Bernie Sanders is currently dominating the race to be the US Democratic Party’s nominee in this year’s presidential election. But an absurd new article from the BBC on the contest shows just how much the UK broadcaster lives in an establishment bubble.
The evidence has long been adding up that the BBC has a thoroughly ‘pro-establishment’ mindset. And in a 24 February article asking How left-wing is the Democratic field?, this continued. Because the public broadcaster painted a political picture which seemed to be either dishonest or clueless (or both).
First of all, the article didn’t mention that Sanders is by far the most popular and successful Democratic contender at the moment. And it didn’t even mention him or his policies in several sections of its analysis. While it was selective in its coverage of all candidates, its decision to omit information about the progressive frontrunner was particularly conspicuous.
But it’s the images the BBC chose to illustrate its points which should really make progressive jaws drop. Because it simplified the political spectrum so much that, on one point, it put UK prime minister Boris Johnson in the furthest left position possible:
Many people in the UK are fully aware of Johnson’s pro–privatisation views and, with good reason, trust him very little with the NHS. So why the BBC considered him to be ‘far-left’ on healthcare is anyone’s guess.
The mess continues…
The campaign of centrist Democrat Elizabeth Warren has been flailing so far. But the BBC seemed to give her preferential treatment, putting her in more images than anyone else (and firmly on the left). On taxation, it thought she was positively communist. What’s more, it even placed right-wing billionaire Mike Bloomberg alongside her. Needless to say, neither will fix extreme inequality (or “punish the rich”, in the BBC‘s words) in any radical way.
The BBC then went onto the environment, without even mentioning the leading candidate on the issue – Bernie Sanders. It also left him off its image entirely, despite him being the first candidate to back a bold Green New Deal (i.e. boosting the economy and job growth by building up environmentally friendly infrastructure, taxing emissions, encouraging renewable energy projects, and ending fossil-fuel subsidies). Many agree that his plan to tackle the climate crisis is the most progressive. But the BBC instead chose to highlight billionaire right-wingers Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg (whom it put on the far left):
A small hint of accuracy is no consolation
To be fair, the BBC did put peace-prize winner Jeremy Corbyn on the ‘extreme’ end of the spectrum in terms of foreign policy. On a scale from “war hawk” to “peace dove”, it marked the outgoing UK Labour leader as the latter, which was probably the most accurate part of the whole article (alongside describing former leader Tony Blair as economically right-wing).
The fact is, though, this article was an appalling example of the pro-establishment mindset (conscious or subconscious) at the BBC today. And it adds to years of the BBC playing a prominent role in the brutal propaganda offensive from the establishment media that helped to sink Corbyn and boost Johnson in the 2019 UK election. This elitist campaign consistently painted the moderate left-wing policies of Corbyn’s party as somehow ‘far-left‘ (something that will be news to all anarchists and communists out there).
Establishment media outlets have long influenced what people see as politically possible by limiting the spectrum of ‘acceptable opinions’. And a warped narrative like placing Warren and Bloomberg on the US far left is a prime example of that disinformation. Because as the Political Compass website has shown us, the spectrum of political ideologies is much wider than many people may think. Bloomberg, for example, is actually the Democratic candidate closest to Donald Trump’s politics, while Warren is slightly to the right of dead centre. In fact, even Bernie Sanders is only marginally to the left of the centre.
The BBC – helping to manufacture public consent for the status quo
In the 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote about how certain ‘filters‘ shape mainstream media content. One filter is the backlash that occurs if content ‘strays too far away from the political consensus’. So in a world where billionaires control the majority of the media (and thus what the political consensus should be), accurate reporting of left-wing politics is unsurprisingly rare.
Whether the BBC‘s bias is conscious or not, it exists. That’s why Chomsky once told the BBC’s Andrew Marr:
I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But… if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.
In short, it’s possible that the BBC‘s article on the Democratic Party didn’t intend to mislead readers. But it did. And in doing so, it exposed the BBC‘s pro-establishment mindset for all to see, along with the urgent need for its democratisation.
Featured image via Flickr – Tara Hunt
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