James O’Brien flagged the early warning signs on Sunday morning – just four hours after the Sunday Times had shared its ‘Black Lives Matter Proms’ expose on social media.
The LBC presenter didn’t give it much stock at the time, but pointed out how this is a “perfect example of how lazy, race-baiting radio phone-in tropes have infiltrated the highest levels of journalism”.
“There is next to nobody agitating for this but I could make the phones ring off the hook tomorrow with misled people ‘outraged’ by a complete non-story”, he said.
Little did he know what was to come.
Sunday August 23rd
On Sunday afternoon the piece had already started to achieve what it had set out to do – agitate the right wing into making it more of a story than it actually was.
Andrea Leadsom was among those most displeased after the Daily Mail latched onto the story, accusing the Beeb of “totally losing touch”.
Former UKIP MEP Roger Helmer also tweeted his disapproval, citing claims that “too few of the black community choose to watch it”, which were completely unfounded.
“So are we to be denied access to cultural events unless sufficient black people want them?”, he questioned.
But warning signs over the story’s credibility were also there from the off too.
For a start, if the Sunday Times thought it had bagged such a big exclusive, why didn’t it splash it on its front pages? Or even make it a prominent news item?
Instead it led with news that John Lewis was killing off its slogan and that Corbyn was to blame for an election defeat suffered eight months ago – and the ‘Black Lives Matter Proms’ was shelved to online.
Monday August 23rd
At least, it was until Monday morning.
The Express, having had a whiff of a news item which it knew would send its readers into a nationalistic frenzy, decided to splash a Sunday Times scoop – which wasn’t deemed fit enough for the front pages – across its own.
Leading on comments from the quite patently biased Defund the BBC campaign they went with “Fury as Rule Britannia & Land of Hope and Glory may be cut from BBC Proms amid BLM protest” – even though there had never been one.
Calvin Robinson, quoted in the piece, also tweeted: “Why is the BBC pandering to hard-left extremists?”, despite, again, there being no evidence of left wing extremists agitating for this.
“Last Night of the Proms is a British institution”, he said. “It’s one of the rare occasions we still expect a little patriotism; That’s not a bad thing, our Britishness is something that unites us!” ironically adding a #DontDivideUs hashtag.
Tuesday August 24th
By Tuesday, Britain’s right wing newspapers had turned the Proms fiasco into a national talking point.
They had, in essence, engineered a culture war out of nothing, and took the BBC’s apparent “backdown” on the matter as a win.
Both the Express and the Telegraph took pointed, nationalistic views of the matter. But the Daily Mail took the biscuit, with this sensationalised race-baiting front cover:
Even Downing Street had waded in on the matter, saying the PM believes in tackling substance not symbols- teachings he would impart on young children just a day later.
As Ash Sarkar pointed out in the HuffPost, the issue had presented an opportunity to our beleaguered PM.
After all, his grip on power “relies on nurturing a sense of grievance among those who disproportionately benefit from the status quo”.
Wednesday August 25th
Which is precisely what had happened by Wednesday, when a spurious scoop in the Sunday Times had provoked such furore that every man and his dog had something to say about it.
Nigel Farage had appeared on ITV’s This Morning, Piers Morgan had slammed the “wokies” running the BBC and most of the Conservative front bench had spoken out on the issue, much to the angst of the opposition.
The circle was complete, and their nationalist trope had put the fire back in the belly of those gullible enough to believe everything they read in our increasingly desperate right wing press.
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