This Writer’s television had a lucky escape last night. I was out watching a gig in Shrewsbury and did not see Victoria Coren Mitchell making a fool of herself – and no doubt many millions of viewers – on Have I Got News For You.
I understand from reports following the travesty that she made a comment to camera after a segment suggesting that the Labour Party had gone from being several million pounds in profit to hundreds of thousands in debt.
Apparently addressing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the gist of the joke – if you can call it that – was that if he wanted someone good with money, he should try the Jewish bankers he believes are conspiring against him.
Firstly: Jeremy Corbyn has never – ever – given voice to the anti-Semitic trope about a conspiracy of Jewish bankers.
So Ms Coren Mitchell was broadcasting a lie. Claiming it was a joke doesn’t make it acceptable. Nor does claiming it was part of a script; she knows about the anti-Corbyn smears and the witch-hunt in general and could have refused.
Secondly: As she was the one who invoked the ‘Jewish banking conspiracy’ trope, it is Ms Coren Mitchell who committed an act of anti-Semitism.
Worse still, she doubled down on the transgression when she was challenged about it on Twitter, although she got what she deserved in response.
It’s not the show that’s changed, it’s the culture. In your heart, you don’t think a BBC comedy show could be 100% positive about the Opposition leader and sarky about everyone else. You wouldn’t want it to! JC was actually barely mentioned last night, it was the Boris show.
— Victoria Coren Mitchell (@VictoriaCoren) October 19, 2019
You genuinely can't see the difference between using a toxic lie as material and using truth as satire? Seriously? You think they're the same thing? I think that's disturbing.
— simon maginn (@simonmaginn) October 19, 2019
If I had seen it – well, as I stated at the top, my TV set had a lucky escape.
In the name of balance, we should mention – as Beastrabban has – that Mr Corbyn is on the record as having criticised the BBC for failing to broadcast enough programmes catering for the Jewish community in the UK. That should be indicative of his attitude to Jewish people.
The BBC, of course, has ‘form’ when it comes to anti-Corbyn smears. One has only to consider the outrage caused by its grotesquely biased Panorama documentary Is Labour Antisemitic? that was broadcast in July.
But I must echo Beastrabban’s disappointment in Ms Coren Mitchell – and that of the many others who voiced similar feelings. We all thought she was better than that. How shaming for her that we were mistaken.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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Didn’t JC commend a mural depicting Jewish bankers getting rich on the backs of downtrodden workers ? If memory serves, Jewish elders protested his opinion outside Parliament
It was a mural of bankers, some of whom were Jewish. And it was in 2012. The usual suspects resurrected it to cause mischief. Mr Corbyn said he had thought it was a free speech issue, not one about anti-Semitism, and condemned it as such. The artist, Mear One, was livid, stating: “To conflate my anti-capitalist message with anti-semitic rhetoric, as the UK politicians and their [mainstream media] puppets have so adeptly accomplished, is very ill-intended and manipulative…It was also their interpretation, and never mine, to point out ‘hook noses,’ ‘crooked noses’ and other vile Nazi, Third Reich anti-Semitic propaganda, even concocting cuckoo ideas like how the naked figures under the monopoly board depicted ‘starving holocaust victims’ when they actually represent the multi-races of humanity! As a thinking feeling human being to hear such stuff makes me sick to my stomach.”
So it wasn’t a mural depicting Jewish bankers getting rich on the backs of downtrodden workers, and JC didn’t commend it.
That was a picture of ‘bankers’ Others put their own prejudice onto it by saying that the bankers ‘looked Jewish’ which is the kind of comment that should be criticised as being overtly anti-Semitic rather than the statement the mural was making about bankers, generally, being awful.
But, as usual, the comment got all the coverage instead of the response, it wasn’t questioned and although literally no one has ever called JC personally anti jewish, he is being labelled as such. THAT is classic smear tactics..
This is the second time HIGNFY has disgraced itself recently.
Earlier this year, when Julian Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy amid ludicrous accusations of him smearing the embassy walls with his own excrement, when presented with this wide open satirical goal, Hislop & Merton just tut-tutted, shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders and meekly surrendered the programme’s raison d’etre, and their credibility as satirists, to the “security” services.
I’ve not looked at Private Eye since…
Is it a coincidence that both ‘jokes’ were made by panelists who are Jewish. ‘This can’t be anti-Semitic, because I’m Jewish’.
In fairness to her, the host on HIGNFY largely just reads out loud from the teleprompter. It’s more the writers of the programme who are to blame for this.
As I state in the article, saying it’s from the script doesn’t get her off the hook; she knows the score and she could have refused.
And she could quite easily broken off midway through the offending sentence and said to the director “I’m not reading this s**t. It’s not even funny, even if Corbyn IS the butt of the joke”.
What was the gig, Mike? Anyone good?
A band called Captain Accident & the Disasters. Reggae/rock. Yeah, very good. I had them at the Radnor Fringe Festival (I’m an organiser) a few years ago and have seen them elsewhere since. This was at a place called Albert’s Shed in Shrewsbury.
Sounds like my kind of venue! I saw The Damned in Shrewsbury once… (The Music Hall 1981)
I haven’t watched HIGNFY in years, nor have I bought Private Eye for many a year either. I find it quite ironic that, in the 80s, the Eye sought to rid Ingrams of the editor role because. he was somehow past it. Yet Hislop has been doing it for far longer now. Equally Merton once skipped a series of HIGNFY in the late ’90s because he was bored of it. I wonder how his boredom threshold has kept him returning for the last twenty years? I suspect the lucrative wage packet has something to do with it.
But yeah, that ‘joke’ is indicative of one of the many reasons I parted company with the show (long before Corbyn became Labour leader in fact). It’s the kind of snarky, puerile low-grade wit that is more in keeping with barroom ‘bants’ than satire. When Paul Merton receives a round of applause for saying ‘Donald Trump’s a f***ing a**ehole’ or words to that effect, you have to accept that this is offering anything of value or principle.
That line is unmistakably the work of the HIGNFY scriptwriting team, which Victoria Coren-Mitchell was merely obliged to read off the autocue. As you say Mike, she could have (SHOULD have) refused but, as much as I admire her, I have long since realised that her politics do not align with my own when, I last caught a fleeting glimpse of the show when channel hopping and I saw her tell Jess Phillips how much she admires her. VCM’s defence of the show is well-intentioned I feel, but it crucially overlooks the fact that such material isn’t poking fun at those in a position of power, it’s actually smearing a good man’s name. She won’t acknowledge that however, because I suspect her some of the gagwriters are actually her friends.
Seriously though, does anyone of a political or satircal bent even watch HIGNFY any more? Surely the nails in its coffin were the platforming of our current alleged PM and Jacob Rees-Mogg as PR friendly ‘characters’, or the time when Hislop seriously misjudged the harmful effects of everyday sexism on women, which Jo Brand rightfully rebuked him over.
PS, I am still surprised that her brother Giles got away with a deeply offensive monkey comparison when relating to Prince Harry and Meghan trying for another baby in his column. Given that Danny Baker got the sack from the BBC for a similar ‘joke’ it really ought to be game over for him at the beeb too.
“Captain Accident & the Disasters”
Sounds like a Boris Johnson tribute act!
They’re anti-Capitalist. I took a video of one of their songs that was about that.