Two people from Nevada appeared in court yesterday on charges of plotting to abduct and murder policemen. They are members of the fringe group Sovereign Citizens, a movement of people who have an extreme, quasi-anarchic (in the old school sense), anti-government view. Apparently they were busted after an undercover operation exposed their plans. Nothing new or unusual, really, except that it’s a case of two extremist white people getting arrested for plotting anti-government violence in a week where the public has been overwhelmed with the news of young black men murdering white people (stories which have been used to hype up racial animosity and as a counterweight to the media’s Trayvon Martin Narrative) topped off with two different criminal convictions of military men who espoused political views shared by the Left-wing media. So this minor story must have come as a great relief to the newsroom and editors who are responsible for deciding what gets published every day, a welcome break in what must seem to them as a stream of unfortunate news giving credence to Right-wing views about racial violence, terrorism, and the dangers of the anti-war movement and heroic whistleblowing.
Naturally, the BBC feels it’s worth reporting. It was just a plot thwarted, noting actually happened, nobody even close to being harmed. But it’s newsworthy because of what they represent.
No bias on that score, of course, since the Washington Post, the HuffingtonPost, and CBS all felt it was newsworthy. That’s the lemming-journalism defense we often get: it’s okay for the BBC to report/not report it, because other media outlets are/aren’t. The bias lies in the report itself, as well as the blatant double standard in how they cover incidents of “domestic terrorism”.
First, the quality of reporting. The BBC cites the Southern Poverty Law Center as an authority on the Sovereign Citizens movement. They describe the SPLC as “a non-profit civil rights group”, full stop. Many people here will have seen some of us refer to a “Rule #1″ being in effect, and this is a classic example.
In this case, Rule #1 isn’t from the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolamaloo (although I think a BBC version could easily be made with one or two substitutions), but concerns how and when the BBC labels vox pops, guests, and think tanks or organizations they use in appeals to authority. The idea is that the BBC so rarely labels Left-wing, on-message groups or guests that, if they don’t label them, or call them “independent”, one knows which side they’re on. In contrast, those with opposing viewpoints are introduced with the health warning that they’re conservative, or take one side of an issue.
This isn’t just a Biased-BBC fever dream, either. The Center for Policy Studies recently published a report proving it, at least where think tanks and policy organizations are concerned. And here again is another example. The SPLC is independent only in that it isn’t officially owned or run by a political party. It’s hardly non-ideological, though, and the BBC’s use of “independent” is dishonestly meant to lead you to that conclusion. In fact, the SPLC has a long history as a Left-wing activist organization. It’s always been a civil rights and human rights advocacy organization (the “Southern Poverty” part should be a tip-off), more recently going on the attack against numerous non-Left organizations. For example, they labeled the Family Research Council a “hate group”, and featured it on a “hate map” (although they’re clever enough not to use Palin-esque crosshairs), which may have inspired an attempted murder. It’s a joke to present the SPLC as anything other than what it is. In other words, Rule #1 is in effect here, as usual. It doesn’t matter if they do the work of angels, or if you or I agree or disagree with their ideology. It’s a highly ideological organization with very clear political views and activities, and it’s simply wrong to hide that and mislead the reader.
In fact, this isn’t even the first time the BBC has used the SPLC as an authority to support an agenda. Jonny Dymond cited them in his dishonest story about how white supremacist groups have been on the rise since we elected a black President. Dymond presented the SPLC as an organization which tracks “hate groups and other groups on the far right”. In other words, not an impartial organization at all, but one dedicated to an agenda of attacking the Right. Much like some BBC journalists.
It would have been easy enough for the BBC to simply refer to the FBI, or even the Department of Homeland Security (surely not too partisan for the BBC), who have the same concerns about the Sovereign Citizens. Although maybe that would be a case of “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” about an anti-government group. Instead, the BBC went for an ideological fellow traveler, presenting it as an impartial judge.
This leads me to the biased double standard. A little over a year ago, the BBC published a news brief about the arrests of five young men in Ohio who were caught plotting to blow up a bridge. They, too, had known ties to a well-known organization, but for some reason, instead of reporting the connection and going into detail about it, the BBC decided to censor that key detail. I suspected at the time that the reason was that the organization in question was the Occupy movement. Laughably, the BBC managed to think of one possible motivation for the crime, which the FBI dismissed out of hand: the anniversary of Bin Laden’s death. The FBI dismissed that as a motivation because they knew what the BBC refused to tell you: they were Occupiers, and their motivation was to engage in some anti-government (or anti-establishment) ultra-violence. I say the BBC refused to tell you this because it’s impossible to claim that the BBC didn’t know, seeing as how the wire services from which the BBC gleaned this in the first place mentioned the Occupy connection. Outrageously, the BBC even quoted the FBI about ideology being motivation:
“The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views,” said Special Agent Stephen Anthony, of the FBI’s Cleveland division, in a statement.
Which ideological views? Occupy views. It was deliberate censorship, because the BBC was (and still would be if it came back) highly and rather openly supportive of the Occupy movement, and was loathe to draw such an unsavory connection. When it’s a Right-wing group like the Sovereign Citizens movement, though, the BBC has no problem mentioning the defendants’ connection to it and citing its ideology as the motivation behind their plot to commit violence.
A clear double standard, and one unquestionably caused by personal, ideological bias. I wonder if either Daniel Nasaw, the man in charge of deciding what stories get published in the US section of the BBC website, or any lurking professional journalists, will be able to give us any other explanation besides, “Please shut up, you don’t know how things work in a newsroom.” (I paraphrase slightly.)