The BBC has been accused of all kinds of biases over the years, and no more so than the anti-EU politicians and press who believe the Corporation is biased against them merely because it declines to turn itself into a cheerleader for the Brexit brigade. But in trying to head off the screaming denunciation of the Fourth Estate, the Beeb has allowed some who peddle rank dishonesty on to its shows in the name of balance.
Why did Kavanagh cross the road? To score More And Bigger Self Promotion Opportunities For Himself Personally Now
This mistake was highlighted by Wednesday’s edition of Newsnight, where host Emily Maitlis had to not only contend with the duty to give her pundits a say, but also detect the propagandist lying of faithful Murdoch retainer Trevor Kavanagh, who is still on the board of sham press regulator IPSO, in addition to his duties as Boot Boy Emeritus for the Super Soaraway Currant Bun. Kav sounds authoritative. But he is flagrantly dishonest with it.
The subject under discussion for the panel which also included writer and film maker Billie JD Porter, semi-detached Labour MP Kate Hoey and Fleet Street veteran Max “Hitler” Hastings was, to no surprise, Brexit. Ms Porter expressed her dismay and embarrassment at the situation that she and many other young people in the UK now find themselves in. Ms Maitlis then turned to Kavanagh, who then breathed in, and therefore lied.
Hers, he intoned with his customary faux authority, was merely a personal view. There were, he assured viewers, many across the EU who were much more opposed to it than Britain had been at the time of the referendum. Much more against the EU. And this was right across the EU. This was not true: he and his paper have been spinning this particular tall tale for some years, and particularly in the run-up to recent elections.
So where is this anti-EU sentiment? Sadly for Kav, it is largely in the minds of himself and his pals at the Sun. When the Austrian Presidential election was re-run last year, the Murdoch goons suggested the country could have a referendum on EU membership - they won’t - and that a far-right victory (their man lost) could sway voters to the right in the Netherlands (it didn’t) and France (less likely now the Russians involvement is known).
The Sun talked up racist bigot Geert Wilders amid talk of a “Nexit”. It didn’t happen. Now the paper is pretending other EU member states will follow Britain out the door, but it’s fanciful: the FN in France is fading, AfD in Germany hardly broke the 5% threshold in the most recent election there, and even the Greeks aren’t minded to vote out.
But Kavanagh had his ace to deploy: the Pope, he stressed, on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome last weekend - Britain didn’t go to the bash - had said that the EU “was dying”. This was delivered persuasively. But it was another lie: Pope Francis had actually said that the EU “risks dying”. Yet Kavanagh was allowed to get away with his lies unchallenged. Why Ms Maitlis did not correct him is for her to know. But the effect is that the Murdoch propaganda gets out there, and the BBC is complicit in its delivery.
This tsunami of fake anti-EU news and pundit propaganda is inevitable. That does not mean the BBC should just let it happen.