Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has revealed part of an email where the BBC seems to praise white supremacist Steve Bannon. Sturgeon received the email after she pulled out of a BBC co-hosted conference, saying it risked:
legitimising or normalising far right, racist views.
There may well be substance to such a claim. In July 2018 for example, former Donald Trump strategist Bannon told a meeting of the National Front in France that attendees should wear accusations of racism as a “badge of honour”.
In an attempt to convince Sturgeon to attend News Xchange2018, the BBC emailed her office. And Sturgeon has tweeted some of the contents:
The email the BBC sent to my office justifying Bannon’s inclusion described him as a ‘powerful and influential figure…promoting an anti-elite movement.’ This kind of language to describe views that many would describe as fascist does seem to me to run the risk of normalisation.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) October 20, 2018
Appeasing a white supremacist?
The BBC upheld Bannon as a “powerful and influential figure” and characterised him as “anti-elite”. But Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart News, stands accused of promoting and participating in racism. For example, Bannon’s ex-wife issued a sworn statement in 2007 accusing Bannon of antisemitic remarks. The statement, which Bannon denies, claims that the far-right figurehead had problems with sending their daughters to certain schools because of antisemitism:
the biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.
Under Bannon, the far-right media site Breitbart ran headlines such as “Political correctness protects Muslim rape culture” and documenting “black-on-black” violence.
With such views in mind, Sturgeon accused the BBC of running the risk of “normalising fascism” through inviting Bannon onto mainstream platforms.
Sturgeon wasn’t alone
On social media, others agreed:
Strong words from the First Minister of Scotland.
The 'neutral', 'impartial', 'public interest' BBC is now veering towards normalising fascism. Just think about that. https://t.co/WUTSsyuUUI
— Media Lens (@medialens) October 20, 2018
I've been on the receiving end of Bannon and his acolytes' slanderous hatred. The fact that @BBCScotland thinks it is okay to give Bannon a platform and describe him as an influential voice is pretty damn insulting. They should know better than to mainstream hatred. pic.twitter.com/wkXmNR9AJw
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) October 20, 2018
I agree. And Bannon’s anti-elite movement has been shunned by every large European radical right movement – so the BBC are not just normalising his politics but promoting a myth of his ongoing political influence which doesn’t tally up with the reality https://t.co/7lH7unkEze
— Rob Ford (@robfordmancs) October 20, 2018
Novara Media editor Ash Sarkar also pulled out because of the inclusion of Bannon:
This is the first I’ve heard of this. If @NewsXchange are committed to platforming Steve Bannon, then I withdraw from participating in either of my panels at this conference.
I won’t be complicit in the normalisation of fascism amongst the chattering classes. https://t.co/WYr6EU1KTj
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) October 19, 2018
We must surely view the BBC’s decision to platform, interview and characterise Bannon as “anti-elite” in the wider context. While harbouring the far right, our public service broadcaster routinely ignores minority voices such as Palestinian advocacy groups. Such an imbalance of reporting is especially dangerous.
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