Naga Munchetty, false balance and fascism

| 2nd October 2019
Naga Munchetty
BBC
Journalists must have the freedom to expose racism and climate injustice in all its forms.

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The decision to censure presenter Naga Munchetty following her comments in relation to racist remarks by Donald Trump, the US president, has now been overturned by Lord Hall, the BBC's director general.

The latest decision seems to have been a response to leaked internal correspondence that shows that members of the public made complaints about comments made by Munchetty and also her co-host Dan Walker - and the fact Walker did not receive the same public chastisement from the BBC.

Munchetty, a popular BBC presenter and a woman of colour, was reprimanded for calling a racist comment racist. This is because the racist comment was made by the president of the United States.

Hyperbolic

So the BBC was suddenly keen to follow guidelines and censor Naga, as well as their other employees of colour - who were not permitted to sign the petition supporting Naga. This is not a one-off incident: earlier this year, the Conservative politician Jeremy Hunt refused to use what he called ‘the R word’ when asked about Trump’s comments.

I find this extremely worrying. Fascism is on the rise in the UK and it needs to be called out whenever we see it, so that it doesn't quietly become the norm. We all know what that can lead to. If our media can’t do it, what’s the point of journalism?

The BBC recently also broke its own editorial guidelines when it gave a platform to the people behind the Policy Exchange report, without looking into who was behind the think tank that funded the report, 'Extremism Rebellion'.

The report contained the kind of poor argument that you might expect from such a hyperbolic title, attempting to brand peaceful rebels as extremists despite overwhelming evidence that XR is a non-violent movement. The report was also covered without question in The Telegraph newspaper.

Dr Rupert Read, an XR spokesperson, went on the Today programme on R4 and insisted to the presenter John Humphrys that he should have investigated who had funded the report before giving it so much coverage and taking it seriously. Soon after this, it was revealed that the Policy Exchange has been funded by big oil.

Alarm bell

Of course major oil companies want to brand peaceful rebels as extremists; they want us out of the picture so that they can continue to pollute our planet for profit. They have bunkers to retreat to when the proverbial hits the fan. We don't. The Policy Exchange report was a targeted move against peaceful climate activists, and it will be the first of many.

Next, retired doctor Lyn Jenkins was reported to the counter-terrorism programme Prevent as at risk of 'radicalisation' by Extinction Rebellion. The Telegraph also wrote a damning account of non-violent climate activists, likening us to religious fundamentalists.

Meanwhile, there are actual extremist groups out there like Generation Identity, which has been targeting rural communities in the UK, preying on their vulnerability. This shows the worrying growing trend of eco-fascism in the UK: using anxiety about climate change to fuel intolerance and racism.

Every time these things happen and go unchallenged, my safety is being put at risk. I am a mother of two, an author and public speaker, and I am very visible as a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion UK. We've all seen the hatred being thrown Greta's way by some very angry individuals, many of them men in positions of power.

I have received hate mail from angry men after appearing on television. I am aware that as a woman of colour, I’m an easy target. But I will continue to do this work, because scientists are ringing the alarm bell on the health of our planet; they have been doing so for decades, and world leaders are still not paying attention to them.

Better world

We are facing a climate and ecological crisis, but we have yet to see an appropriate response to this emergency from those with power. Meanwhile, discontent and anger grow and very easily, very suddenly they can become violent fascism.

I'm not asking you to take a stand for me personally, but I look at my children, one with white skin and one with brown and wonder how a small quirk of genetics - they are both from the same father - can possibly determine their fate. That's what will happen if we let this slide: that is the path that unchecked fascism will lead down. Racism is such an arbitrary sickness.

When we allow racist comments to go unchecked, when we allow the BBC to censor journalists who call it out for what it is, when we permit anonymous groups to brand Extinction Rebellion as extremists without evidence, lives like mine are being put at risk.

Fear will not deter me from continuing with this work to protect the planet from continued harm: I am not motivated by hate or extreme views, but by love for my children and for all the beautiful species on this pale blue dot, our only home.

Remember Jo Cox, murdered by a fascist for trying to create a better world. Question whether you want to live in a world - and want your children to live in a world, that is ruled by fascism and hatred - or whether you will consider trying to stop things from going that way.

This Author

Zion Lights is author of The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting and is a TEDx speaker. She is also a spokesperson with Extinction Rebellion UK and editor of The Hourglass newspaper. She tweets at @ziontree

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