The State of Debate and the BBC – The Modern Crisis with Conservatism

bbc sign

I have often been heard to say, “there is no longer a neutral option in politics, it’s either leftist social activism or conservative complacency.” In reality, whenever I’ve said that sentence out loud, it’s never been as well worded as it appears on a page, but I’ve always meant the same thing. The state of neutrality is dead. However, today I am not to muse over the flaws in the so-called “neutral centrism” but instead on the state of modern debate, namely in political circles and how it is used to suspend the ultimate push for total equality for all.

Colloquially, you will often hear a “centre-right” man say something along the lines of, “I don’t care what someone calls themselves or what their sexual preference is; I think that everyone should just be able to do as they please.” It’s often used as a dodge with regards to a question about the rights or freedoms of LGBTQ+ people. Although on the surface, this appears to both the person listening (and sometimes the person who said it), as a position of support, it is a lack of position masked as support; the “do what you want as long as it doesn’t affect me,” position. The “I can’t say that I don’t care” approach.  To many, this stance of masking no position as support is favourable because it is easy. This is due to something I call Passive Acceptance Bias, or the “don’t shove it down my throat” fallacy. To the majority of uneducated bystanders, the appeal of passive acceptance is unbeatable due to the minimal amount of work one has to undergo to uphold it. It is a political bystander effect.

To those who took less than a half term of Psychology A-Level, the bystander effect is the social theory that the majority of those will not sacrifice the camouflage of the group to help a person in need of social/medical/financial assistance unless one person in that majority does it first. In short, those with privilege choose to hide behind it until it is beneficial to them not to. The common example placed in most educational situations is a video of actors pretending to be ill outside of Liverpool Street Station in London and then the reactions of bypassers are filmed [1], demonstrating that the “diffusion of responsibility” is the main factor in diverting people away from the aid of an ill individual. However, I argue that this theory also applies to social justice movements.

In 2016, there was a huge wave of reaction YouTubers who would find left-wing non-binary/gender-queer creators’ videos and make fun of them. Even if they didn’t make it to explicitly make fun of non-binary people, this led to a huge anti-SJW (social justice warrior) movement on the internet where all who stood in support of non-binary identities or believed in the gender pay gap or satirically made fun of “manspreading” found themselves in the firing line of online abuse and harassment. It drove many people off of the online space temporarily only to return recently where now society (especially online) is far more accepting of people with left-aligning political beliefs. Many of my younger readers will remember this time (especially if you’re my age) and if you’re even younger you now deal with the repercussions of this through the even more large community of INCELS that now fester in the dark corners of Reddit and 4Chan. 

The anti-SJW surge is responsible now for the “attack-helicopter” jokes and the “woke mob” rhetoric and the newfound popularity of pundits like Peirce Morgan and Ben Shapiro. I’d even argue that Donald Trump found a way to run a successful Presidential Campaign off of this new community of hatred. At the time it barely scratched me because of my lack of self-awareness, however, that was the dangerous part of it. Whilst it was socially acceptable to shit on LGBTQ+ minorities, everyone did it. If you watch a reaction YouTuber that was around in 2015/16 there is an estimated 60% chance that they will have made a dreaded “crazy SJW” video, making fun of radical feminists and genderqueer people. I found myself being indoctrinated into a right-wing way of thinking because of the sheer volume of it I was seeing. Fascists targeted the young and easily malleable so that Queer people are now treated with contempt by cis people because in their head we are just another “crazy SJW.”

This links back to the bystander effect, because only once it was socially acceptable for Queer people to exist in an online space did the majority let them and “support” them in doing so, whilst arguing that because the nature of Qyeer identity wasn’t explicitly being made fun of, that there was no transphobic wave online, but more a utopian time of critique and debate in the political pot of YouTube and Reddit. Unfortunately, though, the majority fail to realise that for most, if not all Queer (especially genderqueer) people, politics is strongly interwoven with our identity. We are forced into left-wing spaces because those are some of the safest places for us to be in. We do not have the privilege to separate our politics and who we are as a person because that online utopia of debate that the cishets love so much ends up just forcing minorities to defend who they are and defining their oppression to every debate nerd who thinks that if our rights haven’t been debated then they shouldn’t be extended to us. To them, “they/them/ey/em” existing in my bio is a political statement.

The debate used to be a tool of academic controlled argument, where scientists, mathematicians and politicians could discuss stuff. The online space has turned the debate into a series of anger-fueled, statistically inaccurate arguments – and in this case – in which the rights of a person to self-determine are thrown about as if that’s a right another individual can take away. This constant debate has changed the definition of politically neutral, moving it from the “I don’t care” position to the “I prefer not to take a side” position. Both are similar, however, the indifference in one is far more damaging than the other, because where the first displays passive acceptance, the second prefers to way up to two positions on minority rights and decide that neither is right. To expand, they look at the argument for equality and the argument against it and decide that neither one is better than the other.

Many of these people like to call themselves sceptics, or sceptical, a claim I always like to dissect. You see, scepticism is a philosophy as old as the ancient greeks. One form of Ancient Greek scepticism was Pyrrhonism, in which the goal was to achieve Eudaimonia – most commonly translated to happiness – by reaching a state called “Ataraxia,” a place of neutrality where neither position is seen as good or bad, but balanced and equally weighted and thus the person will not be tormented by a lack of good or the presence of bad. For example, a self-aware Pyrrhonist on trans rights would say “I am neither for nor against either side of the argument because from my outsider’s perspective neither opinion is good or bad for me,” which in reality would be worded more like, “I think there are good arguments to both sides when it comes to trans rights.” Alternatively, when addressing systematic racism, a Pyrrhonist would say, “I think both sides have taken their arguments too far,” and would disregard non-statistical pointers towards systematic disadvantages against black people and attempt to reason away these stating things like “black on black crime.” The ultimate aim of the Pyrrhonist is to suspend ultimate judgement indefinitely.

Maybe my statement at the start was inaccurate and this article is about centrism, so I guess this begs the question; how can I say this article is about both the centrists and the centre-right when I am talking about one type of person? Well, maybe it’s because I have little regard for the factions and fictions of the modern right, considering they’re a group of people who consistently align themselves with others who want to treat people in sub-human ways, but I’d rather say that it’s because the gap between the “centre” and “right” is much smaller between being “centre” and “liberal,” considering the mainstream right-wing pipeline in the media that has utilised a new wave of political complacency throughout the population.

I would argue that even traditional conservatives should be worried about this new concerning political complacency, even though it usually leads to an increase of votes for their party. Let’s compare the Labour vs Conservatives scene in 2010 and 2021 – the period between which I argue contains an unprecedented increase in this political complacency. In 2010, there was a traditional conservative, with a neo-liberal social stance who promised an innovative approach to conservatism in the years to come and the Labour Party was run by a man who promised higher taxes for the wealthy and an increase in social services. In 2021, there is a far-right man with the Conservatives, who have repeatedly lied in the house of commons and thus clearly holds no respect for the political traditions of this nation. Moreover, he is anti-immigration, pro-deportation, hyper-nationalist, anti-LGBT and a denier of systematic disadvantages facing black people in a nation that still fails to teach hairdressers how to properly look after the hair most commonly held by people of colour. However, in charge of the Labour Party is a neo-liberal lawyer who promises to reverse corporation tax cuts since 2010 but has no plans to increase them, platforms TERFs and listens to their transphobic points of view, wishes to increase the powers of law enforcement to make his lawyer friends richer and ultimately stands where the conservatives stood in 2010. Conservatism is not an ideology of regression, and yet we are moving backwards and it’s not due to a neo-conservative take over of the party, but the public’s political unawareness that has allowed these near-fascists to claim the electoral dictatorship we call a political system. The “centre” has moved in the past 11 years, making what was right-wing appear central. This is the new age of neo-conservatism.

I would argue that part of the reason for this is the BBC. National media is meant to provide an unbiased perspective of politics through both debate and critique, most importantly by holding MPs to account. If this doesn’t occur, then national media becomes less of free service and more of a propaganda machine for whoever’s in charge by not recounting the full reality. Before 2019, there was never really the need to fact check MPs because most of the time any who were found guilty of lying would be called to amend the record by the speaker of the house. However, since the resignation of John Berkow, there has been a publically noticeable increase in lies spewed by important members of the house, even the Prime Minister himself. The speaker has made no effort to correct these lies in any way and has permitted the continual misrepresentation of statistics and deliberate attempts to mislead the public. In this event, one would turn to the national media to hold the PM to account, but for some reason, the BBC has decided it’s not in the public’s interest to hear their elected officials lying in the House of Commons. 

Take Peter Stefanovic’s continual pressure on the BBC as an example. On the 31st of August 2021, the lawyer posted a video that shows the Prime Minister lying and subsequently corrects him [2], the point being for the BBC to show this video on national television. However, rather than correctly informing the public about this deceit, the BBC would rather remain deafeningly silent. Unfortunately, calling someone a liar is now a political position and thus, to remain neutral, the BBC are more than reluctant to show Stefanovic’s video. In other words, to them, showing the Prime Minister lying and being proven wrong would be too much of a political stray from what they see as neutral to be admissable for public consumption. Now, considering that there is no neutral political position, just different ones (because politics isn’t limited to four points on a compass), that raises the question, “what is the political position of the BBC, considering they have to have one?”

In the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines (Section 4.1) [3], it states that “The BBC is committed to achieving due impartiality in all its output … taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.” To the untrained eye, this is positive, impartiality in news media and is desirable to some because it puts them in the position to draw their conclusions from the media they consume without feeling too guilty about potentially stepping on anyone’s toes in the process. However, journalists are placed in a position of power when they are given the editorial goal of “impartiality” because the BBC states in that same exert that “In applying due impartiality to news, we give due weight to events, opinion and the main strands of argument. We may produce content about any subject, at any point on the spectrum of debate, as long as there are good editorial reasons for doing so,” ultimately saying that as long as the BBC see it profitable or editorially permissible they will publish work from any political stance that does not call for the disruptions of “fundamental democratic principles, such as the right to vote, freedom of expression and the rule of law.”

In short, the BBC carefully words their guidelines to say that all opinions are permissible, but we will present them as impartial. This first came to my attention when they published Caitlyn Jenner’s opinion of trans people in sport without any scientific debunking. To them, it is permissible to publish Caitlyn Jenner’s opinion on trans people in a sport without balancing it with any trans-affirming science that says there is no unfair advantage for trans women [4]. If the BBC sees it as politically impartial to prioritise the opinions of a celebrity over the facts published in academia it raises real issues with its ethical standability. To put it into context, consider this: Caitlyn Jenner lived her years as a sportsperson as a man. She hadn’t realised she was trans yet so she wasn’t receiving HRT or affirming surgeries of any kind. To her, trans women in sports are the same thing. As an active member of the Republican Party and many pundits’ favourite “pick-me” trans women, her perception of herself has to match up with the views she had of trans people before her transition ie just men who think they’re women. This is why she doesn’t mind misgendering or deadnaming because she doesn’t see it as a misrepresentation of herself but as a misunderstanding. Despite being a trans woman, she is exceptionally privileged and is surprisingly forgiving of anti-trans sentiment. She’s never had any reason, therefore, to educate herself on rebuttals to conservative talking points. She doesn’t need to know that after 2 years of HRT strength differences between AFAB and AMAB women vanish [5] and speed differences reduce exceptionally [6] and instead sees trans women’s ability as equal to AMAB men.

Knowing this, however, the BBC treat her as a key source in the debate surrounding trans women in sport. The worst thing about Jenner’s position is that it isn’t targeted at professional adult athletes, it’s targeted at children. Young people who are trying their best to find their feet in a world that is already stacked against them have to sit and listen to someone who didn’t transition until she was in her 60s tell them that they shouldn’t be allowed to play sports in the group that fits them because it’s “not fair.” If Jenner had been talking about world-class athletes (this happened at the same time as the media storm about Laurel Hubbard’s place in the Olympics) then she would have been wrong, but it’s worse to think that she believes the medical history of a child means they shouldn’t be able to do Physical Education with people who are the same gender as them. This is the source that the BBC chose, the person whose opinion they thought was valuable in the needless, endless debate over the rights of women. This opinion is permissible.

You may have heard the phrase, “being neutral is still a political position,” and it’s true. The BBC’s idea of neutrality doesn’t match the Pyrrhonists (although their statement on impartiality would suggest that this is the goal) but the idea of neutrality platforms negative viewpoints on human rights to appear balanced. 

Ben Shapiro first came onto my radar when he went out of his way to deadname and misgender Caitlyn Jenner on a TV show in 2015. Posing as a “facts and logic” debate lord, he proposes alt-right conservative views as the “logical” step forward from the insane musings of the modern liberal scum. I’m sure he wouldn’t like that introduction, considering he’s very focused on protecting his image. In short, he’s the internet’s favourite nice guy (who also denies systemic racism, trans equality, questions same-sex marriage and adoption, makes fun of trans celebrities and is just a downright winey shit). His approach to neutrality is to seek out seemingly crazy opinions that some liberals have and then, without context, will break these opinions down with no consideration for any solid un-debunked evidence because he knows that his fans won’t bother to fact check him. This way, he can cleverly pin one argument as insane, whilst posing himself as the equal and opposite rationality that his fanbase is looking for. Unfortunately, his rationality tends to be derived from alt-right talking points making him an extremely valuable member of their propaganda machine. 

The BBC is similar, but their political leaning usually sways with whoever is in power, because as a publically-funded service they have to bootlick their bosses. The BBC is ultimately financially indebted to the government in charge because they are responsible for securing public funding. This means, over the past 11 years, the BBC has transitioned from liberal conservatism to downright anti-democratic fascist sympathy. They’re overly forgiving towards Boris’ conduct and lies and they ignore the public call for governmental accountability. It appears clear to me that no longer can the BBC call itself impartial without having to defend the poor editing decisions it’s made and the prolonged silence about the PM’s worrying relationship with the truth. We don’t even know how many children he has.

This has crossed the line. Of course in other areas of the BBC, it is possible to find sufficient trans-affirming information, but that choice of who to place on a podium, who to make the face of the BBCs perspective on trans people in sport whose opinion was blasted on national television, national radio and boldly on their website speaks volumes. It should have been a researcher. However, the BBC has a responsibility to make sure that no individual or organisation attempts to mislead the public in the way that both Johnson and Jenner have. Arguably, the BBC has become an organisation that misleads.

More recently, live on air, Thérèse Coffey was asked about the Universal Credit cut of £20/week. She claimed that to make the difference you only have to work an extra 2 hours. Not only did she seem to be unaware that the minimum wage is £8.91 (for people over 23), not £10, but the Conservative government has planned to increase national insurance in a tax bracket that already loses 32% of its income to tax. Under the current system and according to the government’s estimates, someone working minimum wage loses £15.80 of their pay from a 30-hour workweek to tax, but for most, their workweek could look more like 35-48 hours. Some companies even have clauses to bypass the 48-hour work-week limit in their contracts. The Torys now expect the working class to work, not two, but three extra hours a week because they don’t want to pay their universal credit. Compare this with the salary of the man who wants to cut this lifeline. Boris’ base salary is £157,372 a year, on top of which he can claim up to £648,485 on work expenses. This means, in his position, the maximum he could pull in every week is £15,497.25 [7]. Understand that this is if he claimed every possible expense for work, including accommodation both in and outside of London. Despite knowing this, the BBC not only let Coffey lie blatantly live on air, but they also allowed her to misrepresent the damaging effects this cut will have on working-class families as if it is insignificant.

This is the politics of the BBC.

This is not impartial, this is bootlicking. Allowing the ruling party to get away with knowingly making poverty worse in this nation without critique isn’t impartial. The BBC demonstrate Passive Acceptance Bias to the Conservative Party because they ultimately have a choke-hold on its public funding. The BBC are being forced into silence through ignorance and complacency but also because the government is its employer. Lacking accusative function against the governments allows debates to be suspended without conclusion, postponing the public’s knowledge of the government’s true intention whilst pipelining positive reviews like flattened curves and protest crackdowns. This is a propaganda machine.

We have backed ourselves into a corner with neo-conservatives and reversal is going to take a lot more than a traditional conservative posing as a liberal in charge of the opposition. The people need to hear the truth. Below, in my bibliography, you can find the link to Stefanovic’s video (in bold). The more watches it has, the more likely the BBC is to cave and finally do its job. The least we can do is educate ourselves. I think this new wave of Tory rule will spark a long reign of regression both socially and economically and whilst there is no accountability in the media, they will continue to get away with anything. 

To find my socials go to iocutmore.com. On my website, you can also find LGBTQ+ support links as well as a list of brilliant (mostly LGBTQ+) creators to who you should go and show some support. I hope you farewell until next time,

-Io

Bibliography

[1] https://youtu.be/Inmv98Uah_s

[2] https://twitter.com/PeterStefanovi2/status/1432713210113691650?s=20

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidelines/impartiality

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-56960011

[5] https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/11/577#:~:text=After%202%20years%20of%20taking%20feminising%20hormones%2C%20the%20push-up%20and%20sit-up%20differences%20disappeared

[6]https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/11/577#:~:text=9%25%20faster%20mean%20run%20speed%20after%20the%201%20year%20period%20of%20testosterone%20suppression

[7] https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9148/


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