Now In Our Time shows the BBC is "ignorant as well as biased"

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 22 June 2005

The In Our Time Greatest Philosopher vote gained more press coverage on Monday, with an article in Peter Oborne's column for the Evening Standard entitled "Marx is so overrated":

Long-term students of the BBC will not have been surprised to learn that Karl Marx looks set to be voted the world's greatest philosopher by Radio Four listeners.

The decision shows the BBC is ignorant as well as biased. Marx was not a philosopher, he was a journalist with a deep though erratic knowledge of economics. He made no philosophical discoveries, and his views were based on the windier parts of Hegelian philosophy, since disproved.

It is absurd, though characteristic of the BBC, that Marx should be rated higher than true philosophers such as Hume or Kant.

I'm not in a position to argue whether Marx should or shouldn't be classified as a philosopher, but it saddens me that the BBC's Radio Four interactive team wouldn't be able to generate column inches simply by producing online information on twenty great thinkers in human history, or linking out to profiles of them on wikipedia, or, as an undoubted public service, publicising that many of their original works are available free via Project Gutenberg.

That doesn't make news. Nor does it allow people to trot out stereotypes of what is 'characteristic' of the BBC and the BBC's audience.

I know that my team have worked very hard in securing the integrity of the voting data, as we always do in these high profile votes, whether it is to name the new bridge at Wembley or for the audience prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

Unfortunately Peter Oborne, armed with absolutely no evidence, will get a much wider readership than me, whilst freely inferring that the 'absurd' result of the public vote has been 'biased' by the BBC.

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