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From the January 20, 2011, UK Parliament transcript:
Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under you, Ms Clark, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann)-a long-time friend-on securing the debate. Many positive and interesting contributions have been made this afternoon, many of which I could not possibly emulate. The depth of wisdom and experience in the Chamber is so great that I found myself wondering why I was here. Then, when we heard the speech of our colleague and friend, the hon. Member for Ilford North (Mr Scott), I realised why. He spoke very movingly and, to provide some solidarity, nobody should go through what he and his family went through during the general election.
I shall concentrate on the section on the media in the report produced a few years ago by the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw. The group's inquiry called on the media to have discussions on the impact of language and imagery in the current discourse on Judaism, anti-Zionism and Israel, and-while striking a balance on the independence of the media-to recognise that the way in which the news is reported has significant consequences on interaction between communities in Britain. Ministers in the previous Administration held a departmental conference on the issue. Many ideas were discussed, and the challenges and problems were recognised. I reiterate my hon. Friend's support for an early conference, and I know that the Minister will try to follow that up if possible.
I want to talk about specific examples of anti-Semitism in the media, particularly an ongoing problem with Fox News, which is also broadcast in the United Kingdom. I shall focus in particular on the show hosted by Glenn Beck, who has been broadcasting anti-Semitic messages for a number of months. Fox News is bound by all of Ofcom's broadcasting code, including the section entitled, "Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions". It has to have an EU licence to broadcast in the UK, and therefore has to adhere to the broadcasting code. However, I believe that the kind of content that I shall highlight would certainly not fall within the code's remit.
I have been made aware of recent comments by Glenn Beck on his show that should be of great concern to all of us who want to stand shoulder to shoulder with colleagues such as the hon. Member for Ilford North. Although the comments were broadcast primarily in the US, it cannot and must not be forgotten that the show is also aired daily, live on Sky TV, in the UK. Glenn Beck singled out Simon Greer, the chief executive officer and president of an organisation in the US called Jewish Funds for Justice, who made comments about "advancing the common good". Glenn Beck responded by saying that such comments
"are what led to the death camps in Germany",
and that Simon Greer,
"as a Jew, should know better."
Fox executives, including Fox News president, Roger Ailes, and the producer of Glenn Beck's television show, Joel Cheatwood, assured Jewish Funds for Justice and other community representatives that they understood their concerns, that
"ultimate sensitivity must be exercised when referencing the Holocaust",
and that they would explain them to Beck. The organisation subsequently received a handwritten note from Beck to that effect.
After the note was sent, in November 2010, Glenn Beck broadcast a three-part programme on prominent Jewish philanthropist and holocaust survivor George Soros. The programme invoked disturbing language that bore a stark resemblance to the imagery and language used by extreme right-wing groups to demonise the Jewish community in the lead-up to world war two. Glenn Beck referred to George Soros as the "puppet master" and attacked him for having escaped the holocaust and for his pro-democracy work, which he compared to Nazism.
Beck has a highly polemical style that frequently employs rhetoric drawing on the holocaust. Most shockingly, he accused Soros of having been
"a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps."
That provoked enormous offence to the Jewish community in the United States. Thus far, Fox News has defended that Glenn Beck special. News Corporation has been silent on the matter. These are not isolated incidents of intolerance from Beck. Indeed, in response to some of this stuff, Jewish Funds for Justice compiled the 10 most shocking statements made by Beck in his show during 2010. The organisation recently undertook an action at News Corp's offices and presented a petition signed by more than 10,000 people that called on Rupert Murdoch to remove Glenn Beck from the Fox News station because of his comments.
I shall quote from the top 10 comments, which are not all anti-Semitic; they also attack other groups and individuals.
"God will wash this nation with blood if he has to."
No. 2: putting
"the common good first...leads to death camps."
"Women are psychos." That was No. 3. Beck's election coverage goal was to make George Soros cry, which Beck said was "hard to do," as Soros
"saw people into gas chambers."
That was no. 4.
No. 5: Uncle Sam is a "child molester" who is "raping our wallets" and "destroying our families." No. 6: Beck mocks President Obama's daughters for "their level of education." Beck said that
"we have been sold a lie"
that "the poor in America" are suffering. That was No. 7.
"Charles Darwin is the father of the holocaust."
No. 9: social justice is a
"perversion of the Gospel...not what Jesus was saying."
Beck likened himself to Israeli Nazi hunters, when he said:
"To the day I die, I am going to be a progressive hunter."
That was No. 10.
I think that most colleagues would agree that those comments are highly alarming and absolutely inappropriate for broadcast on any show, let alone one that positions itself as a news show. Such comments would not fall within the parameters of the Ofcom code to ensure:
"Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions".
In addition, the Dana Milbank column in The Washington Post reported in October 2010 that in Beck's
"first 18 months on Fox News, from early 2009 through the middle of this year," --
that is last year --
"he and his guests invoked Hitler 147 times. Nazis, an additional 202 times. Fascism or fascists, 193 times. The Holocaust got 76 mentions, and Joseph Goebbels got 24."
I hope we all agree that that is a disturbing number of instances to raise those terms, in a way that is both irresponsible and does not provide any educational or beneficial basis for doing so; for instance, labelling President Obama a "Nazi." The Holocaust Educational Trust has said:
"One of the best ways to combat anti-semitism and prejudice of all kinds is to encourage tolerance and respect twinned with advocacy of engagement with civil society and the democratic process."
The Glenn Beck show in no way achieves those vitally important aims. That type of journalism is dangerous and can have wide-ranging negative effects on society. The kind of material broadcast by Glenn Beck is not unique; a number of other "shock jocks" operate in the States. However, none has displayed intolerance on such a frequent and irresponsible scale as Glenn Beck. It is vital that that kind of "news" is not made or broadcast in the UK. However, the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corp means that there is an increased threat of its becoming a reality.
Although the Ofcom code exists to prevent that kind of anti-Semitic language from being broadcast as news, there is still the danger of "foxification" in the UK. Professor Steven Barnett of the university of Westminster has recently argued that the laws that oversee broadcasting in the UK would prevent a recreation of Fox News. However, it is possible that there could be a shift in the centre of gravity, and that the situation in the UK will change.
Robert Halfon: Although I have not seen the Glenn Beck show, I have seen other parts of Fox News, which tend to be much fairer on extreme Islamism and on Israel than other news outlets. Would the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, whatever Glenn Beck may or may not do, Fox News-and, indeed, the Murdoch newspapers-has a good record on this?
Mr Watson: People tell me that Fox News is positive about Israel but negative about Jews. It is possible for Glenn Beck to represent that negative angle of Fox News. The reason why I am so concerned is that Rupert Murdoch has claimed that Sky News would be much more popular if it were more like Fox News. I do not want that to become a reality in the United Kingdom.
The issue has been picked up in the UK media recently. There have been articles on the subject by Deborah Lipstadt for The Jewish Chronicle and by Ian Burrell in The Independent. Lipstadt states:
"At the same time, Roger Ailes was interviewed by Tina Brown's Daily Beast about NPR's decision to fire one of its commentators, who also appears on Fox News. The commentator had said that, upon boarding a plane and seeing someone dressed in Muslim garb, he gets nervous. A silly comment but one that did not seem to warrant dismissal. Speaking of NPR officials, Ailes said: 'They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view.'"
When a barrage of criticism rained down upon him, he apologised not to the people he called Nazis, but to Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.
The Independent article quoted Andrew Neil, who said:
"My own view is [Fox] is out of control".
Neil told Richard Bacon on BBC Radio 5 Live recently:
"I think Rupert Murdoch has lost control of it. I know from sources he's not happy with a lot that appears on it and I think he's lost over the Glenn Becks and the O'Reillys".
In October 2009, Waitrose became one of a number of UK firms to pull all advertising on Fox News in response to comments made about President Obama. It was reported just last week that the broadcast of Glenn Beck's show in the UK has run without any commercials for nearly 11 months in response to his incendiary comments. Such great concern has been caused by Beck that there is an ongoing campaign both in the UK and the US to stop Glenn Beck and deter companies from advertising during his show. I am pleased and extremely encouraged that companies in the UK feel strongly enough about the issue to withhold advertising. It demonstrates that the anti-Semitic and generally divisive, incendiary and prejudicial language that has been broadcast in the UK will not be tolerated in this country. However, it is important that these issues continue to be raised and that TV executives are challenged on such matters.
If Glenn Beck were here today I would say to him: "Glenn Beck, you are a bigot. You bring shame to your country, not because you lack balance, but because you are an unthinking buffoon. Rupert Murdoch tolerates you because you are his useful idiot. He uses you to get a foothold in the doors of the powerful. Like his phone-hacking journalists and his pugnacious leader-writers in Australia, you are expendable. Let us hope he disposes of your nasty brand of intolerance sooner rather than later."
It is Rupert and James Murdoch who should answer for bigots such as Glenn Beck and phone hackers such as Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire. They employ them. They promote them. They are responsible for them. It is time for thinking citizens in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia to unite against the Murdochs' vicious brand of politics that masquerades as publishing.