The Rosberg-Hamilton in Spa has brought out a number of those people who like to accuse journalists of bias because they share the same nationality of one or other of the protagonists. One commenter, called Robert, summed up my views on this subject. “I do hate how people bring up the subject of being British in a negative way to further their opinions,” he wrote. “It immediately marks the writer out as none too bright in my opinion.”
I am happy to forgive people for being passionate about the sport they love and perhaps going too far in their remarks, but the accusation of nationalistic bias is something that I take as an insult and I feel it is all the more outrageous because the accuser does not have the wit to understand that such slurs are more a reflection of the person making them than they are a reflection of the target. In order to level such a charge one must believe that there are intelligent people who have blind, unquestioning devotion to a country and all of its subjects – and for me that is something that only a stupid man can believe. As a journalist one strives, if one has any professional pride, to be as objective as possible, and to cut through the smoke and mirrors to try and tell the story as it is. This is the reason for our existence. If one wants to be a propagandist it is a choice which one can make – and it pays far better – but one must accept that one must then have the opinion of one’s paymaster. Intelligent men through the ages have seen through nationalism and exposed it for what it is.
“Nationalism is an infantile thing,” wrote Albert Einstein. The poet and philosopher George Santayana phrased it differently but delivered the same message: “To me,” he wrote, “it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.”
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was more brutal in his assessment: “Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”
Having a different view on a subject when there is a conflict between two different nationals can sometimes appear to be bias, but more often than not, this comes because the national media speak the language of the individual involved and thus have a better understanding of the reasons and the character of the person who acted as they did.