Email: darkblogules at yahoo dot com
All email will be assumed to be for publication unless otherwise requested.
What's in the banner?
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Apparently American criticism of the BBC has caused a certain flutter in some areas. For example, Dr. Frank brings us word that:
Those aren't nails, Frank. Those are their thumbs.
It's no wonder that the British don't see the sneering tone Lileks spoke of; if British Spin is any indication, Sneer is a widely-spoken language in Britain:
"See here, my good man, we've been at this broadcasting business for sixty years, and we don't need any upstart colonial johnnies to teach us how to suck eggs."
I won't say I'm not irritated by the dimwittedness of American reporters' questions. As far as I can tell, the pattern goes something like this:
American: Saddam seems to have spread his forces out, dispersing them among the civilian population. Do you think this will make your job more difficult?
BBC: Now that the Iraqis are prosecuting a guerilla war, aren't you in danger of becoming involved in a Vietnam-style quagmire?
While the former is a stupid question, I don't see the latter as an improvement on it, even though it does "probe" and "push boundaries".
Swell. Does the BBC curl its lip at Tariq Aziz and ask him where the hell Saddam is? Does it ask him about their little adventures with the human shields? Does it ask him if he can prove that the American dead we saw on Iraqi TV were really Americans, because this is powerful propaganda for him?
Now, I can't watch the BBC anymore (we don't get it on cable). Maybe they are doing that. But during the Afghan war I didn't notice them asking any tough, probing questions of the Taliban's ambassador in Pakistan.
The BBC's finest hour in that regard came when they reported that the Taliban were claiming to have shot down a B-52 but, the newsreader cautioned, they did not place much credence in this claim. I had to laugh. They sometimes uncritically reported some rather ridiculous Taliban claims, but even they weren't buying that one.
It's no wonder British Spin has nailed his own thumb, since most of the rest of his post is flailing at various straw men. The BBC's critics want only reports of cheering, flower-throwing crowds, and not of any bad news. They want censorship!
Possibly the latter. This, despite what British Spin seems to believe, is not a good thing. If the BBC is supposed to remain so impartial as to forget that its British (see below), then it shouldn't be pandering to worldwide paranoia, either, but maintaining an indpendent aloofness. If, of course, they're still hanging on to that glorious higher ambition.
In Sydney I got Fox News, CNN, BBC World, and Sky News Australia. Of those four, the most sensationalistic was of course Fox, but next came the BBC. That's the Beeb's real problem: it is pandering to whatever will pull in the viewers, in fact betraying the impartial legacy that British Spin seems to value so much. When there was sympathy to be milked, they were there. When it was clear there was going to be a war, they jumped on the anti-war bandwagon, until the war was won, and then there was John Simpson, Liberator of Kabul. (No thanks to the bloody Yanks, of course.)
I don't think that the directors of the BBC actually sit around and try to think of ways to make the US look bad, but I do think that the reporters and writers have enough anti-American bias that it can't help leaking through. Or, given the pandering, they don't bother.
As he goes on to say, this is just a factor of 24 hour news. While I agree that they ought to be careful about verifying sources and not repeating wild rumors, I don't see that broadcasting early reports, then retracting them, is particularly bad. Certainly it isn't "gullible". I suppose that if you take every word that comes from the TV as carved in stone, you might be confused, but that makes you gullible. Whenever I see something sensational on the TV, I remain skeptical until it's confirmed. Perhaps British Spin should take this approach, rather than regarding whatever the BBC emits as the Word from on High.
(I might add that the BBC had its share of mistaken reports during the Afghan war as well. Perhaps British Spin isn't watching the same BBC I was.)
Er, I wouldn't be so quick to gloat over that. There's been precious little information about that. In fact, I always wonder why, of the many tough and probing questions the press could ask at the CENTCOM briefings, they don't ask more about that.
Harry Steele doesn't add much to the debate, contenting himself with urging British Spin on, but he does indulge in a little pop psychology:
Note: Sullivan is "hard right". This is the trouble with some of the British: everyone to the right of Tony Blair is "right-wing" or "hard right".
I don't think many Americans particularly care (or even know) that the BBC is state-subsidized, though I have heard a few use that as an explanation of its bias---a sort of reversal of Harry's explanation, in which the unaccountable, publicly-funded mandarin class (which in normal times includes yours truly) has a bias against societies in which they'd have to get real jobs. An interesting theory, but unconvincing.
Both Harry and British Spin have new stuff up in response to each other questions, and further comment by others, it's more thrashing of straw men. No one expects that various Iraqis or critics of the war not be allowed to speak. But if the Beeb is going to be impartial, it would be nice if they were as "tough" and "probing" with the Iraqis as with the Americans. I guess, in a way, it's a compliment; they have faith that Tommy Franks is not really going to whip out his pistol and shoot them---something you're not entirely confident of with the Iraqis.
In the comments to Harry's post, British Spin says, in part:
Being a mouthpiece for British national interest and for the current British government are two different things. It's admirable that the British government---different British governments over many years---funds a news organization which does not necessarily toe the government line. But surely it's not too much to ask for the BBC to remember that it is British, that they serve the British people, and, yes, ought to consider their interests.
The fact that British Spin is so contemptuous of the very idea suggests that he's one of those people who are so pure as to have given up thinking in terms of nations and their interests.
I have more, but I'll cut this post off now.