The BBC has been caught before trying too hard to achieve “balance”: inviting on a scientist with decades of research in the field of climate science and then a self-appointed climate change denier like James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who would not understand climate science if it leapt up and fly-hacked him in the undercarriage, for instance. The Corporation went similarly awry over the EU referendum.
This search to be shown to “balance” the mainstream by giving loudmouths, cranks and bigots airtime has continued in the wake of the row over Combover Crybaby Donald Trump Retweeting three dodgy videos from not-at-all-racist-honest Britain First, the group that inspired Thomas Mair, who murdered MP Jo Cox last year. Rather than just mention the kinds of people out there on the far right, the Beeb had to give them airtime.
Not content with interviewing Sebastian Gorka, someone with suspected neo-Nazi links and an Islamophobe whose view of Islam is shared mainly by the “Alt-Right” and fringe oddballs, the BBC decided to do more of that “balance” on the Radio 4 Today Programme this morning by inviting Ann Coulter to be interviewed. Gorka had declared that the murder rate in the USA was down to “Black African crime”. What would Annie say about Trump?
Nick Robinson soon found out. As the Guardian has reported, “The interview with Robinson became fiery, with the BBC presenter and Coulter disputing the accuracy of the videos shared by Trump and the claims attached to them. Robinson called for Coulter to ‘answer the question’ about whether Trump should have criticised May and Coulter responded by telling Robinson that she had a ‘little tip for him’ - that he should spend time on Twitter and ‘figure out’ that people retweeting videos do not research the biographies of the people who originally shared them”. This was supremely disingenuous.
Not only has Trump left the Tweets up, he has aggressively and dishonestly defended them. He and his staff have now had plenty of time to “research” the content, something Ms Coulter had not - hence her claim “it’s not a faked video”. At least one of them was.
Could it get any worse? As if you need to ask: Radio 4’s World At One doubled down on Today and back came Sebastian Gorka to spin another pack of lies that will be half way around the world before they get fact checked. The reaction was as predictable as it was hostile. The discussion starts about Trump’s endorsement of the far-right and ends up with another phoney scare story about supposed Islamic terrorism.
We know that the BBC agonises over balance in its presentation. But to so cravenly give the far-right - neo-Nazis, white supremacists, racists, Islamophobes, segregationists - hold of the megaphone is beyond the pale. The revulsion at the presence of both Coulter and Gorka on the airwaves should have sounded alarm bells at New Broadcasting House. But, given the regularity with which this sort of thing occurs, maybe it did not.
The Beeb needs to get wise about the false promise of “balance”, and the vicious modus operandi of the US far-right. Otherwise they risk losing that Gold Standard trust rating - and none of us wants to go there.