Defund the BBC

I don’t know how late this is, but the subject matter is still very much current, and I have to address on some level or another. Simply put, there is no reason the BBC should be allowed to demand that we pay for it by law in order to own a television. The excuse given to its vaunted status as the central institution of public broadcasting and journalism in the UK is its supposed independence and objectivity, a standard that, theoretically, sets it above all other similar private companies. There are, of course, many reasons to laugh at this claim, but we’ll focus on a recent matter that shows the BBC’s true colours and is still an ongoing scandal.

On October 26th, the BBC published an article titled “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women”, in which the author Caroline Lowbridge advanced numerous assertions about trans people supposedly peer-pressuring or coercing lesbians into having sex with them. Because there is no actual data to point to in order to empirically support such claims, the author largely cited a number of lesbians who all happened to come from explicitly anti-trans organizations, such as Get the L Out and the LGB Alliance, and represents the “trans side” of the debate through random tweets and a decontextualized video from a “social justice warrior”, almost without ever consulting the trans community or the LGBT community as a whole. This article is so notorious for its irresponisble assertions about trans people that it sparked a major backlash, prompted numerous complaints which led to some editions, some of the BBC’s own staff debated and protested the article before it was even published (evidently the TERF wing of the BBC won out), and now the article even has its own Wikipedia page.

The worst aspect of this comes from one of the article’s sources, Lily Cade, a lesbian former porn actress, who in the article discussed what she called the “cotton ceiling”, a belief attributed to trans people in which “breaking the cotton ceiling” was supposed to mean having sex with a cis woman. No trans person has ever even heard of the term or seen it used in that context before this article was published. Not long after the article was published, people discovered that Lily Cade was herself a serial rapist who abused several other women, and confessed to it, which meant that this was a proven and admitted rapist who then went on to accuse trans people of being rapists, with the approval of the BBC. And after that, Lily Cade took to her blog to release three angry tirades against trans people, all of them involving insane conspiracy theories about the supposed replacement of cis women by trans women and featuring explicit calls for the murder of trans people. They read like a series of school shooter manifestos or, in terms of language and subtext, classical white supremacist hate propaganda. It was only after this that the BBC, after initially doubling down on their article, eventually removed the Lily Cade section from their article, by which point everyone else also figured out that she was a pedophile as well as a rapist. But that still means that every other bigoted, unsubstantiated assertion about trans people was left to run unchecked.

As a matter of fact this article is not an isolated incident from the BBC. At one point they also had a Newsnight show about trans people which featured the likes of Graham Linehan, former IT crowd writer and presently psychotic TERF pundit, who compared trans people to Nazis. Much of the BBC’s coverage of trans people and their issues has actually been remarkably antagonistic to the trans community. Their exclusion of trans voices from any discussion that actually affects them is both systemic and deliberate, as is evidenced by not only the fact that the author of the infamous article chose not to include the testimony of a trans porn actress pointing to Lily Cade’s history of rape, but also by the fact that there are several BBC staff who are themselves transphobes. Some staff have reported that senior management within the BBC have lent an ear to figures with anti-trans ideological beliefs and themselves are taken in by anti-trans conspiracy theories.

The BBC is often talked about by the right as some bastion of progressive ideology, of so-called “political correctness” (a phenomenon that, I maintain, no one has adequately understood from the 1990s onward), but in reality the BBC is quite a profoundly reactionary institution. The regularity with which they churn out anti-trans propaganda is alone evidence enough of this. But we should also note that the BBC has exhibited other reactionary biases, such as its apparent bias against the Labour Party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The idea of the BBC as an “objective” institution in the face of power is also directly undermined by its historic tendency to at least cave to pressure from the state, such as during the build up to the Iraq War. In fact, we get a good view as to the true, reactionary historical purpose of the BBC from the organization’s founding father, John Reith. Tom Mills’ book The BBC: Myth of a Public Service summarizes his convictions in the context of his response to the general strike that took place in 1926:

Recalling these events three decades later, Reith wrote that ‘if there had been broadcasting at the time of the French Revolution, there would have been no French Revolution’. Revolutions, he reasoned, are based on falsehoods and misinformation, and during the General Strike, the role of the British Broadcasting Company had been to ‘announce truth’. It was, he thought, quite proper that it had been ‘on the side of the government’ and had supported ‘law and order’.

From this perspective, it makes perfect sense that the BBC, beneath the modern perception of “liberalism” and objectivity, is a deeply reactionary, establishmentarian institution that is hostile to non-normative tendencies and threats to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. You may also notice the attribution of social and political upheaval to “misinformation”. In a modern context, we might see this same belief motivating our discourse regarding social media, with basically any riot or upheaval that doesn’t get the sympathy of the media being deemed a product of “fake news”.

The BBC doesn’t deserve any of your money. If you get a TV, try to avoid getting the BBC on it, just to avoid getting a license. If you can’t, find a way to replace your TV with a computer. The BBC only exists to further the cause of the oppression of trans people and the working class. Frankly, it should not be a public corporation, supported by your tax dollars. Even if that means it becomes a private corporation, I guarantee you that even if that means the BBC’s editorial line becomes more reactionary than before, it would also just be an expansion of the already reactionary line it often had since its foundation. While I dislike privatization in general, and strive for a system where private property (meaning property held by capitalists to extract surplus value, not personal property) is but a memory and there are no more corporations, I also wouldn’t complain if the BBC, while it exists under capitalism, became a private company instead of a public one, because then you are longer no legally obligated to financially support them if you want a TV. Seriously, fuck the BBC.

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