John Walker's Electronic House

The BBC And The Police

by on Dec.14, 2010, under The Rest

And I was nearly on my way to bed before 1am before I saw this link. Yesterday, the BBC reporter Ben Brown took on his toughest target yet, the man with cerebral palsy dragged from his wheelchair by police during the student protests last Thursday. And although that sounds like sarcasm, it turns out to be true. While it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to make a man like Brown look like an idiot, Jody McIntyre does it with grace and intelligence completely undeserved by the moronic anchor.

Here’s the full interview, which unfortunately contains quite a few skips:

So in the footage we see a man sitting in his wheelchair, barely moving, being attacked by four police officers. Two in full riot gear, because you can never be too careful with those CP types. One drags him across the road by his arms, dropping him on the tarmac. This is the second time that evening that McIntyre has been dragged from his wheelchair, the first time also hit with a truncheon. But this was the time it was filmed.

Perhaps I’m mad from keyboard fumes, but this strikes me as a story about police brutality. But that’s not how crack journalist Ben Brown saw it. This was his chance to get a confession out of one of the most dangerous rioters of them all.

Let me stress, I don’t believe that McIntyre deserves special treatment because he’s disabled. I hate all disabled people, and their disabled showing off, like any right-minded individual. And it does seem that McIntyre is a frequent troublemaker. But I do think that perhaps his physical limitations should be taken into account when making wild accusations against him. I’m all for assuming equal abilities, but since I didn’t see his robo-mecha suit in the video, I’m guessing Brown’s peculiar line of questioning about throwing rocks to be perhaps a tiny bit utterly fucking moronic.

I say “peculiar”. What I mean is “horrendous”. But such is the complete desperation of the BBC to assume the police line on any matter. They will stretch to such ludicrous places. I’m not saying this as some SMASH THE STATE! anti-establishment loony. I’m far too lazy to be that. It’s more of an analytical response to the bewilderment I felt while watching the live coverage on Thursday.

During the blanket coverage on the BBC News Channel, we were shown near-constant helicopter shots of the crowds as they were brutally attacked by the police. I watched an officer repeatedly punching a teenager in the head until one of his colleagues put a hand on his shoulder and presumably mentioned he should probably stop the beating now. I wasn’t watching with special magic eyes – it was in the centre of the image of the crowd. No reporter or anchor mentioned this sight immediately in front of them. That was within a minute of switching the footage on. The agenda was clear.

Supt. Julia Pendry was the bitter voice of the police for the day. How on Earth anyone thought such an antagonistic, aggressive and seemingly pathologically deceitful police officer was a helpful spokesperson probably says everything about the shambolic state of the police. Every time she appeared she would directly contradict anything she’d previously said. And at no point at all throughout the day did any of the BBC’s news staff question her on this. She began the afternoon telling us that the students were able to leave at any time they wished. They were penned in. She told us that the students had diverted from their course against police will. According to previous reports by the BBC the police were the ones to divert the wayward crowds in the direction to which she so objected. She said that the students and teenagers had only been “kettled” (not an appropriate term when there’s no way out, since the steam absolutely cannot escape) after the violence had begun, when the BBC had shown and repeatedly explained that they were trapped long before any unrest began. The worst had been a few thrown paintballs.

As evening approached she announced that they were now beginning to release students from where the police had kept them. No one challenged on her having said they were free to leave at any point all afternoon. Also, the police weren’t allowing anyone to leave.

Later still she explained that they couldn’t let anyone go home because of the violence. This was while there was no violence occurring, but shortly before the most violent moments occurred when freezing students finally had enough. No one pointed out that she’d said they’d been allowed to leave all afternoon, and that she’d said they were being allowed to leave an hour before.

The farce became even more pronounced when the BBC anchors started informing their own reporters that they were wrong about the students’ being trapped. The excellent Mike Sergeant explained that they were unable to leave, to which the anchor replied informing him that he was incorrect, because the police lady had said so. He again tried to explain that no one could get out, and lots of scared children wanted to go home, but was cut off by the anchor again sternly telling him off for disagreeing. It was blink-inducing.

Ben Brown, also out in the crowds, was being stupefyingly stupid. Some students had set fire to some rubbish, which confused Brown to such an extent that he could barely speak in sentences. Apparently witnessing the orangey magic for the first time, he stammered nonsense about how enormous it was (it was smaller than your average campfire), attempting poetic descriptions of the plumes of BLACK SMOKE rising into the night sky. It was a small wonder he didn’t strip naked and start screaming. This did lead to one of my absolute favourite moments of the entire day, when he incredulously asked one of the protesters, “What’s the point of lighting fires in the middle of Parliament square? What does it achieve?”

“It’s a bit cold,” was the student’s unimprovable reply.

When rocks were being thrown by the crowds, Brown – so very proud of getting to wear one of the police helmets (Look daddy! It’s like I’m in Afghanistan!) – picked one up and then described it for something like nineteen hours. He couldn’t get over how big it was. First fire, then rock. It was a big day for Brown. As twelve riot officers suddenly charged a couple of teenagers graffitiing a wall, their batons raised. Never mind that Ben, tell us about the rock again.

I naively thought at one point in the afternoon that 24 hour coverage, with constant live footage, meant that moments like the police charging the crowd of teenagers on horseback couldn’t be buried as they would have during the 1980s. A completely unprovoked and terrifying attack had been caught on film. Surely now, surely this would force questions to be raised. But by the evening this moment was buried, forgotten, with Superintendent Pendry’s delusional version of events having replaced any of the things we’d all watched happening. By the evening the police had only responded to violent attacks from students, with nine officers taken to hospital with bruised fingers or sore knees, and one with “serious head injuries” after he “fell off his horse”. He’s disappeared now of course, and even Pendry didn’t have the gall to suggest that someone actually knocked him off his horse. But anyone who’d been watching for more than an hour knew this wasn’t true. And presumably the BBC reporters knew it wasn’t true too. They’d said themselves how surprising and shocking the horse charges had been. And while we were told about the injured policemen every two to three minutes, with the same written on the scrolling captions every thirty seconds, there was no reporting whatsoever, all day, of specific numbers of protesters who’d been injured. Occasionally a reporter on scene would see an ambulance carting one off, but it was quickly ignored.

Of course every time Brown would try to tell off one of the students he spoke to for being such naughty targets, they’d spoil the illusion by saying what they’d actually seen, rather than what the police had told them they’d seen. Stories of school kids wandering around with blood pouring down their faces, tales of children being crushed as students fled from the police rushes, and many personal accounts of people having been hit, or seen their friends hit, by batons, were rife. But somehow never reported later. And Alfie Matthews, the 20 year old now requiring brain surgery after being hit in the head by the police, went completely unreported.

The Matthews story doesn’t stop there. The police genuinely attempted to stop his being taken to the nearest hospital, as his brain bled, because they didn’t want students being treated in the same place as their officers. Fortunately the ambulance driver was too horrified by this to obey, and ignored their instructions. But no mention on the day – but you be sure that nine police officers who aren’t named or identified have been inspecifically injured.

And of course this peaks with Brown’s astonishing interview above. Clearly if McIntyre has previously professed revolutionary desires, it’s the reporter’s job to question him on this. And Brown could have done so with whatever level of aggression he felt necessary. But to so openly suggest that “rolling toward” the police – in a wheelchair he’d just explained he can’t operate – was in some way a reason for being attacked, is mystifying. To then – after he’d had it explained to him that the physically disabled man couldn’t move his own wheelchair – repeatedly demand of McIntyre whether he’d been throwing rocks seems like parody. Is he really asking that?

But to behave in any other way would be to suggest that the police had done anything inappropriate. After all, if he hadn’t filed a complaint immediately, how could the police have acted in an improper way?

The vitriol with which he questions McIntyre is just strange. Although as quickly as it becomes apparent how much smarter McIntyre is than his interviewer, so does Brown’s hostility rise.

Brown’s a disgrace. McIntyre comes out of it very well, thanks to his calm responses, and disgust with the questions. (It’s quite a shame that he attempts to make it be about some anti-Palestinian bias – the BBC couldn’t be more pro-Palestine if they funded Hamas.) And the BBC continues to believe that it is in some way required to report whatever the police say, without question. We should perhaps be wondering about this.

(Pics via Rev Stu.)

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73 Comments for this entry

  • Capt Fatbeard

    Here! Here!
    I really couldn’t believe the coverage of the protests, I looked on different channels it was all the same. It was like poking someone with a stick until they got angry and then using that as an excuse to beat the crap out of them.
    I watched that interview and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing I thought I had tuned into fox news! Its a sad day when the BBC has to steep so low.
    The problem with all the coverage of the violence is that it overshadowed a day where almost half the lib dems revolted and even some torys joined in.
    I feel sick to be part of society where the news and the press don’t question the lines they are being fed by one side and don’t even consider the other.

  • Edgar the Peaceful

    I’m dismayed by the decline of the BBC since it was cowed by Alistair Campbell et al following Iraq. I guess the corporation has been instructed to tow the government line (Labour / ConDem it doesn’t matter)or cease to exist as a publicly funded body. And, apart from a few ‘untouchable’ flagship areas like Today, its news standards have crumbled to Sky style standards.

    I detest the fact that the anchor here (and this is a regular technique) sneers that the pictures ‘APPEAR’ to show police dragging the victim from his wheelchair. It doesn’t APPEAR to show anything. It SHOWS the police dragging the victim from his wheelchair. Thankfully for him he’s unhurt, and thankfully for us he’s an eloquent speaker.

  • Patrick

    I absolutely agree with you, but I also praise your lack of cynicism that leads you to find this bemusing. By now, we the public have trained the police to expect violence at every protest. Anyone could tell you before it even started that the coppers would expect trouble, not from any smart crowd profiling, but because that’s Just What Happens. It is most likely be a self-fulfilling prophesy, but it’s silly to expect it not to happen.

  • Nick Mailer

    This man knows what he’s doing; just because he’s in a wheelchair doesn’t mean he’s not provocative – how patronising. Yes, the police are politically-motivated psychopathic thugs. He knew that before the demo, and he knew that during the demo, and he realised the useful gift he was giving in provoking them to act the way they did. That the police fell for it is the most depressing thing of all, because it shows quite how stupid they are.

    As for his little quip about the Palestinian conflict – well, I have his number.

  • mister k

    I’ve contacted the BBC to complain. This kind of thing is just going too far. Apparently calling yourself a revolutionary online means you should be physically attacked.

  • edtheball69

    As always BBC bullshit the people are waking to the reality that the news is not as it should be I watch sky 514 and 512 for real news that is not biased and tells it as it is join the facebook campaign search for “british slave” and let 29th april 2011 be a day the world wont forget mass protests at the royal wedding to show we are sick of seeing bloated elitists throw away taxpayers money on public parties that the public are banned from, rise people and join in.

  • Nick Mailer

    Mister K: I don’t understand why you’ve complained to the BBC. The anchor was probing him, as he would anybody. You can argue that the BBC should not probe its interviewees, or that you would have interviewed this man differently, but it seems odd to complain about such. He’s not a counsellor, he’s a journalist. I hope you’re not reacting in a patronising way simply because the man was in a wheelchair. That’d be more insulting than the journalist whom you condemn!

  • Nick Mailer

    To be clear: I believe the problem here is not the sceptical way in which this man was interviewed: it’s that the police were not interviewed at least as sceptically (assuming they weren’t). If everyone was approached sceptically, that would be fine. John’s article suggests they were not. But, again, SURPRISE SURPRISE. There’s a reason why it’s call “The Establishment” with capital letters.

  • Bill

    Just found his blog. And from what I’ve seen there and elsewhere, he was (intentionally?) in the way of a police charge so they had to drag him out of the way when he refused to move.

    “We found ourselves in a large no-mans-land, in between the riot police trying to stop the crowd, and the police horses getting ready to charge. I turned in my wheelchair to face the police. “Move out of the way!” one of the mounted police shouted at me. I shook my head.”

    Now I can’t and won’t comment on whether the police actions were heavy-handed or not. But he could certainly have prevented it from happening himself, by his own words.

  • Bill

    I should point out I didn’t watch all of the video, so can’t comment on what he said on it, and that I was above of course referring to Jody McIntyre.

  • mister k

    I have no issue with sceptical attacks on interviewees- thats their job, but Ben Brown comes across as appallingly stupid here, and doesn’t really listen. After being told that McIntrye couldn’t operate his wheelchair he asks whether he threw rocks. Its embarrasing. And my complaint is related to the lack of scrutiny given to the police as well. He also repeats the whole “revolutionary” thing more than once as if its a killer point. I’m all for cutting journalism, but this is just embarrasing. I assure you its got nothing to do with McIntyre’s disabled status, other than how Ben Brown is apparently unaware of it (unaware for the purposes of asking sane questions, not treating him in a “priveleged” manner) .

  • mister k

    hmm, bringing up the points you say would have made a better interview Bill. My issue is not that they question McIntyre, but that the questions are just so offensively stupid.

  • John Walker

    It does seem that McIntyre is no great hero, and more than a little revolting regarding Israel.

    The point of this article is not to celebrate him, but to analyse how the BBC report on police matters. And Brown’s display is ghastly.

  • Andreas

    Brown brings up perfectly pertinent questions – in Jody’s own blog, he describes how he constantly encourages violent protest, and at that very incident, after being let out of the kettle, purposeful refused to move so to obstruct police.
    I’m not saying use of police force was justified, but don’t assume it wasn’t. Innocent until proven otherwise.

  • edtheball69

    The charging of horses into crowds of kids is barbaric and for a disabled kid to have the gutts to face them and stop them charging is commendable the BBC are receiving thousands of complaints as we speak for the way the interview was so biased and we at are refusing to fund such crap and we dont pay license fees to the private cartel trading as consignia ltd who actualy get the money from the people for its shareholders the government nice cosy earner lads.

  • Andreas

    As to the police not being interviewed sceptically: each and every officer who had a complaint put against him is currently on leave, with his job in jeopardy. They’re not allowed to discuss their case with the media, or make blog posts about it – nobody other than the IPCC is allowed to hear their justification for what happened, as opposed to the protesters.

    Don’t assume for a second the police are getting off from this easily. Heads will roll, whether people did anything wrong or not. Unlike the courts, the IPCC doesn’t need to prove anything “beyond reasonable doubt” to bring in a disciplinary hearing, and they will.

  • Andreas

    One final point: the police AREN’T ALLOWED to defend themselves. I’ve going to say that again: while protesters can go out and cry abuse, not a single police officer is allowed to go online, or go the newspapers, and justify his actions. It’s incredibly easy to criticise them, but when you’ve been in the thick of it since 6am, your visor is fogged up, and you’ve been assaulted all day, sometimes you will just lash out with a baton to get some distance. That doesn’t mean it’s police brutality.

  • RevStu

    The police have spokespeople to justify their actions, and what John points out is that the police spokesperson (Supt. Pendry) was not subjected to anything like the confrontational grilling that McIntyre was.

  • RevStu

    But hey, you know what – that Chinese guy who stood in front of the tanks at Tianenmen Square, I bet he was just a troublemaker too.

  • Andreas

    Did you really just compare Tienanmen to this? An incident where police, under orders from an authoritarian government, fired at a crowd?

    I’m not excusing the BBC, and yes, they probably should have pushed for more information – but frankly, it’s not some massive travesty of justice, it’s one interviewer obviously not being particularly awake. The BBC has highlighted the cases of alleged bad policing, but they’re waiting until the IPCC comes out with some sort of decision before going utterly mad. Which, seeing we do still believe in innocent until proven otherwise, makes sense.

  • Steve

    I’ve complained to the BBC about the interview. The issue for me is not so much any perceived bias. I’m sure Jody isn’t 100% innocent (his blog certainly suggests he was provoking the police). The actions of the police do seem entirely disproportionate, but Brown is correct to put McIntyre under scrutiny. However, my complaint is that he did so in complete ignorance of the facts, in an appalling display of journalism.

    As has been pointed out by other commenters, why was Jody’s reporting of the events on his blog not used as a line of questioning? And as John observes in his piece, the question about whether he was throwing rocks was simply unbelievable. I think we should expect a higher standard of interviewing from the BBC.

  • John Walker

    “It’s incredibly easy to criticise them, but when you’ve been in the thick of it since 6am, your visor is fogged up, and you’ve been assaulted all day, sometimes you will just lash out with a baton to get some distance. That doesn’t mean it’s police brutality.”

    Um, yes it does. That’s what it is.

    And as Stu points out, you’ve widely missed the point. The police spokespeople routinely lie to the press, and face no challenge, even when their lies are disturbingly obvious.

    If police who are proven to have assaulted people lose their jobs, then what a bloody relief. You talk about it as if that’s a bad thing. And also as if the IPCC does anything at all.

  • Dean

    Except the police can defend themselves if they want, it’s not like they’re physically incapable. It’s just if they do and put their name to it they’ll lose their jobs so most of them are keeping quiet for obvious reasons.

    Well guess what, going online on a blog or speaking to a reporter under your own name and openly admitting to being involved in a violent protest, even if just to highlight police brutality, probably won’t do your employment prospects any good either.

    Also, and call me mental, but the job of the riot police is to stare down trouble and not retaliate. If you can’t do that, if a foggy visor and a day’s hard work is enough to make you lash out with a baton, then don’t join the riot police. They’re not conscripted. I know that if I had to spend a day working in a call centre, by 5pm I’d probably snap and yell at a customer. Hence I don’t apply for jobs in call centres and instead apply for jobs I’m capable of doing.

  • dirk

    The underhand free assembly of this revolting person is why any authoritarian regime that seeks to nullify segments of its population would be wise to prevent access to wheelchairs. So emotive, and simply increase the number of mobile peons to be coralled.

    Relying on hapless boobs like Brown to verbally thrust his ickle hands in front of the damning lens is amateur hour stuff. Really, edited footage released by the armed forces deployed by the authoritarian regime is the only way the viewer can be sure of reaching the right conclusions.

  • Matt Smith

    Oh grow up, everyone. Protesters know they are going to face opposition, and they knew exactly how to inflame the situation. Furthermore, it certainly sounds like Jody is a persistent pain in the arse. Disabled or not, he deserved to be moved.

    Drop all this ‘police brutality’ horseshit. The protesters got what was coming to them.

  • dirk

    “just lash out with a baton to get some distance. ”

    And there I was thinking yoga or hiking was the path to contentment. I should just beat students round the head. Or, if feeling charitable, debag them and administer a “Mailer”.

  • Ryan Syrett

    Great post,I’m glad you have written this artical highlighting the stark truth of the recent downfall of BBc ‘News’
    between this interveiw and the horrifyingly one sided Panorama on being addicted to computer games( i know its no where near as terrifying as riots…but still) I am rapidly loosing faith on our nations ‘voice of the people’

  • Davidlevine

    So has it truly come to extremely violent policing inflicting actual bodly harm (abh) something you or I would be jailed for.

  • Steve Arnold

    Don’t know what this means, but when I went to Jody’s blog (as directed by Andreas above) I got an ad from Google for InjuryLawyers4u. “Receive 100% of your compensation”. At least Google’s neutral, even if the beeb isn’t anymore…

  • Xercies

    I was actually disgusted by the end of that interview, how stupid and bias can you get. He wasn’t a sleepy interviewer he was totally trying to dig a few things in saying that the police were right to beat this man. I don’t care that he stopped a charge(no one is even questioning whether that charge was necessary either) he shouldn’t have been treated like that!

    But there you go here is the country we live in where protesting is very discouraged. This isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. Police are being trained to be very violent to protesters no matter how the protesters actually behave, they are determined to put these protesters under bars. We cannot have freedom of speech and the government is making sure of that.

  • a cynic writes...

    “…the job of the riot police is to stare down trouble and not retaliate…”

    Mental, no…unwitting comedian, yes. I mean seriously say that to a bunch of coppers and someone is going to laugh at you.

    One thing that did concern me about the OP was the line “When rocks were being thrown at the crowds,” – presumably that should be “by the crowds”. Somehow I can’t see plod breaking up paving slabs to chuck at the protesters.

    Anyway, the whole thing seemed to run to the usual timetable – a few people up for a ruck chuck stuff, plod administers an enthusiastic slap to anyone (i) chucking stuff (ii) being lippy (iii) in the way, there’s a few breakages and everyone goes home.

    Afterwards both sides give us a rendition of “it wasn’t me guv, it was the other bloke” in C minor and everyone draws their own conclusions mostly based on what they side they’re already on, assuming they actually care.

    p20 of the week’s Private Eye more or less covers it. (Those of a sensitive disposition should avoid the cartoon on p17 as it may contain distressing news).

  • mister k

    “Brown brings up perfectly pertinent questions – in Jody’s own blog, he describes how he constantly encourages violent protest, and at that very incident, after being let out of the kettle, purposeful refused to move so to obstruct police.”

    No. On McIntyre’s blog he does say that. Brown did not ask questions related to those points, he just repeated that McIntyre had called for direct action and called himself a revolutionary. Neither of which are terribly exciting for a political complainer.

  • Clara Benn

    Don’t u think it’s Ben Brown’s job to play ‘devils advocate’ in an interview like this? Gives the interviewee a better platform.
    Ben Brown was voicing accusations the police may make. If he hadn’t, Jody McIntyre couldn’t point out how ridiculous they are.
    if BB’d said: “U poor man R clearly defenseless, what a travesty!” It would have a) been patronizing b) left Jody with nothing 2 say.
    the BBC’s JOB is to present BOTH sides of an argument even if it makes you look like a fascist tit. That’s why I’m Proud Of The BBC! If you know what the viewpoint of your interviewee is, you MUST present the other side fully irrespective of your personal opinion or how silly it is. Impartiality is not giving a balanced opinion, it’s giving NO opinion and presenting both sides.

  • Joe

    This is an extremely boring argument involving far too many people who’ve let their emotions and sympathies get the better of them.

    Truth is this guy was lucky to get airtime in the first place. He obviously knows he has no legal leg to stand on or he would have had respectable lawyers queuing up to pro bono him and he’d be pressing charges already.

    The issue of his disability is a massive distraction and, in the grown-up society that we live in, so boring as to be unworthy of comment.

  • Des

    He’s “revolting” regarding Israel? Haha. Fuck off Walker and Mailer – still apologists for apartheid after all these years. Wankers.

  • Tim Pilcher

    Embarrassed to say that Ben Brown is the brother of my estranged godfather. Still, the good news is I believe my dad punched him out at a stag do once. Brown was a twat back then as well. Every cloud and all that.

  • Andy H

    Brilliant blog post which you had to ruin in the last paragraph by that ridiculous assertion that the BBC is pro-Palestinian. As an independent inquiry found a couple of years ago, the BBC is “fairly” even handed with it’s bias tending towards the Israeli government position. And since that time pretty much every independent observer has concluded that it’s got much more pro-occupation (obviously including the refusal to run a charity ad for the victims of the Gaza bombing). What a shame you managed to ruin such a great and observant post with one stupid and nonsensical remark at the end.

  • Lewis Denby

    Andreas: McIntyre is disabled to the point where he cannot operate his own wheelchair. Can you perhaps consider another way the police officers may have moved him out of the way?

    The guy is on frickin’ wheels, for goodness’ sake. Regardless of McIntyre’s own character, I cannot comprehend that you’re saying it’s wrong to assume the police acted heavy-handedly. It is right there, staring you in the face. What on Earth else would you need to convince you?

  • MrsTrellis

    edtheball, I know you dislike Common Purpose, but what do you have against the Post Office?

  • Andreas

    Lewis, he’s got cerebral palsy, he’s not paralysed. He can, to a degree, stand on his own for a time, and can move his hands.

    I’m not condoning the officer’s action, but I’m saying that assuming it’s some sort of crime against humanity is going to far – on the interview, he happily claims police had no reason to move him, when he clearly states in the blog that he had been asked to move, and refused to. It also recounts how he actively encouraged direct action and violent protest, removing police barriers and encouraging people to divert from the protest path.

    Again, NONE OF THAT EXCUSES THAT MUCH FORCE. But it does suggest that Jody may not be telling the whole story either. Maybe the breaks of his chair were on? Maybe he’d repeatedly been moved out of the way, only to move back? Maybe all sorts of reasons. Until we hear what the reasoning behind the use of force is, making any judgement is premature, and assuming that he was dragged out specifically to “encourage violence” is one hell of a leap.

    All I’m warning against is assuming the worst, because one is wearing a uniform and one is in a wheelchair. A man in a wheelchair is just as capable of inciting a riot or assaulting police as anybody else, whether he can throw rocks or not. And a police officer is perfectly capable of dragging somebody out of the road for their own safety, despite how some of the TSG behave.

  • Lewis Denby

    But you said upthread: “Don’t assume [the use of extreme force] wasn’t justified.” Did you not mean this?

    “He happily claims police had no reason to move him, when he clearly states in the blog that he had been asked to move, and refused to. It also recounts how he actively encouraged direct action and violent protest, removing police barriers and encouraging people to divert from the protest path.”

    Actually, on this, you may be able to clarify something. What right do the police have to specify what is and isn’t allowed during a *peaceful* protest? Obviously rioting is against the law. But my understanding – which may be incorrect – was that we have the right to peacefully protest basically on our own terms, as long as we’re not breaking any other laws in doing so. If a police officer asks you to move, and you are not breaking any laws, do you have to move? Is that a legal requirement in itself?

    Because this seems key to quite a lot of what’s gone on over the last few weeks.

  • Lewis Denby

    Having looked into this, I’m happy to admit I’m slightly wrong on that front: failure to comply with the terms of your advance notice is indeed a criminal offence.

  • Andreas

    Under the public order act, their are a whole raft of offenses pertaining to peaceful protest. Firstly, your protest has to be agreed with police, , giving at least 6 days written notice, and not sticking to the agreed route is an offense. The police also has the power to impose any conditions on demonstrations to avoid a breach of the peace, public disorder, or criminal damage, and police constables are allowed to use reasonable force in the exercise of those powers.

    Again, I’m not saying that I agree with the officer’s actions, but I’d like to think most police officers wouldn’t drag a disabled guy across the road, on camera – and you’re always on camera – without a good reason.

  • noninoni

    It is truly frightening that the BBC can get away with this…and even more scary that some people actually do not see anything wrong with the interview and the manner in which it was conducted. Shame on the BBC. Shame on England.
    Even here in the Czech Republic and in Germany they talk of the ignorance and futility of the British.

  • John Walker

    Aw Des, it’s good to see you’re still furious after all these years. I give you permission not to have to read my blog any more. You’re free.

    Andy – I’d be interested to see a link to some evidence for that study. Because by my own ears (and I assure you I take no sides in that conflict – taking sides would seem to me to be the issue) the BBC is ludicrously imbalanced. I’m also fairly sure it’s commonly accepted that the UK media takes a Palestinian-leaning bias, while the US takes Israel’s side. And of course I was commenting on what a shame it was McIntyre thought this was a chance to raise the completely irrelevant subject, and then adding my own excellent joke on the end. I’m intrigued how your brain works that the rest of the post is “ruined” because there was a bit you disagreed with.

    Joe – lazily assuming this is about his disability is by far the most boring approach anyone could take.

  • Tom O'Bedlam

    Nailed it. Well done, John!

  • Lewis Denby

    Thanks for clarifying.

    What *really* needs clarifying, of course, is “reasonable force”. It concerns me that such a vague term is used in law for something potentially so serious.

    I’d like to think most police officers wouldn’t, as well. Evidently, these two did, however – because I don’t think there’s any good reason whatsoever.

  • Andreas

    Oh, don’t get me wrong, I agree with that entirely. Reasonable force is a hugely screwy battleground, that only gets defined if it actually goes to court, which I find a bit bizarre, but at the same time, I can’t see a better alternative. The other option is giving incredibly restrictive rules – you can only use a baton strike if he pulls out a knife, and only hit on body parts a, b and c, etc etc.

    And yeah, I’d also agree the BBC is more right wing than unbiased, but I suspect that’s largely representative of popular opinion as well.

  • dirk

    “A man in a wheelchair is just as capable of inciting a riot or assaulting police as anybody else”

    Good point. Stephen Hawking and Michael Peterson are to be regarded as equally threatening. I’m sure secret filming will show McIntyre lunging for snacks when he thinks nobody’s looking.

    Andy H
    “that ridiculous assertion that the BBC is pro-Palestinian.”
    It’s Walker and Mailer. Simply reporting deaths due to Israeli force is seditious. That ‘revolting’ may as well have not been a pun. If it was.

  • Daniel Nye Griffiths

    Public Order Act 1986, right? Although of course there was tweakage by the Blair government in the 2007 Serious Crime Act to make it illegal for one person, and this not officially a march (unofficially, Brian Haw) to protest outside Parliament – which feels like a point when the consensus model of managing peaceful protest may have started fraying.

    Incidentally, is it me or does policing as described by Andreas somewhat resemble the claustrophobia levels from David Cage’s “Indigo Prophecy”, which would be a bit disquieting on a number of levels. I am seeing a little bar going from “stressed” to “wretched”, which has to be managed by dispensing baton blows.

  • Cooper

    “It’s incredibly easy to criticise them, but when you’ve been in the thick of it since 6am, your visor is fogged up, and you’ve been assaulted all day, sometimes you will just lash out with a baton to get some distance. That doesn’t mean it’s police brutality.”

    Put frankly, if you cannot maintain composure and end up ‘lashing out with a baton’ you should not be doing a police officer’s job. And, yes, that is what police brutality is.

    That somehow personal bodily violence perpetrated by police in response to fatigue and ‘being at the front of it all’ is excusable is nonsense.

    If the police are perpetrating unacceptable levels of violence based on orders or because they are trained to do so, then further questions need to be answered. Not that you’ll ever see the BBC asking those questions.

  • Nick Mailer

    The actual report which the BBC commissioned about its anti Israel bias it refuses to reveal, and sues those who try so to do. I wonder why.

    And Des, as someone who saw real Apartheid first hand, maybe you should apologise for cheapening the term. After your drunk “you people” Jew hating tirade you had against me, forgive me for crossing you off the list – along with Mel Gibson – of those with whom I feel it worth discussing this in any depth.

  • Nickless_One

    Wow, this sounds a lot like the initial states of Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Except that was like… 21 years before…

  • n0stere0types

    BBC propaganda fail.

    Nick: the BBC report is available, at least the only one that I know of, but its results were strangely inconclusive. However, the Zionist lobby (yes, we have one in Britain) routinely complains that Palestinians are inevitably shown in the more favourable light by the BBC.

    There are a few independent investigations on the matter, however. These enquiries ultimately all show the pro-Israel / anti-Palestinian bias of the BBC. Which, funnily enough, backs up exactly how the government feels about the situation.

  • Stephen

    John, did you stop to read McIntyre’s blog before you posted this? The relevant post went up four days ago.

    The kid admits to forcing his way through police lines and placing himself in front of a bunch of police horses waiting to charge, and refused to move when they asked him too. That was why he was pulled out of the way; to avoid him getting trampled.

    I think that was also the thing the bumbling Mr Brown was trying to establish, but McIntyre refuses to engage on any point but his victim-status.

    If you read the rest of his blog he claims to have dragged himself over broken glass to force his way past police officers into the Tory election HQ on Nov. 11th, that he was frustrated with moderate-NUS types who just wanted to wave pink placards, and to have pulled down barriers with his brother that were separating a protest march from traffic.

    Clearly this is not just some disabled kid caught up in events beyond his own control and brutally treated by police, yet that’s the emotional narrative new-media seems to be running with.

  • Mike

    I liked the bit where he asked a man who had just explained he could not use his own wheelchair unaided whether he had thrown a heavy rock.

    Good work.

  • John Walker

    n0stere0types – A link to *anything* you’re talking about would be interesting to see.

    The BBC is overtly pro-Palestine in its coverage (there’s no ambiguity here – I cannot recall a single pro-Israel story in years, and their coverage of the Hezbollah attacks a couple of years back was despicable). And I’m not saying this because I’m pro-Israel. I’m pro-not taking sides. When I listen to programmes like From Our Own Correspondent, and the frightening vitriol directed toward Israel, I’m not being mad. That’s happening.

    If you could link to any of these independent investigations, it would be interesting to see how independent they really are.

  • Cha Sea

    Great article, i think you managed to convey the same astonishment i felt watching BBC24 rolling coverage. Hilariously side stepping ‘kettle’ for a wonderous array of adjectives: ‘Moved’ ‘blocked’ ‘held’ ‘pushed’ ‘contained’ bla bla bla.
    I’m glad to see the beeb for what they truly are, and hopefully (and sadly) this may be the only way to prove this point.. They may be sneakier than Sky, but equally as horrifically biased.
    This is not news, it is propaganda.

  • Xercies

    The thing is its not just this incident, its the BBC in general always focusing on the police side of the story and how many police got injured and how the students were very violent and not many news stories on the students that got severely injured, and how the police were very violent. Of course unless some groups of parents are having a peaceful protest about it.

  • Blissett

    To me the McIntyre interview displays a remarkable lack of ability on the part of Ben Brown rather than any ill intent. The questions he asked were very poorly phrased but were clearly intended to raise perfectly legitimate questions. I cringed when he asked the question about throwing stones but in hindsight I have to admit that I know virtually nothing about CP or the physical limitations it brings. I therefore have no idea whether Mr McIntyre is capable of throwing stones but it seems quite clear that the mind is more than willing even if the body is not able.

    But the intense focus on this interview has clearly detracted from the more important issues around the easy ride given to police spokespeople. It seems to me that this is a clear example of modern media’s obsession with “narrative”. Once the narrative has been set, confirmation bias does the rest. It then takes a hugely disruptive event to reframe the narrative, something way out of proportion to the “evidence” routinely accepted to support it. Given the Establishment holds all the cards when it comes to dictating the narrative, unintentional bias is inevitable.

  • RevStu

    “The BBC is overtly pro-Palestine in its coverage”

    Yeah, those fuckers. You know what else? When they covered the Josef Fritzl story the coverage was totally pro-Elizabeth Fritzl. I don’t remember a single pro-Josef Fritzl piece. And when they make programmes about the Resistance in WW2 France, you never get any looking at it from the Nazi perspective. Cunts.

  • John Walker

    Man who is anti-Israel in agreeing with anti-Israel news coverage shocker.

    Seriously, you’re drawing equivalence between Israel and the Nazis?


    You’re really doing that? I wonder if there’s a lower stupidity to which you could stoop.

  • Lewis Denby

    Stephen: McIntyre’s past record is completely irrelevant. Unless the police were acting to arrest him on a previous charge, or similar, which my understanding is that they certainly were not. As has been said many times, if you desperately need to move a stubborn wheelchair user, who can’t even operate his own wheelchair, there are ways you can do that which don’t involve tipping him out of it, then dragging him several metres across the concrete.

    Brown’s questioning would have perhaps raised reasonable points in an interview which, even for a second, also acknowledged the above. But it didn’t. The overt suggestion throughout was “you deserved what happened.”

    (The article published in the Daily Mail yesterday comparing McIntyre to Andy from Little Britain, however, is a hundred times more egregious. I can’t find a working link. There, by definition of that comparison, the suggestion was that McIntyre is pretending to be disabled.)

  • dirk

    “you’re drawing equivalence”

    Annexation of land and confinement of people to ghettoes aren’t intrinsically bad things. They’re trumped by exceptionalism or previous wrongs.

    I don’t know if it’s the guilt over centuries of Xian oppression or your appreciation of fine tailoring and efficient accountancy that causes you to discount those things.

    There are news outlets that may approach your standards, Walker. The entire US media, for example.

  • Andy H

    Here you go:

    Here’s the relevant bits from the summary.

    1.9 Our assessment is that:

    a) apart from individual lapses, sometimes of tone, language or attitude, there was little to suggest systematic or deliberate bias; on the contrary there was evidence, in the programming and in other ways, of a commitment to be fair, accurate and impartial;

    b) the news reporting from location, particularly that from the Jerusalem Bureau, is of high quality, especially when account is taken of the tensions and complexities of the conflict and the pressures brought by interested parties;

    c) there are outstanding examples of current affairs programmes and the BBC has used its website to provide historical and analytical background to the conflict;

    d) the BBC has made considerable efforts through the Journalism Board, enhanced dialogue with representative organisations from both sides and the work of the Senior Editorial Adviser on the Middle East to improve its output on the conflict;

    e) nonetheless, and taking account of the consideration in paragraph 1.6 above, there are identifiable shortcomings. There are, in particular, gaps in coverage, analysis, context and perspective. There is also a failure to maintain consistently the BBC’s own established editorial standards, including on language. There are shortcomings arising from the elusiveness of editorial planning, grip and oversight. In summary, the finding is that BBC coverage does not consistently constitute a full and fair account of the conflict but rather, in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture.

    1.10 More specifically, these shortcomings include:

    a) deficiencies in output: given that the BBC has more news airtime and resources than any other UK broadcaster and probably more than any other European broadcaster there were several deficiencies in the broadcast news output. These included an absence of historical background and deficiencies in the provision of other contexts (such as the role of the wider Middle East in the conflict), and insufficient analysis and interpretation of some important events and issues, including shifts in Palestinian society, opinion and politics. There was little reporting of the difficulties faced by the Palestinians in their daily lives. Equally in the months preceding the Palestinian elections there was little hard questioning of their leaders. The broader themes covered in current affairs programmes only partly offset these shortcomings.

    b) elusiveness of editorial planning, grip and oversight as evident in imbalances in coverage (e.g. in the menu of current affairs programmes, on the background of commentators relied on, 7 spokespeople interviewed or on the implications of the Gaza disengagement for the Palestinians), insufficient diversity of stories, and of perspectives. This elusiveness is also manifest in the failure to achieve the ideal of a consistent exposure of both the Israeli and Palestinian view (the “dual narratives”) and the lack of a self conscious address to the important issue of how stories are framed (“newsframes”).

    c) imprecision and inconsistency in the use of sensitive language and terminology. Although this is, rightly, an issue to which the BBC and its senior managers have given much thought, there is significant scope for improvement, particularly in reporting terrorism. The fact that these issues are difficult to get right makes it vital that when the BBC does reach a considered view on terminology, it is consistently followed in practice.

    d) reactive journalism, instead of a purposive effort to tell a complicated story in the round and to remedy the well attested incomprehension of the generality of viewers and listeners (incomprehension further evidenced in the research commissioned for this Review). One important feature of this is the failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation. Although this asymmetry does not necessarily bear on the relative merits of the two sides, it is so marked and important that coverage should succeed in this if in nothing else.

  • Andy H

    By the way, you should go to the West Bank or Gaza (or both) see how life is lived there, and then listen again to the BBC. It may come across to you as pro-Palestinain now (though I’m struggling to see how), but I guarantee if you actually spend any time there you will listen to the BBCs reports of the issue with increasing incredulity for what is not said and what bias is shown. And it will be the opposite to what you think now.

  • Oggy

    Love this post. In the wake of Pilger’s article on war coverage last night we should all be scrutinising crap coverage like this. The BBC and many others seem to shirk their duty to be challenging and analytical to the right people at the right moments.

    Small point – regarding the police officer “who fell off his horse”. I have it on extremely good authority that he’s absolutely fine and fortunately doesn’t have the “serious head injuries” described. Technically he doesn’t have any serious injuries. But he did have a very lucky escape, the horse was dancing on him. I don’t want to see that any more than I want to see another Alfie Meadows.

  • RevStu

    “Man who is anti-Israel in agreeing with anti-Israel news coverage shocker. Seriously, you’re drawing equivalence between Israel and the Nazis?”

    See, this is why you’re so palpably, demonstrably, shriekingly gaga bonkers on this subject.

    1. I’m “anti-Israel”? Huh? When did that happen? I’m anti-oppression, anti-invasion and occupation, and anti the murder of innocent civilians, wherever it happens.

    2. I didn’t draw any equivalence between Israel and anything. We were talking about media coverage. But I’m not sure on what *fundamental* level Israel’s oppressive and murderous occupation of Palestinian lands is different from Germany’s oppressive and murderous occupation of French lands.

    And man, I’m so epically tired of the idea that you can’t ever compare anyone or anything to the Nazis or any aspect of Germany 1933-45, no matter how precisely the analogy fits. Because, you know, they were THE NAZIS!!!!!! and as such were an evil alien race of grotesque beasts the likes of which have never been seen before or since.

    They were humans, and if history shows us only one thing it’s that humans are prone to doing the exact same vicious, stupid shit over and over and over again under different flags. (And if it shows us two things, the other is that you can’t just stand by and make excuses for it while it happens, unless you want it to get a lot worse.)

    You’re not nearly so dim as to parrot that “How DARE you?” bollocks about anything else, and it’s dismaying and perplexing that you’re so uniquely batshit mental about Israel. It’s an oppressive occupying state with its hands soaked in the blood of civilians, refugees and aid workers. I’m pretty sure there are no rational grounds for disputing that statement.

  • Ashleigh

    I can’t really comment on the protests but it does sound like between the police and protesters there were definitely wrongs on both sides. The wrongs by the police were probably more dangerous for the pure and simple fact that police wear body armour and carry weapons.

    In regards to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it always amuses me that pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian organisations seem to both call the BBC bias in the exact opposite way. What people must understand is that this is an incredibly complex issue that reporters try to explain in a succinct way. Therefore matters are simplified occasionally giving the impression of bias in a report.

    As a whole I think that there is no particular bias at all as pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. I would estimate that the fees issue is probably balanced in the same way.

    Either way, why are we protesting so vehemently about education fees when it looks like cuts to the NHS could threaten the lives of thousands?

  • Blackberries


    One hopes similar demonstrations will emerge regarding NHS budget contractions. Hopefully before they start to bite. The thing with the fees however was that it was a single definable measure which was brought up then voted upon, and could specifically opposed, and also act as an opportunity to express equal dissatisfaction (to put it mildly) with higher education cuts and the death of EMA. There’s less of a specific focus with broader cuts*, even if they are just as huge and damaging.

    *I know the NHS technically isn’t getting a budget cut, but taking into account the constant increase in resources required simply to keep up the same level of service, inflation and the mandated 4% ‘efficiency’ savings, you have what amounts to some fairly major contraction in service.

  • Sciamachy

    Actually the BBC is measurably biased in Israel’s favour, as evidenced by the books published by Glasgow University’s Media Group, “Bad News from Israel” and “More Bad News from Israel”. In these they take a rigorous content analysis of news content about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict & contrast it with what the provable, observable facts on the ground are, and you’re left with no doubt that the news is being constantly spun by the BBC and by pretty well all other news organisations, in Israel’s favour.