Sarah Sands obviously has quite boring hoidays if she spends any significant amount of them watching TV, but I could identify with this entertaining tale of leaving the BBC behind and finding oneself marooned with CNN.
I had that experience for a number of months in rural Spain. Only CNN and an obscure and frighteningly dull films channel were in English, and I needed my English-time every day, so CNN it was.
From experience I think Sarah Sands falls in to the category of a Telegraph apologist for the BBC (the Telegraph very hazily splits 50:50 on the matter- unlike its editorial policy which is squarely sceptical of our national broadcaster), and it appears this article is supposed to be a gentle reminder of 'how lucky we are' to have an Aunty who's always thinking about us.
True, she does describe how 'The cultural imperialism of the BBC vanishes.' when you leave the country and the channels behind- but this is no significant criticism in the pages of the Telegraph (whilst it will win you kudos with any passing stray Guardianistas).
She then describes how disconcerting it is to have one's country (Britain anyway) portrayed by CNN when one is used to the BBC. Personally I found it liberating, and then a bit boring, but she went straight to the 'boring' phase- with a lot of irritation thrown in.
In the curiously two-faced style of today's Telegraph she has a dig at the way 'CNN is a gleaming illustration of the patronising nature of American liberalism.'- and then proceeds to bash Kerry as being p.c.- completely missing how p.c. the BBC frequently is, and how pro-Kerry. She actually calls the BBC 'regionally correct', which is, to my mind, just an extra layer of p.c.- just as having extra tier of local government still leaves you with a government to deal with.
Finally, in words that might be interesting to stereotype gatherers in the US, she describes the virtue of the Beeb to British eyes, in uncannily Kerryesque blurriness:
'It is a nuance of tone. The BBC is cosy. It is family. There is none of the neurosis and sheen of CNN. The difference between CNN and the BBC is that between a hyperpower and a small but stout-hearted island in the Atlantic.'
Well, I'd agree that the BBC is more sophisticated than CNN, but what I remember from my time marooned with CNN was a reassuring sense that this was a news channel, and not a cultural artifact. Yes, the presenters were insecure, glossy, unreal- but they also had to shove in as many genuine facts between the ad breaks as they could, to justify being taken seriously amidst the glitz.
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Posted by ed thomas at 7:08 PM
Friday, August 06, 2004
Getting More Urgent
There's always some talk about the future of the House of Saud, but David Frum thinks the situation is getting more urgent. He says high oil prices reflect the troubled view the market has of Saudi Arabia- and the sense that Al Qaeda might be refining its plan for the future of Saudi Oil.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:54 PM
Better Broadcasting Corporation?:
This article about Darfur is a good example. The opening in particular is powerful:
'A Janjaweed fighter walks hand in hand with a government soldier in the market place of Krenic, a village two hours' drive from Al-Junaynah, capital of West Darfur.'
Men holding hands in Africa if they are friends is perfectly normal- while a man holding hands with a woman (certainly in East Africa) indicates that the woman is a prostitute.
A small, accurate detail, and in the context telling (though, I have to say, mainly for atmospherics).
The BBC has previously run articles that implicated the Sudanese Government in the Darfur atrocites, but I don't think this directness has been bettered:
'The close teamwork of government and militia fighters in Darfur is visible everywhere.'
However, and it's a big 'however', the writer does have a number of observations that amount to a defence for the Islamic Government in Khartoum.
1)Although he claims that the Sudanese Armed forces are not involved, he fails to mention the proven instances of air-support given to the Janagweed in their ruthless campaign. How can this be explained except by direct Sudanese military involvement? It would seem the BBC does not know its own mind over this- since reports like this one contradict it.
2)He makes a number of points about the weakness of the Sudanese regime and its leader, President Omar al-Bashir's predicament. He can't trust his army, his back's 'against the wall', his 'police state' has failed because the country is too big etc. etc. -You know the feeling, when life's all a bit too much.
3)He say al-Bashir was provoked by being 'humiliated' (yep, me too) when 'in April 2003 the new rebel movement, the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), attacked El-Fasher airport in Darfur, destroying several planes.'
Ah, 'humiliated', that word to explicate all evil, is once again used in defence of a brutal practitioner of Islam.
I don't want to minimise the good things in this article, but I do think that there are straw men being set up on the Islamist side of the debate that obscure things.
From experience I think a lot of people feel it's inconceivable that the bleeding hearts at the BBC undersell situations like this. There are over a thousand articles about Sudan on BBConline. Many would say Africa is covered well.
I am not so sure.
As a Nigerian lady-friend said to me one time: 'the problem with Nigeria, there are some very bad men.'
A bit more clarity, a bit less waffle, would go a long way.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:30 PM
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Take that, Kaffir-
Well, someone showed Harry (Will) Cummins the door at the British Council. How they knew that Harry was Will and had written a series of hard-hitting, controversial articles against Islam for the Sunday Telegraph I don't know, and the BBC aren't saying. Harry denies being Will so to sack him they must know that he is fibbing, I suppose.
Anyway, my point is that before anyone tells anyone off for insulting Islam they should be able to prove they've read the Koran first.
Not of a lot of people scrutinise the Koran the way they do the Bible, but the Koran's a lot more bloodcurdling. It's like a dialogue portrayed between the Muslim and the unbelievers, where the unbelievers are depicted as pigs and monkeys, deluded, blind, foolish, destined for drinking cups of burning liquid for eternity. It's not merely these details (just a few of many), it's the relentless way they are pursued throughout the Koran, drilling the message again and again- inducing a hypnosis of hate, or maybe a punchdrunk submission.
People have regularly written about the psychological damage that Christianity is alleged to do, with its narrative of good 'n' evil; why can't they see their argument applies tenfold to Islam? Think of it, ingrained in a culture for generations.
Only God knows why Prince Charles is sympathetic.
Anyway, my second point is that, knowing what they know, Islamic people must, indeed do, expect opposition from the unbelievers. Their complaints against Cummins were just an example of what they know as Jihad but by another means to the one we're familiar with (of course there was the little matter of Salman Rushdie). I don't have any objection to people being offended and making a complaint; however in this case it's a Muslim spiritual occupation to oppose the enemies of God through whatever available means. The vogue for outlawing and opposing offences to religion is a victory for Jihad.
Some might say that's better than having people blowing people up; I would reply I don't want Moslem practices and morals imposed on me whatever the means of doing so. What would the response to that position be: get used to it, Kaffir?
The LGF'ers have a debate going about all this (not entirely one way), with some good links, including Cummins' powerful articles and odds and ends about the British Council and their royal patrons.
For authentic Koranian sentiments, see this lady's delightful letter to Paul Johnson jnr's widow.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:32 PM
Glossing the failed socialist dream
Aside from being banal and unnecessary (is every child of racial intermarriage news on the BBC?), this article about a half-African Ukrainian singer seeking his father contains a classic pravdaesque description of Soviet foreign policy:
According to the BBC, 'During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was anxious to promote its friendly "internationalist" image, and free higher education was offered to students from developing countries.'
Now, despite the double-quoting (showing they know the description is controversial) you'd have to know more than most GCSE history courses cover to understand that 'internationalism' was the rather sinister Soviet foreign policy designed to promote communism, as this account makes clear, which we can thank for many of Africa's problems in adjusting to fresh responsibilities over the last forty years:
'Two components of the "internationalist duty" of the Soviet armed forces emerged: "socialist internationalism," the defense of socialist countries allied to the Soviet Union; and "proletarian internationalism," the assistance given to "wars of national liberation" in the Third World.'
The programmes under which people like this Ukrainian's father came to the Soviet Union were allied to these strategic goals. I personally have met some of the Somali graduates of such schemes (there are plenty)- and we all know how well Somalia is getting on. But anyway, BBC, carry on glossing- it seems to be all you're good at.
Meanwhile, if it appears that one is putting the wrong sort of gloss, things like this happen.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:42 PM
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
What do do about genocide (or the rotten-fruit of dictatorships, or the basket-cases of the world), prtIII.
Mark Steyn has a fascinating article posted on his site following the emergence of the fact that Charles Taylor, former dictator of Liberia, had been in contact with Al Qaeda.
Well, not this anyway.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:52 PM
The Iberian Dimension
Ah, Spain. A fascinating country all but lost to Europe through various means- Islamic conquest, religious fervour, warfare, poverty and dictatorship, not to mention the sheer isolation of being the other side of the high Pyrenees.
Until recently the dark underbelly of Europe and always within kissing distance of Africa, it's also a place whose importance to the war on terror and the future of Europe will increasingly be understood, indeed, is being increasingly understood.
Spain, or the kingdon of Andalus as Osama bin-Laden refers to it, is where the illusion of European isolationism disintegrates amidst the Islamic architecture, the darker asiatic hair and skin, and regular boat-loads of north-African migrants. At the same time the Islamic dream of a return to the Caliphate is materialised in the monuments of the Islamic past- such as the incredible beauty of the palace of Grenada.
The point then is that Europe, substantially because of Spain, cannot remove itself from what has been termed the 'developing world'. Equally, the Islamists who resent their placement within that sphere can't sever their attachment to the illusion presented by Andalusia that one last push will seem them able to (re-)occupy the culture pinnacle they covet.
Spain has swung from being one of the most aggressive supporters of the War on Terror to being amongst the most dovish. It seems fairly typical of Spain that there's no middle way. EU Referendum reports on how the peninsular's politicans swing.
Uncoincidentally the reaction of their young democracy to the terrorist messages of March and April has led to an increasingly nationalistic pursuit of old chesnuts like Gibraltar.
John Keegan in the Telegraph explains why this is not sensible, or reasonable- but you can't help drawing the conclusion that it's political in its entirety, and nothing to do with right or wrong or common sense. (Euref also shines a sidelight on this one. This ex-pat meanwhile, has some thoughts too. He points out that 'following Spanish logic, a reasonable claim could be made that the successor to the Caliphate should actually have control of Gibraltar and of course much of the rest of Andalusia.')
Finally, and most tellingly, this superb (and very long) account of the Islamic design on Andalusia from the New Yorker gets to grips with Spain's centrality and its inability to hide from the sharp end of the war on terror. The contrast with, say, the cold war, which barely touched Spain except obliquely, is quite striking. Coming in from the cold of inconsequentiality has left Spain exposed to a new fire.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:32 PM
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
'It’s now obvious that the world needs guts like the US and her allies have and the agreement to eradicate dictatorship must become on the top of the world’s priorities because it’s the origin of all evil.'
That might be simple, but at heart it's true.
Just to make a note here: isn't it a tragedy that Zeyad at Healing Iraq lost his cousin Zaydun to the maliciousness of a couple of US troops? An intelligent and positive voice which must surely have been muted by disappointment and grief.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:56 PM
The 'Gotcha' BBC (or *sigh*, Dubya and his "war" on "terror")
The Beeb devotes almost half this article about the response of Washington's citizens to terror alerts to people spouting anti-Bush sentiments.
It's not surprising that they should find many Bushophobes at a place like the World Bank- after all, such places are the ne plus ultra of multilateralists.
The job of a sensible broadcaster in an article not marked out as a 'viewpoint', would be to filter the comments received based on this awareness. Not the Beeb- they even compound it by using an off-the-cuff remark from a 'more Republican than anything' gentleman (near enough for the Beeb) that
"Bush has to have something to get him back into office".
Surfing the web I haven't come across many accusations as blatant as this one. I cannot believe for a moment that this lurid sound-byte was not a stand-out in terms of cynicism- yet the Beeb journo went for it. In the context of the World bank employees (trendy multis almost by definition, as I've pointed out) the article turns from a human interest one to a political screed, with quotes as blatant as "It doesn't help the bounce. Does it?" being gobbled up by the eager Beeb fans of Senator Nuance.
That's disappointing, and inadequate- and biased.
If you read what the liberal yet often excellent Jeff Jarvis says, the lack of balance is clear.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:30 PM
Monday, August 02, 2004
The Belmont Club enables its comments- and criticises the BBC for an evasion of reality over Rwanda. Somehow I wonder whether making a film about genocide is only going to create an illusion of coping with an event that will last in infamy in ways that even the Holocaust or Cambodia will not. How honest can such a film be when the establishment that permitted it is substantially the same today?
Posted by ed thomas at 9:19 PM
Sunday, August 01, 2004
Robert Kagan in the WaPo complains that John Kerry has given a false account of a non-existent US history of restraint from military engagements.
This is one more instance where the vacuity, even dishonesty, of Kerry's convention speech has been exposed. (via LGF)
Posted by ed thomas at 8:30 PM
BBC Reports Fallujah, or do they?
The end of this BBC report contains information about 'clashes' in Fallujah ('clashes' is the word used in the lede).
The troubling thing about this report that cites eyewitness accounts of 'residents' is the question of who is mediating the news here.
I would be very interested to know if there was any BBC journalist in Fallujah to liase with these people. I doubt it. In fact, it's almost certain that they are relying on reports like this one from Al-Jazeera- though they don't say so- who definitely do have journalists in Fallujah.
I think we have a right to know.
Posted by ed thomas at 8:20 PM