STEPHEN GLOVER: The BBC’s comic bias is proof it has given up on impartiality
Has the BBC finally given up any pretence of impartiality, and become the official mouthpiece of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, which has been mounting demonstrations around the country over the past week?
Sunday was tumultuous. A mob in Bristol tore down the statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader and philanthropist who died 300 years ago. There were more demos in London, though involving less violence than on the previous day.
If ever our national broadcaster were needed to give a balanced account of these remarkable events, this was the moment.
A police office falls from horseback as the spooked animal bolts during violent clashes at the Black Lives Matter protests in London
Protesters in Bristol pulled down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston on Sunday
But Auntie has provided coverage that ignored or seemingly condoned illegal acts, and assumed that all the grievances of protesters were well-founded.
Take BBC1’s flagship News at Ten on Sunday evening. It led with footage of Colston’s statute being toppled, and then dumped in the river. One young black protester alluded to ‘years of oppression and hurt’. Another said the statue had been ‘a kick in the face for all black people’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel – one of two Bame Cabinet ministers occupying the four great offices of state – was afforded a brief slot to condemn the ‘sheer vandalism’ of those who had pulled down the statue. Three protesters were then shown complaining about the racism endemic in British society.
Home Secretary Priti Patel appeared on the BBC to condemn the ‘sheer vandalism’ of protests
Throughout the bulletin there was no reference to the young police woman who had been knocked off her horse outside Downing Street on Saturday, and lay in hospital with a broken collar bone, punctured lung and shattered ribs.
The 27 police officers who had been injured (the number has since climbed) were fleetingly mentioned.
Nor was the further daubing of Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square reported. Did the BBC calculate that the great wartime leader is such a national idol that it was prudent to conceal the defacement of his plinth by the heroic protesters?
There was a lot more stuff about Colston – or rather the terrible racism allegedly prevalent in this country. An older black lady and two young black women were said by a BBC reporter to be ‘united by the same battle against racism’. One of the younger women stated there was a ‘pandemic of black people being killed and shot every single day’.
There was more: photographs of black people who had died in police custody, and an interview with a black lady whose brother had expired in these appalling circumstances. There was naturally no mention of whites who have similarly perished.
Yet according to the neutral charity Inquest, of the 1,741 people who have died in England and Wales in police custody since 1990, 14 per cent were from minority ethnic backgrounds.
These proportions roughly correspond to the ethnic breakdown of the general population. Might the BBC consider whether whites could conceivably be equal victims of police brutality? Of course not!
The BBC included an interview with Manchester City and England footballer Raheem Sterling
Auntie wasn’t finished yet. The black Manchester City and England footballer Raheem Sterling was given the floor just in case viewers were still in any doubt that Britain is a terribly racist place. A longer version of this interview was due to be shown on BBC2’s Newsnight last night.
At the end of the corporation’s all-too-characteristic bulletin, home editor Mark Easton was encouraged to justify and explain the explosion of anger. He suggested that ‘prejudice and unfair privilege’ were factors (I wonder what his salary is, and how much his house is worth) before concluding that we would have to consider how we should respond to what has happened.
I ask: was this coverage fair-minded and even-handed? Or was it almost comically biased in the impression it gave of rampant racism, as well as wilfully oblivious to violence and criminality?
There are many other examples of the Beeb minimising violence, and of its determination to show that all protesters mean well. For example, the BBC News Twitter feed contended that ‘a police horse has bolted at protesters at an anti-racism rally in London’. Only because the poor beast was terrified by flares and missiles, and its police rider had been thrown off.
Even more disgraceful was the doctoring of a photograph by the BBC to remove the image of a masked man who was threatening a line of police with a large piece of wood during Saturday’s protests in Whitehall.
A picture on the BBC London website showed a line of police officers holding back a surging crowd without the intimidating man, alongside the caption: ‘The disturbances took place outside of Downing Street after a largely peaceful protest.’ After complaints by social media users, Auntie was obliged to restore the man brandishing the wood.
One instance of an egregious lack of proportionality on the part of the corporation was a contribution by black Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo. Sobbing on air over the terrible murder of George Floyd, she treated listeners to a lecture about the ‘insidious’ nature of racism in Britain. She should be given a slot on Newsnight to rant alongside Emily Maitlis.
Even Radio 4 Today programme’s Justin Webb – normally so sane and reasonable – was overcome by a kind of madness. In an interview on Monday morning with police minister Kit Malthouse, he asserted that Edward Colston was ‘a particularly unpleasant man’ and compared his statue to that of a Nazi.
Maybe Colston was unpleasant, though he was a philanthropist. But Webb should know that an awful lot of people and institutions in the 17th and 18th centuries benefited from, or defended, slavery. The Royal Society, Isaac Newton, the philosopher John Locke, endless Church of England bishops, Lord Nelson, many of our museums and older universities . . . and on and on.
Shall we pull all their buildings down, burn the portraits of innumerable dead white males, and start again? Or should we just recognise that, thank God, times have changed, and we don’t live in the dystopian racist society conjured up by Black Lives Matter and its official broadcaster, the BBC?