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Last Update: 3 Day and 14 Hour and 26 Minute ago
News code: 29045
Published Date: Saturday 22 February 2020 - 16:23:52
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Normalization of racism on BBC

Normalization of racism on BBC
World  - Owen Jones, a guardian columnist, has reviewed the role of BBC in publication of racist comments.

Hate crimes have doubled in just five years. Why did our national broadcaster uncritically tweet the vile views of a Question Time audience member?]

This is how racism and rightwing extremism are normalized. Thursday night's Question Time featured a lengthy racist rant by an audience member: "Close the borders, completely close the borders," she frothed with hateful rage, adding in lies about foreigners being showered with never-ending freebies while destroying the education system and the NHS. It took the commentator Ash Sarkar to challenge her unabashed bigotry with truth, pointing to research that migrants pay in more to the state than they get back. In a cheeky recycling of a quote popularized by the rightwing US pundit Ben Shapiro, Sarkar silenced the bigot: "Facts don't care about your feelings."

Yet Question Time then saw fit to clip the 82 seconds of hate, accompanied by a succinct summary of the audience member's rant. Lies and hatred, uncorrected and unchallenged, rippled across social media from the account of the BBC's self-described "flagship political debate programme". At the time of writing, the video had been viewed more than 2 million times. By sharing the video, the BBC seemed to imply that this wasn't racism - it was simply someone's opinion, for us to agree or disagree with, in much the same way that we might debate the top rate of tax, or whether the railways should be renationalised. Who's to say who is right and who is wrong? This was just another valid perspective to roam free in the marketplace of ideas - or such was the implication.

Much responsibility lies with a press that systematically incites bigotry against migrants, refugees, Muslims, benefit claimants and transsexual people: indeed, mainstream newspapers print bile that is not strikingly dissimilar from the Question Time rant. This includes "respectable" broadsheets such as the Times, which was belatedly forced to correct misleading coverage claiming a Christian child was "forced into Muslim foster care". By the time the corrections were made, the damage had been done.

Does the BBC not perhaps consider its responsibilities in a society in which hate crimes have doubled over the space of half a decade? As a public broadcaster, the BBC should surely be a bulwark against racism, not an amplifier of its message. The broadcaster may defend itself by claiming that interviewing the likes of Tommy Robinson, a racist thug and convicted fraudster, allows his views to be challenged. Yet it has only helped build up such monsters, seemingly oblivious to the fact that giving a platform to racism legitimizes it, or that racism cannot be defeated by the Socratic method.

We are ruled by a prime minister who has a history of racism and bigotry and who - quite unlike previous Conservative leaders - is idolized by far-right figures and movements, trashing the demarcation between centre-right and what lies beyond. Our national broadcaster uncritically pumping out racist rants is just another legitimization of such bigotry. If we remain silent, the dial will shift further - and we may find that such beliefs become even more mainstream than they already are.

 

News Code: 29045
Published Date: Saturday 22 February 2020 - 16:23:52
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