Thursday, 10 July 2008

Ratbiter biter

Here's a piece from Private Eye, and an email exchange relating to it:


Private Eye 1213, 27 June 2008, p8



ALTHOUGH Britain is in a cold war with Iran, the contrasting fate of Iranian journalists in London shows that the last people to know it occupy senior positions in the Metropolitan Police and Foreign Office.

You would never guess that Iran had held British sailors hostage or supplied the weapons that killed British troops in Basra from the official indulgence shown to Press TV, the state-funded international network of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. It operates out of studios in Ealing, right next door to Hamas TV.

Inevitably, George Galloway's gorgeous face is on frequent display, but the Iranians have also persuaded British journalists to front shows. Andrew Gilligan hosts one discussion programme, while the former Taliban captive turned Islamist Yvonne Ridley hosts a second.

Behind the cover of impartiality that Gilligan and other ingénues provide, the station works hard to promote links between white neo-fascists and the Islamist far right. The Iranians have - teamed up with the former model Lady Renouf (nee Michele Mainwaring), and the reasons for the mutual attraction are obvious. When her friend David Irving faced charges of Holocaust denial in Austria, Renouf called for "so-called Holocaust -victims to be exhumed to see whether they died from typhoid or gas". She attended the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran and enthused about Ahmadinejad's "open, democratic approach", then suggested to Press TV that it give airtime to another neo-Nazi, Nicholas Kollerstrom, who was forced out of an honorary position at University College, London for not only denying that the Nazis implemented an extermination campaign but adding for good measure that Islamists did not plant the 7/7 bombs in London. (MI5 massacred its own people, apparently, then fitted up innocent jihadis.)

Although Britain has financial sanctions against Iran, no action has been taken to stem the flow of funds from Tehran to the station. Fair enough, you might think, as we believe in freedom of speech in this country. But when it comes to the enemies of theocratic rule, British liberalism is nowhere to be seen.

Press has a rival: Your TV, which has been broadcasting from London since 2002. It supports the overthrow of the mullahs and hopes that one day Iran will be a democratic country with a constitutional monarchy, rather like ours. The authorities, however, can't see the similarity. In 2005, the Met raided the home of its founder,, Frood Fouladvand. Coincidentally, the police action occurred on the same day in 2005 that Iran was holding a rigged election.

Fouladvand is an Iranian atheist who denounces what has been done to his country in the name of religion. Death threats from Iran and Hezbollah have followed. Far from saying that Britain is a free country where people are entitled to denounce religion if they wish, the Foreign Office has bent over backwards to placate the mullahs.

Reuters quoted the British embassy in Tehran as saying: "The British government does not share Mr Fouladvand's views. We deplore any attacks on Islam... We condemn those who stir up division."

A harsher condemnation awaits Fouladvand too. In 2007, he visited Turkey and was lured, to the border with Iran on the promise of meeting members of the underground opposition. No one in the west has seen him since, and his colleagues' told the Eye they were sure he was being held in Iran and faced imminent execution.

If the regime does kill him, Press TV is unlikely to broadcast protests.


From: Tim Wilkinson []
Sent: 01 July 2008 10:53
To: Strobes
Subject: Ratbiter, issue 1213, 27 Jun


Ratbiter calls for Iran-funded Press TV to be shut down, citing a spurious 'cold war' and guilt by association with Holocaust-deniers. He contrasts the UK government's 'indulgence' of Press TV with its 2004 censure of Your TV's Iranian founder Foud Fouladvand. In fact the government, invoking the rule of law, repudiated Fouladvand's views while asserting its readiness to protect him: a Voltairean sentiment not so very 'far from saying that Britain is a free country where people are entitled to criticise religion if they wish', and certainly no attack on free speech.

Ratbiter mutters darkly of the 'coincidence' of Fouladvand's 2005 arrest with the Iranian election. As any Eye-reader no, all governments sometimes continue politics by corrupt or clandestine means. But on the face of it, this was just another arrest made under recent 'terror' legislation and based on insubstantial intelligence. The station continued to broadcast from London.

Ratbiter sees in diplomatic verbiage a double standard favouring the Iranian enemy, while his own bias is to be backed by a political crackdown. He takes a gratuitous sideswipe at 'Northwoods-sans-Kennedy' theories which, if overblown, are not entirely irrational given the climate of hawkish deceit and the post-7/7 evidence vacuum. He glosses over the abuse, and the abusiveness, of terror laws. He announces Cold War II. With investigative reporters like this, who needs propagandists?

Now that the Eye is cheerleading for? the Orwellian 'War on Terror' I don't have much hope that this letter will be printed in full.

Yours in renewed mourning for Paul Foot,

Tim Wilkinson

2008/7/4 Strobes :

Dear Mr Wilkinson

Ratbiter replies:

"1. We don't call for Press TV to be shut down.
2. It is not Voltarian to say of a theocratic dictatorship 'The British government does not share Mr Fouladvand's views. We deplore any attacks on Islam.' It is Voltarian to say ecrassez l'infame.
3. It is not gratuitous to take a sideswipe at Islamists and neo-Nazis who say that MI5 planted the London bombs, it would be negligent not to.
4. We do not gloss over 'the abuse, and the abusiveness, of terror laws' they are not mentioned in the piece as they are entirely irrelevant to it.
5. We are not cheer leading the war on terror merely announcing that a journalist has in all probability been murdered by a reactionary regime."

Thank you for your letter.


From: Tim Wilkinson []
Sent: 05 July 2008 07:10
To: Strobes
Subject: Re: Ratbiter, issue 1213, 27 Jun

Sir, thank you very much for your response. Though you presumably do not wish to enter into a correspondence, I feel it worth supplying the following brief rejoinders.

1. I think you do, de facto: you call for the government to cut off its funding - and agree that such a measure appears in conflict with free speech rights.

2. Agreed, of course not all of the Deputy Head of Mission's remarks were Voltairean.

3. Nazis deserve to be sideswept. The gratuitousness of a swipe (or the non-negligence of its omission) depends on context. 7/7 conspiracy theories a) were thought obscure enough to need a gloss - in parody I might add, b) were falsely associated with Holocaust denial (no mention of Kollerstrom's interest in crop circles) and c) are just about the last kind of thing one should be happy about the government suppressing, even if unlike parliament you want certain opinions about the Holocaust banned.

4 The abuse of terror laws, in contrast, is relevant - you allege that it has been the instrument of clandestine political action. The 'anti-terror' legal apparatus makes this kind of corruption much easier and its investigation, criticism or challenge more difficult.

5. Not 'merely' by any stretch - 1/2 of the piece is nothing to do with FF; a thin 1/3 is about his murder and relevant background. The intro is all about Press TV, the new cold war and the percieved bias of the FCO and Met.

From: Strobes
Date: 2008/7/8
Subject: RE: Ratbiter, issue 1213, 27 Jun
To: Tim Wilkinson

Thanks for letter.


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