The 'BBC Left' is using Murdoch hacking to get revenge
Left-wing politicians and broadcasters do not want to debate ideas but they do want to remove their opponents
By Janet Daley (An American-born journalist writing from Britain)
It was a broadcasters' event some years ago. I had been invited to speak on a favourite subject: the BBC hegemony in broadcast news and the risk that its own package of tendentious assumptions – that Euroscepticism was a lunatic fringe irrelevance, that anyone who expressed concern about immigration was a bigot, etc, etc – was going unchallenged in the mass media. After I had said my piece, a BBC producer in the audience asked whether, since I was so concerned about the dangers of large media organisations, I did not have the same objection to the existence of the "Murdoch empire".
"No-o-o," I replied patiently, I did not have the same objection. If I did not wish to support Mr Murdoch's enterprises I could refrain from buying his newspapers or subscribing to his television service – and no one could threaten me with arrest and imprisonment for so doing. This was, I suggested, a rather significant difference between the two media corporations.
In the startled silence of his response, I assumed that it had never occurred to him (as I say, this was some years ago) that anyone could question the justification for the legally enforced licence fee since it was clearly, for him, rooted in the inherent moral goodness of the BBC – and by implication of the ethical standards which it purveyed. The BBC may be trying to inculcate a bit more self-critical awareness among its personnel now but that smug righteousness of the Left-liberal media class has not gone away. It is, as you may have noticed, in something of a triumphal frenzy at the moment.
This has gone way, way beyond phone hacking. It is now about payback. Gordon Brown's surreal effusion in the House last week may have made it embarrassingly explicit, but the odour of vengeance has been detectable from the start: not just from politicians who have suffered the disfavour of Murdoch's papers, or the trade unions (and their political allies) who have never forgiven him for Wapping, but from that great edifice of self-regarding, mutually affirming soft-Left orthodoxy which determines the limits of acceptable public discourse – of which the BBC is the indispensable spiritual centre. The influence of the BBC as a monitor of what is politically admissible is almost incalculable: the entire Tory modernisation project was effectively made necessary (as its chief architects often admit) by the need to get a fair hearing on its news coverage.
But the power of the BBC – and its historical hatred for the "Murdoch empire" – is just one aspect of a larger battle which has now leapt across the Atlantic, where the target is not newspapers which can be legitimately charged with having committed unconscionable acts, but Fox News. Its offence is to have filled such a huge gap in the market for television news and current affairs that it has swept all before it. Its raucous Right-wing orientation is, in fact, matched by an equally raucous Left-wing equivalent in the cable news channel MSNBC, so why should anyone who believes in open and free debate among news providers object to this?
The problem is that Fox's audience share is enormous, by far the largest of any cable news channel, whereas MSNBC's is tiny, the smallest of any cable news channel. People are voting with their remotes for the kind of opinions they want to hear and the result is infuriating for the Left-liberal axis – and particularly for the Obama White House, which has made no secret of its desire to shut Fox News down.
There is, incidentally – contrary to the conjectures of some excitable commentators – no possibility of the "Murdoch empire" spawning a British version of Fox News. By law, broadcast news in Britain must be impartial. That is why all television news organisations in this country subscribe to pretty much the same soft-Left rendition of neutral reporting (in which Euroscepticism was, until very recently, treated as a lunatic fringe irrelevance, etc). And just the sort of liberal received opinion that now dominates television news because the tight regulation of licensed broadcasters demands it, could prevail in newspapers if the press were regulated (which is to say, licensed to operate) "in the same way that broadcasting is" – a suggestion which is being uttered in precisely those words even by Conservative politicians.
In fact, a similar rule of enforced neutrality applies in the US on network news programming: all news which is transmitted "over the airwaves" must be impartial (which there, too, means Left-liberal). It is only by the technical fluke of their being relayed by cable that the newer news channels such as Fox and MSNBC can show partisanship. Result: network news in the US is haemorrhaging viewers and cable news is hugely influential.
The cable news channels now play roughly the role in American politics that politically aligned newspapers do in Britain. To start regulating (licensing) the press would mean that we would have no frankly, vividly, politically potent news medium to counter whatever conventional wisdom was ordained by the self-appointed "enlightened" class of the day.
It is worth asking in both the British and American contexts why people who regard themselves as believers in free speech and liberal democracy can be so openly eager to close off – silence, kill, extinguish – different political views from their own. This is the question that is at the heart of the matter and which will remain long after every News International executive who may possibly be incriminated in the current scandal has been purged.
There is scarcely any outfit on the Right – be it political party, or media outlet – which demands the outright abolition of a Left-wing voice, as opposed to simply recommending restraint on its dominance (as I am with the BBC). That is because those of us on the Right are inclined to believe that our antagonists on the Left are simply wrong-headed – sometimes well-intentioned, sometimes malevolent but basically just mistaken. Whereas the Left believes that we are evil incarnate. Their demonic view of people who express even mildly Right-of-centre opinions (that lower taxes or less state control might be desirable, for example) would be risible if it were not so pernicious.
The Left does not want a debate or an open market in ideas. It wants to extirpate its opponents – to remove them from the field. It actually seems to believe that it is justified in snuffing out any possibility of our arguments reaching the impressionable masses – and bizarrely, it defends this stance in the name of fairness.
The Ideologue in the Oval Office
"I think increasingly the American people are going to say to themselves, 'You know what? If a party or a politician is constantly taking the position my-way-or-the-highway, constantly being locked into ideologically rigid positions, that we're going to remember at the polls,'" President Obama said at his Friday news conference.
I know everyone is sick of hearing about the debt-limit negotiations. Lord knows I am. When I turn on the news these days, I feel like one of the passengers seated next to Robert Hays in the movie "Airplane!" By the time we get to the phrase "in the out years," I'm ready to pour a can of gasoline over my head.
Still, regardless of how things turn out with the negotiations, what we are witnessing is the rollout of the Obama re-election campaign's theme: Obama is the pragmatic voice of reason holding the ideologues at bay.
So it's worth asking, before this branding campaign gels into the conventional wisdom: Who is the real ideologue here?
The president, we are told, is a pragmatist for wanting a "fair and balanced" budget deal. What that means is tax increases must accompany spending cuts. Any significant spending cuts would be way in the future. The tax increases would begin right after Obama is re-elected.
Now keep in mind that tax hikes (or what the administration calls "revenue increases") are Obama's idee fixe. He campaigned on raising taxes for millionaires and billionaires (defined in the small print as people making more than $200,000 a year or couples making $250,000).
During a primary debate, he was asked by ABC's Charles Gibson if he would raise the capital gains tax even if he knew that cutting it would generate more revenue for the government. The non-ideologue responded that raising the tax, even if doing so would lower revenue, might be warranted out of "fairness." As he said to Joe the Plumber, things are better when you "spread the wealth around."
Earlier last week, referring to the fact that he is rich, the president said: "I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing. In fact, I'm able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don't need."
Leaving aside the fact that the man lives in public housing and has a government jet at his disposal -- so his definition of "need" might be a bit out of whack -- what is pragmatic about this position?
Obama says that Republicans are rigid ideologues because they won't put "everything on the table." Specifically, they won't consider tax hikes, even though polls suggest Americans wouldn't mind soaking "the rich," "big oil" and "corporate jet owners."
But Obama hasn't put everything on the table either. He's walled off "ObamaCare" and the rest of his "winning the future" agenda.
If Obama believes the American people are the voice of reason when it comes to tax hikes, why does their opinion count for nothing when it comes to ObamaCare, which has never been popular? (According to a RealClearPolitics average of polls, only 38.6 percent of voters favor the plan.) Why not look for some savings there?
Consider the frustration of the supposedly ideologically locked-in GOP Congress. In 2008, the national debt was 40 percent of GDP. Now it's more than 60 percent, and it is projected to reach 75 percent next year, all thanks to a sour economy the GOP feels Obama made worse with incontinent spending.
Republicans won a historic election last November campaigning against the spending, borrowing, tax hikes and ObamaCare. Yet Obama's position is that the Republicans are deranged dogmatists because they don't want to raise taxes or borrow more money to pay for spending they opposed. And Obama is flexible because he refuses to revisit a program that has never been popular.
Meanwhile, the sole example of Obama's pragmatism -- that he has publicly acknowledged -- is his openness to means-testing Medicare, which may not be a bad idea. But Obama's support for it rests entirely on the fact that it would continue to tax upper-income people for benefits they will no longer receive. So, in addition to taxing the "rich" more, he also wants to give them less. I know why liberals would support that, but for the life of me I can't see how it's non-ideological.
Time to re-privatize fire departments: "All across America, municipal governments are awakening to the costs of overly-generous public sector compensation. In Orange County, California, the average total pay and benefits package for a firefighter is $175,000 a year. Firefighter unions say that there can be no cuts to fire department budgets without putting the safety of the public at risk. Yet for most of the nation's history, firefighting services were reliably provided by the private sector. Today, one county in Georgia is showing how that can be done again."
A glut of bureaucrats: "'I have never been in banking.' Those words sounded pretty defensive when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner uttered them two years ago. The financial crisis had left nerves raw, and Damon Silvers, my colleague on the congressional panel watching over the federal bailout, had just referred to Geithner’s supposed banking background. ... It might have been simpler if, from the beginning, Geithner had just shouted out the complete story -- 'I’m a lifetime bureaucrat!' -- and been done with it"
Israeli navy takes over Gaza-bound ship: "Israeli naval commandos on Tuesday seized control of a French ship attempting to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, reporting no resistance during the takeover in international waters. The navy boarded the ship after the pro-Palestinian activists on board ignored calls to change course. The military had warned it would stop any attempt to break the sea blockade of Gaza, which Israel imposed four years ago in what it says is a measure to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group. It said the vessel, the Dignity al-Karama, would be taken to a southern Israeli port, Ashdod. The international passengers are likely to face deportation."
Labor’s new strategy: Intimidation for dummies: "In the past decade, unions have become increasingly desperate to obtain new dues-paying members. An example of how desperate can be found in a 70-plus-page intimidation manual from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which only recently came to light in a pending court case. The new union tactic is to use pressure on corporate boardrooms as a means of organizing entire companies nationwide rather than recruiting workers on a site-by-site basis; in short, to organize employers rather than employees."
The scourge of economic nationalism, again: "If saving is good for Americans, the nationality or place of residence of the savers whose saved resources are invested in the American economy is irrelevant. If saving is good for Americans, then given Americans’ saving rate, savings invested in the American economy by non-Americans are a blessing -- a blessing that is bigger the greater is the amount of this foreign savings and investment in the American economy."
Government spending is spending — not investment: "If government spending were actually investments, this country would be awash in surpluses and the common people would be enjoying prosperity beyond their wildest dreams. That's because the result of investment is creation of value, while the result of spending is consumption of value. So when politicians talk about spending as 'investments,' they mean precisely the opposite of what they are saying."
Some federal workers more likely to die than lose jobs: "Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations. The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance, says John Palguta, former research chief at the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, which handles federal firing disputes."
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)