Neutrality Bias: How Impartiality Breeds Ingorance, Breeds Partiality
The adage goes that if the BBC is accused of bias by both the right and the left at roughly equal amounts, then they are doing their jobs about right, and the BMG poll would seem to suggest exactly that. Why then have we seen them shift to the right for years?
A 2018 poll by BMG Research showed 22% of those surveyed believed the BBC had some degree of left-wing bias; 18% said they have a right-wing bias, and 37% per cent believed they were impartial. According to the BBC, this is what they want. It’s what they’ve built their whole brand around — they are an impartial, trustworthy news source.
The rightward shift hasn’t been a secret — as recent as late August 2020, the newly appointed Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, threatened to axe left-wing comedy shows such as the Mash Report, Mock the Week, and Have I Got News for You. The Mash Report, in particular, was ridiculed by the BBC’s own Andrew Neil on Twitter as, ‘unchallenged left-wing propaganda’.
Here lies the problem: Andrew Neil is by no means a centrist himself, having been the darling of Rupert Murdoch as the editor of the Sunday Times, a contributor to the Daily Mail, an early advocate for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and at least a little ‘sceptical’ about climate change, I doubt he’d object to being labelled somewhat conservative.
The centrists are no better. Survey analysis by the New York Times found that ‘Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the centre: From Brazil and Argentina to Singapore and Indonesia’.
The New York times writer asks if this could happen in ‘mature democracies’, such as the United States, Britain, and France, and I ask — have they been living under a rock? The United States has just swapped out a modern fascist for someone who worked with and was himself a segregationist, and the UK has had a revolving door of Thatcherites at number ten for over a decade.
This is to say, in a round-about way, that centrists are not who they say they are, be that by accident or on purpose is not certain, though the result is that when trying to seek the middle ground in their reporting, outlets such as the BBC end up as skewed so far to the right that, in the name of impartiality, their staff have been told not to attend Black Lives Matter and trans rights protests. Meanwhile, they take no issue with ‘balancing the debate’ around trans rights with statements from hate group LGB Alliance. These viewpoints do not bring balance to any debate, it introduces lies and hate speech to the conversation, and miseducated their audience, creating the echo chamber they pride themselves on preventing.
So I guess Andrew Neil might be a centrist after all… or an enthusiastic tory — there’s not a lot of difference.