Several commenters at Biased BBC have been pointing an accusing finger at a BBC documentary broadcast last night on BBC Two, as part of the corporation's build-up to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy this week.
Here are the exchanges at B-BBC:
JonT says: November 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm. Just watched a documentary on BBC2 about the Kennedy assassination. Three times they they stated that Texas was an evil ‘right wing republican state’ but not once did they deign to mention that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist. Watch this in ignorance and you could believe that JFK was murdered at the behest of the republican party…incredible.
flexdream says: November 18, 2013 at 12:20 am. JFK was strongly anti-communist. Oswald was linked with the earlier shooting and attempted murder of a right-wing figure in Texas. Still, it’ll never be possible to persuade everyone what happened after all this time.
ftumch says: November 18, 2013 at 12:49 am. I broke a long habit and watched some tv…. on iplayer:
05.30 “Texas is a traditional Republican stronghold”
07.34 “Texas is a difficult state, very right wing, very republican, very vocal…”
11.27 “But right wing republicans have already made JFK uncomfortable in Texas”
22.43 there is a man weeping leaning on a sign which says “KEEP RIGHT”
The latter is intentional.
But check this:
You will find that Texas was broadly Democratic up until 1961. The Fear and Loathing is a LIE.
ftumch says: November 18, 2013 at 12:56 am. Further, the Democrat Senator for Texas Ralph Yarborough was in JFK’s motorcade as it drove through Dallas, though he isn’t even mentioned in the reconstruction.
Oh, and LBJ rode in the same car as Sn Yarborough. LBJ, that lifelong Texan and Democrat.
John Anderson says: November 18, 2013 at 1:40 am. …and the Democratic Governor of Texas John Connally was in Kennedy’s car – and was himself shot that day.
Span Ows says: November 18, 2013 at 7:38 am. To be honest much more than 1961: it has only been “broadly Republican” for the last 20 years.
That intrigued me. Surely this programme couldn't be that much of a biased travesty, could it? They must be exaggerating, mustn't they?
Well, I've now watched the programme in question and, amazingly, those B-BBC commenters are absolutely spot-on.
Expanding on ftumch's comments, here are some quotes from the programme:
4:26 "The forces of the Republican Party were starting to pick up in '63, prior to running against Kennedy in '64. There were a few negative signs."
Last month, America's United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson was physically attacked during a visit to Dallas. The political climate remains tense.
5.20: As Air Force One comes into land at Love Field, Malcolm Kilduff is steeling himself for the worst. Texas is a traditional Republican stronghold. Kennedy's progressive approach to domestic issues, like civil rights, is unsettling the Republican hardcore. What's more, his international ambition to act as peacemaker to the world has angered local right-wingers who believe that American is too heavily influenced by the United Nations. Kilduff expects a hostile reception.
7.34: Texas is a difficult state, very right-wing, very Republican, very vocal.
11.20 ...reassuring his audience that the United States is a peaceful nation. But right wing republicans have already made JFK uncomfortable in Texas. Even a front page welcome in today's newspaper is actually a list of challenges to the young president.
So, yes, this programme does seem to be spinning a line that the Republicans were (in some way) culpable for Kennedy's murder.
But surely it couldn't be true that the programme completely failed to mention Lee Harvey Oswald's extensively documented communist activities (and his time in the Soviet Union), could it? That would be genuinely extraordinary.
Well, genuinely extraordinary it is because - as the commenters at B-BBC said - there was not a whiff of any of that. Not a whiff.
So, imagine (if you can) that you're a school pupil watching this programme for the first time and trying to learn about the assassination of JFK.
If you're that school pupil, you will not learn from this programme that Oswald - the prime suspect - was a communist.
Moreover, you might very well assume - and with some justification, given everything the programme told you - that Kennedy was killed by a right-wing Republican [as JonT at Biased BBC said].
Indeed, why on earth would that unsuspecting school pupil not assume that from this programme?
ftumch, John Anderson and Span Ows are perfectly correct, too, that this programme was wrong - plain wrong - about Texas being a Republican stronghold at the time of the Kennedy assassination.
It's simply not true, and it's remarkable that a BBC documentary series could have got away with pushing this untruth.
Texas was firmly Democrat (at presidential elections) from 1848 to 1952. It went Republican in 1952, but returned to the Democrats in 1960, 1964 and 1968. The Republicans took the state in 1972, but the Democrats seized in back in 1976. Only from 1980 onwards (and the Reagan Revolution) did Texas firmly enter the Republican camp.
As far as governors of Texas are concerned, there was an unbroken run of Democrat governors from 1874 to 1983, and Democrats also won in 1987 and 1991.
Kennedy's vice president, for goodness sake, was a long-serving Democrat senator, Lyndon B. Johnson, and all but one of the so-called Class 1 Texas senators from 1846 to 1993 was a Democrat.
As Span Ows says, Texas was very far from being "very Republican" in 1963.
So why did that BBC programme claim it was?
Well, the programme in question was a repeat - an episode of Days that Shook the World, a series of thirty-minute films from 2003.
In 2003 the BBC (seemed to me) to be at its most aggressively anti-Republican (in the U.S. sense of the world Republican), given (what seemed to me to be) their intense dislike for George W. Bush's presidency (especially in the build up to the Iraq War).
Whether I'm sheathed in tin foil or not tonight - and tin foil and the subject of the assassination of JFK seem to be natural bed-fellows! - I'm putting this 2003 film's intensely anti-Republican tone down to the BBC's 2003 aggressively anti-Republican (anti-GWB) bias. I wouldn't have put anything past them at the time in that respect.
That may or may not be the explanation but, still, this was undoubtedly a travesty of a programme.
OK, all of this may seem like ridiculously biased BBC broadcasting, but there's even worse to come.
Nothing in this documentary made my jaw drop further...indeed it ended up nearly banging against my slippers!...than this truly extraordinary sentence:
In April 1961 Kennedy unsuccessfully attempted to oust the socialist liberator of Cuba, Fidel Castro.
I have to admit that I'm rather unused to thinking of Castro as "the socialist liberator of Cuba". I tend to think of him as a communist, and as someone who imposed an oppressive one-party dictatorship on Cuba.
My idea of what constitutes the definition of a "liberator" obviously differs massively from that held by the writer of this programme's script.
I do like to be fair, so I suppose the present BBC might argue that, as per Helen Boaden and Mark Thompson, that that was then and this is now. Yes, the BBC may, once upon a time, have produced the odd biased, liberal programme like this, but this is now and the BBC is so much better these days. Or so they might say.
Except that the present bosses at BBC Two saw fit to rebroadcast this travesty, unedited, last night.
Can anyone defend this ten-year old BBC documentary? I'd love to hear such a defence.