Sunday 10 June 2018

I've Been Wendling My Way Back To You Mike

Imagine (if you can) that you're a senior BBC journalist - say (purely hypothetically) one who played a major part in setting up the corporation's hip-and-happening BBC Trending project.

And then imagine yourself deciding to write a book about something related to your field as a BBC journalist - maybe something looking at the political extremes of social media.


Would you, being determined to be seen as impartial, write a book focused on (a) only the extreme right, (b) only the extreme left, or (c) both extremes?  

If you make the brave decision to focus on either (a) only the extreme right or (b) only the extreme left, would you, as an impartial BBC journalist, make every effort to appear to be reporting them from a detached, disinterested but intrigued position? Or would you instead try to make your readers see that these are people who deserve to be disapproved of (just as Nazis, fascists and all shades of communists need to be disapproved of)?

Plus, would you, as a hypothetical senior BBC journalist, use your BBC-branded Twitter feed to plug your book, or not? (If you're even allowed to.)

And would you, as a hypothetical senior BBC journalist, use your BBC-branded Twitter feed to focus almost exclusively on the subject matter of your book or, instead, make every effort to show yourself to be broadminded and scrupulously impartial by focusing on extreme manifestations from 'the other side' (the side you've chosen not to write about) just as much? Or, if not 'just as much', at least 'pretty often'? Or, at a push, at least 'a few times'? 

In other words, would you go out of your way to be seen to be being fair-minded even if you're not being anywhere near 'balanced' and don't think you should be 'balanced' in this case? 

And would you, as a hypothetical senior BBC journalist, use your BBC-branded Twitter feed to display your views or to conceal them? 

And surely you, as a hypothetical senior BBC journalist, wouldn't think, even for a second, of regularly going into battle against the people you write about in your book and repeatedly mocking them or linking to/or retweeting rude critics of them or provocatively calling them names without providing any balancing tweets, thus risking seeming like a partisan activist?

And - questions, questions! decisions, decisions! - would you choose as your book publisher a niche publisher strongly associated with the opposite political extreme (whether it be far-right or far-left) to that of which you yourself (as a hypothetical senior BBC journalist) are engaged in writing a book about? Surely you wouldn't, would you? 

I only ask because I follow BBC Trending guru Mike Wendling's Twitter feed and his feed is emblazoned with images of his book, and links to his book, and various other plugs for his book. 

(His book is called Alt-Right: From 4chan to the White House - and, yes, he's not meaning the Obama White House there). 

And, though his book is about the alt-right, his Twitter feed doesn't seem remotely dispassionate and disinterested. It reads instead like an activist's scrapbook of scraps - including his own prized scraps with alt-righters. 

He feels heavily engaged. Very heavily. So much so that he he regularly snarks at his alt-righters, attempts to rile them and even calls them names. 

It's an astonishing read (for anyone who can bear Twitter). 

It's all very exciting, but (I don't think it can be doubted) quite some way away - the distance from Earth to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe perhaps? - from being considered even remotely 'BBC impartial'. 

And, yes, Mike from the BBC really did publish his book about the far-right with a far-left publisher (as MB noted on the open thread).

As they probably say on Proxima Centauri, it's impartiality, Baron Hall of Birkenhead, of Birkenhead, in the County of Cheshire, but not as we know it.

1 comment:

  1. .... 'in the County of Cheshire, but not as we know it.' ....
    Birkenhead used to be in the County of Cheshire, but now is in Merseyside - on a peninsular bounded by the rivers Mersey and Dee and the Irish Sea, known as The Metropolitan Borough of Wirral.


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