Naga Munchetty and her battle over truth and neutrality
I saw Naga Munchetty in the news a few weeks back. Something about ‘breaching BBC reporting guidelines’. I’ll confess I gave it little attention. And by little, I mean none. But writing this article has enlightened me as to this situation and its repercussions. Like a great deal of other Brexiteers, I have lost a lot of confidence in the BBC’s ability to report the news through anything other than a kaleidoscopic lens. I believe that they have weighted panel discussions, talk shows and scheduling heavily in favour of a bandwagon of ‘second referendumers’, ‘revokers’ and ‘BRINOS’ who offer 2016’s arguments, but with less complacency.
However, I find this case with Naga Munchetty fairly unique. Here’s a quick run-down of the situation: In early July, President Donald Trump, after receiving criticism from the ‘The Squad’ (4 congresswomen comprising of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley), told these women to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”. Eyebrows were indeed raised. Mine included. A couple days later, BBC Breakfast were reporting on this outburst from the President when Munchetty’s co-host Dan Walker asked for her opinion on the increase in racially motivated abuse and racist language slithering out from America’s highest echelons of power. Munchetty gave a subjective account of her experience as a woman of colour commenting that “every time I have been told to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism. Now I’m not accusing anyone of anything here but you know what certain phrases mean”. She furthered her comments by describing herself as “furious that a man in that position (Trump) feels it’s OK to skirt the lines with using language like that”. Following complaints to Ofcom and the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit, they opened an inquiry to see if she had breached broadcasting regulations. On 25th September, she was found to have ‘breached BBC rules’. Director General, Tony Hall personally quashed this judgement stating that “the BBC is not impartial to racism”.
I believe Munchetty is personally entitled to express this view. Firstly, she has unique experience as the daughter of Mauritian and Indian parents, of racial discrimination, something that the vast majority of us, regardless of race, have been lucky enough to avoid. Secondly, if we are to pretend that President Trump’s comments are anything but racially motivated, as his troupe of UK lapdogs such as Farage, Raheem Kassam, and Sargon of Akkad would argue, then we are all fooling ourselves. These four congresswomen, three of whom were born in the US might I add, just so happened to be non-white.
Now, if you are a journalist, you read between the lines. If a politician gives a ‘wishy washy’ answer to a question you probe into that answer and find out what could really be going on behind the scenes. Likewise, when President Trump says ‘go home’ to four people who just so happen to not share his particular skin tone of Atomic Tangerine, you cannot treat this as anything but racist. Naga Munchetty has done the correct thing in my mind at calling out this language, something I feel the BBC has become too timid to do.
And this is where I actually have to blame myself. It is because of people like me and people who say the BBC is biased even if they accidentally do something so meagrely small like misspell a Brexit supporting group’s name or slogan, that has caused this silence. The BBC is standing on pillars of salt and sand, treading so carefully with what it churns out for fear that anything could spark outrage. If they were to initially defend Munchetty in her rebuttal of Trump’s racist language, you would get all those professional provocateurs and contrarians supporting Trump simply because its ‘edgy’ screaming blue murder. That is why the BBC remained mute. They have been castrated by right and left wing snowflakes that can’t see their idols, be it Trump, Corbyn, Boris, or even Gerard Batten (for God’s sake) as anything but perfect.
So, whilst I still believe that the BBC must, always, as a public service broadcaster remain neutral in issues such as Brexit, or US politics, I think that they must retain the right to call out elected officials when they use genuinely racist language or allude racism. She has, in a professional and respectful manner, fired back at the disgusting slurs and racial abuse that stink out the White House. Racism is racism and there shouldn’t even be a debate about the ‘go home’ comment.