Here's a vital commentary from a Lt. Cnl in Iraq. Yes, he's biting back at media critics. Yes, he's trying to influence the media war. Yes he may well have been assigned this task because of special skills he possesses, but he doesn't half make a good job of it.
'I've read that in the world of manufacturing, you can have only two of the following three qualities when developing a product -- cheap, fast or good. You can produce something cheap and fast, but it won't be good; good and fast, but it won't be cheap; good and cheap, but it won't be fast. In this case, we want the result to be good and we want it at the lowest cost in human lives. Given this set of conditions, one can expect this war is to take a while, and rightfully so.'
Or, as he concludes:
'Ironically, the press freedom that we have brought to this part of the world is providing support for the enemy we fight. I obviously think it's a disgrace when many on whom the world relies for news paint such an incomplete picture of what actually has happened. Much too much is ignored or omitted. I am confident that history will prove our cause right in this war, but by the time that happens, the world might be so steeped in the gloom of ignorance we won't recognize victory when we achieve it.'
There's so much sense in his comments I think the only sensible course of action is to read the whole thing.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Posted by ed thomas at 1:05 PM
Friday, January 14, 2005
Struck by the BBC frontpage. A frightening thought, I know, to be smacked by Auntie (and surely illegal? Not the thought, the act), but this is sometimes how the BBC's relentless agendarizing of the news can feel.
Take today's offering. We got the Beeb's classic suggestive quality when, virtually simultaneously, they report 'US concern over Iran human rights' and that US 'erodes' global human rights. The point, if there is one about these headlines, is that one reports someone's view like a point of view, whereas the other reports someone's view like a statement of fact, interrupted only by those dinky little quotemarks that could easily be mistaken for a textual smirk. One view happens to come from the US government elected to represent the views of 300 million people, the other from a human rights group elected by, well, no one, representing the views of, can I remember? I think it was a small group of professionals of various nationalities and backgrounds last time I checked their website.
Anyway, all this reporting of 'concerns' is a pretty pointless thing that makes even the UN seem newsworthy on a daily basis. Oh, I think I begin to understand now.
That wasn't the only under the belt blow delivered by the AuntyOnline today.
This report about the bomb attack in Gaza (or, more precisely, on the edge of Gaza), waited until the last line to mention that 'our correspondent says groups like Hamas are very keen to portray the Israeli withdrawal as a retreat under fire.'
This indeed is one half of the logic at work. The Beeb however failed to mention that the terrorists wish to prevent the Israelis from withdrawing from Gaza by making it politically impossible to do so- i.e. presenting it as an Israeli retreat under fire. They know Sharon will not accept even a whiff of Israeli defeat, and wish him to be pushed into appearing to fit the image reserved for him by the world's opinion- that of unjust occupier. The Beeb play up the Palestinian leadership's 'peace' role, and play down the pressures faced by the Israelis. Plus ca change.
Needless to say, they did not fail to mention that, in their own words, ' The attack followed Israeli raids in the Gaza Strip earlier on Thursday in which two Palestinians were killed.'
Certainly sounds like the cycle of violence is whirring away in BBC newsthink as usual.
Given the above, this Mark Thatcher affair didn't need to be overdone. Too much icing on the cake might oversweeten it.
Posted by ed thomas at 2:20 PM
Thursday, January 13, 2005
I think I mentioned Paul Reynolds' almost facetious article, 'Iraq 2004: what went wrong?'
Actually I tried to parody it- but really that was frustrating as it was too easy.
I think though that Reynolds has been producing many good examples of a dominant school of thought, the kind that likes simple narratives of western (or, even better, US) failure and which considers considering the opinions of anyone more positive to the West than itself to be showing exemplary fairness. In this article Reynolds clearly feels he's covering himself by quoting Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UK ambassador to the UN.
If he'd really wanted to introduce balance he'd have consulted someone like Norman Podhoretz, who actually thinks about what George Bush thinks (and, from a political point of view, it's GWB who really counts in a sensible political analysis) rather than sounding off to echo the popular trends set by the likes of the BBC.
He encapsulates Reynolds' attitude perfectly in this superb article for Commentary:
'The idea here is that Iraq represents the first great test to which the Bush Doctrine has been put, and that the count is now in on its miserable failure. The retrograde "red-state voters" may have been hoodwinked by the lies emanating from the White House and the Pentagon and amplified by Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News Channel, but everyone who knows anything knows that Bush’s entire foreign policy now lies buried under the rubble of Baghdad and the smaller cities of the Sunni triangle.'
If this sounds like a charicature then it's not accidental. These people, especially people like Reynolds, spend all their time thinking in charicatures- charicatures designed to chasten and wound to further their political agenda. It's their stock in trade. Unfortunately for them what goes around comes around. (via Powerline)
Posted by ed thomas at 1:16 PM
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Sourcing our Satisfactions.
I have to be careful in this matter, since in the boastful world of political life observers of that life can find they are taking satisfaction in the failures of institutions which actually have very serious responsiblities.
Yes, I am a critic of the UN, but over its failures the critic is often vocal, the criticised and their allies are often evasive or agressively defensive, while the third party, the failed one, is silent. I am even more tempted to crow when the BBC makes blunders, but again there is a very serious side to that.
It's similar regarding France. I am a critic of that country's leadership on so many issues (or rather, their lack of leadership combined with a complaining, critical and patronising hauteur- yes such a thing really can exist at the level of national governments), but French failings (like anyone's), have consequences.
So, I found this masterly recountation of French media coverage of France's 'failings' over their tsunami response 'satisfying' on several levels. The main one was that at last 'France 2' as Douglas describes it, is speaking out against 'France 1'. The secondary one is that the attitude of France towards the role of its military (heading for a Eurocorps, eschewing Iraq but embracing- kind of- the Ivory Coast) was too irrational to secure a decent French military response when French pride was on the line- which satisfies the need we have that what goes up must be seen to come down etc.
But then of course there are the victims, which, although strictly not our victims, nonetheless suffer too much to appreciate this kind of farce. (my thanks to the ever-aware EuroRef. blog who found this, and are always raising a voice for the underdog.)
Another reason I have to be careful, of course, is that 'saving face' is one of the lowest motives for successful action, and shame can be misused.
Posted by ed thomas at 1:07 PM
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
In the UN bashing business (entirely legitimate on the basis of supply and demand) there seems to be no better port of call than the Diplomad (as I mentioned previously), although I'm always slightly worried when people very close to situations are blogging in a popular way, fearing that someone senior to them my just tell them to stop sometime. I don't think the same can happen to Tim Blair, who has also put together some excellent posts on the UN, like this one.
Blair also pointed me to this superb, almost definitive one would have to say, article critical of the UN by David Frum. I think Frum is great: witty, thoughful, articulate (you can find his NRO blog in my links, at the bottom). In fact I can't think of a better advertisement for the art of column-building. There's always a touch of moralism, a little wisdom of a private kind, in what he writes- such as in his conclusion to his analysis of the 'special place' the UN occupies in the well-thinking left:
'But the real challenge to all of us, in all the democracies, is this: to be guided by realities, not fantasies - and especially not such uniquely unconvincing fantasies as the allegedly unique moral authority of the United Nations.'
In other words, Clare Short, go and acquire some judgement from somewhere.
But meanhile, back at the ranch, the BBC is showing off what must be the strangest construction still left over from the Victorian Age of moralism: its scales of mediatorial judgement.
The Beeb have a report about the UN-Oil-for-food programme, which is, like Volcker's report itself, quite conservative. Then they have this rather more colourful story about homelessness in the USA, called 'Homelessness in a land of plenty' . Why do I always feel the BBC are trading a story they don't want to report, but must, with a report they shouldn't need (like some latter days unwelcome Dickens) to keep disinterring, but do? And why is the former one of kleptocrats in high places the only story that comes over with all its colour drained?
Even while stealing the show from Koffi, Jill 'quivering' Mcgivering's tiny Tim gets a breakfast of 'porridge and bagels, and eggs and hot coffee.' from a local church, which left me thinking 'please please please make me homeless in that part of America rather than housed where I am'
Ok, perhaps it seems a little unfair to the BBC to cut n' paste their coverage so savagely as I have in the penultimate paragraph above, to make my favoured points. However, if the Beeb gave adequate weight to the many (too many, surely, for cossetted Beebies) unwelcome stories out there (they know what they are), perhaps there would be no room at the inn for vacuous moral statements.
Posted by ed thomas at 1:27 PM
Monday, January 10, 2005
Rumbling Abu : emerging slightly dazed from under a heap of the BBC's beatification of Abu Mazen (or whatever he's called), and now following his election 'glory', Nicholas Vance makes the important point, that Orla and co. fail to mention, about
'statements by Mazan (co-founder of the Fatah terrorist organisation) announcing that he had no intention of seeking the end to all terrorist attacks against the "Zionist enemy.'
'To say that Abu Mazan "is opposed to violence" is very generous, indeed. It would be more accurate to say that he has on occasion — depending on his audience — proposed a temporary ceasefire," '.
This makes it imperative for Sharon not to get into bed with Mazen. Luckily Sharon's already built a fence between them to reduce the temptation, and Mazen will have to eat his words if such pillow talk is actually to take place- early meetings notwithstanding.
I am sure we will all watch that space.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:53 PM
Sunday, January 09, 2005
A succinct argument from IraqtheModel for calling terrorists terrorists. It seems to me that this is one of the issues- a one word issue- where the peoples of the world have the right to feel most aggrieved by the moral failure of their media. Needless to say, the BBC have figured very strongly in this failure.
Meanwhile, speaking of terrorists...
Later... Also, just to note- a terrific reposte from AE Brain to the BBC's tsunami conpiracy page (via B-BBC commenter).
Posted by ed thomas at 1:18 PM