Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

Disinformation and the BBC (Part 2)

The previous post set out correspondence with the BBC in relation to a false claim on one of their programs, namely, that the work of Dr Marie Stopes had “very little” to do with eugenics.

While the interview did not mention Dr Sutherland directly, the removal of eugenics from Stopes’ work removes much of what he objected to, and perpetuates the false narrative in relation to his battles with Stopes. Hence my complaint.

Given the BBC’s public pronouncements on combating disinformation and calling out racism and discrimination, their response surprised me. After all, they could have taken my points on board and used my research to improve their programs. Instead, they took the approach in which the complaining customer/consumer is viewed as the enemy.

As an aside, this “win-lose” approach is very old school – indeed the business school case study of Sir Colin Marshall’s transformation of British Airways’ complaints department dates back to the 1980s. Marshall’s view was that customer complaints were “precious opportunities” that recognised “customers who make the effort to register a complaint are doing you a favour” because they point out ways in which you can improve.

For all of the obsequities in the BBC’s messages (the thanks for my getting in touch and their desire to thank me “for the vast amount of information you included in your original correspondence”), it counted for nothing when the BBC’s Complaints Director concluded:

“Disagreement between experts and different interpretation of evidence is, I think it is reasonable to say, a recognised part of academic and historic debate.”

Let’s be clear who those experts were: on the one hand you have Dr Lesley Hall and on the other is Dr Marie Stopes, represented by her words, actions and artefacts. According to the BBC, the moderator of the debate, Stopes lost!

Of interest too was the repetition (in the interview) of stories about Stopes’ eugenic agenda, a trend I have noticed for some time:

  • Mary Barnes-Wallis’s glasses,
  • Stopes sending a book of love poems to Hitler.

In a 2021 conversation Mark Crispin Miller (an acknowledged expert on propaganda) and John Kirby discussed the reluctance of African-Americans to be vaccinated against Covid-19:

Mark Crispin Miller: “Black people are entitled to their so-called “vaccine hesitancy”. That is a perfectly rational suspicion on their part of the intentions of a medical establishment that has a long, horrible history of abusing and exploiting those people.”

John Kirby: “Beyond Tuskegee.

Mark Crispin Miller: Oh, everybody says Tuskegee. See, that’s the thing about propaganda. Certain moments become iconic, and then you think that the whole history of abuse is just that one thing. Okay. Tuskegee is the least of it. It’s just the thing we’ve heard of, but this horrible history of torture and murder, really, goes back way early in the 19th century and up in the 70s when they’re still sterilizing black women in certain states. The Mississippi Appendectomy.”

Speaker 20: “Mississippi Appendectomies became a nickname for unnecessary hysterectomies on black women largely performed at teaching hospitals as training for medical students. Born and raised in Mississippi, the renowned Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the most well-known victims of these “appendectomies” in 1961 when she underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her uterus. And in the south, it wasn’t just Mississippi. North Carolina sterilized over 7,600 people between the 1930s and 1970s. 65% of whom were black women. A third of the sterilizations were done on girls under 18 even as young as nine years old.”

Mark Crispin Miller: “So please don’t mention Tuskegee. It’s much worse than that, okay? The thing is that vaccine hesitancy has now been defined as some kind of syndrome. There’s something wrong with you if you’re vaccine hesitant. That’s like conspiracy theory. It is a way to represent your completely rational, healthy, rational suspicions as some kind of neurosis…”

[Emphasis added]

“2020: A PROPAGANDA MASTERPIECE, PART THREE – The Coup of ’63 to Covid 2021” https://www.thepressandthepublic.com/post/perspectives-on-the-pandemic-xxiii viewed 8 March 2023.

In Stopes’ case the “whole history of abuse” has become “Mary Barnes Wallis’s glasses” and “love poems to Hitler”. These stories are “iconic” in the sense of fixing episodes and in being easy to remember; as evidence of Stopes’ eugenic agenda though, they are small beer. Their effectiveness is that they “immunise” the listener who is unlikely to pay much attention to other (stronger) evidence and, if it does come to their attention, will lessen the impact.

Hopefully my complaint will encourage the BBC to do better in the future, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Mark H. Sutherland
Curator, hallidaysutherland.com
Annandale, New South Wales.

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This entry was posted on 3 April 2023 by in Uncategorized.

Stopes v Sutherland libel trial 1922-24

Centenary of the House of Lords judgment21 November 2024
13 months to go.

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