Dear Alice Bell
I understand you recently complained to the BBC about racist behavior
on the part of a BBC presenter. Glad you complained, but I wonder if
you would comment in the Guardian on the roll racism plays in the
results of a ComRes poll last year that found 59% of the UK believes
that 10,000 or fewer Iraqis died as a result of the Iraq war. I assume
you know that scientific studies have shown that the death toll was in
the hundreds of thousands.
First of all, why didn’t the media, as opposed to a small group of
activists, commission this poll?
Why were the poll results buried by a corporate media that regularly
features poll done by ComRes?
Consider this brief letter, signed by Noam Chomsky and a few others,
that appeared in the Guardian.
To his credit, Seumas Milne mentioned the poll results shortly after
this letter appeared.
Would you not agree that the poll results, and the pitiful media
response to them, point to, among other things, institutional racism
that renders the lives of distant “others” of negligible interest
except, of course, when they can used as a pretext for war?
REPLY from Bell to my initial email
I am v sympathetic to this issue, but it’s not something I have power
to write about in the Guardian, or lobby on there. I have almost no
power there. I’m rarely even paid by them, and even when I am, it is on
entirely different issues. I will continue to use the power I do have
on this issue and others, as I hope you will, but I’m not the person
you should be writing letters to.
You can call for protests outside Telegraph offices as you do in this
piece but not make general remarks about how the British media has
failed to inform the pubic about scientific estimates of the Iraq war’s death toll?
I’m not suggesting you slap your Guardian editors in the face, but come on, what
does it say about freedom of expression in Britain if you feel the
topic I mentioned is off limits to you within a liberal outlet?
FYI, since you have called out the BBC, ComRes says they would charge
1000 Brit pounds to poll the UK public on these questions?
Would you be willing to write about these positive proposals or about
the poll results when they are available?
1) Do you agree or disagree that the BBC’Trust members should be
directly elected by the public rather than appointed by the government
of the day?
2) Do you disagree or agree that the BBC Trust Members should be
selected randomly (like juries) from among the public?
3) Do you agree or disagree that each eligible voter should be allowed
direct control over 250 pounds of government money per year, which they could
allocate to the BBC or any non-profit, non-advertising media organization, in
any proportion they want and at no cost to themselves?
I don’t think it is “off limits” for me as much as it simply isn’t within the remit of what I write about. It’s like asking whether discussing sustainable fish is off limits for football writers. Maybe it is for people who cover such things. I suspect so, but don’t know because it’s not my beat. I specialise in science policy. I wrote that piece you link to for a specific beat based on quite specific expertise. The clue is in the banner.
I sympathise, I do. But you are barking up the wrong tree lobbying me.
Please tell me what part of this exchange you don’t mind me sharing with the general public.
Surprised that you have no comment on the public media reform proposals.
BELL’S FINAL REPLY
You can quote what you like. If you really think it’s worth it.
I have views on media reform but they aren’t anything I think are interesting enough to comment on, and your particular questions weren’t ones that really resonated with me. As for whether I’d write about polling, I dunno, if the polling interests me and I have something to say. It’s unlikely. I mainly write about science policy and climate change. Which is what I’m going back to now. Good evening.