Friday, September 02, 2005

OK, but...

BBC’s World Affairs Correspondent (and occasional TAE reader) Paul Reynolds weighs in on Katrina. It is, I think, largely a reasonable piece, although I can't let a couple of things pass.

First is his mischaracterization of Peggy Noonan, in order to portray her as particularly concerned about Bush’s effort so far.

Even his supporters like columnist Peggy Noonan are concerned that the federal government was a bit slow off the mark. She wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "More was needed in terms of sending a US military presence into New Orleans."

She asked about Mr Bush: "Does he understand that what has happened in our Gulf is as important as what is happening in the other Gulf?"

Placed as it is, the question appears to betray Noonan’s doubt about that understanding. In fact, Noonan was listing the types of questions one should ask in order to assess the president’s performance. She was not raising doubts of her own. This is the whole passage from Noonan’s column, in which she was going through a list of players, and assessing their actions so far:
President Bush. The political subtext: Does he understand that what has happened in our gulf is as important as what is happening in the other gulf? Does he know in his gut that the existence of looting, chaos and disease in a great American city, or cities, is a terrible blow that may have deep implications? It was bad luck that on the day it became clear a bad storm was a catastrophe he was giving a major Iraq speech, and bad planning that he arrived back at the White House cradling a yippy puppy. But his Rose Garden statement was solid. Yes, it was a laundry list, but the kind that that gives an impression of comprehensive government action. Having the cabinet there was good. His concern was obvious. But more was needed in terms of sending a U.S. military presence into New Orleans.
In other words, her assessment was mostly positive, answering her own question by saying that "His concern was obvious." But Reynolds extracts the one substantive criticism she made and adds to it a question taken out of context in order to make the point that "Even [Bush’s] supporters" are concerned about what he's doing. The impression he leaves of Noonan's piece is, quite simply, false. (Which is odd, because if he was looking for conservative critics of Bush, and particularly Bush's immediate reaction, he could have easily found them at National Review.)

Reynolds also makes a strange statement when wondering why so many people had not evactuated New Orleans, despite being urged to do so.
There has been some dispute about why so many were left behind or stayed behind. In Cuba they would have been taken out. Whether enough transport was available or whether people simply ignored the warnings will have to be examined for lessons to be learned in future.
The relevance of what Cuba would have done, even if Reynolds can accurately divine what El Commandante Castro would have done, is lost on me. I’d like to think that Reynolds is not actually comparing the freedom of New Orleans unfavourably with the tyranny of Havana, but frankly I can’t think of any other reason for this statement, and this is, afterall, the BBC. So anything is possible.

Perhaps Mr. Reynolds will bless us with an explanation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In Cuba they would have been taken out."

Mr Reynolds is spot on, since Fidel does carry a pistol.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From this recent piece it would seem that Mr Reynolds is learning to be a more balanced reporter but that is obviously thanks to TAE and the other Bloggers. This interprets to mean that Mr Reynolds sees truth in the critics of the BBC but lacks the moral conscience to accept overtly that the BBC is biased as an obedient slave would to his master. Only in this case Mr Reynolds is a journalist by profession and is mandated to write the truth. Oh well from the evidence of his recent article there may still yet be hope.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous paul reynolds said...


I have written a new piece which also mentions Cuba, where I have been during a storm. I contrast its authoritariasm with the problems of a free society, but point out that freedom has its responsibity to provide for emergencies and to explain when things go wrong, as it has here.

As for Peggy Noonan, my thought is that whenever a writer like her poses questions, she is not convinced of the answer. If she was confident about President Bush, she would say so.

My message to "anonymous." I do not normally like to engage with people who do not at least have a nom de plume but I will say that it is the other way round. You are discovering that the BBC after all is not as biased as you think!

with regards
Paul Reynolds

12:50 PM  
Blogger BZC said...

The BBC is just as biased as we all think, and just because it's own man won't have the guts to admit to it and instead dodges questions and asserts that nothing has been demonstrated, does not make it less so. I'd like to pass comment on something I noted yesterday. For a short period there was an incredibly bad 'news' piece on the BBC 'News' site about the US Media criticising Bush's handling of the aftermath of Katrina. It had a title something along the lines of 'US Media critical of Bush response', or at least something to that effect. This 'article' consisted largely of a protracted quotation from the New York Times, which was critical of President Bush's handling of the situation. It is laughable that the BBC thinks that 'New York Times criticises Bush' is some sort of newsworthy story. It's tantamount to having a story about The Guardian being against the war in Iraq. This incredibly, how should I put it... 'stupid' article disappeared when I tried to look for it a second time. Maybe someone at the BBC noticed how incredibly poor and useless it was. It was probably there long enough to be read by a few however. This is not the first time that the BBC has completely removed articles. I recall a few months ago, after a palestinian child was shot in a UN school compound, the BBC, after its initial 'witnesses say' method of reporting, reported the story declaring AS FACT that Israeli soldiers were responsible. Without quotations or qualifications. Then, the next day, Palestinian police arrested a Palestinian man who had been firing a gun in the immediate area. The article disappeared off the BBC site. It wasn't corrected, the mistake was never acknowledged, it just disappeared. Surely if the BBC makes a gross factual error, it should correct it, rather than pretend it never existed. But maybe the BBC likes leaving certain uncorrected versions of events in minds of people...

1:23 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


I understand that it may be difficult to keep track of your many critics, but TAE is written by Scott, not Marc.

I've just read your "new" piece, which seems to be primarily the old piece with some added commentary. Much of it is simply a verbatim copy of the original.

With regard to Cuba, it still remains unclear to me whether or not you are advocating the Fidel approach, and if not, why you bothered to mention it. Since no one that I am aware of has ever intimated that the absence of tyranny relieves a government of the responsibilities you mention, the introduction of Cuba seems entirely superfluous...unless, again, you are recommending the tyrannical approach used by Castro.

As for Noonan, a "writer like her" no doubt poses questions for numerous reasons. I'd hardly consider her one dimensional. Sometimes they are rhetorical, sometimes they convey genuine inquiry, sometimes they are meant to express doubt, and sometimes they are posed in order for them then to be answered. As I pointed out, in the context of Noonan's piece she was clearly not expressing doubt about the answer. You say that if she was confident about Bush, she would say so. In fact, she did. She said, quite plainly, that his speech was "solid" and that his concern was "obvious". That sounds like confidence to me, at least with regard to the questions she put to herself. You've done her and your readers a disservice by pretending otherwise.


1:47 PM  
Blogger chip said...

As an Englishman who moved from London to Canada several years ago I have to laugh at the UK media's tut-tutting over the federal (read Bush's) response to the hurricane.

This from a country whose rail network comes to a standstill when leaves fall on the line, from a country where murders occur in a Lewisham Tesco on a NORMAL day.

It would make a nice change if the BBC and others could turn their sneering comtempt for all things American instead to the decaying British institutions that truly deserve it.

Then it would truly be doing the British public a service, whereas gratuitous Bush-bashing accomplishes absolutely nothing at all.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

"I understand that it may be difficult to keep track of your many critics, but TAE is written by Scott, not Marc."

But Scott, you do write much better than I.

Paul does seem to be having trouble keeping up with his many ciritcs. One would have thought he would stop and ask himself, just why is it he has so many critics.

That goes double for the BBC.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous JohninLondon said...

Mr Reynolds

You are approaching retirement, I believe ?

Would a mid-career BBC hack join in blog comments ? Would he/she dare ?

And why is the BBC with 4000 staff in the News Division so far behind the curve on the Gulf damage ? We hear stuff/see pictures on the BBC many hours fter other channels.

6:33 AM  

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