Catching up on some of the media coverage from whilst I was away, I’ve been reading the claims that some of the cash for peerages accusations being thrown at Labour’s fundraiser Lord Levy have been tinged by anti-Semitism.
Now – there’s a whole heap of evidence that there is something very rotten at the heart of Labour over money and peerages, so I approached this story with a fair degree of scepticism.
But there is one point that has struck me as valid – why do we keep on being told Lord Levy’s middle name? It’s Abraham – and so telling us his middle name in a news report emphasises, deliberately or not, that he’s Jewish.
By comparison, we don’t get told Ruth Turner’s middle name. Actually – strictly speaking this isn’t true, we do – because Ruth is her middle name. But her first name is Caitriona and – just as Abraham = likely to be Jewish, so Caitriona = likely to be Irish.
But whilst “Michael Abraham Levy” is a commonly used phrase, “Caitriona Ruth Turner” is only rarely used. (Try doing a Google search on the two – I just did and whilst “Michael Abraham Levy” gets 884 hits, “Caitriona Ruth Turner” gets just 5. Levy gets more coverage in general, so that explains some of the difference – but not the 884 to 5 margin).
The BBC website is a good example of this lopsided behaviour. Ruth Turner’s profile doesn’t tell us anything about her family background and doesn’t use Caitriona, whilst Lord Levy’s profile uses “Abraham” and “Jewish”. So – why does being Jewish matter to the BBC whilst being Irish doesn’t?
And it’s not just the BBC – Michael White in the Guardian uses Abraham too but Ruth Turner is just Ruth Turner.
All a bit rum. I’m very loathe to leap to the assumption that people in the BBC and elsewhere in the media are being deliberately anti-Semitic, and I’d like to think that even a charge of inadvertent anti-Semitism can be explained away, but I’m stumped for a decent explanation for the repeated use of “Abraham”.
To be fair to both Michael and the BBC, they’re by no means the only people I could have highlighted, but they’re the ones with examples most easy to find when sat at a computer with an internet connection. Perils of having big popular websites!
But anyway, I’ll email a copy of this blog posting off to Michael White and Mark Thompson at the BBC and let’s see what they say.