It’s the ugly question that won’t go away – “will the question of race in America ever become something BBC journalists can resist pontificating about?”
The evidence suggests not.
The new North America editor Mark Mardell clearly can’t quite believe his luck. He’s barely got his feet under the desk (or in his case the restaurant table) and already he’s had an excuse to do numerous news reports and a couple of blog posts on a topic dear to BBC hearts: racist America. His predecessor Justin Webb must be thinking “Lucky bastard!”
I particularly like this description from his latest blog entry:
One large man, bull-necked, shaven-headen, with old fashioned braces (or suspenders, to use the American term) holding up his suit trousers, looks like an oppressive law-man from a liberal movie about the Deep South.
Has Maximum Mark looked in a mirror lately? Let’s just say I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so much of his reporting comes from places selling food.
But let’s leave Mardell feeding his prejudices (and his face) amidst the confederate memorabilia of Piggy Park restaurant and head over to Kevin Connolly’s article. Uber-liberal Connolly seems to have taken Joe Wilson’s outburst against his beloved Obama somewhat to heart. As far as Connolly is concerned Wilson looked “a little wild-eyed with passion”, if you catch his drift. He’s off his rocker that Wilson, nudge nudge. Connolly then brings up Maureen Dowd’s ludicrous New York Times column in which she admitted to hearing racist voices in her head although that’s not quite how Kev describes it (nothing mad about her, oh no):
Columnist Maureen Dowd wrote of “hearing” the unspoken word “boy” on the end of Mr Wilson’s phrase – in American racial politics a belittling epithet that reeks of the cotton-field and the slaver’s plantation.
BBC hacks are obviously very taken with this idea as Maximum Mark has also made numerous references to Dowd’s article. In another echo of Mardell, Connolly offers a brief history of Joe Wilson, mentioning his vote in favour of keeping the confederate flag flying over the South Carolina state house and the fact that he was once an aide to one-time segregationist Storm Thurmond. Unlike Kev, Mardell at least pointed out that this “was a long time ago”. Even so, we’ve got two BBC correspondents with enough time to go over exactly the same the points on exactly the same news story. I wonder how much one less US correspondent would save the licence payer. I mean, it’s not as if there’s other stuff to report on (
Connolly then offers this observation:
It does not really matter whether Joe Wilson is really a racist or not.
Whatever his motives, his words are a brutal reminder that the election of Barack Obama did not usher in a new age of post-racial politics in the US if anyone was naive enough to think that it might.
So, we don’t know if Wilson’s a racist or not but his words (“You lie!”) are a “brutal reminder” of racism. Got that? Connolly clearly sides with Maureen Dowd on this one. Just for good measure Our Kev concludes his piece by comparing Joe Wilson and the present day electorate of South Carolina with their 1850s counterparts:
And if history is any judge, you need not worry about Mr Wilson’s prospects of re-election, by the way. South Carolina was traditionally a place apart in such matters.
In 1856, a pro-slavery representative from the state called Preston Brooks took a gold-tipped cane and beat the abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner half-to-death while an accomplice held off any would-be rescuers with a firearm.
Mr Brooks of course, was forced to resign his seat, but when fresh elections were held, his constituents simply re-elected him and sent him back to Washington.
Connolly fully expects Wilson to be re-elected by the people of South Carolina, and in doing so they will prove that they’re no better than their predecessors who supported a pro-slavery thug more than a 150 years ago.
Meanwhile over at the Daily Mail, the BBC’s Gavin Essler has offered his invaluable insight into the whole affair. He brings up the Obama/Hitler pictures, the umpteenth BBC journalist to do so. What conveniently short memories these people have. And no BBC hack can discuss Joe Wilson without mentioning Thurmond and the confederate flag. Essler doesn’t disappoint, but goes on to trump his BBC colleagues by raising the prospect of Obama’s assassination. Later on he offers this telling sentence:
In all the enthusiasm for Barack Obama in Britain and Europe, we need to remember that even when up against John McCain – a relatively elderly candidate from a Republican party in disarray – he did not win in a landslide.
We? Speak for yourself Essler. Hard as it may be to believe from inside the BBC bubble, but we aren’t all enthusiastic about Obama.
But for a minority, even in the 21st century, a black President is still unacceptable. Obama has changed much in America, but not even his oratory and skill can change that.
Shouldn’t that be “not even His oratory”?
I’m surprised we haven’t heard the views of the BBC’s Sydney correspondent Nick Bryant, as he sees himself as a bit of an expert on American civil rights. I note from the antepenultimate paragraph of his latest blog entry that he’s in America at the moment so it’s only a matter of time.
The BBC’s news coverage of this story has been extensive and its journalists are falling over themselves to pass comment. In contrast (as I hinted above) the Beeb is yet to mention the scandals surrounding ACORN. But of course BBC correspondents don’t go to America to report on the nefarious activities of community activist groups; they go there to report on white racism.