Donald Trump’s openly stated war on parts of the mainstream media couldn’t be better understood and justified than by listening to BBC radio news broadcasting its intense war against him, and his administration, over the public airwaves noted here and here on TCW.
For me, the BBC’s new low, in terms of impartiality and sober reporting, was Friday 24th February’s Radio Four’s World at One (WATO). Now WATO claims to be “45 minutes of news, analysis and comment” with the comment mostly from independent sources, and has been a highly regarded, serious programme on which many UK politicians are reasonably happy to appear. It also gets contributions from a decent number of high profile international economists, politicians and academic experts.
But when it comes to discussing recent US politics and the new President of the USA, if the Trump piece in this episode is anything to go by, the programme resorts to pure stand-up comedy - of the insulting kind - typical of the BBC's comedy panel shows.
The fact it was on a news programme simply confirmed that the BBC thinks Donald Trump is a bad joke. A staged setting for their commentary is, well, just fine and appropriate, and puts the correspondent centre stage in the way of a stand-up comedian, as the star of the show.
The report was authored and delivered from Washington by Jonny Dymond, one of the BBC’s correspondents. The language he used was aggressive and pejorative. There will be “a shift in the way illegal immigrants will be rounded up and thrown out of the country,” he said. That Trump’s new policy in the USA isn't really new at all but having the law as it stands properly applied, Dymond chose to ignore.
Instead he then played a clip of the President speaking in public and saying...”quiet, quiet, quiet”... in a very soft voice which Dymond tried to influence BBC listeners by shouting at them “GOT THE MESSAGE? SHUT UP” - as his take on what Trump meant but which was clearly not the same thing at all - Trump implied no such thing in asking for quiet.
The next incisive comment from our dispassionate and measured Mr Dymond was.... “He [Trump] went to Florida, much of which he owns....” No he doesn’t. That’s fake news. Dymond then cleverly invited the listening audience to join him in his disgust at President Trump saying... “You may sneer at the President’s garbled rhetoric….”.
How is that news, analysis or fair comment from the BBC in a flagship serious news programme?
Trump may well have failed to be sufficiently specific when he said that something bad happened in Sweden the night before in the speech we were played clips of, but Dymond’s attempt at defamation by shouting at us (the listeners)....“Nothing ever happens in Sweden - it’s SWEDEN - but why let the facts get in the way of a great Presidency ....” was patently untrue as he and any number of his colleagues should know.
There are, and have been, many serious incidents involving immigrant communities and the public authorities and tension is, unfortunately, running very high in places as Fraser Nelson details here.
So Dymond’s attempt to skewer Trump by fixating on a relatively minor error gave him the chance to make out that Trump was wrong about the immigrant problems in Sweden, which he wasn’t. It was pure character assassination by the BBC, authored by its very own Jonny Dymond.
His report, which was one of a series describing Trump’s first 100 days in office obviously caused great amusement back in the studio. WATO's presenter Shaun Ley was giggling as it finished, confirming it as the insulting comedy piece it seemed set up to be.
How can the BBC allow and approve of such a sarcastic comic rant substituting for news analysis or comment in one of its flagship, serious BBC news programmes? The first answer is, of course, that it does so because it can. It’s easy, and all the BBC people surrounding Jonny Dymond and WATO loved it and believe the same thing. It is clear that they too think Donald Trump, his administration and the ideas behind them are dreadful.
The second answer is that there is no true accountability process at the BBC which would force the corporation to justify what it does in a case like this of editorial bias. They know that they can get away with it.
The BBC talks to itself (but often not others) with great respect and admiration through staged fawning and unchallenging interviews with its own correspondents, and takes what its correspondents say as read. It congratulates itself, and believes that all it does news-wise is tremendously good.
It’s not difficult to see how self-worship on this scale leads to mickey-taking against anybody, even the new President of the world’s most powerful democracy yet to have time to implement his policies. All are fair game for the BBC.
As long as the two criteria of the BBC having its own view and of not being truly accountable remain, then it will continue. But it’s become worse than that. The fact that a flagship news programme included a blatantly one-sided comic rant from one of its own correspondents shows that the BBC is getting more confident in its ability to flout impartiality, knowing that it will not be brought to book.
A simple complaint to the BBC would, in this instance, bear no hope of any admission of bias or wrongdoing, let alone of soliciting an apology or change of direction. The BBC can never admit it has its own view which infuses everything it does and creates its own sense of right and wrong. It couldn’t see how condemning Trump could be anything other than what civilised people would do, because he’s beyond the pale.
In this instance the BBC did what the BBC is very good at and loves to do, and that is skewering people it disagrees with. But let’s be absolutely clear, what it delivered in that piece is not news, analysis or serious independent comment. It’s propaganda, and war propaganda at that.
(Image: Diego Cambiaso)