The petition to sack Tory propagandist Laura Keunssberg from her role as BBC Political Editor has been scrapped by 38 Degrees after it gained over 35,000 signatures. The reason given is sexist comments and tweets.
Having both signed and endorsed the petition myself, I was taken aback by this. I had personally read through every single one of the comments on the 38 Degrees site, when 26,000 people had signed the petition. I was intending to publish a selection of comments on this blog, as many of them were really quite elegant, and some moving in expressing the loss some people felt in their disillusion with the BBC.
Of the many scores, possibly hundreds (there is no counter) of comments I read through, only one was sexist. That one was very unpleasant, but totally unrepresentative. I can see no reason why they could not just delete any such stupid comments. Everywhere on the internet gets them, including this blog.
It seems to me astonishing that a tiny and unrepresentative number of people can get a petition scrapped which had been signed by many thousands of genuine people. I therefore today phoned 38 Degrees to uncover both the policy and the sequence of events.
What happened first was an article in the Guardian alleging the petition was linked to sexist abuse. Needless to say, the Guardian referred to alleged sexist abuse, by Jeremy Corbyn supporters, of Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips (in the case of Stella Creasy this was proven to be almost complete fabrication. I have not looked into the Phillips case). I have both phoned and emailed the Guardian to ask them on what evidence their story of sexist abuse of Keunssberg was based, but they have not responded.
I asked the 38 Degrees spokesman whether they had personally seen the evidence of this sexist abuse. Their spokesman Adam said that they had seen it. I asked whether they would send me the evidence so I could check it. He said they would consider this. They have not done so. I asked him how many sexist comments there were? 2, 3, 10, 100? He said they had not looked through everything and would not give even a ballpark figure. I asked what impact their junking of the petition would have on the tens of thousands of non sexist people who had signed it, and why they felt able to slander those people as sexist. He replied this was not intended and they were still thinking about it. I asked why people opposed to a petition could not get anything taken down by adding a few nasty comments pretending to support. He said this had occurred to them as a problem too.
38 Degrees said that the petition originator had agreed to it being taken down, but I clarified they had contacted him to ask for his agreement. Whether he was shown the “evidence” or browbeaten I do not know.
So there we are. The petition has been binned and the people who supported it have all been libelled in the media as sexists. It is not apparently concern about a rampantly biased political editor, it is obvious sexism. Yet the only people who claim to have the actual evidence of this sexism – 38 Degrees and the Guardian – have not produced the evidence and refuse to produce the evidence when I ask.
Laura Keunssberg is I think the most openly biased journalist I have ever seen on the BBC, particularly in her very obvious vindictive hatred of Jeremy Corbyn and of Scottish Independence. She does not in the least pretend impartiality. But she is by no means alone. Of course by targeting her we are only drawing attention to a particularly egregious symptom of the terrible disease of a rampantly right wing corporate and state media. Nobody believes that removing her would solve the problem. Nobody seriously believes the BBC actually would remove her even if the petition reached a million. It is purely a campaigning tool to highlight the injustice of media control, access and bias.
The fact we are denied even this tool of protest is deeply troubling. The continued process of stigmatisation of decent dissidents as “anti-Semitic” or “misogynist” is characteristic of a society in which deviating from the political line is rewarded with social stigma and exclusion. This poisonous climate should be seen as a reaction to the challenge the elite is currently facing to its neo-liberal certainties.