David Thompson
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August 27, 2012

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Anna

I'm a 'bourgeois' small business owner (and a mother and wife) but even I feel alternative now. Don't know how that happened.

David

Anna,

“Don’t know how that happened.”

Quite.

But spare a thought for our would-be counter-cultural titans. It must be tough to maintain a self-image of anti-establishment radicalism when so much of our establishment is itself affecting the same kind of posture. When even government ministers insist that art and culture should be “challenging” and “iconoclastic,” what’s an edgy artist to do? Make something beautiful and then sell it to someone who hands over their own cash? Eep.

Young leftists often display their radical plumage at university. It’s practically a rite of passage. But the institutional leftism of non-STEM academia, documented here over the last five years, needs no further elaboration. Just dig through the archives and try to pretend otherwise. Now imagine you’re a fiery young socialist arriving at college. How do you out-left Dr Nina Power? Or Alexander Vasudevan? The overwhelming leftist groupthink of our arts institutions has also been noted here many, many times. Even the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones concedes the point as obvious. Channel 4’s preferences aren’t exactly hard to spot. And the leanings of the BBC – our nation’s state broadcaster – are now the stuff of legend.

As Tassano says,

To pretend the cultural landscape is not at present utterly dominated by leftist sentiment (pro-state, pseudo-egalitarian, anti-capitalist) is just silly. The fact that such sentiment tends no longer to be referred to as leftist is merely a sign of how hegemonic it has become.

And when the Beeb’s latest go-to gal is Laurie Penny, surrealism seems redundant.

Henry

'Cultural landscape..dominated by leftist sentiment'? I largely blame the BBC (who contemptuously deny they are doing any such thing) and the universities.

I listened to the Saturday review on BBC Radio 4 last week, and heard half an hour of unremitting leftist/Guardian talk: Jesus, we learned, had 'socialist principles', there was surprisingly a "good Tory" in a period drama. Bidisha expressed the hope that Ry Cooder's heavily political new album (go on, guess which side he was on!) would change history..

On the subject of Cooder's CD, it was claimed by one guest that we "need more grumpy lefties doing protest music"...there's the wounded, oppressed counter-culture talking again - from it's regular state-broadcasting slot (I haven't even started on QT, "Thinking allowed", "Today on Radio 4", BBC news bulletins, etcetc)

One of the problems with the leftist agenda being mainstream is that it is by definition, negative and self-defeating. Certainly negative towards English/British culture (which needs to be completely replaced by a pot-pourri of other cultures around the world for some reason) and history (we in the UK are solely responsible for people killing each other worldwide)

David

Henry,

“…there’s the wounded, oppressed counter-culture talking again - from its regular state-broadcasting slot.”

And so we arrive at the strange notion that Bidisha - educated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and employed to opine on television and radio by the nation’s state broadcaster precisely because of her politics - is in some way outside of the establishment and current status quo. Her peers and her audience – on air and in print – are our cultural establishment, and she finds that establishment in almost total agreement with her. Practically every assumption she mouths is the assumption one ought to leap to. How Bidisha squares her own alleged radicalism with these facts is something of a mystery.

Mr. X

@ David:

"Young leftists often display their radical plumage at university. It’s practically a rite of passage. But the institutional leftism of non-STEM academia, documented here over the last five years, needs no further elaboration. Just dig through the archives and try to pretend otherwise."

Actually, that raises an interesting point: whilst you rarely if ever hear this sort of radical nonsense from STEM professors, it's by no means evenly distributed amongst non-STEM academics. The vast majority of cases I've heard seem to involve English professors, with a few Marxist Historians thrown in for good measure. On the other hand, Philosophers parade their radical credentials comparitively rarely, and I don't think I've ever heard of (say) a Classicist or Theologian doing this. I wonder why that could be?

David

Mr X,

I don’t know enough about scholars of theology and the Classics to comment. In terms of philosophy lecturers, I’d guess there are at least two types. Those disdained by Nina Power as “white men discussing formal logic” and those like Ms Power herself, who all but dispenses with logic and instead shoehorns far-left politics into every possible crevice.

A Philistine at the end of his patience.

David,

Thank you for introducing me to Daniel Greenfield! Surely so much correct perception, good sense and right thinking in one place must violate some law of physics and create a black hole of anti-stupidity wherein whole departmens of sociology vanish and bother us no more. Or at least one can hope.

svh

more like causes than news subjects.

Daniel Okrent, NYT, 2004:

"Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper? Of course it is… My concern is the flammable stuff that ignites the right. These are the social issues: gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation, among others. And if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you've been reading the paper with your eyes closed."

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/25/opinion/the-public-editor-is-the-new-york-times-a-liberal-newspaper.html?pagewanted=all

David

svh,

Thanks for that. What’s odd, though, isn’t the NYT’s obvious political leaning or admissions of such; it’s the attempts by its senior staff to then pretend there isn’t any political leaning at all. I can’t help wondering how Jill Abramson reconciles her claims of the paper’s objectivity - “keeping the paper ‘straight’… is essential” – with its coverage of, say, Occupy, which was often as ludicrous and mendacious as the coverage in the Guardian. Both papers championed Occupy as something it clearly wasn’t but which their editors and journalists very much wanted it to be. And when faced with the movement’s dysfunction and hilarious incoherence, both papers bent over backwards to excuse it, filling in the blanks themselves, while the escalating thuggery was either carefully downplayed or simply not reported.

[ Added: ]

One of the more telling details was how some journalists responded to the Occupiers’ opportunist blankness – the repeated statement that “demands are disempowering.” Faced with mobs who “seized” or destroyed other people’s property and obstructed major traffic routes for hours on end - and who then couldn’t offer a coherent reason for doing so - many leftist journalists saw no need to question this, as if no meaningful explanation were required. I don’t recall anyone at the Guardian or the NYT noting the obvious – that the general incoherence and lack of credible demands allowed the Occupiers to disrupt and harass whenever they liked for as long as they liked, since by definition they couldn’t be appeased.

Sam

"Although this clip helps practical people understand the thought process of typical Occupy hipster, it certainly does not justify their actions."

http://dartreview.com/dartlog/2012/5/9/ows-psychology-explained.html

Jacob

Another Occupy intellectual...

http://youtu.be/Kae2hXu09eM

Killer question: "Then what?"

David

Jacob,

“Killer question: ‘Then what?’”

Exactly. And so we get Laurie Penny trying to excuse the Occupiers’ general woolliness, blathering about “counter-culture” and telling us, rather cryptically, “the occupation is its own demand.” In other words, the Occupiers can always come up with a pretext – even after the fact - to screw with random people and get themselves noticed, thus fuelling their delusions of geo-political importance.

I think it was Bill Maher who said he liked the fact that Occupy is “militantly vague.” But as we’ve seen, this lack of clarity gives enormous scope for self-indulgence, dishonesty and malice. Some nasty little egos just really enjoy the mob dynamic and what it makes possible – like having power over others and being able to frustrate and intimidate, all while being masked and morally anonymous. Others, like the idiot in the video, get off on the emotional rush of feeling self-righteous while not having a clue what it is they actually want or why it should make them virtuous. It’s a kind of emotional question-begging. “I’m angry and loud and therefore I’m righteous.”

Spiny Norman

"self-indulgence, dishonesty and malice"

The basis of Bill Maher's "comedic" career, by the way. He has a cable television show because he aims his venom at the right people. He is occasionally clever, but certainly isn't at all funny.

Anna

“Killer question: ‘Then what?’”

The guy in the video obviously has a plan.

Smoke some crystal meth.
Put bandana over face.
Smash capitalism.
Smoke more crystal meth.

Dr.Dawg

This particular example of having one's cake and eating it too never fails to amaze me--as in my country, Canada, in which similar claims of "left bias" in the media, as opposed to the fact that every newspaper in Canada but one endorsed the right-wing Conservative Party in last year's election, are never quite squared.

Here's an actual study (as opposed to an impression) about US media coverage during this year's election campaign: http://tinyurl.com/9s555e7

I can't speak for Britain, obviously, but the notion that the Left has seized control of the airwaves and print media in the US and Canada is, quite simply, ludicrous. I'll bet even money that the same is true of the UK.

David

Morning, Dr Dawg. (I thought you were on holiday?)

“Here’s an actual study (as opposed to an impression) about US media coverage during this year’s election campaign.”

We can trade studies (and of course “studies”) that purport to prove quite different general leanings in the US media. Without scrutinising the methodology and poring over the actual data in each case, it’s hard to say much. The results of any study could vary dramatically depending on any number of factors - say, the inclusion of non-news-specific programming, the prominence of certain personalities, issues or scandals, and even the time of year. The extracts I quoted centred on the redundancy of ‘alternative’ (i.e., far left) printed media more than claims of overall bias or, as you put it, rather colourfully, “seizing control.” I think it’s fair to say that extreme views are now easily accessible elsewhere. (I’ve spent a few hours marvelling at the dogmatism of MSNBC, but take your pick – extremity and fancifulness aren’t hard to find.) And as a Brit, I won’t venture further into speculation. A certain amount of immersion in the culture seems necessary.

“I can’t speak for Britain, obviously… I’ll bet even money that the same is true of the UK.”

I’ve already noted the leanings of the BBC, our publicly-funded state broadcaster, and as someone immersed in its output, my own impression of its shortcomings seems reasonably sound. (Fabian’s Thatcher example seems apposite too, as the prevailing views among our commentariat and cultural establishment at the time were somewhat at odds with election results.) When a Labour election victory results in Broadcasting House being littered with champagne bottles, when the BBC’s own staff admit that the newsroom was adorned with “BushHitler” posters, and when the organisation’s own Director General admits to a “massive” left-of-centre bias, I’m not sure much more needs to be said. A vast publicly-funded media organisation will tend to favour the party that favours public subsidy for vast media organisations.

The overwhelming majority of Brits still get the bulk of their news from TV, and the huge, multi-platform BBC has a news market share of around 70%. By some estimates, slightly more. The prominence, not least among other media employees, of BBC programmes such as Today, Newsnight and Question Time tilt that influence further, especially in terms of defining the day’s news agenda and what gets reported elsewhere. It’s long been a running joke, demonstrated endlessly, that Today in particular is pretty much the Guardian read aloud. And as arts and media graduates tend to be slightly to the left of the general population, and as the majority of BBC staff are recruited via adverts in the Guardian, that’s not entirely surprising.

According to Ofcom data published in June this year, the BBC’s position in news consumption is clearly dominant. TV, radio and online news sources combined account for the vast majority of Britons’ news consumption, with newspapers trailing at around 10%. And the BBC is responsible for at least 70% of radio news, 74% of TV news hours, and almost half of all page views among the top 50 online news providers. Half of the UK’s online news consumers use BBC Online, the largest site of its kind, and the nearest rival is less than 20%. The BBC accounts for three of the top five TV news sources, the top three radio news sources, and is cited as the source of roughly half the news stories reported elsewhere across all media. The BBC’s overall market share of cross-platform news is estimated as close to 70%. Yet many of the people who stress the importance of media pluralism somehow overlook “Aunty Beeb” as if she were a benign and scrupulously impartial entity.

Despite the BBC employing a remarkable number of self-defined socialists and communists – as economics editors, even – one doesn’t have to invoke dark conspiracies to explain this. I see the Beeb’s leanings as more a function of institutional comfort zones and groupthink. Its editors and journalists tend to be somewhere to the left of the broader population, as do many arts and media graduates. It would therefore be surprising if the Beeb’s output, and that of many other media organisations, didn’t reflect that to some extent. As the BBC’s Andrew Marr said in 2006: “The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias… a cultural liberal bias.” (In this context, the term ‘liberal’ means liberal on social issues and favouring redistribution, multiculturalism, identity politics, public spending, the EU, etc.)

And again, it isn’t just a question of trying to analyse election-specific coverage or overtly political programming. The BBC, for instance, is more likely to attempt fairness, or the appearance of fairness, during an election, when its output is more likely to be monitored for any slant or impropriety. Its general output, however – its cultural tone - is often more revealing.

When the Other Half and I go for a long drive we sometimes play a game. The object is to see how long we can leave on BBC Radio 4 (slogan: “intelligent speech”) before some jarringly leftist assumption goes unchallenged as self-evident. It doesn’t have to be a political show; in fact overtly political programmes are best avoided. Today is out, obviously, as the game would be over in seconds. Ditto Broadcasting House and Thinking Allowed. We give short news bulletins a try, along with arts programmes, dramas and comedy shows. I think the longest we’ve ever managed is about 20 minutes.

I’m sure the premise could be adapted as a drinking game. But not while driving, obviously.

[ Tweaked for clarity. ]

sackcloth and ashes

Following on from David's comments, the question is not so much bias within the BBC's news programmes, but in its other broadcasting, mainly with comedy and drama.

http://www.newcultureforum.org.uk/home/pdf/BBC_Report_FINAL.pdf

Let's take the topic of terrorism. On the one hand you do have Peter Taylor's thoroughly researched and scrupulous documentaries, but if you take the Beeb's supposedly 'popular' dramas then one struggles to see any reference to what al-Qaida is, what political ideology inspires its members (and those of the Taliban, Laskar e-Toiba etc), or indeed any reference to the atrocities committed by those that sign up to it, other than 'The Grid' (which was co-produced by Fox).

'Page Eight' painted the usual cliches of nasty Americans, supine cowardly Brits and bloodthirsty Israelis. 'The State Within' was all about nasty neo-cons. 'Spooks' did feature an al-Qaeda attack on the Saudi embassy in London, but (surprise surprise) it was a Mossad false flag. The Beeb did have a docu-drama called 'My brother the bomber' in progress about one of the 7/7 bombers, but it got binned.

Then think about the last time the BBC broadcast a drama that was sympathetic about the UK armed forces. I think it was 'Warriors', back in 1998. Seen anything about Iraq or Afghanistan that doesn't portray soldiers as psychologically-damaged victims or blood-stained bullies and killers? I haven't - at least not on the Beeb. The last Afghan-themed drama on the BBC was the episode of 'Accused' in which Jimmy McGovern did to the British Army what the 'Sun' did to Liverpool supporters after Hillsborough.

Regarding religions, does anyone else here remember the series called 'Bonekickers' which featured radical Christians running around cutting people's heads off? Did anyone else think that in the real world there were fanatical adherents of another faith who were doing exactly the same, but who didn't end up as the villians in any Beeb TV show?

Or let's take comedy. Put Mark Steel or Marcus Brigstocke in front of a stand-up audience and they'll die. Jeremy Hardy (of 'The News Quiz') is telling exactly the same jokes about Tories as he used 20 years ago, but he doesn't seem to realise that they aren't funny anymore. If you asked a Beeboid if he/she would put on air a comedian who was funny, but happened to be a Tory, what do you think would happen?

Anna

I think it's cute there are still people who think the BBC isn't biased.

Btw, did you hear Paul Mason's 'feature' on Paul Ryan?

David

Anna,

“Btw, did you hear Paul Mason’s ‘feature’ on Paul Ryan?”

No, I try to limit my exposure. But Mason is a self-described Marxist, possibly a Swuppie, and an enthusiastic supporter / hagiographer of Occupy; so I can imagine how it went. Rather like Matt Frei’s bewildered ‘interview’ with Thomas Sowell.

“I think it’s cute there are still people who think the BBC isn’t biased.”

If memory serves, rv claimed the BBC was “right wing,” but then so far as I can make out rv is a communist. So for him perhaps it is. I’m not sure I find it cute, though.

[ Added: ]

In fairness to people overseas, it isn’t easy to convey the extent of the BBC’s political and cultural influence - the way it colours so much of its output with bien-pensant assumptions. As Sackcloth noted, the bias is often embedded in its dramatic, documentary and comedy programming as much as news and politics coverage. And it’s just so pervasive. I once spent a few days working with Radio 4 on in the background and I was genuinely startled by how relentless it is: food programmes, arts programmes, travel programmes, comedy shows… all filtered through an ‘arts graduate left-of-centre’ lens.

sackcloth and ashes

Of course there was also 'The Hour', which was supposed to be the Beeb's answer to 'Mad Men'.

The only problem was that it was dull, self-righteous, and the two main characters (played by Ben Whishaw and Romola Garai) were like Tobey Macguire and Reese Witherspoon in 'Pleasantville' - they were basically characters from the early 21st century dropped into the 1950s to comment on how racist/sexist/colonialist everyone was.

Thinking of series' like 'Homeland', 'The Wire' or 'The Killing', I cannot see how any of these shows would have made it onto the Beeb without some commissar fucking up the script.

Steve

Don't forget Channel 4. I actually think their news coverage is nowmore bias than the BBC's.

AC1

Just saw Arbeit Matt Frei on Ch4 news. Wow, talk about assuming the grauniad viewpoint is the core of European thinking!

Unbelievably biased against Romney, he spat the word Republican out, and reported on republicans as if he was poking people in Bedlam.

Think he'll have a shock.

Karen M

Thomas Sowell:

"In both Europe and America, there are many people who get angry at those who tell them the truth that the money is just not there to sustain huge welfare state programs indefinitely. But that anger might be better directed at those who lied to them by promising them benefits that were inherently unsustainable. Neither Social Security nor Medicare has ever had enough assets to cover its liabilities. Very simply, there has never been enough money put aside to do what the government promised to do."

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=43143

David

AC1,

“Think he’ll have a shock.”

He does seem a little non-plussed by people who don’t subscribe to a Guardianista worldview. When talking with or about non-leftists, he often takes on the air of an anthropologist. Apparently it’s all very alien to him.

His ‘interview’ with Thomas Sowell, noted previously, is fairly typical. Listeners were warned – and I think that’s the right word – that Sowell is a (gasp) conservative and has appeared on (clutches pearls) Fox News. These details were evidently meant to flag something important to his audience. Frei had supposedly read at least some of Sowell’s work yet he didn’t seem to have grasped Sowell’s most basic and carefully worded arguments, airing instead his own cartoonish interpretations. (“So we should only allow dumb people in the White House?” etc.) The whole thing was a colossal waste of time, a missed opportunity. But then, Mr Frei has exactly the kind of views that Sowell criticises, which may explain that particular opportunity being missed. Frei believes that “America’s brightest people” should be running things, by which he means Democrats in general and left-leaning intellectuals in particular. Let’s not forget Frei’s enthusiasm for Chinese authoritarianism as a model for “progressives”: “Sometimes you look at countries like China and you think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be an autocracy in times like these?’”

The air of bewilderment when confronted with Sowell contrasts sharply with Frei’s evident sympathy with left-of-centre figures, to whom he extends a remarkable indulgence. His bizarre schoolgirl gushing over Obama was hard to parody. His interview with Jimmy Carter was practically obsequious. Then there are the jokes about the “Tea Party Taliban” and Republican “Stepford wives.” And his willingness to describe conservatives in unflattering physical terms – Chris Christie is “Tony Soprano in a fat suit” and could “accommodate all the Romney children and grandchildren in one pair of his pants” – while shying from such flourishes when describing Democrats. And this was the BBC’s – now Channel 4’s - Washington correspondent. Again, it’s about tone. And this kind of thing is hard to quantify in a study of media bias.

Mr Eugenides

Apologies if you've seen this already: Žižek on Batman. For this blog, it's the perfect storm, surely?

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/culture/2012/08/slavoj-%C5%BEi%C5%BEek-politics-batman

David

Mr E.,

Reading Žižek feels a bit like bleeding out. Isn’t it time we just bricked him up in a cellar then built a car park on top?

svh

Occupy brains trust #4,099…

http://youtu.be/PX-BA9pO2-s

sackcloth and ashes

Ah yes. Matt 'Stir' Frei. You know something, Matt ... if you are appointed to be a news correspondent for any given country it helps if you're open-minded enough to try and find out what its citizens actually think, instead of just sneering at them. Justin Webb could give you some top tips.

David

Sackcloth,

If a person’s window into American politics relied on the nightly reporting of Matt Frei, they might well conclude that non-Democrats were either curios or simpletons to be corrected. But then Frei can write a 1,000-word article on Islamist suicide bombing without once mentioning the words jihad, Muslim or Islam, and a three-part series on Berlin and the downfall of the wall without once mentioning Reagan. This, from a man who tells us that “journalism at its best” should be about “pulling no punches” and “playing no favourites.” And again, this isn’t some lowly blogger or fringe publication. This is a star journalist of the BBC and Channel 4.

watcher

The assumption that the BBC is not biased is interesting, but some of the people making such a claim do not know (or care to know) that the BBC is funded by a tax that Brits cannot escape from. Every purchase of a television, even if the buyer does not ever want to watch what some call Al-Beeb, is reported to the authorities so that you can be taxed. You have to have a television licence, which goes to fund the BBC's output. But it goes further: when my daughter went to university several years ago there was a letter waiting for her in her hall of residence room warning her that she if she had a television she must have a licence. Or else face fines and potential imprisonment. It was a thinly veiled threat, but curiously when we bought a licence for her and it was duly sent by the BBC's agents to the wrong address, when we asked as to its whereabouts there was a very real warning that she may indeed have paid for one but without it in her possession, she must not under any circumstances watch television.

In effect we, the people, are deemed to be the enemies of the state because the state runs the BBC. This does not trouble the well-rewarded employees of the corporation. As the BBC staff have no duty to make money in persuading people to buy their product, they can and do indulge in whatever fancy takes their imagination and left is as good a flight of imagination as any.

You only have to listen to a BBC radio interview and how gentle questions are lobbed to a member of Labour party and compare that with the venom and vitriol heaped on a Tory party member over the same issue. I once mentioned this on Twitter about a certain journalist on BBC Radio 5 and soon got a tweet from the hack directly proudly responding that was quite right. The makeup of the BBC's flagship Question Time is astonishing -- a panel of five people usually has three left-wingers to one Tory and if they drag along a supposed comedian to make up the numbers they are often only 'funny' because they talk about Fatcher or Boosh in derogatory terms.

Still, I must be honest and say Channel 4 is no better, though how anyone can watch their slanted, pro-left, pro-palestinian, pro-democrat news output is beyond me.

David

watcher,

Guessing the political composition of Question Time panels has long been an armchair sport. My impression is that things have improved a little on that front, though I haven’t been paying close attention and may be wrong. I still remember the infamous programme that aired two days after the September 11 atrocities. What struck me then, for the first time, was the gross bias of the panel, which took the shape of one distressed and tearful American ambassador – being continually interrupted and jeered - and three prominent left-wingers taking turns at being obnoxious. As human dust was still settling on Manhattan, our scrupulously impartial state broadcaster shared with the nation the full spectrum of political thought – from left to further left, with a token visiting dissenter as a fig leaf to “balance.”

Dr.Dawg

David:

Thank you and others here for your well-considered responses. (My holiday, as such, was a short one, incidentally.) I'm frankly not surprised that the BBC incurs most of your wrath. I would expect that a publicly-owned broadcaster would be somewhat left of centre, for reasons already articulated.

Our own CBC was admittedly quite liberal, until the present Conservative government was elected back in 2006, and set about hacking and hewing. The response from the CBC top brass has been a slavish, self-conscious turn to the right, even the yobbo right (Kevin O'Leary, for example). The main news anchor pitches interview softballs to the Prime Minister, and everywhere there are signs of what people here might agree is political restraint--somewhat self-conscious, in my view. In any case, the neutered CBC is still under the gun, so all of these attempts to be korrekt are availing them absolutely nothing.

(Incidentally, it's odd indeed, or perhaps not so odd, how well-known figures in the "liberal" media, like Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, were appointed to the Senate by the Conservatives and immediately bared their far-right partisan fangs.)

But the CBC has never in its wildest dreams grabbed 70% of the news. We have CTV and Global and a host of American news programs in a multi-channel universe. And the private broadcasters have never made a secret of their right-of-centre orientation.

In the US, viewer-financed public broadcasting barely registers amid the utter cacophony of ugly radio and mind-numbing television. To watch and listen to this stuff and imagine for a moment that the left holds any serious sway at all would require a mental agility of which I, for one, am not capable. A vulgarian like Rush Limbaugh, for example, has an audience of 20 million. Talk shows (now we even see "talk radio" stations) are invariably right-wing populist in orientation. Yes, there's MSNBC, but even that network is hardly consistent. But this is a world in which some people refer to CNN as the "Communist News Network." One in which FOX news can call itself "fair and balanced" without a trace of irony.

I realize that "left" and "right" are moving targets. But even by the standards of people here, the banal shrieking from US media simply doesn't qualify as "left" by any normal definition.

Finally, I might suggest that it's not necessarily a bad thing to have left-wing voices heard. There seems almost a sense here that they should not, although I may well have misunderstood some of the concerns expressed. I have no problem with right- or left-wing bias, so long as neither pretends to be "objective," and factual claims made pass the test of empirical adequacy.

David

Dr Dawg,

“I might suggest that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have left-wing voices heard. There seems almost a sense here that they should not, although I may well have misunderstood some of the concerns expressed. I have no problem with right- or left-wing bias, so long as neither pretends to be ‘objective’…”

Exactly – ideas should be tested. And I doubt anyone here objects to the airing – and testing - of leftwing views.

The issue is that, unlike the products of, say, Mr Murdoch’s businesses, which we can choose to buy or not, the BBC is in effect funded by a tax – we have to pay for its output, even if we find it objectionable or grossly misleading, which it often is. And the BBC does pretend to be impartial. That’s one its supposed merits, which it plays on continually. Its position as our state broadcaster lends it influence and gravitas, and, as shown above, an unmatched reach. And its antiquated funding, via extortion and the threat of imprisonment, grants it immunity from normal market concerns and an enormous commercial and cultural leverage.

Right. Time for wine and winding down. This week’s ephemera should be auto-posted shortly after midnight.

‘Night, all.

Sam

What struck me then, for the first time, was the gross bias of the panel, which took the shape of one distressed and tearful American ambassador – being continually interrupted and jeered - and three prominent left-wingers taking turns at being obnoxious.

That was the worst QT I've ever seen (that's saying something) but it wasn't just the panel. The audience skewed far left as well. Remember the slow hand clapping?

David

Sam,

Given how small the Guardian’s paying readership is – around 200,000 and shrinking rapidly – it is remarkable how the BBC manages to find so many of them for its Question Time audiences. I suppose they’re largely a self-selecting group. Maybe Guardian readers just make more effort to be on Question Time. Either way, thanks to the BBC, they do have much greater prominence than their actual numbers might suggest. But yes, it is strange watching a supposedly “representative” audience that bears so little relationship with people you actually know, or with newspaper sales, or with voting patterns generally. (I’m assuming of course that 40 million Britons don’t in fact agree with the counterfactual ravings of Seumas Milne.)

When the BBC later apologised for the broadcast, after thousands of complaints, Tam Dalyell - one of the more obnoxious panellists - said the BBC and the programme’s participants had nothing to apologise for. In his view, the jeering, shrieking and taunting on display was “representative” of Londoners, and by implication of the UK as a whole, and was therefore not at all improper. Maybe Mr Dalyell spends his free time barracking widows at funerals.

Dr Cromarty

Maybe Mr Dalyell spends his free time barracking widows at funerals.

I wouldn't put it past him after that display.

sackcloth and ashes

'Question Time' can throw out its surprises, one of my favourites being when the Hitch tore Shirley Williams a newer and larger arsehole on the subject of Salman Rushdie, and when he also laid into one of the audience who clearly disapproved of his defence of free speech (which is somewhat ironic when one thinks of what QT is all about).

I think there are signs - as per Sewell's report - of change, and clearly some people in the Beeb get the idea that they can't make programme output dependent on the prejudices of the Graun's diminishing (and dying) readership. To take military matters, the BBC3 series 'Our War', for example, offers viewers a front-line view of combat operations from the perspectives of the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, without the ideological filters posed by either David Hare or Jimmy McGovern. The series on Sandhurst was also a gem as it showed what it takes to make a British Army officer, showing in particular that the cadet who had social connections but was physically unfit got backsquadded, even though he was supposed to be assured a place with the Horse Guards. I suspect that letters and feedback from Joe Public (particularly those who have either served, or have relatives in the forces) may have had an effect.

svh

I can't find that Question Time broadcast anywhere. Not even clips. Anyone got a link?

David

svh,

There’s an archive of coverage here but the Question Time broadcast doesn’t appear there or, it seems, anywhere online (unless perhaps via torrent). Biased BBC managed to track down a copy, briefly, but that seems to have disappeared too. I’d imagine the BBC would rather we forgot about it.

sackcloth and ashes

It's on Youtube, after the ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcQ2XXfw_Mw

svh

@sackcloth, thanks but I meant the 9/11 QT.

sackcloth and ashes

Ah, sorry.

Col. Milquetoast

Here's the BBC Question Time on 9/11 (aired September 13, 2001) :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpMuiFFZqnw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-kzAbEy4ZM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxU6e0GGhrY

Starting at about 9:57 of the first link, a guy says American & British aircraft flying over the skies of Iraq and Yugoslavia have done so in defense of Kurds, Iraqi Shia and muslims in Kosovo and is promptly jeered and shouted down. The counter arguments seems to be "You have no idea!" and the idea that the only acceptable way to frame it is as killing muslims.

Also interesting is the number of people (including panelists) who attribute their own hobbyhorse(s) as the cause of 9/11. Finally, as an American, I'm not particularly concerned if most of the world either "detests" or "despises" me (or not). Oh, what a burden it must be for those constantly worrying over whether or not they are liked by the quiet Finns or fretting that they're detested by the Bulgarians or get agitated wondering who a majority of Namibians consider to be their super best friend.

svh

@Col. Milquetoast - thanks.

sackcloth and ashes

@ Col Milquetoast

I recall idiots claiming that the USA's rejection of the Kyoto Treaty was a 'root cause' of 9/11. It was classed as one of those assertions that was too stupid even to be described as 'wrong'.

Rich Rostrom

Here in Chicago, the "alternative paper" is the Reader. Its "editorial hole" finds worthwhile stuff to write about, but mainly local issues. For instance, the Reader has crusading for many years against "Tax Increment Finance" districts. TIF is a gimmick which allows the city government to divert hundreds of millions of $ from regular city (and county and school) accounts to semi-secret funds controlled entirely by the Mayor, for giveaways to crony businesses.

The Reader was prominent in questioning the city's Olympic bid, which none of the "regular" papers did.

And it covers the city's music and theater scenes with thoroughness. And food, though there's nothing very "alternative" about their coverage; it's just fun.

So I have to say there is a place for "alternative" press, but it has to be worked for.

sk60

I'm a bit late with this but for the record:

Proving media bias. (Clue: it's what they don't report.)
http://www.prageruniversity.com/Political-Science/Proving-Media-Bias.html

U.S. distrust in media hits new high.
http://www.gallup.com/poll/157589/distrust-media-hits-new-high.aspx

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