I came across this while looking for some Mardell quotes for a recent post, and saved it until after I’d had a long look at it and taken time to absorb it all. It’s an hour-long discussion with Mark Mardell and BBC Washington editor Simon Wilson about US politics and how the BBC is going to cover the looming (13 months away) second-most important election in human history.
Parts of it give a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the vast, multi-tentacled creature that is the BBC, as well as glimpses of how any large media organization operates. There’s talk of funding, use and distribution of resources, personnel, and reporting angles. On that score alone it’s worth watching. I’m going to post the video first, and my comments and analysis will be below the fold.
We learn that Mardell claims that he needs to ask not only what has gone wrong with the US economy, but why. He says he needs to ask not only if the Republicans hurt it but if actually the President’s policies might have harmed the recovery. He hasn’t done it yet, even after more than two years, and I don’t expect him to do it now. Still, he pretends that’s what he’s doing, and it’s nice to hear him acknowledge that it’s at least a valid question to ask.
Mardell states (@5:51)that the big story of the US economy is easy to “sell” to (meaning, I hope, gain the interest of)the British public because “it has such huge resonance here.” The President, he says, “is the last Keynesian standing. He’s still someone saying, the stimulus can work, that’s the way to get the economy going.” Mardell was encouraged, he explains, that after a recent blog post about the President’s latest Jobs Plan For Us, there were a bunch of Left-wing Brits commenting on his blog that this was great, the way to go, this is what Cameron should be doing, etc. This told Mardell that there was “a resonance” in Britain with the President’s policies. We’re seeing here clear proof that Mardell – and, as we’ll soon learn, the BBC – feels that he (and they) reflect the general thoughts and feelings of the British public. This supports Jeff Randall’s quote about how they think they are on the middle ground. And there’s much, much more of this kind of thing to come.
The first Republican candidate Mardell mentions by name is Huntsman. You may well ask who the hell that is, as he’s never gotten more than a couple percent of any vote or poll anywhere, and is on no one’s radar except far-Left foreigners and discussions inside the Beltway bubble. Mardell will return to Huntsman again, and we’ll learn later why that is.
When Mardell goes through the candidates, I was willing – at first – to cut him some slack over how he leaves Herman Cain for last, as this was done a month ago and Cain had yet to achieve the prominence he has now. But notice how Mardell again dismisses the “pizza millionaire”. (Millionaire: Boo!) I’ll get to why I won’t cut him slack for putting Cain at the bottom later on. When he gets to Huntsman again, he says that candidate is the favorite of Democrats, and I’ll leave it others to infer an attitude behind his facial expression and the way he says it, as well as the audience reaction.
13:30 Mardell says that the country is changing, and while he can’t say specifically what the President has done to affect that change, the country “is changing in His image”. To support this he points to the fact that there are now two Governors of Indian descent in…ahem…formerly racist Southern states. He doesn’t mention that both Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal are Republicans, because that would detract from the notion that The Obamessiah has redeemed us to some degree. Of course, he totally contradicts that notion later on, but we’ll get to that in due course.
Then he says “on the other hand”, black poverty is the worst it’s been in almost thirty years. We saw this same blinkered attitude come out in his two recent blog posts where he visited struggling black people in Chicago. Because He is black, somehow economic policies will be aimed specifically at helping black people. Only a naive person who has a poor grasp of government and economics on a national scale will think that a black President can have a specific, immediate affect on the economic situation of millions of black people across the country. It makes no sense, but that was part of the Hope and Change Mardell expected. His last blog post shows that he does know better than that, but his and the BBC’s obsession with race and racial politics keeps driving him back to silly ideas. And hey: wasn’t He supposed to usher in a post-racial era? Emotion is getting the better of reason with Mardell here.
Maybe His policies have been crap? Nah.
In any case, Mardell concludes this section by laying out what he thinks are the main questions or points he and the Beeboids covering the US should be bringing up:
1. What has the President done to put Himself in this position?
2. Big up the resonances with the British audience (assuming, that is, the British public thinks like Beeboids do on issues such as taxation and stimulus)
3. What are the wider implications for America?
Ask yourselves how Mardell and the BBC have done so far on these. From what I can tell, the answer to the first question is “Nothing! Never!” The other two go some way towards explaining the BBC editors’ choice of stories and angles. And I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with the second two as general guidelines. Also, be sure to keep these, especially the first one, in mind over the next year of noise.
The floor is then handed over to Wilson, who goes into the more pragmatic aspects of newsgathering and coverage. I found this part rather interesting, and license-fee payers might also be interested to know how their money is being spent, and just why the BBC reports what it does.
We soon learn from Wilson that there has been a “huge investment” in the BBC’s online coverage of the US. That will be clear to anyone having a look recently, just from all those lightweight, magazine-style pieces about parks and some woman giving birth just after running a marathon. Well worth the money, I’m sure. By now they will have 11 full-time staff doing online reporting or those “digital media” magazine-style pieces they teach in courses in those feeder schools. And that doesn’t even include the usual Washington staff like Kim Ghattas and Katty Kay, or Laura Trevalyan in New York, or the number of on-air talent traipsing around the country, like Steve Kingston and Jonny Dymond. I think we’ve all noticed for a while now that the BBC has ramped up their US coverage.
Much later in the video, Wilson explains how these new hires “put great value” back into the news by providing real stories, etc. You can all judge for yourselves how much value for your money there is in these magazine-style fluff pieces. He says it’s partially driven by “commercial” concerns, which is, I think, a hint of the new international subscription scheme they’ve come up with. He does say that some of the new commercial money will go towards paying for cameramen and extra crew to follow the radio guys around.
At one point later on, they discuss how social media will play an important role. No, it isn’t what you think. Part of it is actually a fairly reasonable, if brief, discussion about how there will be debate events and whatnot driven by Twitter, and so that will be an important platform. But there’s more, which I’ll come to soon enough.
@ 25:00 I just want to add some info to Mardell’s remarks about why it’s not so exciting to get that sit-down interview with the President. He says that it’s because the message won’t be much different from what you already get from the members of the Administration because, unlike in British Governments, there isn’t really much policy conflict or different Cabinet members briefing against each other etc. This is true, but he only half way explains why this is. Obviously in the US the Cabinet and all people holding the various key positions in an Administration are not sitting politicians, aren’t vying for leadership, and aren’t fighting to get promoted to a better Cabinet position. It makes a big difference in so many ways, functionally and in message management.
@28:00 question from another Beeboid about the Republican candidate nobody except Mardell has ever cared about or thought had a chance: John Huntsman. His name comes up yet again, this time because he’s the only one fretting about Climate Change. Check out how Mardell answers, and the audience reaction. No further proof is needed of the BBC’s inner thinking on this issue. The discussion expands to the “anti-science party”, etc. Judge for yourselves, of course. But I wonder how many of these “pro-science” Beeboids believe in homeopathy or astrology?
It’s obvious that Mardell likes Huntsman, and he even says that nobody likes Huntsman except the Democrats, and that he’d fit right in with the British Conservative Party. I know, I know, let’s not get started on how the Conservative Party should be held in violation of the Trades Description Act. Just more insight into the Beeboid mindset. But this is why I won’t cut him slack on ignoring Cain earlier, and in his reporting. Even a month ago nobody outside his bubble thought Huntsman was going anywhere, whereas lots of people were already starting to take Cain seriously.
32:00 In response to a question/statement about how all this focus on the election leaves less room for the more interesting bigger picture of what the US is about, Mardell says he’s always wanting to “tell a greater American story”. He claims that’s what he always tries to do. Which is pretty funny considering how I’ve been saying that he should be called the US President editor precisely because that’s not what he does at all.
Then he says one of the voices he wants to look into is the “wealthy African American community”, specifically where the President comes from. We know now that he went out and did that, resulting in his recent blog post I discussed here. I bet he didn’t get what he expected there at all.
33:45 Mardell reveals that former BBC World News America executive producer Rome Hartman wanted to “ban all stories about guns and ban all stories about poor black Americans”. Which just tells me what lay behind the crap which led me to call it BBC World Propaganda America.
But then he says this: “You can’t censor bits of a country, you know, because it doesn’t fit the image you would like.” Oh, really now?
35:00 Mardell says that Jonny Dymond has done “some fantastic stuff”.
36:45 Mardell says that Twitter “doesn’t follow BBC guidelines.” He’s referring to accuracy, and not revealing personal biases all over the place, but it’s nice to hear them admit it nevertheless.
37:15 As part of his explanation of his feeling about how important Twitter can be as a source of mood, Mardell references the Tucson shooting (of Rep. Giffords and several other victims). He says when that happened, “the idea came out from Twitter that this was a bigger story about America;it says something about the tone of our politics. I mean, that came from Twitter, and it was absolutely right. Now, whether it created that because people like me reacted, and thought, ‘Well, that’s a good point.'”
We knew at the time, and it’s known now, that this simply wasn’t true. The murderer was mentally ill, with more political influences from the Left than from the Right. But the media – including Mardell and the BBC – used it to whip up anger against the Right, blaming Sarah Palin as an accessory to murder, etc. Mardell even used this lie to promote the idea that the President was healing the country. It was a disgrace then, and it’s a disgrace now that Mardell still apparently doesn’t realize what he’s done, or that he helped promote a lie.
40:00 Mardell agrees with a question about doing public figure profiles and how he wants to widen the focus to say something about “a wider sense of America”. You mean like how we’re racists or anti-science or want justice at the point of a gun?
41:20 Wilson explains how some beats are more important than others, and how he’s spent his career in places which are “stand-by” stories. On a slow news day, he says, the BBC News producers will want to “just shove an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in, because people always that.” That’s not anti-Israel bias in and of itself, of course, and it’s a no-brainer that throwing red meat out will rouse the dogs and get an audience reaction. But how sad that they see it as titillation in this way. He does go on to explain how it’s just part of the news cycle, outlets need to put something out, etc., so I guess that’s just the jaded journo talking there, and won’t try to read any more into it.
43:15 A female Beeboid brings up Huntsman yet again (he’s gotten more mentions inside this BBC bubble during the last 45 minutes than in the entire US media over the last six months). “How much further to the Right has American politics shifted? Superficially, it would seem much further to the Right. Has the center ground moved far to the right of what we would consider the center here?”
When did we really shift to the Left, exactly? Justin Webb’s book about the “strange death of Social Conservatism” in the US aside, that is. Yes, we elected a Democrat, but that had a whole lot to do with white guilt and the self-congratulatory outcome of electing a black man, not to mention a general backlash from the middle against the policy failures of Bush’s second term, and the entire media (except Fox News and a couple of radio talking heads, sure) being in the tank for The Obamessiah, especially the agenda-setting New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the MTV/Comedy Central crowd. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t exactly a landslide victory, despite the swooning of the Beeboids, the way the electoral counts look, and the number of celebrities crying on camera. It was 52% to 46% of the popular vote. Decisive, yes. A sign that the country had moved so far to the Left that today we’re “much further to the Right”, no. Mardell, naturally, thinks the woman’s observation is correct.
The Tea Party movement started less than a month after the inauguration. That has to be the fastest cultural shift in history, right? And remember that the Beeboids said at first that the whole thing was just sour grapes from whites who wouldn’t have voted for Him anyway. Recall that Wilson was just a few minutes ago talking about how Presidential candidates must find the center ground to win elections. So why isn’t the woman asking if the President had shifted too far to the Left, and the country was moving away from that, which is by default to the Right, but not necessarily so far to the right of center? Because He’s in the correct place, of course, and anyone not agreeing must be wrong. Again, very revealing of the Beeboid mindset and ideological ground.
To prove his point that the country really has shifted to the Right, Mardell says that politicians and operatives who’ve been in the business for 30 years say that it’s nothing like the old days, when they could just have a drink with the opposition. If one isn’t lost in the mist of bias, one might say that it could also be due to the number of “to hell with business as usual” types who have come in, and the influence of the Tea Party movement being fed up with Corporate Welfare, Corporate Cronyism, Big-Government spending (all of which flourished under Bush, let’s be clear). Funny how when the Occupy Wall Street darlings say the same thing, they’re somehow not much further to the Left than these Beeboids. We can see the perspective here, see the prism through which they view everything. The US is much further to the Right on Social issues than Britain, as if the 60s never happened, says Mardell. Particularly homosexuality. I wonder if this isn’t just another example of the Beeboids assuming their own viewpoints reflect that of the country.
This reveals the difficulty as well as the madness of defining the US in British terms. It also shows that they really do look down on us from on high, and from the Left. Wilson follows this up by saying that “the divisiveness is just almost impossible to, kind of, quantify.” He says it’s worse than the Middle East, because Israel and Hamas sit down and talk sometimes. Yes, that’s right. Notice how none of this is blamed on their beloved Obamessiah. No mention of President “I won”, no mention of “don’t call my bluff”, no blame even remotely directed His way. Eventually Wilson wonders if there might be a bit of blame laid on the Democrats’ doorstep. He recalls that the Dems were vicious about Bush, so maybe there’s a smidgeon of that left, eh? How generous and impartial of you, Simon. You mean there might be someone else to blame? Unbelievable bias on display here.
50:19 After Mardell discusses how probably the best angle for the Republicans to take would be to push the line that the President may be a nice guy, very intellectual, etc., He’s just not up to the job, a female Beeboid asks how much of that is felt in the US, and that “I do think that’s the mood here, actually.” Wow. That’s the first time I’ve heard that coming out the mouth of a Beeboid. Mardell replies that he thinks it’s “pretty widespread”, then relates the story of a black Virginia businessman he met who said that in the real world the President would be out of a job for failing to produce.
I have to admit that I’m stunned by this. Not that Mardell is aware that people think the President is inept (he brings it up every once in a while), but that he understands that there’s at least a grain of truth to it and doesn’t place blame everywhere else. This is so absent from his reporting it’s not even funny. Sometimes we’ve seen him express disappointment when a speech doesn’t inspire him enough, or lay out the policy attacks he thinks would work, but no way has his overall reporting given anyone the idea that the idea that the President is inept is widespread, at least without qualifying it somehow by saying those people are ideologically opposed to Him or racist or something.
The next question is about how much religion will play in the election. Mardell again reveals that the BBC’s general anti-religion bias accurately reflects the views of the British public. Believing in God isn’t normal in Britain, he says. I guess Songs of Praise just panders to the tiniest of minorities? The Church of England is just something they put on the tin? I hope no Muslims hear about this.
Michelle Bachmann’s chances hadn’t yet tanked when this was made, so I won’t blame him for going on about her here. I will, however, complain that he’s unfairly suggesting that she might still want the death penalty enforced for adultery and blasphemy. This simply isn’t credible. Nobody is going to get elected on that platform, and this isn’t a banana republic where the President can start hanging people on a whim. She can believe whatever she wants, and it’s simply impossible that as President she could even make the tiniest headway towards convincing Congress to pass some kind of of insane law like that. Yet Mardell is concerned. Does he really still have no idea how US Government works, or is his visceral hatred for religious belief causing him to have ridiculous fears?
As part of this discussion on the influence of religion, Mardell says that he thinks the Tea Party “got it right – or that the think tanks behind the Tea Party in Washington”. Wrong. There was and is no think tank behind the movement. It was going strong for two months at least before anyone tried to form a national organization or think tanks or activist groups started jumping on the bandwagon. Even after two and half years, they still don’t get it. There’s a difference between groups trying to have influence, lending support, or jumping on the bandwagon and being “behind” the movement. In one sentence, Mardell has demonstrated that he thinks the whole notion of a grass roots movement is discredited. Fail.
He says that the Left wants to highlight the social-religious aspect, while the Right wants to play it down. Does this mean that all those BBC reports whipping up fear about the social-religious aspect of the Tea Party movement come from the Left? I think we can say they do.
The penultimate question is about – you knew it was coming eventually – racism. A male Beeboid brings up the “visceral hatred of Obama”, and says that during the last election there was a lot of concern about race, and asks if there is “a danger” of “playing that down” this time. In other words, in the minds of these Beeboids, we’re still secretly mostly racist, and if The Obamessiah loses in 2012, it will be because of racism. Mardell first says that he knows it’s a factor, and recalls one of Justin Webb’s pieces featuring a southern white woman subtly expressing her racism. But then, he actually says that after meeting so many Tea Partiers, he doesn’t think most of us are racists. “At least not in a straight-forward sense”. He says that underlying the concern about government spending our money, it’s really about not wanting to the government to “spend money on people not like them”. That’s simply offensive, and made me swear out loud when I heard it.
Then he says that there are also people who feel disconnected because “they didn’t expect this sort of person in the White House.” Somehow the President “doesn’t meet their stereotype about what a black person is like.” Is that why Joe Biden praised the then-junior Senator from Illinois for being so “articulate and bright and clean”? Words fail, other than more swearing at the screen. And oh how Mardell smiles, very pleased with himself, while slandering about a hundred million people.
Still, what happened to the idea Mardell put forth earlier that there is a widespread notion that the President is just not up to the job? Yeah, never mind about that, then. Racist!
So yes, we’re still apparently racists, even though in the end Mardell admits that he hasn’t found racism to be as much of a factor as he thought he would. Well, thank you very much. Still, that hardly discounts the rest of what he said. Wilson agrees with his assessment. To judge from this, everything you’ve heard about fiscal responsibility is just a lie, a smokescreen to hide our racism. This is what Mardell thinks, this is what the BBC thinks, and this is what they want you to think. They simply cannot accept any reasonable justification for objecting to Socialist policies.
In all, a fascinating hour spent inside the hive mind, and very revealing on a number of levels. I hope this exceedingly lengthy post didn’t cause too much pain, but there was just so much to talk about.