The left-wing Guardian journalist Owen Jones has faced off with the right-wing BBC political presenter Andrew Neil in heated debates numerous times, and on every single occasion there are more than a few fireworks. But yesterday’s encounter on Thursday night’s edition of This Week blew everything that has gone before between the two completely out of the water.
Along with pro-EU Tory MP Anna Soubry, Owen Jones hit the news earlier in the week after being mobbed by a thuggish group of far-right pro-Brexit protestors on his way to work in Westminster.
Both Soubry and Jones were verbally abused by the aggressive far-right mob, being repeatedly labelled as “traitors’, “fascists” and all manner of deeply exaggerated, and wholly inaccurate slurs – all in clear view of onlooking police officers who chose to take no action.
The events have, unsurprisingly, sparked a debate as to why such despicable behaviour is allowed to go unchallenged by police, and exactly what the reasons are behind the increasingly hostile atmosphere across the country.
Shortly after the incidents hitting the headlines, news emerged that the ringleader of the mob was none other than a well-known far-right thug named James Goddard – a social media troll with ties to Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, and to UKIP leader Gerard Batten.
However, despite the thugs being on the far-right of the political debate – and despite far-right criminals being to blame for both the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox last year, as well as a plot to murder Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the London Mayor Sadiq Khan – the mainstream media, including the BBC, have attempted to pin the blame for the increasingly hostile political atmosphere on both those on the left and the right.
Also to blame, according to the mainstream media, was social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter – who, they say, are not doing enough to take down inflammatory posts and so-called fake news.
However, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the one institution the mainstream media refused to pin any blame on whatsoever was – you’ve guessed it – themselves. This is despite the rhetoric of the far-right – of ‘anti-Brexit traitors’, ‘saboteurs’, and ‘enemies of the people’, to name but a few – being virtually indistinguishable from the screaming headlines found in right-wing newspapers such as The Daily Mail, The S*n and The Express.
The media’s unanimous failure to conduct even a single iota of introspection also came despite the far-right holding virtually identical views – such as a deep-seated loathing towards immigrants and Muslims, a vehement hatred towards anybody who promotes tolerance and multiculturalism over fear and isolation, and a special kind of abhorrence towards anybody who dares criticise the British right-wing establishment – to those spouted every single day in the column-inches of right-wing opinion pieces.
Indeed, to those of us with our eyes open, our brains engaged, and with no personal interests in convincing people otherwise, it is blatantly obvious that the media’s increasingly hateful rhetoric has played a large part in shaping today’s increasingly hostile political discourse.
However, for whatever reason, the BBC’s Andrew Neil appears to be one of those who thinks the media is entirely blameless.
This is the same Andrew Neil who, in his spare time, works as the Chairman for the hard-right Spectator magazine – an outlet who, amongst other things, have defended the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, have declared that there is “not nearly enough Islamophobia in the Tory Party”, have claimed that black people have lower IQs than white people, and who literally ran an article entitled ‘In praise of the Wehrmacht’, a defence of Nazi troops.
Now, just imagine if, during a debate about the media’s role in the increasing far-right abuse seen across the country, Andrew Neil was put on the spot about his own media outlet’s despicably racist, and horrendously inflammatory, record.
Now, just imagine that Mr Neil was hosting a live BBC programme and was literally duty-bound to remain impartial on the matter at the same time.
Well this is what Owen Jones just did to Andrew Neil. And it was utterly delicious to watch.
— Rachael Swindon #GTTO (@Rachael_Swindon) January 11, 2019
That pathetic performance from @afneil is a new low for the @BBC. In effect, Neil just shouted over a guest in order to claim that there can be no discussion of Neil’s own business dealings and commercial activities on a BBC programme. This isn’t just normal bullying #bbctw 1/2
— Martin O'Neill (@martin_oneill) January 11, 2019
You can enjoy Owen Jones turning Andrew Neil into a gibbering wreck by simply stating some home truths below:
Or, you can watch the full debate below – and, believe me, if you like right-wingers getting their arses completely and utterly handed to them, it is well worth watching!
— BBC This Week (@bbcthisweek) January 11, 2019
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