Saturday, February 04, 2006

Searching for the real Mohammed...

I searched the BBC's site today for 'Muhammad', and something struck me. Every single return referred to him as "the Prophet Muhammad". Really, I didn't know the Beeb were so religious. To call Muhammad 'the Prophet' is a tacit endorsement of Islam's claims. It is analogous to the pious term 'the Lord Jesus Christ', which you will not find the BBC using (In case anyone thinks this is just to distinguish that Mohammad from all the others, I would point out that Jesus is a first-name too in countries like Spain; an interesting quirk for a post-Islamic state).

Now I have no problem with secularism, as long as it's even-handed- but in the BBC's case, quite obviously it isn't. The BBC might respond that the West is far less religious, so it's an appropriate distinction in their address. That's not a good response though. In the UK, for example, 70 percent or so regard themselves as CoE, so that the difference can be better seen in terms of tolerance. Many people I've known who've termed themselves Christians have enjoyed Monty Python's Life of Brian, for instance.

Now, I would have no problem with the BBC saying that it wasn't their business to enforce western tolerance as a lodestone for its coverage, taking a moralistic liberal tone as a standard from which to judge all events, but that's exactly what they do on many issues that concern certain groups and countries- it's one of the staple inspirations for this blog. They often fly in the face, for example, of US sensitivities, and Israeli sensitivities, and white people's sensitivities, and western conservative sensibilities etc etc. One could point out that the majority of Africans are Christians, and often passionate ones, but this somehow doesn't seem to weigh in the BBC's balance.

Well, one could respond that there are dominant sensitivities in need of challenging (ha ha- western conservativsm 'dominant'!), but really, in Iran Muslim sensibilities are thoroughly dominant, and in Saudi, and in Indonesia, and in these countries such sensibilities are often enforced through great injustices- the banning of christianity, the imprisonment of converts, and so on. And the BBC styles itself as a world broadcaster, spends taxpayer's money in this cause (yes, the licence fee was recently designated 'a tax'), and therefore has a responsibility, at least, to be 'world impartial'

So what I want is for the BBC to be evenhanded; that is all. Oh, and to get rid of the licence fee which complicates and exacerbates all their faults.

Making sense of senselessness

Not for the first time, Victor Davis Hanson produces a great article which does this.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Explaining the inexplicable: the BBC response to looney toons.

The BBC know next to nothing about religion: that's the root cause of their absurd response to the controversy, exaggerating both the number and nature of the cartoons, then portraying the protests as spontaneous, the anger disinterested, the Danes as instransigent etc etc. Their limitations are on display.

Because they wouldn't touch a literalist approach to the Bible with a barge-pole, they have a problem when faced with Muslim literalism, which, because 'foreign' they must dignify somehow. Except that it's not literalism at all- it's Koranic hyperventilation, as the BBC's own article about the Koran's anti-imagery ethos proves.

Point one: the Koran doesn't anywhere say not to make images of GOD, let alone Mohammad.

Point two: although the Koran rails against imagery, no-one is going to worship those Danish cartoons!

The whole thing makes no sense, and the Beeb can only try to pad it out by assuming some mysterious exegesis of the Koran. Anyone who had the slightest experience of actually attempting exegesis of religious texts would be falling about laughing. The fact is that the Koran posits a mysterious and grand God, and a mighty messenger. Therefore it's the lack of our reverence for that that's at issue. It's just pure religious bigotry which demands that others share the same feelings, the same understanding etc.

But Muslims = foreign = in need of special care and attention; the more so because if we don't they'll blow us up.

That's why the BBC's overall account has to assume some (serious) fault from the Danish side. Sorry Beebies, there's none.

eg. "Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen met ambassadors in Copenhagen to talk about the row. Danish officials said they could not expect an apology.

Syria and Saudi Arabia have already withdrawn their envoys.

The meeting comes three months after Mr Rasmussen rejected a request for talks from 11 Muslim ambassadors in Copenhagen.

The prime minister was criticised for not meeting the diplomats. The BBC's Julian Isherwood in Copenhagen says Friday's meeting seems to be an attempt to redress what was seen as a diplomatic snub to Muslim countries."

eg. "Jyllands-Posten has apologised for causing offence to Muslims, although it maintains it was legal under Danish law to print the cartoons."

Of course it was legal. Any law which invalidated those gentle little sketches would have to be devised by Tony Blair himself.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

(another one from drafts. I understand that Stephen Pollard has posted about the same BBC article, and the link's on Biased BBC, so this one's going here instead. BTW, so much for the French, eh?)

Immediate Update: the Beeb stealth edited the worst quote away, as Laban Tall points out. No acknowledgement was made of major changes, including that one. The point is that with the BBC, changing a story doesn't alter the fact that millions may have been influenced by it, and there is no redress. The original had all the hallmarks, not of a news piece, but an opinion one. It's all very Marx brothers: those are my principles, and if you don't like them, I have others. (or something like that).

More Looney Toons from the Beeb:

Not content with misrepresenting the cartoons (15 instead of the actual 12, with the add-on value of Mohammad with a pig's face- by far worse than any of the actual cartoons), the BBC are keen to invent another side to the account. According to Michael Buchanan,

'Denmark's reputation as an easy-going, consensual nation has been severely tarnished in recent days. All the Danes can do now is hope the repeated apologies for the offence caused, by both the government and the newspaper, will end this unseemly row.'

Er, no. Denmark's reputation for being easy-going and consensual has only been enhanced. The Danes should be proud as once again they've shown they can stand up for themselves in order to continue to be easy going and consensual in the future. The apologies offered are far from being abject- good job our BBC reporter managed to put a comma between 'caused' and 'by'.

However, the reputation of a certain world religion as been confirmed as intolerant and childish. But you won't be hearing that on the BBC unless on the Have Your Say section. And, by the way, I haven't seen any background to the story pointing out the Islamist violence in Denmark in Oct-Nov last year over this same cartoons issue. This is all I could see- a peaceful protest! And this, naturally- the 'balancing' article.

For some real background, see here. And here.

As for the 'global outrage' Buchanan alludes to- this may be technically true, but is disingenuous as we are really talking about a certain part of the world, and its co-religionists abroad.

Truth will out however. Despite a leading question from the BBC reporter, all the real bonus points go to the Danes as the question is roundly answered (the only thing good I can say about this article is that the exchange made it into the final copy):

''But knowing what he knows now, would he still commission and print those cartoons?

"That is a hypothetical question," he says. "I would say that I do not regret having commissioned those cartoons and I think asking me that question is like asking a rape victim if she regrets wearing a short skirt Friday night at the discotheque."'

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Unposted

Here's a little something from my drafts of a day or two ago. I might revise my opinion of the French if they continue a)to publish cartoons and be damned, and b) continue helping the US as this article describes. However, I have to say that if the French had just come right out and supported the US/UK over Iraq, we'd have wrapped things up in the first three months. No Turkish neutrality, a Northern front, no sympathetic Europress etc etc- maybe even no Syrian WMD smuggling- fait accompli.

Over-sporting to the French. Whatever the core characteristic of Britain you choose to look at, the chances are the BBC have distanced themselves from it. French bashing, for instance, is a national passtime we indulge in for having our generous admiration (over the centuries) spurned and disappointed. With the BBC it's the reverse: to show how sophisticated they are, French bashing is a purely unemotional and political decision, in place of a general fawning approach.

But anyway, why is is said in this article that 'France is drafting 400 troops to help fight a mosquito-borne virus spreading on its Indian Ocean island of Reunion.'


Well, fair enough, I suppose the French have paid enough in subsidy to buy the place by now, though the reality is that they have military interests there. But actually, colonial ownership of this island of almost 800,000 is a pretty big deal in today's day and age. Oh I know it's just a 'departement'- but that surely makes it part of France itself.

Another odd thing in the BBC report: the troops are said to be being 'drafted' to help the locals, yet as the BBC note they're already stationed on the island this seems a contradictory way to report. It doesn't seem so much like an international news item, more an item from the local French sponsored 'aren't we doing well' newspaper. Items like this remind me of those awful council newspapers that money is wasted on in the UK. At least the bias is clear there though- people paying taxpayer's money to convince the same taxpayers their money isn't being wasted. A sucker punch if ever there was one. Here we just have the hypocrisy of the BBC in sucking up by reporting the fairly innocuous yet apparently positive doings of a dubious colonial power.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Debased Coin

I have enjoyed reading autobiographies in the past; I wrestle with them, seeing if the author is being honest. One of the greatest autobiographies was Rousseau's Confessions, which I haven't read apart from the opening (I do intend to sometime; got to buy it first!)- but I have read Augustine's, and that's quite interesting. These kinds of autobiographies were groundbreaking in their time.

Reading Mark Steyn's article about the latest bust of a bestselling autobiography I was left with a few questions. The first was 'why do people carry on buying the most outlandish personal stories that can almost definitively be seen as dishonest?' Personally, I've grown more and more dissatisfied buying 'autobiographical' and even 'biographical' books as Christmas presents in recent years. They're so sloppy and exaggerated so often.

The second question concerns whether the dead tree industry has a future at all- its machinery seems to invite dishonesty as a sweatshop encourages illegal workers.

By chance then I happened upon this autobiographical snippet about everyday communist life- and guess what? It's real, in every sense. And I got it for nothing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Great article from Jeff Jacoby on the election of Hamas. I agree entirely. (hat tip to LGF)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chirac's Stand.

A while ago he had a stroke; then he threatened the bomb. Norm wondered why he'd made his threat, and got email. Now he shares some options: I agree with the first, as I mentioned before. Straw has been as wet as a lettuce, but it seems an all too overt good cop, bad cop routine. Who better to threaten nukes than a possibly senile, certainly unpredictable French patriot who cuts his cloth in Gaullist fashion? I still think it's for the sake of England though, and that Straw's abjection has been on a strict "E3" conditional arrangement. That doesn't make it right...

Palestinian elections: my view.

But before my views, here's David Warren, who seems to share a lot of them on this issue, but without discussion of the consequences of the Hamas victory.

The first principle I understand here is that the Palestinians do not want a settlement with Israel. Therefore they have no political party which seriously proposes it.

Secondly, the only thing holding Fatah together was the sense that its labyrinthine machinations were coordinated by Yasser Arafat. No one thought Arafat would seriously make peace with Israel, or lose out in negotiations. Arafat was happy to have Hamas in the wings and took no action against it, supremely confident as he was of his support from the West in confronting Israel.

The death of Arafat meant that many were free to think again about who to trust to prosecute their war against Israel. The prospect of an end to Ariel Sharon allured by giving them an extra boost in seeking effective confrontation. In the absence of both the dominant leaders, they could also register their rage at the killing of other potential leaders like Rantissi and Yassin, knowing that it would only embellish the notion of a 'deathless' Palestinian cause among their supporters.

There is a lot of talk about an anti-corruption vote. I think this was just a coded way for Hamas to say they will make a more effective war party. I don't remember much talk of corruption when the 'saintly' Arafat walked the earth.

Thirdly, and linked to the first, I think that there was no democratic vote this month in the territory occupied by Palestinians around and inside Israel. It's a war vote, and the only options were effectively derived from a wartime coalition- the same one that's held power for decades. The democratic element is a western construct because it means nothing to the Palestinians in their situation. It's just a politically staged event with an unspecified outcome in matters internal to the wartime coalition, designed to give the Palestinians chance to become enthusiastic about their war again.

Saying all this though, I think it will backfire. The Palestinian people, moved by their impotence and failure, have gone on the record saying that they hate Israel and can't tolerate it. They may have done so under distress, but nevertheless they have. Once it becomes undeniable that one party to a dispute is irrational and unreconcilable, the rational party tends to win the sympathy of any powers that be. The unwinding of Arafat's factional scheme has exposed the hard facts in a way never before seen. Although it may take time, and there may be setbacks, there are only two options: one is that the Palestinians back down by bringing to power a serious moderate (thus sueing for peace); the other is that they betray their hatred repeatedly in the face of a defensively organised yet assertive Israel inspired by the success of Sharon, and have to sue for peace because the costs of war can't be sustained by their squalid societal framework.

And, just to top and tail my post, Steve Plaut agrees with some of my assumptions but has a radically different view of what the future holds. His urgency demands respect; his site is under attack from a sick hacking game; his latest post (29/1) is immensely worth reading. I can well understand his fears, and it makes sense to express them. If I disagree from my easy armchair, it's because I think that the Palestinians are too uncoordinated to challenge Israel in a straight military fight of any kind, and too unsophisticated to marry nihilism with diplomacy. My biggest fear is of an unconventional attack; apart from that, I think if Israel sticks to the Sharon line of building their fence and pursuing their attackers right to their homes, I think they'll hold their own and be ok. I'll just link Plaut's site though as the sickos have made linking specific posts intolerable. Touch wood I'm not worth such attention.

Best thing I've read for months: the Belmont Club seems to go from strength to strength. The latest post is a must read. It's a job to say what the post is about really, but it's the intellectual equivalent of one of those guys from a hotel balcony on Boxing Day 04, leaning out with his video phone trying to capture the enormity of the incoming wave- a bit grainy, but awesome, and frightening.

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