisation, etc.  Relationships with other countries, those that the US government defines as not allies, will deteriorate.

Big enemies of USA are needed to justify spending citizens’ taxes on the arms industry.  The two biggest so-called enemies will remain Russia and China.  Iran and North Korea will retain their ‘pariah’ status.  There will be no reduction of the possibility of armed conflict between USA and Iran; it may become more likely.

The people who should fear the Biden presidency the most are people who live in Central and South America.  Trump’s government tried and failed to stage a coup in Venezuela but succeeded, temporarily, in Bolivia.  The new USA government will ramp up military interference in democratic countries south of its border.  There will further attempts to remove governments in Bolivia, Venezuela and elsewhere alongside tactical and military support for right-wing governments.

Suppression of left-of-centre governments coupled with ravenous greed of the arms industry make it imperative for Biden to go on a spree of violence.

Biden’s demeanor is more well-mannered than his predecessor’s vulgarity but he is no less inhumane.  If Trump intended to bomb someone he’d state his plan proudly in advance.  Biden will carry on smiling, wordlessly, as he presses the button.

Recommended reading
Sarah Lazare on Biden’s pro-war transition team

President Biden: An ordinary imperialist

USA election complaints: A far-right grift

The far-right never misses an opportunity for a grift.  As individuals and as members of invented organisations, lobby groups and think-tanks, far-right bloviators make a packet from speaking and writing absolute garbage because there is a market for contrary opinions, provocative soliloquies and repetitive pseudo-arguments, regardless of veracity.  Professional far-right grifting is a huge industry.  

Donald Trump contests the results of the US elections for president, Congress and House of Representatives.  He doesn’t expect to change the results; Trump is preparing the ground for four years of lucrative income for himself and his awful family as complainers and conspiracy theorists.  His professional supporters, including those employed by him, see possibilities for steady income as TV guests, panellists and presenters, as authors and as public speakers where they will espouse nonsense as performing clowns.

In the UK, on TV, including new British “news” channels GB News and possibly a Murdoch channel, on talkRadio and LBC, and in the pages of The Spectator and Daily Express, the screaming heads and The Gits have many outlets to rake in income as election-deniers.  Like climate change deniers and Covid-19 deniers, election-deniers imbue themselves with forced sincerity about their viewpoints and then sell their incoherent polemics to anyone who will pay. 

It’s all just a grift.  

Types of far-right grifters include pretend journalists, or “writers” as they sometimes refer to themselves – Douglas Murray, Isabel Oakeshott and Tucker Carlson, etc., part-time politicians or political activists – Nigel Farage, Steve Bannon, etc., academics like David Starkey, think-tank members – Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, etc., and freelance twerps – Toby Young and Darren Grimes, etc.

Don’t engage with them and don’t analyse their proclamations.  Derisory contempt is the only response.

USA election complaints: A far-right grift

BBC censors staff and promotes extreme right

On 29th October (2020) BBC published instructions for staff regarding use of social media that banned “colleagues working in news and current affairs and factual journalism production and all senior leaders” from “expressing a view on any policy which is a matter of current political debate or on a matter of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or any other ‘controversial subject’.” – Guidance: Individual Use of Social Media

Three days later BBC published a transcript of a Radio 4 show that depicted an extreme-right anti-immigrant gang of yobs called Littleboats 2020 in a favourable humanising light as if describing people organising a garden fete in a village. – BBC on Littleboats 2020

The above were part of the same policy.  BBC’s director-general Tim Davie has doubled-down on a policy of his immediate predecessor Tony Hall wherein there is an absurdist predilection for neutrality that hides an intent of political bias.  Davie banned staff from, for example, attending anti-racism protests.  Meanwhile, in a radio show, racists were presented as if they had a hobby.

BBC’s warped presentation of impartiality and balance deteriorated rapidly over the last year.  “Balancing” discussions of racism by including a racist, giving equal credence to informed scientific analyses and grifting con artists, and refusing to acknowledge the superiority of facts, morality and ethics, were features of a bad, illogical policy of “making sure all sides of a debate are heard.” (Tony Hall, March 2020.)

Davie enshrined Hall’s philosophy in unambiguous instructions to staff accompanied by threats of dismissal if not followed.  In doing so, he created a two-pronged policy of censoring anti-racism and enabling uncriticised platforming of racist views.  That was not accidental nor was it solely a consequential policy.  Since 2010 the BBC’s senior executive positions were filled with Tory plants but Davie was a Johnson appointment and Johnson wants more than just a Tory stooge.  He wants the BBC to fall into line with Tories’ strategy of closing down radical opinions while, simultaneously, normalising extreme-right opinions.

The dual strategy included Tories’ instructions to teachers to not use any teaching materials that criticised capitalism alongside the intent to force places of education to host extremist speakers. 

The similarity of intent between government policy and Davie’s policy is clear.

Tories know that their plans for no deal Brexit will be so catastrophic that all opposition must be suppressed and distracting divisive policies must be imposed.  Fear drives Tories censorious/indoctrination policy and BBC’s similar policy; the BBC has the additional fear of losing its charter. 

DavieClown
BBC Director-General Tim Davie (left) and Boris Johnson

The BBC is travelling a dangerous road toward utter subservience to Tories’ extremism wherein the only political views allowed fall within a very narrow bandwidth, all other views are prohibited and extremists are humanised.  It is imperative that all occurrences of BBC’s self-censorship and of its normalisation of extremism are flagged and opposed loudly.

BBC censors staff and promotes extreme right

Trump “wins”: Democracy set aside in USA

At 7.20am (Greenwich mean time) on November 4th 2020 Donald Trump declared himself winner of USA presidential election.

His victory claim was based on votes described as counted in swing states.  The swing states gave Trump sufficient electoral college votes.

Accompanying his “victory” is a majority for the Republican party in the Senate.

trump2020

Suppression of votes is the reason Trump “won.”

1) Mail-in ballots: Millions of mail-in ballots (postal votes) were uncounted and/or destroyed by Republican-appointed assessors backed by Republican-appointed judges. 

Supreme Court, with a Republican majority, declared mail-in ballots will not be counted after polling day.

2) In-person voting: Voting locations were greatly reduced in number in Democrat-majority districts.  Long queues deterred many people in such districts from voting.

Police and armed militia intimidated and physically prevented voters from voting in Democrat-majority districts.

People were preventing for voting for many spurious reasons.

Trump’s “victory” is a victory for cheating, for intimidation and for fraud.  Rampant criminal behaviour throughout the Republican party, by officials at polling locations and at counts, among state politicians and local politicians, and by Trump-appointed Supreme Court judges as well as many other federal judges, succeeded in its aim of winning power (president and senate) for the Republican party and its backers.

This illegal undemocratic power grab was not opportunist.  It had been prepared for during the previous four years.  Nor is it the work of just Trump and his immediate allies and family; the entire Republican party and all its powerful and/or wealthy supporters are guilty.

In all capitalist countries democracy is a pretence of democracy but if the result of an election is annulled then even the pretence has disappeared.  Trump’s “victory” is a coup, a power grab obtained with physical force, fraudulent administration and corrupt judiciary.

Undemocratic changes in government are a feature of USA’s foreign policy, most recently in Bolivia – thankfully overturned in the country’s next general election, and an attempted but failed coup in Venezuela, but it is unusual for a USA government to use the same tactic at home. 

Bringing foreign policy back home is a symptom of desperate times for the capitalists.  Despite a Biden presidency and a Democrat-run congress being similar economically to Trump and Republican respectively, the desperation to maintain complete control has become so acute, extentiated by the Covid-19 pandemic, that a Democratic government would have been too problematic for the financial elite.

Trump and the Republicans’ main anti-achievements of his first term as president were huge tax cuts for the wealthiest and abandonment of environmental protections.  His intent for his second term includes removal of healthcare, removal of welfare financial provision, further destruction of the environment and severe crackdowns on protest.

Endgame capitalism is the current epoch.  Therein the entire structure of society is expendable.  Republican philosophy, like the Tories in UK, no longer has any interest in governance.  Public infrastructure, public labour, public services and the public themselves are now just expendable and, simultaneously, a means of short-term wealth generation for a small elite.

An immoral, unethical sociopath like Trump, whose humanity never developed, whose focus is his own wealth and who is in hock to several criminals around the world for billions of dollars, is precisely the (non) leader that financial criminals need.

USA is no longer even pretending to be a democracy.

Trump “wins”: Democracy set aside in USA

US election 2020: Trump’s path to victory: Voter suppression

Inspired by polls including exit polls for early voters, and high early voter turnout, there is optimism among supporters of the Democrat party that they could win the presidential election and attain a majority in Congress.

But, predictions of Democrat success appear to be assuming that the variety of Republican voter suppression tactics will not affect the result.  The Republican party used the last four years to develop its voter suppression techniques and, over the final few months of Trump’s (first?) tenure, they have ramped up the strategy.

The techniques in operation for the election this year include (among others):

  • Removal of voters from electoral roll for spurious reasons
  • Enforcement of dubious Voter ID requirements
  • Severe gerrymandering of districts
  • Closure of in-person voting locations in majority Democrat districts
  • Reduction of eligibility to vote by mail
  • Removal and banning of drop-boxes for mail-in ballots in majority Democrat districts
  • Spurious and random reasons for rejecting mail-in ballots
  • Deliberate delays in counting mail-in ballots so that count is not done before cut-off time
  • Physical destruction of counting machinery
  • Refusal to count mail-in votes that “arrive after November 3rd
  • Spontaneous “failure” – technical or otherwise – at in-person voting locations when high turnout or long queue
  • Use of Covid-19 as spurious excuse to close in-person voting locations when high turnout or long queue
  • Computer “failures” that prevent or change votes at in-person voting locations
  • Police attacks on people walking to polling locations

Democrat party supporters express joy at long queues of voters waiting patiently to vote, some for several hours, but many people will be deterred from voting by such long queues and the longest queues are in majority Democrat districts.

Trump and his fellow Republican politicians make persistent false accusations of voter fraud including invented stories of multiple voting and made-up claims of ballots being thrown away.  This tactic is intended as both a distraction and as a prepared excuse for legal challenges if Republicans don’t win. 

The balance of power in the Supreme Court, coupled with the abject lack of integrity of recent arrivals therein, means any legal challenges by Republicans will succeed and any by Democrats will fail.

If Trump wins then voter suppression will have played a major role in his success.  The prospect of that scenario is why any polls should not be taken as indicative.

Recommended reading
Barton Gellman: The Election That Could Break America
Brett Kavanaugh Signals He’s Open to Stealing the Election for Trump

Related blog
US election 2020: Trump’s path to victory: Democrat’s self-distraction

US election 2020: Trump’s path to victory: Voter suppression

Keir Starmer: The Bystander’s removal of politics from Labour

Immediately after publication of an unsurprising and unremarkable report by Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) following an investigation into antisemitism in the Labour party, Keir Starmer suspended Jeremy Corbyn’s membership of the party. 

There was no justification for Corbyn’s suspension and Starmer bypassed all procedural processes.  His suspension of Corbyn was entirely political and the decision to do so was made as soon as Starmer became leader of Labour.  The timing of the suspension was opportunistic.

Starmer is desperate, very desperate, to appeal to conservatives (small ‘c’).  This includes so-called “swing” voters, but his main desired audience members are newspapers proprietors and journalists, wealthy donors, think-tanks and the corporate world.  He wants their support, their acclaim and, of course, for the donors, their money.  He wants them to believe that he is a trustworthy advocate of maintaining the exploitative status quo.

Starmer is keen to prove that he is from the David Cameron/Nick Clegg mold of bland conservative leaders.  His invented persona of The Bystander is intended to exude absence and abstention.  He wants Labour to be anti-politics, to be a potential administration not a government.  His goal is to make the exploitative elite feel comfortable and safe.

Opinions, passion, integrity, policy and vision are anathema to Starmer’s objectives as Labour leader.  He won’t tolerate any of that behaviour.  Even the normally-gormless Stephen Kinnock was chastised for daring to express an opinion.

The suspension of Jeremy Corbyn fitted Starmer’s strategy.  The latter needs all of Labour to comply with his Bystander ethos.  Obviously, Corbyn would never do that.  Nor would some of his Labour colleagues.  It is unlikely that Corbyn’s suspension will be the last opportunistic removal of a political Labour MP by Starmer.

Starmer stinks of death.  On the other side of the House of Commons, the most corrupt government since Wellington’s in 1828 is driving the UK headlong into a destructive no deal Brexit hole while throwing billions of pounds at its corporate friends via Covid-19 contract awards.  Johnson and his gang are destroying the country.  It is precisely the time when political opposition is needed to save public infrastructure and to stop rampant theft, but Starmer’s Labour are opposed to opposition and are focussed on remaining still, disturbing nothing and saying nothing.

Corbyn’s suspension will not alter his work as an MP, in his constituency and in the House of Commons, and it will not change views people have of him whether supportive or not.  It has allowed the Tories to move, momentarily, back from the centre of the news as Covid-19 deaths rise rapidly and Brexit “plans” are as ephemeral as ever.  Undoubtedly, the EHRC’s timing for the publication of their report was considered carefully to distract from Tories’ calamitous decision-making.

Starmer is digging himself into a hole of compliance that will become increasingly more difficult to leave, but he probably won’t mind that.

Recommended reading
Ronan Burtenshaw: Jeremy Corbyn’s Suspension Is About Crushing the Left
Rachael Cousins: Starmer’s Mortal Wound On The Soul Of The Labour Party
Rachael Cousins: Starmer Versus The Left: A Very Uncivil War
Tommy Sheridan: Corbyn Suspended for Telling the Truth
Sanders & Oborne: By suspending Corbyn, Starmer is tearing Labour apart

Related blogs
Keir Starmer: The Bystander’s unvision
Mendacious Etonian clown Boris Johnson’s no deal Brexit
Covid-19 is a billion pound industry of Tory corruption

 

Keir Starmer: The Bystander’s removal of politics from Labour

BBC bans news staff from supporting anti-racism

On Wednesday (October 28th) BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards David Jordan instructed news and current affairs staff to not attend Black Lives Matter events if they wish to continue to be employed by the BBC.

This diktat from Jordan followed director-general Tim Davie’s statement in his introductory address to staff on 3rd September: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then you should not be working at the BBC.”

Jordan has form.  He doubled-down on BBC Complaint Unit’s support for a complaint made against Naga Munchetty regarding her entirely accurate comment about Donald Trump’s racism.

“The issue is about when she went on further to discuss President Trump himself, what his motivations were for that, and that breached our impartiality requirements.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal opinions of our journalists or current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political, or industrial controversy.” – David Jordan, September 2019

Jordan didn’t want a member of staff to express the fact that she is opposed to racism.  He asked for a neutral position.  His stance on racism remains the same today. 

Black Lives Matter is a political campaign and racism is a political issue.  There are exactly two options to choose regarding racism: 1) Support anti-racism, or 2) be racist.  To demand neutrality on racism is to support racism.

Jordan’s false neutrality demand is a facet of the BBC’s fear of upsetting prevailing political outlooks.  It is fear of loss of charter as well as fear of losing viewers and listeners to far-right shockjock radio and TV channels like LBC, talkRadio and, next year, Andrew Neil’s GB News.  

A feature of Davie’s aforementioned introductory speech to staff was a meaningless desire to find a new method of “impartiality.”

We need to explore new ways of delivering impartiality, seeking a wider spectrum of views, pushing out beyond traditional political delineations and finding new voices from across the nation.”

The garbled nonsense above was a long-winded way of saying he doesn’t want politics to interfere with politics.

Of course, Davie’s aversion to politics doesn’t mean all politics.  Any bloviating extreme-right grifter can be sure of a platform on a BBC news or current affairs show no matter how discredited or offensive their opinions. 

BBC is shifting further right and further from sense.  If Davie’s main objective is to destroy the BBC then he is progressing in that regard. 

Davie was chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Association.

Related blogs
Tim Davie’s introductory speech to BBC staff
BBC and racism

 

BBC bans news staff from supporting anti-racism

BBC’s warped impartiality strikes again

During the broadcast of highlights of a Premier League game between Manchester United and Chelsea on Match of the Day on Saturday (October 24th), that featured Marcus Rashford who is leading a fine campaign to ensure all children have enough to eat, the commentator Guy Mowbray said 

whether you agree with Marcus Rashford’s causes or not, there’s surely only admiration for his continued commitment.”

The only who people disagree with Rashford’s aims are right-wing extremists who hate any social act.  If Mowbray was not obligated to mention Rashford’s campaign during the commentary then he could have chosen to just commentate on the football match.

In response to criticism of his comments Mowbray suggested that “programme editors” directed him to make his decision to both-sides his comment on Marcus Rashford’s superb work rather than use intelligent judgement and simply praise Rashford without a caveat, and he claimed he could not have declined to say anything. 

Impartiality broadcast rules mean things have to be phrased a certain way.  I tried to do that, having checked my original words in the morning with the programme editors.  I had to chage them – it’s in the political arena so balance (however strange that may seem with some topics) is paramount.  The first things I said were purely factual.  The latter was wholesome praise of someone fighting a noble cause.  That’s it.  Couldn’t have done anymore.  Shouldn’t have done any less.”

If Mowbray is given benefit of the doubt regarding flexibility or not of what he could say, his comment “the first things I said were purely factual” – some people disagreed with “Rashford’s causes” – showed that he and the editors of Match Of The Day were keen to value the opinions of dogmatic right-wing ideologues as equal in worth to opinions in support of feeding children.  Mowbray emphasised his intent to evoke an all opinions have equal value approach by stating “impartiality broadcast rules mean things have to be phrased a certain way.”

BBC has a severe problem with its interpretation of impartiality.  “Impartiality broadcast rules” do not demand that everything has to be countered by an opposing opinion.  An interview with an astronaut does not need to be balanced by a representative of the Flat Earth Society, a debate on racism does not need to be balanced by the opinion of a racist, and an appreciation of Marcus Rashford’s efforts to ensure children can eat does not need to be balanced by the views of people who couldn’t give a damn if children starve.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie, like his immediate predecessor Tony Hall, prefers a parody of impartiality.

Tony Hall, March 2019: “Making sure all sides of a debate are heard – all different views and voices – is fundamental to our mission.”

Tim Davie, September 2020: “We need to explore new ways of delivering impartiality, seeking a wider spectrum of views, pushing out beyond traditional political delineations and finding new voices from across the nation.”

They mock impartiality by turning it into a rigid, simple philosophy wherein nothing is wrong and nothing is right.  This approach negates intelligence and inspection of ideas.  It ruins analytical thought.  The broadcaster, the BBC, becomes an unthinking vessel, a useless empty beaker.  For the viewer, knowledge is not imparted.  Emotionally, the BBC’s strategy is an eraser.

Mowbray and his editors followed the guidelines.  Automatons behaving as coded is what Davie wants from BBC staff: If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner then you should not be working at the BBC.”

(Davie was chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Association.)

Related blogs
Tim Davie’s introductory speech to BBC staff
BBC news is clueless about balance

BBC’s warped impartiality strikes again

This is out of context

There is an episode of long-running popular animated sit-com The Simpsons centring on the Warholian fifteen minutes of fame acquired by main protagonist Bart Simpson that stems from his use of the phrase “I didn’t do it” whenever his actions cause a minor calamity.

His fleeting fame is based on the repeated humourous scenario of him nonchalantly denying culpability, despite it being almost certain, because there exists the smallest possibility that guilt cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Matt Groening and his colleagues wrote the episode before camera phones were commonplace and before CCTV cameras were omnipresent.  If they were to write the episode today Bart would be convicted of any acts of bad behaviour immediately.

A remake of The Simpsons episode made today would choose a different phrase as its comedic hook.  Instead of “I didn’t do it” Bart would exclaim “it was out of context.”  For example, if Bart’s mother Marge were to scream “Bart!  You burnt the house down” Bart would reply with “you are taking my actions out of context” before inviting his mother to consume an item of his clothing.

The Out Of Context retort to a demonstrably provable accusation succeeds because it negates immediately evidence of accusers’ eyes or ears.  By invoking Out Of Context a perpetrator does not deny that a conspicuous act occurred or specific words were written or spoken, and does not deny her or his ownership of the act or words, but directs observers away from deduced presumption of guilt of wrongdoing. 

out-of-context

Out Of Context causes accusers to switch to considering proof of context.  As context to damn the culprit is almost always obvious, accusers’ frustration at the culprit’s mendacious obfuscation ensues.  Inevitably, this leads to a lessening of the intellectual level of any exchange, to the advantage of the culprit.

Politicians, political writers, professional talking heads and reputation management lawyers are frequent users of Out Of Context when their opinions or analyses are shown to be unambiguously misguided or false.  By choosing Out Of Context they can avoid supporting what they said and, simultaneously, avoid accepting what they said to be worthy of explanation or apology.  It is cowardly and dishonest but effective.

Recent (October 2020) use of Out Of Context invocations included behaviour of Tory MPs when confronted about their comments following the Tories’ rejection of a Labour bill in the House of Commons that sought to ensure children are fed.  Responding to criticism of the decision to vote against children, several Tory MPs published statements to clarify their stance and to refute observations of ideological cruelty.  Composed hurriedly, carelessly and with conceit of social detachment, their statements contained brash ill-thought remarks that were pounced upon provoking Out Of Context claims from the MPs.

For example, Selaine Saxby, Tory MP for North Devon, in reference to the fact that many small businesses offered to help Marcus Rashford and his colleagues by providing food free of charge to be distributed to children in lieu of free school meals, said

I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support.” 

The sarcasm and the threat of no further “support,” either as furlough payments or as central government assistance to local councils, were criticised and rightly so.  Saxby countered such criticism with a second statement that began

The portrayal of my recent comments, out of context, does not accurately convey my views.”

The (il)logical sequence of the Saxby event was she made specific comments in a self-contained statement to which retorts were written entirely within the specificity of her comments and entirely within their context in the self-contained statement, and she responded by invoking Out Of Context.  

On the same issue – Tory MPs’ failure to support children in a House of Commons vote – Mansfield’s Tory MP Ben Bradley said

At one school in Mansfield 75% of children have a social worker, 25% of parents are illiterate.  One child lives in a crack den, another in a brothel.”

When a political supporter of Bradley responded to the above with “£20 cash direct to a crack den or brothel really sounds like the way forward with this one,” Bradley agreed: “That is what free school meal vouchers in the summer effectively did.”

That is, Bradley claimed free school meal vouchers were used directly to finance crack dens and brothels.  What he said was clear and the context was clear and self-contained. 

Labour MP Angela Rayner noted what Bradley had said: A Conservative MP has said that free school meals are effectively a direct payment to brothels and drug dealers,” to which Bradley exclaimed, directly to Rayner, please remove this nonsense.  If the context is not clear, I will clarify, but thats 100% NOT what I’ve said.”  But, Rayner’s account was of precisely what Bradley had said and the only context was the context of him saying it.  

Bizarrely, Bradley’s published response to Rayner included a screenshot of his initial comments (quoted above), thus proving the indisputable accuracy of what she said: Bradley retorts.

Both examples above are typical of how Out Of Context is a tool of distraction even when it is embarrassingly easy to show how in context statements are.  

Out Of Context is a contemptuous response to criticism.  It is intended to momentarily confuse observers and to wobble the focus of attention but its sheer shamelessness is intentionally derisory.  In particular, Tories use it to display their lack of respect for opponents and their disdain for integrity.

 

This is out of context