Friday, 17 December 2010

Media bias and flak

In the wake of last Thursday's student demonstration, one of the most significant stories was that of Jody McIntyre. Not only was he pulled from his wheelchair by police twice, but he was then subjected to a campaign of defamation by a media desperate to defend the state.

What this highlighted, amongst other things, was how the media is biased in favour of established power. Most notably the BBC, whose "impartiality" in fact rests on exactly that bias.

Surely, then, those bodies and sites which exist to expose the BBC as biased would have leapt on such a thing? Blogs such as Biased BBC, for example, claim to be dedicated to "exposing the reporting bias of the British Broadcasting Corporation." Given that their whole job is to watch and listen to the BBC, and that the video of Ben Brown's interview with Jody McIntyre went viral, they can't have missed this.

Or so you'd think. A search of the term "Jody McIntyre" on the site yields precisely no results. Nada. Zip. Not even a passing mention.

They comment on "Nick "Mr Impartial" Robinson fantasising about how there might yet be a revolution in the Commons to stop the [tuition fees] vote going through." They see bias here even in the face of the fact that, given the public outcry on this issue - not to mention the resistance it provoked - everyone was "fantasising" [read: predicting / speculating about] such a thing.

They worry over the BBC not paying due diligence to "the middle-aged couple who were victims of a mob attack," i.e Charles and Camilla during the riots. Even though this was covered far more extensively than McIntyre's case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

And, on the issue more broadly, they had this to say;
I have been in London over the past few days and just happened to be in Oxford Street/Regent St at the moment when those students protesting against Tuition Fees demonstrated the substance of their case by....smashing in windows, spraying graffiti on private property, emptying bins of rubbish across Oxford Street etc. The attack on Prince Charles/Camilla had just taken place a few moments beforehand. I was talking to some of the Officers on duty as they sought to contain the violence and my only criticism of them was that they were fat too constrained.

However, I then arrived home last evening and turned on the BBC (I know, yes, that was just asking for more trouble) and listened to a BBC interviewer doing everything possible to suggest that the Police had over-reacted and that the Students had been provoked into "responding." What a disgrace that the National Broadcaster is little more than a mouthpiece for left wing thuggery!

Of course those of us old enough will remember how the BBC covered the poll tax riots and the Miners Strike riots and indeed every other occasion when the left has demonstrated muscle against the State. The State Broadcaster has always supported militant action against the State when a Conservative government is in power and I suggest to you that we are now living in 1979 all over again with the BBC as the propagandist in chief for those who want to being the Coalition down and reinstall a Labour government.
But, in the wake of proof that "the Police had over-reacted," such as McIntyre's case, nothing. In the face of broadcast evidence entirely contrary to the absurd idea that "the State Broadcaster has always supported militant action against the State," silence. In response to open bias by the BBC in favour of established power, "No Results."

If you're wondering why this is, the answer is quite simple. Biased BBC, as with all the other outlets - the Daily Mail, the Murdoch press, etc - which accuse the BBC of bias and purport to offer evidence, is an organ of flak. That is, it serves the fourth filter of the propaganda model.

The fourth filter is 'flak', described by Herman and Chomsky [in their book, Manufacturing Consent] as 'negative responses to a media statement or [TV or radio] program. It may take the form of letters, telegrams, phone calls, petitions, law-suits, speeches and Bills before Congress, and other modes of complaint, threat and punitive action'. Business organisations regularly come together to form flak machines. Perhaps one of the most well-known of these is the US-based Global Climate Coalition (GCC) - comprising fossil fuel and automobile companies such as Exxon, Texaco and Ford. The GCC was started up by Burson-Marsteller, one of the world's largest public relations companies, to rubbish the credibility of climate scientists and 'scare stories' about global warming (see Chapter 4).
What we see are targeted efforts to discredit organizations or individuals who disagree with or cast doubt on the prevailing assumptions favorable to established power.

In the case of the BBC, the point is to keep the state broadcaster in line. Obviously, if its staff are attacking a disabled protester for potentially "provoking" a troop of tooled-up police officers, then it is doing its job. There is only a need to wag the finger disapprovingly when it (weakly) suggests that the brutality of the police may have been an "over-reaction."

Imagine the uproar if it had admitted that police violence is inherent to the system!

That is why, further, Biased BBC will "expose" the broadcaster being "anti-Israel," for example. But not say a peep when it ignores Israel's deliberate policy to "put the Palestinians on a diet." It doesn't fit the agenda.

The reason I post this is to illustrate a point that everyone who is involved in the movement against austerity and capitalism needs to realise. The media is not on our side. Due to the "natural" bias inflicted by  ownership being concentrated in a few hands, and their reliance on the ruling class for advertising revenue and official sources, they never will be. And if they stray too far towards such a position, there will always be an army of critics such as Biased BBC providing the flak to drag them back to "impartiality."

That is why social media has proven so useful in the actions of the last year. It is why there are concerted efforts to build up independent media to reach people directly. The media is for the ruling class, and we cannot sway the opinions of the ruling class as we challenge their agenda.