Tuesday 25th October 2016                 Change text size:

Less really would be Moore

Photo: Brandon Grasley via flickr

Self-styled climate sceptic Charles Moore was bemoaning the BBC’s lack of impartiality last week. This is a man who has edited and now writes for the marginally less impartial Telegraph. Moore’s contemporary, but significantly less well-bred, Simon Leadbetter facepalms. Epically.

I worked for the Daily Telegraph at the same time as Charles Moore, when it was still a great newspaper. Admittedly, at the time, someone later convicted of various misdemeanours (cough) owned it. Nevertheless, the journalism and sports coverage were excellent. So too were the restaurant’s food and views. Boris Johnson was also a contemporary and was described by one colleague as “Thatcher’s disciple”.

My only, mercifully brief, dealing with Moore was in 1997 when I had been conned into accepting the management of a failing motoring club enterprise, under the Telegraph brand.

I had unthinkingly run a smallish advert for a Telegraph marquee at the British Grand Prix, which included the words ‘BBQ’ and ‘toilet’ – for reasons of space. Telegraph readers will have spotted my error.

Moore told me told me in no uncertain terms that Telegraph readers expected to see the words ‘barbecue’ (or spit roast, more probably) and ‘WC’. He was right about that and I mumbled an apology. When you are downstairs tradespeople, you do not want the upstairs editor to notice you.

My thought at the time was that Moore could probably not understand why on Earth he was talking to a northerner in the employ of the Telegraph. Were personnel simply letting anyone in these days? I had been rumbled.

But I digress.

Like many employees of our ‘independent’ national press, Moore likes to bemoan the ‘self-righteous’ partiality of the hated BBC. He was in full harrumph-mode last week, giving the BBC a good old kicking on behalf the ‘great majority’.

According to his puff in the paper, Charles Moore “covers politics with the wisdom and insight that comes from having edited the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator”. His media commentary? Maybe not so much.

On Friday, Moore wrote a piece about a recently completed internal investigation on impartiality at the BBC. ‘BBC’ and ‘impartiality’ are oxymoronic on planet Telegraph, so this was bound to be good.

In a nutshell, Moore’s message was: typical BBC inside job STOP liberal progressives taking over the world STOP no platform for illiberal conservatives STOP BBC very bad STOP climate not affected by human emissions STOP bad form, what, what STOP British Empire possibly doomed STOP.

The review was conducted by ex-BBC man (thus inside job) Stuart Prebble, with Moore noting that “he does gently reprove the impartiality section of the BBC’s College of Journalism website for including lots of clips from a former BBC environment correspondent ‘entirely devoted to sustaining the case that climate change is ‘settled science’.’. He [Prebble] says it ‘might have been helpful’ to have added ‘a line or two’ that climate change ‘dissenters (or even sceptics) should still occasionally be heard’.” 

The reason the BBC College of Journalism (not the College of Ill-informed Opinion, note) sustains the argument that the science on climate change is settled is because it is settled science. Just like the ‘theory’ of gravity and the connection between smoking and cancer are settled – through both overwhelming evidence and peer-reviewed consensus, well beyond reasonable doubt and the balance of probabilities. Hook, line and sinker.

Ninety-seven per cent of scientists accept the climate science and the human contribution to global warming, yet the BBC persists in giving equal platforms to the views of climate deniers such as the censured and abusive James Delingpole and Lord Lawson et al. They all regularly appear on major current affairs programmes such as Question Time and Newsnight. We get one such outing of Lawson on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions this Friday. Delingpole writes drivel for the Telegraph.

We would happily give our right arm to have deniers only ‘occasionally’ heard. But they are everywhere. Their incoherent narratives are all over the pages of the national press, ranting on the radio, tormenting the truth for TV audiences and irritating internet users, disseminating disinformation into the increasingly heated (literally) environment.

If the BBC was giving representative (impartial) weight to arguments and public opinion, it would only ever allocate 3% of its time to the unsubstantiated claims of non-scientists, such as Delingpole, Lawson and Monckton. George Osborne is chancellor, so he gets another card to play in the debate. But it certainly isn’t a climate science card. We’re not entirely sure it’s an economics one either. Well over 80% of every panel would be pro-renewable energy to represent the true ‘great majority’ in the country.

Moore’s article continues in a long ramble that attacks the “lip-pursing” of James Naughtie which Moore can “almost hear” – although we’re not quite sure how Moore ‘almost hears’ something. Almost hearing something is the same as not hearing something, surely? The excellent but apparently ‘omniscient’ Robert Peston, Stephanie Flanders and Nick Robertson aren’t immune from attack.

There comes the obligatory attack on gun control, mosques and unions. One can’t write an article in the Telegraph without attacking gun control, Muslims and the working class. Even the CBI isn’t left unscathed. This really is the end of days for Moore, who increasingly resembles the green pen letter-writers who send rants to newspapers.

Moore concludes, “The one entity, in short, in which the BBC feels permanently uninterested is the individual citizen. It is not surprising that the BBC takes him for granted, because it can. It takes his money by law, and without his consent, in the form of the licence fee. Until this ends, the BBC will, with the finest impartiality, refuse to tell his story.”

An ‘individual citizen’ who is apparently a man. It transpires from the use of the masculine that Moore still believes all taxpayers are men. This is somewhat indicative of his whole belief system. Wrong on pretty much everything and stuck in a self-reinforcing bubble of self-righteous, privileged, white, Oxbridge-educated, and therefore infallible, men who deny the fundamentals of science – having a curious and open mind, which considers all the evidence to form a testable hypothesis.

Moore and his colleagues in the national press cannot suffer a public service broadcaster to live.

They will constantly trumpet management failures and the declining trust in the BBC. That the mistrust has been fed by newspapers isn’t mentioned. That those same newspapers would benefit considerably from the BBC’s decline, curtailment or break up is also not worthy of passing comment. Our nation and national debate might be poorer without the BBC, but the billionaire press barons, who pay Moore and his like, would be richer and more powerful.

It’s odd how national press commentators can, in the same breath, heavily criticise the speedily resolved Jimmy Savile crisis and subsequent investigation at the BBC, yet dismiss out of hand the decades long practice of bribing public officials, hacking phones and management fraud and obfuscation at News International and others. They are self-righteous in defending the freedoms of the press, even when it means breaking the law. Moore never exposed the dealings of his master.

It would be funny if it weren’t tragic. A provisional wing of the right has hijacked a once authoritative and quality newspaper. What happened to Burkean Toryism or the statesmanlike leadership on climate science of Thatcher (a scientist)?

We can only assume that Moore’s reckless disregard to the damage him and his ilk are causing the planet by leading the deniers in their attack on one of the few remaining impartial elements of our media, comes from his belief in the rapture. As we’re all doomed or saved anyway, we may as well make a vast profit in the meantime, whatever the cost to planet and people – and, frankly, the BBC with its accurate science reporting is hurting the margins.

More enlightened believers and non-believers beg to differ.

Over the years, the BBC has annoyed people of the left and the right, liberal and authoritarian. This probably suggests it has the balance just about right. The excellent Naughtie, Peston, Flanders and Robinson need to carry on doing the same impartial reporting they have always been doing. For all of our sakes.

We salute them and the BBC, especially its science and environment reporting. Moore and the Telegraph: not so much.

Further reading:

Responsible journalism tells the truth about climate change

US and UK top climate scepticism poll

Rupert Murdoch’s half-baked tweet regarding greening world

Freedom of speech is not the same as a freedom to mislead

The Guide to Responsible Media 2012

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