TCS Daily


New Class Crackup

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds - April 9, 2003 12:00 AM

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that a lot of people seemed to be pretty unhappy with the BBC's coverage of the war, and I linked the BBC's attitudes - odd, I thought, for the national network of a nation at war - to the shared prejudices of the "New Class" of state-supported bureaucrats and their ilk.

Since then, things have only gotten worse for the Beeb. Andrew Sullivan has kept up the pressure. The BBC has even been forced to respond, taking the absurd position that:


The BBC is not state-funded. We are publicly funded through a license fee paid by every household in the United Kingdom. The British public, not the government of the day, owns the BBC, and it is to the British public we are accountable.


Get that? They're not state-funded, they're just paid for by a mandatory tax that the government collects, and about which the taxpayers have no choice. Now if the British television viewers got to choose whether their "license fee" went to the BBC, or to some competing service, things might be different - and so might the BBC. But that's not how it works, and quite a few people - by no means all of them on the right - are unhappy with the BBC's slant. Television professional Jeff Jarvis, a former TV Guide critic and founder of Entertainment Weekly, was deeply upset by the BBC's shoddy and dishonest treatment of religious issues in the Bush White House, notwithstanding that Jarvis is neither particularly religious, nor particularly a Bush fan. As Jarvis writes:

Mind you, I'm far away from Bush on any Religionometer; I disagree with and even fear his efforts to bring "faith-based" initiatives into that government that I believe must stay completely clear of religion; I fear, too, the religious foundation to his agenda. That said, I have to say that Bush has not been thumping his Bible with alarming frequency. But the BBC paints him like the Zealot in Chief.


What's funny is that the BBC would never sneer at the religious views of, you know, the actual religious zealots who see Western civilization as their enemy. Then again, sometimes the BBC seems to see it that way, too. But more and more people are pointing that out. As Brendan Bernhard writes in the lefty L.A. Weekly:

For some people, the only appropriate response to the pathological hatred emanating from the Middle East is self-flagellation. On BBC America, the anchors almost visibly salivate when word of an errant marketplace bombing flashes across the wires. (Finally! Proof that we're evil! That we're just as bad as they are!) . . . It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for America to accomplish any good, is the general idea.


The good news is that the BBC is starting to get sensitive to this kind of criticism, as the letter quoted above indicates. Sure, their response is sputtering absurdity - but merely recognizing that they have to respond at all is a crucial first step toward doing something. As I suggested in my last piece, the New Class, used to a bubble of friendly opinions, is exquisitely thin-skinned. Now that people are paying attention, and have mechanisms for expressing their opinions that don't depend on the cooperation of those being criticized, things are likely to change. And the criticism isn't always polite, or deferential, or even satisfyingly hostile, as this bit by Josh Chafetz illustrates:

IN AN INSIPID LITTLE PIECE, the BBC wonders whether Blair is a neocon. What is it about the British media that makes them thoroughly impervious to the wiles of fact-checking? A piece that mocks President Bush's "verbal infelicities" ought not to contain a reference to "Paul Wolfivitz."


Ouch. We saw another example of this phenomenon recently when Columbia professor Nicholas De Genova remarked that: "The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military," and went on to observe that "I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus."

The issue rapidly spread across the blogosphere. Columbia President Lee Bollinger was bombarded with hostile emails, the issue became a cause celebre on talk radio, and - wonder of wonders - the New York Times even ran a sympathetic profile of one of De Genova's students, a 19-year-old coed who wants to join the Marines. And various bloggers found out more about De Genova and the "teach-in" at which he was speaking. But that wasn't the painful part.

The painful part came when blogger Tom Perry mercilessly mocked De Genova's math, pointing out that "a million Mogadishus" would mean the deaths of, at a minimum, 750 million Muslims and noted:

18 American soldiers died, and 73 were injured in the Battle of Mogadishu. Thus, De Genova would like to see 18 million American soldiers killed, and 73 million injured. That would account for everyone in the armed forces and most of the American militia, of which De Genova is a member.

Where do you want your bullet, doc?

Moving on, we find that De Genova would like to see approximately 750 million little brown foreigners mowed down by American machine guns. This is a conservative estimate, but it should be sufficient to take care of any problems we have with people in the Middle East. See, the great thing about American military defeats is, we always win! Can do, chief! Back in reality, we ask what De Genova was thinking. The answer: he wasn't. Thinking is, like, passé, and so is meaning what you
say.


Ouch. Being reviled for saying something nasty and well-nigh treasonous is one thing - De Genova might regard that as a mark of honor. But being made fun of by people who don't even take your nasty and well-nigh treasonous ideas seriously, well, that's just too much to bear. The ultimate blow to the New Class is that people just don't take it, or its ideas, seriously anymore. And that's not likely to change - at least, not until it, or its ideas, do.
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