By Jonathon Shafi
As the crowds began to gather in Buchanan Street to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza, it was clear that the demonstration would be vibrant, diverse and loud. About an hour before the assembly time, you could see groups of people arriving. Young, old, mixed. A group of young women started the chanting in earnest, rallying shoppers to the cause. Speakers from faith organisations, political parties, campaign groups and trade union leaders addressed the huge crowd that had taken the entirety of the top end of Glasgow’s main Saturday thoroughfare, before it set off on a march to the BBC which dominated the city centre in a sea of colour and solidarity.
As we approached the BBC, the pace quickened, and the mega phones cranked up a notch. People, thousands of them, had been enraged by the BBC coverage of the bombing of Gaza. There are reams of material which detail this. The BBC use Israeli talking points to framework the overall narrative. They depict the situation as an equal conflict, they fail to press Israeli spokespeople, or to expose the true horror of the situation in Gaza. As we arrived at the BBC Hq, the crowd erupted ‘BBC Shame on you.’
Well, it would be interesting to see how the BBC would report the event. For those who have been to lots of demonstrations, there is a fairly standard format for BBC reports. Firstly, the journalist wont usually stay for much longer than half an hour or so. So you can guarantee the BBC figure on attendance will be far lower than the reality. They claim, yesterday that ‘hundreds’ bothered to turn up. The picture below shows the crowd before it set off being addressed by speakers.
This is the normal sub-standard reporting on demonstrations. The BBC have been notorious for this. A few weeks ago 50,000 people took to central London as part of a Peoples Assembly demonstration to oppose austerity. Not a word, or single reference to this event existed on the BBC. So under reporting demonstrations, numbers and so on, while infuriating, is not surprising.
It is also not surprising that the coverage of demonstrations is concise, to put it mildly. There is never any interaction with the crowd, no scene setting, no capturing of the atmosphere and so on. So again, it was no surprise to find the BBC article dedicated just 152 words to the event.
But this time the BBC hit a new low. In the article they publish just one quote out of an array of speakers which included Dave Moxham of the STUC, Peter Tatchell, Aamer Anwar, Pauline McNeill and Sandra White. There was a solid hour of speeches before the march set off. Each one of them listened to and cheered to the rafters. Apart from one.
Anas Sarwar, was the only speaker to get heckled. As soon as he was announced, he was in for a rough ride. People were angry, genuinely angry, with Labour’s failure to stand up to Israel. They wanted, thousands of them, to show that they were not going to be bought off. After a few minutes, they’d had enough and chanted ‘off, off, off’ until he had to stop and step down from the podium. The video below captures some of this.
And the BBC’s one quote goes to? Anas Sarwar. No political balance, not the good grace to take quotes from the other distinguished speakers, or the organisers of the march. Nothing. Anas was the main act for the BBC. And worse than that, he is quoted as if his speech went without a hitch. No mention of the fact that he didn’t just receive a bit of light booing, but that he was so roundly derided he had to remove himself from the stage early.
This is more than disgraceful. And it is not bias. It is a lie, plain and simple. It is misinformation of the worst sort, and it is an insult to journalism. It is an insult to the communities who pooled their resources to organise the demonstration. It is an insult to every single person who attended the demonstration. Yet it is worse than an insult. It is politically calculated. It is a deliberate and it cannot be anything else. The only other possibility is that the level of journalism is now so low within the BBC that even elementary principles of reportage are not being met.
But that would be letting them off lightly. In truth, the BBC are tail spinning into decline for a reason: they are closing ranks with an establishment in crisis. We have a chance to expel that establishment in September. And after that the opportunity to replace the BBC with a public broadcaster, worthy of the people it is meant to inform.
BBC story in full: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-28383431