The BBC has published a shocking article on coronavirus. And it’s essentially as well-timed piece of propaganda for the Tory government. But what’s more, the BBC has changed the article since it was first released. Not that we should be surprised by any of this.
The BBC: did it really just say that?
In the early hours of Saturday 21 March, the BBC ran an article on coronavirus deaths. It was discussing the forecasts for how many people might die in the UK due to the pandemic. As BBC health journalist Nick Triggle wrote:
Modelling by Imperial College London – used to inform government – suggests 500,000 could die if we do nothing.
Even the government’s previous strategy to slow the spread was likely to lead to 250,000 deaths, the research showed.
But this wasn’t the main thrust of the article. Because Triggle’s overall point was to push the idea that some people who might die from coronavirus may well have died, anyway. He wrote:
The figures for coronavirus are eye-watering. But what is not clear – because the modellers did not map this – is to what extent the deaths would have happened without coronavirus.
Of course, this will never truly be known until the pandemic is over, which is why modelling is very difficult and needs caveats.
But given that the old and frail are the most vulnerable, would these people be dying anyway?
Yes. The BBC really did go there. As Triggle continued, the:
250,000 and 500,000 figures for coronavirus are simply the number of deaths linked to coronavirus.
The testing which has been done in many countries means we know when a patient dies with the virus inside their body. What it does not tell us is to what extent coronavirus contributed to the death.
He even said that the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance had “conceded” this point.
Some people on social media were unhappy that the BBC appeared to be glossing over people dying:
Accurate or not (and the point is that no-one knows), is this the most responsible time for our public news outlet to be running this story on its front page? I can't imagine a BBC bulletin in 1940 saying 'You know, most bombs probably won't hit you'. https://t.co/IUVj9OEQiV
— Jonathan Gibson (@jgib1996) March 21, 2020
People also pointed out that the UK’s usual death rate was probably increased by other factors in the first place:
I'm not sure it's right to ask would these people have died anyway. It reinforces the 'it doesn't matter" narrative. Lots of the 600k deaths in the UK each year are not inevitable anyway, they are the result of poverty and inequality. https://t.co/tDW4d8kjzf
— Dermot Bryers (@dermotbryers) March 21, 2020
Meanwhile, one user amended the text of the BBC piece:
— Lafargue (@Lafargue) March 21, 2020
Coronavirus: Have UK experts over-egged deaths?
Clearly the BBC thought it could get away with a tabloid-esque headline.
Reading between the lines
Maybe the BBC article was trying to calm the public over the exploding death toll that’s possibly imminent. Because, as an FT journalist pointed out on March 19, the UK is on a steeper death-toll curve than Italy:
NEW: the Thursday 19 March update of our coronavirus mortality trajectories tracker
• Italy now has more Covid-19 deaths than China’s total
• UK remains on a steeper mortality curve than Italy, while Britain remains far from lockdown
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) March 19, 2020
But it could also be paving the way for something else. As Willshome summed up:
— Willshome 💚 Corbyn in my❤️ (@willshome) March 21, 2020
which coronavirus victims should potentially live or die
And, as Triggle concluded in his BBC piece:
As we get deeper into this crisis, we will need much greater intelligence on just how many lives are truly being saved, and compare that to the wider cost to society, so the government and the public can weigh up the best course of action.
So, by pushing the idea that some coronavirus patients were probably going to die anyway, the BBC is doing the Tories work for them.
Glossing over chaos
Our NHS is already struggling due to years of Tory underfunding. Social care is also decimated. And the Tories’ response to coronavirus has been branded by many as too slow. Therefore, by encouraging us to think that people needlessly dying from coronavirus is actually inevitable, both the BBC and the Tories are covering up the mess that got us to this point in the first place.
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