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Penguin orders independent review of book over antisemitism claims – The Guardian

Julia Neuberger to analyse Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, which includes passages about the Rothschild family




‘Clearly expresses robust opinions’ … Pedro Baños

Penguin Random House[2] has asked Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger[3] to independently review one of its books, Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, after allegations of antisemitism made against the author continue to grow.

Concerns had been raised over imprint Ebury’s decision to cut 30,000 words from the English-language edition of the Spanish book, including passages about the Rothschild family, a banking dynasty often subject to antisemitic conspiracy theories. Baños, a colonel in the Spanish army, had also called the Rothschilds “dominant” and has compared them to the Illuminati in interviews. The cover of both the English and Spanish editions also features octopus tentacles – imagery long associated with antisemitism.

Ebury said last week that it had [4]undertaken a thorough review[5] into the book and concluded that while the author “clearly expresses robust opinions”, they had found no evidence of antisemitism. But on Friday, Ebury asked Neuberger to conduct an external review of both the English language and a translation of the Spanish edition of the book, along with any other aspects that she feels are relevant to making an overall assessment. Neuberger – author of Antisemitism: What It Is. What It Isn’t. Why It Matters – was also asked by the publisher to consult with a small number of other independent experts.

Neuberger, who has not finished her review, told Radio 4 on Monday that the UK edition of the book was definitely not antisemitic and said it was unfair to describe the tentacle imagery as antisemitic, saying it had been used to denote people controlling other people since the 19th century.

Looking at the 30,000 words cut from the Spanish edition, she said Baños’ writing “betray[s] a sort of fascination” with the Rothschilds, “that they’re very powerful and very rich and sort of secretive”.

She told the Today programme: “It’s not antisemitic in itself, but it hints at stuff about the Jewish conspiracies: powerful, half-hidden, secretive groups mainly of Jewish men bankers. That all goes back to something called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a fake – it was proved to be a fake actually in London in 1921 – but nevertheless it keeps reappearing..

“I think what would push it over the line is if he’s known to have made lots of allusions, if you like, to some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Because that is antisemitism. I think where people allege that there is a Jewish conspiracy to control the world or control banking or whatever it is, that is antisemitism … because it evokes the stuff about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and we know that that itself is pretty nasty.”

She said there were some questions to be asked about the edits that were made, and that Baños’s past needed to be looked at more closely.

Penguin Random House[6] chief executive Tom Weldon said the external review was “an unusual step, which is a mark of how seriously we view the complaints made and the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved”.

He added: “We will give full consideration to the review and any conclusions and recommendations it makes within the context of our long-held commitment to publish responsibly across a spectrum of opinion and a diversity of voices.”

References

  1. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ Penguin Random House (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ last week that it had (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ undertaken a thorough review (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ Penguin Random House (www.theguardian.com)
  7. ^ Publishing (www.theguardian.com)
  8. ^ Spain (www.theguardian.com)
  9. ^ Antisemitism (www.theguardian.com)
  10. ^ Penguin Random House (www.theguardian.com)
  11. ^ news (www.theguardian.com)
  12. ^ (www.facebook.com)
  13. ^ (twitter.com)
  14. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  15. ^ (www.linkedin.com)
  16. ^ (www.pinterest.com)
  17. ^ (send)
  18. ^ (share)
  19. ^ (syndication.theguardian.com)

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Top Gear review – gentler, kinder and all the better for it – The Guardian


4 /
5 stars

4 out of 5 stars.

With Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness joining Chris Harris, the banter is barbed but good-natured, the gags less non-PC – and imagine Clarkson and co doing an episode on electric cars?




Happy motoring … Paddy McGuinness, Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris.
Photograph: Lee Brimble/BBC Studios

Remind me: where had we got to with Top Gear? Ever since Jeremy Clarkson got sacked for punching that producer – amazingly, more than four years ago – the BBC has struggled to replace, or revive, or reboot the formula that made the show such a storming success. There was the new model with Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans[3] that didn’t really work. Then they tried a cut-and-shut version – without Evans, but with LeBlanc – but that didn’t really work either[4].

The latest incarnation on BBC Two retains Evans’s replacement, motoring journalist Chris Harris, and partners him with – wait for it – Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness, the former England cricket captain and the erstwhile host of history’s most execrable game show, Take Me Out[5]. It seems that the producers of Top Gear had developed a casting strategy based on that parlour game where you pull the names of celebrities out of a hat, and everyone keeps saying: “Sorry, I have no idea who this person is.”

But you know what? Against all the odds, it works[6]. It gives me no particular pleasure to suggest that some of the original magic of Top Gear has been rekindled by this unlikely trio, but, miraculously, it has. The larky, bad-tempered chemistry that existed between Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond has been replicated in a slightly sunnier form, and with a fresh energy. The old format has life in it yet.

The first thing you notice is how young they all look. I mean relatively – they are all in their 40s – but compared with the grumpy, fed-up trio that took their act to Amazon and launched The Grand Tour[7], Harris, Flintoff and McGuinness look like a bold experiment in youth outreach. And to have not one but two northern presenters seems, in the context of Top Gear, like a stab at diversity. “I genuinely cannot understand a single word you two are saying,” says Harris at the outset.

For this series – the 27th – most of the gimmicky short segments have been dispensed with. The Stig is mentioned in passing, but does not appear. There are no celebrity guests. The main event is a junket to Ethiopia, with each presenter driving an approximation of the first car they ever owned: a Ford Escort, a Mini and, for Flintoff, a Porsche Boxster (he was a professional cricketer, after all).

The vehicles disintegrate in the manner we have all come to expect. Tempers fray a little in the heat, and the trio take part in some deeply stupid challenges (one of them involves driving while blindfolded), with a chunky knit jumper being awarded to the loser. McGuinness and Flintoff seize every opportunity to remind Harris that he is short. It is as undemanding as ever, although, for a brief moment when Harris demonstrates how to change a tyre without using a jack, I think I might be on the verge of learning something.

This new incarnation is, if not exactly politically correct, at least not as aggressively un-PC as it was in the Clarkson days, when every segment seemed to be staged in defiance of the imagined objections of a muesli-eating, Guardian-reading, bicycle-riding straw man. The beauty of Ethiopia is frequently extolled, whereas before it might have served as a backdrop for a borderline racist prank. As if to assert how far the series has moved on, next week’s episode is devoted to electric cars. Try to imagine that happening under the Clarkson-Hammond-May axis. They would have probably just set fire to them, to the cheers of the studio audience.

In that old line-up, the banter between the presenters could often feel more like workplace bullying. There was a period when it seemed that Clarkson and May were actively trying to murder Hammond – and there was a brief window when they might have got away with it. In contrast, the insults traded by McGuinness, Flintoff and Harris are barbed, but good-natured. The chemistry between them may be a fabrication, but it is chemistry nonetheless. What they share with Clarkson and his mates is a reliable comic timing. McGuinness may be the only one with “comedian” on his CV, but it is Harris who holds it all together. He has a wonderful deadpan stare, which makes him look angry and hurt at the same time.

Top Gear’s great success lay in its appeal to viewers who didn’t care about cars. It was crowdpleasing fare; it went nowhere, fast. On this showing, it’s not going anywhere soon.

References

  1. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ but that didn’t really work either (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ Take Me Out (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ Against all the odds, it works (www.theguardian.com)
  7. ^ The Grand Tour (www.theguardian.com)
  8. ^ Top Gear (www.theguardian.com)
  9. ^ TV review (www.theguardian.com)
  10. ^ Factual TV (www.theguardian.com)
  11. ^ Television (www.theguardian.com)
  12. ^ reviews (www.theguardian.com)
  13. ^ (www.facebook.com)
  14. ^ (twitter.com)
  15. ^ (www.theguardian.com)
  16. ^ (www.linkedin.com)
  17. ^ (www.pinterest.com)
  18. ^ (send)
  19. ^ (share)
  20. ^ (syndication.theguardian.com)