On Monday night the BBC aired a “documentary” about Geert Wilders entitled “Geert Wilders: Europe’s Most Dangerous Man?” We didn’t cover it here, because it is an English-language version of “Wilders: The Movie”, which we reported on extensively last fall.
The two filmmakers behind this extravaganza, Joost van der Valk and Mags Gavan, are in charge of Red Rebel Films, a Dutch outfit that specializes in left-wing hit jobs, and is partially funded by the Dutch government via various quasi-state intermediaries. We ran excerpts from an exposé of Red Rebel Films last spring.
The release of Dutch version of the movie happened to coincide with the beginning of Geert Wilders’ first trial. The Beeb’s version appeared at the beginning of Mr. Wilders’ latest trial.
A coincidence? Or a well-coordinated joint effort?
A British reader named RezaV believes the BBC has breached its charter by broadcasting such biased propaganda, and wrote this letter to the organization to complain:
I was shocked by the dishonesty, one-sidedness and far-left political bias of your programme: Geert Wilders: Europe’s Most Dangerous Man? BBC Two, 7:00PM Mon, 14 Feb 2011
Though unqualified third-party accusations, conspiracy theory and without any evidence whatsoever you insinuated at various points throughout the programme that Mr Wilders was:
1. “Far Right” 2. A Fascist 3. A Nazi 4. An Zionist extremist 5. An Israeli Spy 6. A conspiracy theorist 7. A convicted criminal (for example, referring to him being “in the dock”) 8. Guilty of “hate-speech” 9. Mentally unbalanced 10. A control freak 11. Dubiously funded / dishonest / with something to hide 12. Europe’s most dangerous man
Your program made regular use of sinister background music to drive home your intended message.
Ironically, most of the above accusations are very real “conspiracy theories” about Mr Wilders promoted by Neo Nazi organisations such as Stormfront and various anti-Semitic Islamist organisations such as MPAC UK.
Mr Wilders is an elected member of the Dutch parliament. His party is the second biggest party in the Netherlands and many of his policies have huge support that extends far beyond his voters among the Dutch people. His party is also a key supporter of the ruling coalition government of the Netherlands. Your programme either played down or omitted completely these very relevant facts.
Furthermore, you did not give Mr Wilders nor a well-known or credible supporter of his a right to reply to your many unfounded accusations and insinuations. Neither did you include any of the many well-known, respected and reputable figures who might otherwise have been available to provide some balance to your programme. For example, you could have interviewed Douglas Murray, Director of the Centre for Cohesion or even the regular BBC contributor and author of “Britanistan” Melanie Philips.
The only well-known figure that supported Mr Wilders (or opposed your programme’s viewpoint) that you interviewed was Daniel Pipes. Mr Pipes is a respected and reputable academic and author. He is the director of the Middle East Forum and has served in various capacities in the U.S. government, including two presidentially-appointed positions, vice chairman of the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships and board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace. He was director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in 1986-93.
You made no mention of any of this, preferring to present Mr Pipes as a sinister and secretive ‘foreign’ financial donor from a shady American far-right organisation.
You did however include a number of figures to speak against Mr Wilders. You were similarly disingenuous and dishonest about these:
1. Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra
Your programme made no mention that he is a prominent member of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a controversial organisation. In March 2009, the last government severed all ties with the MCB in response to its deputy general secretary, Dr Daud Abdullah, signing the Istanbul declaration, a public declaration of support for Hamas and call for violence against the British Royal Navy and Jewish communities.
2. Shaykh Khalid Yasin
You introduced this person as a “Popular Islamic Teacher” and deferred to him at various points throughout your programme.
Yasin was featured in Channel 4’s Undercover Mosque exposé. In the DVD “Changing the World Through Da’wah” (IBC Ltd/1Islam Productions) he preaches to the camera:
“We don’t need to go to the Christians or the Jews debating with them about the filth which they believe. We Muslims have been ordered to do brainwashing because the kuffaar they are doing brain defiling. You are watching the kaffir TV and your wife is watching it right now and your children are watching it and they are being polluted and they are being penetrated and they are being infected, so that you come out of the house and your children come out of the house as Muslims and come back as kaffirs.”
As a first-generation immigrant from the Middle East and someone of Muslim heritage, I find the term “kufffar” to be highly offensive and know that it is used by some Muslims as a hate-term in exactly the same way that a ‘white’ fascist would use “nigger” or “paki” to describe black people and those from the Middle East or the Indian sub-continent.
Again regarding Yasin:
“In one DVD, Yasin, who is promoted on the mosque’s website, accuses missionaries from the World Health Organisation and Christian groups of putting the ‘Aids virus’ in the medicine of African people, ‘which is a conspiracy’.”
More from Yasin:
Sheikh Khalid Yasin, who learned Arabic in Saudi Arabia, praised the deterrent effect of sharia law: “Then people can see, people without hands, people can see in public heads rolling down the street, people got [sic] their hands and feet from opposite sides chopped off and they see them crucified…they see people put up against the pole and see them get lashed in public they see it, and because they see it, it acts as a deterrent for them because they say I don’t want that to happen to me.”
3. Martin Smith
Throughout your programme you were careful to refer to Geert Wilders, his views and his supporters as “far right” at every opportunity. However, you introduced a counter-demonstration against the EDL in Amsterdam as representing “the left”. Not “the far left”. You did this despite going on to show, at length, a speech by Martin Smith of “Unite Against Fascism”. You chose not to mention that Mr Smith is also National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, an extremist far-left group with a well-documented track record of support for extreme Islamist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
BBC Director General Mark Thompson has admitted that the BBC was guilty of a ‘massive’ Left-wing bias in the past. I understand that Mr Thompson now claims that is no longer any trace of left-wing bias at the BBC.
Your decision to screen ‘Geert Wilders: Europe’s Most Dangerous Man?’ clearly discredits that claim.
Of course Geert Wilders is a controversial figure, and the BBC would be right to investigate the rise of his movement as well as the rise of anti-Islam and anti-immigration views and political parties in Europe.
However, it is thoroughly wrong to address the subject in the partisan, biased and thoroughly dishonest way that your programme did. It is also very wrong to give a platform to far-left and Islamic extremists whilst blatantly and disingenuously presenting them as the voices of reason.
Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkozy and Davis Cameron have all made widely reported speeches criticising the ideology of multiculturalism and all have specifically singled out non-violent Muslim extremism and the failure of may European Muslims to integrate as creating problems within their countries. Geert Wilders espouses these views too. However, you didn’t mention this highly relevant context at all in your one-sided programme.
Your programme came across as blatant political propaganda and a concerted effort to smear an individual with whose political views you disagree. What’s more, your programme gave a platform to far left and Islamic extremists such as Martin Smith and Shaykh Khalid Yasin, both of whom have a very clear and extreme political agenda that is a matter of public record.
In summary, your programme:
- Was selective with facts in order to distort the truth;
- Repeatedly presented ‘conspiracy theory’ as fact;
- Presented third party accusations, unsupported by evidence, as fact;
- Gave a platform to political and religious extremists without informing the viewer of the organisations and viewpoints that the commentators represented;
- Did not show Mr Wilders or a credible supporter of his responding to your numerous accusations;
- Presented no credible commentators to balance the programme’s far-left slant;
- Used sinister music and contrived filming techniques to denigrate an elected member of a fellow EU country’s parliament;
- Was one-sided and biased to the extent that it simply resembled political propaganda or a politically motivated smear-campaign.
I believe that the programme was in breach of the BBC charter, broke your impartiality rules and as such I would appreciate your comments.