The BBC is at one with American liberals in trying to associate those opposing Barack Obama's health-care reforms with dangerous far-right nutters on the fringe - in other words implying guilt by association. Nancy Pelosi's 'Nazi' gibes were only the most high-profile example of this liberal Democrat strategy but Stephen Evans's report for From Our Own Correspondent (Saturday 12 September) was still singing from the same hymn-sheet: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/8250803.stm
Evans meets Glen Parshall, a Santa Claus lookalike "with an armoury of hundreds of guns with which he is surrounded and which he fondles with gentle care." The gun-fondling Mr Parshall is a libertarian "out-rider" who is keen on Thomas Jefferson's "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" and who says of the Obama administration, "If they don't start conforming to our constitution, we may have to rise up in arms and take our country back," which Evans qualifies by adding "though he says that would be a last resort if elections did not do the job first."
Having presented this extreme figure Evans goes on, "Nobody argues that Mr Parshall represents great numbers of Americans, but that does not mean he is insignificant. Liberals say there is a dangerous atmosphere on the fringe. They point to the numbers of armed men who now turn up at healthcare meetings asserting their right to bear arms, sometimes wearing badges with the quote about "refreshing the Tree of Liberty" with blood." Liberals say this, and Stephen Evans says this - an uncanny co-incidence of interests!
An unfortunate illegal immigrant's plight is then described (to draw in sympathy for the Obama position) before Evan's coup-de-grace: "By the way, the sentence "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" may have been written first by one of the great founding fathers of American liberty, but it was made famous, too, by one Timothy McVeigh. He, you remember, murdered 168 people when he attacked what he saw as a tyrannical federal government in Oklahoma City in 1995. It was the slogan on his T-shirt." And that's how the report ends. More guilt by association!
All of this is worth reporting & doubtless true - and, as I've said before, on this issue I'm much closer in sympathy to Obama than to his opponents. Unbiased reporting, however, means that the reporter's personal feelings ought to be irrelevant. That is where Evans falls down. Whether he and his liberal friends are exaggerating the danger, it's hard to say from here in sunny Morecambe. It's clear though that such stories can do nothing but harm to President Obama's legions of opponents and nothing but good for President Obama's supporters. This is evidence of bias.