The wreck of the BBC

The new issue of the Weekly Standard features an excellent account of the Hutton Inquiry on the story by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan that led to the death of David Kelly: “The wreck of the BBC.” The story is by Gerald Baker, an assistant editor of the Financial Times, and begins with the impact of the Hutton Inquiry in England, where it has apparently provoked an outpouring of rage (not directed at the BBC, of course) and grief unseen since the death of Lady Diana.
The story of David Kelly and Andrew Gilligan seems to me important because it graphically illustrates what seems to be the standard operating procedure at the mainstream media that attempt to shape our view of reality. Baker agrees:

The Kelly story was not an isolated incident. It was merely the most infamous example of a left-liberal bias that refracts all news coverage through the prism of the BBC’s own distinctive worldview. The BBC’s coverage of the Iraq war itself marked a new low point in the history of the self-loathing British prestige-media’s capacity to side with the nation’s enemies.
Its Middle East coverage is notoriously one-sided. Its pro-Palestinian bias is so marked that recently the London bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post refused to take part in any more BBC news programs because he believed the corporation was actually fomenting anti-Semitism. If anti-Americanism is on the rise in the world, the BBC can take a fair share of the credit; much of its U.S. coverage depicts a cartoonish image of a nation of obese, Bible-wielding halfwits, blissfully dedicated to shooting or suing each other.
Its suppositions are recognizable as those of self-appointed liberal elites everywhere: American power is bad; European multilateralism is good; organized religion is a weird vestige of unenlightened barbarism; atheism is rational man’s highest intellectual achievement; Israel (especially Ariel Sharon) is evil; Palestinians (especially Yasser Arafat) are innocent victims; business is essentially corrupt, or at best simply boring; poverty is the result of government failure; economic success is the product of exploitation or crookedness. And so on.
This will be familiar to consumers of news in much of the United States. Liberal media bias is by now, fortunately, increasingly widely recognized. But the difference is that BBC bias is so much more powerful and much more pernicious because the BBC is still seen by viewers and listeners, in Britain and around the world, as objective. And when the BBC conveys its slanted views of the world, there is very little means of checking and correcting it.

Baker concludes somewhat optimistically that the Hutton Inquiry may trigger institutional reform of the BBC. Of that, however, I am extremely dubious.


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