I’M currently running for election, so I’m mindful that I should moderate my language on social media at the moment but… what the fudge is going on with the muddy-fracking clockfaces at the dog-jammed BBC?
If for some reason the news has passed you by, the Conservative Government (in an effort to shift the electorate’s attention away from the Conservative Government’s role in the clusterfunk of strikes, cost-of-living crisis, tomatoes becoming rarer than Unobtainium, effluent in our rivers, the Trussonomics mortgage spike, Brexit being “a bit of a letdown”, and Boris Johnson being Boris Johnson) is turning its crosshairs on immigrants and refugees – specifically those arriving on ‘small boats’ – with its Illegal Migration Bill.
Home Secretary and Dolores Umbridge cosplayer Suella Braverman was already chastised last year for inflammatory rhetoric when she spoke of a “migrant invasion”. This week she was at it again, suggesting in the Daily Mail that 100MILLION refugees were on their way to Britain and “billions” more people would turn up in Dover if the Tories didn’t “push the boundaries of international law” to stop them. (In the last five years, it is thought around 85,000 have arrived here on the boats, so 100million is something of a recalibration).
It’s a tried and tested method: Distract from your own failings by pointing at the “others”, demonise them, dehumanise them. And one of the most notable places where this tried and tested method was tried and tested was 1930s Germany.
Legendary former England footballer turned Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker said as much in a tweet: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
In any sane world, nobody should care what a sports presenter says about Government policy beyond the usual “Oh, they agree with me, that’s nice” affirmative feeling you get when someone you admire turns out to be someone deserving of your admiration*. (Or alternatively, when someone you think is a total duckhead confirms their duckheadedness).
Opinions will vary on who is admirable and who has the green-sheened noggin of a mallard… but that is largely where it should end.
It certainly shouldn’t be leading news bulletins and dominate front-page splashes of the papers for over half a week – not when the Government’s method for shoring up the borders of the UK is to casually punch holes in the borders of international law (or indeed when there are 101 other more important issues affecting people in this country and beyond).
And yet it has been.
That suits the Government just fine, as focusing on a Left-leaning celebrity’s views means there is less coverage of the fact their Bill has also been criticised in the strongest terms by, among others, the UN refugee agency, human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, the Board of Deputies for British Jews, and the Children’s Commissioner.
The coverage has been helped by the fact Lineker’s tweet has been twisted disingenuously by the usual suspects. The Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, and Tory ministers such as Robert Jenrick, James Cleverly, Lee Anderson and Braverman herself have all flown off the handle at the apparent equating of this Bill with the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities. But that’s not what Lineker wrote.
The language being used is certainly reminiscent of 1930s Germany. Unless the argument is that the language used in 1930s Germany was German, literally a different language to English.
But it’s certainly rhetoric that is reminiscent of the 1930s – not least the infamous 1938 Daily Mail editorial headlined ‘German Jews pouring into this country’.
So despite the fact Lineker had a point, after three days of front-page opprobrium by the Mail and Telegraph, and howler-monkeyesque screeching calls to cancel him by those bulwarks in the war against cancel culture on GB News, the supine, spineless BBC announced he would be taken off Match of the Day presenting duties until there was “an agreed and clear position on his social media use”.
The alleged problem with Lineker showing compassion for refugees is that it breaches the BBC’s “impartiality” rules. But that argument holds no water when considered in light of the 99.9 per cent probability that nothing would have happened to Lineker had he praised the Government sending vulnerable refugees to Rwanda and stripping them of their protections under modern slavery laws.
It holds no water when you consider Richard Sharp was made BBC chairman after donating £400,000 to the Tories and somehow wangling Boris Johnson a mysterious £800,000 loan.
It holds no water when it is explained that Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s former director of communications, has a seat on the BBC board and is able to block journalists from getting jobs because of their perceived political affiliations.
It holds no water when Tim Davie, a former deputy chairman of the Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative party, and Tory election candidate, was made Director General of the BBC.
It holds no water when a Tory peer is able to tweet support of Johnson, and post objectively racist comments, yet is not asked to “step back” from presenting The Apprentice.
It holds no water when, for many years, Andrew Neil, a key member of the BBC’s current affairs programming output, was allowed to tweet, without censure, his right-wing views and oversee publication of literal Nazi apologism in The Spectator.
It holds no water when Fiona Bruce, who is married to Nigel Sharrocks, the CEO of an advertising company that received £3.9million to promote Conservative Government policies, is seen as the best choice to chair the BBC’s flagship Question Time programme. One could argue that Bruce should be able to be impartial despite this – although her defence of Boris Johnson trying to knight his father by saying “Stanley Johnson broke his wife’s nose only once – it was a one-off” suggests her partisan leanings might be a little too visible.
Gloriously, MOTD pundit Ian Wright announced he would not appear in Saturday night’s edition of the programme in solidarity with Lineker – leading a revolt which was joined by fellow pundits Alan Shearer, Alex Scott, Micah Richards, even Jermaine Jenas, whose stock as a pundit with any insight at all is so incredibly low he could have been forgiven for taking this opportunity to boost his career.
The BBC then announced they would simply go ahead without presenters and pundits – a situation preferable to the only remaining alternative of a panel including conspiracy-theorist Matt Le Tissier, bitter, anti-woke misanthrope Mark Lawrenson and racist binbag John Yems.
But then Conor McNamara and his fellow commentators announced they would step down too! Followed by the presenting teams of Football Focus, Final Score, Radio Five Live’s Fighting Talk… It raises an interesting point: Why can’t the BBC compel these employees of theirs to work? Is it because they’re not, in fact, BBC employees? In which case, why are they dictating what they can and can’t tweet?
The BBC has dug itself an embarrassing hole in the name of upholding “impartiality” and not for the first time. In fact, Auntie has a habit of shooting herself in the Titicacas, especially where the distinction between “impartiality” and “due impartiality” is concerned.
Remember when Naga Munchetty was rebuked for opining – in light of one of Donald Trump’s outbursts – that the phrase “Go back to your own country” was racist? That ultimately led to accusations the Beeb was seeking to be impartial on racism.
Or when Emily Maitlis was taken off air for an opening monologue on Dominic Cummings’ disdain for lockdown rules?
Due impartiality does not mean that racism should not be called out or that the Government of the day is exempt from criticism – but the BBC often seems to forget this.
What’s funny is that when these stories break, the BBC feels duty-bound to report them high on the news agenda, because they fear flak from the likes of the Mail if they don’t. But this works both ways, as they also have to cover people claiming that their kowtowing to the Government and right-wing press is pathetic. Hence why I got a BBC News Alert on my phone this morning, stating: “The BBC has badly undermined itself” after criticism from former DG Greg Dyke. Add self-flagellation to the charge sheet, along with spinelessness, lack of self-awareness, and pandering to the far right.
The Lineker controversy comes at the same time as another scandal – as an episode of David Attenborough’s Wild Isles programme will be aired only on iPlayer, reportedly because the BBC fears presenting facts about the decline in UK wildlife might result in a right-wing backlash.
It’s true that the episode in question features collaboration with the RSPB, which last year abandoned its stance of being fastidiously apolitical by breaking its silence about Government policies being ruinous for nature. The Telegraph was up in arms at this partnership, even though you might consider that if apolitical organisations feel the need to change tack in light of damaging Government actions, it might be the Government actions that are the problem.
The BBC denied the sixth episode had ever been slated to air, despite the fact that all of Attenborough’s series of the last 20-odd years have had six instalments. In light of the Lineker case, this denial looks like buhookey. And it’s also now difficult to shake the notion that the recent axing of Autumnwatch was a political move in response to Chris Packham’s activism.
Cancelling Attenborough and Lineker on the same day feels like a line in the sand. I’ve defended the BBC against its critics for many years but yesterday was the epitome of cowardice in the face of febrile pressure from the increasingly deranged Mail and Telegraph.
I joked on Facebook yesterday that Vichy France had shown more backbone than the BBC in the face of right-wing attacks. Perhaps a better comparison would be Norway in 1940. For Chairman Sharp, read Vidkun Quisling. The Tories putting him, Davie, Gibb, Bruce, Kuenssberg etc at the controls has established the Tories their own puppet government of collaborators at the top of the BBC. Dissent will not be tolerated.
So vive la resistance of Lineker, Wright, Shearer et al. And shame on the BBC, now a state broadcaster rather than a public one. Fudge ‘em.
* Like when Ben Folds of deep-Red North Carolina announced he was releasing a political single and I had to hold my breath until I heard Mister Peepers and was hugely relieved.