The Doors of Perception

It’s funny watching the Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer being interviewed by Kay Burley on SKY News attempting to create a narrative that the BBC are somehow left-wing, it’s hilarious, but also dispiriting. Is this the quality of our Overlords? It’s demeaning to think that this sub Rosie Holt dolt has reached the dizzying heights of Cabinet:

Is it possible that Frazer is not in fact a far-right loon playing out the end-days of the latest Tory regime with a series of contorted culture war sideshows in a desperate attempt to distract us from their horrendous record in power, but in fact tripping out on mescaline, just before entering the studios with Kay?

Sharp-eyed readers will remember Lucy from her memorable 2005 maiden speech in which she praised Oliver Cromwell, for his treatment of the defeated Scots after the Battle of Dunbar when he despatched over 5,000 captive soldiers into slavery. Amid peels of laughter from the Tory benches, she went on to offer the view that the solution to the West Lothian Question, might be to follow Cromwell’s lead and banish troublesome Scots to the colonies as slaves.

But I don’t want to dwell on the fact that such a culture exists in the ‘Mother of All Parliaments’ (sic) or even the painful fact that such a figure can reach such dizzy heights, because in some ways the Conservatives in particular have been very good at what they do. As David Egerton writes: “The Tory party is a party of rentiers for rentiers; its electorate is old and propertied. Once the party of British national capitalism, of big business, before it undid the very bases on which it depended, it no longer acts as the agent of productive change. Its aim is essentially to transfer resources from young to old, from workers to rentiers, from poor to rich; to support the landlord, the property developer and the extractive monopolies. Far from being incompetent, it has been extraordinarily successful in pursuing its agenda.”

In the sense that people like Lucy Frazer (or many others at a senior level) are incompetent it is in being articulate or being able to communicate or understand the most basic terrain of the British media (which is overwhelmingly tossing them soft-ball questions). What they are incompetent at is feigning empathy, showing understanding, or the most basic idea of self-reflection.

Thanks Dom. It’s eerily similar to when Ruth Davidson puts on a concerned face and denounces the latest Tory excess, only to redact the fact that its the Terrible Party with its Terrible Values that she has dedicated her entire political career to.

Instead I’d like to focus on the idea that ‘everything is perception’, not in an epistemological sense, but more about the bare-faced cheek of being able to stand up and say that about the BBC’s political output.

As George Monbiot writes: “The BBC commits grave breaches of its own impartiality rules every day, letting dark-money junktanks pose as objective sources, rather than the corporate lobbyists they are. This bias doesn’t favour the left. It favours the right. “BBC leftwing bias” is a complete invention.”

Today Huw Merriman, transport minister, joined the party referencing the BBC’s coverage of universal credit when challenged to give examples of supposed bias a day after a row was sparked by remarks by Liz Frazer.

Merriman singled out and named a journalist who the minister “always felt gave one side of the story and not the other side, the government’s side”.

Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ’s general secretary responded saying: “Not content with demonstrating his lack of humour when it comes to topical satire shows, Huw Merriman felt the need to impugn the work of an individual journalist for the apparent crime of not lapping up his words of wisdom when he was batting for universal credit in a past ministerial gig.”

These ‘car crash’ interviews are endlessly entertaining but the sense of rule by incompetents and the ongoing culture war narrative framing the BBC as hopelessly left-wing is insulting to sentient beings and shifts the political discourse ever further to the right as a desperate Tory regime struggles to hold onto power and the messaging. A government minister saying on television that “The evidence shows there is a perception of bias” is a descent into post-truth politics. We should laugh at these people but we should also observe what’s going on here.


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  1. SteveH says:

    Not being a fan of either Frazer or the Tory party doesn’t stop me from looking at the BBC critically. She is clearly aiming her comments at the masses, frustrated as always at the graduate elites running the BBC, well, running everything in Britain. When it comes to critical social justice topics, they are most definitely biased.

    When a BBC education shows a transactivist teacher telling young children that there are more than a 100 different genders, and not understand that this is political ideology, especially when its said as if it were true, and there is no alternative view offered.

    When the BBC promotes the CRT definition – “White Privilege” and repeats unfounded statements about systemic racism in reports by partisan race activist organisations without offering any real evidence.

    When the BBC followed the Stonewall UK line on gender, paying them for dodgy advice. In fairness it was BBC Radio Ulster that blew the whistle on them.

    When the BBC refused to describe the Hamas terrorists as well….terrorists.

    The BBC staff and management are so disconnected from the majority of British people that they cannot see how they get these things wrong. Fewer people see themselves in what the BBC presents. It seems that you have to be in a favoured minority group for that.

    I blame the education system myself.

    1. 240123 says:

      I blame the education system too. The problem is that teachers are all f*ck*ng graduates.

      (BTW telling young children that there are only two different genders is also political ideology. As Slavoj Žižek says, everything is ideology. The trick is to cultivate critical thinking among children, so that they’ll question and evaluate everything they’re told.)

    2. John says:

      Stevie H – if I had not seen your name above the comment I would’ve thought this was a Rosie Holt type parody of all the right wing snowflakes who cannot take any criticism of their ideology. It would have been a clever demonstration of the winging of right wing nutters as it covers all the usual culture wars buttons.
      If I can misquote Tony Blair and his ‘education, education, education’ mantra,with your hatred of graduates and education perhaps your mantra appears ought to be ‘ignorance, ignorance, ignorance.’

  2. Alan C says:

    ‘Sharp-eyed readers will remember Lucy from her memorable 2005’

    Christ! Was that really 19 years ago? There are Scottish voters who weren’t even born then, it’s a shame there isn’t a way it could be broadcast nationally. Social media maybe? (I don’t use it) Other than blogs.

    1. 240123 says:

      It was broadcast nationally, on BBC Parliament. It’s since been broadcast globally on YouTube. If you used social media, you’d be entirely free to disseminate it – as Mike has – though the ubiquitous ‘link’.

  3. 240123 says:

    It never ceases to reassure me that everyone – left and right, separatists and unionists of all hues – thinks that the BBC is biased against them. It must be doing something right.

    1. Which Unionists think the BBC is biased against them Mr 240123?

      1. 240123 says:

        British unionists regularly take issue with the BBC for failing to talk-up Britain and the Union. Boris was always doing so during his premiership; members of the DUP are never done castigating the BBC for its anti-unionism; its a regular grievance in the Tory press. I also remember European unionists complaining that the BBC was giving far too much coverage to separatists during the 2016 referendum campaign, particularly to Nigel Farage and, to a lesser extent, George Galloway.

        1. The BBC that has a Royal Correspondent and Mick Robinson as their Political Editor?

          1. John says:

            I understand that academic studies of BBC coverage of 2014 independent referendum did show a bias in favour of number of items representing No side as opposed to Yes side. I also read an article by Alex Massie stating that not only was BBC biased with reporting of independence referendum but that as the national/state broadcaster it was right that it was.
            There is no doubt that reporting of 2014 referendum has left a lack of trust in BBC with regard to reporting politics in Scotland even amongst people who enjoy and support much of the rest of BBC’s output.

        2. This is false equivalence.

          Across at our own public broadcaster / state broadcaster (take your pick) things aren’t much better. Something called ‘Gibbgate’ broke out this week as revelations from Nadine Dorries’ book which claimed that Robbie Gibb (non-Exec Director of the BBC) attempted to influence the Govt so that it appointed Tory Lord Stephen Gilbert to be next Chairman of Ofcom were discussed in parliament.

          Incoming BBC Chair, Samir Shah dodged questions from Welsh Labour MP by Kevin Brennan and John Nicholson MP about the whole affair and the naked and overt politicisation of the BBC. In an article in the New European (‘The real plot that’s hidden in Nadine Dorries’ potboiler’) Alan Rusbridger wrote:

          “You’ll remember that Boris Johnson, on becoming prime minister, took a keen interest in who should run both the BBC and Ofcom, the supposedly independent regulator which oversees it. He wanted his old chum Charles (now Lord) Moore, to be in charge of the BBC. He then wanted Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail, to run Ofcom.”

          “Both choices eventually failed – but not before many well-qualified candidates had been deterred from applying.Quite why Johnson wanted “his” people in these crucial posts can only be guessed at. But we know he was no fan of the BBC. We know his friends in Fleet Street would dearly love to see it cut in size and influence. And we know several of his colleagues in the Conservative Party dearly wanted fledgling channels like GB News to succeed.”

          “After Dacre pulled out of the running for Ofcom, having been found unappointable by the selection committee, the choice eventually came down to two Conservative peers, a Lord Gilbert (described by Dorries as a “party apparatchik”) and Lord (Michael) Grade, 79.”

          What happened next was even weirder, and more disturbing. Nadine Dorries was approached by two ‘Downing Street aides’, Dougie Smith and Munira Mirza. Smith’s approach was described as “intimidating and bullying.” They wanted her to appoint Gilbert, not Grade. Then she was approached by Sir Robbie Gibb, Theresa Mays former spin doctor. His brother is a Tory MP, he’s a non-executive director of the BBC (and one of the original founders of GB News). This is the guy former BBC presenter Emily Maitlis called an “active agent of the Conservative party” who played a significant role in determining the nature of the corporation’s news output.

          Here are the fifteen questions Rusbridger claims the BBC refuse to answer about the whole affair (see Gibbgate here …)

          1. John says:

            Spot on Mike. The real political issue is politicians influence on media as you described withTory administrations with BBC and Alastair Campbell during last Labour government.
            To complain about reporters political ‘bias’ and ignore politicians trying to influence who runs media is akin to pointing to the speck of wood in the other person’s eye while ignoring the plank of wood in your own.
            Real political influence is politicians having their own shows where they can promulgate their own agenda as on GB News etc.

          2. 240123 says:

            But what has any of this got to do with the fact that everyone, when it suits them, accuses the BBC of being biased against them? Is anyone’s opinion of the BBC unbiased? Is yours?

          3. 240124 says:

            You do make another, more interesting point. Our establishment is such that whoever controls the parliament controls the state, and whoever controls the state gets to make our public appointments.

            Democratically, this is far from ideal. The question is, what’s the desired alternative, and how exactly do we transition from where we are now to where we want to be?

          4. John says:

            Reply to dateman comment:
            To say that most people have bias and view news coverage through their own prism is stating the bleeding obvious and irrelevant to Mike’s comment which was about political interference/pressure being applied on national/state broadcaster within the organisation itself by politicians.

          5. 240124 says:


            See my preceding comment. Girning about bias in the media is indeed a trivial occupation

          6. John says:

            Dateman – my reply was to your 9.44 comment before I read your 10.30 comment. I appreciate if read in chronological order it would appear that I was arguing for arguing’s sake!

        3. BSA says:

          It should be obvious to even a half wit that BBC Scotland is far more than just biased – a ridiculously vague term. . Their framing, their language, their disinformation and their omission all represent an organised systemic propaganda campaign aimed at destroying confidence in Scotland. They operate as an enemy state would, and it is ridiculous to suggest that the Tories have any grievance at all.

          1. 240124 says:

            So, BBC Scotland is an anti-nationalist conspiracy then?

            You’ll be complaining that it’s run by f*ck*n graduates or the b*st*rd*n English next.

  4. Niemand says:

    Whenever there is talk of the BBC by politicians and journalists, it is nearly always the news agenda they are referring to though rarely explicitly. I agree the idea that the news is left wing is wrong though with the deeply unpleasant, hard right fool like Frazer, her goalposts are skewed. But I don’t think the BBC news is especially right wing either – that skewing can happen on the other side too. Its more investigative current affairs output has not been shy of being critical of the current government. But it does follow the establishment in its general political output. I like Monbiot but he also talks hyperbolic rot at times.

    Where the BBC is more left wing is in some of its comedy and similar, but less so than in the past. And though SteveH has gone of on his bonkers graduate mania, he is right when it comes to certain progressive causes – they are not reported / looked at in the even-handed manner they should be, though they are very far from alone in that. Sadly the institution suffers like many from paranoia about saying the wrong thing.

    When it comes to the Tories I heard a phone-in this morning about crime in rural areas. One caller – an English resident of Norfolk or similar I think who sounded like he might be a typical Tory, but no, he more or less refused to talk to the Tory MP on there who denied there had been cuts in the police and simply said, the only thing he wanted to say was to advise the MP to start looking for another job (he was his constituent). It was great. The MP had no answer. Nicky Campbell the host also checked the stats whilst the MP was talking and then clearly stated he was wrong – real cuts had been made.

    1. It’s true that you can’t call the whole of the BBC ‘right wing’ – it is huge and various – with good bits of content and good journalists working for it but as I outlined here there are significant problems in its news coverage, we know that from 2014 but you can see it daily …

    2. John says:

      Comedy is primarily either funny or not funny.
      I don’t care about political slant, what I personally object to is punching down on minorities who have no power and cannot defend themselves which is tantamount to picking on weakest in the class at school ie bullying.
      What ‘progressive’ causes are not treated in an even handed manner?
      You need to identify these causes and give some actual evidence if you are going to make a statement like this.

      1. Niemand says:

        Well John, how about you give the evidence of punching down comedy currently on the BBC first?

        But really don’t worry. We all hear and see things and thing that ain’t right and we know they do happen but this isn’t a court of law or an academic essay, it is a site where people are chew the fat BTL.

        1. John says:

          Niemand I didn’t say there was punching down comedy on the BBC and I personally don’t observe much of it these days. I don’t object to it if it is used as satire to show up the more powerful. If you want an example of punching down I would give you Ricky Gervais, who I quite like, but these days sometimes punches down and mocks minority groups purely to try and show that every topic should be open to comedy. I, personally have difficulty with him mocking those weaker or less powerful sections of society in the name of comedy.I didn’t always think this but having personally observed impact that this type of humour can have on people from powerless minorities I have changed my mind.
          What I asked you for was just for examples of progressive issues’ to back up your claim that it is an area where the BBC shows bias. If you are going to assert something you should be willing and able to back it up with evidence.

      2. 240124 says:

        Yes; according to modern notions (i.e. under capitalism), comedy has become synonymous with humorous amusement, part of the ‘culture industy’ circus by which we’re kept docile and obedient.

        According to classical notions, however, comedy is primarily concerned with humans as social beings, rather than as private persons, and that its function is corrective. The comic artist’s purpose is to hold a mirror up to society to reflect its follies and vices, in the hope that they will, as a result, be properly mended.

        The 20th-century French philosopher Henri Bergson shared this view of the corrective purpose of laughter; specifically, he reckoned, laughter is intended to bring the comic character back into conformity with his society, whose logic and conventions he abandons when ‘he slackens in the attention that is due to those conventions’.

  5. Grammar Police says:

    I think you mean peals of laughter.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      You are Derek Thomson and I claim my £5.

  6. Satan says:

    Most younger people get their news from Tic Tok, with You Tube second, and many don’t even watch TV at all. That’s way, way, way more worrying than the fucking BBC. News with repetitive opinion-reinforcement via predictive algorithims (AKA brain-washing?). The possibilities are interesting in a scary way.

    1. Niemand says:

      I occasionally find myself wandering onto these sites and you are right – there is no real attempt at balance on hardly any of them. They have their place for a particular angle and can be good in that but as a balanced news source? You would need to do a lot of mix and matching.

      The question I ask is this – what media outlet is genuinely more even-handed than the BBC? It is easy to attack bias from a position where bias is totally hard-wired into the output like Bella, The Daily Mail, Guardian, Wings, you name it. These outlets do not worry about balance because they openly push a line (no problem with that obvs. it is a given) and so have no interest in offering balance themselves but attack others for trying to and failing, even going so far as to say in fact, they don’t really try. I reject that level of cynicism especially when it comes from those who have no interest in balance in their own outlets

      1. 240124 says:

        ‘You would need to do a lot of mixing and matching.’

        That’s indeed what we need to do. In the world of polyphonous/cacophonous messaging, we need to exercise greater critical discernment in our consumption of news and comment.

      2. Sandy Watson says:

        Yes, perhaps it IS too much to expect that even (especially) a ‘public service broadcaster’ should be ‘balanced’, ‘unbiased’, representative of all views, etc etc… And maybe the BBC’s role now is to try to reflect the dominant public views of the UK, ie mainly England (relative to population), or the Establishment that runs it. I’m openly quite ‘left wing’ I suppose, and I detest that Establishment, its ideologies and the ways that it behaves.
        BUT, really trying to be even-handed myself – in order to better my understanding – I can’t get past the way the BBC, as a matter of course, leans towards that Establishment.

        1. 240124 says:

          Of course the BBC leans towards the Establishment; it’s part of the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised in this country that constitutes ‘the Establishment’.

          If you want ‘balance’ in your consumption of news and comment, you need to do the balancing.

          1. Niemand says:

            Trouble is people don’t and won’t which is why I still support the idea of trying to provide a place that is balanced. What worries me if those who hate the BBC get what they want and it folds, is that the ghetto of opinion bubbles will get worse and worse and society ever more divided. Those who hate the BBC the most want this it seems to me so they can push their narrow agenda all the more powerfully with no real arbiter, just competing voices saying the opposite, with your average person stranded and swayed by the most persuasive for all the wrong reasons. The most obvious case of that is the modern USA, a society so fucked many there think the NHS is a manifestation of a marxist dictatorship and that there is no meaningful link between gun ownership and gun deaths.

          2. Yes Niemand – I think the argument is to de-toxify the BBC while defending (and re-imagining) the concept of public broadcasting.

          3. Sandy Watson says:

            If they’re just a mouth for the Establishment….that should be in the T&Cs for their continued existence.
            Too much in this so-called united kingdom is done without consent of most of the population, carried on lies, obfuscation and misdirection.
            Outrageous but not surprising that the public service broadcaster under such a regime is anything but.

          4. 240128 says:

            ‘Trouble is people don’t.’

            Well, hell mend those people. If they can’t be discriminating in the consumption if their news and comment, then they’re lost. Our task as educators is to equip people with the critical thinking skills and scepticism that will enable them to evaluate the claims that are made on their belief on the basis of the evidence that can be presented in support of those claims and arrive at their own conclusions, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Whether or not they choose to take up that education and exercise those skills is entirely up to them; you can lead a horse to water…

          5. Sandy Watson says:

            “Our task as educators…” etc.

            Education is (has become) what is done to us.
            Learning is what we do ourselves.

            I sense there’s a problem with Education these days.

            Perhaps ‘facilitated’ / ‘supported’ learning would work better.

            “Hell mend them”?

            Hell mend us all!

        2. Niemand says:

          I am not saying we should not expect it. My point is that I cannot think of another outlet that is more balanced within the inevitable parameters of what ‘public broadcaster’ means, i.e one largely funded by the public and that funding sanctioned by the state. The BBC has to please the state and broad public or it will cease to exist. Inevitably it will fail as it is an impossibility due to the contradictions between the two and within each. The question is how badly it fails and what the alternative is if you think it fails too badly.

          Every now and then I do an experiment – there is a big (political) news story and it is covered in a lot of places, including here, so each is looked at. With rare exceptions the BBC reports are the most balanced and least biased – even the headlines of article tell you this. They can also be the most simplistic and at times too even handed, like they want to bend over backwards to represent different views, even where that is not justified by the evidence thus amplifying outriders to the neglect of truth.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, but your method ignores what the BBC doesn’t cover, and what it over-covers (Royal events, Westminster court politics, the views of dark-money-funded thinktanks etc). I mean, at least read this:
            If the BBC has to please the State (or Crown, or Government-of-the-Day in Thatcher’s view), there is something wrong with its chartered function. Which I why I think that an independent Scottish public (not state, crown or government) broadcaster should be constitutionally obliged to criticise the state.

          2. Niemand says:

            Yes I am aware of the manufactured consent argument and don’t at all dismiss it.

            I think your idea is a sound one but I struggle to see how such a public institution would be funded without whoever funded it having unwanted influence. It will always be an issue. Still, independence would offer up new possibilities which should be embraced. I cannot see a place for a body called the British Broadcasting Corporation, i.e. a unionist-oriented body by definition, in an independent Scotland as that would be bizarre. I have no idea however what parties like the SNP say about this, if anything.

            I am less cynical than you but I agree that one of the problems with the BBC is its heritage – it is now very old and was founded in a very different age but there are unwanted hangovers from that age, some at its core, that it either struggles or resists throwing off.

  7. Sandy Watson says:

    Increasingly it seems that the use of perception altering substances could be preferable to having to live in and deal with the effects of these idiots in government.
    Their thinking and behaviour, idiotic and harmful to the rest of us, makes perfect sense to them and fits their ideology perfectly.
    And we, not riding on the delirious success of their excesses, gullibly accept it all.

  8. John says:

    There are a few other areas of news reporting on tv channels that are pertinent to this column.
    1.The regulation of reporting of news on tv news channels is different from that with newspapers and rightly so. However there is an increasing trend for tv news channels to discuss and highlight newspaper articles (press review programmes) and sometimes lead on them. Many of these newspaper articles are opinion pieces by politicians so this is a route where politicians can influence media and news agenda. There are many examples of this and even last night Simon Clarke wrote a personal opinion piece in Telegraph about Tories sacking Rishi Sunak and it is a lead article on tv news today.
    2.Opinions are sought on news articles and on discussion programmes from think tanks from both left and right of politics. I have no problem with this except on how high a profile some of these groups seem to get sometimes to the exclusion of other less well funded or high profile and less politically motivated groups or less politically individuals. I do think it is wrong that think tanks such as Institute For Economic Affairs regularly appear on tv but do not disclose who is funding them.
    3.The BBC sometimes bends over backwards to appear fair to both sides when one side is presenting factual evidence and the other is not which can be a problem when reporting scientific issues. I might personally be convinced that 2+2=5 but you would not invite me onto a mathematics programme as I am obviously incorrect. The debate about whether CO2 emissions were causing global warming was an example of this. The vast majority of climate science community acknowledged the evidence indicated that global warming was happening and that man made CO2 emissions were a significant contributing factor in this process yet on many occasions when this was being discussed on news programme a climate scientist would be given equal time and credence as a climate change sceptic such as Nigel Lawson who had little scientific expertise in this area. This was giving both sides a false equivalence where one side was clearly better informed on facts of issue.

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      I had a mouse mat that proved that 1+1 = 1.

      1. John says:

        Good for you and your mouse mat!??

        1. Derek Thomson says:

          Just trying to show moral support for your 2+2 John.

          1. John says:

            I think Brian Cox had a catchphrase in Succession that is best response to trolls like you.

          2. Derek Thomson says:

            FFS John, I’m not trolling. It was a gently humorous remark. You’re spending too much time on here a’ charaid, you’re becoming overly cynical. Does humour belong below the line? Discuss.

          3. John says:

            Derek – if you thought your comments were funny I would stick to the day job mate.
            Suggestion- try and discuss the issues raised in a humorous manner rather than making comments that are irrelevant and are about as funny as a fart in a crowded room.
            You are right in one thing – I am spending too much time on this site if I am discussing humour with someone like you.

          4. Derek Thomson says:

            “Someone like you”. What are you, two? Get over yersel, bairn.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    The royal-chartered BBC is an organ of British royalist propaganda (which is as right-wing and extremist as you get). David Dimbleby, himself a BBC royal correspond, said as much, and I’ve previously quoted him on Bella.

    The current Doctor Who reboot, whose recent series of specials set largely in a soaraway Brexit Britain, have been getting rave reviews in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. The Doctor has for some time been the autocratic President of Earth, which conveniently bypasses the rest of the world, despite the Producer of the original Doctor Who, Verity Lambert, saying on record that the Doctor should never be part of the Establishment.

    This is the rightwing Great Man (Occasionally Woman) View of History writ large.

  10. Wul says:

    I tend to see the BBC as a place where any left-leaning staff are told to STFU by Tory senior management who are themselves appointed by Tories. It is a graveyard of ideas and pillow over the mouth of any truly innovative programming. Still, no adverts is good.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Wul, presumably most if not all BBC senior management were vetted by ultrarightwing MI5, while many BBC programmes like Top Gear are essentially adverts, and advertising and product placement have been used on BBC platforms.

      One could argue that the recent Jane Corbin documentary (rare BBC coverage of our role in nuclear terrorism) Nuclear Armageddon: How Close Are We? was a perverse advert for the most evil organisation in history, NATO, though that is probably more due to the BBC’s editorial position and lawyers than investigative journalism. The absences in the programme are striking (like the Doomsday Clock may very soon be).

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