As an example of both the madness that has engulfed Britain and the BBC's role in disseminating it, the item on BBC Radio Four's Today programme (0810)this morning discussing whether or not people should be prosecuted for possessing jihadi material was a gem. In a case which has received disturbingly little press coverage today, four Bradford University students and a schoolboy have been convicted of possessing ‘articles for terrorism' — materials promoting jihad, such as terrorism manuals and videos showing beheadings or promoting suicide bombings, which they had downloaded from the internet. A representative of Chatham House, David Livingstone, who gave evidence for the defence during the trial, was seriously suggesting on Today that such individuals should not have been prosecuted, and that doing so might radicalise other young Muslims still further ‘through a perceived sense of injustice'. There was no evidence that they would have been drawn into terrorism, he said: they were merely five young men who had ‘some sort of unhappiness with the society in which they lived'.
This is not just craven and idiotic appeasement of extremism; it also tacitly suggests that the latent capacity for extremism within the Muslim community is widespread. The fact that many British Muslims are desperate for the authorities to shut off the sources of jihadi recruitment so that their own children don't get radicalised did not seem to occur to him — even though this particular prosecution was only triggered because the parents of one of those who has been convicted actually went to the police about his activities.
Fortunately, the terrorism expert Professor Anthony Glees was on hand to demolish Livingstone with a few devastating points. As Glees said, the analogy was with downloading child pornography; to say this wasn't connected with sexual offences against children would be absurd. The fact was, he said, that jihadi ideas were routinely being employed to brainwash young people on campus — and the university authorities and lecturers' union were scandalously refusing to take even the most elementary action to stop it.
Professor Glees has consistently attempted to point out the Islamist radicalisation on campus and tried (so far with little success) to get the university authorities to address it. However, it was quite clear from this item that the BBC was seeing this whole issue through the prism of David Livingstone. Despite the fact that Livingstone's position had been rejected by the jury in the trial in which he had given evidence for the defence, the BBC allowed him to make the case — to which Glees was brought in merely to provide a bit of balance. But it wasn't balanced at all. It wasn't just that the Today presenter bowled Livingstone soft questions (‘Absolutely right' he replied to one such sally). His remarks were preceded by an interview with one of the defendants in the case whose many questionable assertions were not properly challenged; and after Glees had responded to Livingstone, the Chatham House man was allowed in turn to respond to Glees's response, thus having the last word.
Thank heavens for a sensible British jury, which at least had its head screwed on — unlike Chatham House and the BBC.