Sunday 23 October 2016

Mark Mardell's echo chamber

Bad populism v good populism

He interviewed two American writers on the subject, John  B. Judis and Laura Grattan

Unfortunately, their presence gave Radio 4 listeners no thrilling clash of ideas as they both hold almost identical views on the subject (and, reading their writing on the subject, they use almost identical language about it too). 

In a nutshell, they both admire 'radical, egalitarian left-wing populism' whilst deploring 'dark, demagogic right-wing populism'. 

Thus, Laura Grattan couldn't stop talking today about the "racist sentiments" and "racial resentment" of right-wing phenomena like the Tea Party and Trump and, with encouragement from Mark Mardell, John Judis talked of the 'scapegoating' of other groups ("illegal immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans") by "populists of the Right".

This discussion would have been considerably more interesting if it had been far less of a left-liberal echo chamber and if the presenter himself hadn't also adopted such a sniffy tone about right-wing populists ("these people").

This is Mark Mardell's The World This Weekend though, so, unfortunately, that was only to be expected.


  1. Yes, I first noticed the demonisation of the term "populist" began a few months ago during the referendum campaign.

    For me being popularist is close to merely being democratic. Now many at the Beeb hate the results of democracy, but can't (just yet at any rate) say that, so they pour their hate onto "popularism".

    On a separate thought, many Beeb journalists and presenters now seem to be sharing openly left liberal leanings in blogs, twitter, etc.. From Mardell to Lineker! Has their been a change in policy to allow this? At very least I would imagine they are being encouraged. And I am still waiting for one, just one, to indicate a leaning to a conservative or right of centre policy. Just one.

  2. 'Populist' has become a derogatory term used by the BBC against a broad sweep of the population who don't agree with the self-appointed élite band of BBC lefties. There was a time when the term 'popular science' was used to belittle scientific writers who hadn't reached the upper echelons of academia. 'Populist' when used in this way by the BBC carries the same patronising message: 'We are your intellectual superiors'.

  3. I have to presume the balancing term is 'unpopulist', which the BBC would apply to those of whom they approve.

    Which, in a funny way, seems entirely appropriate.


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