Twitter has been ablaze with accusations that the BBC’s current affairs program intentionally photoshopped an image of Corbyn to give viewers the impression that he is somehow a traitor to Britain and an agent of Russia.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) 19 March 2018
The image — which showed Corbyn wearing a Lenin-style hat imposed on a backdrop of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow with a red filter applied — appeared during a discussion between Labour Party MP Harriet Harman and former Labour leader Ed Miliband about escalating tensions with Russia.
On his LBC radio show, the former Scottish first minister asked Sweeney “if the BBC did or did not photoshop the Jeremy Corbyn image?” — but before even answering the question, Sweeney immediately changed the subject to Salmond’s relationship with RT, which broadcasts The Alex Salmond Show.
Last night, BBC photoshopped a photograph of Jeremy Corbyn onto a red background, adjacent to the Kremlin, Moscow, and altered his hat to match communist style headwear. They ran that as their background to BBC Newsnight discussion on the Salisbury Attack. pic.twitter.com/UOIbxf6rBp
— Tory Fibs (@ToryFibs) 16 March 2018
When Sweeney finally answered the question, denying that the hat had been photoshopped, Salmon shot back: “I’m looking at this image, there’s no doubt that in the picture of Jeremy Corbyn of a perfectly respectable hat on with a peak, seems to have been transformed into red picture of Jeremy Corbyn against the Kremlin and the peak of the hat seems to have disappeared.”
Sweeney responded by calling Salmond “silly” before changing the subject once again. Salmond then asked why the BBC had put a red filter over the picture, which they had not done when they showed Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson in front of the same background. Sweeney laughed but did not answer.
That Newsnight hat thing… proof that Twitter is no place for nuance.
Few things to discuss here. Same backdrop was used for Corbyn and Williamson – yep, fine.
Was the same filter applied to the image of Williamson? Seemingly No.
So why exactly was it applied to Corbyn?
— Richard Beech (@BeechardRich) 17 March 2018
Salmond continued to push Sweeney: “You can not come on as a serious journalist and say that picture, a perfectly innocent picture of Jeremy Corbyn, of an innocent looking hat has suddenly been transformed with a red background against the Kremlin and the hat seems to have been changed to make it look like a Cossack!”
Each time Salmond pushed Sweeney to explain why the BBC presented Corbyn as a “Kremlin stooge,” Sweeney changed the subject to discuss unrelated topics like the treatment of opposition figures in Russia and the recent Russian presidential election.
The @BBC might not have photoshoped the hat.
But they certainly decided to alter the image to make #Corbyn look part of the Russian background & intentionally chose a photo of him in a hat, rather than the 1000s in a suit. #Marr#Peston#BBCsp#Russia#Salisburypic.twitter.com/dudukZoLY2
— British Gov Watch (@BritishGovWatch) 18 March 2018
Corbyn has been criticized, even by members of his own party, for refusing to blame Moscow for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
“To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security,” Corbyn wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian.
Sweeney continued to deny that the BBC treated Corbyn disrespectfully and was uninterested in Salmond’s suggestion that the channel should apologize to Corbyn, again shifting the focus to RT and away from accusations levelled at the BBC. “I’m not going to say sorry to anyone who works for Russia Today,” he said.
Do I think the hat has been photoshopped? Probably not…that being said, the choice of photo (why pick that one) coupled with the red backdrop, definitely is trying to pander to some sort of idea that Corbyn is a Russia sympathiser. The #newsnight team knew what they were doing
— •lina• (@agirlcalledlina) 17 March 2018
Some Twitter users have suggested that while the BBC may have only darkened the hat and not photoshopped it entirely, the intention was still to paint Corbyn as a Russia-sympathizer and Communist.
I didn’t realise that Corbyn had a history of far-left leanings, or geopolitical stances often at odds with the British mainstream, until Newsnight ran a picture of him in that hat.
— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) 18 March 2018
We need to talk about how the BBC World Service is describing Jeremy Corbyn to 75 million overseas listeners
The BBC World Service transmits news and views from Britain across the world. But in a segment ‘educating’ overseas listeners on domestic politics, the service described Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as ‘pro-Russian’.
The BBC has faced widespread condemnation for its treatment of Corbyn, particularly since the Salisbury poison attacks. BBC Newsnight even went so far as to portray the Labour leader with a red hue, against a Kremlin backdrop. The show once depicted Corbyn as a supporter of Donald Trump, despite the men being at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
People are rightly alarmed by BBC #newsnight this week. You should know that former Editor Ian Katz who started the photo shopped hats & was anti Corbyn for his time there, is now Director of Programmes on Channel 4. pic.twitter.com/aTW2E05aXL
— Dylan Strain (@DylanStrain) March 18, 2018
But while Newsnight is a flagship political programme at home, the BBC World Service (English) reaches 75 million people around the world. During an episode of Weekend, BBC World Service UK political correspondent Rob Watson gave this explanation for criticism of Corbyn over the Salisbury poisonings:
To try and get this in some kind of context for people listening… Let me say something about post-Second World War politics of the European left.
After a short apology for “being a bit crude” in his approach, Watson continued that, since the Second World War:
The Western European left has essentially been divided. There are those who are sort of, basically, they were socialists but very pro-Western, pro-markets really, pro-American, pro-NATO.
And another part of the European left was not only left in its economic outlook, but was actually very anti-Western, anti-NATO, pro-Soviet Union. And Jeremy Corbyn is in that camp, in the latter camp, and essentially, what some members of his opposition… Labour Party are saying is ‘For goodness’ sake Jeremy, you’re in the wrong camp, mate!’
The #BBCbias against Jeremy Corbyn is escalating beyond belief. The BBC World Service UK politics reporter describes him as in the “pro Soviet Union” camp. YOUR licence fee money is paying for what according to the former BBC Chairman are “quite extraordinary attacks” on Corbyn. pic.twitter.com/CyqoKgzwbS
— Devutopia (@D_Raval) March 17, 2018
Watson doesn’t just oversimplify the issue here, he butchers it. His description of the UK left as pro-Soviet versus pro-West factions is simply not true.
The UK left is diverse. It includes a wide spectrum of ideas which (in broad strokes) challenge neoliberal capitalism, while promoting peace, cooperation, human rights and social liberalism. Russia hasn’t been a factor for much of the left since the 1980s, and is certainly not central to Corbynism.
The pro-market, pro-US, pro-NATO camp to which Watson refers is actually a tiny but vocal cluster of Labour-right MPs and centrist pundits. These groups might describe themselves as ‘centre-left’ or ‘moderates’, but actually occupy the political space of classic or neoliberalism. They are broadly pro-welfare state, and (on the whole) socially liberal. But they also tend to support the privatisation and marketisation of public assets and services. Those on the left argue these methods have negative, long-term impacts that undermine the welfare state and liberal values.
Centrists are often hawks when it comes to foreign military interventions (otherwise known as wars). Their catastrophic misadventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and beyond did not temper these impulses. This can be demonstrated perfectly by one arch-centrist: David Aaronovitch. BBC and Guardian pundit Aaronovitch was a vocal supporter of the Iraq invasion, but was unnerved when weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) failed to materialise in the aftermath. In April 2003, he wrote a column entitled “Those weapons had better be there…”, in which he stated:
If nothing is eventually found, I – as a supporter of the war – will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere.
Of course, there were no weapons. Was this a transformative experience for Aaronovitch? Nope.
Flash forward 15 years, and its dejá vù time. Again, Corbyn is the genuinely moderate voice calling for an evidence-based approach before we jump to costly false conclusions. And again, Aaronovitch is in full attack mode.
Just to be clear, the Corbyn call for evidence re Russia is a smokescreen, just as was Ed Miliband’s for proof of Syrian use of WMD in 2013. The truth is that he and his closest advisor consider the US to be the greater threat, and always have.
— David Aaronovitch (@DAaronovitch) March 14, 2018