This is too good to pass up. In the open thread, I called attention to a tweet from the anchor of BBC World News America, Katty Kay, where she actually criticized the President for having too many white men in His cabinet.
How depressing is the photo accompanying this piece? NYTimes: Obama’s Remade Inner Circle Has an All-Male Look, So Far nyti.ms/UGK1Y8
That was yesterday. Today, Katty was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, co-hosted by former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough (who went native after a while, sort of like Nick Robinson, but has been straying off the reservation for some time now) and Leftoid hack Mika Brzezinski. Now that she’s on national television, the highest- profile Beeboid in the US is dutifully defending the President against charges of sexism. Her contribution is right at the start of this video clip, then she rejoins the discussion after about 5:30 in. Notice the anger she displays. (Here’s a link in case the embedded clip doesn’t work for you.) Impartial or what?
Sure, the Morning Joe producers obviously asked Katty to speak up for the President in the debate, just like any producer would be trying to get a guest to take a stance on the issue of the day. That’s why she was brought in: to give an opinion. But what a joke. Yesterday, she was criticizing the President, today she defends Him. And what a defense: Last term, the President had women in high places, so it doesn’t matter if it’s back to an old boys’ network now. Classic.
Katty Kay: hypocrite, partisan hack, your national broadcaster’s representative in the US. Is she in violation of the BBC guidelines? Judge for yourselves (NB: Katty is technically one of those pay-my-corporation “freelancers”):
Public Speaking and Other Public Appearances
It is important that no public speaking commitments or other public appearances are seen to undermine the objectivity or integrity of the BBC or its content, or suggest BBC endorsement of a third party organisation, product, service or campaign.
Although freelance presenters of BBC programmes may gain a proportion of their non-BBC income from off-air public appearances, they must guard against appearances which undermine their on-air role. They should not allow the use of the BBC’s name or brands in connection with advertising for a public appearance. There should be no suggestion of a BBC connection or endorsement of the third party event or organisation, unless it is editorially appropriate and has been approved by the relevant head of department.
News and Current Affairs Staff, Global News and News Staff in the Nations
BBC News and Current affairs staff, BBC correspondents on non-staff contracts and freelances known primarily as presenters or reporters on BBC news and current affairs programmes, must remain impartial when speaking publicly or taking part in similar events, such as a public discussion or debate. They must not promote any political party, campaigning organisation or lobby group. They should not chair conferences which are a promotional exercise for a commercial company, that supports any political parties, or is one-sided on a matter of public policy, political or industrial controversy or any other ‘controversial subject’.
Yes, the link is to the Right-wing Hot Air, but the actual video is from CNN. Not Fox News, not Breitbart.
(Link fixed now, sorry.)
Ed Morrisey explains:
By golly, Nancy Pelosi was right — they didn’t know what was in ObamaCare until it passed! Of course, in this case all she needed to do was ask her buddy Harry Reid, who apparently sandbagged his party’s gun-control wing by inserting an interesting clause in the 2800-page bill that no one in Congress bothered to read before voting on it. CNN’s Jim Acosta reveals the restriction on firearms-registration data collection built into the 2010 law.
The reason Reid inserted this clause, CNN reports without ever having actually talked to Reid (he declined comment), was to make the NRA “benign” in the ObamaCare fight — and to push back against “conspiracy theorists” who claimed that the bill would allow Barack Obama to start grabbing guns. Hey, that would never happen, right? Sure.
Oops. Please post comments about anything you see or hear from the BBC on this story.
This latest “bespoke” video magazine feature in the BBC’s “Altered States”* series really appears on the surface to be not only a balanced presentation on gun rights and laws, but could actually be interpreted by people not paying attention as being biased in favor of gun advocates. It isn’t, but it’s very cleverly disguised.
Remember the choice of “more” and “more” in this title for later. First, let me point out that this video piece was put together without BBC influence or prompting. It was made by Charles Ledford, who recently became Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He seems to be a recent hire, as he only finished his MA less than two years ago. From what I’ve been able to find online, Ledford is into exactly the kind of new digital media journalism that the BBC has been pushing for the last couple of years, and which many see as the future of journalism, full stop. No problem there, I’m just pointing out why the BBC looked to him for content. It makes perfect sense from a newsgathering standpoint.
(UPDATE: John Boch, from Guns Save Life has posted a comment below.)
Now for the bias. If we judge this piece simply on the basis of how much time is given to each side of the debate, then gun advocates win handily. More time is definitely given to their side. However, Ledford very cleverly undermines all of it.
Ledford was, for reasons unknown (not necessarily devious, just literally unknown to me, and the BBC doesn’t reveal any), doing some video journalism on the issue of gun rights for some time before the Newtown mass murder happened. So this piece was clearly not created with that particular agenda in mind. Was there an agenda anyway? I think so.
The first segment features gun advocates from the Guns Save Life group in Illinois. One of the Directors, John Naese, who seems to be acting as spokesman here, is given uninterrupted air time to explain the group’s positions on gun ownership laws.
The blurb accompanying the video on the BBC website says that Guns Save Life “are arguing for more permissive gun laws”. But are they? Considering that politicians in Illinois and in other parts of the country are always trying to enact ever more restrictive gun laws, one could just as easily say that the group is arguing to protect existing gun rights. But that would be speaking from their side of the argument. The opposite side of the argument is that they want more permissive gun laws. This bias is inherent in Ledford’s production and in the headline provided by the BBC sub editor. “More guns”. Gun advocates don’t necessarily want more guns, they just want to be allowed to keep what they own, and for citizens to keep the rights they already have. That’s not “more”.
The blurb also claims that Ledford’s video provides “an insight into the strongly held beliefs that influence discussion on this topic”. It doesn’t. What it really does is show you one perspective on the people who strongly hold certain beliefs about gun rights. Which is actually the goal of the piece. Naese pretty much just spells out the position on gun rights. There is no insight offered into the beliefs themselves. Nothing new is offered. But to people like Leford and the BBC editor who thought this was great stuff, the key is that they look down on the people who hold those beliefs.
The clever bit, though, comes after the segment featuring the Guns Save Life meeting. At the meeting, we’re treated to a scene of members reading out humorous rhymes about self defense. We then segue to the mother of a victim of some mass murder. Naturally, she is going to hold absolute moral authority, and actually claims it herself.
The first words out of the mother’s mouth are: “I don’t have a sense of humor about deadly force”.
Ooh, cuts you right to the quick, doesn’t it? Just look at those fat, hirsute, rednecks laughin’ about killin’. Pretty much destroys their argument, no? Well, no. The light-hearted scene has nothing whatsoever to do with the real attitude about gun rights, the right to bear arms, the right to self-defense. But that’s the “insight” Ledford wants to show you, and the brilliant point the BBC editor who selected this for publication saw and felt you needed to see. It’s fairly obvious that Ledford (or a student he sent over to do the interview) showed the woman footage of the fat old rednecks reading their little jokes, and asked something like, “So, what do you think of these assholes?”
Then the mother claims absolute moral authority by stating that the joking gun owners don’t know what it’s like to to lose a loved one.
If one goes by the stopwatch or word count, sure, the gun advocates get the lion’s share of the piece. But it’s very obvious where the weight of the feature lies: with the absolute moral authority of the mother who lost her only child. It doesn’t get more tear-jerking than that. The gun advocates are even given the last word, but it’s just more boilerplate, more simple spelling out of their position: banning guns doesn’t help. There’s no insight, no actual argument being made.
This, to the BBC, is the entire argument about gun rights in a nutshell: stupid rednecks who have no clue love their guns, while the reality is that innocents are killed and it hurts all of us. At no point are we given any actual insight into the gun owners’ beliefs, but we are given insight into why some people are against gun ownership. One side is portrayed as serious, based on morality and compassion, while the other side is portrayed as a figure of fun. It’s a biased piece, intended to denigrate gun rights advocates while elevating those on the other side of the argument.
Again, Ledford did this on his own. Or, at least, did part of it on his own and then got a follow-up quote or two from the Guns Save Life folks after the Newtown tragedy at the BBC’s behest. Either way, the goal is clear, which is why the BBC selected it for publication.
*I hate the BBC’s title “Altered States”. It has negative connotations, implies things have changed, and not necessarily for the better. It’s been a running theme in BBC reporting since we elected a black man as President that the country has become more divisive, more messed up, more racist. This title emphasizes that perspective. Yes, I know it’s a reference to the rather entertaining little sci-fi movie starring William Hurt about a scientist who manages to regress himself back to a primitive state of evolution. It just supports my point.
This post was inspired by a recent comment from Jim Dandy, one of our defenders of the indefensible. He said that he wanted opinion in his journalism. I expressed my disappointment that he wanted “opinionated” journalism, and he objected to what he thought was my deliberate twisting of his words.
You do know what opinionated means don’t you? It does not mean the condition of having an opinion. Or perhaps you are deliberately twisting my words.
Impartiality allows for opinion to be expressed.
I was confused by this, and asked for an explanation, which I got:
Opinionated is a perjorative term suggesting the person unduly, aggressively and dogmatically holds by their opinions.
It might be different in the US.
Still confused, I tried a different tack, and asked Jim if he felt that the BBC’s North America editor, Mark Mardell was the embodiment of his definition, to which he said, simply, “No.”
This led me to compile this collection of Mardell’s journalism to provide evidence that he does, in fact, unduly, aggressively and dogmatically hold by his opinion. Specifically his opinion that the Tea Party movement and, essentially, all opposition to the President is based on racism.
Read the following, and decide for yourselves whether or not Mardell allows his personal opinion to inform his reporting, and whether or not he has dogmatically stuck to his guns in spite of the evidence before him.
September 15, 2009, when Mardell was barely a month into his new job:
So I am describing and inviting debate, not passing comment. The relationship between black and white has been such an important driving factor in American political history that it would be strange if it now mattered not a jot. The allegation is that many of those who are calling their president “un-American” mean he is not white.
Democratic propaganda, over-sensitivity or truth? Tell me…
He says he’s not passing comment, then gives his opinion anyway. This is after he gives you a link to only one point of view from the vaunted NY Times: yes, opposition to the President is based on racism. Mardell came to the US knowing for a fact that this is a racist country. Let’s see if he learns anything in the coming years.
Just a couple of weeks later, Mardell eagerly reported that Jimmy Carter said that opposition to the President was due to racism. He then went out to try and find people to support that, but came away with only the suggestion that the African-American community thinks it’s all down to racism. To Mardell, this is proof enough. The President Himself said that He doesn’t think that’s the case, but Mardell believes He’s lying.
Just outside his restaurant, I chat to some African-American women and mention what we are doing.
“Woah woah for Carter,” one says, raising her hands above her head. “He tells it like it is.”
She cannot peer into the soul of the protesters, any more than President Carter can.
But many African-Americans may feel as though a subterranean stream has burst above ground, even if the president would rather not get caught in the spray.
This woman may not be able to peer into people’s souls, but obviously Mardell can. And he does, over and over.
Mardell and the sub editor who wrote the title are actually referring to what they see as ideological purity regarding taxation and small government, but nobody with any intellectual honesty can claim that they don’t realize the not-so-subtle reference to the idea of racial purity espoused by actual white supremacists. Mardell chose the word very carefully. After talking about policy stuff, he said this near the end of the post:
There is no display of the visceral hatred that dripped from the cable networks last summer, and little of the sense that Obama’s government is some how illegitimate, rather than just plain wrong. There is a feeling that the president promised to govern from the centre and he hasn’t. But I have to ask, is this movement really of the people, or of largely white, largely well-off people?
They’re white, so there must be an underlying reason behind their objection to expanding government and raising taxes and increasing our debt and leading us to government-provided health care. Never mind what they say out loud: Mardell is looking into their souls. This is journalism?
Curiously, when reports came out about Sen. Harry Reid’s unfortunate statements about The Obamessiah back in 2008, Mardell defended him against charges of racism.
Indeed is what he said racist, or in any other way reprehensible? Liz Cheney thinks it is racist. The Kansas Star calls the remarks “stinking racist comments”. A left wing blogger Field Negro says it is “ignorant stereotyping”. Mr Reid himself refers to the comments as “improper”.
But what has irritated me about the flood of articles is that there has been a lot of nudging and winking but few have come out and said what they find offensive.
Imagine that. The man who has no trouble declaring racism without pointing to specifics which he finds offensive is irritated by what he sees as vague hints by other people.
So let’s have a look at what he actually said. The comments come from a book out this week, Game Changes .The authors say Reid “was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ as he later put it privately.”
Mardell then actually defends Reid by saying he’s just “old-fashioned”. Nothing to see here, move along. Why is this not racist, but someone who objects to wealth re-distribution, full stop, without a word about anyone’s dialect or skin color, is racist? Of course, Harry Reid is a Democrat. He holds approved thoughts, so cannot be racist. However, if one holds an unapproved thought about an economic or political issue, there must be something inherently wrong with one’s character, an underlying reason for disapproving of, say, the NHS. Reid gets a pass, but as we all saw recently with Mardell’s and the BBC’s coverage of Mitt Romney, a Republican is by definition flawed for making a much less dangerous gaffe (e.g. “binders of women”).
In closing, Mardell’s defense of Reid reached new heights of hilarity:
But the guts of what Reid was saying was that many American voters were still pretty racist but some wouldn’t see Obama as “really” black. He thought Obama was acceptable to the electorate because he was light-skinned and didn’t have a voice that identified him as black. That seems to be Reid’s attempt to describe a state of affairs that may be unpleasant, but may be true. He was explaining the lie of the land as he saw it, not endorsing the views he outlined. If you can’t do that you are no good as a strategist.
You read that right: Reid was making a racist statement to highlight the racism of other people. How clever of him. Mardell really does have a magical gift for peering into people’s souls, doesn’t he? Naturally, this supports his opinion that opposition to the President is based on racism.
So here there is a great paradox: a movement that boasts its theoretical love of America and democracy but which hates its real life institutions. It’s not their fairly mainstream economic theories I strain to understand, but the passion; a passion which means that political discourse has become increasingly uncivil, filled with vitriol and abuse.
It’s nice that Mardell admits his condescension, but this is where we depart the realm of journalism and enter the land of opinion. That’s the whole point of BBC editors, of course, which causes endless problems. Notice how remarkably different his reaction to the Tea Party movement was to his opinion of the Occupiers. He loved their passion. I wonder what the key difference is?
So why is the Tea Party boiling?
Some say it’s racism. Those I’ve met are not racist but I do wonder if for some there’s a sense of lost superiority. For all their lives there’s been a white man in the White House. It’s not just that Obama isn’t in this image, he does not fit any stereotype of a black person that they know. Cool, cosmopolitan, calm and aloof. There is a sense of disconnect for what ought to be their view of the natural order.
“Some say…” He says straight out he hasn’t met any racists yet, but refuses to let go of his suspicions. He’d been in the US for over a year by that point, gone to several Tea Party gatherings, spoken with lots of politicians. Yet it hadn’t changed his opinion one iota. Is he lying that he didn’t meet any racists? Or does he just think he hasn’t worked hard enough to find them under the bed? You can almost feel Mardell straining to justify his opinion in spite of what he sees in front of him.
A woman who told me that Obama was a socialist and her country was sliding into Marxism said when he was elected president she drew the curtains for three weeks and couldn’t answer the telephone. Only the Tea Party saved her.
America is changing fast and some in the Tea Party people don’t like the loss of the assumption that white, European, 1950s America is the norm, the benchmark.
He hasn’t met any racists, but is still confident enough to tell you that some in the Tea Party are concerned about race. Not only is no evidence provided to back this up, but he even says he’s never met any actual racists. How can he get away with this?
The main speaker said: “Our name is being dragged through the mud, that we’re violent racists.” The all-white crowd cheer or just nod. I have never seen any overt racism at a Tea Party rally and don’t today.
No “overt racism”, eh? Then why bother pointing out the “all-white crowd”? A rhetorical question, I know. When people don’t hold approved thoughts, there must be something wrong with them. Having given up the struggle to justify his opinion that it’s based on racism in the face of no evidence, he’s moved on to qualifying his statements that he hasn’t found any evidence. He doesn’t have to provide any now.
Over the past year I have spoken to many supporters of the Tea Party and been to lots of rallies. I have spoken to people whose characterisation of Mr Obama and his aims seems to me way off beam, a cartoon enemy conjured from some 1950s nightmare. Some believe the constitution tightly constrains the sort of economy America must have, and that only they can define what is properly American.
Now he’s giving his opinion on Constitutional law and economics. This isn’t journalism at all. This is an op-ed piece. Like I said, this the inherent problem in the very concept of BBC (titled) editors.
There is a wide-eyed enthusiasm that is easy to mock.
Yes, very easy to mock. In fact, it’s so easy, that Mardell happily mocked one of them during an appearance at the BBC College of Journalism. First, of course, he has to give the disclaimer that he’s never seen any overt racism. The relevant bit begins at around 54:45 in, where a young Beeboid asks Mardell about the “visceral hatred” of the President.
We’re not racist, he says, “At least not in a straight-forward sense”. Oh, really? He says that underlying the concern about government spending our money, it’s really about not wanting the government to “spend money on people not like them”. No real evidence, but he remains as convinced of it as he was the day he arrived. Even if we don’t come out and wear the pointy white hoods and carry our lynchin’ ropes around, we’re still racist under the skin. And he happily mocks a woman with a Southern accent. “You knew exactly what it was.” Oh, how they all laughed, eh? To Mardell, the Tea Party is driven by crypto-racism. This is what they really think of us, and it informs all BBC reporting on US issues.
(Full analysis of the BBC’s CoJ audience with Mardell can be read here.)
A lot of time in my first two years was spent trying to understand what lay behind the anger that I had seen on TV.
As we’ve seen, he had a pre-conceived notion of what lay behind that anger: racism. So what has he learned in the intervening years?
Beyond a fairly conventional conservative concern about taxation and debt, there is an inchoate angst that their country is going in the wrong direction, that they need to “take it back”.
Some think this is code for “take it back from the black man in the White House”.
After all the evidence of his reporting on the subject, it’s quite clear that Mardell is using the standard hack trick of “Some say…” to present his own opinion. We know he’s being disingenuous here. He’s said quite openly a number of times that he thinks it’s all about race. Using this dodge is a big phony act.
It is not that simple. Nearly all of the people I met were white and most middle-aged or older. But few were racist in the conventional sense.
The only time I have seen that in the raw, I was off duty, at a dinner party. A woman growing increasingly passionate as the wine flowed called Obama a “monkey” and said “he’s trying to give OUR money to THEM”.
Not the poor, not the shiftless, “them”.
Since the woman Mardell mocked earlier was a crypto-racist and didn’t openly make any racist statements, we have to assume that this is now two clear incidents – to him – of racism, out of the hundreds of thousands or people Mardell’s seen at Tea Party rallies and whatever political gatherings he visits. Yet on the strength of this he still demonizes the entire movement, still convinced that tens of millions of people are driven by racism and not legitimate policy concerns.
“They” are part of a different America, with a different history who want a different path for their country.
A millionaire in a designer chair in his plush Chicago home, surrounded by modern art, makes the same point as the broken-toothed men perched on smashed-up office furniture outside a beat-up shotgun house in Texas.
Next to me in the pew of a Florida church, the man with a trim grey beard and a “veterans for Obama badge” tells me the same thing.
These very different people all had one thing in common. They’re black. And that means they share a history and often they also share a perception of the present.
Black Americans up and down this huge country tell me Mr Obama didn’t create this mess, and he needs time to clear it up.
They know all about patience. They know all about clearing up other people’s mess. They know about being shut out of this country’s narrative.
There’s a black history month. It rather implies that for the other 11 months, it is white history that will have its way. With Mr Obama they feel that has changed, just a little.
And with that, Mardell moves from demonizing the opposition for caring only about the color of a man’s skin to declaring that we must re-elect a President simply because of the color of the man’s skin. It means a lot to black people to see one of their own as President, so we must dismiss all other concerns. He was only recently pushing that Narrative, in September 2012. (Even then he was still declaring that opposition to the President’s policies is really only objecting to redistributing wealth “to people not like us.”) This is racialist thinking at its finest. Anyone who watched the full video of Mardell’s appearance at the BBC CoJ will also have seen him admit that the President actually isn’t quite up to the job. In other words, we must keep a poor performer on simply because of the color of his skin. He’s not that competent, but it’s okay cos He is black. The soft racism of lowered expectations lives on at the BBC.
In the end, Mardell has learned nothing. He came here with a pre-conceived opinion, and steadfastly refused to let the evidence before him change his mind. His personal opinion remains unchanged, and informs all of his reporting. Since he’s the “North America editor”, his opinion also informs other aspects of BBC reporting on US issues.
Next, we can have a debate about what it means to have opinion in journalism, and how impartiality allows for it.
I’m a couple days late on this, but it’s still worth a laugh. The BBC sent one of the legion of Beeboids they have making video magazine reports in the US to Los Angeles to cover the special holiday edition of the city’s “Guns for Groceries” buy-back plan. Usually it’s useful for getting illegal guns out of the hands of the gang-bangers, allowing the politicians to wave some trophies in front of the cameras and scare the community a little bit. The gang-bangers like it because they can unload old weapons or ones they’ve used in crimes (these are no-questions-asked exchanges, remember) for some quick cash to buy more illegal guns. It’s win-win.
We’re told that, while “many Americans believe” that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to bear arms, the mayor thinks there can be more controls. The annual buy-back program, we learn, is proof positive that there are too many guns out there, too easy to access.
The crowning example comes at the end, starting at around 1:10 in, where the police rep says that people were turning in AK-47s and “parts for AR-15s”. The BBC’s John McManus then says:
“If that sounds extreme, well, last year’s haul of 1700 weapons included an anti-tank rocket launcher.”
First of all, it’s opinion that having these weapons available is “extreme”. There’s no mention of whether or not any of them were legal or illegal or what. Their very existence is, apparently, extreme. The Beeboid is projecting opinion – what may very well be mainstream British opinion – onto a report about domestic affairs in a foreign country. And for all we know, the AK-47s came from Mexican drug gangs courtesy of the President’s “Fast & Furious” scheme.
But the really funny part is the freak-out about the anti-tank weapon. This may come as a complete surprise to parochial, close-minded media luvvies living in a bubble, but one can buy these online and at shows and other places. They’re military surplus, rendered inert before sale.
In fact, this year’s scheme brought in two of them. If the intrepid, impartial journalists at the BBC ever bother to read the NY Daily News, they’ll know that, and know that the weapons were already rendered useless. Not that it stopped the nannies from waving it in front of the cameras. You can bet there won’t be a correction coming from the BBC. That would detract from the agenda.
The scary rocket launcher is, in fact, quite harmless, but presented here to wind you up. A propaganda piece, advocacy plain and simple. Are lots of other media outlets singing from the same hymn sheet and getting it wrong? Sure they are. Does that make it okay for the BBC to do it? Remember, they sent at least one Beeboid to LA to film and investigate, so there’s no excuse for lemming journalism here.
I bet the dopey Beeboid doesn’t even know any of this. I’m sure he and his editor completely believe the angle he’s reported. Their bias on this issue prevents them from reporting honestly and accurately. If they do know that the rocket launcher was non-functional, then McManus is telling a lie the way he reported it. Either way this is a journalistic failure.
It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t about the rights and wrongs of gun ownership, or anyone’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, nor is it about your opinion or mine of gun control laws. This is about a biased, misleading report from the BBC on a specific issue, where ideology informs and corrupts reporting. Even if you agree with the BBC’s position on gun control, you should still be displeased with them taking sides on any issue.
Every now and then, someone will sneer at me, demanding to know why I, a United Statesian, am so concerned about the BBC, a foreign broadcasting organization. I usually bang out a quick diatribe about various issues, but now there’s a very clear example of why I see the BBC as a problem for people in the US to be concerned about.
Last year, the BBC hired a young German immigrant, Franz Strasser, to produce various “bespoke” video magazine pieces about, mostly, racial issues in the US. First he did a dishonest series about immigration. The US division head also had several Beeboids produce a series of videos about – again, mostly racial – issues in the US in the year leading up to the 2012 election entitled, “Altered States”. One of the installments by Strasser found him making a dishonest race-baiting story about a “racial divide” in St. Louis, MO.
I discussed it at the time here. Please read the whole thing before returning to this post. In summary, my point was that Strasser and his editor deliberately left out the real key to the situation in St. Louis: absolute control of the city for decades by Democrats. Furthermore, nearly half the Aldermen (the equivalent of a city council, the real decision makers on city policy) are African-American. It was 13 out of 28 last year when Strasser did his initial race-baiting report, and there are 12 now. All but one of the 28 people who essentially run the daily business of the city of St. Louis are Democrats.
Why do I care? Because apparently Stasser’s story went viral, and got the attention of racial justice activists and politicians who knew a good angle when they saw it. Strasser’s report became a big hit, got lots of attention, and now there’s a renewed racial dialogue of some kind. What will this change? Not a damn thing. As I explained in my initial post, it’s the Democrat policies which have caused the situation. I submit that it’s simply not possible for a truly racially divided city where the rich white man is keeping the black man down to have 12 Aldermen. Additionally, I say that, if we’re to take the story seriously that white politicians in St. Louis have kept the black man down, this also puts the lie to Jonny Dymond’s and the BBC’s contention that the Republican Party is the racist one, because the city has been ruled by white (and black) Democrats for decades.
This new racial dialogue which will ignore the elephant donkey in the room will only worsen racial animosity in the city. It will increase the anger, the sense of victimization among the African-American community. One only has to listen to the locals in this latest video report to see the obvious. What’s most appalling is that the African-American community really has been victimized for decades: by the Democrat Party and the African-American leaders who have willingly contributed to the destruction of their own people’s futures.
Yet the BBC doesn’t care about that. They see only race, and refuse to admit that Democrat – Left wing – policies might be part of the problem. Now the city of St. Louis is going to be come more polarized, all thanks to the intrusion of a foreign broadcasting organization, one which is actually the official state broadcaster of the UK. And the BBC is clearly proud of what they accomplished here. After all, their report garnered lots of attention, and started a “dialogue” on the very issue they were pushing. Never mind that it’s dishonest and biased. The BBC will tell me that it’s no such thing, of course, and that they got it about right.
Imagine the outcry if Fox News set up shop in Britain and started sending reporters around to try to achieve change, to engage in a bit of social engineering, to highlight issues US natives who work for Fox News thought were important, and reported it all from a right-wing perspective. Yet defenders of the indefensible and worshipers of the BBC have no problem with the reverse situation. The BBC is spending more and more money, and doing more and more to increase their footprint in the US, in pursuit of both filthy profits in the form of advertizing revenue and – more importantly – as Jeremy Paxman put it, to “spread influence”. This is beyond their remit as laid out in the Charter, yet the BBC continues to grow and spread influence unchecked. Everybody’s worried about some silly management culture when the real problem is the attitude of the people making the broadcasts.
The BBC is now having a real effect on US politics. It is an invasive species, a malignant foreign body invading my country. Next time somebody tries to ridicule me for caring what a foreign media outlet gets up to, I’ll point them to this story and leave it at that.
Or so says the BBC’s US President editor (the title “North America editor” bears no resemblance to the job he actually does: at best, his job title should be something like “political editor”, which he was for Newsnight a few years ago) when giving you White House propaganda disguised as analysis.
The Republicans’ rather huffy letter to US President Barack Obama made me think of a glorious moment in Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln.
The letter, signed by House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, among others, says there has been a “status quo” election “in which both you and the Republican majority in the House were re-elected”.
They are claiming that this means the American people expect both the victors of the recent election to “come together on a fair middle ground”.
What a curious concept, eh? The House of Representatives and representational voting actually mean something? LOL.
It is reasonable to assume the White House see things rather more like Mrs Lincoln.
Her moment occurs at a White House reception when the president’s wife holds up a long reception line to give Thaddeus Stephens, a Republican leader in the House of Representatives, an almighty ear-bashing.
I cannot remember the exact words, but the gist of it is: “My husband is loved by the people, known to the people, he’s just been re-elected, and you are nobody – now just back off.”
Yes, just like our defenders of the indefensible implied after the election, l’état, c’est Lui. Votes for anyone but the President are worthless, and anyone who voted for their Representative to Congress should simply ignore the meaning of the term “representative”. In other words, screw you if you did not vote for Him and still think you voted for anything that matters. This is no longer a Constitutional Republic but is now a kingdom. I make no comment on how Mardell’s behavior resembles that of a wife defending her husband.
Mr Obama is betting that most Americans will feel the re-election of the president carries more moral weight than the re-election of the House.
Most, or just the small majority He won? Semantics mavens can parse this to the end of time, but the fact remains that the President won with less votes than in 2008.
He has been on Twitter repeating his demand for tax rises for the rich, opposition to deep cuts in education budgets, and so on.
Everything he has done has been about political positioning, not serious negotiating.
I’m glad Mardell has admitted this. The question is, why doesn’t He have to negotiate? Bill Clinton had to reach across the aisle after winning his second term. Why is this President exempt? What happened to all that desire for bi-partisanship and working together he’s been telling us for the last two years that the country really wants? I know, I know: we should work together so He gets His way. That’s why Mardell views the first two years of The Obamessiah Administration with its Democrat super-majority where they rammed legislation through without a single Republican vote as “a golden age”.
That has further outraged the prickly Republicans, who write of their shock that when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner went to see them he proposed a plan that was in their view “neither balanced nor realistic”.
“Huffy”. “Prickly”. The Republicans earn Mardell’s scorn, but the equally stubborn and angry President doesn’t get labeled. Even though Mardell knows exactly what He’s doing, as he will reveal later on.
So, they have countered by backing a plan – already passed by the House – to cut healthcare for the future elderly and food stamps for the poor.
Oh, no! Hurting grannies and the sainted poor! Is that it, though? Is that really all there is to the evil Republicans’ plans? Mardell seems to think that’s a fair summation. Of course, it’s pure spin and not fair at all, but that’s irrelevant to the foreign bureau of the White House press office.
Here’s some reality. By the way, the President’s Plan For Us also cuts $400 billion in Medicare – “healthcare for the future elderly” – over 10 years, and the President’s refusal to address trimming entitlements of any kind – Social Security, “food stamps for the poor”, etc. – is really just kicking the can down the road. Again. The Republicans plan (an earlier incarnation of which Mardell described as “hardline”) is not so far off from proposals from the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which was ordered by the President Himself. Which He then blew off because He really had no intention of doing anything other than continue to spend. The Republicans’ plan, on the other hand, intends to cut $600 billion from Medicare, but partly by raising the age at which people enroll. Not exactly how Mardell portrays it. Cutting other entitlements will actually amount to linking it to a metric which will keep costs from rising so much. Once again, the BBC defines a freeze or a lower increase as a “cut”. It’s dishonest, partisan language, but that’s the BBC’s US President editor for you.
There’s a lot more to it than simply cutting support for the poorest and most vulnerable Yet that’s all Mardell sees, all he wants you to know.
And never mind the $700+ billion that ObamaCare is going to take from Medicare and Medicaid to pay for all the new bureaucracy, exchanges, new anti-depression programs, and the like. Forbes has analyzed it as having a 15 -1 cuts to new benefits ratio, which shows just how dishonest Mardell is being here. That’s already a done deal, so we can actually say that the President Himself is going to take $1.1 billion and more away from the poorest and most vulnerable, whereas if Romney had won, thus assuming ObamaCare gets repealed (or watered way down), and the Republicans’ budget more or less gets passed, the damage done to the poorest and most vulnerable would be reduced by two thirds. But never mind all that, as you’re meant to think that only nasty Republicans want to harm the poorest and most vulnerable for the ideological reason that the government shouldn’t do anything for anyone (see here and here).
I’m not here to debate which side is right or wrong. I’m illustrating how dishonest and partisan Mardell is being.
They demand a response and serious negotiation. Mr Obama, a more aggressive president than in his first term, is manoeuvring them where he wants them, by getting under their skin.
This is nothing short of an outright lie. In fact, the President Himself said He would not release a plan until the Republicans did first. Which is rather bizarre considering that they passed a budget in the House twice in the last two years, whereas He’s never gotten one out of the gate (the Stimulus spending spree doesn’t count). Now that they’ve done so, it’s the height of dishonesty to claim that they “demand a response”. They’re only asking for what He promised. Mardell is simply presenting a false representation of the facts. It’s also very curious that the man the BBC expects you to trust most on US issues doesn’t see anything odd in the President refusing to offer a budget when we’ve all know for two years what the Republicans want.
He is claiming the public label of the man who wants tax cuts for everybody, forcing them to champion deep spending cuts. This is not yet about doing a deal – it is about defining how a deal is seen, when it is done.
In other words, the President’s true goal is not to fix the economy but to destroy the Republican Party. And Mardell has no criticism to offer, not even the slightest frown in His direction. All his scorn is reserved for his beloved Obamessiah’s enemies.
Following on my post explaining the situation, here are the tweets. Some will be screenshots or some other form of publishing because the actual tweets have been deleted after the BBC staff member responsible was caught. With one exception, there are no retweets here, as that’s a separate debate. A comprehensive research project if far beyond my means, but just scanning through so many of them tells me that for many BBC employees, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Note the trends on certain issues.
Because some people seem to keep missing the point, let me repeat: This is not meant to prove that all tweets are biased, nor is it meant to prove that all BBC staff are 100% of the Left. Many BBC employees are fairly responsible with Twitter, and do not tweet their political opinions at all. This is meant to prove that those who do freely tweet their personal political and ideological opinions are nearly all of the Left. Nearly every department of the BBC is represented here, both on air talent and editors and producers behind the scenes. This also demonstrates that in many cases the line between official and personal accounts has been blurred so much as to be essentially non-existent, contrary to BBC guidelines. The whole thing needs to be trashed and re-examined.
This is mostly all thanks to the keen eye of DB, without whose vigilance this would not have been possible. I just kept a list as the sheer volume of them began to reveal certain patterns, before starting to search the feeds myself. Other contributors are: Craig, Reed, Jeff W, Guest Who, Laban, Notasheep, BBC Waste, David Vance, ChrisH, and yours truly. (Apologies if I missed anyone.)
The former presenter of Loose Women, the ITV talk show, who presents a popular Radio Scotland show, was on holiday in Tuscany when she made a series of expletive-filled Tweets about London’s mayor. She has now apologised and deleted the comments from her Twitter site.
Also, when reporting from the Republican National Convention, Adams made 10 tweets, all negative, and for only one day, Aug. 30. From the Democrat’s convention, he made 30 tweets over three days, Sept. 4-6, all positive, including the #DNC2012 hashtag. The RNC hashtag was absent from all of his tweets.
Dear America. Your president is cool, witty and classy. Everyone likes you more when he’s in charge. Love, The Rest of The World — Mario Cacciottolo (@SOTMario) November 7, 2012
Jenny Clarke, BBC Radio Manchester
Shut up going on about how great Manchester is George Osborne. We know it is and flattery will not buy our votes. Now kindly fuck off.
She soon got caught out, tweet and entire account deleted before we could get the embed code. Original tweet url was: http://twitter.com/#!/jenrclarke/status/120849989885902848. She then set up a new account @jennyfleur88. Tweets protected now.
Katie Connolly, ex-BBC US correspondent. From Newsweek to the BBC, now works at a Democrat strategy group, worked on the campaign to re-elect the President. Go figure. Lots of tweets, too much to post here, but Craig’s list and full analysis can be read here. Highlights:
this palin speech is more like a stand up routine, esp with the redneck jokes 1,273,863,138,000.00 via TweetDeck ouch. sarah palin calls us the lamestream media. #palin #nra RT @chucktodd: FOIA-requested Todd Palin related emails involving Palin’s time in office in Alaska now up on MSNBC.com. http://ping.fm/YGnCF 1,265,387,931,000.00 via TweetDeck My boss Jon Meacham responds to critics of our Sarah Palin cover photo http://bit.ly/G5iCz 1,258,492,120,000.00 via TweetDeck
She regularly corresponded with a number of JournoListas, and RTed their groupthink as often as possible.
Matt Danzico, BBC News reporter in the US, and former Obama campaigner. His Twitter page has both the disclaimer and the BBC logo wallpaper
Doing some cold calling in Bushwick to get that vote out mister. — Matt Danzico (@mattdanzico) November 4, 2008
(UPDATE: Forgot to mention this last one is from before Danzico worked for the BBC. This was from back when he was working for the 2008 campaign. Usually people go work for a political party or campaign after a stint at the BBC. I included this to demonstrate both his consistency and as an example of what is not an obstacle to being hired as an impartial journalist.) Several more can be seen here. Tom Donkin, journalist for BBC News Online Magazine
Gavin Esler, newsreader, presenter for Newsnight and Dateline
1990s verbal attacks on US govt linked by Bill Clinton to the violence of Oklahoma bombing. 2011? Congresswoman on political hit list shot. — Gavin Esler (@gavinesler) January 9, 2011
Stephanie Flanders, BBC Economics editor
Ryan is risky VP choice for Romney. Republicans now so extreme, his main appeal 4 swing voters was record as a moderate. Ryan anything but. — Stephanie Flanders (@BBCStephanie) August 11, 2012
Matt Frei, ex-BBC, now with C4, former anchor of BBC World News America
Could the GOP now define itself in its reaction to healthcare reform in a way it might regret later this year. Remember Tories = Nasty Party — Matt Frei (@mattfrei) March 22, 2010
Leah Gooding, newsreader for BBC Newsround (Screenshot because Jude Machin changed the avatar after complaints, relevant tweet deleted.) Jim Hawkins, BBC Radio Shropshire (One of many presenters who uses his “unofficial, personal” account as the official one for a BBC show)
Rachel Kennedy, BBC News editor Screenshot because Kennedy deleted the tweets after Guido Fawkes linked to DB’s post on them and it gained wider attention. Same goes for this one: Dominic Laurie, Business presenter for Radio 5 Live
Now the NHS. so we’ve had the china up yours. Now it’s the US Romney up yours! #socialism — Dominic Laurie (@dominic_laurie) July 27, 2012
[email protected]ismh Just gave my kids a kiss as they sleep. Thanks to healthcare reform I can afford to insure them both not just the one without cancer — Dominic Laurie (@dominic_laurie) November 7, 2012
Big event this week is attempt by Palestinians to get enhanced observer status at UN Gen Ass on Thursday. Another log on the fire. — Dominic Laurie (@dominic_laurie) November 26, 2012
Brian Limond, “controversial” BBC Scotland comedian
“Would Prince William write to FIFA on behalf of the Scotland team wearing poppies? No. Cos he thinks ENGLAND won the war.” This message was quickly followed by; “I’d love to slide a samurai sword up Prince William’s arse to the hilt, then yank it towards me like a door that won’t [email protected]*king open.” This was eventually followed by another anti-Royal family message: “Absolutely [email protected]*k England and its royal wee family living it up while pensioners freeze to death.”
Tweets deleted after complaints. More here. Sue Llewellyn, BBC social media expert This is the only Retweet in this collection, included here as evidence of the groupthink regarding Sarah Palin, and particularly the blood libel so many BBC journalists and other staff tried to push. Even one of the BBC’s experts in social media felt free to retweet such a thing. Now for an original tweet:
So Cameron doesn’t know what Magna Carta means. What would Andrew Mitchell (allegedly) say about that? — Sue Llewellyn (@suellewellyn) September 27, 2012
Jude Machin, BBC journalist, formerly US-based, now in UK (See Leah Gooding above) Screenshots because it’s all been sent down the memory hold after she got caught, then got caught again, then got caught again.
And there you have it. Come see the bias inherent in the system. I’ve actually lost count of how many tweets there are and how many Beeboids are represented. Someone else will have to do it now since my eyes are all bleary from laying this out.
For balance, here’s one which appears to be from the Right by James Landale, BBC News political correspondent (h/t Jim Dandy)
Net migration down “significantly”, says ONS, from 242k to 183k. Good day to bury good news??
Jonny Dymond has a piece out pretending to analyze the recent joint-statement from Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. They’re understandably “gloomy” about Congress’s chances of making any kind of useful deal to avoid the US heading over the fiscal cliff after the ill-begotten debt agreement from last year expires. I say Dymond is pretending to analyze it because what he’s really doing is laying out a few White House talking points.
Dymond explains that everyone is really worried about what might happen if the intransigent Republicans don’t cooperate. Okay, he doesn’t say it exactly like that, but that’s the main point of his article. The worst problem with this piece is where he mentions that these guys were the head of the President’s Simpson-Bowles Commission in 2010, which came up with a plan (actually more like one with a set of options) to reduce the deficit and avoid having to go to the wall on the debt ceiling, as it were.
It wasn’t a bad plan, plenty of good things in there but, as Dymond says, it was never adopted. Except he doesn’t say why not. If it was so great that everyone is now hanging on their every word, why wasn’t it adopted? All you really learn from the Beeboid is that “disagreement” is bad, m’kay. So long as Congress (read: nasty Republicans, even though the Democrats controlled both houses for two years and the Senate for all four) doesn’t come to some agreement, we know whom to blame. In case anyone misses the point, Dymond closes with a quote from Bowles (Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff):
But from Mr Bowles comes a cold dose of Washington realism, and what seems to be the prime driver of his pessimism.
“There’s been no punishment,” he says, “for intransigence in this town.”
If I had a nickel for every time I saw that word used in this context…..
So why was this plan never passed? Because the President blew them off for purely ideological reasons. Dymond either doesn’t know that, or doesn’t think it’s important enough to mention. This is very curious as it’s the entire reason the two men made the press conference, and the entire reason Dymond was sent to do the report. But because mentioning that would make The Obamessiah look bad, or even remotely responsible for any problem, Dymond doesn’t mention it.
As many people here will be aware, I’ve been collecting a list of biased Beeboid tweets, compiled largely from DB’s fantastic work on catching them, as well as contributions from several others. It’s now over 100, from around 50 different BBC employees from many departments, across the spectrum of BBC broadcasting. What follows is my attempt to explain what I see as the problem with BBC Twitter policy, and why all these biased tweets add up to a serious problem which needs to be addressed. This is ultimately intended to be read with and accompanying display of 100 tweets revealing bias from BBC staff. I have the list ready, but I want to get feedback on this first before making the full publication.
Once the content of this essay is finalized, I’m going to either make it a separate page on this blog with all the embedded tweets on full display, or make it some kind of epub for distribution. For now, please read this with the idea in mind that there are loads of examples to follow.
The use of Twitter as a news tool has for many become ubiquitous. Media pros use it for both newsgathering and for pushing a story. Journalists use Twitter to track trending memes as well as to reach out to people to set up interviews and gather information on a story. Tim Weber from BBC News Interactive put it this way:
Audience engagement and interaction are equally important. Broadcasters know all about talk radio, and social media let us extend this expertise into the digital space. However, the size of our audience and the cost of curating their contributions – bearing in mind the UK’s stringent libel laws – present tough choices.
But arguably the most important use of social media, from a journalist’s perspective, is newsgathering.
Yes, we subscribe to text, picture and video feeds from news agencies, but selecting the right mix of sources for my Twitter stream provides me with a customised and curated news feed that complements, but does not replace, traditional sources.
Monitoring social media lets us gauge public mood, find case studies, and spot trends and breaking stories.
At times it can seem like Twitter is the first place people go to follow breaking news stories. Indeed, some have remarked that during the recent US presidential debates, they spent more time watching Twitter commentary than they did the actual broadcast. One might begin to suspect that many opinions people formed might have been more informed by what they read on Twitter than what they saw and heard themselves. Because users choose whom to follow, circles of like-minded people form naturally, self-selecting as with any social group. It’s quite easy to get caught up in an echo chamber. This raises the question of what opinions are expressed there.
The Twitter output of BBC staff reveals a significant contingent of Left-wingers. On their own, the tweets aren’t necessarily proof of biased reporting. However, there are enough examples of personal opinions that one can make a case that there is, in Andrew Marr’s words, a “cultural liberal bias”.
The official policy on employee use of Twitter is the part of the problem. Staff are encouraged / required to use Twitter as a way not only to promote BBC news stories, but to connect with their audience. They preach this at the BBC College of Journalism.
The courses offer guidance on how to use social media as a newsgathering tool. Services like Facebook and Twitter provide quick and convenient avenues of communication with both subjects of and sources for news stories. One often sees a BBC producer reaching out to someone on Twitter to discuss a story or arrange an interview.
This by definition turns their Twitter feeds into an extension of BBC broadcasting. The directive to then communicate directly with their audience enhances this. Which is, of course, the point. The BBC has specific guidelines on all of this, which can be read here (NB: pdf file). It’s for staff use of social media in general, including things like Facebook, although our focus here is on how it applies to Twitter. These guidelines break staff and their accounts and usage into three basic categories:
1. Your own personal activity, done for your friends and contacts,
but not under or in the name of BBC News
2. Activity for core news (eg breaking news), programmes or genres
carried out officially in the name of BBC News
3. Activity of editors, presenters, correspondents or reporters
carried out as part of official BBC News output.
“Personal activity” accounts seem to make up the bulk of the Twitter accounts. The guidelines for these accounts include the following:
a. You are not discouraged from doing any of this, but as a BBC member of staff – and especially as someone who works in News – there are particular considerations to bear in mind. They can all be summarised as: ‘Don’t do anything stupid’.
b. Remember that even though you are acting in your own personal capacity, you are on show to your friends and anyone else who sees what you write, as a representative of the BBC. If you are editorial staff, it doesn’t make much difference whether or not you identify yourself as someone who works for the BBC.
c. You are allowed to say that you work for the BBC, and you can discuss the BBC and your work publicly. But your name/title should not contain BBC in any form. And you should make clear that the views expressed are personal, and not those of the BBC.
d. You shouldn’t state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality. Don’t sound off about things in an openly partisan way. Don’t be seduced by the informality of social media into bringing the BBC into disrepute. Don’t criticise your colleagues. Don’t reveal confidential BBC information. Don’t surreptitiously sanitise Wikipedia pages about the BBC.
It couldn’t be more clear, really. As we’ll see, staff seem to have problems casually ignoring the instructions in Section “b”, and often violate “d”. This is very important, as former BBC radio head of future media and technology, James Cridland has said, “‘There are some people out to ‘get you’ on the web, so it’s important not to give them too much ammunition.’
Guilty as charged, I suppose, but it is a target-rich environment. It’s also important to examine staff output in order to hold them accountable for their actions, as the BBC doesn’t unless prompted by a complaint.
North America editor Mark Mardell admitted during an appearance at the BBC College of Journalism (@36:45 in) that he and staff in general believe that the BBC considers Twitter to be a free-for-all, and “doesn’t follow BBC guidelines”. This is clearly not true, but is illustrative of the attitude held by staff. It’s pretty obvious that the “personal” Twittter accounts are barely monitored at all, allowing staff to freely express personal political opinions until one of those people “out to get” them successfully registers a complaint. Morale and compliance is probably harmed by this hands-off approach, as staff do what they like for ages until getting a reprimand for something they thought they were allowed to do. The complaint must then seem petty, or just noise from haters. Lessons are most likely not learned in this atmosphere.
In fact, so easily and freely do BBC staff feel able to express personal opinion that the BBC recently had to issue a directive to stop them tweeting their grumbles about the Newsnight scandals and management problems.
This brings us to consider just how official or unofficial these Twitter accounts are. Officially, most of them aren’t.
Some BBC Twitter accounts are officially sanctioned, as understood in the above rules. The staff member gets approval to use the BBC logo, and it becomes an official outlet, required to abide by all the usual rules of professional integrity and impartiality. However, the majority of staff accounts do not have the logo and are not officially sanctioned. These accounts will necessarily have some form of disclaimer, generally some variation on “Views my own”. This makes it officially unofficial, a kind of “get-out-of-bias-free” card. However, as Section “c” shows, they are allowed to use these personal accounts to promote BBC reporting, which complicates matters.
The problem is, interacting with the audience and getting personal is built into the official policy.
The tweets by themselves aren’t necessarily proof of bias in the BBC’s output. Certainly the majority are the usual assortment of mundane personal activity, notices of their latest piece for the BBC, comments on sport or pop culture, brief conversations on a topic of interest, and casual exchanges with both friend and stranger alike. They are, however evidence of a shared worldview, an overwhelming tilt to the Left – at times further Left than others – among staff. It’s also evidence that the behavior is spread throughout the organization.
There doesn’t need to be an editorial directive sent from the top for there to be a form of institutional bias in the Corporation. There’s no need for a conspiracy or a memo passed around or a secret cabal planning the day’s editorial slant. If they all think the same way, share the relevant perspective, the biased reporting happens naturally. Their tweets are evidence of this shared mindset.
This reflexive behavior can be reinforced when nearly all one’s colleagues approve, or one is rewarded for it. People feel quite free to express their personal political opinions without concern.
While the occasional expression of partisan opinion can be overlooked, when there are a lot of them over time, it adds up. Contrary to conventional wisdom, sometimes the plural of anecdote really is “data”‘.
Some BBC staff are worse than others with the regularity of personal opinion or the enthusiasm with which it’s expressed. Others are more circumspect, only rarely letting their opinion on an issue slip through. The problem, however, is that nearly all those opinions are on the Left of the political spectrum, some much further Left than others.
It would be one thing, of course, if it was just a handful of people, say, regional pop music radio personnel, lightly passing on their liberal thoughts on an issue of the day every once in a while. Only it’s much more than that: BBC staff from many departments, both in Britain and internationally are tweeting Left-wing opinion.
A reader of staff Twitter feeds often sees a preponderance of Left-leaning voices. A person’s Follow list can also be revealing. While nearly all the News & Current Affairs people will be following political figures and media outlets on both sides of the political spectrum – as they should, in order to do their jobs properly – there are also plenty of things which betray personal opinion.
Tweets about favorite bands or football clubs, or outbursts about an X factor result are all about sharing personal opinion. It’s not a stretch at all to read tweets about politics or public figures the same way.
When one tweets only Left-wing opinions, it’s equally as telling as tweeting about rock concerts one has just seen. Patterns emerge. Just as musical taste can be gleaned from the latter, political opinion can be from the former.
With this in mind, the public figures outside of politics – that is to say, aside from politicians, party officials, and the like – the commentators, pundits, and special interest advocates on a Follow list and in a Twitter feed can be can be telling. For example, BBC staff are more likely to be following Left-wing pundits and writers than voices from the Right.
Similarly, they’re more likely to be following something from Occupy Wall St than from any Tea Party group, and are far more likely to retweet something from a Left-wing perspective in a complimentary fashion than one from the Right. A number of BBC staff openly mocked even the most minor of slip-up of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, but not a single one of them has ever laughed at or even lightly mentioned any error made by Barack Obama, either as candidate or President.
The Twitter activity of BBC staff is very revealing of their personal political and ideological leanings. When viewed as a whole, over a period of time, it’s clear evidence of a shared mindset, a kind of groupthink. There’s certainly a lack of intellectual diversity. If it was just a few of them, or was a more or less isolated phenomenon among light-entertainment on-air talent, it wouldn’t be an issue. But clearly it’s a problem in many areas of the BBC, across the spectrum of broadcasting as well as on the website.