Impartial: n. not partial or biased, treating or affecting all equally.
That’s the dictionary definition of the word “Impartiality”. Up until very recently, it was not a complicated or controversial concept in any way. But these days meanings are rather more fluid than they used to be. Free speech doesn’t necessarily involve being able to speak freely. Democracy doesn’t necessarily involve voting.
And “impartial journalism” doesn’t necessarily involve being impartial.
At least, according to ITV’s political editor Robert Peston. Speaking at the Cheltenham literature festival, he’s quoted in the Guardian as saying:
Impartial journalism is not giving equal airtime to two people one of whom says the world is flat and the other one says the world is round. That is not balanced, impartial journalism.”
You see, under the OLD definition of “impartial journalism”, a representative from each side of a political issue would be given equal air-time to make their case and present their evidence to the public. The people watching at home, being informed, would then make their own decision as to who was more likely correct.
But that’s not TRUE impartiality anymore, according to Robert.
[impartial journalism is about] weighing the evidence and saying on the balance of probabilities…this is the truth. It is the role of a journalist to say, ‘we’ve got these two contradictory arguments, I’m now going to advise all of you which is likely to be closer to the truth.’”
Under Robert’s new and improved version of “impartial journalism”, one side would get more air time because they are probably right. The other side, the wrong side, would get some time to make their case, but afterwards a friendly (and “impartial”) servant of the state would tell all their viewers to ignore it. That it had been declared officially wrong by the powers that be, and all good citizens should disregard it entirely.
This is, of course, nonsense.
Journalists aren’t interpreters, nannies, teachers or parents. They’re not priests or scientists or experts. They are not there to make our decisions for us, wipe our noses or check under our bed for monsters. It’s not their job make sure we don’t get frightened or to keep us from getting confused or to save our souls.
Television news has a simple task: Provide an unbiased, open and honest platform to supply the public with information.
Robert’s words attack this very idea, instead turning the news into a means to enforce state-sanctioned consensus through emotional blackmail and manipulative corporate virtue-signalling.
This follows a disturbing trend, a direct flow from no-platforming on campuses, to calls to shut down RT or banning Alex Jones from social media. It can all be read as one thing: a direct, media-driven push toward state-backed censorship under the guise of protecting the public. Enforcing a one-sided consensus under the false-flag of a sacred duty to “truth” or a hallucinatory public virtue.
Whatever mask it wears – whatever veneer is layered on its surface – the solid body of the issue is still the same: censorship.
Media corporations, both public and private, deciding amongst themselves what viewpoints are fit to air, and which opinions should be frozen out.
Ask yourself: Who gets to decide whether or not an opinion is fit for public consumption? To whom are they accountable? On what grounds is that decision made? What other issues would fall victim to this new meaning of “impartial coverage”?
It was widely reported that Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite. Would the people defending him from those charges be rejected, declared “officially wrong”, and filed away alongside flat Earthers?
How about people who believe the West is enabling fascists in Ukraine in order to undermine Russia?
Or people who thought Hillary Clinton was a dangerous warmonger?
Or people who claimed Saddam had no WMDs?
Or people who support Palestine?
Or people who voted for Brexit?
How many political issues would be safe from the BBC’s new mandate to be “impartial” by picking a side? How often in the past has the official state-backed position been shown to be nothing but a pack of lies?
The truth doesn’t require a shield. The truth isn’t fragile or vulnerable or soft. It doesn’t need guards to protect it, a filter to clarify it or a marketing campaign to promote it. The truth doesn’t need a bullhorn to blare it out or censorship to prop it up. The truth is a lion, not a lamb.
You know what happens when you split equal time between the flat-Earth and round-Earth arguments? The flat-Earther loses. Because an impartial viewing of the evidence proves them wrong.
Propaganda is fragile. A false consensus has fault lines. Lies can be torn down by the gentlest of winds. The truth always wins a fair fight.
That’s the real reason the mainstream media are so desperate to stack the odds.