The petition to sack the BBC's political editor* has created
a bit of a fuss, in both social and mainstream media. Perhaps predictably,
little of this has focused on the substantive claims behind the petition. These
are either wilfully misrepresented (a peevish outcry that Labour's local
electoral results weren't narrated as a triumph) or dismissed out of hand.
Ironically, but implacably, it's now become a story about "nasty (sexist) Corbynistas", in
accordance with established memes.
The attacks on the petition rest on the argument not that the petition itself contains misogynistic remarks* but that a few misogynistic tweetshave citedthe petition or somehow been galvanised by it. This has roughly the same logical structure as saying that the Brexit campaign includes or inspires racists and therefore the campaign is itself racist and should be abandoned. This reasoning is of course false.
It's not difficult to asses charges of
partiality and bias: the respective coverage given to both major parties, the
tone of the coverage, the angles taken, the extent to which commentating voices
are from the left or the right, who qualifies as a legitimate commentator and
who doesn't, the presence of critical voices and so on. By these criteria,
there's a very compelling case for consistent BBC bias, and the petition, like
all petitions, is partly just a way of drawing attention to the case.
Instead, it's largely morphed into an anti-Corbyn story, using the now
familiar recipe: find sexist/ racist/ abusive comments on Twitter, automaticallyequate these
comments with Corbyn Supporters per se and with the petition itself,
then insinuate some degree of responsibility on the part of Corbyn himself. All
of this, based on non sequiturs and a handful of unrepresentative examples, then silences the
30,00 signatures and detailed analyses of biased reporting.
*Needless to say, petitions, over and above their ostensible object, are very often strategic ways of getting a subject discussed in the public domain. I take this to be the case here, the subject being BBC bias. *despite headlines like "David Cameron condemns 'sexist' petition against BBc Political Editor.." the offensive remarks were not (i've been informed by 33 degrees) on the petition itself but posted independently on Twitter. Attempts to elicit information about the number or content of these remarks has proved pretty fruitless. If there's evidence that the "campaign" of abuse amounted to more than a handful of tweets, I've not heard it. A "campaign" implies a concerted effort involving a substantial number of those involved - afew random individuals, outside the 30,000'mainstream', can't beso designated in any meaningful or useful way.