Wednesday, 15 December 2010

BBC Misses the Point Completely: An Update on the Ben Brown Interview

Kevin Bakhurst, BBC News Controller has responded to the flood of complaints over Ben Brown's interview with Jody McIntyre, somehow managing to miss the point completely. His full response can be found here.

It is worth going through his arrogant statement in detail, firstly:

'I am aware that there is a web campaign encouraging people to complain to the BBC about the interview, the broad charge being that Ben Brown was being too challenging in it.'

There is no web campaign that I am aware of. Bakhurst seems to be under the impression that only the cabal of revolutionary bloggers that Brown seems to find so terrifying could possibly find fault with the interview. There was no 'campaign'. What happened was really quite simple. The interview annoyed and shocked people who passed it on to other people, who were also annoyed and shocked by it. Blogs, social networking and e-mail ensured that a lot of people saw the interview. The stupidity of the interview itself generated the complaints.

'I have reviewed the interview a few times and I would suggest that we interviewed Mr. McIntyre in the same way that we would have questioned any interviewee in the same circumstances: It was quite a long interview and Mr.MacIntyre was given several minutes of airtime to make a range of points, which he did forcefully; Ben challenged him politely but robustly on his assertions.'

On the latter point Jody handled himself extremely well and proved himself an able spokesman, more than a match for Brown. However, the claim that 'we interviewed Mr.McIntyre in the same way that we would have questioed any interviewee in the same circumstances' is patently false. Had he been a member of the metropolitan police or a Tory spokesman, I have no doubt a different tone would have been taken.

The matter at hand is not Jody's disability but the fact that he is part of a mass movement of students who have been systematically vilified by the kept press. The whole tenor of the interview suggested that the Met would only respond violently if provoked and that Ben Brown was astonished to even admit any other possibility. Where the issue of disability emerges is in Brown's questions like 'Were you rolling towards him?', which made me think for a moment that I was watching Brass Eye. Even when police are caught on camera attacking a disabled person with severely limited mobility, because he is a student, the only possible explanation could be that he was in the midst of some act of violence.

The BBC's attempt to paint those angered by Ben Brown's moronic interview as wooly and oversensitive misses the point completely.  What is important about the interview is that it sums up the mentality of the media: Students are violent thugs, the police are defending civil society. This mentality has reached the point where even when police attack a wheelchair-bound protestor, the only logical explanation is that he was a threat to them. After all, the London Metropolitan Police certainly don't have a record of violence or brutality, do they?

The effort of the Tories and the kept press to dehumanise and slander the student movement is unsurprising. They are the first point of resistance to the Tory's insane austerity programme and it is feared that they are going to set an example to society at large. Their response has been to slander them as thugs and vandals, the barbarians at the gates of polite society, to try and divide them from the rest of the population soon to come under the axe of Cameron and Co. Therein lies the limits of this kind of media coverage. The Tory assault on the welfare state will be so sweeping that almost no section of the working (and middle) classes will be left unaffected. When pensioners, NHS staff, council workers and the unemployed begin to mobilise, attempts to dehumanise those resisting the cuts will fail, because the threat to 'society' will be society itself.

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