Friday, April 30, 2004

Yeah, and hang the UNscammers too.

Speaking of BIAS in Fallujah, The BBC reports today in a low-key report that Al Jazeera is being taken to task by the Government of Qatar- which provides most of its funding- for its factual distortions (my question- how serious are they in these criticisms?). The BBC explains how A.J. has won its audience through a 'trenchant style of journalism that frequently challenges Washington's policies in the Middle East'. They don't mention that Al-Jazeera was born substantially out of the ashes of the BBCArabic service though- which I think not a lot of people know. They also don't mention that Al-Jazeera and the BBC have had an agreement to share resources and facilities since January 2003. Many A.J. journalists are former BBC journalists- which probably explains a lot about both organisations. (Source)

MR Freemarket made a note
of the BBC's coverage in Fallujah recently. So (comprehensively) did Marc at USS Neverdock (Marc also followed up, as he does so well).

Not being a military person, and having been fed a diet of scary Vietnam rumourmongering as my education in warfare (Full Metal Jacket, The Killing Fields, Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon- the nearest I've come to a fight is a near miss with cattle rustling on the Kenya/Uganda border), with a strong foregrounding in patriotic British efforts (The Wooden Horse, Where Eagles Dare, Dunkirk), I am always wary of denying atrocity-like behaviour in battle-zones from sheer self-consciousness. However, there are some reasons for being suspicious of the BBC coverage suggesting US warcrimes in Fallujah.

The source of accusations was a prominent peace activist, Jo 'politicians and corporations are sucking your blood' Wilding, who had volunteered to help in ambulances in Fallujah. Peace Activist = opposed to the war = anti-US and sympathetic to remnants of the old Regime. That much is obvious- why not report her background? Oh, I get it: no more story.

Equally no story without the support of the rumour mill: 'we know American bullets. We are not a stupid people'

The BBC used terms like 'US gunmen', which enforces equivalence between the US Army and the Fallujan fighters. The term simply has no basis in military terminology. Why use it when it only prejudices the reader's conclusion about US behaviour? Oh, I get it.

Today the BBC reported the pull-out from Fallujah. Well, they called it a 'pull-out' from Fallujah, though I think it could just have easily been termed a 'redeployment' to the outskirts of Fallujah. The BBC is intent on exposing every chink in US behaviour in Iraq- which is why they included not only news of the troop movements, but talk about abuse of Coalition-held Iraqi prisoners in Abu Graib (this you will not find in the article now- it has been replaced with descriptions of cheering crowds celebrating the US 'pull-out'), and a fatuous comment that 'the Pentagon appears to have been left behind by the pace of events on the ground.', all in the same article. (Note: I welcome coverage of abuses at Abu Graib- just not in this article. My view of this Abu Graib incident is that it's fairly trivial, albeit in its way reprehensible. Stupid soldiers played stupid pranks on people they identified with the former owners of Abu Graib- the Baathists. That's by the by though- a mere distraction but a needless intensifier for this BBC article. Abu Graib extra: This rather proves my point: 'a female soldier, with a cigarette in her mouth, simulates holding a gun and pointing at a naked Iraqi's genitals' . How will he ever recover- the cigarette in the mouth! The simulated gun!?)

Some of their coverage has been fairer, such as this Jonathan Marcus effort, but they have to get their pound of flesh first.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

'more deaths in Iraq, more dissent in Britain and America, more doubts about whether the Middle-East strategy can work' (ran the headline).

New Comedy-Drama slot at the Beeb? I watched NewsNight last night, and it became quite amusing. You know how grave-looking Jeremy Paxman can appear? He was in overdrive as NewsNight took a tight grip on 'automatic fire', and kept firing blanks.

It was intended as a follow-up to the Camel-corps controversy/idiocy (among what someone called the '2nd XI' ex-British Diplomats). Sort of like how American-idol followed up PopIdol, so this was to be American Diplomat-idol.

Unfortunately the US ex-diplomat that's leading the charge of the Camel-corps Statesside happened to be even more obscure than the obscurist of the obscure UK diplomats. He was 84 year old Andrew Ivy Kilgore, who (I later discovered) is not notable for much except for bringing legal action against pro-Israel lobbyists, and he had been US Ambassador to, wait for it, Qatar, from, wait for it, 1977-1980 (you know, the glory years of Carter and the Iran hostages). His diction was unclear and his sentences rambling and he spent all interview having flashes of conviction where he would drop names like LBJ and Vietnam (they were practically the only distinguishable words). Something about how talk of 'staying tough' in Iraq was recalling the old days of Vietnam- but, you kept thinking, doesn't everything recall the past to a man this past-it?

Paxman tried to look serious- and obviously to NewsNight it's not what these dusty diplomats are saying, or even who they are (assuming most people are impressed generally by ambassadors and not too choosy about individual status), it's that they're saying anything at all negative that gives them a story. When Richard Clarke began his jamboree it was all about how he had served under four Presidents, Democrat as well as Republican, at a senior level. Funny how NewsNight forgot to mention that type of thing last night, despite a five minute introduction/interview with Washington Correspondent Tom Carver, during which (amid many sly comments) he asserted of the US that 'anything that Sharon needs to secure his position they will support' (note, 'Sharon'- not 'Israel').

Actually 'the letter' was an e-mail that had not yet been published but that the BBC had 'obtained'. They didn't even know who would sign it because the rounds had not been fully done (apparently)- but that wasn't the point. The set news agenda required a seamless continuation of 'difficult' news for the coalition.

That wasn't the end though. The main headline was of course about death in Iraq and Middle-East policy failure (in other words, the default BBC headline), so they were going to bring on a junior visiting member of the IGC for extra quagmire colour. Bad move, Jeremy. Latif Rashid seemed to be aware of the drivel spouting from the BBC's dripping tap (he is the irrigation minister, after all- boom-boom), and when he came on he made clear 'Iraq is a massive country' and 'Fallujah is a small population centre', and therefore the security problems were not serious and the handover to Iraqis would take place and be substantial. 'End of Quagmire. I thank you' (he might've said- and at that point I began to laugh).

A Quick Sample of Topical Investigations (I meant to post this earlier, and then I thought I'd wait for the BBC; here's their piece on the Abu Graib scandal.)

Investigating Coalition Misbehaviour.

Investigating Ariel Sharon.

Investigating French Rapporteurs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Two stories via Instapundit (that the BBC are just going to have to learn to live with). Kenneth Timmerman uses his ISG contacts to give details that have been missing from media coverage in Iraq. Iraq didn't have WMD, just like a person who's eaten a whole bulb of garlic doesn't have garlic- when it's dripping out of every unguarded pore.

Claudia Rosett meanwhile keeps on turning over the significance and scope of UNscam: 'It's looking more and more as if one of the best reasons to get rid of Saddam Hussein was that it was probably the only way to get rid of Oil-for-Food.' - which is a neat way of putting it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The BBC's World Service is, as it has always been, funded by the Foreign Office. A simple fact, little known and often overlooked. There's no conspiracy theory that I know to talk about (although I'll bet plenty of people do), but when viewing a big issue like Iraq those historic ties may be significant. I'm sure that if the BBC and the 50 or so former diplomats had drafted the recent letter of protest together they could not have agreed more strongly in their views on Israel and Iraq. Greg Dyke is known to have thought that Blair was a traitor to his left-wing roots; I wonder if this is one of the ways he thought Blair was traitorous?

Not until you read Melanie Phillips' brilliant and excoriating attack on the Old Boys' letter do you see that it was just as well the BBC didn't mention too much of the detail of their arguments in their actual reports. By far the most impressive thing is that 52 former diplomats signed the thing, which gives Melanie reason to say 'The advanced state of Britain's utter moral bankruptcy is on vivid display'. Melanie's key point (as she quotes extensively and rebuts in detail), 'there is no law in the world which requires a state to sit on its hands while its citizens are murdered.', is surely the point, at which these mandarins of the faded Foreign Office appear to shrivel into nonentity like poisonous toads into the thick undergrowth of their own moral confusion. The BBC is quite right not to let the has-been diplomats' own words discredit them in their reports- it would be bad for The Cause.

Stalin's Satellites Have Moved Into A Different Orbit. This article from the BBC's Angus Roxburgh is an artful paen to the EU project. Enlargement is just one of the many events that will allow pro-Euro media and politicans to argue the case for our manifest destiny among the bubbly new Europeans.

Unfortunately for that, it's always the negative arguments that get Europhiles worked up most.

In this article we are told that the EU is not like the USSR, therefore it must basically be good-

'It's against this background - of colonial rule, oppression, resentment, and liberation - that entry into the EU has to be seen.'

From this we can learn that the EU is not colonial or oppressive, and symbolises liberty. Huh? It may not be colonial (a term that could use some definition) but its attitude to the sovereignty of democratic nation states is to say the least questionable. It doesn't lose a lot of sleep over failed referenda, and its means of operation can be very very close to coercive. Remember how, for Chirac, Poland 'lost a good opportunity to keep silent' over Iraq? A nice soundbyte for a 'democrat' I don't think. Notice also how one of the EU's raisons d'etre is to be anti-colonial. This neatly skewers a whole variety of nationalists in major countries (UK, Fra. Ger. etc) on the same 'failed' status as Russia, even though the Soviet Russian Empire was greatly different to any other during that period, except perhaps the short-lived Nazi empire.

The new nations, apparently, know that 'Their influence on Brussels decision-making may end up small, but at least their voice will be heard, not brutally silenced.'. If you take out the word 'brutally', however, as being unlikely in the short term, you are faced with a likely scenario for many smaller countries.

They are also a natural part of 'Europe': 'Prague, Bratislava and Budapest were mainstream European cities, part of "Mitteleuropa", '- but part also, it should be said, of the Habsburg empire of the tyrant Metternich, though this we are not told. Metternich said that he considered his empire 'a geographical necessity'. According to the linked source, 'He created the illusion of the ‘necessity’ of Austria at the Congress of Vienna, the illusion of a ‘system’ which could control European events'.

Back with Roxburgh: he says of the new entrants that 'they are likely to prove much more enthusiastic "Europeans" than many of the people in the existing EU states'. This is probably undeniable, but Roxburgh, lost in his fog of idealism, fails to nail the real reason for that. Membership will create massive job opportunities for their young people over the next ten years- as living standards and wages become somewhat realligned. The entrance of Eastern Europe into the EU is overwhelmingly and understandably about money, not Euro-enthusiasm. You could easily question whether such opportunities could not have been secured in bi-lateral treaties a number of years ago, were it not for the demands of the EU project.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Wretchard Gets Existential through poetry.

All About Balance. Glenn pointed to this soldier's tale, and he's right: it's interesting. Like so many real first-hand accounts from Iraq we get the 'He was shot at, endured mortar fire, rewired a dictator's palace, found compassion for a war-torn country' angle, but also the ' "They (Iraqis) want us there. The support we got from locals was unreal," said Neice. "Sure, there are small pockets of resistance, but it's rare." ', angle. Reading the man's account, and others in a similar vein, and adding 2 and 2, it is unlikely that his account is all that exaggerated; which begs a question about the coverage of the Big Media, in particular the BBC.

The BBC thinks balance is about not deciding that the insurgents are really a minority, about not affirming the positive nature of the Coalition's involvement, about reporting the vocal explosions of propaganda ahead of the quiet voice of the ordinary Iraqi (on the grounds that Bremer and Bush do their own propaganda in this respect)- in a sense denying that there is an 'ordinary' Iraqi out there beyond the ones conjured in coalition press conferences. They tacitly argue, 'who is the average Iraqi- perhaps he is our former Baathist translator, perhaps he is the Iraqi nationalist, or the Shia fundamentalist, and how are we to know?'. Behind these attitudes lie old prejudices, such as 'the US used to support Saddam's regime; why should we ignore it now?', or 'sovereignty is absolute, so we will give equal respect to Saddam's old loyalists as to the new INC'. Every time the BBC is forced away from these positions they think they are becoming propagandists for the Coalition, and they resent it deeply. The Gilligan debacle only served to drive their resentments deeper down.

That's why the soldier's tale is not told. That's why the majority of Iraqis are ignored in favour of a 'balance' between the opposing power groups in Iraq. The BBC finds its responsibility not to be to act as a siphon relaying impressions of events, but a power-broker in the great political games in Iraq and especially beyond. Of course there are ways in which they try and appease people who disapprove of their power-brokering stance- for instance the opinion poll they carried out in Iraq recently which won then many plaudits- but the mania for interpreting and guiding events interactively always reasserts itself.

Jeremiah at the Beeb. If you flick through the book of the prophet Jeremiah (which surely you do regularly) you will find an almost unbroken series of warnings and predictions of calamity. As a prophet, Jeremiah was pretty good at that sort of thing (hence someone bothered to write down and preserve a big wodge of his writings). Not so the BBC.

The BBC can take a snippet of warning from a US source, sew it together with an arguable instance of coalition violence, button on a spot of jihadic activity and attach it with velcro to a garment called 'crisis in Falluja', and then present that as part of the 'ongoing Iraq crisis' top news item (disclaimer- all ridiculous BBC news-gerrymanderings may be subject to changes without acknowledgement). Oh- and it even manages to recycle the arguable instance of coalition violence (involving children!) within the same article. This would not be so bad as a summary of news, treated discretely (and not recycled), but to present it as a seamless crisis, to lump Fallujah with Najaf and throw in a couple of other incidents, is just what the disparate anti-US forces in Iraq want to hear. It gives them hope (as ever, springing eternal) of frightening away the international community, applying political pressure to Bush, and intimidating to their profit commanders and troops on the ground.

It's also typical of BBC coverage of Iraq. From the beginning they have overridden typical journalistic distinctions such as geographical or religious differences in their enthusiastic coverage of the 'insurgency'. Paying attention to these distinctions would have given rise to some helpful deconstructive analyses of a series of lethal disruptive activities that aspire to become an insurgency. The BBC have also apparently failed to register the significance of the fact that as a British broadcaster they are giving more publicity to deaths of US servicemen than US networks, while the British losses since May 1st 2003 have been negligible and freakish where they have occurred. It's a pathetic loss of perspective for the British funded Broadcasting Corporation to spend all its time pointing out US casualties.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Claudia Rosett has some ideas for the UN's surplus Oil-for-Food cash: memorials to the suffering of Iraq's people under Saddam, an exchange she calls 'Oil-for-Memories'.

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