We often hear or read about complaints concerning the alleged bias of one mainstream media organisation or another. The BBC, for instance, is regularly accused of having a kind of ‘left-wing’ bias. Sometimes this allegation is broadened to all media in Britain, so that it is said most press and broadcast media have a general liberal or Left bias.
The reverse allegation is, of course, often heard from the Left, in that they claim the mainstream media is bias towards the political Right or is against the Left in various ways. Admittedly, most of us will readily accept that bias is a natural state of mind that is difficult to conceal when commenting on news or current events. We all approach comment from a perspective that is our own and a strong level of objectivity is difficult to achieve in those circumstances. The root of the complaint, then, is in the belief that those who journalise or report on what is happening in the world are expected to resist ordinary, base temptations of partiality. Perhaps unrealistically, bias is thought to be the preserve of commentary, while news should be gathered by a kind of Quixotic cadre of objective public servants who, idealistically, report what they see and nothing else.
Of course, the real world doesn’t work like this. We only need look at history. Bias in media has existed since the dawn of the first printing press. In the early days, the capital needed for establishing a serious and viable press was such that the technology was concentrated in relatively few hands. Naturally, great reliance was placed on the financial sponsor, with the result that only a narrow range of opinions were published and circulated from the first printing presses. This informal censorship, if one might call it that, later took on legislative form in the infamous licensing laws imposed by Parliament during the 17th. century. These laws restricted what types of opinions might be published and circulated. As you might expect, views that were hostile to the political elite of the day could be suppressed, and were often prevented from being published at all. It was only with the rise of the modern journalist trade during the late 17th. and early 18th. century that the liberty to speak freely in Britain took on meaning in the public space, as publications such as Tatler and the early Spectator emerged.
The modern equivalent of the parliamentary licensors and the wealthy print owners are the BBC executives and their counterparts in the private sector. The BBC executives often have close involvement in a variety of political and cultural activities outside their immediate responsibilities at the Corporation. The private sector media owners are invariably hugely influential figures in business and across society, especially in politics. Together they form a media and political class: class being the apt term, since they act cohesively, and consciously, in their collective interest. These people will generally tolerate only a narrow bandwidth of ‘acceptable opinion’, and it is within this Potemkin Village that the public is presented with its political choices, through newspapers, various online channels, the radio and the TV. These ‘choices’ are in fact largely a series of ‘false opposites’, the falsity being that on closer examination, it becomes apparent that almost-all of the political parties are presenting the proverbial ‘business as usual’ agenda, while minority views that might challenge the status quo are not permitted to find expression.
The emergence of the web as an alternative media is slowly threatening this domination by wealthy interests of news and opinion. The web is a means by which information can be disseminated democratically and on a mass basis relatively cheaply, but even with the rise of internet news and commentary, the economic structure of media still harks back to the wealthy print owners and their parliamentary licensors. The reason for the continuing struggle for ‘information democracy’ is the economic power of the media barons, who still have available to them ‘soft’ means of censorship and control. Their methods, tried and tested, include, inter alia, powerful advertising and marketing techniques; the use of propaganda to dissuade serious consideration of alternative viewpoints; the promotion of concision in broadcasting; the control of what is ‘acceptable language’; and the simple denial of airspace (or print space). The rudiments of this information control apparatus give a whole new dimension to the term ‘bias’. Its Middle French origin word, biais, meant a slant, slope or oblique. We see here also a possible origin for the term ‘spin’: i.e. the giving to favourable slant on events and news stories. In keeping with that etymology, and in spite of the web’s democratic potential, what is broadcast, published and consumed by the public day after day is still a slanted reality, a simulacrum in which a distorted, even alien, picture of the world is presented, yet a picture that at the same time uncannily reflects the priorities of our everyday oppressors: be they employers, official types or a hostile government. But what is all this in aid of? What is being protected?
We must remember that self-perpetuation is in the nature of a hierarchy. This gives rise to a variety of materialist expediencies, which we see manifested in everyday news about politics, and in the mundanities of our own lives. What the politicians and information managers wish to protect most of all is their own sinecures. It is the case that a wave of Nationalist support in Britain would imperil the livelihoods and material interests of a large part of the ruling elite. And we know that the same could be said about a rise in support for the extreme Left, which is anti-capitalist, yet we note with frustration and dismay the appeasement and co-option of the social liberal perspective by the Establishment, including mainstream media. The explanation for this must be deeper than mere cultural bias. There have to be materialist considerations at play. We can also observe that it is Nationalism – and the broader far-Right – that suffers most of the British State’s overt oppression, and while the far-Left does also at times receive its share of official attention, it is the far-Right and Nationalists that are openly reviled and despised by the British State, and also, significantly, among the mainstream media.
Does this overt biasing both against Nationalists and toward social liberal attitudes suggest a deeper, systemic partiality among media institutions? Or are the allegations of left-wing bias, leveled especially against the BBC, just another clever distraction that, when repeated by Nationalists, serve to take attention away from the country’s real problems? The monsterisation of the so-called ‘Left’ is an easy and clever way for the elites to distract attention. The Tories in particular enjoy the fact that those of a populist bent rail against the so-called ‘Marxist’ or ‘left-wing’ BBC while overlooking the destructive, anti-social and anti-national policies of the government itself, not to mention its ‘Loyal Opposition’. That most of the people who use the term ‘Marxist’ in this context have little or no idea what it means is hardly relevant. The point is that there is a need for a diversion, a scapegoat, and it must be plausible. And it is plausible that the BBC is infested with what is called Cultural Marxism. What exactly is meant by the phrase ‘Cultural Marxism’ depends on who is speaking or writing, but in non-academic hands the vague gist is that it is an extreme, socially-liberal type of leftism involving a wish for a more egalitarian, racially-mixed and internationalist society. Does the BBC support this sort of thing? Officially, the BBC is impartial.
Unofficially, however, its various journalists, broadcasters and reporters do seem to promote a certain partial outlook, and while it is difficult to define precisely what that outlook is, we can say with relative ease what it isn’t. It is not socially-, morally- and culturally-conservative, nationalistic, or family-centred. In fact, it is uncomfortable with these things. But is it left-wing? The question, and indeed the accusation, are circular in that the Left are people and groups with a variety of different ideological positions. However, it is clear that when the issue of media biasing is addressed by Nationalists and the far-Right, then the Left is being defined as those who believe in, or prioritise, social, economic and racial equality. Few could or would disagree with that as a fairly inclusive description, if not a definition. We can include within it almost-all political groups that identify with the egalitarian Left culturally, if not ideologically, and propound equality as a good in itself. To what extent does the BBC align itself with this ‘ideology of equality’?
The evidence is mixed, but a clear picture does emerge. The BBC often broadcasts programmes that are deeply pro-business in character. We only have to look at ‘reality’ series such as The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den, etc. as a case in point, as they celebrate business and the vague idea that one must be competitive and cut-throat in order to ‘get ahead’. Then there is the BBC’s news and current affairs output, with items and stories that often have a pro-business focus. On the other hand, we can detect with the BBC an editorial slant that is equalitarian, in that stories and news items are selected that highlight certain issues. We see this in the BBC’s coverage of business issues. There is often a focus on the supposed pay gap between male and female workers, and the issue will be presented in a way that is favourable to those who believe that female workers suffer a raw deal. Coverage of the immigration controversy will be presented from an angle that highlights the business and economic benefits that migrants supposedly bring to the UK.
Some programmes show a more overt editorial biasing. An edition of Countryfile in December 2012 highlighted the supposed ‘problem’ of a lack of ethnic minority people living in or visiting the countryside. That and other particularly egregious examples do suggest an equalitarian bias that is anti-national and anti-white in character, but to label this as ‘left-wing’ does not necessarily tell us a great deal. It is not that the BBC and its cousins in the media are institutionally ‘left-wing’. Nor are they institutionally ‘right-wing’, necessarily just because they produce pro-business programmes. That is not to let the Left (in both the Labour and Tory parties, and their cultural friends, etc.) off the hook concerning their failed policies in this country, rather it is to seek a closer understanding of precisely what is being propagandised and promoted through our media and why. Do these people really keep yapping about ‘equality’ because they’re all left-wing or involved in some sinister neo-Marxist plot? Or is the real reason more prosaic? We really need to ask the age-old question: Who benefits? A different, and arguably more accurate, way to summarise the situation is that the media, including the BBC, tend to be ‘metropolitan’ in attitude.
By ‘metropolitan’ I refer to the adoption of certain mores, norms and attitudes that are modish and reflect the lifestyle of those who might benefit from or look more favourably on a more liberal outlook in society. In British society today, we can see that a new ‘metropolitan class’ is emerging that could be likened to the patrician class of the late Roman Republic, occupying the strata of elite political, cultural and administrative posts in society and evolving into an ersatz Nomenklatura, with its own class signifiers. One such signifier is a distinct anti-plebeian attitude and an overt disdain for working people and their provincial mores and needs. A stark example of the phenomenon is found in discussion about immigration. A common provincial complaint is how problems with open-door immigration are not discussed in public, yet in truth, the subject is dealt with at length in public discourse. The difficulty is not in its absence from public discussion, but in the perspective from which it is dealt with, which invariably emphasises the priorities of both big business and metropolitan types, two groups that loudly welcome the ‘benefits’ of open immigration policies in the form of low-cost, pliable labour and cheap restaurants, etc. Likewise, in some ways it benefits the business class to promote the idea that all women are potential victims of ‘sexism’ or that ‘racism’ is widespread, as this encourages division and individuation in the workplace, as opposed to solidarity. If working people unite, they are strong – especially if they unite within effective unions. If, on the other hand, working people are encouraged to divide and becomes suspicious of each other, maybe also compete with each other for illusory ‘middle class’ careers, there is less a sense of solidarity, and the bosses are stronger. To an extent, these priorities manifest in open snobbery towards the ‘ignorant provincials’ who dare to challenge the established order of things. Insults such as ‘racist’, ‘bigot’, ‘Nazi’, ‘red’, ‘commie’ and so on are a reflection of a class bias, with one class using verbal intimidation to block reasoned debate about its assumed privileges and the damaging and anti-social effect they have on the country-at-large. Simple class snobbery also plays its role. You might say that the provincials are the ‘workers’, while the metropolitans are the ‘bosses’ and the workers really should know their place and keep quiet. This type of attitudinal cringe is of course nothing new in Britain, but it is important to understand that class prejudice is not merely a cultural phenomenon, it is also economic in character – in other words, it serves a purpose, with a long antecedence into the traditional feudal economic structure of British, particularly English, society.
What we will also consider here is the interaction of basic socio-geography. Britain – particularly England – is London-centric, and this is reflected in the priorities of the media. In a more pluralistic society with diffuse and autonomous power structures, there might be more room for the provincial attitude to take root. Nevertheless, and despite superficial appearances offered by devolution to the sub-national level, Britain remains a heavily centralised society with its power structures concentrated in London. A ‘British media’ does not, as such, exist. What we have in fact is a London media that broadcasts to the entire country, adopting a metropolitan social, cultural and political orientation. In London, and among Londoners, the ‘anti-plebeian’ and ‘metropolitan’ values are pervasive because of what London is. It’s a metropolis. Its people tend to see things in metropolitan terms. That’s only natural. In fact, no matter how conservative you are, or think you are, if you lived in London you would over time begin to allow accommodations to the social environment around you. If you were sufficiently robust mentally, you could resist it to a degree, but not totally. Most media people either live or work in London, or both, and where they do neither, they still work for a media organisation that is London-centric in the sense of either being located in London or being under London-centric cultural influences, or both. Most successful media people also spend the formative years of their careers in the London media environment. However, the metropolitan mindset is only a tendency – so, there are exceptions, and there are ‘metro’ people who will flit in-and-out of the tendency and exhibit a more provincial or conservative mindset from time-to-time, depending on the issue. But to display a provincial, anti-metropolitan viewpoint consistently would require the journalist or broadcaster to rebel against his own paymasters. That is something that most journalists – and certainly nearly-all young journalists – will not do. The media are cliquely and McCarthyite in their treatment of their own, and will shun and exile professionally any journalist who does not articulate and repeat the Zeitgeist, and so understandably many journalists will not reveal their true thoughts or betray inner doubts.
Those of us outside London, especially those like myself who live in areas that are still traditionally quite conservative, working class and white-dominated, look at the goings-on in the ‘mainstream media’ with bafflement. The gossip and parliamentary tittle-tattle; the petty arguments over who said what on Twitter; the strange and fanatical crusade to purge racism among white people; the obsession with house prices and abstract growth figures; and so on. To the provincial mindset, none of this is particularly relevant or equates to the common experience, still less makes sense. Nevertheless, the circus rumbles on, on all channels, purveying the metropolitan, anti-plebeian perspective. Recently, on Channel Four (another, supposedly, ‘left-wing’ channel), we were treated to the dubious delights of a fresh series of Undercover Boss, a risible programme that infantilises and humiliates ordinary workers. The perspective of the programme-makers is deeply patrician. They believe implicitly that ordinary people are helpless and should not take responsibility for the material conditions in their working environment. Instead, they should look to their munificent ‘boss’ who, like a knight in shining armour, will come to the rescue to make their working conditions ‘fair’ and give a few quid to charity in the process. The picture is of ordinary people not in control of their own lives while carrying out difficult and arduous work that the ‘boss’ can’t do, yet the boss earns several times their salary. It’s fitting for a society in which selfishness and greed have been elevated to a virtue that is then crystallised in patronising workplace munificence; a society in which the ordinary worker is denied union membership and basic dignity; a society in which what matters is getting one up on the other fellow. Most of the participants in the series are low-paid and unskilled and not in any position to answer back to an impertinent boss who understands his own company so poorly that he needs a camera to follow him round while he discovers just how bad a manager he is and how good his workers are. I think it is safe to say that Undercover Boss is not a left-wing programme, though it may unintentionally fill the more astute Channel Four viewer with some very left-wing ideas as he or she angrily throws a shoe at the TV set and contemplates what they would do if they got their hands on the stupid boss being featured that week.
Our metropolitan media are happy for us to believe that they are simply a bunch of ‘left-wing’ revolutionaries, but the truth is not quite like this. What they – and their friends in politics – really are is the propaganda arm of an anti-social predator class in society. These modern ‘licensors’ are the mouthpieces of society’s capitalists, and just as in the 17th. century the parliamentary licensors did the bidding of their wealthy constituents, today the political and media class work against the people in pursuit of a self-enriching agenda. The BBC, in common with all broadcasters, is certainly biased. This bias may, from time-to-time, appear in ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’ form, but its true nature is more complicated. You may be sure that the real bias is toward those who wish to maintain their profits at the expense of the people and will do everything possible to stop a Popular Nationalist movement arising. This is because in a Nationalist society the community will place the health, welfare and dignity of its folk above all else, and give its children a future – and the modern licensors will not be welcome. As we work towards that society, we may require from time-to-time policies or initiatives that resemble the Left or the Right, but are in fact Nationalist. That is our only bias: we are merely working for the interests of our own people.