Jump to content
The Education Forum

BBC: Cultural Marxism


John Simkin
 Share

Recommended Posts

Paul Dacre is the editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers; this is an abridged version of the third annual Cudlipp lecture he delivered in London on Monday:

Now before the liberal commentators reach for their vitriol - and, my goodness, how they demonise anyone who disagrees with them - let me say that I would die in a ditch defending the BBC as a great civilising force. Indeed I for one would pay the licence fee just for Radio 4. But the corporation is simply too big. For instance, it employs more journalists and their support staff -3,500 - and spends more on them - £500m - than do all the national daily newspapers put together.

Where there was once just a handful of channels, the BBC now has an awesome stranglehold on the airwaves, reaching into every home every hour of the day - adding ever more channels and even considering launching over 60 local TV news stations across the UK.

No wonder Britain's hard-pressed provincial press complains it can't compete, our ailing commercial radio sector is furious that the market is rigged against it, our nascent internet firms rage that they're not competing on a level playing field, and ITN, aided and abetted by some pretty incompetent management, is reeling on the ropes.

But it's not the BBC's ubiquity, so much greater than Fleet Street's, that is worrying, but its power to impose - under the figleaf of impartiality - its own worldview. Forget the fact that the BBC has, until recently, been institutionally anti-Tory. The sorry fact is that there is not a single Labour scandal - Ecclestone, Mittal, Mandelson and the Hindujas, Cheriegate, Tessa Jowell, and Prescott and Anshutz - on which the BBC has shown the slightest journalistic alacrity.

No, what really disturbs me is that the BBC is, in every corpuscle of its corporate body, against the values of conservatism, with a small "c", which, I would argue, just happens to be the values held by millions of Britons. Thus it exercises a kind of "cultural Marxism" in which it tries to undermine that conservative society by turning all its values on their heads.

Of course, there is the odd dissenting voice, but by and large BBC journalism starts from the premise of leftwing ideology: it is hostile to conservatism and the traditional right, Britain's past and British values, America, Ulster unionism, Euroscepticism, capitalism and big business, the countryside, Christianity and family values. Conversely, it is sympathetic to Labour, European federalism, the state and state spending, mass immigration, minority rights, multiculturalism, alternative lifestyles, abortion, and progressiveness in the education and the justice systems.

Now you may sympathise with all or some of these views. I may even sympathise with some of them. But what on earth gives the BBC the right to assume they are the only values of any merit?

Over Europe, for instance, the BBC has always treated anyone who doesn't share its federalism - which just happens to be the great majority of the British population - as if they were demented xenophobes. In very telling words, the ex-cabinet secretary Lord Wilson blamed the BBC's "institutional mindset" over Europe on a "homogenous professional recruitment base" and "a dislike for conservative ideas".

Again, until recently, anyone who questioned, however gently, multiculturalism or mass immigration was treated like a piece of dirt - effectively enabling the BBC to all but close down debate on the biggest demographic change to this island in its history.

Above all, the BBC is statist. To its functionaries, insulated from the vulgar demands of the real world, there is no problem great or small - and this is one of the factors in Britain's soaring victim culture - that cannot be blamed on a lack of state spending, and any politician daring to argue that taxes should be cut is accused of "lurching to the right".

Thus BBC journalism is presented through a leftwing prism that affects everything - the choice of stories, the way they are angled, the choice of interviewees and, most pertinently, the way those interviewees are treated. The BBC's journalists, protected from real competition, believe that only their worldview constitutes moderate, sensible and decent opinion. Any dissenting views - particularly those held by popular papers - are therefore considered, by definition, to be extreme and morally beyond the pale.

But then, the BBC is consumed by the kind of political correctness that is actually patronisingly contemptuous of what it describes as ordinary people. Having started as an admirable philosophy of tolerance, that political correctness has become an intolerant creed, enabling a self-appointed elite to impose its minority values on the great majority. Anything popular is dismissed as being populist - which is sneering shorthand for being of the lowest possible taste.

The right to disagree was axiomatic to classical liberalism, but the BBC's political correctness is, in fact, an ideology of rigid self-righteousness in which those who do not conform are ignored, silenced, or vilified as sexist, racist, fascist or judgmental. Thus, with this assault on reason, are whole areas of legitimate debate - in education, health, race relations and law and order - shut down, and the corporation, which glories in being open-minded, has become a closed-thought system operating a kind of Orwellian Newspeak.

This is perverting political discourse and disenfranchising countless millions who don't subscribe to the BBC's worldview; one of the reasons, I would suggest, for the current apathy over politics.

How instructive to compare all this with what is happening in America. There, the liberal smugness of a terminally worthy, monopolistic press has, together with deregulation, triggered both the explosive growth of rightwing radio broadcasting that now dominates the airwaves and the extraordinary rise of Murdoch's rightwing Fox TV News service. Democracy needs a healthy tension between left and right, and nature abhors a vacuum. If the BBC continues skewing the political debate, there will be a backlash and I predict that what has happened in America will eventually take place in Britain.

Now, there's been much talk recently of the need for more civic journalism in Britain, the very thing the BBC prides itself on. But let's pose this question: what if a civic BBC finds itself dealing with an administration that does not behave in a civic way? An administration that manipulates news organisations and the news agenda, that packs ministry press offices with its supporters, that chooses good days to bury bad news, that favours news bodies that give it positive coverage and penalises those who don't, that fabricates health and education figures, and concocts dodgy dossiers - an administration that, in Campbell and Mandelson, thought nothing of engaging in systematic falsehood.

Is the BBC's civic journalism - too often credulously trusting, lacking scepticism, rarely proactive in the sense of breaking stories itself - up to dealing with a political class that too often set out to dissemble and to deceive? The bitter irony, of course, is that when, for once, the BBC was proactive in its journalism and did stand up to the Labour party by breaking a genuine story, the corporation and its craven governors all but imploded under pressure from a rabid Campbell.

And what is interesting is that this contrasted with the ruthless support for the Iraq war that Rupert Murdoch imposed on his papers and their equally ruthless suppression of any criticism of the invasion whether it involved the attorney general's malfeasance, virtually ignored in the Times, or Dr Kelly, all but hung drawn and quartered by the Sun.

Indeed, I would suggest that the intimacy and power-brokering between these two papers and No 10, and the question of whether Mr Blair would have got away with his falsehoods and misjudgments over Iraq - indeed, whether Britain would have gone to war at all - without the support of the Murdoch empire, is a brilliant doctoral thesis for some future media studies student.

Yes, the BBC is, in many ways, a wonderful organisation. But the fact remains that it depends for its licence fee on the British population as a whole, yet only reflects the views of a tiny metropolitan minority. If it continues with this abuse of trust, then the British people will withdraw their consent and the corporation will fall into discredit. And that would be a very great pity.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1997235,00.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's been a tough couple of weeks for the BBC. First, it had to come to terms with having its wings clipped by the below-inflation financial settlement imposed by Gordon Brown. Then it faced a broadside from the editor of the Daily Mail accusing it of seeking to destroy all that's good about British culture and society. According to Paul Dacre, the corporation is a massive, many-headed hydra threatening all that decent Britons hold dear. It was enough to make you tremble with fear as you reach for the remote control.

The Mail, of course, has a particular gift for instilling fear. Never an issue goes by without it warning readers that modern Britain is a nasty, dangerous place that should be ventured into only with great caution. Stray too far and you are likely to be attacked and brutalised by any one, if not all, of the following: violent criminals, illegal immigrants, paedophiles, mad mullahs, foreigners, and officials of the EU. Far better to stay inside with the Daily Mail and turn your face from the window.

It's no longer even safe to stick on BBC1 or maybe listen to a bit of Radio 2. If you do, you'll be inviting the apologists for all that is wicked out there right into your home. And what's more, the corporation has the effrontery to charge you a licence fee to fund its insidious conspiracy of "cultural Marxism".

Dacre offered some hope to those who share his views. He concludes that the BBC is so bloated and self-satisfied that it's in for a fall. American-style rightwing radio and TV channels will spring up to counter the corporation's bias and steal its audience in huge numbers.

I believe Dacre is fundamentally wrong. Wrong in his analysis of the BBC. Wrong in thinking that the Daily Mail comes closer to representing the views of the majority of British people. And wrong in predicting a rupture between the corporation and its audience.

There is another way of looking at the BBC. Far from undermining traditional British values, it upholds them with a tenacity that impedes any radical challenge to the status quo. Let's take just a couple of obvious examples. The royal family is treated with fawning coverage that sickens those of us who believe it's wrong for any position of power and influence to be a gift of birth. The content and tone of royal reporting is almost uniformly unchallenging and reverential. And when it comes to reverential, the special treatment meted out to the good reverends of the Church of England, and to a lesser extent to representatives of other religions, is monstrous.

No organisation that gives free air-time to a minority sect like Anglicanism can truly be considered part of a Marxist conspiracy. Watch Songs of Praise and you would think that the people of Britain were filling our churches with undiminished enthusiasm every Sunday. Thought For The Day is an extraordinary anomaly in the otherwise rigorous Today programme. No economist, politician or businessperson is given a free slot to expound their take on the world completely unchallenged. And quite right too. What's so special about people of faith?

More generally, BBC journalism has moved down market, closer to the "tabloid" style so beloved by the Daily Mail. Indeed, stories from the Mail itself stand a disproportionately higher chance of being followed up by the BBC than those from any other paper. So much so that a recent emailer to the Six O'clock News asked if it was the BBC's job to be the Daily Mail of the airwaves.

Where the corporation differs from the Mail, however, is in its openness to debate. The Daily Mail has its view of the world and that's that. You can take it or leave it, and many of us chose to leave it. The BBC does indeed paint a different picture of Britain. More culturally and politically diverse, more open and more broad-minded. It can be guilty of an establishment bias but its airwaves are open to the public as never before to express more or less whatever opinions they like within the law. Sometimes those opinions reflect those of Mr Dacre. More often they do not.

That, I believe, is why Dacre is really so angry with the BBC. It's starting to dawn on him that, having been a master of political and cultural propaganda for so long, he's beginning to lose his touch. Or rather, Britain is moving on and leaving him behind.

How does he know? Because even the Conservative party has abandoned his agenda, or says it has. David Cameron routinely denounces Daily Mail values because he knows that the broad centre of public opinion in this country, to which he has to appeal, doesn't agree with them. Dacre thinks that because people buy his paper they agree with its politics. Cameron is calculating that many of them don't, and he's surely right.

And so, if the Fox News-style rightwing news channels were to try and break into the BBC's market they would fail because the BBC upholds something that the Daily Mail never has and never will - fairness. And that's something I and, I suspect, the vast majority of licence-fee payers are more than happy to pay for.

http://media.guardian.co.uk/bbc/story/0,,1999227,00.html

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Stephen Turner

It was, I believe, columnist Julie Burchill who coined the phrase, The Daily Hell to describe Dacre's foul mouthpiece, another description that is apt is John Pilgers lampooning of Murdock as,"A cultural Chernobyl"

Dacre's Britain is indeed a fearsome place, stuffed full of feral hoodies, single Mother dole queens, violent drunks, cheating Gypsies, workshy poor, trotskyist trade unionists and millions of undeserving asylum seekers. The mail is the Sun with its hair combed, and as such is perfect foder for fulminating retired Colonels, and elderly clergymens daughters in Brighton, who check under their beds each night to make sure George Galloway isnt hiding there.

Dacre can foam at the mouth all he wants, the fact remains, many more Britons will turn to the Beeb for their information, and entertainment, than will polute their domiciles with his underhand neo-con rag.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Paul Dacre is the editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers; this is an abridged version of the third annual Cudlipp lecture he delivered in London on Monday:

Is the BBC's civic journalism - too often credulously trusting, lacking scepticism, rarely proactive in the sense of breaking stories itself - up to dealing with a political class that too often set out to dissemble and to deceive?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1997235,00.html

Dacre is loathsome - didn't he offer a platform to the grotesque Angelton in an interview in the 1970s? - and so is his paper. But on the above point, he couldn't be more right: The BBC is appalling, most notably when it comes to regurgitating spook lies. No wonder. MI5 still vets its employees - and still has an office in the building, no? - and MI6 ("the Foreign Office") funds the World Service. And the sheer gutlessness of what pitifully little investigative journalism it undertakes is an enduring source of wonder. That is, of course, when Panorama etc., isn't simply acting as a front for Britain's murderous secret police!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is another way of looking at the BBC. Far from undermining traditional British values, it upholds them with a tenacity that impedes any radical challenge to the status quo. Let's take just a couple of obvious examples. The royal family is treated with fawning coverage that sickens those of us who believe it's wrong for any position of power and influence to be a gift of birth. The content and tone of royal reporting is almost uniformly unchallenging and reverential. And when it comes to reverential, the special treatment meted out to the good reverends of the Church of England, and to a lesser extent to representatives of other religions, is monstrous.

No organisation that gives free air-time to a minority sect like Anglicanism can truly be considered part of a Marxist conspiracy. Watch Songs of Praise and you would think that the people of Britain were filling our churches with undiminished enthusiasm every Sunday. Thought For The Day is an extraordinary anomaly in the otherwise rigorous Today programme. No economist, politician or businessperson is given a free slot to expound their take on the world completely unchallenged. And quite right too. What's so special about people of faith?

More generally, BBC journalism has moved down market, closer to the "tabloid" style so beloved by the Daily Mail. Indeed, stories from the Mail itself stand a disproportionately higher chance of being followed up by the BBC than those from any other paper. So much so that a recent emailer to the Six O'clock News asked if it was the BBC's job to be the Daily Mail of the airwaves.

Great article. You are of course right to say that the BBC upholds the status quo. This is especially the case in times of a national crisis. This was first illustrated by the way the BBC behaved during the 1926 General Strike. Probably, the best example is the BBC during the Second World War. It is no coincidence that the ideas for 1984 came from George Orwell's experiences of working for the BBC during the war.

The "tabloid" style of BBC 1 news is very worrying. Radio 4 usually gets it right with its news. Yet, often the lead item on R4 is only a brief mention in the middle of the 30 minute broadcast. It does not come with any visuals or discussion. It is also interesting to compare BBC and C4 news broadcasts.

It is true that the BBC will never become partisan in the way that the Daily Mail is. However, in some ways, that makes it more dangerous. People trust the BBC to tell them the truth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...