Yes, let's put Webb's quotation into context
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.Actually, its context is one of surprised and heretofore lacking respect for America, which is revealing in and of itself. Recall at the time of writing, Justin Webb had been a Washington correspondent for some 5 years, I believe. Yet he was totally unembarrassed to write that:
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. Plenty of honest disagreement among reasonable people, religious and non religious, Republican and Democrat."This comes as a “revelation”? From a guy who has spent at least 5 years in America? Such an admission is simply astounding. And what does it say about the BBC’s coverage of America over those 5 years that its main correspondent in Washington was unaware that there is “plenty of good sense” and plenty of “honest disagreement” among reasonable people, and that both religious and secular people, along with Republicans and Democrats, could be counted among those “reasonable people”? Webb should have been utterly ashamed to even admit to such gobsmacking ignorance. But he wasn’t. He seems to feel as though he has uncovered a great secret. And, no doubt to him it was, because he was (is) so steeped in his own prejudices, he his nearly blind.
And what does it say of the BBC as an organization that it continues to not only employ a man whose judgment and powers of observation are so weak that it took him 5 years to realize there were reasonable people on both sides of political debate in America, but it also continues to value his observations enough to give him his very own regular air time to broadcast his “personal reflections” on America?
The condescension and patronization in Webb’s article, quite beyond his open admission to having “painted” a deliberately negative picture of America, is palpable. “Can you believe it? The Americans are not so screwed up afterall!” This is supposed to be a compliment?
Paul Reynolds may choose to think that the article shows “respect” for America. I think, however, it reveals quite starkly the kind of perniciousness and/or incompetence that is allowed to thrive at the BBC.
(BTW - I won't get into it, but Webb's connection of the Schiavo case with "Jeffersonian democracy" is highly ironic, and betrays an ignorance of either the disposition of the Schiavo case or Jefferson's notion of democracy...or perhaps both.)