Just as another (very late on parade) epilogue to David P.’s superb coverage of the American midterm elections, BBC Online‘s post-U.S. midterm election coverage featured some ‘analysis’ by Finlo Rohrer, one of the BBC’s Washington contingent. It makes for a largely downbeat reading for both Tea Party supporters and Republicans alike. In partial explanation of that I want to concentrate on the article’s use of ‘independent experts’, typical of the BBC.

Four academics are called on to access the Tea Party’s impact.
Read more..

They are introduced like this:

Prof Wendy Schiller, from Brown University.” (She is the chief analyst, and talks of the need for a good-looking, charismatic leader for the Tea Party. She predicts “conflict within the Republican Party.”)

Jill Lepore, American historian, New Yorker writer and author of The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History.” (A quote from her predicting that the Tea Party could easily become hated is used as a block-quote. She also says the Tea Party movement is likely to be disappointed, however much they “loudly shoot down every measure”.)

Kate Zernike, author of Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America.” (She says the Tea Party movement is “looking for pretty quick answers” and criticises their unwillingness to compromise.)

Prof Jay Barth, of Hendrix College.” He comments on the Tea Party’s relationship with the Republican Party, seeing problems particularly for the latter.

Here’s what Finlo Rohrer of the BBC doesn’t tell his readers about his ‘independent experts’:

Prof Schiller, once of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute, was an assistant to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (Democrat) and Governor Mario Cuomo (Democrat).

Jill Lepore is deeply hostile to the Tea Party movement, regarding it as “far-right” – as the blurb from her university website reveals:

This book tells the story of the centuries-long struggle over the meaning of the nation’s founding, including the battle waged by the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and evangelical Christians to “take back America.” Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, offers a wry and bemused look at American history according to the far right. Along the way, she provides rare insight into the eighteenth-century struggle for independence–the real one, that is. Lepore traces the roots of the far right’s reactionary history to the bicentennial in the 1970s, when no one could agree on what story a divided nation should tell about its unruly beginnings. Behind the Tea Party’s Revolution, she argues, lies a nostalgic and even heartbreaking yearning for an imagined past–a time less troubled by ambiguity, strife, and uncertainty–a yearning for an America that never was. The Whites of Their Eyes reveals that the far right has embraced a narrative about America’s founding that is not only a fable but is also, finally, a variety of fundamentalism–anti-intellectual, antihistorical, and dangerously antipluralist.

Kate Zernike of the New York Times is a particular ‘favourite’ of this site’s American equivalent Newsbusters, who justifiably highlight “her obsession with rooting out alleged Tea Party racism”. She is one of the American journalists most hostile to the Tea Party. Finlo Rohrer would surely have known that.

As for Finlo’s final ‘independent expert’, Jay Barth “of Hendrix College”, all Finlo needed to do was pop Jay Barth into an internet service provider to find the first entry titled “Democrat Jay Barth for Senate 2010”. Defenders of the indefensible will surely find it hard to account for a BBC reporter failing to mention that his chosen academic wanted to run for Congress in THIS election for the Democrats (in Arkansas) and yet was his choice to be presented as if he were a non-partisan commentator on Tea Party-Republican Party relations.

So, four ‘experts’, all unfriendly to the Tea Party, as anyone with access to the internet could easily discover, and yet all invited to ‘analyse’ the Tea Party for a single BBC article – without any deeply relevant background information being provided.

Finlo Rohrer is clearly a worthy companion-in-bias for every-JournOLister’s friend Katie Connolly, Obama 2008 campaigner Matt Danzico, ex-Guardian Palin-mocker Daniel Nasaw, Iain MacKenzie and all the rest of the impartiality-adverse BBC Washington crew.

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  1. Craig says:

    I’ve still clearly not got the hang of ‘Read more…’! :-[


    • hippiepooter says:

      Great sleuthing Craig.  Compelling grounds for dismissal for any journalist claiming to be impartial, but at the bent BBC cause for a bonus.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Jill Lepore was on Brillo’s ridiculously biased tea party ‘documentary’ last week. Her argument is silly straw man nonsense (tea parties want a utopia that never was – of course tea partiers want back the America that brought them world-leading growth for the past two centuries – one where hard work paid).

    Every left-wing commentator in Neil’s documentary was introduced as a a neutral bystander (even one from a Chris Matthews clip) while it was made clear when anyone to the right of Obama was being interviewed.


  3. john in cheshire says:

    You may not have gotten the hang of ‘read more…’ but you surely have a fine talent for providing us with the real intent of the bbc and its claque. Sadly, I’m not surprised to learn that the impartials are all far-left bigots.


  4. Span Ows says:

    …and that top photo was clearly selected. “Right, we need white, not young and preferably a bit dodgy looking…”


  5. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Nice work, Craig.

    Katie Connolly presented Zernike as a respected source for information on the Tea Party movement, becuase Zernike wrote a book called “Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America”.  Connolly also forgot to mention that Zernike did a somewhat dishonest puff piece for her former colleague’s faux grassroots “Coffee Party”.

    In the BBC’s single mention of this stillborn activist group, they helpfully linked to the website.


  6. DP111 says:

    Democrats, from Obama downwards are now singing the hymn of “bi-partisanship”. But where was bi-partisanship when they had an overwhelming majority in both houses. They only seems think of  bi-partisanship when they are in a minority. And so we have Kate Zernike singing from the hymn book of bi-partisanship. The tactic is, that unless the Democrats get what they want, bi-partisanship will have failed, and it will be the fault of the GoP.


    The Democrats have successfully used this tactic on previous occasions when they did not have control of House of Reps, muddying the waters, and thus alienating the core support of the GoP. The Democrats  would succeed this time as well, were it not for the presence of the Tea party. So expect increasingly hysterical attacks on the Tea party. 


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Exactly.  It’s the same reason St. Jon Stewart held that “Rally To Restore Smugness”.  Can’t we all just get along – to support the President’s agenda?

      Two years ago, there was anger that the BBC agreed with, found righteous, and supported.  Now, it’s just anger.


    • hippiepooter says:

      DP111, this transparent tactic only works because they have the ‘impartial’ MSM beating the drum for them, just as Labour has the BBC beating the drum for them here.


  7. Roland Deschain says:

    Compelling research as always, Craig.  Do you put this information to the BBC or Tory MPs, because I’d love to know how they refute it?

    Unless they can show swathes of right-wing commentators brought in to attack left-wing groups, whilst being presented as neutral commentators, it seems to me they’ve been caught bang to rights and yet they simply carry on and no-one does anything about it.


    • Craig says:

      Yes, I’ve a few complaints in at the moment. One dealing with Iain MacKenzie (one of Finlo’s companions) has been hanging around the BBC Complaints department for nearly a month now. I know they’ve got it because DB snatched a screenshot of young Iain tweeting all his BBC buddies to say that he’d had to spend the whole morning replying to a complaint from some ‘conservative’ about Christine O’Donnell’s mice (only a part of my complaint). He tweeted that some three weeks ago and almost immediately deleted it (too late, as DB had already spotted it). Still no reply from the BBC yet – which is par for the course! They are obviously sitting on it.  
      I only recently got a reply about something I complained about before the general election. It was so short and evasive and didn’t contain anything from my original complaint, so I can’t work out which of my many complaints about Newsnight in the run-up to the general election it referred to!  
      Replies from the BBC Complaints department tend to either skirt around (or ignore) the actual point I was making, adopt various tones – from the severely snotty to the polite -, concede minor points (on two occasions saying that James Naughtie should “perhaps” have phrased his questions differently) and, for really unanswerable complaints, delay, delay and delay again…then finally reply with as short an answer as possible.  
      My biggest complaint concerned my list of interruption coefficients, monitoring over 1000 interviews (all party political interviews on all the main current affairs programmes for 9 months). This proved that Labour, Green and (before the election) Lib Dem politicians were interrupted – on average – significantly less than the nationalist parties, the Conservatives and, above all, UKIP. Their absurd, weaselly replies and my detailed responses came to an end when, after my most unanswerable third response, came….a long silence…(probably three months)…and then a tiny, tiny reply saying they didn’t think interruptions were a valid measure (after I’d explained why they should be considered relevant at great length), and that was that!   
      I always used to send something to the Conservatives, UKIP and the Lib Dems – and once even to the SNP – every time I complained to the BBC. The Lib Dems and SNP never replied. The Conservatives usually did, but – with rare, usually backbench, exceptions – were polite, sometimes friendly but completely non-committal about actually doing anything about it. (They always responded more warmly if the bias I was complaining about effected them personally!!!) UKIP were, by some way, the most enthusiastic and, apparently, used some of my figures in a meeting with the director general (showing how little airtime they got on all the major BBC current affairs programmes following their success in the 2009 Euro elections). 
      Complaining to BBC Complaints is likely to be a futile exercise.  Their impartiality genes are infallible. Their boss says so. They invariably deny bias.  But, as Martin once said, at least it winds them up, so it’s worth doing – if just for fun!! And it might just do some good!! My complaint about Iain MacKenzie’s opinionated twittering was answered by Iain MacKenzie (according to his later opinionated tweeting!) the day before Helen Boaden’s e-mail about the use of twitter (a perfect storm of twitter-based complaints, including DB’s and the one about the Welsh-language channel maybe?).


      • David Preiser (USA) says:

        It’s like falling down the rabbit hole.


        • D B says:

          “DB snatched a screenshot”

          Yes – and quite blasé about the idea of impartiality he was too. We’re still sitting on that one, waiting for the official response.

          Great post again, btw Craig.


  8. DP111 says:

    The main difficulty that centre Right parties have in the battle with the Left, is that they do not have a clear ideology and philosophy. The Left OTH has a clear ideology of Marxism, bent this way and that for mass consumption, and backed by virtually the entire Liberal academic establishment of the West. 

    In such a situation, its easy for the Left to stick to its core principles, while the Right, having none, compromises itself, and thus loses the confidence of those who voted for them.

    The emergence of Tea party has changed the situation. It is too amorphous for a lable to be put on it, but it does have core principles – the US constitution, from which flows small government, individual liberty etc flow.

    To the  dismay of the Left, the Right now has a working philosophy. The Tea party has occupied the high moral ground as well as strategic ground- Constitution Hill so to speak, from which they will be hard to dislodge. 


  9. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Katie Connolly dismisses the Tea Party movement and censors information in order to make senior citizens appear racist.

    Who voted for Republicans in the mid-term elections?

    The bulk of the piece is poll results showing percentage swings among women, blacks, hispanics, first-time voters, and other groups the BBC expects to reflexively vote Democrat.  There is, though, a desperate attempt to prove that the main reason for the Republican results is that too many of the President’s Hope & Change voters from 2008 stayed home this time.  A simple internet search of the terms “mid-term voter turnout” yields a ton of local stories about record turnouts for a mid-term.  This reflects my personal experience at my local polling station, as well as that of everyone I know.  It was a record turnout, but not for His supporters?  Or did His supporters desert Him?

    Connolly does say that Independents shifted the balance in the President’s favor in 2008, but switched sides this time.  Those fair-weather bastards increased their votes for Republicans by 15% this time, as opposed to a mere 8% for Him in 2006.  Only at the very end does Connolly admit that 53% of voters were unhappy with His policies.  It’s a bit disingenuous to separate that figure with the results for Independent voters.

    As for the Tea Party movement, Connolly says this:

    But in the past two years it has become a rambunctious political force, and one that seems to have divided the country.

    About 40% of voters say they support the movement and its goals; 31% oppose it and 24% claim to be neutral about it.

    Unsurprisingly, the split follows party lines: of those who strongly oppose the movement (23%) 90% voted for Democrats while of those who strongly support the Tea Party (21%), 91% voted Republican.

    So according to her own logic, the Tea Party movement wasn’t divisive at all and voters merely fell along their pre-existing party lines.  Could it be that it was the President’s and the Democrats’ policies which divided the country?  Of course not.  The BBC wouldn’t dare allow that thought to occur.  Better follow St. Jon Stewart’s line that it’s everyone else being divisive.  Again, that 53% figure for voters being unhappy about His policies is deliberately left unassociated with the results.

    After throwing around more figures to cloud the issue and make the movement appear less influential, Connolly says this:

    Mr Obama was more of a factor – 37% cast their ballots to show opposition to the president; just under a quarter to show support. But 36% weren’t concerned with the president at all on Tuesday.

    It’s a very subtle way of making it appear that those against Him are playing the man and not the ball.  As long as Connolly can make it seem that the anger is personal, she can leave the door wide open for suspicions of racism and other personal animus, rather than an honest objection to policy.

    She does the same thing for senior citizens:

    As a group, older voters have never cared much for Mr Obama. This year, older voters continued to stay away from his Democrats, voting 59% Republican.

    Never cared much for Him.  No policies mentioned.  But there is a very key factor which pushed seniors away, but the BBC doesn’t want you to know about it:

    AARP Blames ObamaCare for Hike in Employee Health Insurance Costs