Imagine if members of a racist anti-Semitic white supremacist group, one of them armed with a nightstick, had been filmed at a polling station intimidating voters on the day of the 2004 presidential election. Imagine that this led to charges, but those charges were suddenly dropped by Bush’s Justice Department even though it had already won a default judgement in the case. And then imagine that two officials claimed that this was due to institutional anti-black prejudice within the Justice Department. Do you suppose the BBC would have made quite a big deal about all of that? Catholic Pope, defecating bears, swimming fish etc – damn right, the BBC would’ve been all over it, making sure that the whole affair got maximum exposure. It would’ve filtered down from BBC news to round-table discussion programmes, topical comedy shows and phone-ins. Oh boy, would we have known about it.
And yet the BBC continues to ignore the New Black Panther story. It’s not part of the BBC’s desired narrative, a narrative driven by hatred of the American right. We’ve been banging on about the Panther story here since polling day 2008 (in the comments and on the blog) but every new revelation that has emerged in the States has been met with silence by the BBC.
A Biased BBC reader emailed me to say that back in June he suggested to the BBC’s Americana programme that they have on as a guest the first of the Justice Department whistleblowers, J Christian Adams. Americana replied that it was “possibly something we could get to before the midterms”. Now a second employee (this one a Clinton appointee with ACLU bona fides) has testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and still nothing from the Beeb. The simple fact is that BBC U.S. correspondents just don’t like reporting on this sort of thing. It goes against their instincts, doesn’t get their juices flowing like a negative story about Republicans. “Nothing to see. Nothing to see. Nothing to see. Look everybody – a witch! And Stephen Colbert!”
This story can only get bigger and I think that the BBC will finally have to report it – reluctantly and with much anguish. As with similar controversies, those who rely on the BBC for their news will be last to know (if they get to know at all) and will receive but a fraction of the full picture. But once again the BBC will have done its job as gatekeeper, restricting the impact of the story on public consciousness by limiting its time in the spotlight.
In the comments on the open thread David Preiser points out that even The Washington Post had the story on its front page today. I’m amused by this from the Post’s article:
“the dispute became a major issue in conservative circles. It has been slow to gain traction among the general public…”
Update September 27. The original version incorrectly identified both Department of Justice officials as former employees. Christopher Coates, who testified last week, is still employed by Justice having been transferred from his previous job as voting chief at the department’s Civil Rights Division to his current position within the South Carolina attorney’s office. He has whistleblower protection for his testimony.
Here’s a segment on the story from The O’Reilly Factor (h/t John Anderson).