A long week in Loch Wobegon

This is a guest post by AKUS

There’s a well-known radio show in the US  featuring Garrison Keillor called “A Prairie Home Companion” that has a weekly roundup of generally depressing news from a little town called Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” There were a few things happening in a couple of our favorite British media sources that for some reason made me think of Lake Wobegon – the home of some of the “frozen people”, as Garrison likes to call his fellow Lutherans.

The Guardian, a paper at Loch Wobegan known familiarly as the Daily Groan for its rich helpings of Lutheran-like misery-guts reporting, where it often seems to me that none of its women (or men) are good-looking, even if they are strong, and certainly many of its columnists are not above average, had one of its faux-pas moments when it printed a report by the Press Association on a fascinating study of the attitudes of British Jews towards Israel just released by the British research group, JPR . (Yes – that JPR – the one Antony Lerman spends so much of his time attacking after he left). The study included the responses from 4081 self-selecting Jews out of a population of, say 300,000, a number which provides a margin of error of only 1.5%.

To put the rigor of the JPR study in context, many polls carried out in the US regarding important issues such as, say, the President’s popularity or Lindsey Lohan’s jail time will include less than 1,500 responses and have a margin of error of 3%. The JPR survey is far more rigorous than the incredibly cooked and utterly unrepresentative effort put together in the US by JStreet which has been so widely circulated. It was puffed up by the Guardian – e.g., this article by none other than Antony Lerman. CiF Watch noted a poll the Guardian ran “under a picture of a torn and tattered Israeli flag” about JStreet at Enforcing the GWV: the Guardian J Street Poll . That JStreet study had 800 respondents representing a population of 3 million US Jews. The small sample size, unlike the large British sample size, did not permit a really good breakdown by various Jewish subgroups, and on two of the most critical questions about the I/P issues only 354 responses were collected. The margin of error is at least 5%, very significant when so many responses on critical issues involving Israel in that study hovered around the 50% mark.

Returning to the Daily Groan and the small piece on the JPR report (that it) titled British Jews favour ‘two-state solution’ in Israel . To cut a 43 page report short, the JPR study shows what can only be described as overwhelming though not uncritical support for Israel on the part in UK Jews. This may be why the Guardian tucked it away under “World News” rather than on CiF, even though for whatever reason it decided to mention the study. In contrast,  when the JStreet study came out in 2009 they even hitched the self-confessed mathematically incompetent Richard Silverman to their CiF wagon, printing one of his horrible pieces on CiF bragging incorrectly about the results to support the anti-Israeli bias of JStreet (in my pre-banning days I tore it apart and my footprints are still visible in the thread).

Well , every article dealing with Israel on the Groan’s web-site deserves a misleading photograph to go with it, so this picture showing what the Daily Groan’s editors think British Jews look like appeared:

Orthodox Jewish men in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv. The survey found British Jews have a strong affinity for Israel, with 90% having been there. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

(This was from the recent protest about digging up a cemetery in Jaffa, I suspect).

Obviously the reference to “a strong affinity for Israel” was a blow to the GWV and I pity the poor soul who naively posted it – s/he is probably on mailroom duty for the duration, or condemned to bring booze to BellaM while she marinates – that is, “moderates”.

At some point, someone at the Daily Groan must have noticed that this was actually an article more about British Jews than Orthodox Israelis, so they had to dig up a picture of a REALLY TYPICAL British Jew to replace it, and they added a more politically correct summary of the report by way of a caption:

An Orthodox Jew walking through a London market. Research shows 77% of British Jews favour a 'two-state solution' in Israel. Photograph: Victor de Schwanberg/Alamy

So that’s what British Jews look like. Or perhaps it’s just what the editors of the Daily Groan think British Jews look like. They could instead have used this picture, which is apparently what the Loch Wobegon opposition paper, the Jewish Chronicle, thinks a British Jew SHOULD look like:

Uncovered: Philosemite stripper Benedict Garrett

(OK – I know he’s not REALLY Jewish but don’t we wish he was? And it wouldn’t hurt if Antony Lerman would take some lessons from this porn star who teaches classes on the love for Zion, a topic about which Ben – may I call him that? – it’s so much more …  Jewish – gets really passionate).

Well, if the unmasking of  Jewish identities in Britain was not enough from the Daily Groan for one week, Robin Shepherd had an excellent column making fun of the Groan’s ridiculous editorial about the decision in France to ban the burka: French niqab ban: Beneath the veil. The Groan’s header for its editorial suddenly reminded me of the BBC’s latest slip-up, which revealed what indeed lies beneath the veil, and why some at the BBC might think burka-wearing is a necessity rather than a religious obligation (even though it is not actually a religious obligation).

The BBC ran a piece headed French MPs vote to ban Islamic full veil in public which now carries the relatively innocuous image of a Euro-burka-wearing fashionista  who also wears sunglasses holding up her closed passport in her gloved hand so that we can clearly identify her (the picture inside is obviously not going to be useful for that purpose so why open the passport?):

The bill envisages fines of 150 euros for women wearing the full veil

However, curious as that is when you stop and think about the difficulty of trying to identify a burka-wearer from her passport picture, the original picture that accompanied that article and revealed the full horror of “what lies beneath the veil” (and I am not making this up) was this one:

Yes, it’s been a long week in Loch Wobegan, where all the editors are biased and the photo staff are below average.

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