Saturday, April 03, 2004

Tim Blair Shares Christopher Hitchens 'Seven Simple Question' tonic for the Beeb-weary. The comments are shaping up well too.

Neverdock points out a Panorama article for BBConline reckoning up the world's failure over Rwanda. As usual the Beeb blames the US. Criticism of the UN is just matter-of-fact, or is deflected onto the actions of participating governments, but criticism of the US goes right into the culture of its government. No mention though is made of Clinton or the Democrats -crucial historical background that's subsumed within a general anti-American theme. Another historical pill I found hard to swallow was a reference to 'Allied planes flying over the Nazi death camps' which implied UK/US complicity in the holocaust. Like, could you send me the treatise for that one please?

Fundamental Issue. What's always conveniently forgotten is that the US are the biggest financial contributor to the UN by far. Without them and their leadership of Nato, there would be no blue helmets at all. This should surely temper some of the criticism, but it almost never does.

Who's Responsible? According to the article 'This was not tribal frenzy, not anarchy, but the work of an organised, hierarchical and obedient society'. Yeah, well, if it was an organised society I'd say that their own society was responsible, rather than the 'West'. No mention is made of the depravity of the killers, or the responsiblity of their leaders. The article is entitled 'When Good Men Do Nothing'. Who said anything about the men who comprise the UN being 'good' (apart from the BBC)? Or any country having no self-interest? And in any case the title is a distortion of the dictum that all it requires for evil men to triumph is for good men to do nothing. It leaves out the vital part of the Rwandan genocide: 'evil men triumphed'- and they are the villains.

What The Beeb are Playing At. They don't lie down for long. They lost over Iraq; they lost over the Hutton report. Now they're trying to enforce a long guilt trip on the US, to get them to prioritise the UN and work for a transnational world order under the UN which would give humanistic agencies like the Beeb pride of place.[I should add here: I refer to the underlying issues currently part of the BBC's reporting agenda. See here and here for mild examples from today's BBC news] To confuse Iraq and Rwanda is quite wrong, and indeed it's important to state explicitly in the circumstances that no comparison could reasonably be drawn, and unfortunately the BBC is obliquely pursuing the old grievance that the war on Iraq was justifed by a false premise: that of Iraqi WMD. The argument that the 'West's' moral failure over Rwanda invalidates a moral justification for the war in Iraq is one familiar from Chomsky that has very much done the rounds. However, concern over WMD was not a false premise and it wasn't the only justification for war with Iraq that will stand up- providing we don't get caught up in the waves of self-hate generate by BBC-type approaches.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Numbers can be manipulated, but the numbers quoted in this analysis by the Telegraph's Philip Johnston are quite impressive. One has to read carefully, but the general trend suggests that the Government needs to be razor sharp at differentiating the cases and analysing applications of different sorts that are coming thick and fast. The fact that they're not is, according to David Davis the Shadow Home Secretary, dangerous:

'from the security-service point of view, the more there are, the easier it is to hide amongst them. So, if you have got one terrorist, it is easier to hide amongst 200,000 than 1,000 - and you have just got to focus on that." '

And dangerous too when both Government and media are happy to collude in massaging the public understanding of this. The BBC, needless to say, is guilty of playing, shall we say, the 'Right Wing Card' on this issue

Change Afoot. Here's Andrew Marr on the Today Programme discussing the appointment of Michael Grade as Chairman of the BBC. Seems Andrew thinks the BBC has been 'wallowing round a bit' over the last few months. Mmmm.

I have to say I don't think they could have made a better choice in the circumstances. This will probably make the BBC a smoother operator, as it had to become in the light of some of its hamfisted errors. Hopefully it will be too smooth for the likes of Orla Guerin or Matt Frei- that would be an outright improvement. Grade would at least have the charisma to tackle some of the ideologues in the arenas of politics and foreign affairs, and if he has a firm ideology himself it's not terribly obvious (I stand to be corrected on that). See also this from the Guardian. PS- I'm not sure the first link is working. It worked on the test I did. I will investigate. PPS. Ok now, I think. PPPS 'Talking Hoarsely' has made the discovery that the audio link stays open only for a short time- can it be they don't want others to keep a record of important items? Apologies for those disappointed, but you live and learn. Here's a link to the Today Programme Website instead.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Looks like I was right about the Government being in trouble over immigration, and Andrew Marr was, ahem, slightly off beam in considering that Michael Howard messed up Prime Minister's Questions yesterday.

Needing a tonic? Read Mark Steyn, who honours the dead in Fallujah and rounds on the contractors' detractors who make their deaths appear dishonourable.

'Adults and children hacked the bodies to pieces, before lynching two of the charred remains from a bridge spanning the Euphrates River.'- words from a BBC report on the Fallujah atrocities.

Bad Word Selection. Un-r-us drew my attention to the BBC's use of the word 'lynching' to describe the stringing up of the already dead and dismembered bodies of the contractors murdered by Fallujans yesterday. I thought it was poor word selection, but when I consulted a dictionary I was really dismayed. You see, my casual British understanding (the general sense here I think), is that 'lynching' is simply another word for 'hang in order to kill'. However, that's not what my dictionary says. It describes it as 'to judge and put to death without the usual forms of law'. It has nothing to do with hanging per se.

So was that what was going on in Fallujah yesterday: an extra-judicial killing? Not even that. Was a kind of discernible judgement taking place among the local people and the only thing missing a courtroom for full justice to be served?

Of course, the Beeb couldn't have meant that, could they? Only someone inclined to believe that Fallujan hangers-around-street corners with guns represent some kind of default, popular Iraqi authority, could take the word 'lynching' in this literal sense. But as I've already stated, the uneducated view of 'lynching' was the one I lazily held. If they were lazy, like me, or uneducated, they would never have used it. That leaves us with only one option: they knew what they were implying and they meant it that way- even if the use of it contrary to a popular misunderstanding of it tempts people like myself to dismiss it as a slip.

The Beeb just couldn't be as stupid as to use such a meaningful word so meaninglessly. Why choose it in the first place when the simplest word by far would have been 'hung'? Why, when they used the word 'hung' through most of their coverage, did they interject the word 'lynching'?

To be fair, to have used the word in this way would only be consistent with the BBC's refusal to refer to Palestinian suicide bombers as murderers and terrorists. What else can we expect?

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

More Bloggies. Natalie has pointed this media scrutinising blog out at BBBC. One of the things you will discover about The Ultra Moderate is the author's good taste in templates. Additionally I formally welcome Dan, or Max the UN dignitary, as I must come to see him, to the Fellowship of the Beeb-Bash.

Marr's Whitewash. I caught PMQ's this lunchtime, and sure enough Michael Howard led with the subject of immigration. As the six questions unfolded the Labour Backbenches became a wall of intimidated MP's, and the Labour Frontbench was lined up against it as though facing a firing squad. Howard was executioner, firing off round after round. Andrew Marr, chief BBC political correspondent's comment? Howard went off the rails after the first few questions.
That would be when the opposition benches were in uproar and Mr Blair looked fit to faint, I suppose.

Something I missed: Some commentary on the latest polls from the Beeb, drowned out (for me) by all the droning about Bush's 'populist' 'U-turn' over Rice's public testimony. Apparently Bush's 'narrow lead' can be attributed to 'the fact that for many people Mr Clarke's allegations have been drowned out by millions of dollars that the Bush campaign has started to spend on advertising.'

Of course the truth is that Clarke's testimony had the best exposure possible: oodles of air-time from supposedly impartial broadcasters like the BBC. CNN for instance gave it massive attention. That's why Clarke's laughing all the way from the bookstore to the bank. The only trouble has been that after their initial impact, people have seen right through his allegations to the self-interested man behind them.

Nick Fisks Orla(Guerin). It's fast becoming one of my favourite confrontations. She's probably not aware of it, but this man is well and truly on her case.

The Beeb and Pushing the Envelope. It seems that the Beeb is generally in the vanguard of sensationalising stories relating to its bugbears: GWB, Iraq, 'Racism', 'Poverty' and so on. According to the Beeb, the decision made that Condeleeza Rice should testify to the 9/11 commission is a 'Whitehouse U-turn on 9/11 Enquiry'. No, Beeb, it's a 'u-turn' on the issue of Condeleeza Rice's public testimony, or lack thereof. The enquiry itself has not been at issue. Furthermore, if you call this, as Matt Frei does, a 'U-turn of breathtaking proportions', what language are you going to use for a really shocking about turn?

'According to polls', the Beeb says, 'constitutional nit-picking' over Rice's testimony was unpopular. Might these be the same polls, that have gone unreported by the Beeb, which show Bush's general stock rising among Americans?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Beeb and Immigration. I think it was DumbJon who said something about BBC journalists who viewed Conservative leaders like Michael Howard as the type who went round eating babies. Cracking post, that- because just short of being true. In this context it’s important to remember (or read up on) Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech in 1968, which is indelibly branded on any true liberal’s mind as permanent proof that the Tories are eeeeeevil.

Now, in the context of immigration controversy, we find language used by the Beeb in most interesting ways. I could concentrate on the subtle way the Beeb presents the actual issues at stake, but to me the stand out feature is the mudslinging language.

In this article, we read ‘The Tory party scents blood over the immigration row’. David Davis, Tory spokesman, is ‘seeking a scalp’. He has been ‘after’ Beverly Hughes (after in the sense, well, you know, not like that), and believes he has her ‘firmly in his sights’. This atavistic presentation essentially tells you one thing: the Tories are viciously and selfishly pursuing their agenda- the same old Tory party of Enoch and The Sun. Incidentally, the very name ‘Tory’ is often applied when the Beeb wants to imply something highly party-political. In doing this the Beeb are shielding the Labour Government from the scrutiny that it desperately needs, in the context of an issue that is vitally important at the moment.

Update: Peter Cuthbertson makes a thoughtful foray into the general area in this posting on England's Sword.

Alistair Cooke has died. That's very sad, although he was a great age. Now I wonder if he could be persuaded to run a new series of letters... 'Letter from Elysium', perhaps?

Monday, March 29, 2004

To mark the moment when I add Samizdata to my links, I recommend these photos of a Samizdatan trip to Prague. Since one of the greatest Samizdat writers was Vaclav Havel, and since my neice was born in Prague seven months ago, and my brother lives near Prague, this really appealed to me. Also check out the post about the Spectator magazine below it, which summed up my feelings about it very neatly. Samizdata is like a sort of godfather of the Anti-Beebs which have sprung up on the Web. Update: 'Vaclav', incidentally, translates as 'Wenceslas', so the Christmas carol could begin 'Good King Vaclav (first) looked out...' . Also incidentally re: the Samizdata post, the River Vlatva is pronounced 'Voltova'- just in case you catch a newsreader getting it totally wrong.

Having Chewed and Spat Out Richard Clarke and his evidence (which may have nevertheless, wrongly I'm sure, adversely affected Bush's prospects), Glenn Reynolds is marshalling resources from the Blogosphere and beyond to tackle the corruption of the UN over Oil-for-Food. I look forward to adding to this post what the BBC has to offer on its website, if anything. Samizdata, meanwhile, has this.

The Bin Laden I have known. Right, well, hopefully that's got some attention. I thought I'd have a go at commenting on the BBC documentary last night. It wasn't a bad presentation really (ie, it was interesting). I'm always a fan of first-hand accounts. On the other hand when contributors have generally received audiences with Bin Laden at his discretion, and they included Abdel Bari-Atwan of Al Jazeera, Robert Fisk and others, one might wonder whether Bin Laden has been planning how his persona was going to be presented to the West and selecting his contacts carefully.

The main thrust of a critique would be the that the selection of material was slanted heavily towards an interpretation that Bin Laden's motivation arises out of the actions of the US and Israel. Incidents that somehow were omitted included the 1993 WTC attack and the killing of Daniel Pearl. One got the sense of a timeline based on their chosen anecdotes that required Bin Laden's grievances to be growing through the nineties. One got little sense of Bin Laden's broader thinking, beyond the desire to disable the last remaining infidel superpower.

One strange thing that came outside the stream of interviews was the implication that Bin Laden had never been to the West, let alone lived there. This was most bizarre. They said that he stayed in the Middle East and attended Jeddah university, studying economics (but what did he do in the holidays?). This tied in with the statement on the BBC website that he began life in a 'humble' manner. It's odd because everyone knows (and is not wrong) that bin Laden's family are one of the richest in Saudi Arabia- which means decadent, too. It is inconceivable that Bin Laden hasn't travelled to the West and made observations. He's probably shopped in Harrods. Elsewhere in the film they admitted that Bin Laden was wealthy, and looked upon as a financier in Afghanistan. If Bin Laden hasn't travelled then I'm a Dutchman. They pointed to the photo (well distributed on the web) of his family members in the West, and said that Bin laden was not among them and that the idea that Osama was Westernised was a myth. 'So', I found myself asking, 'he never visited his family abroad then?'

As I've mentioned this programme was overhwelmingly anecdotal, which made this non-anecdotal assertion more extraordinary still. BTW, Dan commented in a below thread about the Panorama programme last night on Saddam Hussein's time as a fugitive. I saw the opening of that programme, and it looked truly awful. When will the Beeb run a documenary on the staging of Arab demonstrations, examining whether the 'Arab Street' rises up in response largely to monetary incentives?

Resistance to BBC Probe. I always think the word 'probe' sounds painful, and so it is for the Beeb judging by this Guardian article about staff opposition to a post-Hutton internal enquiry. What I can't work out is why the Guardian headlines it 'Top BBC staff threaten to walk out over WMD probe'. Aren't WMD somewhat tangental to the problems highlighted by Hutton? (via Andrew Sullivan)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Marc at USS Neverdock has reminded me that Osama Bin Laden will be filling BBC2 screens tonight at 8pm. I normally avoid such pop-psychology sessions because you struggle to get past all the dramatic voiceovers, the background music, the artful cutting and the loaded questions- and that's when it's good. I might try this one though, and with all my concentration I might just learn something from it.

More apologies- as ineffectual and self-interested as the Annan or the Clarke apologies. I remember the name Jed Walker from some news bulletin or other. He died because someone wasn't in jail when they should have been. Or something. DumbJon goes to work on the responsible parties.

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