Saturday 2 October 2021

Even the Guardian...

There's been a lot of anger directed at the BBC today because of the BBC News website's reporting of the David Miller affair.

David Miller was the Bristol University sociology professor who revelled in baiting Jewish students at his university by mocking them and spreading conspiracy theories at their expense. He's now been sacked.

I've seen people saying that even The Guardian reported the story more fairly than the BBC, and contrasting their respective headlines. 

Where the BBC headline says Bristol University: Professor David Miller sacked over Israel comments, the Guardian headline says Bristol University sacks professor accused of antisemitic comments

Even by putting it that way the BBC has taken David Miller's side, because the claim that he's only criticising Israel is his - and his supporters' - main defence.

The Guardian report begins:
The University of Bristol has sacked a sociology professor accused of antisemitic comments following a high-profile investigation and after Jewish students said they felt “unsafe and unprotected” on campus.
The BBC report begins:
A University of Bristol professor being investigated over comments he made about Israel has been sacked.

Here are two tweets from people starting from contrasting perspectives, both agreeing:

David CollierThe BBC headline saying David Miller was sacked over 'Israel comments' is outrageous. Miller was sacked for what he did to BRITISH students here in the UK and his antisemitic mindset that turned BRITISH Jews into Israeli spies. He was sacked for his comments about British Jews.

Sunder Katwala: [1] Poor reporting by the BBC. Core complaint is primarily about Miller's comments about Jewish student societies in UK universities (that they are pawns of a racist foreign power). His characterisation of them being controlled by Israel, but "over Israel comments" misses core point. [2] BBC report. Flawed headline. Opaque report, because it alludes to comments, and responses, but it does not quote comments sufficiently to inform a new general reader about the dispute. Unclear about link between "Israel" and "Jewish students" that is core. 

Reading the full BBC report after reading the full Guardian report was quite an experience.

I don't for one minute think that the Guardian report by Rachel Hall was hostile to the sacked professor, but it tried its best to fairly report both sides, without adding overly obvious winks and nudges in any direction. 

Not so the BBC piece, which struck me as being quite passive-aggressive in some of its language [e.g. "Dozens said the comments were 'inciting hatred against Jewish students'"] and positively deceptive it what it didn't mention that the Guardian did mention. 

Compare and contrast. First the BBC:

The investigation included an independent report, the university said, which considered the "important issue of academic freedom of expression and found that Prof Miller's comments did not constitute unlawful speech". 

Now the Guardian

Bristol said that although a QC found that the comments Miller is alleged to have made “did not constitute unlawful speech”, a disciplinary hearing concluded that he “did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff”. 

The BBC wrote that piece and obfuscated what the Graun makes fairly clear. The Graun gave both sides and a pretty full view. 

The BBC is increasingly full of activists who wouldn't recognise impartiality's bottom from its elbow. That they're even worse than The Guardian on this is jaw-dropping.

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