Saturday, September 10, 2005

Cutting to the Quick

Two posts made a major impact on me today- this from Michelle Malkin, and this from Slugger O'Toole, showcasing the talented Newton Emerson. Both are on US politics- in the first case the memorial planned for the heroic crashed aircraft on 9/11, the second on why Bush's Katrina critics are stupid. Of the first, I can only say that only US Liberals could be that cruel; on the second, well, the same sentence with 'stupid' at the end.

The British Fantasists

Reading the views of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on drawing Turkey into the EU in the IHT, one is reminded that, beyond the patina of organisation and veneer of diplomacy that are natural to politicians, our political classes are as clueless as our journalists- maybe more so. Journalists live a somewhat insecure life compared to any of Mr Blair's front three. Few revelations would be enough to prise Mr Straw from his job for a political lifetime, never mind Gordon Brown, and Mr Blair himself needs only to schmooze with the political jetset or vaunt himself Churchill style amidst some crisis or other- his own or borrowed from somewhere else- to reassert his whelk-like position on the ship Britannica. Think what a pantomime it took for David Blunkett to be severed from the placenta-like comforts of the Cabinet- if only he had made abortion so difficult to attain (nb. with pantomines there are always semi-serious coincidences that make the stomach feel a bit funny- such as the Blunkett paternity fiasco). Meanwhile the journalists, faced with this political steamroller of Campell's creation, combining many feints and nuances they know and respect, dither and spin themselves into incoherence, and Blair's clones learn his tricks in peace, quiet and security. It is a sordid matrix indeed.

So my advice, as a Brit to the world (and, well, especially lovely American friends- as well as the chaps) would be not to take these men's advice on anything significant- which is a by the way plea to Bush not to favour all Blair's Euro nostrums. They are performers and drama queens and that's all. Remember that next time you feel like swooning at Mr Blair's trembling lip, quivering voice, or clenched jaw.

Take Mr Straw in the Herald Tribune (of all places to confront a Foreign Secretary's grey matter): one is reminded of the very funny sketch from Jon Cullen on Dead Ringers (about the only thing on BB tTV which could be viewed as right-of-centre- the Beeb just don't understand the jokes is my guess) which was aimed at Blair himself:

'"People of Britain, starey eyes, sweaty palms, receding hairline, yesterday I announced...", "People of Britain, oh how I hate to be beside the seaside grimace, hate Gordon Brown hand gesture, looking over his shoulder underpants...", "People of Britain, this is your Emperor..."'

I suspect Mr Straw has a very cunning pitch. He knows that the IHT is a leftist paper, so he'll appeal, not to their sympathy with a poorish country- which would wear thin once they realise all he wants is to maintain the cost of labour at politically convenient levels- but to the 'soft war on terror' argument, which would be popular with the so-called 'decent left', and the moderate left. He starts, therefore, with the terrorist attack on Istanbul 22 months ago:

'LONDON Twenty-two months ago I stood in the rubble of what had once been the fine perimeter buildings and courtyard of Pera House, the British consulate-general building in Istanbul. A few hours before, it had been blown up by Al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers. Sixteen people were killed - three British and 13 Turkish citizens.'

Typically then, we begin not with rationality but with emotion, and from there Mr Straw goes on, 'how familiar - yes, European - Istanbul felt; how close together we were despite the efforts of the terrorists to divide us.'

Then, after the emotion, comes the assertion:

'we in Europe long ago decided where we wanted Turkey to be anchored',

and then the ballast:

'In 1952, we - the United States, Germany, Britain, France and others - invited Turkey to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1963, Turkey signed an association agreement that led to a Customs Union with the European Union.

That agreement held out the prospect of EU membership. In 1987, Turkey applied, in 1999, it was granted candidate-country status, and in 2002 the European Council decided that it would open accession negotiations once Turkey had fulfilled the political criteria for membership.'

This though mixes things like NATO membership (which no longer has a meaningful European role, being sidelined by the Euroarmy plans), with various sundry other events, and tries to blend them into a narrative which we could call the force of history. It's typically deceitful.

In essence, Straw maintains that economically we need Turkey, as it is vibrant in that respect. He talks of competitiveness when he means cheap labour. He doesn't mention demographics though that's obviously crucial, when one looks at things like this via Laban Tall.

Mr Straw though gives us an ultimatum:

'We don't have the luxury of choice. We live in a world of global challenges and global competition. A static Europe will not face either with confidence. Stopping enlargement would only weaken Europe's ability to compete with emerging Asian economies.'

What he so easily forgets though is that Britain is not Europe. Our Government could be making us more competitive, encouraging childbirth through marriage centred policy, fighting wage inflation in the public sector, attacking waste. Instead it's relying on Europe, and that Europe will absorb large numbers of immigrants which will on the one hand keep it competitive, but on the other make the UK, for one, a place where the indigenous people are a minority for sure.

Personally I would like to see a plan of action that didn't involve large scale migrant invasions, because, as Peter Glover points out, that would leave us totally prone to the fundamentalist drive for which they could be an irresistible vehicle. It's utter dereliction for our politicians to suggest that our only option is to be taken over by hook or by crook. No amount of lip trembling can suffice to make it otherwise.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Admired the unfree world over.

If I were to have to guess at the BBC's most favoured phrases I'd likely include a phrase (or phrases) such as 'internationally recognised'.

This is a sad comment on the BBC's aggrandisement and ignorance. It may actually be that the BBC's taste for transnationalist boosting trumps its better judgement, but it amounts to the same thing.

The fact that we have to cope with is that the world is not free, the press of the world is not free; in reality the BBC has very little competition, such are the advantages of freedom, finance and history stacked in their favour. Phillip Chaston has written a very worthwhile item at Samizdata where he describes how, at the BBC, 'the writings of Comrade Bob's mouthpiece, a Chinese journalist who writes only what his masters want to hear and a reporter protected by the First Amendment are presented as equally valid to the reader'.

There is also the trouble that, even where democratic systems and free speech exist, and even where there are traditions of their existence, democracy is more democratic, and free speech is freer, in some countries than in others. Helen at EU Ref. helps demonstrate this, and refers us to this example of our glorious international media.

What's at stake in our modern era is whether we retain and extend the standards of journalism which the BBC have fed off for generations, and now use to queen it at the head of the 'international media', or whether we descend to the propagandist standards which prevailed so widely in the 20th century, with such awful effects.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

'As President Bush scurries back to the Gulf Coast, it is clear that this is the greatest challenge to politics-as-usual in America since the fall of Richard Nixon in the 1970s. '- Matt Wells

Total Philosophical Disjuncture.

Well, as the saying goes, 'where to start'? You see, I might just disagree with both parts of Wells' analogy- that Watergate was a triumph for journalism, as well as that Katrina has helped re-grow a backbone in US journalism. Perhaps, from the perspective of hysteria, lies, and the bloodcries of the Left, there is an equivalence- but to unpick the analogy requires a fight against carefully tended popular mythology.

But I suppose I should start by saying that Wells is still reporting from LA, presumably from his Condo. Hopefully he will have at least seen pictures- that is if he reads his fellow BBC journalists' work.

Wells thinks that having wealthy white Americans in positions of media power is a recipe for spineless subservience to a white President. I don't- quite the reverse. Actually I would argue this situation, which Wells addresses only in caricature form, creates a competition of virtue and maganimity towards ethnic minorities, which could be called, oh, I don't know, 'positive discrimination', to pluck a phrase. This phenomenon might endure long after the apparent negative discrimination ceased to be significant. That's why President Bush gets nothing for having Powell and Rice, blacks of both sexes, at amongst the highest positions available, because according to the competition for who can be nicest to ethnics, that's just not good enough (and those two are just uncle Toms anyway, according to the Moveoners)- even though the Dems can't boast anything like that state of affairs in their own party.

When he says 'the moral indignation against inadequate government began to flow' he seems to forget Richard Clarke, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, and numerous others propelled by into the limelight and mainly embraced by the MSM in the US. Clarke's attempt to accuse the Bush admin of 'inadequate government' was quite noticeable at the BBC at the time (nb. further to what Nathalie at B-BBC says about former Presidents, according to Paxo, not criticising incumbents- it would seem Paxo doesn't use the BBC as his source of news, judging from the above link). Instead, Wells means that Fox have cracked. One could point out the overwhelming pressure exerted against this self-proclaimed anti-MSM broadcaster, which makes our puny efforts against the Beeb pale (even though Fox is merely one among many channels in the US, and people choose whether to pay for it or not- the protesters could legitimately be seen as totalitarian anti-freespeech thugs).

Wells goes on to claim that there will 'have to be a Katrina Commission, that a newly-emboldened media will scrutinise obsessively.' . Mmm, yes Wellsy- like the 9/11 commission which they couldn't be bothered to worry Bush about, I suppose?

As seems his wont, he reserves his full MoveOn. org mania till he starts to take his bow-

'The dithering and incompetence that will be exposed will not spare the commander-in-chief, or the sunny, faith-based propaganda that he was still spouting as he left New Orleans airport last Friday, saying it was all going to turn out fine.

People were still trapped, hungry and dying on his watch, less than a mile away.'

This stuff is so Michael Mooreonish. Remember, that guy the MSM had no time for- and failed to praise?

He signs off with letting some of his fellow liberal witterers take the strain-

"Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been, were not. That's to the government's shame" (The New Orleans Times-Picayune).

That's not, by the way, a sentiment post- what was it? -Sept 2nd thing, but actually a standard line of the left: leave it to big Government. When Mark Steyn writes columns like this one and they're published by the BBC, I'll believe things are changing.

Meanwhile some tips for our Matthew, since he's branching out from reporting the news to trying to manage it-

1)Don't use meaningless loaded words like 'scurries' and 'spouting' when all they do is mark you as biased from the moment they're read. Your friends will like it- but do you only write for friends?

2)Beware in praising fellow journalists- ever heard of 'backscratching'?

3)Don't rely on historical precedents that rely on a certain political interpretation to make the analogy intended viable- it's overloading the reader with politics. Don't twist the link mid analogy.

4)Don't make sweeping generalisations from your LA Condo- and if you do, do a Jayson Blair and 'just pretend'. Sweeping generalisations like 'the collapsed, rotten flood defences of New Orleans are a symbol of failed infrastructure across the nation.' are also not good. It must, after all, be a horrible Condo and gym that you frequent.

5)Don't imitate the rhetorical bankruptcy of the crowd. It's embarrassing and- see point one and consider whether 'People were still trapped, hungry and dying on his watch' isn't just a bit Michael Moore.

To the BBC- is Matt Wells' hamfisted opinionating really the best you can do? Hasn't his Guardian experience been largely factual news gathering, at which he was markedly better than in his current guise? It must be nice to employ a journalist who has spent years reporting your favourite causes and even supporting you through thick and thin, but I can't imagine you will employ an anti-Matt Wells to retain balance, so you- and he- are surely out of line.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Get Over It- already. Richard North has an excellent post (with piccies) lambasting the British media's ignorance and condescension over the Gulf Coast disaster. I hope US citizens can forgive them not knowing what they're doing- and not representing the more thoughful Brit among us.

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