Saturday 11 October 2008

Barnet Council's incompetance puts Nazi propoganda on YouTube

Before I start writing new blogs there is just one bit of unfinished business to attend to regarding my former life as a blogger on the Times. I'm posting here the blog which lead to the parting of the ways so you can make up your own minds as to whether I'm a sensationalist heading off the end of the pier, a naive fool or whatever. The bits between the dotted lines are the exact unedited title & text as screenscraped when I set it up. It was removed around 10am on Monday.

Sorry I don't have any of the 4 comments saved. The bit after the dotted line is an update on what's happened since.

Barnet Council using your taxes to promote Nazi ideology
12:06pm Saturday 4th October 2008

Comments (0) Have your say »

By Roger Tichborne »

“I know it's mainly a Jewish area so a lot of the Jewish people have got things, but for the normal German people...there is nothing really for them..”

If I told you that this quote came from a Nazi propaganda radio broadcast in the 1930's, used to whip up hatred against Jewish people, you probably wouldn't
be too surprised. If I told you to change the word German to British and that the quote was posted on YouTube by Barnet council, what would you think then?

David Miller, who runs the Barnet Council watch website, saw this and complained to Barnet Council. Mr Dominic Campbell, the council’s Social Media Manager
replied: “While we understand your concerns, the views expressed are those of the resident and not those of Barnet Council and as such we do not intend to
take any action at this point.”

The good news is that when the Jewish Chronicle started taking an interest the council changed it's mind. Now I don't for one second think that the Council
is stuffed full of Nazi's or anti-semites, but I am really alarmed at the fact that this happened. It calls into question the professionalism, training and
competence of the Barnet Council media department. Let me explain why I don't think this mistake should have been made.

One of the things I do for a living is media consulatancy, mainly for musicians and bands. To ensure I could do this properly, I attended a course on
promotion using the internet. As part of the course we looked at the way political parties and pressure groups use the internet to promote ideas. One of
the more interesting and disturbing things, was the way far right organisations operate. Members are encouraged to post comments on stories where there is
a racial interest. They are given guidelines on how to leave messages which are within the law, but create an atmosphere of distrust of minority groups.
They are encouraged to have many different aliases and post multiple comments to create an impression of support.

We analysed examples of these postings and phrases such as "normal British people" are key signatures of such planted posts. One of the themes of the
course was cultural sensitivity with regards to race or religion. The rule one should apply when posting anything is that where there is the potential to
cause offence, don't do it. If you do, you will only damage your organisation or clients. If you specifically mention religion or race and there are any
negative overtones, you will offend people. This is not political correctness, it is common sense and good manners.

Why do I mention this? Because I am of the opinion that the Barnet Media department should be properly trained. If they are promoting Barnet Council,
they should be able to spot such statements as dangerous, devisive and offensive and not use them. I paid for a course so I could do my job professionally
and give the people paying my wages the best possible publicity I could. Do you think that sending the message out on YouTube, that Barnet is a hotbed of
Nazi sentiment is the best way to promote the borough?

To me it is just another example of Barnet Council not training it's staff to do their job.


Well several things have happened. The Jewish Chronicle covered the story and got a nice quote from Mike Freer - Leader of Barnet Council - "While the comments will be edited out, it is interesting to note that it underlines the fact that in the borough the BNP can plug into sentiment that is not far below the surface. By picking up these comments (but obviously not publishing them) we can start to work on addressing the concerns that the BNP feed off."

I am surprised that the JC let this comment go unchallenged. I find Freer's comments quite bizarre. How do you address the concerns of anti semites? Surely what Freer should say is that the council should combat ignorance and prejudice and take every step possible to ensure that people with fascistic views are not given access to the media by the council.

The Barnet Press also covered the story. They quoted Jack Cohen, leader of the Lib-Dem's “I’ve watched the video and I’m appalled. I can’t believe the council has sanctioned it. It’s an outrage, it’s what I would expect from the BNP, not from a council with the largest Jewish population in the UK.” I must say that Councillor Cohen certainly seems to hit the nail on the head.

So there you go. You can draw your own conclusions. As far as I am aware David Miller has still to receive an apology for the offence he was caused.

1 comment:

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Rog, I saved the reply I posted to your Times blog (see below). I can confirm that the council have not apologised to me or offered an explanation as to why my request for the clip to be removed was refused.



I agree with you - I don’t think the council is anti-Semitic at all. Rather, this entirely avoidable incident was borne out of ignorance. The resident in the video clip was ignorant and the council officer who edited it and posted it on YouTube was ignorant.

In your example, you have substituted British for German and likened it to Nazi propaganda. But if the word “Jewish” had been changed to “black” the council officer would have known immediately that the clip was unsuitable for broadcast. Unfortunately, it seems a slur against Jewish people (even if that was not the intention of the resident) did not set any bells ringing, and that is a problem which needs to be addressed. Someone has left a message on my blog asking how this clip ever came to be posted - and that’s the key point.

Emer Coleman, the council’s Communications and Consultation Director, failed to ensure there was a proper vetting procedure in place and failed to take decisive action once a problem was reported to her. Unless she is prepared to publicly apologise for this significant error of judgement, she must go.