Childhood ways

February 16, 2021 09:03
Photo: Reuters

I was rather hoping that with the political demise of Donald Trump the world would abandon its childish ways but it seems not.

Though we no longer have to put up with all that infantile twittering, it seems that the spokespeople for countries now resort to petty name calling and tit-for-tatting as the default method of communication.

Have they no notion of how tiresome they are?

I dub it communication illiteracy.

Have none of these people learned that ignorance is best concealed by saying nothing?

Part, if not most of the problem is to be found in the ease with which idiots can propogate their half-baked notions via the internet. Quite apart from abuse and toxic messages of hate, monitoring the excrement that is spewed out every nanosecond poses a monumental problem for any reputable medium.

Anyone with a half decent critical faculty is constantly searching for the truth and for millions of people worldwide the BBC has long been regarded as nigh on the gold standard for accurate reporting.

Not that it has not fallen from grace on occasion, but probably second to none it has carried out its mission “to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them.”

The key word here is “impartial” but we must also recognise that nothing done by human beings is perfect and perceptions vary depending upon the individual’s outlook.

Nevertheless, the BBC’s news service is constantly being measured against the criterion of impartiality and its popularity across the world is a measure of the extent to which it has succeeded.

As the British Broadcasting Corporation, inevitably it reflects a particular national ethos but its governors and editors are acutely conscious of the fact that its inherent value lies in the impartiality that commends itself to so many listeners.

One simple example illustrates this approach. The Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom is given air time to voice his criticism of Britain. No such media platform is afforded to the British Ambassador to China.

Our world has far too many despots and autocracies pursuing their selfish agendas whilst seeking to put a benign face on their cruelties.

The Fourth Estate’s objective in seeking out the truth makes it an uncomfortable bedfellow for those who wish to conceal their malfeasance, which is why journalists are routinely arrested, imprisoned and murdered, think of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jamal Kashoggi, to name but two.

This denigration of the media reached its apotheosis under the Trump presidency and an unquestioning public all too readily succumbed to a powerful demagogue’s baseless castigation.

When the truth hurts, best ignore or deny it as “fake news”.

Around the world, toxic autocracies shut down the free press and impose their own propaganda machines.

Genuine news is the life-blood of liberal society. Despots impose fatal hypoxia by silencing the media.

The British broadcasting regulator banned the Chinese Global Television Network on the basis that it is an organ of the Chinese Communist Party. As CGTN has always been an organ of the CCP and everyone knew that, banning it struck me as peculiarly silly.

During WWII, many people in Britain tuned in to listen to and laugh at “Lord Haw Haw” William Joyce, who broadcast Hitler’s Nazi s propaganda.

Today’s propaganda is a great deal more subtle but no less derisory. As any good lawyer knows, you must first learn what your opponent is saying before you can counter it.

Like a piece of damaged fabric, hold it up to the light and its flaws become apparent.

It is the essence of a liberal society that it listens to views that oppose it, this is what we mean by free speech. It is not something to turn on and off at someone’s whim.

Recently, there has been a surfeit of blind refusal to hear the other side’s arguments, all too often in universities, the very places of learning where opposing views should be freely aired.

By this I do not mean inciting people to hatred or violence, which is plainly criminal but expressing different opinions, even when they are extreme.

Opinions and philosophies that are inherently flawed must be aired so that their weaknesses are exposed.

China’s central government has banned the BBC alleging that its broadcasts “damaged Chinese ethnic unity”. Doubtless this is a reference to broadcasting claims of grave discriminatory practices against the Uighur people.

Academics would probably argue that ethnicity is anthropological and as such cannot be affected by any broadcast, but undoubtedly China is sensitive to such criticism and believes that its population should not be exposed to such opinions. That is its absolute right.

That RTHK’s governing body should follow the mainland’s example and ban the BBC is a bit like the little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dyke insofar as it would prevent the people of Hong Kong from listening to the BBC.

But RTHK is government funded and Legco is no longer a guardian of everyone’s interests now that all the opposition members have resigned.

It takes a special kind of courage to stand up for something you believe in when the forces of authority are arrayed against you.

Hong Kong people are learning, the hard way, that its rulers will not countenance a difference of opinion, which is the meaning of dissent because dissent is contrary to the National Security Law.

The central government is extremely effective because absolute power controls absolutely.

-- Contact us at [email protected]

Queen's Counsel