God, gender and gays – BBC bias on display

“World Ends Tomorrow: Women and Minorities Hit Hardest!” 

American lexicographer Barry Popik credits comedian Mort Sahl with having coined this fictitious New York Times headline that encapsulates the Gray Lady’s liberal world view. The New York Times reports talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh incorporates this joke about the weltanschauung of the left-wing press into his repertoire. But El Rushbo attributes this bias to the Washington Post.

One of the complaints of media bias of longest standing  is that leveled against the BBC. The corporation’s reporting style has generated a Wikipedia entry and launched a host of blogs chronicling its errors, suppositions and biases.

In 2006 the Mail on Sunday summarized the results of an internal BBC review:

Senior figures admitted that the BBC is guilty of promoting Left-wing views and an anti-Christian sentiment.

They also said that as an organisation it was disproportionately over-represented by gays and ethnic minorities.

It was also suggested that the Beeb is guilty of political correctness, the overt promotion of multiculturalism and of being anti-American and against the countryside.

So what does this all have to do with God, gender and gays?  I’ve digressed from the story under consideration to introduce to a North American audience the phenomenon of BBC bias. I am illustrating this point with a recent article from the BBC’s website concerning the appointment of the new chief justice of South Africa. “Zuma appoints controversial Judge Mogoeng to top post” begins with:

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has appointed a judge who is an ordained pastor with controversial views on rape and homosexuality as chief justice.

Lobby groups had urged Mr Zuma not to appoint Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as South Africa’s top judge, saying he was lenient on rapists, which he denies.

South Africa has one of the world’s highest incidences of rape.

Mr Zuma said he was confident that with Judge Mogoeng at the helm, the judiciary was in good hands.

Last week, Judge Mogoeng said God wanted him to be chief justice.

How about that! In five sentences we have established, or perhaps better said, insinuated that the new chief justice is an anti-gay anti-women Christian minister who believes God is talking to him. The article continues with a statement the judge’s nomination was opposed by “top lawyers”, human rights groups and trade unions, and then states the Nobel Women’s Initiative, (I had to look this up too), had issued a statement denouncing the judge as being soft on crime.

The article then discussed the incidence of rape and crime in South Africa and noted the judge had reduced the life sentence of one convicted rapist to a term of 18 years and of having reduced the term of imprisonment of an attempted rapist from five to two years. The judge had also “suggested that sex between a husband and his wife could not be considered rape, AP reports.” ‘Suggested’ mind you, not ‘said’.

The judge was given a chance to defend himself and the Christian motif was resurrected.

During his nomination hearing last week, Judge Mogoeng denied he was insensitive to rape.

He said he had also increased the sentences of rapists – in some cases to life imprisonment.

Judge Mogoeng – who is an ordained pastor with the Winners Chapel International, which condemns homosexuality – said he would uphold South Africa’s constitution, which respects gay rights.

“When a position comes like this one, I wouldn’t take it unless I had prayed and satisfied myself that God wants me to take it,” Judge Mogoeng said during his nomination hearing.

Why is this biased or blinkered reporting? Let’s begin with the ‘controversial’ descriptor. Belief that homosexual behavior is sinful is controversial (and wrong-headed) for the BBC, but no source is cited in this article to say South Africans believe the judge’s views on homosexuality are controversial. The Beeb offers examples of the criticisms of those who see the judge as being soft on rape, but are content to illustrate his controversial views on homosexuality by saying the Mogoeng is a pastor in a Protestant denomination that holds to traditional moral teachings.

The “God wanted him to be chief justice” comment, left hanging out there on its own without explanation, insinuates the judge is some sort of nutter that takes his cues from ‘sky pixies’ over head. The qualifier, the judge prayed about this appointment and was satisfied that “God wants me to take it”, is left until the end. And in Christian circles is not only non-controversial, but what you should do in these circumstances.

The BBC also advances the notion that belief that homosexual behavior is sinful entails the belief that gays and lesbians should not be accorded civil rights.  This, of course, is nonsense. The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church .. for that matter just about all churches short of the Fred Phelps crew supports the basic human rights of gay and lesbian people and rejects as sinful any acts of prejudice and discrimination against them.

The story is also incomplete and focuses on areas of concern to the BBC, rather than to the participants in the story. Yes, questions of gender bias were raised by opponents of the nomination. However, the principle opposition to the ruling African National Congress objected to the judge’s appointment because he was an unqualified party hack.   The judicial fraternity, e.g., “top lawyers”, believed Judge Mogoeng was not up to the job.  Bloomberg News reported:

Mogoeng “is not the best person for the job in the eyes of a lot of the legal community,” Cathy Albertyn, a law professor at the University of Witwatersrand, said today in a telephone interview from Johannesburg. “He wasn’t able to express any kind of constitutional vision. It’s a pity that we have set the constitutional test at a level that doesn’t allow us to insist on the best candidate.”

An op-ed piece in the Times (South Africa) argued Judge Meogong was a mediocrity. The G. Harold Carswell of the South African bench.

Mogoeng had made about 10 reported judgments before joining the Constitutional Court. Given that he had been a judicial officer for more than 10 years, this is an important intellectual indictment. It points to either a lack of industriousness or judicial work of a standard not deemed sufficiently noteworthy for editors of law reports to record for posterity. By contrast, more respected jurists, such as some of his Constitutional Court colleagues, have literally hundreds of reported judgments.

Whether the bias and incomplete reporting is unintentional or merely sloppy is unclear.  However, such a stance is not new. Writing in the Sunday Times in 2007, Antony Jay, the author of ‘Yes, Minister’ stated that from 1955 to 1964 he was:

part of this media liberal consensus. For six of those nine years I was working on Tonight, a nightly BBC current affairs television programme. My stint coincided almost exactly with Harold Macmillan’s premiership and I do not think that my former colleagues would quibble if I said we were not exactly diehard supporters.

But we were not just anti-Macmillan; we were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place – you name it, we were anti it.

Caveat lector .. reader beware.

Print Friendly

About geoconger
  • http://abitmoredetail.wordpress.com Randy McDonald

    Not strictly true, what you said about the Catholic Church supporting full civil rights for gays.

    The Religious Tolerance site has an overview (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_rom.htm) of the wider surround, but the 1992 document “Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons” argues against the “legislative protection of homosexuality” on the grounds that such would affirm it (13), argues that discrimination isn’t an issue for the chaste closeted majority of homosexuals who see no need to be public and implies secret machinations to others (14), is critical of any recognition of gay families (15), and explicitly lists some example areas where anti-gay discrimination is justified (“for example, in the consignment of children to adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or coaches, and in military recruitment”).

    The above document enunciating Church policy, written by no less a man than the current Pope, does not support all the basic human rights of gay and lesbian people (rejecting rights to specific sorts of employment, protection against discrimination, and family) and actually promotes as necessary acts of prejudice and discrimination against them. Right?

  • geoconger

    Randy I acknowledge your argument about the RC church not supporting full civil rights for gays and lesbians. However, that was not what I said in the story. What I said was the RC church supports “human rights” for gays and lesbians.

    I would argue there is a distinction between the two.

    In an otherwise harsh critique of the RC Church’s stance, HRC concedes the “church allows gay and lesbian Catholics full participation in the church, provided they are celibate. Moreover, it supports the basic human rights of gay and lesbian people and rejects as sinful any acts of prejudice and discrimination against them.”

    http://www.hrc.org/issues/5030.htm

  • http://abitmoredetail.wordpress.com Randy McDonald

    The Catholic Church, as expressed in that 1992 document, doesn’t think that gays and lesbians have a right to employment in certain sectors of the economy, does think that discrimination protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination is wrong since it would legitimate homosexuality and thinks that chaste and closeted homosexuals don’t need such protection anyway, and is very strongly opposed to any official recognition or protection of gay and lesbian families. Looking over at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/), these principles would seem to violate numerous internationally-recognized human rights, including the right to security of person (art. 3), the right to remedies against discrimination (8), protection against arbitrary interference (12), and (arguably) the right to form a family (16). Were these proposed policies applied towards any other group, I can only imagine the outrage.

    How are you distinguishing these as _not_ being human rights issues?

    And yes, the Catholic Church does allow celibate gays and lesbians to take part, that is, unless we`re talking aboout gay seminarians (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_rcc2.htm). (Note that the Church doesn’t support anti-discrimination legislation for even these faithful, mind, since they shouldn’t need it.)

  • http://abitmoredetail.wordpress.com Randy McDonald

    Doh! Typo. The first sentence should read

    “he Catholic Church, as expressed in that 1992 document, doesn’t think that gays and lesbians have a right to employment in certain sectors of the economy, does think that _legislation_ protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination is wrong since it would legitimate homosexuality and thinks that chaste and closeted homosexuals don’t need such protection anyway, and is very strongly opposed to any official recognition or protection of gay and lesbian families”

  • R9

    Re: that internal BBC review. If worthy insiders like Andrew Marr are acknowledging bias, that’s worth paying attention to. But I’d like to see more of what the report said in its own words, rather than the Mail’s summary (left wing, anti-christian) etc. Remember the Mail is a right wing, emotive psuedo-tabloid, and will take any chance to jab at the beeb,

  • Dave G.

    I would think this:

    However, such a stance is not new.

    Might help to clarify this:

    Whether the bias and incomplete reporting is unintentional or merely sloppy is unclear.

  • orthodude

    The Bloomberg article choses as critic a certain Cathy Albertyn. Why? From a description of her: “She has published in Equality, Gender and Law, and Women and Democracy. She is particularly interested in the possibilities of judges giving ‘transformative’ judgments that address the fundamental inequalities of gender.” In other words, Ms Albertyn wants activist judges that will put forward liberal legislation via judicial fiat. Fairly typical of the lame stream media. Conservatives get labelled with all sorts of qualifiers and liberals are presented in a completely neutral fashion. This is hardly surprising, however.

    It amusing that Randy McDonald tries to invoke a document written in 1948 to support his views. The document, the U.N. Declaration of Universal Human Rights, certainly didn’t carry the implications that he tries to assert when it was originally presented and signed, but now somehow it does?

  • http://abitmoredetail.wordpress.com Randy McDonald

    That’s why I said “arguably” in relation to article 16, and you will note that the list of potential ground for discrimination was not limited. The UDHR is a living document.

    My argument was simple. Freedom from discrimination, and the ability to seek amends when discrimination appears, are central elements of modern human rights. If an agency favours discriminating against people on the grounds of any characteristic, it’s supporting human right violations. The Roman Catholic Church, by rejecting protecting the human right of non-heterosexuals on the grounds that they deserve to have their freedoms infringed, thus does not support–contrary the argument of the original author–the equal rights of gay and lesbians.

  • Paul of Alexandria

    The BBC is, for better or for worse blatently pro-homosexual and anti-Christian, although whether it is actively promoting these views or simply reflecting British society is another interesting question. “Dr Who” is a famous Science Fiction show that began in the 1960′s, ran through the 90′s, went on a hiatus and was “reincarnated” in 2005 (I think). In the original show, the BBC was pretty careful to avoid sexual and religious themes altogether, although The Doctor ran into some pretty interesting foes. In the new show, however, the writers have made several references that make their religious opinions (anti-Christian, if not anti-religion entirely) quite plain. In addition, while “Dr Who” sidesteps sexuality for the most part, due to its time-slot and younger audience, its spinoff “Torchwood” features a blatantly homosexual lead character.

  • Peter

    Randy, I think that your argument needs a minor revision. “If an agency favours discriminating against people on the grounds of any characteristic, it’s supporting human right violations.” That statement is untrue as written; there should be a distinction between just discrimination and unjust discrimination. Governments, organizations, and agencies do justly favor discrimination against people based on certain characteristics. A non-American citizen cannot be elected President; someone with a history of child molestation can be denied a position at a daycare; the NAACP is justified in not hiring a white supremacist.

    “If an agency favours unjustly discriminating against people on the grounds of any characteristic, it’s supporting human right violations.”

    I’d agree with that, and assuming that you do as well, we can discuss whether what the Catholic Church advocates is just or unjust discrimination.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X