Apologies for being two weeks late getting to this, but it’s not time-sensitive, and so here it is now. Justin Webb wrote a “Diary” installment for the Spectator issue published on Oct. 13. They’ve turned off the pay wall for a few weeks since launching the new online format, so for the time being you can read the whole thing here.
I’m interested in observing Webb’s personal opinions, so we can judge if this influences his broadcasting in any way. With this in mind, check out the obvious enthusiasm with which he remarks that Miami is controlled by non-white, non-English speaking people. It’s one thing to make the impartial observation that the region has become this way, and to point out the geographical and political reasons behind it. It’s quite another to express approval.
I am still buzzing with the sheer un-American hedonism of Florida’s finest city. The really good thing about Miami, they say, is how close it is to the USA. Quite right: it is close but separate. It is more than ever the capital of Latin America, home to a Spanish-language media market that extends — carelessly skipping over political borders and anti-immigration fences — through Mexico and Honduras and Nicaragua, down as far as Colombia and Venezuela.
Because he’s judging the entire situation in Miami based on the color of the protagonists’ skin, he approves. Why? Why is it a good thing? By his own admission, ol’ Justin is not a fan of the US. Oh, sure, he likes many of the inhabitants individually, as people. He even thinks his youngest daughter’s flat vowels were so cute that he regrets that she’s lost her US accent now.
But don’t take my word for his biased reporting. Take his, as broadcast in January 2006, while he was still working the US beat. While talking with Stephen Sakur on air, he criticized what he considered to be an anti-American tendency at the BBC and other media outlets, specifically about the false moral equivalency of saying the US was just as bad or worse than any brutal dictatorship. Listeners complained to the BBC about such pro-US bias, and ol’ Justin was compelled to defend himself a few days later. I’ve bolded what I think are the key bits.
Roger Bolton: I spoke to our correspondent this week, and asked if he had gone native
Justin Webb: No, I haven’t, and what I would say to those who complained about me is that I genuinely do apologize to them. It’s not my business to upset and annoy people and its not my business to be seen to be partial or indeed to be partial. And, to the extent that I was in this broadcast, then I think I do owe them an apology.
RB: You agree you were a little partial. You expressed yourself perhaps a little too warmly?
JW: Possibly a little too warmly. But what I was trying to do – and I would say this in mitigation – is puncture an atmosphere which developed, I thought, during this broadcast and which I think does occasionally develop on the BBC, and on other broadcasting outlets, where there is a kind of cosy feeling that somehow if only America would behave differently, then everything in the world would be fine. I think that is a view which does annoy and upset Americans, as I said it did. And it’s not just the White House – it is a broader thing than that – and also a view which is, to put it mildly, open to challenge, and that’s what I hoped to do, so to the extent that I upset people, I do apologize for that and I would ask them to listen to the range of work that I do, because America is such an important place I am on the radio pretty much every day, and I don’t think they could generally accuse me of being someone who is pro-American. In fact, most of the work that I do, frankly, is sceptical, certainly about the Bush administration and, to a wider extent, about American policies and motives. But I do think occasionally, and I would reserve this, in the context of a discussion that is an open, free discussion, not a news program, I do think it is important that we keep an eye on this tendency that I think we do sometimes have just to throw up our hands and take the easy road, which is to suggest that everything would be fine if only the Americans behaved better.
In other words, it’s okay for him to be biased against the US and various factions within but it’s not okay for him to show even a hint of bias in support of the US. It’s amusing also due to the fact that ol’ Justin has also admitted to some culpability for the anti-US reporting from the BBC.
America is often portrayed as an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry, a place lacking in respect for evidence based knowledge.
I know that is how it is portrayed because I have done my bit to paint that picture, and that picture is in many respects a true one.
He’s also admitted another aspect of his bias, for which he has never been brought on air to apologize.
“I’m rude about quite a lot of people, I was very rude about Sarah Palin which upset some people.”
This charming behavior was a prime factor in his getting that Today presenter job. Here’s another example of Webb freely expressing his opinion in way that he simply wouldn’t be allowed to if the subject matter were different:
Eleven-year-old Kara Neumann was suffering from type one diabetes, an auto-immune condition my son was recently diagnosed with.
Her family, for religious reasons, decided not to take her to hospital. They prayed by her bedside and the little girl died.
The night before she died – and she would have been in intense discomfort – her parents called the founder of a religious website and prayed with him on the telephone. But they did not call a doctor.
If Kara had been taken to hospital, even at that late stage, insulin could have saved her. She could have been home in a few days and chirpy by the end of the week, as my son was.
It was an entirely preventable death caused, let’s be frank, by some of the Stone Age superstition that stalks the richest and most technologically advanced nation on earth.
Show me one example of any BBC employee who is allowed to say this on air about Islam. Kilroy Silk mentioned it once, but he didn’t get away with it. Yet ol’ Justin can not only openly “deplore” non-Mohammedan religious belief, but gets promoted for it.
This leads us to the conclusion that Justin Webb loathes much of what he sees as the White United States. This in turn makes him celebrate the scene in Miami simply because they’re not white. There’s no other basis for it, and his own words in the Diary piece make that clear.
Getting back to the Spectator Diary, then, Webb gives us prime fodder to consider what I put in my post title: Nature or Nurture? Lots of energy has been spent both here and around the blogosphere and even in the mainstream press about the nature of the internal culture at the BBC. Lord Tebbitt has gone so far as to suggest that their self-selecting method of hiring like-minded people has created this hive-mind which permits the kind of bias I’ve highlighted here, while simultaneously squashing unapproved thoughts and demanding apologies for bias in the other direction.
This brings us to the question: Is it then the innate nature of the people hired, or does the BBC’s internal culture nurture such biased behavior, to the point where people who otherwise wouldn’t be so far to the Left have, as many have suggested about Nick Robinson, gone native? With ol’ Justin, I’d say it’s a bit of both.
Six years ago my mother died and that change came to me that comes to us all when the parents are gone; we are grown up, fully, whether we like it or not, or are ready to cope with it or not. My mother’s birthday was this month and I have rather shamefully failed — yet again — to gather her remaining friends and relations together for some kind of memorial event. But it occurs to me that she, as a socialist, pacifist Quaker, with an admiration for punitive income taxes and Chinese communism, would still have appreciated a birthday mention in the pages of The Spectator. She had a sense of humour, you see: so Happy Birthday, Mum. And although history has yet to smile on all your political programmes, I note, as a dutiful son, that a crisis of capitalism has indeed occurred and that admiration for China, or at least a desire to fly there, animates Conservatives as much as it did you.
We see here that Webb was raised not only Quaker (which, contrary to a certain defender of the indefensible’s assertion, clearly hasn’t made him tolerant of minority religions other than Mohammedanism), but Socialist. This and his LSE education seems to have blinded him to reality, and made him stupidly say that the financial crisis of 2008 was a “crisis of capitalism”, when in fact it was a crisis of capitalists and not-so-capitalist politicians. He would never suggest that Stalin’s mass starvations and purges, or Mao’s devastating Cultural Revolution, or Pol Pot’s killing fields, or what Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe, were crises of Communism or Socialism. He’d say the same thing the rest of the apologists do: these were acts of men, a beautiful ideology ruined by some bad apples. Never mind the clear unawareness that China’s economy, built on smoke and mirrors, is not very far away from its own disaster.
So Webb was born and raised (and then educated) to be a Socialist. Was he similarly prepped to be a Beeboid? He wasn’t raised to be one, but it’s certainly, to borrow from Helen “Hugs” Boaden, in his DNA:
Woods was married with two young children when he had an affair with Webb’s mother, Gloria Crocombe. Webb had no contact with his father except for a brief encounter at the age of six months but always knew his true parentage.
It will come as a shock to no one here that this was during the period when there was a very free sexual attitude at the BBC and, as Mark Thompson admitted, had a “massive Left-wing bias”. As for Beeboids having affairs and fathering children out of wedlock, well, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
(Side note: Interestingly, Webb’s trajectory seems to be mirrored by his successor, Mark Mardell. Like Mardell, ol’ Justin was the BBC’s Brussels-based Europe editor before taking up his US position.)
Is his BBC journalism biased? Yes. It’s been documented here over and over again. Here are just a few examples:
This blog has been observing Webb’s bias since at least 2005.
Ol’ Justin was born and bred to be a biased Beeboid. He sought out the BBC like a salmon instinctively returning to its spawning ground. And his biased journalism got him elevated to one of the most coveted spots in BBC broadcasting.
There’s something wrong with the corporate culture which creates this. The left-leaning culture has been there for decades now, and they continue to hire like-minded people, and crack down on unapproved thoughts. That’s what needs to be investigated if the BBC is ever to learn the proper lessons about not only how Jimmy Savile was allowed to get away with what he did, but how the BBC has become such a biased broadcasting organization.
PS: Justin Webb isn’t the only genetic Beeboid. Aside from the Dimbleby dynasty, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones was not only similarly sired by a Beeboid, but is married to the Co-Chair of the Trust. One has to wonder if, like at certain universities, there’s a legacy admission clause.