by Mary Dejevsky
Monday, 31
August 2020
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07:00

There’s more to foreign news than US politics

Something the UK media seems to forget...
by Mary Dejevsky
Donald Trump stages a rally in Ohio, USA

Recent days have given a foretaste of what is to come between now and the first week of November: the all-consuming British media obsession with US politics. Yes, the United States is the richest and most powerful country in the world. Yes, it matters — of course it does — who is, or becomes, the US President. And, yes, the United States is an important ally — probably, post-Brexit, the most important ally — of the UK.

But their election is not our election. Their news is not our news. Their domestic social problems are not ours — and they should not be reported as if they were. Yet coverage of the ‘virtual’ party conventions, the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the Martin Luther King memorial march in Washington together occupied the top half, sometimes more, of news programmes on the BBC and other mainstream UK media last week, with some of the reports sounding almost like part of the internal US debate.

With nine weeks to go until the main event, US politics is already smothering a host of foreign news stories closer to home, which are picked up and summarily dropped. Nor is it just the volume or prominence of the reporting. It is the way in which US politics is treated as though it is familiar territory.

For the next two months, UK viewers and listeners will have to get used all over again to the US terminology bandied about, without explanation or context, by legions of permanent and special correspondents fanning out all over the great US of A. They will ride this or that special plane or battlebus, they will report breathlessly on this or that rally; the TV debates; the latest polls. They will reel off the names of “swing” states as though they were marginal constituencies in England’s north-west.

It remains to be seen how far the campaign or the UK’s media coverage will be constrained by the pandemic; how much will be virtual and how much real. But if the hours devoted by the UK media to US politics in recent weeks are an indicator, the answer — in terms of coverage — is: not much.

Don’t get me wrong. I love US politics as much as anyone. I spent five years reporting from Washington DC, which included one of the most absorbing election aftermaths in any democracy ever: the tied election of 2000 that was eventually decided by the Supreme Court. Still, it seems to me that, especially since satellite TV has enabled real-time reporting, the UK media has been seduced into a style and volume of US election coverage that is way out of proportion to the task in hand and borderline incomprehensible to all but the most wonkish of wonks.

How has this happened? Partly, I submit, because the status and fun of a US election so far outweigh the graft and the exhaustion — for a UK reporter. You get to travel all over, the figures come pre-digested by media-friendly pollsters, and your average American is a dream for a quote-hungry reporter. You don’t have to speak another language — well, you do, but few recognise that. Which is where, perhaps, change might begin. Even for a UK audience, a US presidential election needs translation; and the coverage needs an awareness, at very least, that the United States is “abroad”.

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Keith Payne
Keith Payne
2 years ago

I find the ‘News’ increasingly disappointing these days. A large proportion of the content is not news but largely pointless discussion about what might happen at some time in the future. Balance is regarded as having people with polar-opposite views shouting at one another. On top of this, the channels seem to forget we live in a globalised world; it is so parochial. The other thing I find disappointing is that stories are rarely followed up. They burst into life for a day or two and then are forgotten. And yes, the current American election takes up far too much air time.

Sorry, this is a bit or a rant but the News could be so much more illuminating and interesting.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Payne

Better options are available online.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Absolutely – but not at the BBC website …

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Keith is spot on and this cheap tatty laughingly called news reporting has plunged ever lower over a long period. What I will not accept is the distortion, and blatant manipulation. My view is it is Perversion.
I look for sensible reporting online but have not really found what I’m sure must exist. If you can point in the right direction I’d bet a fair number of Unheard followers would give a thumb’s up.

Lou Campbell
Lou Campbell
2 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

I think spiked-online.com is another one like this. I’m often nodding along when reading.

David J
David J
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Payne

Go to YouTube if you want thoughtful long-form discussion. The MSM abandoned such things years ago.

titan0
titan0
2 years ago
Reply to  Keith Payne

That’s right. They tell you all about a Brexit conference tomorrow and then let you know surprise, surprise, that Brexit Will be the subject. As opposed to waiting until tomorrow and telling us about it when its
news.They do the same with sport too… In tomorrow’s cup final Arsenal are expected to win. etc.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
2 years ago

I especially noticed this during coronavirus when troops of the world’s two most populous nations were fighting each other on top of the world. That sounds like it’d be a great news story, no? Chinese and Indian troops fought in the Himalayas over their contested border there. Yet it took weeks for the BBC even to bother mentioning it at all. Even these two great powers are not as interesting as the USA and the Dominions.

This is one of the curious aspects of the woke: they preach the need to respect all cultures, but are solipsistically obsessed with traditionally white cultures. It is parallelled in their obsession that only white cultures are high-minded enough to cope with diversity. Compare and contrast with their belief that the cause of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa is because different ethnic groups were forced together by imperialist “lines on a map”. They think that different ethnic groups living in the same country spontaneously causes violence when those groups are all non-white, even if those groups have lived near each other for millennia. But they think that whites are civilised enough to not have any trouble living with ethnic groups that have been disruptively mass-imported into their countries at short notice. The truth is, as so often, somewhere in between: different ethnic groups being forced to live cheek by jowl will always cause tension and conflict, but it is not the only cause.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
2 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

The woke are racist, plain and simple.

titan0
titan0
2 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

The truth and solution is so very often in the middle. So let’s start by allowing our big gun extremists to accuse the other side of extremism.
Works every time if you enjoy and can profit from conflict and also have a government bodyguard detail.
I doubt that even assassinated politicians were poorer when they stopped breathing. So why do we let them get away with it?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

Its far too much fun to report US politics than executing your core responsibility to actually report on whats happening in the UK.

I remember seething during the last US election cycle – that nowhere on the BBC channels could you find references to the ongoing gang-rape of children in northern towns.

Clearly too counter-narrative for the BBC to mention …

That was the time (for me) when the words “journalism” and “BBC” became unusable in the same sentence …

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

‘I remember seething during the last US election cycle – that nowhere on the BBC channels could you find references to the ongoing gang-rape of children in northern towns.’

But Trump said something about women and you-know-what, which is a far bigger crime in the eyes of the BBC than the rapes to which you refer. No matter, non-payment of the hated BBC tax will soon be decriminalised. And that, hopefully, will be the end of the BBC, at least in terms of news.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, they’ve been talking about that nasty little trick for a few years. It’s an idea stolen from Germany.

But apparently the new DG, Tim Davie, has said that the BBC will have to move to a Netflix-type subscription model. See Alex Belfield’s podcast on the subject from today.

Penny Gallagher
Penny Gallagher
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Also in Sweden I believe. But no way I will be paying that, it would be the Poll Tax all over again. Haven’t watched tv news since the appalling treatment of Brexit.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

A gang of the usual suspects were charged for alleged CSE committed in the Wakefield area several weeks ago, nothing at all on the UK regime mouthpiece.

By the end of the year we are promised the Grooming Gang Review – suitably redacted and sanitised. The BBC will be treating that one like a grenade with the pin pulled out.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

it’s not just the UK. Turkey is threatening Greece and you would barely know it. The french are in Libya. As are the Russians. Apparently they are allies there (against the Turks). I learned that here. Germany is inching towards a rapprochement with Russia. These are all world changing events. Nothing.

Even events like the war on Syria, still ongoing, are considered of less importance because the us is uninterested. The BBC should just pipe in CNN.

I can only imagine that there’s more I don’t know. The known unknowns of news that I have to look up myself as CNNbbc refuses to do its job.

titan0
titan0
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I join you in that frustration. Covid is big but does Brexit, Covid and The USofA have to dominate every bulletin? And what is Sky news for when if you click backwards and forwards between them and The BBC they report exactly the same at exactly the same time?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
2 years ago

The obsession with the US runs right and left. I was on holiday in Mexico a few years ago and there was a major event – a group of student protestors were arrested by the local police south of Mexico City, 43 of them if i recall correctly, and handed over to be tortured by a drugs gang. Their mutilated bodies were found days later. I arrive back in Blighty and nothing about that, but it was few months after some black man was killed in Ferguson and the repercussions of that were still dominating the news cycle.

Both countries were as far away as each other from the UK. In both cases the police were suspect, in one case more criminal than the other, neither country for different reasons had much of a lesson for the uk, but the US news dominates. As it does today.

The death of a black man in the US by a white cop is of no relevance to the rest of the world.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
2 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I agree with your point overall, but this is my regular reminder to everyone that George Floyd was not killed “by a cop”. He died of a drug overdose that video footage shows was already shutting down his respiratory system before the police laid a finger on him.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
2 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Sure. I was referring to Fergusson in 2014.

Adrian
Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

A reasonably well trained cop in the UK, once they’ve cuffed someone like George Floyd (overweight, black and therefore possibly sickle cell, possibly on drugs or drunk) will roll them over precisely so that they don’t die of positional asphyxia. That’s good and careful practice.
I suspect that Chauvin was having a pig-headed battle of wills with the person filming him, was using an innapropriate technique just because it was allowed, and was not backing down, which was wrong and stupid, and got him where he is today, and got George Floyd killed.

Cops are like doctors. Some are better than others.

titan0
titan0
2 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

I was one and I might agree about positioning etc. But not if the suspect is resistant. What then happens next, who knows. It’s often a lottery.
I have seen suspects trash their faces their hands knees when not firmly restrained. So other than refusing to work, what can a Copper do?
We had a joke that no one can leave home without committing offences.
So how is it that ,accusations not even made, so many people claim they’ve done nothing wrong and either ignore lawful instructions and or start resisting?

Adrian
Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  titan0

The vast majority of people do not think to themselves “If I was that cop, what would I be afraid of, why might I need to do that, in the moment?”

If they did they’d come up with a handful of answers:
a. The cop was in more danger than the video makes out they were.
b. The cop was about to be in far more danger, and couldn’t let that happen.
c. The cop reacted to the wrong situation, under stress and time pressure (this happens a lot)
d. The cop let his emotions determine his actions, because he didn’t have an ongoing commitment to staying professional.

The most vocal critics of the police would probably fall into trap (d) themselves, so I don’t have much time for them. I personally think (d) it is very important though, as it’s an easy trap to fall into.

As you can see, all of this bullet point list is related to danger and stress. In the US, the danger and stress are far worse than the UK, so situations, mistakes by cops, and misunderstandings by the public are going to be far more frequent.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

Yes, but right now it is in the US where the culture wars are being played out most vividly, with an era-defining election just weeks away.

Put simply, those who believe that 2 + 2 = 4 are up against those who insist that 2 + 2 = 5. If the latter win then western civilisation is, effectively, over.

CJ Bloom
CJ Bloom
2 years ago

Ha! You think it’s bad in the UK? Try living in Canada. The Democratic Party gins up stories that our docile maonstream media – public and private – dutifully and mindlessly parrot. Nothin’ for it but to hold your breath and wait it out. Good luck.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
2 years ago

The BBC are obsessed with Trump and won’t rest until they have persuaded every one of us in the UK not to vote for him come November’s Presidential elections

Roland Ayers
Roland Ayers
2 years ago

A major causal factor in the phenomenon the article describes is the successful exporting of US popular culture to the world in general and the English speaking world in particular. The USA hardly feels ‘abroad’ to those who consume a lot of it. It’s becoming harder to justify in journalistic terms with the increasing power of China (and commensurate decrease in US significance) although of course the opaque nature of Chinese politics makes it more difficult to report on.

amurrayj
amurrayj
2 years ago

I think that this sad obsession with the US was a factor in Brexit. The BBC should have done more, over eat years, to report EU news, the work of parliament, the things that the EU does well.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
2 years ago
Reply to  amurrayj

While I supported and still support Brexit, I completely agree. It’s always surprised me that the BBC didn’t do a “European” news show for about an hour on BBC2 or 4, or even just iPlayer for politics nerds. EU news really was left to the critics. Given that so many EU countries’ governments comprise coalitions of multiple small parties, there’s a lot to explain. TIL, that the Social Democratic Party which rules Portugal is, in fact, a conservative, centre-right party.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
2 years ago
Reply to  amurrayj

“The things that the EU does well!? It would be a very short programme, mostly about how well they spend/lose money. Much of it ours!

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
2 years ago

But you are just as obsessed as they are. Except you are pro Trump.

Bill Gaffney
Bill Gaffney
2 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

And you are pro a brain dead, DemocratSlaveryParty Pol?

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill Gaffney

Bill, that’s the kind of rhetoric that kind of proves my point. Not only am I not brain dead (you might want to look closer to home on that front) I am not a supporter of the Democratic Party or even the “democratSlaveryParty” and definitely not a politician. Why would a democratic politician suggest that we are all too obsessed with the US in the UK?

The Democratic Party of the US is as relevant to me as the National Democratic Party of Ghana.

titan0
titan0
2 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

AHH the good ole National Democratic Party of Ghana. I’ve heard that they’re very fair and representative of their electorate. I discovered that fact between their reporting of the US elections and I thank Gahanain State TV that I found that out.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
2 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Where’s the childishness? Obsession with being pro Trump is also obsession with the US. As is hatred of trump. You can stay away from all of this and concentrate on Blighty. He’s not your president.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
2 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

I’m asking you to get less upset about a politician in a different country. The article you are replying to is titled “there is more to foreign news than US politics”. You immediately launch into a Defense of Trump based on a program you watched of no relevance to the argument, except to show that we should indeed try and get other sources of news. I deal with the bias of Sky and the BBC by not watching their news.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
2 years ago

In British elections the BBC has to be impartial and ‘balance’ different views. No such balance is required in the US, so reporters can follow their instincts and dig up all sorts of dirt on Republican candidates, while lionising their Democrat opponents.

Added to that, like a lot of the media they seem to believe those of us outside the US should have a say in who is elected president of the USA.