The Paradise Papers

Something about the reporting on the Paradise Papers struck me, and that is all the major news organisations have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about publishing private details of individuals who have broken no laws obtained from documents that have been unlawfully leaked.

They then proceed to talk to us about ethics.

Presumably these journalists and newsmen would be content if hackers published details of their bank transactions, hotel bills, and internet surfing records? Hopefully at some point we’ll get to test that theory.

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More Fake News

Yesterday morning I saw a headlining story on the BBC about how Donald Trump had tipped a whole box of fish food into a pond full of carp, heavily implying he lacked the patience or intelligence to feed them slowly with a spoon as he was supposed to. I ignored it as the usual anti-Trump bollocks from the BBC but I wish I’d screen-grabbed it because it later disappeared. However, CNN’s coverage remains online:

Trump feeds fish, winds up pouring entire box of food into koi pond

The moment happened as Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe headed to lunch. The leaders were escorted to a dining room that overlooks a koi pond at Akasaka Palace.

As an aide clapped loudly, Abe and Trump tossed spoonfuls of fish food into the pond. Then, with a look of enjoyment, Trump quickly poured his entire box of food into the pond.

Most major news sites have a video of the incident, including CNN and The Independent – which uses the caption:

Mr Trump upends the fish food into the collection of precious koi carp as Mr Abe looks on and smiles

Dozens of news outlets relayed the story and Twitter piled in, with most using a graphic like the one below:

This was the graphic the BBC used, with a similar caption, before the story mysteriously disappeared. So why did they pull it? Because it was fake news of course:

Moments before, Shinzo Abe threw his entire box into the pond and Trump simply followed suit, and all of this can be seen in the unedited clip. But major news channels like the BBC and CNN decided to go with a carefully edited clip which showed Trump looking foolish, and ran it on their front pages. Someone, somewhere in these organisations are quite deliberately making these decisions, abandoning all pretence of impartiality and accurate reporting. What’s amusing is this sort of stuff gets exposed within hours in the modern era, yet still the mainstream media behaves like this and insists they are bastions of truth and knowledge. It’s why Trump’s “fake news” remark was so effective and why the term has become so widely used. I suspect it’s also why Iranian authorities view anyone who work for such organisations with deep suspicion and throw them in jail as political subversives. If they showed the slightest capacity for self-awareness, they’d be addressing these practices immediately.

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The Media and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

I woke up this morning to news that Boris Johnson had apparently made a gaffe regarding a certain Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who currently resides in an Iranian prison. The media is going absolutely mental over it, and Twitter mobs and Labour politicians are piling on.

The story is that Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman, was jailed in Tehran after being arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016, charged with plotting to overthrow the government. The full charges have not been made public, but she denies any wrongdoing. According to her family, she went to Iran to visit her parents, but Boris Johnson said something quite different during a parliamentary enquiry:

A charity fears a British-Iranian woman held in Iran could have her prison sentence doubled following remarks made by the foreign secretary.

Boris Johnson told a Commons committee that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested at Tehran Airport in 2016, was “teaching people journalism”.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation said she was seeing family and urged Mr Johnson to correct his “serious mistake”.

All the reporting on this is focused on Johnson’s gaffe and how he should immediately retract, explain, apologise, and resign. Everyone is piling in, using the incident as an excuse to bash the hapless Theresa May and the Tory government. What is missing, unsurprisingly, is some actual reporting.

Now perhaps Johnson has made an enormous blunder which could see Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence doubled – the Iranians have seized on his remarks to threaten her with this – but nobody seems interested in asking why he made them and what they were based on. As is so often the case when Brits are jailed abroad, everyone is simply taking the family’s word that she is thoroughly innocent, the Iranians have no case against her, and Johnson made a catastrophic error.

Now it could be that the Iranians have simply decided to chuck this woman in jail for no reason as the media implies, but we should at least look a little closer. So, firstly:

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has worked for the charity the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the BBC

This would be the same Thompson Reuters foundation that, among other things, provides pro-bono legal advice for refugees and immigrants to fight deportation from the USA:

The US has long prided itself on championing human rights and the rights of those fleeing persecution;  between 1980-2016 the country received approximately 70,000 refugees annually.

Yet on 6 March 2017, US President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order that suspended the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, and banned people from six majority-Muslim countries – Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – from entering the country for 90 days.

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), a leading non-profit providing legal representation to refugees, immediately mobilised thousands of pro bono lawyers at airports to assist incoming immigrants and refugees. Besides offering direct legal advice on the ground, IRAP identified an urgent need to create a ‘one-stop shop’ online to inform affected individuals on their rights, and available legal options.

We also get gems like this:

Worsening droughts, storms, floods and sea level rise can exacerbate poverty and create more vulnerability in the form of child marriage and human trafficking. But a global transition to clean energy also presents huge opportunities to spur development and improve life for billions of people. By opening up the conversation to include the ‘human cost’, we are able to connect with new audiences, and forge partnerships that can help build more resilient and sustainable societies.

Now I don’t want to defend the Iranians here, but it’s not too difficult to see how they reached the conclusion that anyone working for this outfit is involved in political activity, not mundane charity work. So did anyone in the media bother to find out what her work involved, and whether any of it concerned Iran? Of course not, but one would think this was relevant, no? I’ve also not been able to find if she was born in Iran, and if so when she left. We have plenty of footage of indignant family members, but precious little about the actual person other than a few photogenic pics of her with a cute kid.

Note that she also worked for the BBC. Now according to this Guardian report:

Although the exact reasons for her incarceration are unclear, Iranian authorities have hinted that her arrest is linked to the 2014 imprisonment of several employees of an Iranian technology news website, according to Amnesty International. They were given long prison terms for participating in a BBC journalism training course. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was a project assistant at the BBC’s Media Action, the broadcaster’s international development charity, in 2008-09. The BBC is loathed by the Iranian establishment, mainly for its Persian service, which is watched by millions of Iranians via illegal satellite dishes.

So was Zaghari-Ratcliffe involved in delivering this training course or not? The BBC has gone all-in on the outrage, but I’ve yet to see a statement saying:

“We confirm the BBC provided journalism training to Iranian citizens, but at no point was Zaghari-Ratcliffe involved.”

One wonders why not.

In other words, Boris Johnson is being castigated for suggesting Zaghari-Ratcliffe was involved in an activity – training Iranian journalists – which the BBC appears to have carried out quite openly at a time when she worked there. If training Iranian journalists is such a horrendous crime that Johnson has endangered this woman’s liberty by suggesting she was involved in it, then why is the BBC doing it?

I’m not saying the Iranians have a case here, or that the poor woman deserves to be in jail. But it appears her employment in a highly political “charity” and the BBC, which peddles fake news and engages in political interference as a matter of course, has been used as a basis for her incarceration. Presumably she thought both organisations were whiter-than-white and her role in each wouldn’t be viewed with suspicion by the authorities when she travelled to Iran. That has proved to be a costly mistake.

Boris Johnson appears to have put his foot in it as usual, but if anyone was really interested in the truth of this we’d see some proper reporting. Instead, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s fate is being used as an excuse to bash the Tory government and score some cheap political points. This is handy for the media of course, because it detracts attention from the fact that their employees are being thrown in jail for peddling political propaganda. In all of this, nobody is looking very good.

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Twitter Troubles

Thanks to this, Twitter is in full-on damage control:

US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account briefly vanished on Thursday but has since been restored, the social media company said.

An employee deactivated the @realdonaldtrump account, it said, clarifying that it had been their last day in the job.

The account was down for 11 minutes and Twitter is now investigating.

Now part of this is quite amusing, and I confess had someone done it to Obama I’d be chuckling away. But it’s actually quite serious:

Firstly, the employee is an idiot. Sure, he might gain some street cred with his lefty mates and have liberals fawning over him for a day or two, but Twitter could (and probably should) clobber him for this. “But it’s my last day!” doesn’t provide immunity from sabotage or malicious acts; sure, you can bare your arse on the way out the door but if you were to start interfering with a customer’s account in any other business you’d be in deep shit. Of course, there is also a reasonable argument that perhaps Trump shouldn’t be on Twitter at 3am shooting his mouth off and all presidential communications ought to go through proper, secured channels – but this is Trump, and I can understand why he wants to bypass the mainstream media that openly colluded with his opponent during the election.

But despite all this, and despite Twitter on some measures being little more than a giant playground, it is still a large and influential public company and this latest incident says a lot about how it’s run. One would have thought that anyone with admin rights over accounts – particularly those belonging to people like Trump – would be put on gardening leave the moment they submit their resignation. At the very least, they should have their admin rights pulled. There’s also the question over who is given these admin rights; it appears Twitter doesn’t distinguish between the accounts of high-profile and ordinary people, and a lowly administrator can make changes on everyone’s accounts. I bank with NatWest, but I’d hazard a guess the person who picks up the phone to unblock my card or help me set up a direct debit wouldn’t be able to access the accounts of any celebrities or billionaires who banked with them; they’d have their own account administrators, who would be vetted more thoroughly.

Unfortunately for the Twitter management, this isn’t the only time they’ve been accused of running the company like a students’ union rather than a blue-chip tech corporation. Last week they made the decision to pull all adverts from accounts owned by Russia Today, thus endorsing the rather wild view that such adverts may have swung the election for Donald Trump. Not only is this ludicrous political posturing – Twitter is full of adverts from dodgy regimes, the latest I am seeing is from Saudi Arabia attacking Qatar over Yemen – but RT has responded by saying they were approached by Twitter in the run-up to the election:

RT was thereby forced to reveal some details of the 2016 negotiations during which Twitter representatives made an exclusive multi-million dollar advertising proposal to spend big during the US presidential election, which was turned down.

Do I believe RT unconditionally? Hell no. Do I think it plausible, even likely, that Twitter approached RT at that time in order to secure millions in advertising funds? Yes I do. Do I think the Twitter management would cynically ban RT a year later in order to pander to Democrat politicians? Yes, I do. Even if the Russians are making this up, it doesn’t make Twitter look good.

This has not come out of a clear blue sky, of course. During the election campaign Twitter stood accused, with good reason, of shadow-banning conservative or pro-Trump accounts, i.e. hiding them from people’s news feeds without telling them. Many people believe, again with good reason, that Twitter’s enthusiasm for banning people tends to be directed mainly at those whose views don’t align with prevailing progressive orthodoxy, and liberals are free to hurl abuse with gay abandon in a manner which would get a conservative suspended. As ZMan pointed out in one of his podcasts, Twitter and other social media sites actually brag about how many people they’ve silenced, how many accounts they’ve shut down, and how they are committed to protecting people from the wrong sort of opinions. This sounds very unlike a business interested in making money and a lot more like a bunch of people with an aim to control narratives for political and social purposes.

Finally, you have the farce which is the blue check-mark. Originally it was a good idea, used to verify that an account appearing to belong to someone famous was actually administered by that person. Anyone can sign up to Twitter claiming to be Ryan Giggs, but by verifying accounts with a blue tick users would know which one was officially his. But somehow this morphed into a system whereby even obscure people whose views align with Twitter staff get a blue check mark while world-famous people they don’t like are denied. Julian Assange, for example, has not been verified even though it is clearly him (he puts a blue diamond after his name to highlight this). Now you might not like Assange or agree with him, but he’s definitely someone whose account ought to be verified as belonging to him. Contrast this with a chap called Ben Spielberg who I picked at random: he has less than 10k followers (Assange has over 500k) and seems to be known mainly for running a blog focussing on civil rights and occasionally writing for the Huffington Post.

Equally controversially, Milo Yiannopoulos was unverified by Twitter, i.e. they removed his blue check-mark for reasons unknown back in January, before he got booted off altogether. If the verification was genuinely an indicator of an account-holder’s identity as Twitter claimed, they would not threaten to withdraw it as punishment for expressing forbidden views. I suppose if you inhabit an ultra-liberal Silicon Valley bubble then all of this might seem perfectly acceptable and give you a sense of smug satisfaction you’re improving the world. But when all this is added up, it is clear Twitter is not run by adults nor managed in the vein of a serious, multinational corporation. Their increasingly opaque policies, particularly those to do with breaches of code of conduct and suspension of accounts, are more akin to those of an off-topic message board on a gaming forum or a personal blog than a tech giant with the ear of governments.

What Twitter’s investors make of this is anyone’s guess but I’m with ZMan on this: the smart money got out of there a long time ago. How long Twitter can keep this up will be interesting to watch.

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The Media Bubble

The news around Europe is that the Dutch have formed a government after a record 208 days of negotiations; Austria has elected an anti-immigration leader in a notable lurch rightward; and the Czechs have chosen a Eurosceptic as a prime minister (h/t Adam for the roundup). You’d have thought this would be a major point of discussion in the British media especially with the ongoing Brexit negotiations, but what was the BBC’s main headline yesterday afternoon? This one:

Never mind European populations swinging to the right and voting Eurosceptic politicians into office, what is important is who is saying what about Trump on Twitter.

Amusingly, Times columnist Oliver Kamm has an article at Capx urging the government to severely curtail Russia Today. Presumably it wasn’t considered good sport for the Times to call for censorship of a rival outlet on its own pages, so Kamm makes the call somewhere else. But here’s what he says when bragging about his own prescience:

I pointed out on the programme that RT was not a normal news station like the BBC, CNN or even Al Jazeera, but a state propaganda channel venting preposterous and pernicious conspiracy theories.

Most sensible people I know, including Russians, acknowledge that RT takes an unashamedly pro-Kremlin line. What is far more worrying is that many people believe the likes of BBC and CNN are unbiased, credible news organisations working on a higher moral plane. The bullshit emanating from the BBC might not be quite as blatant as RT, but nobody is forced to pay for the latter and nor is it wheeled out as some kind of national treasure. Between the two I don’t think there’s an awful lot to choose from, particularly on subjects such as Brexit and immigration which the Establishment are incapable of covering impartially. Anyone who writes for the Times and criticises RT while praising the BBC and CNN is seriously lacking self-awareness. Consider this remark from Kamm:

At the margin, Russian state propaganda has had an effect. David Coburn, an MEP for the UK Independence Party, unabashedly states: “RT gave UKIP publicity when nobody else would.”

In the wake of Brexit, how much of a bubble must one inhabit to think this is an argument for censoring RT rather than an example of the colossal failings of the established media?

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Amid the sexual abuse, how much consensual sex is there?

Yesterday someone wrote one of those lengthy threads on Twitter which made the point, over and over, that despite the dozens of celebrities spilling tales of sexual harassment in Hollywood, nobody is naming names other than Harvey Weinstein’s. Perhaps they are afraid of a libel charge, but I doubt it: could all those allegations against Weinstein be proved now? Unlikely.

Via Tim Worstall, I now see that Christie Turlington has come out and said the fashion industry is full of sexual predators who prey on vulnerable young wannabe models. Maybe next week Scott Quinnell will come out and say rugby clubs were full of large, boisterous males who liked drinking and singing, and we’ll be equally surprised.

I have no doubt that sexual harassment and abuse is rife in the film and fashion industries, but what is being overlooked is that consensual sex is also rife. If disgusting fat film producers can proposition women for a part, you can be sure a lot of women are putting out for parts – many of them doing so quite happily. My guess is nobody is naming names because it will blow the lid on just how much consensual sex goes on in Hollywood, and how much of it is directly related to actors and actresses getting parts in a film. The moral standing of the pompous, self-righteous arses who presume to lecture us plebs at award ceremonies is already shaky; imagine what it would be reduced to should full details emerge of who they shagged and when – and, as we’ll be able to work out for ourselves – why. The underlying assumption people make of those complaining about Weinstein is they rejected his advances – yet never had sex with anyone else in order to advance their careers. That’s probably a big assumption.

Here’s something for the feminists to consider: if you want to stop men abusing positions of power in order to have sex, you also need to stop women having consensual sex with powerful men to advance their careers. It’s a two-way street, and it’s no coincidence that sexual abuse is more prevalent in industries where both men and women are able to sleep their way up the greasy pole.

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What Passes for Journalism

Two examples of shoddy journalism that irked me.

The first, described on Twitter as being an example of “Tory values”:

In a bid to crack down on so-called ‘health tourism’, 20 NHS trusts across the country have taken part in a government pilot scheme to trial identity checks for patients. The results of the pilots are due to be published later this year, but doctors, patients and health organisations have spoken to Politics.co.uk to raise serious concerns about the impact they have had.

“One of the worst cases involved a pregnant French woman who was of Asian descent,” one doctor says. “She arrived for a routine scan and was asked by reception staff if she was eligible for free care. She told them that she was French and had never needed to provide ID before. The receptionist told her that she didn’t ‘seem French’ and called the Paying Patients department to question her further.

“The woman was so upset by what was happening that she had a panic attack. I was called to check her over. I had to tell the Paying Patients department to leave the room because they had upset her so much.”

Sorry, but this doesn’t pass the smell test. Firstly, French people habitually carry ID with them everywhere and I doubt it’s a habit they ditch when they move to the UK unless they’ve been there many, many years. And to access the healthcare system in France they need to produce a separate carte vitale, which most French people carry in their wallets alongside their ID. It is therefore highly unlikely a pregnant French woman went to a hospital expecting treatment without bringing some form of ID. It is even less likely she had a panic attack on being asked for some.

Secondly, I have a hard time believing a hospital receptionist said she didn’t “seem French”: this isn’t the 1970s, and even the NHS would have given their receptionists some rudimentary training as to how to deal with those without ID. According to the journalist who wrote it, the doctor witnessed the whole thing – yet later she says he or she was “called to check her over”. Did the doctor stand idly by as this woman went into a panic attack, waiting to be called over? And who called her? Or was she actually out of earshot when the “didn’t seem French” remark was made (which I suspect is more likely) in which case who are we relying on for the quote?

This whole thing looks to me like an embellished story fed to a gullible reporter by an anonymous doctor who doesn’t like the policy. As a piece of journalism, it fails to establish key details of the story and doesn’t make sense even on a superficial level.

The BBC, reporting on the withdrawal of subsidies to health insurance companies, doesn’t do much better:

US President Donald Trump will end subsidies to health insurance providers designed to help low income households, as he continues his attempts to dismantle Obamacare.

The White House announced the move hours after Mr Trump signed an executive order allowing the sale of health insurance plans which are exempt from some of the law’s regulations.

The announcements come after Congress repeatedly failed to repeal Obamacare.

They were instantly criticised.

Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement denouncing the end of subsidies as a “spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage” which would harm the poorest citizens.

Meanwhile, critics of the initial announcement argued it could de-stabilise the Obamacare market by encouraging healthy consumers to leave their current plans, prompting a spike in premium costs for older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions.

According to a statement from the White House, the subsidies, which run into billions each year, were not legal.

This might come as a surprise to the BBC, but rulings on legality are not made in the White House but in courts. As the Washington Post reported last August:

Republicans have long protested the payments, and in late 2014 the GOP-led House filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration, contending that the subsidies were unconstitutional because Congress had not made a specific appropriation for them. Last year a federal district court ruled in the House’s favor, and the Obama administration appealed the case to the D.C. Circuit.

All Trump has done is stop the appeal. The illegality of the payments is therefore not a matter of a White House statement, implying its merely Trump’s opinion, but something ruled upon by a federal court. It’s yet another example of Obama deciding to do things on his own without consulting Congress, as he was constitutionally obliged to do. Not that you’d know that if you relied on the BBC for information.

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More on Harvey Weinstein

Commenter Stephen K responds well to my previous post on Harvey Weinstein:

Contra our host’s idea that this will be big, I think it will blow over. Nothing will happen. None of Weinstein’s (former) fans and enablers will change their views (at most they will go a bit quiet for a while, until they can change the subject). Hollywood will use this as the opportunity to bravely make films about sexual abuse in which they bravely depict conservative/ traditionalist men as abusers. These films will be highly praised as topical and (of course) brave. It is a matter of days, if not hours, before someone writes an article explaining that “the Weinstein scandal is all the more reason why we must redouble our resistance to the misogynistic regime of Trump” which will get retweeted a million times. We have seen it all before.

I agree with this of course, mainly because it is already happening. Today Newsweek asks:

Who hates women most? Pence, Trump, or Weinstein?

And there was some woman on the BBC this morning whose take on the whole thing was that misogyny is everywhere and needs to be rooted out, presumably to the benefit of women like her who, if her remarks were any guide, would be out of her intellectual depth sweeping floors in the local chippy.

As Stephen says, we’ve been here before, and sleaze in Hollywood is nothing new. There is a reason why actresses are the butt of crude jokes involving bishops and seen as one rung above prostitutes, and why no self-respecting father would let his young daughter anywhere near a film studio let alone the hotel room of a fat, greasy producer. You’ll note that books are filled with stories of women who ran away from home to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood, and didn’t let their parents know where they were going.

However, back then actresses were not pretending to be the conscience of the nation as they now are. Had an actress in a previous era attempted the sort of self-righteous posturing Meryl Streep engaged in at the last Oscars, the laughter of the men in the room would have been heard around the world. Actors like DiCaprio would have fared no better, either. One of the things Friends got spot on was portraying Joey Tribbiani as actors are: nice looking, good at speaking words someone else has written, but otherwise rather dim. The Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! made the same point as well.

But actors and actresses spouting political nonsense wouldn’t matter so much had the Democrats not wholeheartedly embraced them and taken their vacuous endorsements seriously. At times it looked as though Democrats with ambitions of high office were taking their leads from air-headed celebrities, seemingly star-struck in their company.

But even that wouldn’t matter so much had the Democrats not made women’s rights, sexual assaults, and misogyny a central issue on which to attack their political enemies. But they have, and now any criticism coming from liberals on the subject can be countered by simply saying “Here’s a pic of you and Weinstein, and you knew full well what he was like.” Sure, they will say that Trump and Pence and everyone else are just as bad, but all that does is put them on the same footing and liberals can’t fight from there. Without a moral high-ground to posture from, liberals can barely muster an argument.

Following Trump’s win, the Democrats have lurched even further towards the loony-left end of the political spectrum, with centrists (assuming there are any left) ceding the floor to nutters like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Worse, Hillary simply won’t shut up and go away and nor will Obama, making it impossible for anyone sensible to rally the handful of sane Democrats left and mount a challenge for the 2020 election. Although it’s tempting to believe that all female Democrat voters are deranged lesbians or single women in Brooklyn who own a lot of cats, there are plenty of normal women who vote that way too. I’m sure a good portion of these will be appalled at the hypocrisy and enablement of sexual abuse that is on display here, and won’t be persuaded by the excuses and whataboutism pouring forth from those compromised. These women will have been put off voting for Trump because he’s a sexist pig, and that portion who don’t put politics above absolutely everything else will be pretty unhappy that their own party is behaving the same way or worse.

What the Democrats need is a proper house-cleaning that gets rid of the Clintons once and for all, puts the Obama era behind them and drags the party back into the realm of electability leaving Warren and her ilk ranting harmlessly from the sidelines. That means tackling some of the issues that drove people to vote for Trump – jobs, immigration, terrorism – but also getting shot of the lunatics that stop these issues being talked about. The Democrats will always need the media but they can be tempered; they don’t need batshit insane Hollywood celebrities with failed marriages, bad tattoos, and cocaine habits.

On this blog it was Bardon (who else?) who asked:

I think the question is why now, and why was it the NYT that took down this Godfather at the top of the power structure?

My guess would be that a faction in the Democrat party looking to move it towards the centre has decided to use Weinstein’s abuse of women to strip the Clinton and Obama factions of credibility, clearing the way for them to take charge. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the NYT has played their role, having been approached by this new faction well in advance of the interview that started the ball rolling. Let’s see if they run any articles calling for “reforms” or “pages to be turned” and “new eras to be embraced” by the Democrat party in the coming weeks and months.

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On Harvey Weinstein

I have a feeling that this Harvey Weinstein story is going to be huge. It’s not that he was a sleazy Hollywood producer with a well-worn casting casting couch; that sort of stuff has been going on for ages. Nor is it that lots of people around him knew it was going on but covered it up; that too has been going on for ages. It’s more to do with who covered it up.

Since as far back as I can remember, Hollywood in general, and particularly famous actors and actresses, have been fully supportive of liberal, progressive politics and openly hostile to Republicans and conservatism. They worshipped at the feet of Barack Obama and went into meltdown over the election of Donald Trump. They have portrayed themselves as the moral arbiters of the nation, leading the way into a progressive new world by adopting every trendy cause going: Leonardo DiCaprio on global warming, Mark Ruffalo on fracking, Shia LeBeouf on anti-Trump, God knows how many actresses turning up in support of Planned Parenthood and other feminist-driven organisations. This culminated with Meryl Streep’s excruciating Oscar speech in which she positioned Hollywood celebrities like her as the shining beacons of hope in a country which would otherwise be nothing but ignorant white men watching football.

The Democrats, of course, have welcomed this unquestioning support for years, happy to hob-nob with Hollywood stars at swanky parties in New York and LA and receive millions in campaign donations along the way. Hollywood, Democrats, and liberal politics have become so intertwined it is almost impossible to separate the two. Also entangled in the whole lot is the media, which is largely the publicity arm of the Democratic party, and hence also firmly in bed with the Hollywood moguls. When Trump ran for president, everyone on the left – Democrats, the media, and Hollywood stars – lined up to condemn his misogyny and ill-treatment of women when the Access Hollywood tape (several years old) was mysteriously leaked at a crucial point in his campaign. This triggered the feminist-driven anti-Trump movement which after his election organised huge protest marches in support of women’s rights which they claimed were being eradicated under an administration which wasn’t even a week old. Several prominent Hollywood celebrities spoke at these highly-political marches, more attended, and the media gave them fawning coverage.

Now it appears that these same people have not only been close friends with a serial sexual predator, but they have been actively covering up his activities for years. The dyke was breached when Ashley Judd spoke to the New York Times about Weinstein’s behaviour towards her early in her career. Ironically, Judd subjected the masses to an unhinged political rant at the Washington Women’s March last January; one wonders why she chose to attack Trump – who she’s probably never met – than lodge a complaint about the man who actually abused her. I’ll get to the answer later.

Since then, the floodgates have opened. Several more prominent actresses have come forward with tales of abuse at the hands of Weinstein and with it dozens of pictures of actors, celebrities, and Democrat politicians cosying up to him while showering him with accolades. This would be less damaging were everyone in the dark as to what he was up to, but evidence is pouring in that his demands for sexual favours from young women was Hollywood’s worst kept secret. It was so widely known that Seth MacFarlane even joked about it at the 2013 Oscars, and everyone laughed.

It’s hardly surprising that few of these young women came forward to report him, and tempting though it is to point out that Judd only went to the papers once her career was over and her money earned, it is unfair. Yesterday an audio recording emerged of an encounter between actress/model Ambra Gutierrez and Weinstein. The conversation was recorded as part of an NYPD sting operation into Weinstein’s behaviour, and Gutierrez – who had been groped by Weinstein the day before – made the recording on their behalf. Weinstein admits on tape to inappropriate behaviour the day before, but the New York District Attorney – one Cyrus Vance Jr – decided to quash the case. If police recordings weren’t enough to bring about meaningful intervention into Weinstein’s behaviour, the mere word of a young woman wasn’t going to. As a measure of Weinstein’s clout, I read an anecdote on Twitter last week regarding an incident that took place at a very public event in New York. Some reporter had upset Weinstein and he grabbed him around the neck and basically threw him down some steps. Despite the dozens of photographers and cameramen around, not a single shot of the incident was published: nobody would dare.

Of course, covering up is one thing, actively defending the guy another. According to today’s Independent:

It’s been alleged by The Wrap founder Sharon Waxman that she investigated the accusations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein 13 years ago while reporting for The New York Times in 2004.

She claims this piece was cut from the paper due to both The Weinstein Company’s presence as an advertiser and alleged meddling by major Hollywood players including Matt Damon and Russell Crowe.

We also have this report from the New York Times which really doesn’t make Brad Pitt look too good after his then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow was propositioned by Weinstein:

She refused his advances, she said, and confided in Brad Pitt, her boyfriend at the time. Mr. Pitt confronted Mr. Weinstein, and soon after, the producer warned her not to tell anyone else about his come-on. “I thought he was going to fire me,” she said.

So Pitt knew about Weinstein since the time of this incident, which would have been around 1994, and said nothing. However, skeptics might point out that Paltrow wasn’t so traumatised that she couldn’t work with Weinstein afterwards in her defining role in Shakespeare in Love. Also in the NYT piece comes news that Weinstein also made unwanted advances on Angelina Jolie.

Okay, here’s the thing: I can understand why a young, unknown actress might not speak up about Weinstein, but Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow? Why are they only coming public with it now? Jolie has been one of the most powerful people in Hollywood for years, and Paltrow has been famous enough to brush off Weinstein for at least as long. Why did they not speak up sooner? And while we’re on the subject, why  haven’t these right-on Hollywood men responded to the Guardian‘s request for a comment:

The Guardian contacted more than 20 male actors and directors who have worked with the movie mogul over the years, some of whom have projects with Weinstein. All declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries about the accusations that the producer sexually harassed women over a period of nearly three decades.

The list of industry figures thus far remaining silent includes a number of male directors, such as the Oscar-nominated Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, the Hateful Eight) and David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, Flirting With Disaster), who have both made numerous movies with Weinstein.

The liberal film-maker Michael Moore, currently working with Weinstein on a documentary about Donald Trump, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Here’s why. Firstly, nobody gives a shit about one another in these circles. Actors and actresses by nature are narcissistic, selfish assholes and would happily stab one another in the back to get ahead. Ditto Democrats and most of the media. That vicious, vindictive, nastiness that is ever-present among public figures who champion liberal politics – particularly celebrities – doesn’t simply disappear once they’re around friends. They don’t have any friends, just people they can use for now. I see Weinstein’s wife has just decided to leave him, as if she had no idea what he was like before. The directors of his company have fired him only because the public found out about his behaviour, not because they did. Paltrow and Jolie and all the other long-term, highly-protected A-listers are speaking out because as of this week it became the smart thing to do reputation and career-wise. Before that, they were happy to stay silent as women were abused and propositioned just as they had been when younger. So much for female solidarity.

The second reason is politics. For all the talk about Republican and right-wing misogyny, nine times out of ten any public figure caught abusing women in America will be a Democrat or one of their chief supporters. The notable exception is Donald Trump, but sharp-eyed observers will point out that he was a big pal of the Democrats throughout the entire period any bad behaviour was alleged to have taken place (and I wrote about his supposedly excusing sexual assault here). Only once he turned Republican did his misogyny become an issue. One thing this unfolding story about Weinstein will prove once and for all is that Democrats, liberals and their media lackeys will ignore, accept, and defend all manner of disgusting, sexually-abusive behaviour from men provided their politics conform with theirs. We could mention Roman Polanski, or Antony Weiner, or Bill Clinton; provided they are on the liberal, Democrat side of politics, anything is acceptable. But if you’re a Republican and you say you wouldn’t have dinner alone with a woman who wasn’t your wife, the liberal establishment goes into hysterics about misogyny and marches in protest, accusing you of “attacking women”.

I don’t know why Judd finally broke ranks and spoke to the NYT, but now the cat is out of the bag even his politics can’t save him (although some are trying, and others are rapidly backtracking). The liberal mouthpieces have now smelled blood in the water, a chance to take down an old, white guy, polish their third-wave feminist credentials, and push the narrative than women everywhere are subject daily to horrific sexual exploitation by male bosses. Presumably they think nobody will notice they covered it up for years purely because he helped their careers and espoused the right politics.

Commenter Phil B asked me yesterday why I continued to fisk the nonsense that Laurie Penny writes, and this is my answer. In yesterday’s post I commented on how she is happy to remain friends with somebody with a history of sexually assaulting women because she approves of his politics. In the post the day before I recalled how she allowed her rapist to get close to her because “he was a fun-loving, left-leaning chap who was friends with a number of strong, feminist women” she admired. Yet Laurie has decided that it is ordinary, decent, conservative men that are the problem – just as Hollywood celebrities, Democrats, and liberals say it is.

This Harvey Weinstein story is not just about Hollywood, it goes to the very heart of left-liberal politics from the top to the very bottom, and you can be sure he’s not the only one behaving like this. Other names will come out in due course, all with a similar history. This is why I think it will be too big to shove under the carpet.

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More awful advice from Oliver Kamm

I’ve written before about the terrible advice Times columnist Oliver Kamm dishes out on Twitter. Here’s another example:

To which his interlocutor says:

Now I have no idea whether use of the passive voice is a good idea or not, and couldn’t even define what the passive voice is. What I do know is that writing can be both good and bad, and styles vary depending on the format of the piece and the subject. Contracts, for example, ought to be written in a different style from a romance novel. Does the passive voice suit every format? I don’t know, but one would suppose the people involved in writing and reading scientific articles have some sort of basis for their preference other than pure grammatical snobbery.

Kamm dismisses it of course, and doesn’t actually respond to Mr Ludwick – as is his wont. However, someone else he asked does:

So whose advice does one take on how to write scientific articles? A Times columnist who probably wouldn’t understand three-quarters of the terms therein, or an editor of scientific articles?

That’s what I find so pompous about Kamm. He’s a good writer – but only in one or two particular formats. I’m certain he’s never written a scientific paper, yet here he is dispensing advice which would put anyone following it on the wrong side of their editor.  To my knowledge he’s never written a novel either, and I suspect if he tried it would contain leaden prose that would make Lloyds Law Reports read like a James Bond. Anyone with a modicum of self-awareness might think “Wait a minute, this guy is writing for a very different clientele than I am, and perhaps there are good reasons why they don’t like the passive voice,” but no, it’s an airy “they don’t know what they’re talking about and should be ignored”. Now I’d have thought writing as per your clients’ or readers’ stated preferences was quite important, but apparently not according to Kamm.

I think I know what’s happened here. Back in the mid-00s Kamm wrote some decent political and historical articles on his blog, written to a very high standard. He was quickly drafted into the Times despite having no experience in journalism, but if you consider his family connections it comes as no surprise how he pulled that off. Kamm was a loud proponent of Blair’s foreign policy, particularly the “ethical interventionism” used to justify the Iraq War, even writing a book called The Left-Wing Case for a Neo-Conservative Foreign Policy. One could see back then why a metropolitan paper might want to get him on board, but since then Blairism and the neo-con foreign policy has been utterly discredited. However, Kamm never repented, sticking to his guns in supporting Blair – which he does to this day. This probably gave his employer a bit of a headache: is there really a job for a columnist who drones on about how great Blair’s foreign policies were? Not really. But they couldn’t boot him because that’s not how things work, especially with his family connections. So instead he got shoved in a corner to write about grammar and writing styles. That’s how we get gems like this:

Basically, aspiring writers should ignore all advice except that dispensed by Oliver Kamm. Some humility wouldn’t go amiss, would it?

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