This morning, in my inbox, came my regular update from “History Extra” a magazine published in the UK. It used to be called, IIRC, BBC History Extra and that should have told me at the outset what sort of underlying editorial drive there would be. It is is, or should be, obvious that I am not a fan of the British Broadcasting Corporation as it is currently incarnated. Back when it first started it gained a great reputation for fearlessly publishing the news, both good and bad. It emerged from WW II as probably the most trusted broadcast news throughout the world. The BBC World Service became a “source” for many regions. I was a faithful listener in my times abroad.
Sometime in the 70’s the BBC started to change it’s focus – and instead of fearlessly reporting what had happened in the world it started fearlessly reporting on what it wished WOULD happen in the world. This attitude become abundantly visible when the BBC announced that it would not carry articles from people who spoke in opposition to the current popular belief of Climate Alarmism.
I had a shred of optimism that the anti-intellectual virus that had invaded The Beeb might have been less virulent in the area of History than in the area of forwarding “acceptable facts and views”.
Alas for my rose colored glasses.
In an article published on September 23rd 2021 and entitled “The classics and racial hatred: how the far right hijacked the ancient world” located here:
In the third paragraph of this lengthy article the author, Katherine Harloe, professor at Reading University laid out her scant regard for actual facts and gave the shaky foundation for her whole screed.
“In January 2021, history seemed to repeat itself as a political demonstration with white nationalist elements in the United States again turned violent. This time, a crowd of Donald Trump supporters, arguably encouraged by the outgoing president himself, attempted to storm the Federal United States Capitol to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US presidential election. The Congress session was suspended when rioters entered the building; politicians were locked down in offices for hours. Five people died and more than 100 were injured. It is alleged that some among the crowd aimed to assassinate the US vice-president, Mike Pence.”
I read this one paragraph with an ever growing incredulity. How could someone who is a ‘historian’ blatantly use logical fallacy and outright disinformation to stake out the point she was trying to prove with her article?
Let us examine this paragraph and see how it breaks down.
1. “In January 2021, history seemed to repeat itself as a political demonstration with white nationalist elements in the United States again turned violent.”
Here she is referring to her earlier paragraph about the demonstration and violence which took place in Charlottesville Virginia in August 2017. The problem with her sentence in this paragraph is that she begs the question. She assumed “white nationalist elements” without actually stating what this construct actually covers. In Virginia, if I remember correctly, the organizing group opposed to taking down of the statue of Robert E Lee did have support from groups that would fall under the description White Supremacists. Not sure on the size of the groups involve.
And not content with that logical fallacy she follows up with the vague “again turned violent.”
2. “This time, a crowd of Donald Trump supporters, arguably encouraged by the outgoing president himself, attempted to storm the Federal United States Capitol to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US presidential election. ”
This sentence contains mainly propaganda mixed with untruthful statements. First of all the word “arguably” means that the information which follows is garbage. Apparently Ms Harloe did not actually listen to the freely available videos of the speech that Trump delivered but instead tries, by innuendo, to suggest that what he actually said was not what he said.
Now for the next bit of this paragraph “attempted to storm the Federal United States Capitol”. This is curious because to ‘storm’ something is to violently assault it. The problem is that the protesters entered the Capital building through the doors opened and directed by the Capital Police. They ambled up to the Capital building and walked in. The word “storm” is a deliberate use of a word with connotations of violence. But as the protesters approached the building they were not violent.
3. “to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US presidential election”
Actually – and if the historian had availed herself of the available speech transcript – they were there to give support to and strength to the Republicans most of whom had sat silently by while what Conservatives thought was clear evidence of voter fraud, went unchallenged.
Now – once the protesters were inside the Capital building it is certainly true that they became both rowdy and intimidating. This is suggestive of it being an unorganized and undirected crowd. And the situation devolved fairly rapidly into some people becoming both aggressive and intimidating and the vast majority who started seeking a way to exit the building. Once again – the ‘historian’ who, living in England certainly has knowledge of, if not direct experience with, how crowds can become rowdy and intimidating given the UKs’s perennial issues with football hooligans, strikes and other examples.
4. “Five people died and more than 100 were injured.” Ooh, Ms Historian. You are forwarding an untruth. Proof positive that the very thing you are using as a cornerstone for your thesis is built upon a shifting sand. One person was killed in the “riot” ( actually riot is the wrong word but it is part of the narrative that the ‘historian’ is forwarding) . The person who was killed was an unarmed female named Ashley Babbit. She was a USAF Veteran of 14 years service, medals for service in Iraq. She was climbing through a broken window in the door to the Speakers Lobby. She was shot by a plain clothes police officer at close range. At the time she was shot there were already armed police on the stairway behind the crowd. Now if you do a search on this tragedy you will see copious references from the press that the Police Officer claimed that he saved hundreds of lives that day. What no-one asked him was how he came to that conclusion. How was one unarmed medium sized women going to visit so much mayhem ? This is prima facie – total bollocks. Yet Ms Harloe forwards the narrative, Totally unexamined.
Our historian does not actually break down the “5 died” because, certifiably and as reported by the press and the Capital Police force – only one person died in the “riot”. So where does she get the total of 5? Primarily I suspect from reading a newspaper. But certainly not from examining the claim. 2 of those who died were from natural causes – heart attacks. One from a meth overdose, Ashli Babbit who was shot by a policeman. 3 of those four were Trump Supporters. So who was the fifth?
Again we can see that Ms Harloe is just forwarding the narrative – presenting things out of context and with the inference that the Trump supporters were somehow the violent ones when that is clearly not the case. She does not delineate how she arrived at the number “5” because she did not explain it.
5. “It is alleged that some among the crowd aimed to assassinate the US vice-president, Mike Pence.” He we see Ms Harloe taking rumor or gossip as fact for her to bolster the absurd assertion she has made.
This is, I regret to say, typical of the BBC in general. An institution that used to pride itself on the thoroughness of it’s checking and reportage has now become a haven for people who indulge in narrative spinning rather than accuracy.
And, in a nutshell – this is why I stopped subscribing to the Magazine.