Public trust in the media has collapsed in recent times, just as trust in politics has imploded. People have “had enough of experts”, as Michael Gove phrased it last year, but many seem also to have had enough of anything and everything which gives off even the faintest whiff of ‘the establishment’, a euphemism for those in authority.
This is not entirely unhealthy. There is something to be said for treating centrist, common sense ‘expertise’ with caution. It is all too easy to forget who exactly the ‘experts’ of the past few decades have been: the deregulators and privatisers. Those who bloviated about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The politicians who promised a ‘bonfire of red tape’ and gave us a burning tower block.
But there comes a point where scepticism slides over into mass conspiracism. The increasingly out of control vitriol directed at the BBC falls comfortably under this heading.
It would be unfair to accuse one political faction of succumbing to this bourgeoning anti-media persecution complex. A growing unwillingness to tolerate dissent and any opinion that differs from one’s own means a BBC journalist is as likely to be booed at a Labour Party rally as at a UKIP gathering. Paradoxically, the malady is especially rife among those who are rarely off the corporation’s screens. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is a talking head guest on the BBC most weeks of the year – a strange sort of anti-UKIP bias on the corporation’s part considering the party has no MPs. Yet Farage will jump on the anti-BBC bandwagon whenever an audience is savvy enough to see through his demagogic rabble rousing. Just last month Farage was calling for BBC staff to be sacked over an audience which he said included too many “paid-up Corbynistas”.
From the other side of the political fence, petitions have been set up calling for the sacking of BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, accused with horrible regularity of reporting the ‘wrong’ version of events.
But most depressing of all perhaps are the attempts to discredit the BBC for its apparently imperfect response to acts of political violence. There has long been a campaign by dogmatic supporters of Israel which parrots a crackpot theory that the corporation’s coverage of the Middle East proves that it simply doesn’t like Jews. The terminally paranoid – and those apparently with nothing better to do – pore with microscopic precision through the wording of every BBC report and every piece of analysis in search of the ‘smoking gun’ – the misplaced adverb or the leading adjective which provides cast-iron proof of the corporation’s ‘real agenda’.