Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Philosopher, The Model & The Auntie

There’s an old story about a philosopher and a model who meet at a party. The philosopher asks the model if she’ll sleep with him for £1 million. She agrees, then he says ‘How about £10 ?’. ‘What do you think I am ?’ says the model, ‘A prostitute ?’. The philosopher says ‘We’ve already determined that, now we’re talking about price’.

What set me to thinking about all this was the BBC’s pious sermons on the glories of its own impartiality. I leave it to the actual philosophers whether such a thing is really possible, but in the light of last week’s events, it turns out that the BBC’s impartiality is just a matter of price after all. Consider Nick Robinson here.

Yes, yes, yes: we’re all supposed to hate the BNP. Supporting the BNP is one of those things like child molestation. Oops. It’s not just pedophiles either. Well-known Saudi reformer Osama Bin Laden’s tapes get plenty of that sweet, sweet oxygen of publicity too.

For that matter, it’s worth remembering who coined that phrase in the first place: the then Mrs Thatcher talking about media coverage of the IRA. Back then, Liberals were enraged at the idea of restrictions on the media’s reporting, but now the BBC wants to impose its own blackout. I guess things would have been different if the IRA had had a record of violence like the BNP’s. Ahem. Come to think of it, in the very same set of elections, Respect had a lot of success too. What can you criticize the BNP for that doesn’t apply to Respect ? How come the BBC reports on them are anodyne to the point of torpor ?

Not to say that I’m opposed to confrontational reporting. Take the Dimbleby interview with Griffin. Here’s was an interviewer who was obviously well-briefed and prepared to go for the throat in pointing out some of the absurdities of the BNP’s position. How come that never happens with mainstream politicians ? Of course, some may say that the BBC has a responsibility not to give publicity to racist lunatics, but I see no need to drag the Treason Party into this.

We need some kind of scorecard, so we can tell when the BBC is reporting straight and when it’s on a crusade. After all, how else can we tell, when the BBC goes for the throat against the BNP, while reporting straight the latest rantings from Iran’s president, Al-Quiada or Gerry Adams ? For that matter, if the excuse for suspending normal journalistic standards is that the BNP is on the extreme Right, just how flexible is this ? How Right does a Rightist have to be to be an extreme Rightist ? We’re back to the model again – if the BBC isn’t biased, except when the price is right, we’re entitled to ask just what that price is. Still, for now, at least we know how much credibility to give all that talk of impartiality: absolutely none.

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