Words Matter

I genuinely never thought I’d be using the words Gary, Lineker, political and bias in the same sentence, but there you go,  I just have . 

The BBC’s ineptitude in dealing with “Lineker Gate” demonstrates the lack of authority and independence that illustrate a fall from grace that has been palpable this last few years .

I confess I write this from a position of sadness but also realism because I have also turned away from BBC News reporting  as I no longer believe it is capable of independence from political influence . At least in the UK as it relates to constitutional issues and at least in relation to Government policy.

I defended the BBC  much longer than some of my friends and political colleagues.  I still recognise that there are impartial voices there but leadership is called leadership for a reason, it leads and the leadership in the BBC has softened its resistance  to political interference to the point that its voice is no longer credibly independent . 

The key principles and values that informed it and caused it to be the “ go to” reporting platform globally,  because you could be assured of an impartial voice,  have gone , partially. Partially because the rot has set in with particular relevance to British politics and to government positions on foreign affairs. In other areas where its reporting is no threat to the current government and thus there is no pressure applied to what it reports,  it remains believable. 

Gary Lineker was not impartial in his Twitter statements, he was critical of Government policy. As a private citizen he has the right to express his opinion. Had he made those comments on Match of the Day I’d be criticising him too.  But he didn’t. Does his position as a presenter there give him an audience that he can speak to? Yes of course it does,  but the same applies to politicians in the self serving pursuit of intense publicity that they  crave; demand and get but also deplore when it backfires.

To suggest that Lineker cannot express his opinions outside  of his job is tantamount to censorship. 

To suggest that people outside of political office should stop commenting on political affairs is as ludicrous as it is patronising.  Marcus Rashford was criticised for making comments about issues and that backfired because his background qualified him far better  to comment than critical politicians! But that didn’t stop them from trying to belittle his input, they failed. They then wanted to be his best friend. 

The proof of  hypocrisy here with Lineker is the obvious comparison with the situation of the Chairman of the BBC .

” Nothing to see here , move  on” seems to be the preferred political line as it related to his role in the loan arrangement for Boris Johnson and the fact that he is a significant donor to the Conservative Party. Forgive me for asking this question but how can a significant donor to any political party be assumed to be the right person to be the Chairman of an institution which is supposed to be strictly politically unbiased? It is bonkers thinking. It isn’t even being done cleverly or discretely .It is the art of a really bad magician, you actually can see the rabbit going into the hat .

The values that cause him to make those donations are the values through which he will make his decisions . You cannot ignore that, and that applies to any political appointment. 

So what then  is the BBC’s real position on impartiality? What values drive it ? Can you trust an institution to be impartial  when it applies its test of impartiality differently according to the political focus of the individual? Richard Sharp (conservative supporter) clearly impartial Lineker ( critical of conservative) clearly not impartial .The values set seems to be broken to me  or do I need to go back to my philosophy classes? 

If you cannot trust those values to be applied impartially in this setting then where else may they be erring in favour of another political position , independence for instance?  Once the genie is out of the box it is very difficult to stuff it back in again and all those brilliant reporters editors and managers of the BBC who held the line for so long and with such integrity are sold down the river. 

This is problematic. We have a written media that is overwhelmingly right wing, we need a beacon of impartiality . 

If the BBC is to be seen again as a truly impartial national institution then it needs to sort itself out. It cannot apply different standards to what independent presenters are saying in their private ljfe and what their Chairman does in his public life. 

To an extent though this is not the fault of the BBC. It is the fault of the way that they are funded . I thoroughly applaud the fact that it is funded through the licence fee but that is also its weakness . Hilariously, a commercially funded BBC might be able to create its own political position and be even more critical of Government, I wonder if they ( Government) have thought that through ? But at present the BBC is very much at the mercy of the moral balance as it relates to the Government in charge at the time. The current Government has been in power for a very long time. The moral position over many many years was that Government did not seek to influence  how it reported . That seems to be changing as this Government becomes more desperate to cling to power . 

Has anyone noticed that this particular Government seems to have some issues with moral judgements? And so it goes, apply these moral judgements and why shouldn’t you seek to influence editorial decision making and seek to close down critical expression from people whose careers have given them influence? This is the genie,  that is the box. 

Suella  Braverman has said that her Husband is Jewish and there is offence to be taken at Lineker’s statement about language used that sounds a lot like Germany in the 1930s. 

Well is there offence to be taken?

Let me have stab at that . I am not Jewish but I was brought up in a Jewish family and I was given cause to believe I was Jewish for most of my adult life. So I may not be as qualified to comment as Suella’s husband but I’m a heck of a lot more qualified than  Suella to make a comment . No, there is no offence to be taken . The opposite. If people had taken offence to the sense of otherness in the language  of the Nazis in the 1930s and  if the international community had stood up for the rights of Jews ( and other groups they chose to discriminate against ) then perhaps the Holocaust could have been prevented. 

But actually those influential people said little and did nothing, possibly because it played to their own petty prejudices, anti semitism was quite socially acceptable for some. It still is. Let us be impartial here, prejudice has no natural political home, anti semites and racists can be found in any political party

If anyone should look closely at their public use of language it would be Braverman. She and some elements of her party have pandered to what they consider to be vote winning political positions on immigration that is a cigarette paper width away from out right racism. It is a cynical position not a principled one. Brexit has a lot to answer for.  When you use words like “ swarms” “ invasion” you stoke up a sense of otherness that the Nazi’s did use for their own political benefit. You are playing, deliberately to the basest of people’s prejudices and that gives comfort and legitimacy to the vileness of their moral position . 

I feel for the decent Conservatives who cling to their legitimate political values and have to watch people like Braverman debase the political credit of their Party. I may not agree with their politics but I can see the principles that drive their wish to serve . 

Words matter. It is not Lineker who needs to address his language it is Braverman and those who have sought to exploit the basest of human instincts to justify and legitimise their position 

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  1. What can I say except – well done – well written – well reasoned – a thoroughly sound piece of writing which I hope gets a very wide readership.

    You’ve said most of what I’ve been puttering at Mike about for the last couple of days, including that this particular Director General of the BBC is a legacy of Boris – helped Boris to get a loan and voila – he was given a position of power and influence – which he’s using – but not how he’s supposed to. Well… well….. well.

    Re. how much words matter……we have a bit of synchronicity here Steve.
    I’ve just written this….

    “Next Read….

    After ‘Bachelors Anonymous’ by P.G. Wodehouse – ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco. Very different – set in a different era and using a very different style of writing. I read it about 40 years ago and remember it being well written and the jist of the story, but not the details.

    I also remember seeing the film of the book, starring Sean Connery as the main character. Sean Connery – sigh. Then going to the pub with the friends that I’d been to see the film with and someone not ‘getting’ the ‘Name of the Rose ‘ reference – that was easy enough to explain – “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a famous quote from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – but, if I remember rightly, there’s a weave about names, symbols, words and how much they matter.

    I’ll now step into a very different world to that of P.G. Wodehouse, and to the world of today – though politics is politics and I remember there being a lot of politics in the book – monks and politics? Church and state – ‘twas ever thus.

    I’ll let you know how I get on.”

    …….which will be an entry in m’blog sometime soon. What occurred to me when writing the last paragraph was – you could replace the word ‘church’ with the word ‘media’ these days.

    I need to calm down – hard to in today’s world – it’s one thing after another.

    We need a new word for the level of corruption in the Conservative party in recent years – ‘corruption’ simply doesn’t cover it.

  2. I’ve been thinking some more about this – what Mr Sharp is doing amounts to Fascism. That’s what happens in Fascist states – if someone working in the Media says ‘the wrong thing’ – they’re out.
    So, we have Fascism Vs. Football – in Britain I’d back Football to win, and it looks like that might be what’s happening.

    ‘Rock Against Racism’

    ‘Football Against Fascism’

    Though, when it comes down to it – it’s Gary Vs. Cruella.

  3. This is similar to BBC Scotland’s coverage of politics. It has been cowed by the Scottish Government into avoiding any serious criticism or holding to account.
    We are in a 1984 nightmare where our very thoughts are to be contrby the state

      • You’re more than welcome, Steve – it’s another BBC Home-Goal.

        My mother would have referred to his kind of behaviour as ’cutting off your nose to spite your face’.

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