Monday 2 July 2007


In the light of the BBC's internal report damningly revealing that, yes, they are biased, it looks like they're making new attempts to cover both sides of political stories. For instance, take this piece by the gloriously-named Laura Smith-Spark about Hilary Clinton's decision to take her husband on the campaign trail with her:

Mr Clinton's abilities as a speaker are undoubted — and he has already been putting them to use at big-money fundraising events on his wife's behalf.

He also enjoys the respect verging on reverence that many Americans accord their former president.

On the one hand, he's wonderful.

But on the other side of the coin, his very charisma brings with it the danger that he will overshadow Hillary and highlight what critics say is her lack of warmth.

On the other hand, is he too wonderful?

See? Balance.

While I'm at it, I may as well go into this in a bit more depth. Bill's abilities as a speaker are "undoubted", his charisma is a given, but Hilary's lack of warmth is merely something that "critics say". Ms Smith-Spark does think to report on the fact that Bill's presidency wasn't all unalloyed sunshine and wonder —

Mr Clinton's reappearance on the campaign trail also risks reminding Americans of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and his subsequent impeachment

— but only because of the sex scandal: there's no suggestion that his appearance could risk reminding Americans of his policies or actions — of, for instance, his decision to let Osama Bin Laden go when the offer to extradict him to the US was on the table, or his agreement to give nuclear technology to North Korea. The idea that he could ever have done anything wrong as President, not merely as a man, is never entertained.

There's also no mention of the interesting and extremely relevant fact that Gore and Kerry both tended to perform worse in states in which Bill helped them with their campaigns. To be fair, that omission is more incompetence than bias, but still: the world's leading news organisation? Really? With a budget of three billion, can they not even manage to state the bleeding obvious?

Talking of that budget, does it not stretch to a short internal flight, or even a bus ride? Ms Smith-Spark talks to some real voters to get their opinions, but, even though she's already told us that

Bill Clinton is joining the campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire

she sticks to New York — judging from the photo of one of the voters, she simply hung around Central Park for a while on a nice sunny afternoon and chatted to a few people. I'd like that job. Anyway:

Pundits' predictions of Bill Clinton's largely positive impact are borne out by speaking to likely Democratic and Republican voters in New York, the state Mrs Clinton represents in the Senate.

That's right: to find out whether Bill's presence is likely to help Hilary in states where she faces fierce competition, the BBC asked some voters from the one state in the US where she doesn't. Can anyone imagine the BBC reporting on a New York issue by interviewing only Iowans? We already know New Yorkers vote Clinton: they've been doing it for years. Furthermore, Ms Smith-Spark quotes three Democrats and one Republican. There's that balance again.

But as retired bookseller Mary Butler, a Democrat, points out, whether voters in America's heartlands will be as forgiving as traditionally more liberal New Yorkers remains to be seen.

"His past scandals are nothing compared to what is going on now, unless you think sex is the only thing that counts," she says. "But what the people in Iowa think about him I don't know."

Look at that: even when one of her interviewees actually tells Ms Smith-Spark that she's interviewing the wrong people in the wrong place, the comment goes so far over her head that she quotes it in her report.

For this we pay.

No comments: