THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

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Book Review – In Focus: The case for Privatising the BBC

In Focus: The Case for Privatising the BBC – Institute of Economic Affairs.

I have been reading another of the books I snagged at the recent Think! conference organised by the IEA. You can read it too, online for free. It's a well-researched, well-reasoned piece of work. It won't please those on the Right or Left who rage at Auntie's perceived bias because it reaches a nuanced conclusion. Yes, the BBC has a bias but it's not a crudely political one. It's the predictable bias of the kind of middle class professional person who chooses to work in a public service broadcaster. In the chapter "Why is the BBC biased?" written by Stephen Davies of the IEA, he explains why people with views as radically divergent as, say, Owen Jones and I all feel that the BBC is against us;

...certain views are marginalised and either misrepresented or even ignored. It is not a straightforward matter of either left or right views being treated in this way. Rather, all views that are not in the conventional wisdom are slighted, even if they are widely held among the public. Examples from the right would be support for radical reform of the welfare system or the NHS; from the left, it could be the popularity of public ownership of utilities ... Certain views are clearly represented as being uninformed or exotic, such as scepticism about man-made climate change, hostility to immigration or doubts about the benefits of formal education. Sometimes this judgement may be true, but to simply ignore and disregard a view is actually counterproductive if your aim is to inform. 
In addition there is an intensification of the structural tendency of the modern media to see political and intellectual divisions in binary terms. This leads to many perspectives being simply ignored or misrepresented. In the last 30 years for example, it has become part of the conventional BBC view that opposition to the EU is definitively located on the right. This means that the continuing and at one time prominent socialist critique of the EU is simply not represented. On the other side, opposition to immigration is thought to be associated with other views conventionally placed on the right, so that left-wing opposition to labour migration is airbrushed out, despite being common among many Labour voters. At the same time, the strong support of most free-market advocates for freer immigration is ignored and glossed over. In other words, the very existence of certain kinds of combinations of views is simply ruled out, and they are not even considered, despite being perfectly coherent intellectually and widely held.
The last discussion I had on immigration, for example, was just this week with a new friend who is an active member of the Labour Party. He is of the same vintage as myself and is a "Old Labour" socialist from the provincial working class that founded the Party. He is uncomfortable with the "Metropolitan elite" now in charge and is more scathing about identity politics than any Tory I know. He is firmly in favour of restricting immigration; believing that it has reduced working class wages. I, on the other hand, would be in favour of open borders if we could first abolish the welfare system that distorts the labour market and attracts unproductive immigrants. For so long as that system exists, I favour a liberal immigration policy that actively encourages skilled workers to come here, regardless of their origins, but offers no welfare benefits to first generation immigrants unless and until they have paid a minimum contribution into the system.
Neither of us fit the simplistic right/left BBC narrative, so our views never feature. He and I haven't talked about the BBC yet, but it would be perfectly understandable if we both thought it was biased. That wouldn't matter so much if the BBC was not (a) funded by state force and (b) the provider of 75% of all television news viewed in the UK. Though the internet is undermining its near-monopoly it still shapes the views of most voters, who rarely ignore its narrative. Hence Auntie's conniptions at the result of the EU Referendum. A decision was made on the basis of opinions outwith her conventional wisdom. It's from "out of left field" as our cousins across the pond say and must be wrong, or mad, or both.
So who are these people who choose to work for a public service broadcaster, bringing their unconscious biases with them? 
The initial factor is the very narrow and restricted background of BBC staff, both of presenters and producers. The proportion who are privately-educated (and, by extension, upper-middle class) is several times the national average (Milburn 2014). Generally they come from professional backgrounds rather than commerce or business, much less from working-class households. Much of the critical comment on the narrow base from which the BBC draws its senior staff emphasises the lack of ethnic or gender diversity; but, while there is undoubtedly something to this, it is swamped by the social origins phenomenon. The women and ethnic minorities who do work for the BBC in roles such as producer, presenter and senior manager are likely to come [my emphasis] from the same kind of educational and social background as their white, male colleagues.
What this naturally leads to is a common shared set of beliefs and attitudes, deriving from common or shared experience. In a very real sense the conventional wisdom referred to earlier is the shared outlook of a specific social group or formation. The problem, of course, is that, in the absence of challenges or dissent from people from a different background, all kinds of beliefs remain unquestioned, with the status of 'obvious truth' or 'common sense' attached to them. These kind of unexamined assumptions exist at the level of general principles rather than particular issues. Examples might be that it is always good to help the less fortunate or that most social problems should be understood as having structural causes rather than being explicable through individual agency or action, or that business activity is a zero sum game. Moreover, once a particular set of attitudes becomes widely shared within any organisation, it tends to attract people who share them, and so the situation becomes self-perpetuating and reinforcing. 
Then there is the fact that no-one who disapproves of an organisation funded by force would dream of applying for a job there. This is a problem for all state organisations, not just the BBC. I could not live with knowing that every penny I "earned" had been taken by force from my fellow men. I would be as ashamed of working for the Government or the BBC as I would be to work for the Mafia – and for the same moral reasons. I derive my self-respect from taking care of myself and my family and from being a burden to no-one. I am proud of the fact that every penny I have earned came from voluntary transactions with clients who had plenty of other choices. That is why it's difficult to get classical liberals of any stripe into Parliament, Whitehall or the BBC. The self-selected political and administrative classes comprise people who have no moral objection to living parasitically on their fellow-men. We can't expect such people to favour a smaller government, privatisation of the BBC or less state intervention in private life. If they did, they wouldn't be there.
Some may go into politics, the Civil Service or the Beeb with the honourable goal of relieving the burdens of oppressed taxpayers. Few stick to that objective. They will find most of their colleagues bemused by them while they are junior, fearful when they are senior and downright hostile if they come near the levers of power. If not independently wealthy (and why would they work in such mundane roles if they are) they will find themselves under financial as well as social pressure to conform. Their advancement is very likely to depend upon the approval of people who share the conventional wisdom.
This is an interesting book and worth a read. I would love to hear your views on it, gentles all. 

Met PC's political smear

BBC News - 'Plebgate' affair: Met PC admits misconduct.

I hold no brief for the Conservative & Unionist Party, but I can't help feeling it has been mistreated by its fellow vile socialist front; the BBC. The Beeb pushed the 'plebgate' meme relentlessly. Its squadrons of Marxist comedians used it at enormous length to portray the Conservative Party as condescending snobs.
Now the policeman who made up the damaging story has confessed that it was all lies, the BBC's website reports it blandly as unadorned news, without apologies or corrections for its exuberant exploitation of his crime. Perhaps those will follow? Don't hold your breath.
As a student of the art of loaded language, I find the linked three paragraphs impressive. The damning 'plebgate" handle, now revealed to have been nothing more than a political smear, is the first word in the headline and is repeated for good measure in the first paragraph. Let's not forget to rub in the damaging idea that a Tory cabinet minister called policemen 'plebs' even as we report it was a lie, eh?
As to snobbery and condescension, it is the BBC that talks down to us every single day. Its editorial tone is that of a bossy primary school teacher patiently explaining proper behaviour to badly-brought up children. If anyone sneers at us, it is our state broadcaster. It will re-run HIGNFY and other shows featuring the pleb smear for year after year, while the linked paragraphs will disappear into the obscurest recesses of the web.
Tell me again; why does a free nation need a state broadcaster funded by force?

Comrade Doctor

Guardian profile: David Tennant, our favourite Doctor … his time has come | Culture | The Guardian.

I try to avoid conspiracy theories. The **** up theory is usually just as explicative - and given the ineptitude of the average human usually far more plausible. It's getting hard however to believe that the BBC's evident bias is just an accidental by-product of being staffed by the metropolitan liberal intelligentsia.
Consider this profile of David Tennant in todays Guardian for example. Neither Britain's Pravda nor the BBC writer being interviewed see any need to put in context or explain the following statements (my emphasis).
With David it's his intelligence that makes him sexy. Obviously he's a good looking boy and in good shape, but fundamentally it's his intelligence, he is curious and full of ideas. He is also rock solid Labour, which is always a plus.
How could that conceivably be a "plus" in relation to his acting or general suitability to portray a Time Lord from Gallifrey? I am a huge fan of Dr Who. I consider the Tardis to be the cleverest construct in the whole of science fiction and love the humour of the show compared to the po-faced, up-themselves worthiness of other great sci-fi franchises. But it's hard not to notice than any business-person who makes an appearance is seeking to profit from the sufferings of others or to destroy a planet in order to revenge himself on the board that fired him. 
The Doctor is contemptuous of material things and has no visible means of financial support. Nothing so vulgar as a job or inherited wealth. He routinely steals what he needs and uses his sonic screwdriver to take money from the local equivalent of an ATM (owned no doubt by vicious capitalist bankers). He hands out the stolen 'credits' to his companions without any regard for the loss to the bank's depositors or investors.
Not one left-wing writer for the show has ever come up with the obvious plan to go back in time a few centuries with an item of modest value and invest the proceeds of its sale. That would allow the operation of compound interest to make the Doctor indpendently wealthy. It's the first thing I would do with a Tardis, but then I am capitalist filth. 
Any noble supporting character in the show is usually (UNIT, Torchwood) a public employee wielding state force with gleeful abandon and no visible resource constraint. Thus the corporation's left-wing bias is utterly clear in its most popular fictional offering. Indeed the only BBC show that does not toe the leftist line without reserve is its most popular non-fiction offering; Top Gear - a show which the BBC hierarchy is known to loathe. They only keep broadcasting it because it makes more money for them than anything else. How terribly vulgar. If only they had a sonic screwdriver, eh?
Finally consider this story from yesterday's Telegraph. Maybe the left-wing bias arose by metropolitan accident, but it seems to me no accident that it continues. We now have a self-perpetuating Marxist elite on our hands, hostile to all our efforts at betterment and contemptuous of all our claims to ownership of our labour and investment.
Tell me again why a free country even has a state broadcaster in the first place?

Inside the mind of a statist?

I grew up listening to Radio 4 and still, from habit, turn it on in the morning. The constant diet of Fabian filth usually irritates me into turning it off within minutes but not this morning. There was a bland piece by what sounded like (but wasn't) some breathless intern desperate to make her name. That's just the house style at the BBC these days; every presenter has morphed into a Blue Peterite of the 1970s talking down to an audience of children. I listened in rather the same spirit as someone trying not to look at a car crash.

Her theme was "serendipity" and I cannot say she did not educate me at all. She interviewed a poetry professor from SOAS, who told her that "Serendip" was the Persian name for the island now known as Sri Lanka and that the connection with our modern use of the word is an ancient fable of which the moral, to the Persians, is that good may come of the worst events.

Then she spoke with a professor, his name hardly matters, engaged in the study of luck; the William HIll Professor of Chance at the University of Dudley, for all I know. He suggested that serendipity will be manufactured on an industrial scale by the application of information technology. He said that the NSA's computers in America are capable of processing so much data that (and I paraphrase loosely) it's closer to everything than a lot. Soon they will have the ability to ask for "anything interesting connecting X with Y" or even just "about X" and find information previously inaccessible in any practical fashion.

He sounded indecently excited about this. I was also interested in the thought because, while the NSA's SuperStasi ambitions are old news, it occured to me that the "peacetime" applications of such "military" technology might be immensely valuable. The most likely answer to the Needham question, after all, is that China's then peaceful security provided less incentive for technological advance than the insecurity of Europe's warring states. How wonderful if the outcome of the NSA's wickedness was - accidentally -a great leap forward! A leap in human knowledge, not of the quotidien activities of hundreds of millions of innocents (and a few dangerous nut-jobs) but of stuff that really matters.

One positive thought over breakfast, I find, is good for the health.

So much, so BBC, but here's the creepily funny part. Our breathless intern journalist and psychologist asked if such an 'engine' could process the data of her own life in order to detect, explain and even promote serendipity. Our professor of chance laughed and answered that, by comparison with the data being processed by the NSA, the facts of her life were relatively trivial, so yes. I actually felt hurt for her at this monumental insult, but she seemed very relaxed.

Statism, so often, arises from just such a lack of imagination. Even someone as active online as me does not share a googolth of his thoughts on the 'net. Nor is even the worst internet nerd sharing most of his human interaction in any readily recordable form. We are all - even BBC presenters - far more than the data we present for external analysis. Only someone who thinks that a human life can be reduced to facts, and that they in turn can be adequately analysed by wise and well-equipped masters, would say such a bizarre thing to a fellow human.

It only remains to be asked why anyone forms such a view, given that they are blessed with the same brain, heart and spirit as the rest of us. Perhaps their desperate quest for equality-by-violent-force is shaped by the secret fear that they really do lack something wonderful enjoyed by their fellow-men? Perhaps they are just not equipped by nature to know it's not mere money or power?

There you go, Aleks. Serendipity. I listened to a show out of curiousity as to just how condescending one woman could be, and obtained an insight into the cold, dark, empty souls of British statists.

Sometimes, Auntie, "sorry" doesn't cut it

BBC News - BBC apologises for Newsnight child abuse report.

Has there ever been a better demonstration of the BBC's political bias than this story of sexual abuse in North Wales children's homes? It happened, years ago, in a solid Labour area. I grew up there. I was standing at a bar in Clwyd (as it then was) on the night Mrs Thatcher won her first General Election. A local cried out in genuine disbelief;

"How can she have won? I have never even met a bloody Tory!"  

It's therefore a scandal of the Left. Children in the care of socialist public authorities were abused due to the actions of some public employees and the negligence of others. That's why it was barely mentioned by the BBC for decades. Given the opportunity to accuse one enemy of the Left, however, and - decades old though it was - suddenly it was the top of the BBC news.

Liz MacKean of Newsnight is leaving the BBC

Jimmy Savile: It’s not Liz MacKean who should be leaving the Beeb - Telegraph.

I predicted yesterday that the lady reporter on Newsnight who criticised the BBC would not be long in her place. It seems she has already taken voluntary redundancy. I am sorry to be right.

However, while the hue and cry for a dead man continues, it seems that all may not be quite right with the canned Newsnight story. Anna Raccoon of this parish was, it seems, there at the time and casts doubt on evidence currently being taken as gospel. Even more oddly it seems that Meirion Jones, the producer of the canned story, is the nephew of the lady in charge at Duncroft at the time of the alleged incidents. Anna is even in a position to direct investigators to the written records of the institution so they can verify the claims of the alleged victims. Or not. It seems Newsnight neither consulted the producer's aunt, nor reviewed Duncroft's records.

The plot thickens. This blog however is about civil liberties and I don't want to join in the national frenzy of salacious gossip. My point simply remains that BBC is an organisation funded by force and is therefore, by its nature, immoral. That when bad things happen in such organisations, the collective protects its own should be no surprise to anyone.

The BBC is a worker's co-operative

A-JIMMY-SAVILE-640x468I applaud the BBC's decision to allow Panorama to investigate what it knew about Jimmy Savile's misconduct and why the Newsnight story about his alleged paedophilia was pulled. The video is available for a while to UK residents on the BBC iPlayer here:

Any organisation that is not dependent upon its customers, whether a state or private monopoly, will eventually become self-serving. During my career I was party to many conversations about how to maximise profit for the owners of our businesses and provide attractive employment terms for our staff, but they all turned in the end to what our customers would want, or at least accept. We spent much more time worrying how to please customers than please ourselves. Satisfied customers who choose to come back are the only guarantee for owners, managers and workers in the private sector that they can achieve their personal goals.

As will all state enterprises funded by taxation, the BBC has become, in effect, a worker's co-operative. The "customers" have to pay regardless, so they become irrelevant and the focus turns to the interests of its own people. No private business would survive the shit storm that is heading the BBC's way. The share price would now be collapsing as investors tried to get out before the lawsuits begin. I confidently and sadly predict however that the BBC will survive. It has the coercive power of the state behind it and will simply take your money to settle the cases. It is the left establishment's propaganda arm and they will rally to restore its reputation.

We are about to have an instructive, but depressing, demonstration of the realities of modern Britain. We will be able to compare and contrast the BBC news and current affairs teams' handling of this story with their campaign against News International. Just imagine if the phone-hackers had worked for Newsnight and Savile had worked for Sky News!

Predictable though it all was, it was still disturbing to follow Panorama's account of the decision-making process within the Corporation. There was lots of high-falutin' stuff about editorial independence and a clear concern for the BBC's reputation. There was also some po-faced nonsense about depending on the trust of a public that, trusting or not, it will continue to plunder by use of state force. Not one person (apart from those making official statements once the story was out and the lady reporter from Newsnight who will no doubt pay for it when the storm has passed) expressed any convincing concern for their customers-by-force. Some of whom have, it seems, been abused by members of the collective and friends under their protection.

I watched the faces of the people making the allegations and it brought back another memory from the days of watching Jim'll Fix It. I found a girl from my school in a drunken heap at the side of the road on my way home from a date with my girlfriend one night. I tried to help her to go home. It turned out she was in social services care and lived in a nearby childrens' home. When I offered to take her there she begged me not to. She offered sex if I would take her somewhere, anywhere, else. Indeed, "offered" is something of a euphemism. If I had a victim mentality, I would say she attempted rape. I was able to restrain her and decline her offer.

I asked if she had relatives and she told me about an uncle who lived in the area. In retrospect, I worry that she made him up or that her relationship with him was rather different, but I was a naive teenager. I took her to a nearby pub and gave her the money to call him. I left her in the care of the publican, once assured her uncle was on his way.

I later found out that she lived in one of the homes at the centre of a notorious scandal. It rather explained both her reluctance to go there and her use of sex as a currency. I now dread to think what she was going through while I was enjoying a safe and happy childhood. I am ashamed to have ever thought myself hard done to by my strict parents, when I consider what that girl had been put through by the "caring" state professionals paid to look after her.

Here is the fatal flaw in all collectivist thinking; the reason why public service organisations are all more or less corrupt and can never fully be trusted. Here is the reason why Britain's public intellectuals are not merely gullible, idealistic, fools but a serious threat to our welfare.

All organisations funded by force are essentially immoral.

In their detachment from the relentless reality of having to satisfy customers and in their assurance that livelihoods do not depend upon that satisfaction, selfish, abusive behaviours will grow among their staff. Whether in care homes for the elderly, childrens homes, the Parliamentary expenses office, army barracks or police stations bad things will happen not by accident but flawed design. To be clear, I am not saying that public sector workers are all, or even mostly, evil or ill-intentioned. I am just saying that a disproportionate number of the lazy, greedy and wicked in any society will be attracted, as Savile was, to positions they are able to abuse. Nor am I saying there should be no public sector. I am not an anarchist. I accept the need for a state. But here is a strong argument for it to be kept to an absolute minimum.

There is a reason socialist states have always had to resort to prison camps and shootings to maintain discipline and reduce corruption in the ranks. At least, that is, within limits that don't threaten the corrupt gains of their ruling elites. In the absence of Stalinist discipline, what happened at the BBC - the way the collective closed ranks to protect an insider - is not a sad exception to the rule. It is the rule.

Dear old Auntie Beeb and her funny little ways

In Praise of the BBC's Political Coverage - Robert Smith - Dale & Co..

[The linked article is a rather implausible defence of the BBC's political independence. Having written a long comment on it, I thought I would cross-post it here].

Come off it! There is no justification for having a state broadcaster at all in a free society; still less one with such an iron grip on political opinion-forming. As there is no good reason for a perfectly commercial operation to be state-owned, it seems reasonable to infer there is a bad one!

The BBC's bias is very consistent. Whether it's a Freudian slip of a Today presenter saying "if we win" to Tony Blair, the champagne bottles littering the BBC's corridors after a Labour win or the permanent outnumbering of the Conservatives (in opposition and now in government) on all BBC shows, it could not be clearer. Even deadbeat Labour has-beens like John Prescott are treated as kings in exile. The reverential tone towards the Labour leadership is really quite sickening.

The sheer number of discussion panels on Andrew Marr, Newsnight etc., that are comprised entirely of Labourites and their luvvie fellow-travellers makes it implausible that you are at all serious in claiming neutrality.

Nor is this either new or limited to the news-gathering function of Comrade Auntie. I recently watched the DVD of one of my favourite old BBC dramas, "The House of Cards" trilogy and - when considered in the political context of the time - it was nothing short of systematic demonisation of the Conservatives.

Most dramatically; consider how, when leftists run riot at a 'cuts' protest, they are called 'anarchists' by the BBC (as if anarchists would demand a BIGGER state!) while the Norwegian butcher or any BNP lout is described straightforwardly as 'right wing' (not even 'extreme right wing')

It is true that this is as much a class issue; a form of snobbery, as it is leftism. Our lords and masters used to assume divine right. Now they assume ideological superiority. Such is the command of the left in British academia that the apparatchiks of the BBC probably don't even notice their own sneering at ordinary people and their 'reactionary' views.

The primary teacher tone of most BBC presenters tells us all we need to know about how they view us. Every bloody show is 'Blue Peter'. No-one speaks to us as adults to be respected.

Presumably that's why the old-fashioned paternalistic Tories of the modern Conservative Party are also weirdly comfortable with a Soviet-style state broadcaster. The BBC is simply the media arm of a nasty, condescending elite which is utterly contemptuous of the ordinary Britons on which its members feed.

For many of us, the feeling is mutual.

Government knows best?

News International's share price is falling. But so is that of BSkyB, its acquisition target. The market says - in effect - that the takeover adds value; that BSkyB is better fully owned by Murdoch. That the politicians are about to exact vengeance for years of having to crawl to a man who could only be ethically superior to the likes of them is destroying economic value. That, gentle reader, is what governments do. What the "eevil" Murdoch does is create it. Neither can be trusted, of course, because they are human. But a society that trusts those who destroy more than those who create deserves its fate.