Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Plumbing the muck that is the BBC

As I type, there is a show being broadcast on the BBC called "Hurricane Katrina: The Real Story". Yes that's right. One single week after the hurricane, and with the rescue and relief operation is still going on, the BBC claims to have "the real story". Right.

I'd like to tell you about it all, but about 15 minutes into it, I simply couldn't watch anymore. The BBC's descent into sensationalism, tabloid journalism, and cheap propaganda simply disgusted me too much to continue watching it.

Going through "the real story" day by day, the show got to Tuesday, the day after Katrina hit and the point at which the degree of flooding and destruction started to become known. At this point, up came a picture of a smiling Bush with a guitar in hand, and a graphic which said (something like) "While people struggle for survival in New Orleans, President Bush is on holiday."

The combination of the photo and the words represents a complete lie, and I use that word advisedly. The picture of Bush with the guitar was taken backstage after a speech Bush had just delivered at Naval Air Station North Island in California on Tuesday morning. (The guitar had just been presented to him by country singer Mark Wills). So, contrary to what the BBC said, Bush was not "on holiday" but was in fact at an official function performing official duties. Again, what the BBC said was an out and out lie.

Now, one might reasonably argue that, presuming the extent of the problems in New Orleans was known at the time (the speech was delivered at 9am PST), Bush should have cancelled the speech, in order to attend to matters in New Orleans. One might also argue that, having given the speech, Bush should have dashed off immediately without stopping for the customary backstage gladhanding. But this was not what the BBC was suggesting. It did not say that while the people of New Orleans struggle for survival, Bush was giving a pre-scheduled speech at a Naval Station. It claimed he was "on holiday".

And the BBC did not go so far as to simply show a photograph in the absence of context, insinuating something that wasn't true, which would be bad enough. It deliberately and specifically added a false context to the photo - "Bush on holiday" - and then juxtaposed that against the disaster unfolding in New Orleans, in order to make Bush appear as inept and out of touch as possible.

I would like to report on what the rest of the program was like, but, as I said, I was simply too disgusted to carry on. I had to switch it off. If this is not yellow journalism, I don't know what is. The BBC sinks to lower and lower depths each day. How the British people can continue to endorse this kind of tabloid trash with their tax dollars is quite beyond me.

64 Comments:

Blogger chip said...

The BBC clearly doen't practise journalism.

It's cheap, hollow propaganda.

11:33 PM  
Blogger simon said...

I don't endorse it with my tax pounds, I give it my tax pounds because I'll get fined or imprisoned if I don't.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Teddy Bear said...

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1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Come and check it out if you get time :-)

6:25 AM  
Blogger David said...

The latest news about
France that you never see on the major media.

1.
"French President Chirac To Deliver "Vive Le Lousiane Libre" Speech From Hospital Balcony"


Chirac's diagnosis is "blurred of vision, diarrhea of brain and lack of spine"

2.
"French Military Mobilizes To Save Creoles and Negroes In New Orleans From Katrina"


3.
"Future French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Wife Nookied In A Zionist Nuke Plot"


Maybe I should write about England too? I think I have done it 1-2 times...

Nice blog

6:38 AM  
Blogger The Gorse Fox said...

Scott,
Gorse Fox (who is no friend of the BBC) watched the whole program. Several comments:
1) It was true that GWB was on vacation when the disaster struck. The graphics surrounding that were clumsy and partisan and did not relate to his vacation.
2) Much of the programme was reportage from the US Media, showing how the disaster unfolded.
3) Much of the comment was from people in the middle of the aftermath. Their feelings and their thoughts in their words - not rehashed by the BBC. GF does not really expect balance and informed opinion from the victims and the people working night and day to help them. They are probably not aware of the subtleties of who authorised what - they just see delays.
4) On balance GF thoought the coverage was pretty good (something he rarely admits regarding the BBC), until Matt Frei came on and started the anti-Bush and anti-Republican rhetoric. That was over pretty quickly though.
5) The background music was sensational.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Gorse,

Since, as I mentioned, I couldn't get past the first 15 or so minutes, I can't comment on the whole show. However, with regard to the Bush "vacation":

We all know that, with regard to Bush or any president, the images that are aroused through the use of the word "vacation" or "holiday" when referring to time spent at his actual home rather than in the White House is not entirely, or even remotely, accurate. Just because the president is in Crawford does not mean he is not working. The use of the words "vacation" and "holiday" obscure this fact...in some cases deliberately.

However, if we accept that being in Crawford means being "on vacation", then, as you say, GWB was "on vacation" as the hurricane hit. However, it was not that fact which the BBC was highlighting in the graphic to which I brought attention. The BBC specifically noted that it was Tuesday, the day after the hurricane, and made a point of the fact that the extent of the disaster was just coming to be known. They even showed a US broadcast from Tuesday with Charles Gibson saying that the scale of the disaster was much worse than previously reported the night before. Following this information, the BBC then put up the picture of Bush smiling with the guitar, along with the graphic about him being "on holiday" while the people in New Orleans struggled to survive. In the context of the show, the undeniable implication of this was that, even as the scale of the disaster became apparent, Bush was dancing and singing on holiday. This is simply a lie. There is no other word for it. He was not on holiday, and was not even in Crawford. He was at an official function in California at which he had given a speech.

To say the BBC misrepresentation was "clumsy" suggests that it was not deliberate. I find that nearly impossible to believe. And the misrepresentation was indeed "partisan", although that is certainly an understatement, akin to saying that Katrina brought on a bit of rain.

I defer to your judgment on the rest of the show, as I switched off and did not see it. However, the bit to which I referred was, I think, reprehensible, and indicative of just how lacking in journalistic standards of fairness and decency the BBC is these days.

SC

9:10 AM  
Anonymous JohninLondon said...

There was NIL description of the relative responsibilies especially for First Response, NIL mention of the Mayor and Governor's roles and possible failings, NIL mention of those 400 buses.

Just a hatchet job on Bush.

A picture is worth 1000 words.

Those photos of the buses speak volumes.

11:16 AM  
Blogger RightForScotland said...

I had the sound turned down as I was talking on the phone to my parents, but reading the text that was being thrown up on the screen was making my blood boil.

Hatchet job and they will probably get away with it as the Government seems to let the Beeb do what it likes even after Kelly.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bush guitar playing, suggesting Nero & Rome, may well become another "plastic turkey" myth.

http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/008094.php

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor George, he does everything right, everything he touches turns to gold and people still criticize him. Why didn't they show the numerous pictures of him taking charge and co-ordinating a massively successful relief effort? The man is the closest thing we have to a reincarnation of Jesus, and all the BBC can do is point out that he likes to go on vacation a lot. Such bias!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JohninLondon,

That isn't actually true. The graphics were ill-advised (although they didn't quite show what Scott claims they did), but to represent the entire program as focussing on Bush is inaccurate.
Although the guitar playing incident is unrelated, the time Bush spent at his ranch was described by the White House as a 'vacation.'

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There will now be Senate hearings by the Homeland Secrity Committee. There will no doubt be a lot of political grandstanding, but ALL sides of the issues will come out in evidence. And all will be live on CSpan, which anyone with broadband in the UK can access. In full and live.

The open Senate hearings will drive another nail into the BBC's wilting/lost reputation for throrough and unbiased reporting.

Incidentlly, not even the Reynolds article placed the PRIMARY responsibilities where they properly fall. Even ABC is latching on to this, especially the need to organise and support evacuation.

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/HurricaneKatrina/story?id=1102467&page=1&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312

The BBC is WAY behind the curve on all this. 4000 news staff and they screw up the biggest story for months. Instead, they prefer to throw ant--Bsh propaganda at us.

It will all come out in the wash.

"Truth's a chiel tht winnae die, and cannae be disputed"

This huge, blatant example of BBC ignorance and bias will run and run.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The open Senate hearings will drive another nail into the BBC's wilting/lost reputation for throrough and unbiased reporting.


I doubt it. Afterall, Bush was on holiday while early rescue operations were being mishandled. The BBC using a photo taken during an official engagement that Bush attended during his official vaction time will not put any nails into the coffin of their reputation. Perhaps Scott would've been happier if the BBC had broadcast a blank screen in place of the photo to accompany the technically correct caption?

I'm intrigued by this attack on the BBC, as I find it to be the least biased of any of the terrestrial news broadcasters in the UK. I would find it much easier to build a case against ITN or Channel4 News for 'Bush bashing' than the BBC.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous JohninLondon said...

It was Bush himself who pleaded with the Mayor of NO and the Governor of Louisiana to declare and organise mandatory evacuation. They then fell down on the job terribly. This is the fundamental truth that will emerge fully. This is the central truth that virtually all BBC coverage hs avoided.

It is not the job of FEMA to organise evacuation.

Yes, ITN and Channel 4 cn be criticised. But the main point is that the BBC is required to be impartial. It is not. It has preferred to keep taking cheap shots at Bush, often repeating blatant lies. Also, the BBC has global reach, it is far more important than ITN or Ch 4.

And we are forced to pay for the BBC. On pain of imprisonment.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

To "anonymous" who claimed that the clip of the show was not quite what I claimed it to be:

As I indicated in my original post, I was not sure of the exact wording on the graphic, but that they used the words "Bush on holiday" juxtaposed against words describing the goings on in New Orleans is certain.

In what way have I not portrayed the clip accurately?

SC

2:59 PM  
Anonymous JohninLondon said...

http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20050906-093817-7790r.htm

http://www.washtimes.com/national/20050907-121729-5097r.htm

None of this has ever appeared on the BBC, on any channel, home or abroad.

People should be sacked for this travesty of "reporting". Their obsession about George Bush has blinded them to what actually was happening.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

To anonymous who said:

"Perhaps Scott would've been happier if the BBC had broadcast a blank screen in place of the photo to accompany the technically correct caption?"

I would have been happy had the BBC tried to portray what was going on accurately. As it was, they deliberately tried to diminish Bush by falsely portraying him as partying while on holiday. This portrayal is, as I have said, a lie.

There may be legitimate fault to be found in some of Bush's actions (indeed, there almost certainly is), but partying it up and being on holiday is not one of them. The BBC did a disservice to legitimate criticism (not to mention its audience) by using "technically correct" language to convey a false image.

(And I do not, by the way, accept that the language was "technically correct" in any event. Read the definition of holiday in a dictionary. Giving a speech at a formal event as part of the requirements of one's job does not qualify.)

SC

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(And I do not, by the way, accept that the language was "technically correct" in any event. Read the definition of holiday in a dictionary. Giving a speech at a formal event as part of the requirements of one's job does not qualify.)


We know that Bush cut his holiday short by two days. We also know that this event he attended was prescheduled to occur during his vacation period.

Had hurricane Katrina not occured, and the subsequent two days holiday been taken, would Bush's vacation have been more accurately been described as two separate holidays with one day of formal engagement in between, or as one holiday during which he attended a formal engagement?

I realise this distinction of definition is all of little consequence, and frankly, the only way I can see the BBC progressing without fear of being called biased or 'Bush bashing' is to avoid reporting on George Bush at all. Afterall, it doesn't seem to matter in what context George's televisual appearances are made, the man continually seems to be dropping a bollock.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

"the man continually seems to be dropping a bollock. "

50 million liberated Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq might disagree with that assesment.

Since the majority of Americans re-elected him, they seem to disagree as well.

Then there is Libya, Lebanon....

Well, you get the idea. Don't you? :)

4:01 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Oh, I forgot the latest ABC poll where 55% of Americans don't blame Bush for the Katrina mistakes. :)

4:02 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

anonymous,

You asked: "Had hurricane Katrina not occured, and the subsequent two days holiday been taken, would Bush's vacation have been more accurately been described as two separate holidays with one day of formal engagement in between, or as one holiday during which he attended a formal engagement?"

As I have already pointed out elsewhere, to characterize the president as being "on vacation" simply because he happens to be spending time in Crawford is not accurate in the first place. He is not on vacation in the traditional sense of the word, as he is generally working anyway. So it would not be accurate to describe it in either way that you present.

However, perhaps you will answer me this: Suppose Bush had announced on Monday that he was cancelling his "vacation", and that on Tuesday he still gave his speech in California, and still received a guitar. According to your thinking, the BBC's portrayal then would no longer have been "technically correct". But would it have been any less informative?

But you are correct...whether or not the claim was technically correct according dictionary definitions is of little consequence. For even if it was, the image it painted was very clearly false.

SC

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

50 million liberated Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq might disagree with that assesment.


Then again, they may have preferred their liberation to have been handled by someone slightly more competant and slightly less likely to plunge their countries into a condition of heightened terrorist activity with the threat of looming civil war.

The benefit of hindsight may be a wonderful thing, but let's not pretend that Bush doesn't bumble through most of his endevours encountering numerous predicted calamities along the way.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott said: However, perhaps you will answer me this: Suppose Bush had announced on Monday that he was cancelling his "vacation", and that on Tuesday he still gave his speech in California, and still received a guitar. According to your thinking, the BBC's portrayal then would no longer have been "technically correct". But would it have been any less informative?

I'm not sure I understand the question. If that had been the case, and the BBC's portrayal was no longer "technically correct", not only would it have been less informative, it would have been the blatant lie that you originally suggested it was, and I would have posted in agreement with you rather than in disagreement.

I do concede that the image it painted was false to an extent in that the photo showed him at a formal event rather than enjoying a knees-up during his vacation. However, they probably didn't have many photos of Bush during his vacation time, and as this event took place during his scheduled break I think you are perhaps making a bigger deal out of it than necessary. I don't think the BBC program was intended solely as a hatchet job on Bush.

I'm also rather dubious of this "working holiday" title that Bush's numerous vacations are given. It strikes me as unprovable that he actually does any work during this time other than to attend the odd formal engagement. It also seems a rather good way to counter the inevitable complaints that Bush spends much of his presidency away from the wheel.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Anon,

In what way would it have been less informative? In my hypothetical, Bush's actions themselves would have been entirely unchanged from what they were. The only thing that would have changed would be whether they were characterized as having been done "on holiday" or "not on holiday". What relevant or significant information does the characterization provide? None.

As I said, the characterization of him being "on holiday", especially in conjunction with the photo, can only have been used in order to evoke an image that was contrary to reality. I am glad to hear that you agree with this.

BTW, I have not claimed that the piece was intended solely as a hatchet job on Bush. As I didn't watch the rest of it, I could not legitimately make such a claim in any event. But that one of its purposes was a hatchet job is evidenced by the misrepresentation that you have agreed existed.

SC

4:55 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Anon,

BTW, you are correct that I cannot prove that he does any work while at Crawford. But I can't prove that he does any work when he's in the Oval Office, either. If you are inclined to think he's neglecting his duties while in Crawford, I suspect you are just as likely to think he's doing so while in Washington, too.

This tells us more about your opinion of Bush than about Bush's work ethic in Crawford.

SC

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The man is the closest thing we have to a reincarnation of Jesus" - that's the funniest thing I've heard in a long while, thanks for cheering me up ;)

Richard York

5:40 PM  
Blogger David said...

The military/civilian agencies follow the President at all times; who do you think is the Warrant Officer who sleeps next door? He carries the 'football' a special case with the nuclear launch codes etc. ALmost all the Presidental White House staff go to Crawford. At Crawford there is a SITUATION CENTRE (SITCEN) where the President and his staff get a briefing every morning and as required during incidents such as Katrina. Clinton is on vacation at Camp David and meets with Arafat and Rabin and tries to sort a treaty; is he on holiday? Jimmy Carter and the CAMP DAVID agreement of 1979 was done whilst Carter was 'on holiday'.

In fact you would be better saying that the different to a normal working day at Crawford for the President and his staff is that the location is different and the daily routine varies slightly to include some recreational pursuits. Even when on Air Force One there is constant briefing and paperwork being done.

The press HATE Crawford because they have to stay in cheap motels and the weather/area is always dry and dusty. You hardly heard a whinge when the President holidays in California (Reagan) or Arkansas (Clinton) or Georgia (Carter) yet because Bush 41 and 43 holiday in Texas they whinge like mad....says it all really..

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Richard York said:

>The man is the closest thing we have to a reincarnation of Jesus" - that's the funniest thing I've heard in a long while, thanks for cheering me up ;)

You need to get out more, Richard.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see the rather jingoistic views being expressed. The Beeb's programme was actually less condemnatory in tone than many of the US networks'. And there are some serious questions that have to be answered: first off is how on earth did it take the US so long to launch its rescue operation? The scenes being broadcast over the five day period following the storm were reminiscent of those in the Third world, not a developed country. The Beeb's not perfect, but I don't think - on balance - they did that bad a job.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Anonymous the last,

The issue is not the "condemnatory" nature of the program. It is the deliberate misrepresentation in which it engaged.

There may well be serious questions to be raised, but the BBC was neither asking nor addressing them, at least in the part that I saw. It was simply trying to place Bush in the worst light possible, and doing so through deception.

Against what are you weighing the BBC's lie when you say that, "on balance", they didn't do a bad job? To my mind journalistic lies weigh pretty heavily.

SC

9:01 PM  
Anonymous JohninLondon said...

The clear bias of the BBC is their failure to mention any of the severe criticisms that are now swirling around the NO Mayor and the Louisiana Governor. Page after page of newspaper criticism of them, lots of TV criticism - but NIL BBC mention.

Because they prefer to snipe at Bush.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JohninLondon,

You might want to read the following article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4216508.stm

They seem to mention the criticisms you say they fail to mention.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

Ahem, Anonymous the Busted passes the duck test and walks, talks and squawks like Reynolds. Oh dear God!

Promoting your own mediocre stuff, eh, disco boy? Wow oh wowee, what a tease!

So you think BBC really didn't do "that bad a job"...Well, you would, wouldn't you? Stayin' Alive...Stayin' Alive...

5:30 AM  
Anonymous JohninLondon said...

Anonymous

Can't you read ?

All the discussions here these past few days have referred to the Paul Reynolds article as the ONLY time the BBC has mentioned the division of responsibilities. I have mentioned that article several times.

NOWHERE ELSE either online, on TV or on radio has the BBC focussed on the PRIMARY responsibilities of the Mayor and the Governor of Louisiana.

And that Reynolds article you are tryimng to use as a figleaf against charges of blatant 24/7 BBC anti-Bush spleen and ignorance is itself weak in failing to point out the PRIMACY of the roles of the Mayor and Governor. The article presents a pretty confusing picture, not a clear analysis. Besides which, it is not highlighted at the |BBC website. Just go look.

All guidelines for emergencies in the US say that FEMA is back-up to the local and state agencies, and their aid cannot be expected before 72 hours. Do you dispute this ? Do you actually know anything about how emergencies are meant to be handled in the US ?

Or are you just knee-jerk defending the appalling job the BBC has done in informing its public ?

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JohninLondon said...
"Anonymous

Can't you read ?

All the discussions here these past few days have referred to the Paul Reynolds article as the ONLY time the BBC has mentioned the division of responsibilities. I have mentioned that article several times."


Yes I can read, I just haven't read any of the discussions here over the past few days. Unfortunately, when I read "but NIL BBC mention", I didn't realise you actually meant "but NIL BBC mention, apart from the mention that I have discussed several times over the past few days". I apologise.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JohninLondon said:

"All guidelines for emergencies in the US say that FEMA is back-up to the local and state agencies, and their aid cannot be expected before 72 hours. Do you dispute this ? Do you actually know anything about how emergencies are meant to be handled in the US ?"


I know a little, and I thought section 402 of the Stafford Act authorised the president to coordinate all disaster relief assistance (including voluntary assistance) provided by Federal agencies, private organizations, and State and local governments as well as assist State and local governments in the distribution of medicine, food, and other consumable supplies, and emergency assistance. Apparently not.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous JohninLondon said...

You misread the structure of US legislation which is heavily based on defending states' rights.

Primary responsibility in emergencies is local - city and state level. The Federal level mobilises but is NOT expected or deemed to be the first responder. It can be invited in - or if say there was a nuclear attack could march in without invite - but in this case the initiative clearly lay with the local authorities. And all the signs are that they were zealous to hang on to it - while acting very indecisively.

Who FAILED to evacuate - 500 buses and rising left in the fleet parks of NO ?

And who FAILED to provision the Superbowl and the Convention Centre properly ? It now appears that the Red Cross was stopped by Louisiana state officials from providing supplies and sanitation etc stuff for all those tens of thousands of people.

Who FAILED to send in the National Guard with reinforcements from other states to keep order ?

Who FAILED to ensure that the NO police communications would survive a flood ?

http://www.radioblogger.com/#000967

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is what you people in England should do.

Call the BBC and tell them that you will stop paying for their socialist crap.

Send a letter to Tony Blair that you will no longer pay for the BBC.

And tell the police that if they come to arrest you to try to collect their BBC payment that you will shoot them all.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people in the American media are now questioning the roles of the NO Mayor (a boob) and the Louisiana Governor (a moron way out of her depth).

If the Democrats wish to push for investigations, they will show that these two people were not just ignorant, but did nothing to help their people. Now we find out that the Red Cross left seven trailers of food and water at the Superdome, but the Mayor of NO refused to hand it out because he didn't want people to stay there.

Democrats should be shot for their biased crap.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Call the BBC and tell them that you will stop paying for their socialist crap."


Since their output is of far higher quality, and cheaper than the alternatives (apart from the one's that make you sit through about 7hours of commercials everyday), I think I'd rather pay for their socialist crap. Cheers for your ignorant suggestion though.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Just for clarification to your post, Scott, I recalled seeing on the CNN "crawl strip" that they always show during their broadcast, that Bush "left his vacation early" to deal with the hurricane/flood disaster relief efforts. I have this vague memory that it may have said that he left his vacation "two days early". Unfortunately I can't remember when I saw this. I remember it was shortly after the news got out that the city was flooded. What I recall though is that the president's vacation was supposed to end Aug. 31, the day before the incident you cite.

"Vacation" is a loose term when it comes to the President. In reality he is always on the job. In fact, I don't know why they call it a "vacation", because all he's really done is change his office location. Work continues. Perhaps they should change the term, since people get the misimpression that the President when "on vacation" is just relaxing, taking a break from it all. That is really far from the truth.

Your description of the BBC portrayal of events sounds eerily like the deceptive portrayal of Bush in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, hypocrites of the world unite!

Scott based his little rant on this:

' ... which said (something like) "While people struggle for survival in New Orleans, President Bush is on holiday."'

So you base your accusations on a paraphrase? That's pretty shoddy reporting isn't it? Until Mr Anti-BBC can find the exact quote, it's not really worth commenting on and deeply hypocritical to draw judgements from.

I get the impression the writer of this blog just cut and pasted his prejudices onto the events (just like the techcentralstation piece that led me here). Boring boring boring.

Blogs don't keep the media honest unless they themselves live up to the standards they deign to demand. Shoddy blogs - as most are - are just shoddy.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Here is what you people in England should do.

Call the BBC and tell them that you will stop paying for their socialist crap.

Send a letter to Tony Blair that you will no longer pay for the BBC."

How about ... Us people in the UK (England is one of the four constituent nations within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) will continue to pay for the BBC unless and until we vote for a political party that runs on a manifesto to end the licence fee.

This is that little thing called democracy, but thanks for your thoughts.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I defer to your judgment on the rest of the show, as I switched off and did not see it. However, the bit to which I referred was, I think, reprehensible, and indicative of just how lacking in journalistic standards of fairness and decency the BBC is these days."

Why write the piece in the first place if you didn't watch the whole show?

It's like doing a review of a film or theatre play after watching only a quarter of it. Sounds like very poor journalism to me.

Kettle? Meet Mr Pot.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

anonymous the last:



"so you base your accusations on a paraphrase?"

No. I base it on the actual show, which I saw. I have, simply, paraphrased for my readers, as, apart from the phrase "Bush is on holiday", I could not verify that I had the full quote exactly correct. The BBC has not, as far as I know, published a transcript. If you are aware of one, please let me know, and I will link to it and add the full exact quote to my post.

"Why write the piece in the first place if you didn't watch the whole show?"

That's a bit like asking why one would write about a battle without having witnessed the whole war. The obvious answer is that I felt that what I saw was worthy of comment.

"Sounds like very poor journalism to me. Kettle? Meet Mr Pot."

This implies that you recognize that the BBC engages in poor journalism. It is good to find ourselves on common ground at least on the main issue. Thanks for backing up my point.

SC

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

(It's the anon that Scott just replied to - my name's Tom btw)

"No. I base it on the actual show, which I saw."

Or, rather, you watched a bit of the actual show, threw a hissy fit and wrote it up according to your own prejudices. It's journalism Jim, but not as we know it ...

Rather, it's partisan commentary, which of course anyone is entitled to do. What it is clearly not is fact-based reportage, which I find it mildly hypocritical given the context.

Does the BBC engage in poor journalism? Sometimes yes, sometimes no; on balance it's probably 'better' than most news outlets, but that's just my opinion (Newsnight seems particularly strong at the moment), but its operations are so enormous that there's always good and bad.

Anyone can selectively report only the bad bits of anything to make it appear systematically flawed, just as some people do with President Bush.

What interests me more is why so many conservative Americans have such an issue with the BBC and 'liberal' media (accepting the different meanings of that word in the UK and US) and so frequently wish it would not report what it does. Surely, following JS Mill, we get closer to the truth through the clash of opinions and information? Or is that just too liberal for you folks?

Tom

6:26 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

tom,

"Or, rather, you watched a bit of the actual show, threw a hissy fit and wrote it up according to your own prejudices."

You seem to have two criticisms. First, that I didn't watch the hole show. I don't understand why this matters. Not only did I not offer judgment on the whole show, I explicitly refused to do so, acknowledging that I didn't watch it all. The notion that criticism of a specific part of the show is somehow discredited because of a failure to watch the whole thing is absurd. To take the metaphor you introduced earlier, if a theater critic says that the first act of a play was so boring, he fell asleep and missed the rest, would you argue that his judgment of the first act was discredited simply because he didn't see the second?

Your second criticism seems to be that my description of the objectionable part of the show was colored by my own prejudices. Not so. I have described what happened in the show precisely as it was shown, with the minor exception of having paraphrased the graphic rather than providing an exact quote. However, the most relevant part of the quote - "Bush was on holiday" - was definitely accurate. You have yet to offer any reason to think it wasn't accurate, and indeed I have the sense that you didn't even see the show yourself. If so, then your apparent belief that I have not accurately represented what was shown is based on, well, nothing whatsoever.

"Surely, following JS Mill, we get closer to the truth through the clash of opinions and information?"

If the BBC offered a clash of opinions, we might well do. Unfortunately, as I and others have shown, the BBC does not offer a clash of opinions. It offers a predictable, left-leaning, anti-Bush, anti-conservative, and anti-American agenda (among other things).

As I said to Paul Reynolds (BBC World Affairs correspondent) in a conversation we had not too long ago. The BBC's journalism may not be always, or even primarily, biased. But when it is, it is nearly universally biased in a predictably left-leaning direction. He was unable to counter this fact. It is obvious to any honest observer of the BBC. And, as the Katrina show demonstrates, the BBC even, at times, sinks into Michael Mooresque dishonesty in its presentation of the news.

And, to add insult to injury, those who disagree with the BBC's agenda are forced, by law, to support it financially nonetheless. This, more than anything else, makes the BBC truly reprehensible.

SC

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

“To take the metaphor you introduced earlier, if a theater critic says that the first act of a play was so boring, he fell asleep and missed the rest, would you argue that his judgment of the first act was discredited simply because he didn't see the second?”

In a word: yes. There have been occasions when theatre critics have done exactly what you describe and have been sacked for it.

“I have described what happened in the show precisely as it was shown ...”

Except for the three-quarters of it you didn’t see and your failure to remember the context of the quote accurately. Your definition of “precisely” is somewhat different to mine, and would fail even the BBC’s standards of reporting!

I did see the (whole) show myself and, as someone else has noted above, the first 35 minutes were edited reports from exclusively from American news sources (not the BBC), stitched together somewhat crudely with text and (often) wholly inappropriate music.

“If the BBC offered a clash of opinions, we might well do.”

Well, that is your judgement. However, as can be seen from this thread, your judgement of your own objectivity falls short of one would expect of professional journalism (just a note: I am a professional journalist myself).

It is an interesting point – one that you miss – that the ideological hegemony in the UK has drifted to the liberal-left over the last decade (just as the hegemonic position in the US has moved quite sharply to the right). The BBC, as national broadcaster, has done little more than reflect the hegemonic position of the political-media elites (just as the US broadcasters have gone in the reverse direction).

Your claim that Paul Reynolds was “unable to counter” the “fact” that the BBC is “nearly universally biased in a predictably left-leaning direction” could well be explained by his lack of interest in having a boring, and ultimately fruitless, argument with an American right-wing ideologue. As someone who has been on the receiving end of similar ‘debates’, the best option is often just to walk away and let the madman continue his rants with someone that actually cares.

“And, as the Katrina show demonstrates, the BBC even, at times, sinks into Michael Mooresque dishonesty in its presentation of the news.”

As you didn’t watch even half the show, you simply cannot use the Katrina show as evidence of the conclusion you draw. Basic rhetorical logic: does the evidence provided support the conclusion given? In your case, quite obviously not.

“And, to add insult to injury, those who disagree with the BBC's agenda are forced, by law, to support it financially nonetheless. This, more than anything else, makes the BBC truly reprehensible.”

As I said above, the UK is a democracy, and if a political party included in its manifesto the removal of the licence fee and won, then the funding of the BBC would change. Until that point, one has to conclude that a majority of the people in the UK like it the way that it is. This situation, therefore, is not “reprehensible” but “democracy” and “the will of the majority”. That you find it “reprehensible” suggests the authoritarian lurking in so many conservatives is just waiting to come out.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Oh, and here's some further evidence of the socialist left-leaning lunacy of the BBC:

The new political editor (replacing Andrew Marr) is Nick Robinson, best known for attacking Blair in this year's election and former chairman of the, er, Young Conservatives.

(He was probably a left-wing liberal socialist red mole in his youth ...)

9:19 AM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

tom,

Your objection seems to be little more than that I did not review the entire show.

Since I neither intended to nor purported to be reviewing the entire show, but instead was simply pointing out a particular instance of dishonest reporting that I saw (which, despite all your objections, you have notably not defended), your objection seems to be rather superfluous.

If you think I did not accurately portray the part of the show about which I was speaking, then you should say how my portrayal was inaccurate. The fact that I did not watch the rest of the show is entirely irrelevant to this issue.

You say that, in the case at hand, the evidence provided does not support the conclusion given. I'm not sure what conclusion you are talking about, but the evidence I provided clearly does support the conclusion I drew, which was that the juxtaposition of the words "President Bush is on holiday" and the photograph alongside the events going on in New Orleans presented an image to its audience that was a lie. Unless you are going to argue that, later in the show, the BBC corrected this false impression, then the rest of the show has no bearing on my observations.

Your explanation of Paul Reynolds failure to counter my points on BBC bias might well hold water, if he in fact did just walk away. Since he did not, and since he indeed continued to pursue "debate" with me, even initiating some new discussions, after refusing/failing to address the points and questions I had earlier put to him, suggests that you are mistaken.

As for the license fee, you are clearly under the foolishly naive impression that "democracy" cannot produce "reprehensible" results. Given the electoral popularity of such plainly unjust things as slavery and Jim Crow laws in the past, it ought to be clear that "democracy" is not at all necessarily the equivalent of "right" or "just". The suggestion that my objection to the coercive measures used to finance the BBC is indicative of an underlying "authoritarian" nature is so absurd that it indicates a rather remarkable lack of understanding on your part of the very words you are using.

BTW, congratulations on being a "professional journalist". So was Jason Blair, and Dan Rather, and Mary Mapes. Needless to say, I don't find being a "professional journalist" all that impressive or meaningful these days.

SC

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

My objection – more like observation – is that you drew the conclusion:

“If this is not yellow journalism, I don't know what is. The BBC sinks to lower and lower depths each day.”

And

“The BBC's descent into sensationalism, tabloid journalism, and cheap propaganda simply disgusted me too much to continue watching it.”

From one sentence of one programme that you did not watch in its entirety.


I partly agree with the comment above that:

“1) It was true that GWB was on vacation when the disaster struck. The graphics surrounding that were clumsy and partisan and did not relate to his vacation.”

(I disagree with the word ‘partisan’, I think it is more a reflection of what was commonly understood amongst the British press at the time, I explain further below.)

However, journalists work with the material that they have, and the common understandings of their peers and their own experiences. Some will be broadly accurate, some will – in the passage of time – turn out to be inaccurate. The instance you pick out regarding Bush on the programme is an example of an inaccuracy (though, if I were to be picky, as it was clear on Monday 2pm that the levee had broken, what was he doing attending official functions on the Tuesday? In this country, a crisis of that order occurs and the Prime Minister jumps onto a plane in minutes …) .

So you find one inaccuracy, then leap on it and use it to make your lurid claims. From one inaccuracy one cannot draw such large conclusions. It may be a telling fact, but as you did not watch the whole show this means that you did not see in context, only in isolation, and so could not, and should not, draw conclusions from it. It is not, therefore, “irrelevant”.

The error you are making is to mistake the BBC’s reporting as being ‘partisan’ when in fact it just has a different world view/ideology to your own.


I am happy that Paul Reynolds had a discussion with you, I hope it was edifying to you both, but I am afraid – again – hearsay of private conversations does not really hold much water as evidence to support a conclusion. I could say I met the Pope once and he renounced his beliefs in God, but would/should anyone believe me?

“As for the license (sic!) fee, you are clearly under the foolishly naive impression that "democracy" cannot produce "reprehensible" results.”

For me, democracy is the system that we have for political change and therein lies its strength. It is flawed, and, yes, does sometimes produce reprehensible results (though your examples – surprisingly! – are weak, as they come from a time in the US when democracy was limited in two distinct ways), but democracy’s strength is that it provides mechanisms for policy changes that originate, and are mandated by, the populace. Therefore, the democratic mechanism is a virtue in itself. It is in this context that I use the term “authoritarian” – ie that you believe your own view of the BBC is so correct that it should trump the (admittedly often implicit) democratic expression of the UK’s population.

And your opposition to the ‘coercive’ licence fee is also a mangling of concepts. Almost all of the state’s actions are ‘coercive’ in the sense that we, its citizens/subjects, have little choice in the day-to-day mechanics of governance but still have to pay for them. Your argument could be used interchangeably to disagree on principle with any government action (government promotion of arms sales would be an example from the Left) and, as such, has little weight.

I mentioned the fact that I am a professional journalist not to be congratulated by you, but because it sheds light on my perspective. For a decade I have had to draw appropriate conclusions from evidence. Good journalists do this, bad ones do not.

Anyway, good luck to your partisan BBC bothering. In my experience, Brits don’t often like to be told that one of their country’s most loved institutions are crap by Americans. It’s kind of like when Brits start slagging off the President – it creates an instinctive defence response, and for that reason will have the reverse effect as intended. Don’t let me put you off, however, you are probably the best kind of advert for the BBC there is!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Tom,

The conclusions you are now talking about were not derived from “one sentence from one programme etc”. (It seems that you yourself are basing your conclusions about my conclusions on having simply read one post!) Those conclusions are the result of much experience with the BBC, of which this latest is but one example.

I also find it hard to believe that, as you suggest, most journalists had the “common understanding” that was conveyed by the segment of the show on which I commented. Surely the BBC staff that put together the show was aware of the origins of the photo, and knew that it had not come from his being on “holiday”, as they suggested. If they did, in fact, use the photo without knowing checking on its origins, simply assuming that their “understanding” that Bush was on vacation validated its use, then they are even more incompetent that even I have alleged in the past. On the other hand, if they did know its origins, then they are plainly guilty of deliberately trying to mislead its audience in a manner eerily reminiscent of Michael Moore’s rather cavalier attitude toward truth and honest portrayal. This is not, as you claim, a mere “inaccuracy”.

You claim that having not seen the whole show means I did not see the clip I objected to in context. That is, of course, rubbish. As I said, unless you demonstrate (or, at the very least, claim) that the show later added further context which altered the false impression initially given – something which you have notably not done, despite my invitation to you to do so – then the rest of the show is indeed irrelevant. Again, I invite you to offer up a reason to think that my portrayal of and understanding of the clip is false due to “context” added later.

RE: Paul Reynolds

For a “professional journalist” who seems to place much stock in drawing conclusions from evidence, you seem mighty quick to draw conclusions based on nothing whatsoever. Contrary to what you assume, most of my discussions with Paul Reynolds are not hearsay. They are publicly available for you to read.

http://theamericanexpatinuk.blogspot.com/2005/08/bbc-chats-with-tae.html

http://theamericanexpatinuk.blogspot.com/2005/08/you-know-what-we-mean-mr-reynolds.html

http://theamericanexpatinuk.blogspot.com/2005/08/well-allow-me-to-retort.html

Some of his remarks are in the comments section of the latter two of these. (There are, alas, also some private e-mail conversations to which you will not be privy.)

RE: Democracy

The issue is not what you think the strengths and weaknesses of democracy are. The issue was your plainly erroneous assumption that if something derived from the democratic process, it could not be accurately termed “reprehensible”. It seems you now agree with me that that is not the case, and so your claim that the BBC could not be reprehensible because it was democratically approved of is happily laid to rest.

You have not explained what “concepts” I have “mangled”. Yes, it is true that pretty much all of the state’s actions are coercive. The legal power to use coercion is the single power that any government retains. And yes, it is also true that an objection to the use of coercion could be used as an argument against much state action. But that fact neither shows a “mangling” of “concepts” nor does it weaken my claim. It is a fact that the BBC is financed by coercive measures. It is also a fact that I believe that to force people to subsidize the advancement of political arguments and causes with which they disagree is reprehensible. If you disagree, and you think it is perfectly acceptable for the state to so force people, then just say so. But don’t pretend that either a) I have “mangled” concepts, or b) coercion means something other than what it means.

BTW, based on the comments I have received, as well as in my own private discussions with people, it seems to me that many Brits are equally disgusted with the BBC, and not only don’t mind my criticisms, they have encouraged me.

SC

11:22 PM  
Anonymous JohnM said...

A few points

1. As someone who has worked in the US for periods, I note that the debate on left wing media bias is even stronger there than here. To take but one notable example, Bernard Goldberg’s book Bias. All the main TV news channels (except Fox News) are accused of being instinctively left wing just like the BBC. eg. CNN and Eason Jordan.

2. Criticism of the BBC in the UK comes from across the political spectrum. eg The current Labour Government. That the BBC is seen to criticise the Blair government from a more left wing perspective ought to ring alarm bells in any honest commentator.

3. I do not object to left wing opinion within opinion pieces. However opinion should not intrude on news stories. The facts should be presented with sufficient context to allow audiences to make up their own mind. It is legitimate to report that some US media is blaming Bush for the Katrina disaster failures but only when reporting that criticism is also aimed at the major and the governor.

eg. In a programme like "From Our Own Correspondent" it is expected that it displays a personal perspective. It's a pity that the BBC doesn't show a diversity of opinions but that is a side issue - I can accept the program. Equally anyone can correct the errors that they perceive.

However on the BBC news, there is too much received opinion and choosing stories to fit a narrative.

I fully agree with the comment:

The BBC, as national broadcaster, has done little more than reflect the hegemonic position of the political-media elites

This is self evidently true. The problem is, the political-media elites don't reflect the full diversity of opinion in society.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I had forgotten how unedifying these discussions are. Elsewhere I have heard them described as “willy-waving”, and that seems a pretty accurate description for one of the correspondents in this debate.

Some points:

- later on in the show President Bush’s response to the hurricane was shown in more detail, providing greater context.
- Private Eye reports that there was a cock-up in the BBC regarding that programme where the original footage was lost so they had to cobble together stuff from the American media.
- no media outlet is perfect so under scrutiny of a hostile investigation flaws are easy to find.
- such a hostile investigation against ‘liberal’ media (see caveat above) clearly has an ideological motivation when seen in the round. Systematic right-wing attacks on media sources they dislike amounts to a campaign of intimidation. (See Gramschi’s theory of hegemony for an interesting way to interpret this.)
- All the British press – conservative and liberal alike – reported that Bush was slow to respond to the hurricane.
- The aggression shown by the author of the piece seems a rather disappointing approach to political debate.
- The sentence “concepts mangled” was a rushed and inaccurate phrase. What I meant was that though there can be “reprehensible” product of a virtuous system but that the product and system operate on different conceptual and moral planes. If the process is good, and policies can be changed through popular pressure, then individual judgements about the products of such a system are trumped, or at the very least should be seen in context. (See next point for more.)
- The author of the piece claims that the BBC is reprehensible because “those who disagree with the BBC's agenda are forced, by law, to support it financially nonetheless” before saying “If you disagree, and you think it is perfectly acceptable for the state to so force people, then just say so.” I believe I have. Again: I think it is fine in principle for the state to coerce people to pay for services that they personally disagree with, the BBC included.
- The state does far worse things with our tax pounds (not dollars!) than financially support a news and information service, in my opinion.
- If enough “Brits” (we don’t describe ourselves using that term, by the way) disagreed with the funding process of the BBC then it would change, and this is in itself fairly good evidence that the majority of us like it the way it is.
- I predict that the BBC is beginning to shift to the Right (in line with the rest of the political-media elite), and that Nick Robinson’s appointment as political editor is significant in this regard.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Tom,

On your points:

- Did this additional context dispel the previously introduced notion that Bush was on vacation playing the guitar on the day after Katrina hit? If so, how? If not, then I still remain baffled as to how you think it has any relevance to my objection.

- I have no objection to the BBC using clips from the American media.

- I agree that no media outlet is perfect. Most are even less perfect then they claim. It is not perfection that I seek, but I do not think it is too much to expect that deliberate, Mooresque abuse of the truth be left on the cutting room floor.

- Pointing out the errors, deceptions, and political agenda pushing in which the media engage is no more an act of “intimidation” than are journalistic reports into the errors, deceptions, and wrong doing of politicians. For a long time journalists have been free of the scrutiny which they place on others. Not any more, happily. And, btw, the notion that anyone is intimidated by what I am doing here is flattering, although entirely laughable.

- I agree that most of the press reported that Bush was slow off the mark. As far as I am aware, however, only the BBC did what I have objected to in this post.

- The author, ie me, was not attempting to engage in political debate. He was objecting to the out and out deception presented by the BBC. Such deception is not, I don’t think, a political issue, but rather one that I would have thought everyone, especially any serious journalist, would object to.

- I agree that the state does many bad things, some of which are indeed worse than forcing us to pay for the BBC.

- I agree that when a majority of voting Brits (feel free to call me a Yank, even though we don’t call ourselves that) disagree with the funding process of the BBC, it will change. Hopefully sites such as this will, collectively, educate enough people as to the reality of BBC news coverage that just such a majority will come about.

- You may be correct that the BBC is starting to shift to the right. I have yet to see any real indication of that, but time will tell. My own suspicion is that the biggest impetus for such a rightward move away from the current soft (and sometimes not so soft) left agenda of the BBC and back towards the center will be the threatened demise of the license fee.

SC

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

As someone that has spent the last decade studying and writing about politics, I have always found it helpful to try to work out why things I don't like happen. Instead of the reactive and, may I say it, adolescent "that's crap you’re all wrong” viewpoint when one unpicks the rationale for the existence of certain institutions and attitudes the answer tend to be so much more prosaic.

This is how I consider the claims made here that the BBC knowingly "deceives" its audience. In my experience, journalists do not tend to deceive they just get stuff wrong. Cock up theory rather than than conspiracy, as they say.

Scott, I get the feeling that you do not understand the BBC, unless this interchange is way out of character you seem to lack any grasp of why it was established, why the people that watch it do, or – possibly – very much about the culture of this country. The BBC has a very special place in the warp and weft of Britain’s recent history (its nickname is “Auntie”) and many people feel that it represents the British at their best – understated, liberal, tolerant and curious.

It is, to the British, a rather conservative institution, in the sense that it is something from our collective past, a remnant of the post-war social-democratic era, which many regard to have been a golden age for this nation (I chose the word “nation” there carefully). If a nation is a imagined community, as Benedict Anderson says, then the BBC is our parish newspaper, with all the flaws and quirks one would expect of such a thing.

Regarding its supposed political leanings, the outpourings I read here and elsewhere by American conservatives suggest an incredibly thin skin amongst its critics. We live in an era where truth really is contested between competing narratives but as someone that regards ideological purity as a rather unpleasant arrogance, I like the plurality of viewpoints that Britain offers. The printed press is dominated by strident conservatives, the broadcast media offers a more liberal perspective.

Neither, I am afraid, are particularly “good”, in the sense of “informative” or “comprehensive”, but the demand is there for what we have, and it suggests a certain quality of the British people that they will read a stridently conservative newspaper in the morning and then watch liberal television news in the evening. The media landscape in this country, and people’s interaction with it, is I think more complex than most countries, and the BBC has a particular place in this milieu. If this were to change, with people reading and watching only one type of information, able to tune out competing views and only read information that they already know to be true (the echoing chamber) then it is likely that our country would drift away from its one nation past towards the “two nations” that many claim of America. The BBC has been, and often still continues to be, a crucial piece of the glue keeping one nation Britain together. As such, it is unlikely that sniping from American conservatives will have any effect at all.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The printed press is dominated by strident conservatives

On the right, the Telegraph and the Mail. On the left the Independent and the Guardian. The Times and Express fail somewhere in between.

Dominated? Are you sure?

Of course you might be thinking of The Sun, the stridentally right wing paper that endorsed Blair.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Tom,

I think you are seeing me as you want to see me, rather than making a rational assessment based on what I’ve written on this site. You imply that I’ve offered an “adolescent” view which you characterize as “that’s crap you’re all wrong”. This is ridiculous. It is certainly true that I have often offered up the opinion that something is crap (although I don’t think I’ve ever actually used that word), but when I have, I have tried to demonstrate, with facts and reason, why it is so. When I say that something is all wrong, I do not just leave it at that. Again, I attempt to demonstrate it with facts and reason. You seem intent on ignoring the presentation of facts and reasons that lead to the judgments, and pretend that those judgments stand entirely without support, so that you can dismiss me. But, of course, what makes a judgment that something is “crap” or “all wrong” an adolescent judgment is the unwillingness/inability to substantiate it, not simply the judgment itself. Since I do in fact try to substantiate my opinions, pretty much always, your accusation of “adolescence” rings hollow.

You also suggest that I “lack any grasp of why” the BBC was established. Since we have never even discussed why the BBC was established, I’m not sure on what you are basing this claim. Certainly you have presented no reason whatsoever for thinking so. You mention “this exchange”, but you’ve not specified anything about it that leads you to think so.

But, just to edify you, I am well aware of how, when, and why the BBC was established. I am also well aware of the role the BBC has come to play in British culture over the last 80 or so years, and the “national institution” status it has come to hold. Contrary to what you apparently think, that the Beeb is nicknamed “Auntie” does not come as a revelation to me. (Indeed, I have even referred to it as such in one of my earlier posts. That you didn’t know this suggests that, despite your characterizations of the criticisms offered on this site, you’ve hardly attempted to edify yourself by reading through it.)

I am also well aware of the general fondness that most British people have for the BBC, although I do think the historically romantic take you place on it, while certainly true, is probably a bit overstated. When I ask people why they like the BBC, the most common answer seems to be a distinctly more practical reason…because it doesn’t have adverts.

But, of course, all of this is fairly irrelevant, at least as it regards me and this site. There is, in fact, a significant constituency in this country that thinks that a) the BBC as is living off of its past reputation which, as currently operated, it no longer deserves, and b) the license fee today is an anachronism which should go. I agree with them, and if the focus of this site - which is, generally speaking, an attempt to counter the anti-Americanism and misinformation about America that is so often found in the British media (of which the BBC is a primary part) - helps to advance a broader acceptance of those two beliefs, all the better. If not, well, then c’est la vie.

BTW, your allusion to a belief in “conspiracies” is misplaced. As I told Paul Reynolds (which you will know if you bothered to read the links I provided for you) it is not my contention that the media in general or the BBC in particular is in the grips of a left-wing conspiracy. Rather, I think it is in the grips of a self-reinforcing, blinkered world-view. With regard to the specific issue we started with, my own suspicion is that the makers of the show probably felt they were conveying what has, in another circumstance, been called an “essential truth” (namely, in the case at hand, the “truth” of Bush as a disinterested and disconnected leader), and so were little bothered with whether or not the way they did it was deceitful. But that is, admittedly, a guess. It is possible, I suppose that they really did believe that Bush was on “holiday” playing the guitar, and were simply too incompetent or uninterested to verify those beliefs.

SC

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

"On the right, the Telegraph and the Mail. On the left the Independent and the Guardian. The Times and Express fail somewhere in between.

Dominated? Are you sure?

Of course you might be thinking of The Sun, the stridentally right wing paper that endorsed Blair."

This is funny.

The Express? Somewhere in between? The paper that put asylum seekers on its front page for 32 consecutive days? Have you read it recently? I hope not for your sake!

And the Sun and the Times being not right-wing? A glance at their ownership structure and any understanding of how News International works should clear that up (for example: how many of Murdoch's 150-odd newspapers did not support the war in Iraq?).

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Scott,

You attempted to demonstrate your point with “fact and reason” but only – in this case – one fact and reason and an awful lot of ideology. We could go round and round again on this, but frankly both of us have probably got better things to do.

My remark about “adolescence” was not meant to be as rude as it would appear you understood it, and I did not mean to “dismiss you”. I am sure you are an intelligent man that has interesting views.

I admit it, I have not read your website extensively, to be honest once I had three or four threads I started to feel rather bored. It is not personal, I just find political blogs dull and annoying – what with their pedantry and endless partisanship. This is right-wing ones and left-wing ones. The left-wing ones tell the world why America is wrong, the right-wing ones tell the world why America is right. Excuse me while I find something more interesting to do.

tom

1:14 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...

Tom,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad, although a little baffled, that you chose to spend 3 days exchanging comments with me despite your boredom with the site. As I said in another post which you probably didn't read (http://theamericanexpatinuk.blogspot.com/2005/08/stick-around.html), getting people with a different view to comment will make the site more interesting and less of an echo-chamber. So thanks for serving that purpose, if only for a short while.

BTW, I do try to keep the pedantry to a minimum, and attempt to own up to it upfront when I am aware that I am engaging in it (for example see http://theamericanexpatinuk.blogspot.com/2005/06/pedantic-tae.html). However, I cannot control pedantry in the comments. For instance, on this very post one critic seemed to find it highly relevant that I had paraphrased the BBC rather than providing an exact quote, suggesting that the absence of the exact words somehow discredited my point. Pedantic, yes, but what can I do?

Anyway, thanks again for stopping by, and future critical comments are welcomed.

SC

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We welcome Americans to the the scourge of "yellow journalism"?. Africans have been going through this type of journalism at the hands of both yourselves, the beeb and others for years without complaining. Does the shoe pinch?.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,

I'm interested that you characterise newspaper support for the war as being "right wing".

Many Conservative MPs are reported as being against the war now. They like Labour voted in favour at the time. The Spectator has printed several articles such as the one by Boris Johnson, saying they made a mistake. In contrast, many on the left like Hitchens, Cohen and Harry's blog still support the war. Of course the BNP are united with SWP/Respect in always opposing the war.

If you were a fair minded journalist you would never mis-characterise being against/for the war as a left/right issue. To do so wouldn't be bias, it would be bad journalism.

I would have thought you'd agree that the Mail, the bete noir amongst MSM elites, was the most right wing. Therefore even if Express is only 1% point more left wing it is still a factually true statement that it "falls somewhere in between". I never claimed any paper to be neutral.

Let's take this slowly:

1. It is a fact that the Express like the Sun has endorsed Labour in the recent past.
2. Labour is popularly understood to be left wing. That is a mainstream view and I concede that to the minority who support Socialist Worker et al, this is a contentious statement. Nevertheless, it is still the most left wing of the parties that is capable of forming a government.
3. That the Murdoch stable and the Express were able to advocate voting for a left wing government speaks volumes for how wedded they were to the right wing. This ability to be right wing on some issues as well as left on others is commonly know as being "independent". Duh!
4. That you can describe a paper that endorses Blair as being on the right tells me exactly where you sit on the spectrum.

And since a typical journalist regards a paper that supports Labour as being irredeemably right wing, doesn't that tell us a lot about institutional left wing bias in the MSM.

Which is where you came in.

3:44 PM  

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