I hope so. It’s a long shot, but you never know when something is the proverbial final straw. The BBC is often held up as a model of ethical journalism—that’s nonsense, but a lot of Americans believe it. Now we have proof of just how scummy and corrupt the BBC is, and the company can’t deny it.
An investigation into the BBC’s conduct that produced the 1995 interview of Princess Diana by Martin Bashir revealed that the interview was based on despicable and unethical practices. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who remembers Bashir, who became an MSNBC host and was sacked after saying on the air that Sarah Palin should be forced to eat shit. He handled the sensational interview in which Diana talked about her bulimia, the miseries of royal life, and her husband’s ongoing infidelity with Camilla Parker Bowles. Her shocking attacks on the Royals completed her rift with Buckingham Palace and, as Prince William said yesterday, damaged Diana’s relationship with Prince Charles beyond repair.
Even for a journalist, what Bashir did was beyong unethical tending into evil. Bashir told Diana’s brother, the Earl of Spencer, that he had acquired canceled checks proving the Royal Family was paying individuals, including Charles’ aides, to spy on Diana. He “acquired” them because he had the BBC’s graphics department to mock up fake checks to show to Spencer. This “evidence” convinced the Earl that Diana’s fears were justified, so he told her immediately about the supposed surveillance plot. This, in turn, so infuriated Diana that she agreed to a “tell-all” interview.
The report says Diana’s attorney told investigators that Diana was already convinced that someone would try to kill her, and Bashir’s lies exploited her fragile state of mind.
The investigation just completed was overseen by retired British judge Lord Dyson, who found that the BBC’s own investigation in 1996 was little better than a cover-up. Bashir lied about showing the fake documents to anyone and was exonerated by the BBC of any wrongdoing. Now, 25 years after an interview that breached, never mind the moribund journalism ethics rules, but universal ethics principles under reciprocity, absolutism and utilitarianism, the organization accountable issued this pathetic statement:
The BBC has sent letters of apology to Spencer and Princes William and Harry, and is giving back the awards it won for the interview.
After 25 years. Because it was caught, that’s all.
People, including Americans, are irrationally emotional about Princess Diana. Maybe the realization that what passes for an “ethical” news organization would treat her this way and manipulate a vulnerable young woman for ratings and accolades will make those still in denial over what journalism has become slap themselves on the foreheads, hard, and say: “What a fool I’ve been! These people are enemies of decency, democracy and civilization! We have to join together and force them to reform, to commit to their duties of independence, objectivity, balance, non partisanship, competence and courage. We must not tolerate any less!”