“Viewpoint” Or Propaganda?

This “First Person” segment for the BBC’s online Magazine is not journalism but instead borders on political advertisement. It’s another one of those “bespoke” video magazine pieces for which the BBC has increased their spending and staffing in the US.

Why are ex-convicts in the US barred from voting?

Is it just me, or is that an interrogative? We should expect an answer of some kind from the piece, no? No. Unless by “answer” you mean getting told that they should be allowed to vote, which is answering an entirely different question.

I understand that the concept of “First Person” necessarily involves presenting that person’s perspective. In and of itself that’s not bias. But this goes far beyond that and is little more than an advocacy advertisement.

The entire piece is a combination of an interview with an activist for restoring voting rights to felony ex-cons, Hasan Zarif (an ex-con prison chaplain, a rather common phenomenon), and quotes from the activist group The Sentencing Project. This group identifies itself on its website as an advocacy group, but the BBC doesn’t think you need to be told. I guess it’s supposed to be obvious so they don’t need to, but it’s really just another example of the BBC declining to label a person or organization if they’re on the Left/approved side of an issue.

It’s all about justifying the restoration of voting rights to felony ex-convicts. We also get ominous interstitials informing us of gently prodding facts such as how only the Governor of Virginia (one of the states at which the BBC’s bony finger is pointed) has the power to restore the right to felony ex-cons. As if that’s supposed to be evidence against the policy. At one point, Zarif speaks with another felon who is currently petitioning to get  his right to vote back. Zarif helpfully reads out the evidence that the man has turned his life around and deserves it. We’re meant to think that if this violent criminal can do it, why not all felony ex-cons? It’s a false proxy, but that’s all part of storytelling (just like the tear-jerking piano ostinato in the background).

Plus, due to the unspoken (because we all know, right?) fact that African-Americans are convicted of felonies* at a much higher rate than white people, they’re hit hardest, when the BBC tells us that more of them are affected by this policy, the message is that it is de facto racist. The real question ought to be: is this de jure racist? Do we get an alternative perspective? Don’t make me laugh. That’s not why this piece was produced.

The only moment which is even a gesture towards explaining why felony ex-cons are barred from voting is when Zarif says this:

“We have committed some terrible acts, so it is reasonable that many individuals, they don’t want to see us vote.”

That’s it. This counts as balance in BBC land. The very next sentence is back to the advocacy.

“We need to prove that we can come back to society, be contributing members of the social order, and that we can take that second chance and do great things.”

Once again that’s a reason why voting rights should be restored. At no point is there discussion as to why some States withhold the right, which is what the title asks. Why don’t the anonymous Beeboids who produced this bother to go into it? Because you’re all expected already to have the approved thought that it’s wrong, so the question doesn’t really need answering at all. If you think like them, that is. This piece was produced from that perspective.

Because the BBC isn’t interested in discussing the overall scene in the US regarding the voting rights of ex-cons, here’s some information to put this sob story into perspective. It’s always difficult for the British Beeboids (and sometimes for the US-born ones as well) to grasp the concept of States Rights (aside from slavery and the Civil War, of course – in that case they definitely act like they know all about it), so they probably don’t understand how this can be. As one would expect, the rules vary widely around the country. Some states hold that people lose the right once they’re convicted of a felony, and even there the metric varies. Maine and New Hampshire even allow felons to vote via absentee ballot from prison. Other States restore the right to ex-cons after parole, or after petition.

What’s left out of this bespoke video piece – professionally produced from a media perspective as it is – is the fact that in every single State it’s possible for an ex-con to get that right back one way or another. Every single State. But that’s not good enough for advocates: they want it restored automatically, and eventually want the right granted to incarcerated felons. The goal of this particular BBC report isn’t about that at all, but is rather about pushing the idea that felony ex-cons should have the right restored, full stop. That’s why the insterstitial about how in Virginia only the Governor can restore the right is presented so ominously.

Before any defenders of the indefensible get busy, let me remind you that my opinion on whether or not felony ex-cons should be allowed to vote is irrelevant, as is yours. This is about the bias of the BBC’s video report.

* I’m using passive phrasing here, rather than saying “African-Americans commit  felonies at a much higher rate”, in the interests of appearing impartial.

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13 Responses to “Viewpoint” Or Propaganda?

  1. George R says:

    ‘Viewpoint’ is a devious BBC-NUJ political device; in practice, BBC-NUJ packs ‘Viewpoints’ with points of view it endorses.

    As mentioned on ‘Open Thread’ this is classic, pro- E.U, barely disguised BBC-NUJ propaganda :

    “Viewpoints: Experts comment on EU’s Nobel award”



  2. Prole says:

    What’s the bias other than it doesn’t reflect your views? Since when where you the only truth?


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Prole, you don’t know what my views are, do you? Do you have magical mind-reading powers? Are you a Betazoid or Steve Jinx from Warehouse 13? Perhaps you’ve done a Vulcan mindmeld with me while I wasn’t looking and have read my thoughts? Are you a member of Psi-Corps, maybe?

      That fact that you’ve said such a stupid thing, completely disregarding my statement that my opinion is irrelevant, shows that you are completely unable to address the issue and blinded by your own bias against me.

      Do you even know what the word “objective” means? Additionally, if you approve of the BBC promoting this single viewpoint (whether you agree with it or not), how does this meet the BBC’s remit re: impartiality and balance? Can you provide an example of a BBC report from the opposite perspective to balance this out? After all, we’re told time and again that it’s not fair to focus on a single story/report but must always consider the BBC’s output in general on a topic, over time.

      You won’t find one, of course. But that’s okay with you because you just want to believe that I’m wrong, regardless of the facts.


    • Enough is Enough says:

      Hold on.

      The job of the BBC is to according to Michael Lyons is to “scrupulously careful about standards of accuracy and impartiality so that the BBC’s reputation for fairness and impartiality is maintained”

      The question if somebody agree’s with the viewpoint shouldn’t even be part of the equation, because if the report was balanced in the first place, and both views were given air-time, then the issue of impartiality should not even arise.

      Because the average British viewer (who pays for this drivel btw) might not be aware of the issues surrounding state rights in the US, does not mean it can peddle a political line that it supports, and call it “impartial”

      This drives at the very problem within the BBC regarding its news and current affairs output.

      Since John Birt’s ‘reforms’ and the amalgamation of the News and Current Affairs department , the boundary between actual factual news reporting and comments and opinions of its talking heads has become so blurred, that in the end, it neither offers objective opinion nor actual factual evidence based reporting.

      ‘St’ Martin Bell during the Bosnia War said that journalists could not ‘stand neutrally between good and evil, right and wrong, the victim and the oppressor.’ Famously, he called for a ‘journalism of attachment’.

      This is the creed that the BBC operates under-it seeks not just to observe and report, but to become a active player in forming public opinion.

      In this case it plays into a wider Anti-American worldview that is the staple diet of its news output.

      Why not do a piece on the rights of prisoners in say Cuba or North Korea, who arguably have a far worse time of it that average American convict?

      It is clear now that large sections of the populous no longer has faith in the BBC, the question is can the BBC itself be reformed to regain that trust?



      • Wild says:

        “Can the BBC itself be reformed to regain that trust?”

        I think the answer to that is clearly no.

        To get an insight into their mindset just read any of the comments by BBC supporters on here, such as the middle-class revolutionary “Prole” or the wannabe BBC journalist Nicked Emus.

        Power should be shifted back to the point of choice, and away from Statist centrally planned production run by, and on behalf of the interests of, the nomenklatura.


      • Ken Hall says:

        “the question is can the BBC itself be reformed to regain that trust?”

        Not without massive re-distribution of staff by sacking a lot of lefties and employing people with …. oh what is that word that the BBC loves? Oh yes, a DIVERSE range of opinions and views, so that there are people within the BBC who are even CAPABLE of thinking differently and presenting a balance to their current default narrow, closed minded world-view of what is acceptable and what is not.

        They love diversity, but not when it comes to opinions!


      • Umbongo says:

        “Why not do a piece on the rights of prisoners in say Cuba or North Korea”

        Funny you should write that. This morning on the Radio 4 8:00 News after the daily announcement of Labour Party policy (this time vis-a-vis Jimmy Savile and on the same level of triviality) we were informed that Cuba (which – in BBC-land – together with Venezuela, is a reservoir of freedom in the Western hemisphere and, similarly, resistant to the virus of Yankee imperialism) is to allow its citizens to go abroad without the need to apply for exit visas.
        Hallelujah! I wonder if this is the precursor of a repeat of the brilliant exercise by a younger Fidel whereby Cuba’s prisons and lunatic asylums were emptied and their inmates dumped (with a lot of genuine refugees) in Florida. Somehow I think this piece of news will be left hanging in the air to imply that the genuinely “free” are now even more “free”. This article on the new policy ignores, for instance, the difficulties and expense (?) for ordinary Cubans of obtaining a “valid passport” from the Cuban authorities.


        • David Preiser (USA) says:

          And that new development and other alleged reforms in Cuba certainly has nothing to do with the fact that Communist Dream wasn’t as successful as we were led to believe, the place is falling apart, and they have to change or die.


  3. Sir Arthur Strebe-Grebling says:

    I don’t mind if these talkpieces aren’t balanced within themselves. Trying to show more than one side of a debate in every item leads to a sterile ‘one the one hand, on the other hand’ display.
    But where the real bias comes in is in who is chosen and what views are put forward over a series. Has anyone done a thorough analysis?


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      This goes beyond just one guy stating his viewpoint. The producer added those talking points from an activist group, without even identifying them as such, in order to provide support for this viewpoint. This is a clear step beyond merely a casual “viewpoint” piece.

      Why, one might be tempted to suspect that this is part of the overall BBC Narrative that an Obamessiah loss in November is due to the racist system in the US. All these black people disenfranchised deliberately so they can’t vote for black candidates. Isn’t that right, Newsnight and Greg Palast?


    • Lynette says:

      On the Middle East- Trevor Assserson did a serious study of the BBC’s reporting on Israel over a period of time in 2001 to 2002.

      The Malcom Balen report might have been a thorough analysis but the BBC is still blocking its publication.


  4. Mairi` says:

    The BBC would love to think that most of us Scots are beating a pathway to independence when it is the opposite. Most of us realise that the old adage ” United we stand, divided we fall” should be given credence.


  5. Mairi` says:

    Something went slightly haywire…….I did post on the “Scottish Referendum” article but my pc or your website went its own merry way!