Sometimes working out what’s going in Britain by listening to the BBC can be almost as confusing as working out what’s going in Iran by relying on the official Islamic Republic News Agency. This morning’s Today programme report on the 115 “Romanians” driven out of their homes in Belfast by racist threats was a perfect case in point.
If you listened to the report carefully, you would have realised that the victims weren’t simply Romanians. They were in fact Roma. But not for one second did anyone from the BBC acknowledge this, nor is it mentioned on the BBC website. It only slipped out by accident when a local race-relations worker interviewed on the programme happened to mention the victims’ ethno-cultural identity.
Should we be bothered by the BBC’s gag-inducingly PC circumlocution? You bet we should. The BBC – more’s the pity – remains arguably the most trusted disseminator of news in Britain. Yet here, it chose to treat its audience like children: children who simply could not be trusted to be told the full truth unless they came to the “wrong” conclusions.
Now you may feel, as I do, that it is no more excusable to persecute someone because they belong to a gipsy group than it is to persecute them for their nationality. (Or indeed, their sexual orientation, or their educational background or social class). But it is up to us, as grown-ups, to make up our own minds on our moral position on these issues, not for the BBC to do it for us by withholding key facts.
It is precisely this kind of mealy-mouthed disingenuousness on the subject of race and identity which drives a put-upon electorate mad with frustration and despair. So long as the BBC – our three main political parties too – go on disseminating this Orwellian version of reality, the far Right will continue to grow.