Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Well, allow me to retort!

The following is a partial replication of some comments from Paul Reynolds on the previous post. He has interspersed comments directed to me with comments directed to others, but I have only addressed those directed at me. You can go here and page down to see his comments in full. (Given that Mr. Reynolds is a voice from the BBC itself, I think it is fair to promote his comments from the comments section to the main blog.)

PR: You might be disappointed, because I have not agreed with everything you say. This is no reason to retreat behind your wagons.

This is a rather bizarre statement. I have posed several questions (or requests) to you, virtually none of which you have addressed. Yet you accuse me of “retreating behind your wagons”? Please do explain the thinking behind this accusation. I truly do not understand what would lead you to say such a thing.

BTW, I do not assume you agree with everything, or even anything, I say. That is why I have asked you questions, in order to find out what you think. Your refusal to answer me is making a mutual understanding of things difficult, if not impossible.

PR: I also dealt with the famous Justin Webb quote which Scott uses as his motto.

I am not aware of where you have dealt with this. Please direct me to your comments, or repeat them here, and I will certainly respond. In fact, I look forward to responding with great anticipation.

PR: You believe that the BBC is uniquely evil!

I am not sure whether this was directed at me, but to be clear, I do not think the BBC is uniquely evil, at least in its reporting. Indeed, I find the BBC’s reporting to be fairly typical of most journalism (ie not particularly good), despite its pretense to being some kind of uniquely elite organization.

Having said that, what does make the BBC undeniably unique among most journalistic endeavors is the fact that it is financed through the use of coercion. While, on a scale of evils in the world, that ranks pretty low, it is, nevertheless, an evil, and a fairly unique one at that.

PR: Scott's insistence that the BBC and other media give "negative" information about Cindy Sheehan implies that the BBC should become a cheerleader for her opponents.

Well, it is good, at least, that you have dropped the pretense that you do not understand what “negative” information about Sheehan might be. However, what I have said implies no such thing as what you claim. I have simply claimed that the BBC has not provided relevant information about Cindy Sheehan and her “protest”. You have, notably, not addressed this point. I will pose these questions again to you, in the hopes that you will, finally, address them.

If you think the type of information about Sheehan that I have presented here, and here, and here is not relevant to what the BBC plainly thinks is an important and on-going story, why do you think it is not relevant?

If you agree that it is relevant, why do you suppose the BBC has not yet presented it to its audience?

If you cannot venture a plausible guess as to why, on what basis do you discount the possibility that the explanation is an institutional bias that prefers to keep this information from its audience?

PR: We are not a cheerleader for them or for her.

So you say, but the evidence suggests to me (among others) that you are a cheerleader for her, that evidence being the BBC’s refusal to disclose information about her that would likely have a negative effect on her credibility. Simply saying “No, we’re not” does not refute the evidence. If you are to refute this claim, you must either a) point out that the BBC has disclosed this information; or b) point out that the information is not relevant to an understanding of Sheehan and her protest; or c) point out that the absence of this information is attributable to some other, legitimate reason.

So far, you have done none of this. You have simply made the bald assertion, and refused to address the reasoning behind my conclusion.

PR: There is plenty of info about Ms Sheehan on the BBC website, including the fact that she had spoken against the war before.

What is missing (among other things) is what she has said in speaking out against the war.

If the BBC had simply said that Pat Robertson had “spoken out” against Chavez, without divulging that Robertson had called for his assassination, would you think that the BBC had done a fair job in representing the situation? I’m guessing not. Likewise, if the BBC does not divulge the types of things that Sheehan has been saying, then it cannot be said to have fairly represented either her, her protest, or her position on Iraq (Indeed, beyond even failure to provide information, Justin Webb went so far as to misrepresent her position on Iraq). Sheehan has been saying some extremely controversial, radical, some would even say nutty things. The BBC has not reported this. Why?

PR: If I punt, I punt in the rugby sense.

I’d prefer to engage in an honest debate than to play games.

PR: Don't give up just yet, guys.

I’m not. Unlike some of my readers, I still have hope that you will address the issues I’ve raised head on and in an honest fashion. Am I hoping in vain?

PR: (from another comment) It is the use of the word "negative" which indicates where Scott is coming from and where he wants us to go. If he had said what you said, fine. But he did not.

My use of the word “negative” was in response to your professed confusion over what it meant with regard to Sheehan, and your claim that the BBC reports both positives and negatives. In other words, I used the term in a context that you had introduced. (Update: This is not precisely correct. In fact Marc introduced it, and you took him up on the characterization.)

In my request for your explanations (which, again, you have still not provided), I referred to the information about Sheehan that I think the BBC should be reporting as “relevant”, not negative. To remind you, this is what I said to you:

I have offered plenty of information here about Cindy Sheehan that, I believe, is highly relevant to an understanding of what she and her well publicized protest is all about. None of that information has appeared on the BBC. If you believe the information is irrelevant, I would like to understand your reasons, as an experienced observer of events, for thinking so. If you believe it is relevant, then I would like your explanation, as a person with vast experience in and understanding of the workings of the BBC, why it hasn’t yet made an appearance on the BBC, despite the high profile that the BBC has given to Sheehan. If you cannot conceive of an explanation, then I would like to know how you can dismiss the possibility (indeed, in the absence of any other reasonable explanation, the likelihood) that the reason is an institutional bias about the way that Sheehan and her protest should be portrayed.
Note the absence of the controversial "negative". As I said above, to desire relevant information from the BBC in no way implies that the BBC should act as a "cheerleader" to anyone. Indeed, it is to ask for precisely the opposite.


Blogger Marc said...

Scott, as I said to Paul in your earlier post, do a search of the BBC's website using "Cindy Sheehan" and you will not find Sheehan's earlier comments about the war, as Paul claims. That is why he failed to provide a link to this claim:

"PR: There is plenty of info about Ms Sheehan on the BBC website, including the fact that she had spoken against the war before."

1:52 PM  
Anonymous paul reynolds said...


I suppose the wagons remark was aimed more at marc than you but he did say it on your site.

I am glad that you at least you think the BBC is "uniquely evil".
The license fee issue I leave to the British voters.

This is what I said over on B-BBC recently about the Justin Webb piece, from which you take your own motto and also a piece you should read from Rob Watson: I would be interested in your views.

"I feel I owe marc, captain of the USS Neverdock, a fuller response since he accuses me of cherry-picking( my charge against him of course).

Let me examine one of his main charges against the BBC for showing anti-Americanism. It is the quote he uses from one of the BBC's Washington correspondents (its main radio correspondent in fact) Justin Webb in a broadcast in From Our Own Correspondent on Radio 4 earlier this year. The same quote is also used prominently as a kind of dreadful warning on the site of Scott Callahan, The American Expatriate.

This is the quote:

"America is often portrayed as an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry, a place lacking in respect for evidence based knowledge.

I know that is how it is portrayed because I have done my bit to paint that picture, and that picture is in many respects a true one."

However, I recommend that you read the whole piece: 4400865.stm

Justin is discussing the case of Terry Schiavo, the woman who died after feeding tubes had been removed.

The quoted admission of guilt turns out to be a set-up for something else and that is a rousing defence of the American public.

"There is plenty of barminess and plenty of nastiness here if you look for it, but for me, the revelation of the Schiavo case was that there is plenty of good sense as well."

"The founding fathers, with a wisdom which truly does echo down the ages, decided that there would be a separation of powers.

General laws would be made by politicians representing the people, but then interpreted and applied by judges.

The reason is simple, to limit the power of government to interfere in any individuals life.

If you can convince the courts that you are legally in the right, then no politician, even the president himself in his pyjamas and on his high horse, can stop you."

"The founding fathers must be watching from their heavenly perches and wondering at the power of the constitution they created.

It is common to mock at American attempts to export Jeffersonian democracy, but after these two weeks the mocking should stop."

Now, you can agree or diagree with his analysis as to the state of play between conservatives and liberals in the US. But you should put the quote in context. Its context is one of respect for America.

Let me also point marc to the words in February of Rob Watson, now back in London as Defence and Security correspondent for the BBC World Service. He wrote about his time as a
BBC correspondent in Washington and at the UN: 4273765.stm

Rob said:

"In these times of anti-Americanism this is by way of a love letter to the country where I have lived for a quarter of my life."

Another sample:

"Though I love the way America looks, its enduring appeal is the way it feels, its people and their attitude to life."

And finally:

"As a European, what I found most refreshing here was the remarkable lack of envy in American society.

When Americans see someone doing well, they do not grumble about it being all right for some, instead they say, one day that could be me."


re Cindy Shehan. The following line is taken from a Cindy Sheehan story and it states that her views on the war predtaed her recent promince.

"The president has so far refused to meet Mrs Sheehan, although he says he has given her plea for troop withdrawal serious consideration.

White House officials have pointed out that Mrs Sheehan met the president on a previous occasion, and made her views known on that occasion."

But as I have said Scott, I am not the one to follow up with. You have the editor's e-mail and I suggest you do so with him!

with regards

Paul Reynolds

4:28 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


If I am interested in the editor's view, rest assured I will certainly e-mail him. As it is, however, for the moment what I am interested in is your view.

You seem to believe that the BBC's coverage of Cindy Sheehan has been at the very least adequate (if not fully thorough) and fair. In light of the information I have discovered elsewhere about her (and posted here), this strikes as a peculiar judgment, and I would like to investigate it. (If I have mischaracterized your judgment, and you do not think that the BBC's coverage of Sheehan has been adequate and fair, please do set me straight.) Am I to understand that you are unwilling to defend your judgement, or to challenge my reasoning for asserting that your judgment on this issue is demonstrably wrong?

You said, in an earlier comment, that you seek "reasonable debate". I believe I have offered it. You said that reasoned argument should be "supported by evidence". I fully agree, and I believe I have offered that, too, although I have invited you to debunk it, if you believe it is not evidence that supports my argument.

Once again, I invite you to do so. If you really do seek "reasoned debate", I can see no reason for you not to take me up on it.


5:16 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Like I said in an earlier comment Scott,

"Scott, good luck on getting an answer, at least a meaningful one anyway."

Paul has no intention of indulging in a serious debate.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

All a journalist ever has to sell is credibility and once that's gone, you end up with nothing. Or, in this case, Reynolds.

Time, Scott, IMO, to forget him, though I admire your patience. At most he's a shill and a waste of your time and talents.

Even MoveOn has had enough of Mother Sheehan and decided to cut its losses:

Safe to guess that the message is now in transit from the dinosaur's brain in NY to the other end in Shepherd's Bush. Reynolds won't be doing any Sheehan stories.

5:45 AM  

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