Pictures do a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ when it comes to news articles. The BBC knows this and that is why it foregrounds images of women and girls when it comes to victim stories even if the story is not primarily about girls. Indeed, by using pictures carefully, it is possible to leave an impression in the minds of readers that is at variance with the grain of the text.
The latest example of this appeared on the BBC website on September 2nd. Click on the image to see the story.
The abuse of children in religious schools has been in the news on numerous occasions over recent years. For example, at Catholic boarding schools such as Ampleforth and Downside see here. The abuse was not confined to Catholic Church however, David Beater was a retired vicar who was allowed to work in the church and continue abusing boys despite a previous conviction. Similarly, Bishop Peter Ball, Colin Pritchard and Peter Halliday were able to continue abusing boys while protected by the Church of England. Mohamed hank Khan was able to abuse boys as young as six, attending Madrassas in the UK. Similar sepisodes have occurred in Jewish Schools.
The victims of these abuses have been overwhelmingly male, yet the photograph chosen to illustrate the story was of a young girl. In general, the text referred to children and the one case that was highlighted was a 12 year old girl who was abused by a church volunteer. That is the way with the BBC, had girls been in the majority the article would have referred to girls, if boys are in the majority it becomes children. Call it gamma bias if you like.
Gamma bias is a type of cognitive-bias matrix that operates around four possible judgements about gender: doing good (celebration), doing harm (perpetration), receiving good (privilege) and receiving harm (victimhood). This means, for example, good acts committed by men will be gender neutralised by referring to firefighters or sewage workers or highlighting a smaller number of women who may have been involved. Conversely, in the case of good acts committed by women their gender will be to the forefront. Similarly in the domains of privilege and victimhood; masculinity is highlighted in the domains of receiving privilege and but hidden in the domains of victimhood.
Gamma bias, in my opinion, is endemic within much of the mainstream media but the BBC has a particular problem with this cognitive bias.