On Bonfire Night 2008, the Battel Bonfire Boyes torched an effigy of Sarah Palin, only one of many political effigies set on fire every year at the site of the Battle of Hastings in East Sussex. Previous targets have included British politicians from both main parties.
Yet, when the Conservative and Unionist Society at the University of St Andrews burned an effigy of Barack Obama in November 2011, all hell broke loose.
On November 23, the Telegraph reported (emphases mine):
John Park, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, whose constituency includes the university said: “This is gravely offensive and way beyond a student prank.”
He urged David Cameron and the Conservative Party to take action against the activists responsible.
“Burning an effigy of anyone is offensive, let alone the first black President of the United States. The overtones are deeply unpleasant.”
James Mills, a former chairman of the university’s Labour society, said it was “disgraceful“.
He said: “I can’t imagine any other student activists of a major political party would behave in this manner.
“It’s disgusting and I hope the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister completely come out and condemn this obscene act.”
The BBC latched onto it, noting:
The same society has burned effigies of Gordon Brown and former South African president Nelson Mandela in the past, along with one of Mr Mills.
Yet, note the subhead which immediately follows:
‘Act of hate’
It seems that the BBC’s broadcast reporting went into overdrive to such an extent that a student member of the University of St. Andrews Conservative & Unionist Society contacted Biased BBC anonymously to say:
Now, every year, the Conservative Society here holds a tongue-in-cheek “heretic burning”. This usually involves someone from the left-wing, that we think has contributed most to irritating us. It’s usually on 5th November, because it’s essentially updating the Guy Fawkes tradition. It has been run, without ‘scandal’ or obsessive media coverage for the past sixty years …
If you’d listened to the BBC coverage, however, you’d have thought we had performed a modern-day lynching. There were lies galore – such as the notion that we’d wrapped him in an EU Flag [that appeared on the BBC for at least 36 hours] (this was to be done separately; however our president forgot to bring the EU flag in question). Another lie was parroted from our Student President, Patrick O’Hare, that we could’ve chosen Gaddafi. He wasn’t nominated at any stage, and thus wasn’t considered or burnt. The candidates were – as far as I remember – Obama, Balls, Cooper, Cable and Clegg (and maybe one or two more).
It’s worth noting that the BBC did not complain that a female candidate for Vice President was burnt, though. Wrong politics — both party and sexual.
As to the Labourite above who said that he couldn’t imagine other student activists doing the same, I doubt that, but I’ll accept it at face value. However, let’s not forget the ‘small group’ of protestors a few days ago in Birmingham who:
carried a mocked up guillotine with images of Nick Clegg and David Cameron, with a slogan saying “heads will roll”.
Did the BBC criticise that? Doubtful. Again, wrong politics.
Back to the St Andrew’s student, who said:
The reasons we chose Obama were numerous. We’ve disliked his disrespect towards Winston Churchill, and his silence over the inalienable right of British Sovereignty to the Falkland Islands. We also dislike his socialist domestic policies (i.e. pork-barrel spending funded by equally ruinous quantitative easing), which are threatening the UK’s Economic Recovery.
Moreover, we have many republican members from the USA. Being an open and tolerant society, we accept people with a wide-range of views. They voted for Obama for obvious reasons. This was done at an EGM (and not at a committee vote, as the BBC also initially reported, before deleting it).
If you’d listened to the BBC, however, the word “racist” appeared countless times. The accusation was – without the BBC saying it publicly – that we were somehow racist for burning an effigy of the US’ first mixed-race president. Apparently, Obama isn’t a politician in his own right, to be judged like anyone else would be – Obama must be disliked only because people are racist and stupid and right-wing.
Look, I’m not saying that what we did was big or clever, and if we’d have known that it would have caused such offence – we wouldn’t have even contemplated it. However, the way that it’s been reported by the Liberal media, led by the BBC, is completely inaccurate and wrong.”
And, yes, it is wrong to not provide balanced reporting. A short article on the Sarah Palin effigy was fine. And a brief story on the Obama effigy would have also sufficed.
It’s a shame that taxpayers cannot rely on objective reporting from the BBC. After all, we fund it.
I, for one, shall continue to keep BBC News switched off.