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No platformed from BBC Big Questions - THREAD.

1.The BBC (Mentorn tv, the company that makes ‘The Big Questions’) rang in a panic late Friday morning. I was at Farnborough Station waiting to catch the train up to London to see @Sime0nStylites.
2. All my travel and participation in Sunday’s ‘BBC The Big Questions’ had been organised and signed off; I had put it out of my mind.
3. Mentorn’s Assistant Producer put me through the third degree about my first novel, The Hand that Signed the Paper, the Miles Franklin Award and being accused of anti-Semitism.
4.She wanted some background on the literary hoax as well, but didn’t seem terribly perturbed by it (this is a notable difference between Australia & the UK).
5. Since this is an Australian rather than a British story, I recommend this piece: theaustralian.com.au/news/inquirer/…
6. If you hit the paywall, it’s also available here in substantially the same terms: quillette.com/2017/05/11/cul…
7. I realised what was going on when she kept going back to the anti-Semitism & I said ‘I’m being no-platformed here, aren’t I?’
8. And she said, ‘no, the editor just wants to check things out, I’m sure you’ll be fine’. So did that and got on the train.
9.Train had only just got to Woking (15 mins away) & she called again. ‘I’m really sorry, but the second half of the show is heavily focussed on Judaism, and we’ve got a who’s who of British Jewry on it.‘
10. ‘If there’s even a hint that anyone else on the panel has been accused of anti-Semitism they’ll all cancel’.
11. I was originally contacted (at great length, on Tuesday) on whether Britain is becoming less tolerant, the topic for the first half of Sunday’s ‘Big Questions’ episode.
12. Clearly this was their ‘flagship’ question for the day, because the other topic – which is to do with whether faiths have to adapt to modernity – was mentioned only in passing. We discussed it for maybe two or three minutes (after a good 40 minutes on the ‘tolerance’ topic).
13. I said words to the effect of ‘well the two missionary monotheisms obviously have to adapt to modernity, because historically they spent so much time killing and enslaving other people, both internally and externally – Shia v Sunni, Catholics v Protestants etc’.
14. I also said Judaism didn’t have this problem because it doesn’t go around trying to convert people and is actually quite hard to join (‘the rabbi at the synagogue will give you some literature & then tell you to go home & think about it properly’). That was it.
15. I found the sudden emphasis on a part of the planned programme we had hardly discussed perplexing. I suggested having me there for only the first half of the show (I’m really not very interested in religion).
16. She started umming and ahh-ing and going ‘oh maybe we could patch you in from Broadcasting House so they don’t have to be in the same room as you’ and then ‘but it wouldn’t be worth your time’.
17. And then, finally, after this brief pause, came the bombshell, ‘you see, they wait until the night before the show airs and all cancel together leaving the BBC without a programme. We can’t risk it’.
18. We spoke a bit more about how this was an instance of no platforming and she said ‘it’s because of all this nonsense in the Labour Party’.
19. I then pointed out that I have never been a member of Labour and offered to send her a picture of my @Conservatives membership card (which I keep in my wallet). I also said that this is bad behaviour and the people involved it are doing themselves no favours.
20. She tried to be sunny after that and said ‘we must get you on to talk about Brexit at some point, your articles on it in the @Australian & @Quillette are superb’ but she was clearly upset and I did not want to hurt her so spoke a few pleasantries and we ended the call.
21. I felt for her, she was worried about losing an entire hour-long programme over one panellist.
22. I am reasonably satisfied that she had insufficient time – between Farnborough and Woking – to speak to anyone other than the editor. Maybe she called one Jewish panellist and got a ‘no, I won’t go on with Helen Dale’ but I consider this unlikely.
23. From what I understand, there is internal disagreement among British Jews about no-platforming. A lot of them do it, however. And if that has been both Mentorn’s & the BBC’s experience, then they are going to preserve their programme at the expense of a single panellist.
24. I am determined to work with @jodieginsberg & Index on Censorship to address the problem of no-platforming.
25. One could achieve some changes by the imposition of appropriate contractual conditions attached to appearing on shows like Big Questions or perhaps even by criminalising no-platforming. As a commercial lawyer I prefer the former of course.
26. I am now going to watch the show I was supposed to be on and enjoy the irony of a show on tolerance having removed two different people (that I’m aware of) for entirely different reasons. The other is @SoniaPoulton, of course.
27. I will also note that a significant part of this problem is caused by outsourcing. If Mentorn (the outside production company that makes Big Questions) has a programme blow up on them it puts future commissions at risk.
Now watching. Love how Jews don’t believe in original sin. Theological disputes FTW.
And now the presenter just yelled ‘STOP IT’ at someone. Joyous. #bbctbq

Watching that programme (BBC Big Questions) made me want to swallow my own face. Turned off the telly with great relief. DRINK. #bbctbq
28. For the avoidance of doubt, I support the Lord Reith model of the BBC - I am a very moderate Tory on this point. But in order to to the job of the national broadcaster it has to be able to /be/ the national broadcaster.
29. On today’s evidence, the behaviour of certain people who simply won’t brook disagreement is making the BBC’s job very difficult.
30. I have now been made aware that some other panellists were provided with a ‘BBC Big Questions’ guest list that included my name as early as Wednesday morning.
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