Anne Applebaum’s conflict of interest

The Washington Post runs an article by Anne Applebaum criticising the Polish government, this time over alleged attempts to crack down on the media:

The Polish authorities may have also been sending a message. For the decision was taken on the very day that the ruling party swapped its dour, angry prime minister, Beata Szydlo, for a slicker, smoother replacement, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Applebaum often writes scathing articles about the Polish government, usually in the Washington Post. Here’s another:

If an illiberal government — democratically elected, but determined to change the rules — tries to do something unconstitutional, what can the public do? What can the political opposition do? This is a dilemma we now know from several countries — Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and possibly soon Greece.

And another:

Like every country in Europe — as well as the United States — Poland has long had a far-right, neo-fascist fringe.

What has changed? The answer has partly to do with the current populist-nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, which welcomed and encouraged Saturday’s march as a “patriotic” action, though the party knew who was behind it.

Not a single one of these articles mentions that Applebaum is married to one Radosław Sikorski. Sikorski is best known for having been the parliamentary speaker and former minister under president Bronisław Komorowski, who was beaten in a general election in 2015 by the current president Andrzej Duda. If a journalist in a major newspaper criticises a foreign government, one would think it necessary to mention that their spouse was a senior figure in the party which lost an election to that government, wouldn’t you? Not that Sikorski was a member of the party at the time of the election, mind you. No, he had already been forced to quit in disgrace a few months before:

Three Polish ministers and the country’s parliamentary Speaker have resigned amid a row over leaked tapes.

Speaker Radek Sikorski and the health, treasury and sports ministers said they had quit for the good of the ruling centre-right Civic Platform party.

The resignations come four months before general elections, as the popularity of PM Ewa Kopacz is waning.

The officials were secretly recorded in Warsaw restaurants discussing private deals and promotions in 2013-14.

The leaks were published by the Wprost magazine, angering many Poles.

Little wonder Applebaum’s writes so bitterly about Poland these days, but her employers don’t see fit to mention any of this when giving her column space. Democracy dies in darkness, indeed.

UPDATE

Another conflict of interest surrounding Anne Applebaum, this time on the subject of Roman Polanski:

Applebaum’s previous disclosure of who her husband is, of course, has next to nothing to do with the question of whether she should have disclosed that her husband is lobbying the US to go easy one Roman Polanski at the same time she is writing a Washington Post column to that effect.

And:

If a conflict exists, it isn’t sufficient to disclose it once. It must be disclosed every time it is relevant. Applebaum seems to assume that Washington Post readers make a mental catalogue of every Post reporter and columnist, their relationships, and their conflicts of interest. That anyone who ever reads anything she writes will take it upon themselves to keep a running tally of her conflicts, so she need disclose them only once. That, obviously, is not going to happen. And it displays a stunning arrogance — she thinks everyone who reads her column cares enough about her to know where her husband works.

Finally, she’s misstating the nature of what she mocks as the “secret revelation.” The criticism wasn’t that her husband is an employee of the Polish government. Nobody cares about that. It’s that her husband is a Polish government official who is currently lobbying for the very thing Applebaum is arguing in favor of. Surely she understands the difference?

The pieces in the links are worth reading in full to get a flavour of what sort of journalist Applebaum is.

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When it comes to income, everyone should be a “prepper”

Over the weekend I listened to the James Delingpole podcast featuring Irish journalist Kevin Myers as his “very special guest”.  I’d not heard of Myers before, but the first twenty minutes or so was dedicated to his spectacular fall from grace in the eyes of his employers.

To cut a long story short, Myers is a journalist of considerable experience having written for the Daily Telegraph, the Irish version of the Sunday Times, and the Irish Times. In July 2017 he wrote an article for the Sunday Times regarding the gender pay gap at the BBC in which he included the following line in relation to Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz who were paid more than their counterparts:

Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity.

Myers is a right-wing journalist who expresses views which upset progressives, but he has been solid enough on the subject of Jews and Israel that painting him as a rabid anti-semite is ludicrous. Nevertheless, in the early hours of the morning the piece went online and before it was even printed, a coordinated and determined effort had been made by peoples unknown to do just that, and when Myers woke up the next day he found social media littered with excerpts from articles and memoirs he’d written up to a decade earlier all carefully selected to portray him as an anti-semite. He says he has no idea who was behind it or how they managed to mobilise themselves so quickly, but he dismisses the suggestion that it was offended Jews and presumes it was SJWs who don’t like his right-wing views.

Anyway, his employers took serious issue with the piece, even though it had passed through an editorial process consisting of no less than seven people (all of whom kept their jobs), and fired him. He is now blacklisted from every major publication he used to write for. What distressed him the most is the people who fired him seemed to take an almost perverse delight in doing so, gleefully seizing on the opportunity to virtue-signal. Up until that point he had considered some of these people to be his friends. The Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – the one who Theresa May seemingly reports to – also got in on the act, denouncing Myers in public as being misogynistic and anti-semitic. In other words, Myers is pretty much fucked.

Shifting the subject a little, I am aware of the existence of a bunch of people that Americans call “preppers“. These are people who are convinced that a complete breakdown of society is highly likely if not inevitable, and they want to be prepared when the day comes. This involves copious volumes of online discussion on what food and equipment to store and in what quantities, and the decision of when and how to “bug out” and where you’d go and what you’d take with you. I’ve seen TV shows of fat bearded men who’ve built underground bunkers in their back yards filled with ration packs and ammunition saying things like “These tinned peaches will be currency when the world breaks down, man!” I suspect in most cases these guys would be overrun by a mob as soon as word got around they had food, but the discussions are useful and there are enough anecdotes from people who fled hurricane Katrina or survived the siege of Sarajevo to provide some handy advice. (Anyone who is interested in reading about this should visit Bayou Renaissance Man and scroll down his sidebar to the links under “Articles on Emergency Preparation”)

I thought of these prepper guys when I listened to the situation Kevin Myers now finds himself in. Much of the prepper talk is about self-sufficiency, how you must learn to be absolutely self-reliant and not count on assistance from absolutely anybody except for family and perhaps a few like-minded close friends. When a situation goes south, relationships turn sour instantly and the people you thought were your friends are now threatening your whole existence. For all their paranoia, the preppers have at least got that bit right.

The more I read about the behaviour of managers in large organisations, the more I think employees should start adopting the mindset of a prepper and plan accordingly. I can well imagine there are millions of people whose entire livelihoods, and those of their families, are entirely dependent on the whims of one or two people who have a solid track record of looking after their own interests, principles and ethics be damned. This is not a good situation for anyone to be in.

There are a few ways one can prepare. The first is to learn a trade or skill that is in short supply, enabling you to pick up work across as many companies, industries, and locations as possible. Another is to work primarily for yourself as much as possible, or with one or two trusted individuals. If Myers ran a blog and charged people a subscription, it wouldn’t matter what his boss thought because he wouldn’t have one. This might not be possible or bring in enough money to support a person let alone a family, but combined with something else it might be. One could work part-time as a tradesman, part-time as a blogger, and collect rent from a property or two. That way, if one income source falls over you have another one or two which you can use to pay the bills. Sure, you might need to work as a corporate drone for a decade or two before you can diversify like this, but I’ve noticed the preppers in America aren’t exactly youngsters either.

Another option is to form a union, which is why they exist of course. I’m no fan of unions in their modern form but I can understand why people feel the need to join one, even if they often seem more interested in extorting the taxpayer and playing politics than shielding their employees from bad managers. The UK’s experience with unions is appallingly bad, but I suspect this is simply a reflection of equally appalling management. By contrast, German unions don’t appear to be as militant and self-destructive which is probably because German managers are more willing to have a productive discussion with the employees in the first place. Should I mention France? Perhaps not, eh?

With large organisations and employers fast heading down the route of political correctness and social justice pandering, people are going to have to start realising that loyalty doesn’t exist, nobody can be trusted, and they must become self-reliant as soon as they can. If possible, they should also look to diversify their income sources at the earliest opportunity, even if overall it means they earn much less. At this point in my life I think I’d rather earn £60k per year from two or three independent sources than £80k per year from one which can be pulled from under me at any moment.

All of this is leading to what I have written about before on here: smart young men are going to start forming their own small businesses either alone or with one or two trusted individuals, and avoiding corporate management and large organisations altogether.

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America’s Embassy in Israel

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, senior administration officials have said.

He is due to announce the controversial decision in a speech later.

Mr Trump is also expected to approve moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but not for several years.

Nowhere in this article does it mention that in June the US Senate voted on a resolution to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital which passed by 90-0. To do so would detract from the narrative that Trump is making rash, unilateral decisions which bring the world closer to war.

Israel welcomes the changes but the Palestinians and Arab leaders have warned they will jeopardise any Middle East peace process.

Note they don’t specify which Middle East peace process would be jeopardised, presumably because none exists.

Successive presidents have signed waivers to get round the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which mandates moving the embassy.

Oh. So basically Trump is the first President to actually uphold a law that was passed by Congress over 20 years ago. This is a bad thing, apparently.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud told Mr Trump the relocation of the embassy or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world”

Could it be that, having listened to Muslims all over the world spending the first year of his presidency branding him an enemy of Islam, Trump isn’t really interested in what they think at this juncture?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned of “the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world”

Yeah, that might have worked ten or twenty years ago, but it’s now worn so thin you can wear it as a mask and still watch TV.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a “day of rage” this Friday and said “Palestinian people everywhere [would] not allow this conspiracy to pass”

Business as usual, then.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country could sever ties with Israel

I doubt there are many in Israel counting on ties with Turkey since Erdogan’s rise to power.

France, the European Union and the Arab League have also expressed concern.

The Arab League? We have proxy wars raging in Syria and Yemen, Qatar and Saudi Arabia at each other’s throats, Iran and Turkey sending troops to prop up Arab governments, Libya overrun by jihadists and Egypt heading in the same direction. I didn’t even realise the Arab League still existed, but the minutes of their AGM must make interesting reading.

By recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital President Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise. There is no other obvious reason he is doing this now.

Fulfilling campaign promises, enacting Senate resolutions, upholding the law as passed by Congress? Is there nobody who can save us from this monster?!

Administration officials said he would simply be acknowledging reality

A rare trait among modern politicians.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia are custodians of Islam’s holy sites and have issued strong warnings that this move could inflame the Muslim world.

Okay, we’ll add it to the list.

It sounds like the Palestinians will get nothing.

Except for the four or five hundred million dollars per year the US sends them, of course.

Perhaps there is a wider strategy at work but it looks like a workaround so the president can satisfy his pro-Israel voters.

And comply with the Senate, Congress, and the law in a manner that his predecessors refused to.

In other news:

The BBC is to launch a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information.

They’re perfectly placed to do it.

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Headline News

This is quite an important development, no?

The US Supreme Court has ruled President Donald Trump’s travel ban on six mainly Muslim countries can go into full effect, pending legal challenges.

The decision is a boost for Mr Trump’s policy against travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Ah, but it concerns good news for Trump so is relegated to a minor story on the second page, displaced by such ground-breaking events in the US as this:

I wonder where the story would have appeared had the Supreme Court struck Trump’s law down?

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Damian Green, the Met, and the BBC

From the BBC:

A former Scotland Yard detective has told BBC News he was “shocked” by the amount of pornography viewed on a computer seized from the Commons office of senior Tory MP Damian Green.

Neil Lewis examined the device during a 2008 inquiry into government leaks and has not spoken publicly before.

He said “thousands” of thumbnail images of legal pornography were on it.

I think this says far more about the Metropolitan Police and the BBC, who are running the story on their front page. One thing that was blindingly obvious about the Leveson Enquiry was that the practice of policemen dishing up gossip on prominent people to journalists was widespread and well-known, but the political establishment and their supporters needed an excuse to try to break Rupert Murdoch’s media empire so they grabbed one where they could.

That we now have ex-policemen engaged in selling information – none of which concerns illegal or even immoral activities whose exposure serves the public interest – and the likes of the BBC are falling over themselve to publish it only confirms what most sensible people already knew. Any government worth its salt would come down on this ex-policeman like a tonne of bricks, give the Met a thorough and public dressing-down, and revoke the BBC’s charter.

If the Theresa May’s Tories are too piss-weak to do this then perhaps they deserve to be gossiped about. It’s about all they’re useful for.

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More in Trump’s Twitter Trolling

Polkamatic makes the following comment under my post on Trump’s Twitter trolling:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it. And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

This deserves a proper response. Let me take this part first:

So the POTUS sees trolling the media as an appropriate activity for a sitting POTUS. Maybe even his top priority, by the looks of it.

This is obviously true: Trump seems to spend as much time trolling the media as he does anything else. Is this appropriate for an American president? Personally I don’t think it is, but then I also believe it’s a moot point.

If Americans wanted a president who acts in a presidential manner, then they ought to have left the door open for such a candidate to step forward and get themselves elected. Instead, the media and political establishment decided they would back the Democratic candidate regardless and carry out a complete and utter character assassination of the Republican candidate. I remember when Mitt Romney ran against Barack Obama: he was called a Nazi, a religious fundamentalist, a misogynist, and a tax-evader. He then spent the entire campaign mumbling apologies, explaining himself, and reacting to every media revelation his political opponents aired. Sure enough, he lost by a mile. Had Jeb Bush won the Republican nomination in 2016, the same thing would have happened to him and we’d now be listening to President Clinton screech at us from our TV screens.

I’ve said it many times on these pages, Trump is a symptom of the malaise in American politics, not the cause of it. The reason you have an egotistical asshole in the White House is because the media and political establishment made it impossible for any decent non-Democrat to win a presidential election. Any Republican candidate who would have behaved in a presidential manner in office would never have got close to the White House, he’d have been destroyed by the media using every dirty trick in the book to bring him down. This didn’t work on Trump because he simply didn’t care, had his own money, owed nobody anything, and refused to apologise.

My post was simply to point out that Trump figured out the media’s role in American politics and rather than reacting to every story they put out about him, he plays the tune while they dance. And let’s be honest here: if he wasn’t doing this, and he had settled into the role and was doing his level best to do his job in a highly professional manner, the media would still be pumping out one anti-Trump hatchet-job after another, wailing about Russia and calling for his impeachment. Anyone who thinks the media, political establishment, and Democrat supporters would allow a Republican president to quietly get on with the job at hand is absolutely deluded.

And by reporting on this bizarre state of affairs, the MSM is somehow wasting its time and money, because there’s nothing the viewing public is less interested in seeing than a tawdry spectacle.

As I said in the original post, the people screaming about Trump are preaching to the choir. Part of the reason Trump was able to shrug off the media attacks during the election campaign was because millions of Americans had come to believe they are interested only in political campaigning and are hence highly selective about the stories they choose to cover. The diminished influence of the MSM was laid bare when, against all their dreams and predictions, Trump won and Hillary lost. If there was ever a time for self-reflection and recalibration, that was it. Instead, they’ve just trebled-down on the hysteria and hammered the point home they’re partisan hacks with no interest in reporting objective truth.

Is the public interested in a tawdry spectacle? Well, it certainly provides plenty of Twitter-fodder but the likes of the NYT, WaPo, BBC, and CNN are not tabloids: I am sure most Americans would prefer it if they started reporting the news properly instead of pasting up headlines regarding who said what about Trump on Twitter. Now maybe the MSM is enjoying healthy profits by pursuing this approach, but my bet is they’re losing money hand over fist.

On another note, I don’t think Trump’s method of communication is part of some overall grand strategy, I think he’s just doing what comes naturally to him. But regardless of why he’s doing it, the effects are substantial. I don’t know why he retweeted the videos that Britain First put up but it caused all manner of journalists, celebrities, and politicians to vent their outrage at what they see as his endorsement of a racist party. This has had the knock-on effect of:

1. Highlighting the rank hypocrisy among Britain’s political and media establishments. Jeremy Corbyn is a long-standing supporter of the IRA and Hamas, anti-semitism is rife across the British left, people with blood up to their elbows are welcomed with open arms, yet Trump retweeting a video from Britain First is deemed beyond the pale.

2. Exposing who is thinking what in Britain’s supposedly Conservative political circles. I wouldn’t expect any Conservatives to endorse Trump, but if they’re queuing up behind Labour politicians and left-wing media loudmouths in calling him “racist” and “not welcome in Britain” and “irresponsible” then they’re doing everyone a big favour. I suspect much of the British public couldn’t care less about Trump’s tweets and when they hear he’s posted something on a subject their own political classes refuse to address, they’re probably quite glad. I haven’t seen the videos in question (I generally find this sort of thing on Twitter to be presented in a wholly misleading context), but if the political classes think Trump tweeting videos of Muslims allegedly being violent and murderous is something that will horrify the public, they’ve not been paying attention.

3. It is now confirmed that retweeting does indeed equate to endorsing. Expect the trolls to have some fun with this over the next few weeks.

Trump’s tweets are often filled with infantile posturing, but the reaction to them is stuff that will fascinate historians and social anthropologists for years to come.

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Trump’s Twitter Trolling

North Korea is lobbing missiles around again and the hapless Theresa May is shipping billions of pounds over to Europe in the hope they’ll make her life a bit easier next month, but here’s the BBC’s lead story:

It’s reached the stage that I think Trump is simply trolling. The outrage machine is still going full blast more than a year since his election, but there he is, still sitting pretty as president. He knows that by simply clicking a few buttons on his iPhone he can send the world’s media – who hate him anyway – into one meltdown after another, giving them no time to catch their breath in between. Historians are going to look back on this and recognise it as masterful media manipulation; he really is playing with them like a cat does a mouse.

What really gets me is the disparity of effort. Master trolls don’t hang around writing screeds online, their role is to throw petrol on a fire and walk away, leaving everyone else to waste days or weeks fighting each other. In Trump’s case, he can tie up tens of thousands of his enemies’ manhours and get them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by retweeting a video, an action which takes less than a second. This must be costing the media companies an absolute fortune, and for what? The BBC won’t care because they extort money from the British population, but for the rest who rely on selling copy or getting eyes on screen, Trump’s making them dig their own graves. For all the million articles and interviews decrying Trump, nobody’s much changed their minds about the man: all they’re doing is preaching to the choir. They desperately need to start covering stories professionally and recapturing their lost audiences in order to survive, but instead they’re stuck with this blinding obsession. How none of the shareholders or executives realise this is incredible.

Trump is unlikely to leave office remembered as a great president or even as a good politician, and I suspect his legislative changes won’t even amount to much. But I think there’s no doubt he will be remembered for the manner in which he completely outflanked a hostile media and led them straight over a cliff. For all his other faults, Trump is probably the first major political figure to really understand the power of social media. Twitter should give him a seat on the board when his time in office is up.

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Theresa May, Russia, and Fake News

Yesterday Theresa May addressed one of main issues concerning everyday British citizens. Immigration? Brexit? House prices? Terrorism?

Alas no, she instead spoke about fake news being spread by Russians:

Theresa May has accused Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake stories in the media in an extraordinary attack on its attempts to “weaponise information” in order to sow discord in the west.

The prime minister spoke out against “the scale and nature” of Russia’s actions during an address at the lord mayor’s banquet, saying it was “threatening the international order on which we all depend”.

If the international order can be upset by fake news being planted in the media, it doesn’t say much about the international order, does it? But the reason fake news gains so much traction in the west is twofold: firstly, major news organisations are flatly refusing to cover serious issues affecting millions of ordinary people, thus giving the (correct) impression that the news is carefully managed by the political establishment. This then leaves the floor clear for nefarious parties to come in and talk about these issues unopposed. Secondly, trust in the mainstream media has fallen to rock-bottom because people have finally realised they are also in the business of peddling fake news, and now consider the difference between them and the likes of RT to be one of degree not form. The mainstream media and the politicians they pander to have only themselves to blame, but they are so lacking in self-awareness they can’t see how much they’re projecting. Consider this statement for example:

“It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the west and undermine our institutions.”

How many fake news stories regarding Donald Trump does the BBC peddle, then? Just last week it was complicit in the fake story about Trump dumping the fish-food into the pond all at once, and relies mainly on unsubstantiated Twitter posts in its initial reporting of a story. And how much airtime did the BBC give to the non-story that was the Paradise Papers? Consider too this post from Rob Fisher at Samizdata:

Leaving aside the question of whether the state has a role in telling broadcasters what news they can broadcast (it does not), let me take a quick look at the front page of the BBC News website right now.

Here is my translation of the pertinent headlines (stories that are political I have marked in italics, and neutral stories I have omitted):

– Big companies like Apple should pay more tax.

– Tax avoidance is wrong.

– Lewis Hamilton should pay more tax.

– Bono should pay more tax.

– Rich people should pay more tax.

– The state should control who has guns.

– Mugabe wants his wife to take over from him.

– Plastic is bad and greedy people are destroying the planet with it because they are greedy.

– Global warming is still really real and only states working with the UN can save us.

– Trump is being mean to Turkish people.

– Trump wants Japan to help defend against North Korea.

– People were kidnapped in Nigeria.

– A writer used politically incorrect language.

– A woman who was rude to Trump got fired.

– People who voted for Trump probably regret it.

The idea that the BBC is an impartial reporter of the news contrasting with RT’s politically-motivated propaganda is laughable. So is this:

Listing Russia’s attempts to undermine western institutions in recent years, she said: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.

Whatever damage Russia has done to western institutions is eclipsed by that carried out by the political establishment of which Theresa May is very much part. True, the Russians might not succeed in destroying western society but they won’t have to: the likes of Theresa May will manage that all on their own, cheered on by the mainstream media while ordinary people are ignored, belittled, insulted, threatened, and imprisoned.

If the western democracies were as resilient as May is making out, RT’s output wouldn’t matter. Russia presented far more of a threat during the Cold War, and there were more than enough people in the west working in Moscow’s interests, and yet we survived intact. May knows this, and so does the entire political and media establishment. Politicians want someone to blame for the divisions in society that they have caused, and the media want to silence a rival outlet that doesn’t play by the same rules as they do, i.e. by refusing to cover stories that are politically inconvenient. The sooner May is booted out and the mainstream media goes bankrupt, the better. RT might peddle crap, but they are not the biggest problem Britain faces, not by a long shot.

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More on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

From the BBC:

Michael Gove has come under fire for saying he didn’t know what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran when she was arrested in 2016.

Then he’s in the same position as most of us.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said Mr Gove had “compounded” Mr Johnson’s “cavalier approach to international diplomacy”.

Firstly, why did the BBC’s Andrew Marr bring up the topic of Zaghari-Ratcliffe with Gove, who is the Environment Secretary? What’s this got to do with him?

Secondly, if the welfare of Zaghari-Ratcliffe hangs in the balance and her fortunes could swing one way or the other based on what ministers back in the UK say, perhaps it would be better if the likes of the BBC refrained from raising the topic on live television with politicians not involved in her case?

What is happening here is obvious. The BBC want to maintain the narrative that the government is in disarray, and so Marr put the question to Gove hoping to stir the pot a little. Unless Gove repeated word-for-word what Boris did they could use it to manufacture more outrage, and sure enough that’s what’s happened. Boris is now saying Zaghari-Ratcliffe went to Iran on holiday, Gove says he doesn’t know, and my guess is the Foreign Office documents would tell us a lot more than the BBC is right now. They seem to be playing the role of mouthpiece for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, uncritically accepting and repeating whatever he has to say.

I found this interesting:

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport with her 18-month-old daughter in April 2016, one of several Iranians with dual nationality to be detained over a period of months.

If Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an Iranian citizen, then what has this got to do with the Foreign Office? I’ve always thought the unwritten rule of diplomacy was that dual citizens generally have to deal with each of their home countries without help from the other. If you’re a dual British and Greek citizen and the Greeks snatch you from a beach in Mykonos and enroll you in national service, the British government won’t help you: it’s an internal matter.

I can understand why Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband started making noises about his wife’s arrest and imprisonment – who wouldn’t? – but in doing so he’s got the Foreign Office publicly involved which has led to Boris Johnson’s allegedly misguided statements. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if things are less clear cut than they seem. In the absence of any proper reporting, I’m going to give myself license to speculate a little.

First I’ll note that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has retained her Iranian name, which suggests her Iranian nationality was not something she wished to keep hidden. On the contrary, she probably used to to good effect during her career working for a political lobby-group calling itself a charity and the BBC. We already know that the BBC was training Iranian journalists, which appears to be in breach of Iranian law. Why the BBC thinks it has any business training Iranian journalists I don’t know, but their doing so appears to have landed several of them in jail. Well done, Auntie! So it may well be that one of these imprisoned journalists has been asked to name Iranians overseas involved with training journalists or writing articles critical of the Iranian government, and one of them has fingered Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Could it be that she has participated in training sessions, or contributed to articles, that the Iranian government interprets as being seditious? Might they have evidence of this? It’s not beyond the bounds of plausibility, is it? She was doing something for these organisations, so what was it? If she was solely involved with water-well projects in Bolivia or fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone and left the subject of Iran well alone, surely her former employers – who are indignantly expressing their outrage – would have come forward and said so, wouldn’t they?

So here’s my guess: she’s used her Iranian nationality in a professional capacity and someone in Iran has spilled her name. The Iranian authorities have got further details – perhaps an article with her name on or some course notes – and decided they were subversive. With her being an Iranian citizen with family in Iran, they’ve seen it as their business and their right to nab her at the airport and put her on trial. Now this doesn’t mean she deserves to be in jail or she’s been subject to a fair trial, but it is more plausible than the Iranians simply nabbing someone for the hell of it. Perhaps the Iranian government doesn’t like its citizens working for organisations like the BBC and “charities” actively involved in politics which run contrary to their interests, in which case Zaghari-Ratcliffe really ought to have realised this before she accepted a job with them, but I think there is more to this story than we’re being told.

Unfortunately, we only have the word of her husband to go on. He is being paraded around the BBC amid calls for Boris Johnson to resign, seemingly unaware he is being used as a political pawn. Nobody gives a shit about his wife, other than him: everyone else is only interested in making the Tories look bad. He may soon come to regret his decision to participate in this circus. In 2015 I said this in relation to the execution of the ringleaders of the Bali Nine:

By all means, make the principled stand I described earlier but whipping up a media frenzy which overlooks the pair’s incontrovertible guilt and their leadership role, complete with accusations of corruption, threats of boycotts, withdrawal of ambassadors, and the casual dismissal of the sovereign right of Indonesia to try and sentence criminals apprehended on their own turf in accordance with their own laws.  There were times when the Australians might as well have said “Listen brown folk, we know you’re all corrupt and we are your superior neighbours, so let our citizens go free and we’ll allow you to sit with us at the next regional summit.”  Would Australia have dared to behave like this had the two ended up on death row in California?  Would they hell.  Would Australia have been happy about the Indonesian government protesting an Australian court ruling in such a manner?  No they would not.

Whatever chance the condemned men had of being spared before they were shot on 29th April, this was surely extinguished by the frankly disgraceful behaviour of Australia’s politicians and media.  No doubt the Indonesians will be blamed for years for the death of a “young, shy Australian man” and his mate who is “funny, articulate… charismatic and has a very caring personality”.  But Australia ought to shoulder the blame for ensuring their sentence would be carried out by insulting the Indonesians to such an extent that they had little choice but to do otherwise.

If Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband has chosen to take the route of whipping up Britain’s media into a frenzy over the inexcusable jailing of his wife by the Iranian regime, he had better be absolutely damned sure there isn’t the slightest shred of evidence that can be used to justify their actions. Unless she’s led a squeaky-clean professional life having nothing to do with Iran and maintaining only personal and family connections, then he’s playing a very dangerous game. The Iranians have made a stand on this, suggesting they are deeply unhappy about something she has done. Now the matter has turned into an international incident, the Iranians will be forced to either double-down or release her. If the have anything which could even semi-plausibly be used against her – such as testimony from an Iranian journalist trained by the BBC – which option do you think they’ll take?

I might be wrong on all of this, and some people might be annoyed that I’m engaged in wild speculation. But if nobody is going to do any proper reporting and the BBC – which seems complicit in this whole mess – is simply going to serve as a mouthpiece for the woman’s husband, then I make no apologies.

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More on Twitter’s Troubles

Following on from this post on Twitter’s troubles comes this:

Twitter has suspended its verified-profile scheme and described it as “broken”, following complaints over the type of accounts being verified.

Typically, prominent people, including musicians, journalists and company executives, get a blue icon on their profile after proving their identity.

However, some far-right and white-supremacist accounts have now also been verified.

Presumably those with “far-right” views – meaning anyone to the right of your average Twitter employee – and white supremacists don’t have identities.

In a statement, the company said: “Verification was meant to authenticate identity and voice, but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance.

An interpretation encouraged by Twitter administrators who would withdraw verification as punishment for expressing the wrong views and withhold verification from people they didn’t like.

“We recognise that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it.”

By hiring some serious adults, ones that can tell the difference between “verify” and “endorse”? I’ll not hold my breath.

Twitter has been making a series of changes to address abuse and harassment on the social network.

By that they mean they’ve been enthusiastically banning people who they suspect might be upsetting groups they like.

One thing is certain, if this is how they are running the parts of the business which are in full public view, those bits which remain hidden won’t be any better. And they’re not alone in this: ZMan frequently points out that Facebook’s algorithm which generates the data they provide to advertisers is often found to be faulty – but always, coincidentally, in a manner which favours Facebook – and that if they weren’t a current darling of the political establishment they’d have been raked over the coals by now.

Sooner or later, one of these tech giants is going to run into serious trouble and they’ll wish they’d put some serious adults in charge.

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