How to seem impartial while promoting your own views

Christopher Booker’s report this week for the GWPF,  The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal, paints a damning picture of the BBC’s bias and activities.

Sir Antony Jay, who wrote the foreword and spoke at the launch is a harsh critic of the BBC and benefits from a more than a little insider knowledge. As The Telegraph reports:

He said that when he worked at the BBC, employees were generally anti-industry and saw private profit as distasteful. Many were anti-monarchy, and were suspicious of the Army.
“What I have noticed is that it comes down to values, and the hardest thing to change in an organisation is its values,” he added.
“And these values are behind the BBC’s view on global warming, which is everything the BBC didn’t like – it was about industry, profit, big corporations and that sort of thing.”

Responsible for the BBC’s Tonight programme in the 50s and 60s, after which he left the corporation, he is most famous for his political comedies Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.  In his introduction to the report, which is also highlighted by James Delingpole, he says:

“The issue of man-made global warming could have been designed for the BBC. On the one side are the industrialists, the businessmen, the giant corporations and the bankers (or at least those who are not receiving generous grants, subsidies and contracts from their government for climate-related projects such as wind farms or electric cars), on the other the environmentalists, the opponents of commercial expansion and industrial growth. Guessing which side the BBC will be on is a no-brainer, but no one has documented it in such meticulous detail as Christopher Booker. His case is unanswerable. The costs to Britain of trying to combat global warming are horrifying, and the BBC’s role in promoting the alarmist cause is, quite simply, shameful.”

If I too am a harsh critic of the BBC (and I am) it is because I feel betrayed by them.  I grew up in a very apolitical household and we never questioned the BBC’s version of the facts.  Finding myself now exposed to fairly libertarian viewpoints, I can see the bias, and realise that my own view of world events during my formative years was heavily coloured by the Beeb’s reporting.  Here’s how Sir Antony describes the BBC’s reporting:

We were masters of the techniques of promoting our point of view under the cloak of impartiality. The simplest was to hold a discussion between a fluent and persuasive proponent of the view you favoured, and a humourless bigot representing the other side.

[…]…you could have a ‘balanced’ summary with the view you favoured coming last:

not – “the opposition claim that this will just make the rich richer, but the government point out that it will create 10,000 new jobs”

but – “the government claim it will create 10,000 new jobs, but the opposition point out that it will just make the rich richer.”

It is the last thought that stays in the mind. It is curiously satisfying to find all these techniques still being regularly used forty seven years after I left the BBC.

It is entertaining to revisit some of the quotes from the series “Yes Minister” One might even say, written in the 80s, that they seem prescient to Climate Change, the IPCC processes and Durban; they weren’t written about cAGW, but they so could have been.

“Politicians must be allowed to panic. They need activity. It is their substitute for achievement.”

“Politician’s logic:
We must do something.
This is something.
Therefore we must do it.”

“If we cannot refute the arguments in a paper, we simply discredit the person who wrote it. This is called playing the man and not the ball.”

“If people don’t know what you’re doing, they don’t know what you’re doing wrong.”

“No one really understands the true nature of fawning servility until he sees an academic who has glimpsed the prospect of money or personal publicity.”

“The surprising things about academics is not that they have their price, but how low that price is.”

And so it seems.

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6 Responses to How to seem impartial while promoting your own views

  1. John F. Hultquist says:

    “What I have noticed is that it comes down to values, and the hardest thing to change in an organisation is its values,” he added.

    People with the anti-industry, anti-profit, . . . values have gotten into such places as the BBC, and in the USA many of the news organizations and government agencies. This has occurred over many years and cannot be changed in just a few years. It has been reported that as Vice President, Al Gore inoculated the US agencies with people holding the CAGW values. And Gore was introduced to these ideas by Maurice Strong. I think it would be hard to argue that Gore Jr. got such ideas from Gore Senior, his father with ties to petroleum, coal and related industries.

    “ . . . we never questioned the BBC’s version of the facts. ” And Americans thought Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the States.

    This is a quagmire that can be gotten out of only slowly. It helps that the CAGW science has been so shoddy and that Gaia has not been cooperating.

  2. Verity Jones says:

    There are generations growing up with the BBC’s view of the world, and CAGW, and it can go one of two ways. Either they will hold hard onto the received doctrine, or they will see its flaws and turn away from it, each in his/her own time. Yes the tide can seem very slow to turn.

  3. Another Ian says:

    Verity, O/T but FYI

    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/crackdown-shooting-in-the-dark/#comments

    “Crackdown – Shooting in the Dark
    Posted by Jeff Id on December 14, 2011

    It seems that the world governments are escalating cliamtegate to the next level. Tallbloke a fellow recipient blog of the climategate emails, and linked on the right, was raided today in what seems to be a coordinated effort by Metropolitan Police, the Norfolk Constabulary and the Computer Crime division and the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division. His home was raided and computers were taken for ‘examination’.

    Updates are coming shortly which will explain further. The same is coming to a blogger near you. The story that they want the drives to find FOIA but you aren’t a suspect, is stupid in the extreme. WordPress has the actual data from comments.”

    [Reply – thanks yes it is strange. Perhaps it is a case of ‘being seen to be doing something’.]

  4. Pascvaks says:

    People are naturally prejudiced. It’s a coping mechanism we employ to deal with an infinite array of unknowns in life. It starts at birth and we only lose it in little bits and pieces as we grow older, then we reach a point in time where everything is “frozen” in time and that’s the way we stay till our last breath. Organizations of all types are like real people too. That’s life!

    Somewhere and when most of us grow into the realization that everyone has their own angle, slant, way of looking at the world. I guess that’s a characteristic of “maturity”. We open our eyes and ears, so to speak, and see and hear everything differently from then on.

    After Radio came along there was a saying: “Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.” Then, low and behold, TV came along and we were back bumping around in the dark of the old cave we thought we’d left forever. Life’s a beach!

  5. Miket says:

    ” I grew up in a very apolitical household and we never questioned the BBC’s version of the facts. Finding myself now exposed to fairly libertarian viewpoints, I can see the bias, and realise that my own view of world events during my formative years was heavily coloured by the Beeb’s reporting.”

    Absolutely my experience. Now, with what I’ve seen of their reporting (or lack of it) of climate science, I look at all their reporting sceptically – even more so following Sir Anthony’s comments. As I have commented elsewhere, my disillusion was completed with the rejection, without being considered, by the BBC Trust’s ESC of the appeal of my complaint of general bias in the reporting of climate science – and it took more than three years to get to that stage! You can see them taking five pages to NOT hear my appeal on their website where they publish the results of their meetings (December for November).

    • Verity Jones says:

      Welcome Miket. I can’t describe the feeling after beginning to see the clearly – perhaps the outrage of someone whose trust was completely misplaced.

      Our household gets almost all its news via the internet these days – going to various sites for a different slant on the same story. A while back when I was canvased by telephone by someone representing the BBC asking our opinions on charging for digital channels. He asked what I thought the BBC channels were worth to us as a family (if we had to pay for them) and he thought he’d misheard me when I said “You mean instead of the licence fee?” He got more and more incredulous as I told him how little we watched the BBC news and couldn’t remember the last time I looked at BBC NEWS 24. I took great pleasure in coming up with a figure of £2 per month as an alternative to the license fee and saying if we didn’t have access we wouldn’t miss it. True. The one time I’d wished for a doorstep canvaser rather than telephone caller – it would have been worth it to see his face.

      [Update – I should have mentioned the current Licence Fee is ~£12 per month for most people – a licence is mandatory if you even own a television.]

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