Friday 19 April 2013

Where all their speculation got them....

As discussed in an earlier post, Tuesday's speculation on Radio 4's Today with regards to the Boston marathon bombings tilted strongly towards giving credence to the 'it's domestic, right-wing terrorism' line of argument:
Evan Davis: We know it was Patriots' Day and a holiday in Boston yesterday. How significant might that be do you think? Or is it just the day the Boston marathon is run and, so, if you want to create carnage at the marathon that's the day you do it?
.....looking at this it seems as though the evidence is tipping towards some kind of domestic terrorism rather than something more Middle Eastern-related. Just because of the day, the fact that it isn't suicide bombers. 
The Today interviewers played down the opposing line of argument (for which there was, at the time, just as little evidence), that it could be a foreign or jihadi terrorist attack. 

Listening back to that days' The World at One and PM finds something very similar going on. 

On The World at One Martha Kearney posed this question:
Well, the marathon in the city is traditionally run on Patriots' Day, which commemorates the first battle of the revolution back in 1775, but in recent decades the day has become associated with domestic terrorism, the date of the Oklahoma Bombing. Does that give us any clues as to who might be behind the attack?
On PM Carolyn Quinn posed these questions [to Democrat senator Bennie Thompson]:
The marathon in Boston is traditionally run on Patriots' Day, commemorating the first battles of the American revolution. In recent decades though the day's become associated with domestic terrorism, hasn't it? The date of the Oklahoma bombing. You were the author of a report on that. Do you think that could give us a clue as to who might be behind the attack?
So when you talk about that [domestic terrorism] what sort of groups could you be talking about?
The same angle, as you can see, was being pursued across Radio 4's output on Tuesday. The wrong angle, as we now know. 

Neither Martha nor Carolyn pursued any other specific lines of investigation in their questioning.

That there had to be some speculation on Tuesday about the motives of the (then unknown) perpetrators is probably inevitable. That the speculation should have concentrated so noticeably - in the questioning of the various Radio 4 presenters - towards one particular explanation (the right-wing, domestic extremist explanation) at the expense of other explanations was surely not inevitable. It makes it appear as if the BBC was encouraging its listeners to leap to conclusions - the wrong conclusions hindsight now tells us - and steer them away from other conclusions (especially those concerning Islamic terrorism).

To quote David Preiser at Biased BBC:

If they’re going to wildly speculate to fill air time, then they should speculate about everyone, and not try to dismiss suspicion about one specific possibility. No evidence means no evidence either way, BBC. It’s just as wrong for them to remove one group from suspicion as it is to point fingers at everyone else.


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