Tuesday 14 March 2023

Five Lineker Takeaways

And so the BBC caved, offering Gary Linker his Match of the Day gig back and has promised to review its guidelines on impartiality. It also acknowledged they haven't always been consistently applied in the past. Are there any takeways from this affair?

1. The BBC is sensitive to criticisms that point out the cosy relationship between senior management, the chair, and the Tory party itself. The round robin letter written by rent-a-gob Tory MPs and Lords only drew more attention to the connections, and backfired. As such the hypocrisy, nay generosity afforded right wing celebrities and political commentators versus the BBC's overreaction to criticism of the government was thrown into sharp relief.

2. It is a defeat for the Tories. And they know it, hence why we have dim bulbs like the honourable member for the Vale of Glamorgan complaining that the BBC let itself get "pushed around by a privileged and overpaid elite". Alan Cairns presumably had no problem with the pressure his handsomely remunerated colleagues crudely brought to bear. It reminds them that the country is moving away from them, and their time at the top is coming to a close. They're also unused to such a concerted outburst of opposition from the liberal/centrist establishment, and are concerned that their victory in this culture war skirmish has put them on the backfoot.

3. They needn't be worried. Lineker's criticism of the Tories' Illegal Migration Bill has segued the focus away from refugees to a free speech/BBC impartiality issue. Even when Labour eventually followed public opinion, it was to talk about the hash the BBC made of the issue. Keir Starmer criticised the BBC's Chair, calling Richard Sharp's position "increasingly untenable" but accidentally on purpose forgot what got Lineker into hot water in the first place. This "win" for the "liberal left" has not challenged how refugees are framed in the British media, nor are Labour interested in challenging it. They want refugees to remain a "problem" for their own reasons.

4. While it was right for the left to stand with Lineker despite the less than obliging comments he made about Jeremy Corbyn in the past, we have to think about our own impact on the course of events. It was primarily left wingers, unbidden and uncoordinated, that kicked up a fuss on social media and helped frame subsequent media coverage of the sacking. Remember, while Twitter is not the British public is it the place where media elites, politics watchers, and politicians ike to congregate. What happens on Twitter, therefore, does not stay on Twitter. If an issue excites and persists, it will get reflected in broadcast and press output. Obviously, more is owed to the adverse coverage and the complete collapse of BBC football programming, but the left deserves its due.

5. There would never be any reciprocation though. For the left to force such a climbdown by itself, it has to command greater social weight. Perhaps we're not that far off.

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JN said...

The fundamental issue of "do refugees/immigrants have basic human rights?" has been somewhat occluded by the question of "does Gary Lineker have the right to freely express his opinion on said issue?". The answer to either question is "yes, fucking obviously!"

What this silliness has spelled out (in case anyone wasn't already aware) is the disingenuousness and vacuity of both the mainstream-right and far-right on freedom of speech. Very clearly, what they mean is absolute freedom of speech for themselves, and no freedom of speech for their political and ideological opponents (which is exactly the kind of "freedom of speech" that every dictator in history has wanted).

Dipper said...

@ JN

'do refugees/immigrants have basic human rights?' - this is a completer misrepresentation of the situation and you know it. Denying people the right to live in whichever country they want is not a denial of basic human rights.

Gary Lineker is perfectly free to express his opinions but I am not free to not pay for him. If I were free to pay for him, I wouldn't mind him saying whatever rubbish came into his head.