Just as another (very late on parade) epilogue to David P.’s superb coverage of the American midterm elections, BBC Online‘s post-U.S. midterm election coverage featured some ‘analysis’ by Finlo Rohrer, one of the BBC’s Washington contingent. It makes for a largely downbeat reading for both Tea Party supporters and Republicans alike. In partial explanation of that I want to concentrate on the article’s use of ‘independent experts’, typical of the BBC.
Four academics are called on to access the Tea Party’s impact.
They are introduced like this:
“Prof Wendy Schiller, from Brown University.” (She is the chief analyst, and talks of the need for a good-looking, charismatic leader for the Tea Party. She predicts “conflict within the Republican Party.”)
“Jill Lepore, American historian, New Yorker writer and author of The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History.” (A quote from her predicting that the Tea Party could easily become hated is used as a block-quote. She also says the Tea Party movement is likely to be disappointed, however much they “loudly shoot down every measure”.)
“Kate Zernike, author of Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America.” (She says the Tea Party movement is “looking for pretty quick answers” and criticises their unwillingness to compromise.)
“Prof Jay Barth, of Hendrix College.” He comments on the Tea Party’s relationship with the Republican Party, seeing problems particularly for the latter.
Here’s what Finlo Rohrer of the BBC doesn’t tell his readers about his ‘independent experts’:
Prof Schiller, once of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute, was an assistant to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (Democrat) and Governor Mario Cuomo (Democrat).
Jill Lepore is deeply hostile to the Tea Party movement, regarding it as “far-right” – as the blurb from her university website reveals:
This book tells the story of the centuries-long struggle over the meaning of the nation’s founding, including the battle waged by the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and evangelical Christians to “take back America.” Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, offers a wry and bemused look at American history according to the far right. Along the way, she provides rare insight into the eighteenth-century struggle for independence–the real one, that is. Lepore traces the roots of the far right’s reactionary history to the bicentennial in the 1970s, when no one could agree on what story a divided nation should tell about its unruly beginnings. Behind the Tea Party’s Revolution, she argues, lies a nostalgic and even heartbreaking yearning for an imagined past–a time less troubled by ambiguity, strife, and uncertainty–a yearning for an America that never was. The Whites of Their Eyes reveals that the far right has embraced a narrative about America’s founding that is not only a fable but is also, finally, a variety of fundamentalism–anti-intellectual, antihistorical, and dangerously antipluralist.
Kate Zernike of the New York Times is a particular ‘favourite’ of this site’s American equivalent Newsbusters, who justifiably highlight “her obsession with rooting out alleged Tea Party racism”. She is one of the American journalists most hostile to the Tea Party. Finlo Rohrer would surely have known that.
As for Finlo’s final ‘independent expert’, Jay Barth “of Hendrix College”, all Finlo needed to do was pop Jay Barth into an internet service provider to find the first entry titled “Democrat Jay Barth for Senate 2010”. Defenders of the indefensible will surely find it hard to account for a BBC reporter failing to mention that his chosen academic wanted to run for Congress in THIS election for the Democrats (in Arkansas) and yet was his choice to be presented as if he were a non-partisan commentator on Tea Party-Republican Party relations.
So, four ‘experts’, all unfriendly to the Tea Party, as anyone with access to the internet could easily discover, and yet all invited to ‘analyse’ the Tea Party for a single BBC article – without any deeply relevant background information being provided.
Finlo Rohrer is clearly a worthy companion-in-bias for every-JournOLister’s friend Katie Connolly, Obama 2008 campaigner Matt Danzico, ex-Guardian Palin-mocker Daniel Nasaw, Iain MacKenzie and all the rest of the impartiality-adverse BBC Washington crew.