Saturday, July 03, 2004

More Evidence (circumstantial) that the Beeb don't want to cast a light on the oil-for-food scandal.

Earlier today I found out from this report that a 'senior financial official' in the Iraqi Government had been killed by a terrorist bomb (word 'terrorist' supplied by me). I thought that was sad, but nothing more.

Later, via LGF, I come across this Reuters report which says quite simply that 'The Iraqi official heading the investigation into alleged corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food program was killed in a bomb attack earlier this week'.

Now why didn't the BBC tell me that, when they mention his seniority and details similar to those Reuters reported?

Update: I wish I'd quoted more extensively. The BBC stealth-edited the piece to include the full information- something I only discovered thanks to Susan's remark in the comments section at Biased BBC. What's the significance of this and is my original point refuted? Not really- fewer people will have read the full story; and with no acknowledgement from the Beeb that they boobed in missing essential news that situation won't be rectified by extra publicity.

Plett's Pet Topic.

Barbara Plett is on the way to being well known as a Beeb Jihadophile, and she's in good form (by that standard) in her latest offering about the Palestinians and that wall.

She manages to cover most of the bases; you know, impoverished Palestinians, an eight metre high concrete wall 'in places' through 'occupied East Jerusalem' (the joke in this one is to look at the accompanying photo where children are shown playing alongside a section of concrete wall that is being assembled- the children are almost as tall as the wall!).

After dramatising and misrepresenting that case (most of the 'wall' is actually chain-link fencing, as the BBC know well) she goes on to 'explain' the cause and effect thing that the Glasgow Media group are so keen on. Dwelling on the economic crisis amongst Palestinians, she says 'The main reason is Israel's closure policy.'

This is interesting. I was hearing about Palestinian economic woes well before the construction of the wall began- and we can't forget the basic reality that no intifada = no wall. Also, it cannot be denied that a country subject to frequent explosions is less attractive to investment and visitors, so an unwalled region with frequent suicide bombings and military responses is unlikely to be a honeypot.

But for Plett it's all wall, wall, wall, and she drags in an Israeli economist to confirm that this is merely wicked Zionism at work. He dutifully confirms that the idea behind the wall is to put pressure on the Palestinians by impoverishing them.

Unfortunately for Plett and illuminatingly for her readers he also says '"[This is] not understanding that the violence is the outcome of a consensus on the Palestinian side -to use violence in order to change the political situation." '

Now, reading that, can you blame the Israelis if they didn't want to sustain economically a people united in violence against them?

I say 'if', because one of few things which is undeniable, amidst all this cause and effect tail-chasing, is that the Israeli fence with bits of wall in it has reduced suicide bombings and attacks within Israel to virtually nil. So what was the purpose of that wall again? Ah yes, to make the Palestinians poor. The side-effect isn't a bad one though, is it?

Friday, July 02, 2004

Saddam Loving Celebrity Watchers

The BBC does its own version of Hello! magazine as Martin Asser speculates about Saddam's 'sylph-like' appearance and whether his daughter has had a 'tummy-tuck'. He also mentions rumours that Saddam is a long-term 'afficionado' of the Atkins Diet.

It's just disrespectful to the people who suffered under Saddam's regime to discuss him in these ways. It will make it difficult for the Iraqi courts to establish the right kind of seriousness and authority if international media like the BBC treat the despot with this kind of levity. There's little doubt that Saddam's biggest encouragements over the last sixteen months (and more) have come from the western media.

The Beeb seem to think that since Gen. Myers mentioned Saddam's weight loss and followed it with a comment about excercise it was the cue for them to go all girly magazine (doesn't take much urging for the lightweights at the Beeb). It ought to be obvious that there is a reason for mentioning Saddam's physical condition: the media's distrust of US treatment of prisoners. Asser avoids saying this.

The serious point just doesn't seem to register. Hysterically anxious one moment; unserious the next. The Beeb set one fine example.

Asser makes one or two interesting asides. One of them is to describe items for the weight-conscious that were ordered by Saddam's regime via the UN. He says unambiguously 'all purchases were blocked by the UN'- and seems to imply a much frostier relationship than we've heard about recently via people like Claudia Rosett. But then, the Beeb don't take that seriously, either.

One final thing; to refer to Saddam as 'Iraq's political strongman' as Asser does in his conclusion seems to be understating things badly. I hate to harp on, but the term 'strongman' was used in a broadcast by Orla Guerin in April this year to describe Ariel Sharon (I heard it with my disbelieving ears). There's no doubt that Saddam will use his sham elections to defend himself as the popular leader of Iraq in his coming trial. Do the BBC agree with this defence?

A Case In A point:

via LGF, this instance of BBC bias feels like a vindication of my case made below against the 'second major finding' of the Glasgow Media Group study-turned-into-a-book. It illustrates that if the BBC aren't yet satisfying leftist organisations like G.M.G., they are trying their best to do so. See if you can spot the point in the BBC report about Jordanian willingness to send troops to Iraq (hint- it relates to points C and D in my previous post) and then look at Charles' post for where 'The truth is exactly opposite to the way they describe it.' - as usual.

[Update: you won't be able to spot it as it's been stealth edited away! I'd call that their fault not mine, but sorry to anyone who was puzzled. What now reads 'The Jordanian people, many of whom are of Palestinian origin' used to read 'the Jordanian people, who are largely of Palestinian origin'. Not an easy error to make I think.]

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I Know They're Wrong, prt 2

Glasgow Media Group's second of their major findings was that people were not informed by the news [media] about the history underlying Israel and the Palestinians. They seem to think this is bad for the Palestinians, and in their book quote people saying they'd like to support the Palestinians if they only understood them better.

Norm expresses the problem with this very modestly and nicely:

'Are we to suppose that the same viewers afflicted by these informational gaps all have an excellent knowledge of various circumstances not mentioned here: the establishment of the State of Israel on the basis of a UN resolution; this in the aftermath of the genocide against the Jews of Europe; the immediate declaration of war on Israel by the surrounding Arab nations, and their continuing hostility after that? I'm disinclined to believe that knowledge-gapped viewers somehow only have gaps in their knowledge that disfavour the Palestinian case, but are thoroughly on top of all the facts which might be placed on the other side of the balance.'

I'll defer to Norm as to the definitiveness of this list, but points I've also heard raised (which I note randomly, as befits my sketchy knowledge) are A)The treatment of Jews in Muslim lands during the holocaust; B)The reality of continuous occupation of the land of Israel by Jews for millenia to the present day; C)The ambiguous nature of the people group defined 'Palestinian'- as opposed to Jordanian; D)The previous 'occupation' of 'Palestinian' lands by Jordan and Egypt; E)The inception of the current 'occupation' as part of a war of self-defence.

- and there are probably many others I haven't mentioned. Of course they could be part of a smokescreen, and there are two sides to every story, but no-one can expect to have the story the way they want it every time, which is what the 'Palestinians' appear to want.

What the Glasgow Media Group are articulating here is not, it seems to me, a belief that by informing people properly through the news the Palestinians would get more support, but the desire to simplify the history sufficiently that we might have a clear sense that the Palestinians deserve our sympathy. Their chosen historical narrative leaves its own trail of ambiguities, which they ignore. They are then left lamenting the patchiness of their desired set of simplifications in media like the BBC.

It seems to me that the cry of 'simplification' is actually the heart of the problems with the media coverage of Israel today- a cry that the BBC would love to respond to but daren't do consistently. I'm of the opinion the issue of Israel and Palestine is neither simple nor fiendishly complex. It's not the preserve of academics but it's not for the casual observer either. I am fairly certain a real sense of history (and I might add, ethnicity, religion and geography) would mean the reverse of what G.M.G. intends would happen: we would staunchly support democratic Israel.

Awards that tell a tale:

Mark Steyn says 'In the autumn of 2001... publications had begun giving ‘Susan Sontag Awards’ and similarly facetious honours for notably stupid anti-war commentary. ... Well, something’s changed in the last couple of years, and those left-wing stragglers are a lot less malnourished.'

Meanwhile, two of the publications that take Steyn's articles have won or been nominated for a different kind of award:

'The winners of the Islamic Human Rights Commission ’s annual Islamophobia Awards'... Most Islamophobic Media' are the Daily Telegraph, followed by the Sun and the Spectator.

It's a worrying trend- to me a situation where 'pretend' propaganda meets the real thing, and wilts.

No nominations for the BBC, though the rest of British society- from Polly Toynbee to Melanie Phillips, David Blunkett to George Carey- is fairly well covered in their effort to keep the Dhimmis in line. (via Steynonline)

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

If you've warmed up with Paul Reynolds' insightful account of the Iraq transfer (see below), you'll be ready for an even more insightful one (warning: Michael Moore looms large in it).

Israel: A law abiding society that cares about human rights. Why should this require discussion? It's obvious, surely?

Never success; only respite.

I had to comment on this report by Paul Reynolds. Readers may know I'm not fond of Paul, because he usually manages to smuggle into his reporting things that are purely opinionated and cynically destructive.

There're a couple of things here. First of all he calls the early handover of power to Iraqis 'a rare propaganda coup'. Since it was Reynolds who has spent the last few months doubting the possiblity of handing over power, you'd think he might recognise that this could be part of a successful mission and not merely propaganda- but no.

Secondly, he has a problem with the handover taking place at a time which coincides with the G8 summit. He says 'some bright spark' must have thought it up. I'd have thought it was stating the politically obvious that when you need support from the world community you emphasise your good intentions at the maximal time. In any case I'm sure this was not the only thing considered.

He also finds time to say 'the hurried nature of the move is an indication by itself that not all is well in the state of Iraq.'. Well, we would never have gone there if the garden had been rosy, now, would we? The idea that we wouldn't in some sense have to play nip and tuck with reactionaries or terrorists in Iraq would falsify part of the case for war- and you can bet Reynolds would be pointing that out now if things were totally calm.

It's not until half way down the article that Reynolds deigns to mention that 'There is also one other benefit. The sudden move could disrupt whatever plans the insurgents have to mark the 30 June themselves'. Sorry Paul, but this was not a side effect, it was likely the prime motivation behind the move. No one likes to get bombed on their special day. You just can't handle the fact that your enemy the Bush administration (or perhaps- and I'm trying not to follow Reynolds and discount them- the fledging Iraqi Government) has proved itself so shrewd on this occasion.

The rest of the article sounds more reasonable, but is still questionable. He says, in a tone which makes the Green Zone sound like the Kremlin of times past, 'propaganda coups tend not to last unless they are based on fundamentals'.

Now I think it's clear we're dealing with a diehard opponent of the war. When he says 'fundamentals' he's drawing us all back to the beginning of the war and saying 'the fundamentals were wrong- so they still are'. All the problems we face now you could trace back to Reynolds' beliefs at the beginning: that Saddam had a greater legitimacy than any government that could be installed by US intervention.

That's just my supposition, but it's the only way I can understand his negativism in the face of what would seem to be success for the coalition in Iraq.

I Know They're Wrong, part 1.

I was just thinking about the report by the Glasgow Media Group claiming pro-Israel bias at the BBC and reflecting on how my views on media (specifically BBC) bias have developed as the months have passed since I started to take it seriously.

At first I was brashly confident, relying on a store of strong impressions and occasionally definitive insight gained over more than a decade of mild distrust of the Beeb. Then I went through a phase of panicky certainty, as I began to unfold more of the issues, admit some errors on my part, but cling successfully to aforementioned moments of definitiveness.

Now I emerge to a place where I can look the Glasgow Media Group in the eye, stick out a tongue and say (but only after putting the tongue back in) 'I know you're wrong'.

Thankfully, the G.M.G. provided links from their summary of their report to extracts from their much later published book, so we can check out their approach and prove what we 'know'.

I'll make a start here with the first of seven 'major findings'. The G.M.G. claim that Israelis get the lion's share of interviews with the Beeb- and support it statistically. They show that Palestinians get far fewer interviews- and this is supposed to indicate bias against them.

Personally I have never dwelt much on the number of interviews accorded the two parties. Our sympathies are not dictated by the number of faces we see from one side or the other, but by the character of the interviews, frequently dependent on lede reports and intros. Too often I have seen Israelis summoned like naughty children to face a schoolmarmish journalist.

It can often be that media people summon those they disagree with for interviews (think of Jeremy Paxman)- it makes for more sparks and better TV, as well as offering a kind of figleaf of statistical imbalance in favour of their bogeymen that is so naively accepted by the G.M.G..

As for the point they make that American politicians supportive of Israel are often interviewed, I would respond by saying that we often distrust American politicians, and that one of the best ways of undermining Israel is to have powerful Americans defending Israeli actions from a great distance on British TV. Besides, my question is always 'why not a British politician defending Israeli actions from a distance on British TV?' Is it that they know the British people, having experience of terrorism at home, will respond too well to a forthright authentic British voiced raised in Israel's defence?

Even the direct quote this excerpt cites, from ITV, indicates how leaden and inept their analysis is. They italicise most strangely:

'The presence in Jerusalem of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is further evidence that for now it's the Israelis who have the world's sympathy.'

Didn't they notice the construction 'for now'? Meaning that such sympathy was a temporary phenomenon; meaning the exception rather than the rule. They seem to prove the falseness of their own case there and then in their own publicity.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I Get Angry About Language, again.

The BBC continually revert to their default idiocy, like a rubber band that's only mildly stretched by the forces operating on it. No matter what criticism comes their way they return to the default- and the default amounts to support of terrorists against the West.

Consider for instance this passage from a BBC report on Zarkawi's bunch of cockroaches releasing safely the latest props in their Islamic fascist theatre: three Turkish hostages, heads attached. According to the Beeb 'Correspondents say Iraqi kidnappers are trying to deflect criticism from Muslim countries by sparing those of the same faith wherever possible.'

The above sentence is fatuous, obsequious and wrong.

For a start these terrorists are part of the movement that mercilessly kills Muslims in Iraq. They are concerned about propaganda for their cause, but they don't care about Muslims (at least not the 'wrong' sort of Muslim).

Secondly, the word 'sparing' is hopelessly inappropriate. It implies mercy, but we know that these terrorists don't have any mercy in them. They understand expediency and that is all.

Finally, the phrase 'wherever possible' is a disgrace, implying that there is a force of necessity behind the actions of the terrorists. What is 'possible' is that they could leave Iraq, commit suicide (sans bomb), maybe even join a political movement somewhere with due remorse for their actions. All these things are 'possible' though not likely, but 'sparing' victims is not a 'possibility', it's a moral imperative.

There is another point arising from this article. The BBC report the statement of the terrorists describing why they released the hostages. It might be a matter of debate whether they should do this, but I don't think they should. With every act of terror these men are trying to make a political point, because they know that is their only way to influence actions of the West that affect their ambitions (such as, in this case, elections). I don't think the BBC should mention their 'reasoning', because that is the motivation for their acts of terror: to impose their reasoning on ours and to overcome us thereby.

They want us in terror of their zeal and filled with contempt for our own authorities. That's the message they're trying to send, the impression they're trying to foist on us- and the BBC is passing it on faithfully.

Update: Marc at USS Neverdock makes a comparison between the report I highlight and one by Paul Reynolds. Incidentally, the only defence I could offer for the BBC's phrasing is if you can separate the kidnapping terrorists from the shooting kind, or even bombing kind- but you can't.

Monday, June 28, 2004

A great review for Michael Moore (I think Michael Moore's a kind of genius: only he could inspire such good work from leading journalist-critics)-

Says Matt Labash: 'I do not trash Fahrenheit 9/11 because it's a piece of antiwar propaganda. I trash Fahrenheit 9/11 because it's an offal-laden piece of junk... Moore doesn't make art, he makes fudge'

Ironies Here.

The BBC give a high place to an item about two reports alleging false accounting in the CPA's management of oil revenues in Iraq. The sources for these reports? The anti-war Lib-dems and Christian Aid.
The Beeb report says that the reports have not been released yet, though in fact the Christian Aid one seems to be available at their website.

Now, to check reality: have the Lib-Dems any involvement other than as arm-chair critics over Iraq? Have Christian Aid anything to offer other than some kind of Rowan Williams boilerplate? (I merely point out that so far neither the Church nor the Lib dems are known for saying anything about Iraq except that the war to overthrow that most corrupt man, Saddam Hussein, was illegal. Incidentally, Christian Aid appear only to operate in Kurdish Northern Iraq.)

The Lib Dems allege 'there is a shortfall of up to $3.7bn (£2.03bn) between the amount of oil revenue earned and the money paid into the DFI by the CPA.' According to the Lib Dems 'research by the Lib Dems suggests oil revenues stand between $12.2bn (£6.7bn) and $14.5bn (£7.96bn)'- which is greater than the figures from the CPA.

Meanwhile, Christian Aid reiterate the point, and the BBC quote them saying the Coalition's financial statements have been 'woefully inadequate'- but this quote from their introduction to the report is revealing:

''What has the coalition got to hide by not making such information available for Iraq's own money? Is it putting the cash to the best use for the people of Iraq? Or is it still rewarding US companies with lucrative contracts?' said Ms Collinson' [Christian Aid's 'head of policy']

Do they have the faintest clue what they are talking about? In a situation where oil has been a primary target of saboteurs and insurgents, they have the temerity to suggest that they know better than the CPA what the oil revenues are? Not a mention of 'sabotage' in the Beeb report, which is pathetic when in general they're so keen to talk about insecurity in Iraq (it's their job to question sources). Have any of them bothered to check out the major infrastructural and living standards improvements going on in Iraq, and asked themselves whether they would have been possible under fraudulent authorities? No, they wouldn't have, because they didn't ask similarly straightforward questions when people were dying for lack of resources in Iraq yet Saddam's oil scheme was increasing continually.

Ah, but that's not the only irony. The irony is that you can have months of investigations and revelations about real corruption on a massive scale concerning Oil-for-Food and it gets coverage that is so muted and circumscribed as to be null, yet when two poxy drivel-mongers cry 'foul', it goes straight to the top of the headlines- and stays there.

(No mention of their report on the LibDem website, which may be out later in the week)

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Walking into a punch- BBC style.

I'm a big fan of Mark Steyn. There's no-one in the media world I agree with more and admire so much, or who makes me laugh the way Steyn does. He styles himself a 'One-Man Global Content Provider', which is very bold but something I have come to consider not unreasonable- like so much else that he says.

Steyn is one of the (many) reasons I consider the BBC irredeemably biased for an organisation that styles itself 'impartial'. If you think about it Steyn's claim is actually far more modest than the BBC's. But the reason Steyn makes me feel the BBC are biased is that he is often attacked and labelled a right-wing hack(via SteynOnline), a doyen of populist exaggeration, which is so funny since again and again I find that the BBC report in terms diametrically opposed to Steyn's. This means that if Steyn is 'rightwing' as so many claim he is, the BBC must be 'leftwing', no?

And now I come to my examples.

Recently the BBC's Matt Frei's been reporting on an unwelcomed visit by President Bush to Ireland- but Steyn has anticipated this turn of events in his reflections on Ronald Reagan. (second story down).

-Frei says: 'The love affair between the United States and Ireland dates back to the early waves of immigration and continues to be reinforced by a mixture of shared values, folklore and nostalgia.'

Steyn says: '... the lion’s share of green cards in the annual lottery are reserved for the Irish, thanks to an artful wheeze by Ted Kennedy. Plus, if you fly there from Shannon, you get to pre-clear US immigration, a privilege extended to no other country apart from Canada. With Canada, there are compelling economic reasons for facilitating cross-border traffic. With Ireland, it’s pure sentimentality – and largely unreciprocated at that.'

-Frei says: 'St. Patrick's Day - religiously observed as a national holiday in the US - compels tens of thousands of Americans to drink green beer once a year, march to bagpipes or buy plastic shamrocks.'

Steyn says: 'Shamrock-flavoured blather is not what it once was in North America, and St Patrick’s Day has never really recovered from the “queering of the green” – the battle by Irish gays and lesbians to march as such in the parade, which has led either to its cancellation (Boston), its subversion by an alternative “inclusive” parade (New York), or its general fading as a demonstration of political muscle.'

-Frei says: 'There's the ancestral dimension. Ronald Reagan, whose forefathers were Irish Presbyterians, took Nancy to sip Guinness in a pub near their place of birth.'

Steyn says: 'Mr Reagan’s death reminds us that Bush is not the first President to be unloved in Europe.'

-While Frei luxuriates in all the details of the Irish opposition to Bush, Steyn sums it up by saying 'Mr Bush is about to touch down on the Emerald Isle for the US-EU summit, a huge waste of everyone’s time except insofar, as one Dubliner wrote to me, as it enables Dubya to be arrested and tried for war crimes at the Hague.'

But the fundamental difference between Frei and Steyn is that while Steyn makes the argument of a divergent trend between the US and Europe, Frei specifically picks out Bush as the divergent party. Steyn talks history, sociology, trends; Frei talks emotion, flashpoint, mood- and political blame.

One final contrast:

-Frei says: 'More recently there were the scenes of near hysteria and jubilation that greeted Bill Clinton on his numerous visits to the Emerald Isle.

Northern Ireland was a hot political topic during his presidency and one in which he became personally involved.'

Steyn says (reviewing Clinton's book) that Clinton would have done better to 'Shoot for more of 'The shaft of light from the dying sun through the Oval Office window caught the swell of her bosom as she slid the extra-large pepperoni across the desk. I knew it was wrong. I'd penciled in that evening for bringing peace to Northern Ireland, but what the hell, the two sides of that troubled island's sectarian conflict were separated by as deep a divide as the plunging cleavage now beckoning from her low-cut angora sweater. Ulster could wait.' " '

In case anyone thinks that Steyn is beyond the pale here, remember that Clinton did indeed interchange important meetings with international figures with important meetings with full-figured interns. Fact. Since the shallowness of the peace in Northern Ireland seems to be a great problem, isn't it worth asking (and continuing to ask, until we get a response) whether such issues merited more than the periods when Clinton's mind was not on his latest conquest or the scandal generated thereby?

Clearly Matt Frei will never even contemplate such questions. Does that make him biased?

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