Liberal journalism is balanced, neutral and objective, except when it’s not. A BBC news report on Hugo Chavez’s latest election triumph in Venezuela commented:
‘Mr Chavez said Venezuela would continue its march towards socialism butalso vowed he would be a “better president”.’ (Our emphasis. The article was subsequently amended, although the ‘but’ remains)
The ‘but’ revealed the BBC’s perception of a conflict between Venezuela’s ‘march towards socialism’ and Chavez becoming a ‘better president’. Despite the appearance of neutral reporting, the ‘but’ snarled at both Chavez and socialism.
A second BBC article described Chavez as ‘one of the most visible, vocal and controversial leaders in Latin America’.
Another found him a ‘colourful and often controversial figure on the international stage’.
Is Chavez more ‘controversial’ than war—fighting leaders like Bush, Blair, Brown, Obama and Cameron? How many tens or hundreds of thousands of people has Chavez killed? Imagine the BBC reporting: ‘David Cameron is an often controversial figure on the international stage.’ In fact the term is reserved for enemies of the West.
The same bias is found in editorials that often express, or reflect, the passionately partisan views of owners and editors. In 1997, the Independent proclaimed that Tony Blair’s election victory ‘bursts open the door to a British transformation’ to a ‘freer land’. (Neal Ascherson, ‘Through the door he can begin to create a freer land,’ The Independent, May 4, 1997)
For the editors of the Guardian, Blair’s triumph was ‘one of the great turning-points of British political history… the moment when Britain at last gave itself the chance to construct a modern liberal socialist order.’ (Ibid)
If that wasn’t enough, the Observer described how Blair would create ‘new worldwide rules on human rights’, no less, and enforce ‘tough new limits on arms sales’. Blair, Jack Straw (foreign secretary from 2001-2006) and others would make this part of a new, ‘ethical’ foreign policy.
In his newly published autobiography, Last Man Standing, Straw ‘dismisses an “ethical foreign policy” as an “unhelpful” label’, Peter Wilby notes. Was that all it meant to him? Wilby explains:
‘The abiding principle of Straw’s life is that Labour should be in power. What it should use power for is something he hardly seems to think about.’