Letter to ITV from Moral Philosopher re ‘Exposure’ documentary
This is a letter that was sent to ITV by an academic and moral philosopher of 40 years’ experience. She is writing in response to the documentary detailed here.
I write with regard to concerns about a forthcoming programme Exposure Undercover: Britain’s New Far Right. I have a number of serious concerns about whether this programme might be in breach of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. My concerns can be summarised as pertaining to perceived unwarranted intrusions into privacy which I argue are not justified on journalistic grounds and which provided poor quality information; misjudgement concerning the undercover filming of people on a political demonstration, having chilling effects on political participation; worrying lack of impartiality with regard to a newly formed political party and its leader, having a deleterious impact upon democracy; and disproportionately severe effects upon the life of an individual as a consequence of this programme, unwarranted by journalistic standards.
Principles at issue and concerns
These all pertain to potential violations of different elements of the Broadcasting Code.
YOUR DUTY OF IMPARTIALITY
The label ‘far right’ and impartiality A central premise of the programme would appear to be that certain individuals, and movements, whether specific groups or more loosely characterised movements, merit investigation as to whether they are ‘far right’. This loosely applied term is now bandied about as a slur, which far from helping debate, obscures issues. Moreover, the implications that can be discerned from the slant of the programme in David Henshaw’s letter to Anne Marie Waters, (which is now in the public domain) together with the investigations at public meetings and public political demonstrations and in pubs, is that anyone associated with anyone under ‘investigation’ as far right also merits investigation. Such slurs are very hard to shake off, and will lead in many cases to social ostracism, and in other cases, worse consequences. For example, ‘Annie the Greek’, who helped organise the Bristol rally on September 10th, was recently beaten up at an anarchist book fair for being a ‘fascist’.
The label ‘far right’ is not only a slur, it is extremely misleading as a characterisation of those concerned about certain elements of Islam – in fact these concerns are premised on a wish to maintain human rights, equality in ethics and before the law, the rule of law, and democracy. It is therefore not only misleading, but actually contrary to the views of the vast majority of those concerned, and your reporter Hazel knows this. The entire tenor of your programme, that the counter jihad movement is somehow linked to the far right, is not only wrong, it is the reverse of the truth. It is based upon concerns for human rights, for equality of all, and to combat the totalitarian, violent and supremacist aspects of Islamic ideology.
Furthermore, how can you compare the anti-jihad movement to anti-Semitic movements (see David Henshaw’s letter to Anne Marie Waters) when a prime motivator for many people is the anti-Semitism within Islamic texts and throughout Islamic history and the life of Mohammed?
‘Anti-jihad’ movement and misleading implications of violence. Moreover, ‘Hazel’ would no doubt have been present at conversations during which individuals discussed a prime motivation for those involved in what you dub the ‘anti-jihad’ movement – to alert politicians, the media, and the public, to a need for careful and informed debate, precisely in order to avoid what many see as inevitable unless something is done – a violent response. The premise of your programme is that the anti-jihad movement is dangerous and encourages violence. So, as a matter of balance, I hope you are including full coverage of those many many people who are engaged in counter-jihad, precisely in order to prevent violence in the future. ‘Hazel’ ought to know this from her undercover work.
In general, these slurs are made disproportionately towards the working classes who are now under general suspicion of being racist and far right – which is not in the public interest. You may find that many members of the Football Lads’ Alliance are very unhappy that an undercover reporter attended their rally on October 7th a part of an investigation into the ‘far right’. You might well find it to your advantage to apologise to the FLA for secretly recording individuals who attended this and then following them back to the pub. It is all too easy carelessly to imply that working class football supporters are uneducated, far right thugs on the cusp of violence hence it is my view that steps should be taken to counter this.
Bias in choice of ‘experts’ Hardcash Productions have relied upon ‘experts’ from Hope not Hate. This organisation is the frequent recipient of criticism on the grounds of bias, but there is no need to elaborate on this here, since posts on their site already make it amply clear that they have an extremely dim view of Anne Marie Waters and of her new party For Britain. It therefore seems blindingly obvious that Hope Not Hate are a poor choice of ‘expert’ to provide unbiased coverage. This could well appear to be a biased slur on a fledgling political party. Not only is this inconsistent with the Broadcasting Code, unless strenuous steps are taken to ensure balance – and I don’t mean a quick 15 second disclaimer at the end that Anne Marie Waters denies the allegations. It undermines the basic principles of our democracy. I say this as someone who is not a member of For Britain, simply as a supporter of democracy and fairness.
There are even links between Nick Lowles and former members of the BNP which I am sure have by now been made aware to you and which I mention only because of the smack apparent of hypocrisy. Impartiality must not just be achieved, it must be seen to be achieved.
An additional point is that in order to understand and interpret what she was hearing, I hope that ‘Hazel’ – plus everyone involved in editorial decisions – was fully trained and had a good knowledge of the Koran, the full biography of Mohammed and a basic understanding of the hadith, of sharia law and a basic appreciation of Islamic history. Very many of those who warn about the problematic aspects of Islamic extremism and political Islam have the problem that if your audience don’t know much about Islam, the truth is so bad it sounds as if you are making it up or exaggerating. The wrong person then gets counted as an extremist – the very person who is warning about extremism. I hope then that you will be able to verify the qualifications or experience in the study of Islam that the production team has between them. (And I don’t mean the highly biased and notorious Hope Not Hate.) This is especially important given the high level of understanding of Islam among the people ‘Hazel’ spied upon, which means that many of them would frequently be making statements about Islam that someone ignorant of the reality might find extreme or exaggerated.
Lastly I would like to make some further remarks concerning the letter from David Henshaw to Anne Marie Waters which is now in the public domain.
Here I refer to some, but not all of the many points he raises.
As a moral philosopher, I believe also that Islamic ideology can be called ‘evil’. There are so many reasons for this but here are some for a start – it demands submission of the individual to a system of rules that governs their entire life, and repeatedly makes the claim ‘we love death as they love life’. If you are unclear about why demanding total submission of each individual to a totalitarian system that governs the whole of life is wrong, I suggest you can get a fast reprise of this by watching the current series ‘Reformation’ on BBC4, since you are no doubt all very busy.
I would agree that if you examine Islam as a unified whole, there are elements in it which render it very dangerous and arguably evil. It is directly counter to a universalist ethic, and just one element alone which I consider renders it ‘evil’ is that it encourages people to ignore their consciences – there is a verse in the Koran which tells people that they may not like the deeds Allah is requiring them to do, but they should do them anyway. I could write at length about this, since my entire working life has been dedicated to teaching and studying the foundational basis for ethics; I have serious academic reasons to consider that, although of course some would disagree, it is within the boundaries of a reasonably argued position that significant elements of Islam are indeed ‘evil’. The very notion that AMW’s views is divisive is laughable, given that one of AMW main concerns is that Islam has an ethic which divides. I can been seen explaining this during an interview at the Bristol rally on September 10th. It can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uxvkgo4K_I I challenge you to find the praise of a universalist ethic and of blind impartial justice a ‘far right’ philosophy, yet it is an underlying motivating concern of all I have met at such events.
I also believe that there is enough in Islamic ideology, as held by sufficient numbers of people, to justify the claim that a war is being waged against the West, by a sufficiently significant element of adherents of Islam to warrant concern. See e.g. Ibn Warraq’s recent book of masterful scholarship, The Islam in Islamic Terrorism, among many other sources.
Years of careful study have convinced me that although many Muslims treat Islam as a religion which simply governs their personal lives, Islam itself is an inherently war-like religion with systematic political and authoritarian, supremacist, global political aims. I presume you have read the full biography of Mohammed – you will notice then, that he is the perfect role model for Muslims who happens to be a war lord. The Koran is full of open ended calls for jihad against unbelievers and apostates. There are commands to emigrate in order to spread Islam. Islamic lands are ‘lands of peace’, all others are ‘lands of war’. For a fair programme you should include some of these quotes and the surrounding context and I hope you will do so to give a fair context to the concerns about Islam which are shared by millions, I believe.
As to responses from the crowd on June 11, please consider that these are more likely to have been occasioned by the knowledge of the crowd of Islamic texts, Islamic history, and recent terror attacks in the UK and Europe than by being ‘egged on’ by AMW. I was present at that event. I have repeatedly found that everyone I meet at such events, is in fact usually far more informed about Islam than the average TV broadcaster or journalist appears to be. A YouTube video where I say as much can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrAb26T4f5oIn order to be impartial, your programme could usefully discuss the extraordinarily high level of understanding of Islam among those who attend the rallies. The comment about ‘Allah being a paedo’ is no doubt occasioned by the high level of knowledge of Islam among the crowd. Mohammed married Aisha when she was six, and consummated the marriage aged 9. There are Islamic sources which state that before consummation of marriage, he used to ‘thigh’ her. (Look it up.) Mohammed is a ‘perfect role model’ and followed commands of Allah. Hence …. This comes not from AMW, but the source problem is in Islamic history and texts.
Re AMW’s speech at Rotherham – see above comments re Douglas Murray. Can an Old Etonian say what an Irish woman cannot? Is this impartial coverage of AMW’s views?
28th September – AMW has her own reply to all the points DH raised. I must say, on this count, I feel that your reporter is actually being highly duplicitous. AMW is a profoundly open and sincere person, who is extremely concerned about the treatment of women in Islam. It is this facet of her personality which keeps her going, and which I most admire. I have met AMW on a few occasions and I deeply admire her integrity. She has serious points to make when she says these remarks, for example, see Phyllis Chesler’s new book, Islamic Gender Apartheid. Numerous scholars, myself included, consider that it is incontrovertible that women are treated very unjustly under Islam. How is it fair to ‘expose’ this as ‘far right’? Moreover, it is completely unfair and biased to exploit the fact that when talking privately she used words like ‘treated like shit’. That, you know well, is a cheap trick and will fool none of your viewers. Many women are indeed, ‘treated like shit’ the world over, but there is a large body of opinion that the position is especially bad in Islamic cultures.
It would take too long to go through the rest of DH’s letter. However, an afternoon or two doing research will find a plethora of academics and individuals with direct experience of Islam and of sharia law holding views which are extremely close to those you ‘accuse’ Waters of holding. More to the point of your programme, far from being far right, those who hold such views wish to uphold individual freedoms, democracy, equality for all, and the rule of law. They wish to work to prevent violence, not to incite it. So, whose side are you on, that you wish to defame those whose aim is to prevent violence? From everything I know about Anne Marie Waters, she also has these motivations. If you wish I can supply you with a reading list, or if you are ever in Oxford pop round and you can browse through the bookcase I have dedicated to Islam.
I also note that from my consideration of DH’s letter to AMW of the material obtained by deception, I conclude that such material is very thin and in my opinion can in no way justify the intrusion into the privacy of not only AMW but of whomever else happened to be near her.
In summary, I suggest that your general treatment of the anti-jihad movement as somehow linked to the far right, is fundamentally flawed, partial, and inaccurate, and therefore misrepresents the individuals and groups involved, contrary to the Broadcasting Code. I advise you to make sure that your final programme, should you decide to broadcast it, gives a more balanced and accurate view. I also consider that your reporting methods especially the undercover reporting on public demonstrations and in pubs, are fundamentally unethical and I urge you to delete all such footage, and to apologise to the individuals and organisations concerned. I also urge you to consider whether you have acted against the interests of democracy in targeting public demonstrations for secretive filming, and in slurring the leader of a fledgling political party.