Sunday 5 December 2021

Who can reply? We can

It begins as a Twitter trail, but goes much further...

Mike Wendling, 'Editor of BBC Trending and the BBC News team investigating disinformation', took to Twitter this morning to promote a perfectly-balanced-sounding BBC News website piece headlined Mandatory vaccinations: Three reasons for and against.

That's one heck of an impartial-sounding title.

A chap called Robin Lee, 'writer and journalist - based in London', duly replied, ''This article is a disgrace''. 

To which Mike [after first popping on his Who can reply? People Mike Wendling follows or mentioned can reply message to limit the conversation] replied:
I guess if someone was completely ideologically opposed to covid vaccines for some reason, they might have that opinion about an interesting and balanced story on a matter of public debate.'
Robin replied, ''There was nothing balanced about that article''.

I will lay my cards on the table before continuing...

I had my booster jab today, and was perfectly happy to do so, and hope that I'm helping by doing so. And I'm not where many people hereabouts are on the issue of lockdowns. I'm one of those cautious types. And I'm as far from being an 'anti-vaxxer' as it's humanly possible to be. But I don't want people forced into having vaccines and I'm seriously alarmed by the draconian actions of some governments abroad, as cited in the BBC article, to cajole and punish refusers. 

So, knowing that, here's my take on this BBC article: 

Despite its promising title and Mike Wendling's protestations, it is far from balanced. 

In fact, it's almost a template parody of BBC impartiality. 

It begins by framing the argument and casting the actions of those many foreign governments enforcing vaccinations in a positive light, as if they're behaving reasonably and proportionately, thus implying that if so many reasonable governments from France to New Zealand to Canada are moving in the direction of compelling vaccines why shouldn't we?  

Then come three FOR points, alternating with three AGAINST points. 

Read them for yourselves and you will see straightaway that FOR Point No.1, Vaccines save lives, is straightforwardly a FOR case.

Then comes AGAINST Point No.1, There will be resistance. And this, in contrast, is also a FOR case scantily dressed up as an AGAINST case. It says, ''The point is, whatever a government does, it will face opposition'' and then piles on two experts, one presenting the 'resistors' as being emotional, the other neutrally summarising both the FOR and AGAINST cases in a single sentence. A photo of a 'gammon' with a placard saying THIS IS WAR comes midway.

So far, so unbalanced. 

It goes on. 

FOR Point No.2, We've exhausted other options..., even has a graph to support its point. It's another pure FOR section.

AGAINST Point No.2, ...or maybe not just yet, is the best yet. It begins with a classic bit of BBC 'impartiality', pretending to be an AGAINST point but starting by basically ruling the argument over in favour of FOR:
While there is a strong health argument in favour of mandatory vaccinations, it is not the only way to boost levels.
Do you see what I mean about this being ''almost a template parody of BBC impartiality''?

FOR Point No.3, End the cycle of lockdowns, is one obviously designed in a rather blatantly propagandist way to appeal to those opposed to lockdowns whilst being a FOR argument. An expert is on hand to agree with the BBC line. Midway comes a video when a passionate case is made for people to get their vaccines. 

And the final AGAINST Point No.3, It could prove counterproductive, is simply weird - and very BBC. It's the only AGAINST case this BBC piece presents as if it's a genuine concern. It features a couple of experts worrying that mandatory schemes might embolden conspiracy theorists and nasty right-wing political parties. 

Seriously, if Mike Wendling believes this piece is genuinely ''balanced'' then Marianna ought to be be pursuing him down the rabbit hole armed with Elmer Fudd's shotgun accusing him of 'FAKE NEWS'. 

The BBC reporter here, Thom Poole, is new to me, He's another BBC 'senior journalist'

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