Monday, 2 May 2016

BBC (not) Trending

As pointed out in the comments section of another post, another intriguing editorial choice made by the BBC is to ignore the very widely-reported story about Ntokozo Qwabe, the man who began the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, gloating about doing "something so black and wonderful" and making a white waitress cry (which, I'm guessing, most reasonable people would agree is as clear a case of racist bullying as you could dread to hear). 

I first read about it at the Spectator. but the Times, the Daily Mirror, the Independent (twice), the Daily Mail, Metro, the Daily Express and the Sun have also covered it (to name but a few). 

Given how loud and how extensively-reported this Rhodes Must Fall campaign has been, it's hardly surprising, is it, that news about its founder behaving in such a bullying, racist fashion (to a doubtless underpaid waitress who just happened to have a different skin colour to his own) has aroused so much interest?

Except that the BBC doesn't seem remotely interested in least as far as the BBC News Website and BBC Trending is concerned.

BBC Trending hasn't been shy about promoting Mr. Qwabe and his cause in the past, so you'd have thought that this story might have interested them then - especially as it's a story about race (the subject they're most interested in) and because there's been such a huge social media reaction to it. Oddly, however, they don't appear to be touching the story with a ten-foot bargepole. 

Why ever not? Is it because they are so 'right-on' in their ever-so-Guardian-like fashion that they think that certain kinds of racism are acceptable? 

The latest BBC Trending article, if you were wondering, is race-related. It's about how some superhero fans "want to keep The Flash's love interest black".


  1. I've just finished reading (most of) the IEA's report on the BBC. I skimmed through much of the details about privatization and the license fee, but closely read the two(!) chapters on BBC bias. Two of the problems of bias they focus on are 'bias by omission' (what it says on the tin), and 'presentation bias', or how they present certain opinions or stories. This incident is a clear example of both.

    It's really quite something. I think the IEA could have used your statistics as well as that from NewsWatch, not just because it would be even more evidence but because I think yours might cover more obvious and more important unbalance. Still, it's good stuff. They even cited a B-BBC post as one source on Rod Liddle explaining the pro-EU bias, although why they linked to that instead of his actual Spectator piece which was quoted I have no idea.

    In any case, here are just two bits worth noticing:

    In other words, BBC employees form a structured way of perceiving the world that appears to be neutral and objective to those who have it, but which in fact incorporates various self-interested presumptions and helps to justify them. (Pg 104)


    Is the fact that an idea is accepted and widely shared proof of its validity? The answer appears to be yes when the ideas are held by some kinds of people, but not when they are held by others. (Pg 109)

    Seems relevant to how the BBC is handling today's story, I think.

    1. I did exactly the same with the IEA report, David. It's a very good piece of work for sharpening the debate.

      And you're absolutely right that it describes and even predicts what the BBC has been doing today. The BBC's 'eggshell-treading' over Muslim matters, oddly, wasn't an area that particularly interested them, but it still doesn't stop the IEA's analysis of the BBC's way of doing things from being bang-on and just as applicable to the BBC's coverage of this story. Uncannily applicable it turns out.

    2. They probably realized that even mentioning Islam would be enough for the BBC and defenders of the indefensible to dismiss the whole thing out of hand. It would be seen as something from the wrong sort of people. They did touch on immigration, which is good enough, and at this point intimately related.

      In any event, I have to say it's rather gratifying to see actual professionals at this sort of thing basically say the exact same things we've been saying for years. And it's not just one or two similarities, but several major points. The main ones, in fact: Institutional bias, Complaints From Both Sides, bias by omission, bias by presentation, groupthink, and editorial structure. It's not just a product of my fevered imagination after all.

  2. Just a thought. BDS advocates who claim the boycott succeeded in apartheid South Africa are never asked: What in your view, constitutes success?

    To equate Israel with apartheid South Africa is misguided enough, but if the boycott was indeed the mechanism that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa, do BDSers see the outcome as a triumph? It seems almost as racist, but in reverse, and with more menace. This young man’s attitude sets a chilling example.

    The comparison between the government-sanctioned racial discrimination in apartheid SA and multi-ethnic Israel is nonsensical, but if the aim of BDS is to bring about regime change in Israel, which would inevitably end up making Israeli Jews a minority in yet another Islamic State, (or dead) I imagine the outcome would be even further from ideal than seems to be the case in that Capetown restaurant.

    1. Excellent - key - point. The obvious answer is that they want the same result as South Africa. Which is a chilling thought.