Tuesday 17 December 2019

Echoes and bubbles

The 2019 general election proved beyond reasonable doubt that the aggressive left-wing echo chambers inhabiting 'political Twitter' don't remotely speak for the country. 

They only speak for the Metropolitan Borough of Corbyn and deepest Remainshire. 

They are, in other words, a minority - and a pretty small minority at that.

Yet such people have been the very ones on social media that BBC types have pandered to most, especially when they complain about BBC bias.  

It's an interesting question as to why this is so. 

And my suggested answer is that BBC folk, tending heavily to be either soggy left or pro-EU centrist types (with a side order of identity-politics-obsessed hard leftists), tend to follow like-minded left-leaning/pro-EU folk - and, as is the way of such things, then go on to read those who take such views much further, including towards the extremes. Thus, lots of BBC people quickly see attacks on themselves from such quarters, and take it to heart and - sometimes - respond. In contrast, criticisms from the right-leaning/anti-EU side of the population often get missed, because BBC folk tend not to follow such people on social media in great numbers. 

So, as far as hearing complaints about BBC bias on social media goes most BBC folk have been mainly hearing the echoes from their own echo chambers.  

The BBC is a bubble. 'Political Twitter' is a bubble. And the two bubbles occasionally bounce off each other and burst.

So, when a particularly silly Twitterstorm blew up recently about the BBC editing a clip of Boris on the Question Time Leaders Special for a report on the following day's BBC News at One (it cut out audience mockery of the PM), the BBC panicked, and BBC editors went into overdrive on social media, and BBC press releases were sent forth, and BBC apologies were given. 

But here's the thing (as they say at the BBC):

The BBC's widely unread, twice-weekly complaints stats show that  3,051 people officially complained to the BBC over that BUT 12,172 people - i.e. almost four times as many - complained to the BBC about bias against Boris Johnson after Andrew Marr's notorious, interruption-heavy 1 December interview with the PM. 

I think those figures very strongly suggest that the public beyond 'political Twitter' was probably considerably more appalled at that Andrew Marr/Boris Johnson interview than they were at some minor edit in a report on just one BBC midday news bulletin - thus reflecting much more the true mood of the voting British public as subsequently reflected in the election result. 

Yet, beyond various BBC types praising Andrew Marr, the BBC didn't go into overdrive in response, putting out only the blandest BBC boilerplate dismissal

The right-leaning side on my (very consciously) mixed social media feeds was absolutely appalled at that Andrew Marr interview - as were we - yet the BBC didn't pander to them, or us. 

Again, I think that can be partly explained by fact that BBC folk, tending heavily to be either soggy left or pro-EU centrist types (with a side order of identity politics obsessed hard leftists), tend not to follow unlike-minded right-leaning/anti-EU folk on social media. In their bubble, such complaints from such people were much less on the radar (if bubbles show up on radar) and far harder to relate to. 

But those stats (3,051 v 12.172) ought to be just as much as reminder for the BBC as the general election result itself they seriously need to broaden their social media horizons and listen much, much more (and with far less condescension and contempt) to that vast swathe of the public who didn't vote the right way in the EU election or the general election.

Or else.


  1. The bubbles you describe are more like those at the Eden Project, where one leads into another, but both are isolated from the world beyond.

    1. Not a Biosphere, but a Bias-sphere.

    2. We could all be wrong and actually, within the biosphere at the Eden Project, they really were cultivating a new species - the Taxus baccata Corbynus, commonly known as the money tree.

  2. I think what you are describing is a positive feedback loop.

    Negative feedback promotes stability, move to the right and the feedback pushes to the left, move to the left and the feedback pushes to the right.

    Positive feedback drives systems to extremes.

    It has been really remarkable how seriously the BBC has reacted to criticism that it has promoted climate change 'denial' and Brexit this year. We all worry about criticism from our friends and ignore criticism from our enemies and the BBC's reaction reveals who it thinks its friends are.

  3. I don't disagree with any of the above, but I suspect there's probably a deeper, more personal level to it all.

    So whilst I'm sure the social media following guides their reactions, and Anonymous touches on the concern about criticism from friends, I reckon it's more than just them recognising who their friends are.

    They might well come face-to-face with that criticism from Izzy from Islington and Harvey of Highbury at the next dinner party they attend, whereas it's highly unlikely that they'll be finding themselves coming face-to-face with the criticism of Craig in Morecambe, or Rob in Notts...thank goodness!


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