Saturday, February 19, 2005

Meanwhile, it has to be said (in response to Justin Webb's windy mental wanderings detailed below), BITRW

Sack this man, NOW!

I'm not sure that is exactly the way to get what I want, but it felt good to type it. I am truly furious at the BBC and at Justin Webb, seriously jaded correspondent in the US.

I should first say I understand exactly what he is saying in an article which deals with the US/EU division- if you will, a division of consciousness. It's something I've thought about a lot through close dealings with both Europeans and Americans (though I've only encountered a wide variety of US expats in various locations, rather than visited the country itself. Saving the best..., is how I would put it).

But it's soo0 banal- I wouldn't blame you if you took one look and gave up on Webb's blatherings, but I feel I should mention them.

Let's start with the most obvious factual calumny. According to Webb the US response to the Tsunami illustrates their lack of reality by comparison with Europe. Did he bother to find out that France, to take the most prime example, was so ill-equipped in their effort to help that they had only one helicopter to administer their aid effort, and that loaned to them? As one Frenchman exclaimed on TV with a notable European flourish of realism, 'It is as though France no longer has the means even to express its emotions.' or as a reporter was reported saying , '"The good will of the rescuers is not in question," says Pujadas. "This is well and truly a foul up."' If he thought that Europeans were on the ball regarding the Tsunami it is Webb who is the fantasist, wilfully failing to notice failure. Frankly I couldn't give a damn who saw what pictures- I am interested to see who was on hand to help. So were the Indonesians.

According to Webb

'America is fast becoming a nation of faith not fact. A nation where the unpleasant aspects of human existence are simply airbrushed away.

Television coverage of the Asian Tsunami was a case in point. In Europe it was covered as an unrelenting tragedy, in America, one television network promised "incredible stories of lives saved in near miraculous fashion".'


'While Europeans fret about what they regard as real life, about poverty and social justice and about combating AIDS, Americans find it easier to rally round a vision, however otherworldly it might be.'

Like the 'vision' Bush has about donating billions of dollars to help Aids victims in Africa, I suppose.

Not only does he demonstrate ignorance bordering on complete dishonesty, stupidity is also displayed. Setting aside the assumption that the best measure of the reality of a nation's worldview is the extent to which they show violence of different sorts on their television, or the assumption that the nature of TV in various places is a good measure of anything at all, did it occur to Webb that the reason for a greater sense of 'reality', so-called, in Europe, could have been their much greater involvement in the casualties that were recorded? If the US' population had been hit by the tsunami like, say, Sweden's, I think there would have been more direct coverage, at the very least in terms of interviews with victims' families questing to have bodies discovered and returned.

Webb goes on to tack this observation to an observation about the numbers of Americans who believe in what is technically termed 'The Rapture'. Well, this teleological prediction may not be true, but it is certainly something about which Europeans are largely ignorant but Americans are comparatively well informed. It is Webb's automatic presumption that belief in certain things indicates unreality, which he also links to ignorance. In fact of course there are people in the US highly educated in the field of theology for whom such concepts as The Rapture are matters of robust debate. Debate- you know, the thing we don't have about our central idea for the future, the European Superstate. I'm willing to bet the populous of the US know more certifiable facts about different theories of the End-times than EU citizens know about their political masters' political teleology.

As if his massive simplification and condescension weren't bad enough, he adds a note of true absurdity, which nevertheless does approximate a truth- if I can explain.

'No wonder then, that in international affairs America is so willing to smite its enemies.

Or to hold firm to a principle even when practicalities get in the way.

It has been happening for years.

'Atlantic chasm'

Witness President Reagan's arms build up in the 1980s, which helped to destroy the Soviet Union, or the first President Bush's decision to press for German re-unification, when even Mrs Thatcher was nervous.'

The way this shadows, but does not represent, reality, is that, yes, America stands out by its willingness to consider the possibility that it might have enemies, to conduct foreign policy with this in mind, and to act when it views it necessary to act, or, if you prefer to use Biblical language, 'smite' the self-proclaimed enemies of the United States. This would, in a non-fantasist's lexicon, be known as 'diplomatic reality.' I can only think that Webb lives in a bubble that is not simply post-modern, but post-reality, and certainly pre-Sept 11th 2001.

But judging from this article, and others, Webb would only be comfortable in a pre-1989 world, and even that would have to be in a privileged post editing Pravda.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sorry- no time equalled no posts yesterday. Today I have spent an amiable time surfing. I realised, among many other things, that I'd followed the Belmont Club from less than 20,000 registered visitors to over 5 million. I also realised how essential it is to have a simple memorable registration for the Spectator, solely for the purpose of reading Mark Steyn's lit crit, and lines like this one about Arthur Miller:

'He wasn’t amiable enough to be an amiable dunce but he was the most useful of the useful idiots.'

Speaking of useful idiots, Powerline chose this time to launch several posts about Jimmy Carter. There's something in the last paragraph of this one that seems to suggest a translation from an Iraqi paen to Saddam Hussein.

'O great poet, novelist, artist, builder, seer, peacemaker, thank you. Thank you because I am joyful. Thank you because I am well. Centuries will pass, and the generations still to come will regard us as the happiest of mortals, as the most fortunate of men, because we lived in the century of centuries, because we were privileged to see you, our inspired leader. Yes, and we regard ourselves as the happiest of mortals because we are the contemporaries of a man who never had an equal in world history.'

This kind of brings me back to Steyn's view of Miller:

'a man of such unbounded self-regard judged the health of nations and political systems in the same way he did the health of the American theatre — by how fulsomely they acknowledge his genius.'

Meanwhile, all this talk of cosying up to dictators (a British artform, I'm afraid, that was marred only by two or three world wars) brought to mind someone else. Austin Bay has an excellent post on why Eason Jordan's resignation was not honourable. Thanks to Roger Simon for several interesting links.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Understanding Ken. Melanie Phillips, well placed as a London journalist throughout Ken's rising and falling, does a pretty good job- and highlights a potentially dangerous trend of synthesis between radical Islam and the Left, in this case between Ken's anti-Jewishness, and Al Qaradawi's.

Incidentally, defenders of Ken tend to highlight the Daily Mail (Standard's sister paper)'s association with Oswald Mosely in the Thirties. Well, they don't call Ken 'Red' for nothing. If I didn't find it idiotic to compare despot with despot the way we used to play Top Trumps, I'd wonder what the body count comparison would be between Mosely's heroes and Kenneth's.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The BBC at work: Building 'em up; knocking 'em down; rallying the troops. After all- it's in a good cause.

Says Linda Burney of the Aborigines (last link),

'"[Aborigines] can look forward to being sick, unemployment, racism and a very, very early death," said Linda Burney, the first indigenous member of the New South Wales state parliament.'

So, what's the downside to Abo. life, I wonder?

Nicholas Vance gets better- not that he ever really needed to, but it's all to the good when it comes to incisive comment on the BBC's biases, or sheer incompetences.

He reports on Matt Frei's pursuit of the sinister Christian Right in the US which is said to underlie the great satan.. er, sorry, the capitalist leader of the world's economy. Funny how a secularist comes to see the worship of mammon as a kind of identifiable sin (the BBC journalist funded from the public purse, that is).

Anyway, a great post about a fool's journalistic errand. What strikes me is that we won't be hearing about the sinister phenomenon of the spread of the Islamic banking system any time soon from the BBC.

Meanwhile, Steyn produces gem after gem of hard edged prose to scythe into the UN's scurrilous ranks, eg.

'UN territories like Kosovo are the global equivalent of inner-city council estates with the blue helmets as local enforcers for the absentee slum landlord.'


'But, if Lynndie's smashed to pieces our entire morality with just one tug, Bush's Zionist neocons getting it on with Congolese kindergarteners would have the Independent calling for US expulsion from the UN - no, wait, from Planet Earth: slice it off from Maine to Hawaii and use one of those new Euro-Airbuses to drag it out round the back of Uranus.'

Way to go. Sometimes I wish that hatemongers like those at the Indie would take such analogies and think about them until their jaundiced minds burst.

Monday, February 14, 2005

He's Back! Steyn I mean, at least in terms of his too long hiatusing website. He's back and he's controversial as ever, as in this extract from an article to which I don't have full access (maybe you do?), but I can at least guess where he's going with it from the excerpt.

If I lived in Britain, I'd vote for Tony Blair's Labour party. Yes, yes, I know he's a nanny-state control-freak and you can hardly pull your pants on in the morning without filling in the form for the Public Trouser Usage Permit and undergoing inspection from the Gusset Regulatory Authority. But on the One Big Thing — the great issue of the age — he's right, and he's reliable. And, sad to say, the British Conservative party isn't. Their leader, Michael Howard, has been a cheesy opportunist on the war, supporting it at the time, backtracking later, his constantly evolving position twisting itself into a knot of contortions even John Kerry might find over-nuanced.'

It's a sentiment I almost agree with, and I could go along with, but I don't expect much from Mr Blair on the WoT from here onwards. Has Steyn not noticed all Tony's talk of learning from mistakes? Isn't that a similar kind of twisting in the wind to that which he accuses Howard of? Besides, Blair may be right in his grasp of the WoT, but he can't carry his party with him in that understanding. If anything Blair may be a fifth column ally for the US, carrying his socialist freight with him as he does- for instance over Iran. At least Howard would only have the same pontificating idiots to deal with that he already has to deal with over Europe, eg. Clarke, Hezza, Rifkind and Brittan.

Update: darned Blogger is delaying posting my posts, hence this one's late arrival.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Barone Balance. Michael Barone analyses blogs (via Instapundit) and their political effects. He makes a lot of spot-on points, and struck the biggest chord for me when he said 'the right blogosphere was different from the left. There was no one dominant website and no one orthodoxy'

It's very much my impression that Kos is the darling of the US Left. In the UK the situation is different, but in the States it seems like being part of an overwhelming movement, submerged in a mindset and worldview of moral indignation, is the only way to be for the Left- hence Kos's success, which has coincided with the Left's failure. This authoritarian tendancy is the natural consequence of the ideological fixity which is inseparable ultimately from socialism.

Here in the UK the blogosphere is less developed, and really the most recurrent thought I have is that with Blair we're going through what I feel to be our 'Clinton years'. With the rest of Europe so weak economically, and no stained dresses on Mr Blair's conscience, and no 9/11 wake up call conceivable for so many reasons (and let's hope we never have to deal with such an event), perhaps we'll never realise- but I am sure we'll see the Blair years as a time of political lethargy, waste and missed opportunities.

I'd say the blogosphere in the UK actually leans leftwards, in a lukewarm sort of way, and that, even absenting a Conservative Kos, the Conservative perspective is held more emotionally than rationally. It's at the point when hard-headed Conservatism makes a return that we might see the kind of reversal that would synchronise us with the US blogosphere.

I think that will happen over the next ten years- too long but worth waiting for.

I am a fan of cricket, and though I rarely mention it, I just found amusing this little excerpt from one of those running commentaries the BBC provides on their website.

In the 33rd over: 'Just 17 overs remain and at 89-6, England are merely hoping they can bat out the overs.'

Here's the latest, livebloggin' here!:' Eng 208-7 46.1 ovs v SA'

Bit of a turnaround, methinks, courtesy of our South-African born Pietersen. However, they'll probably still lose so I'm not over-excited; I have learned to create a zen-like calm when it comes to investing interest and hopes in sporting affairs.

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