Monday, December 05, 2005

Working for the enemy?

BBC bigwig John Simpson chimes in today with another column on Iraq. It raises some very interesting questions.

Simpson makes the point that, far more than a conventional war (which, he acknowledges, America "would win hands down"), Iraq is "a war of public relations", and not just for America. He also says that "For the insurgents, too, this is a war for public opinion." And although he avoids coming out and saying it baldly, it is clear that Simspon thinks the "insurgents" are winning this particular public relations war.

Now, whether or not he is correct about this, the very fact that he thinks it raises an interesting, and perhaps troubling, issue. John Simpson is an opinion columnist for the BBC. As such, presumably, he hopes to help shape public opinion about issues he writes about. That is, afterall, why pundits offer their opinions up to the public - in the hopes of influencing the opinions of members of that public. And, if the Iraq war is a battle for public opinion, then isn't it fair to ask what role John Simpson, as a shaper of public opinion, is playing in that war?

Take, for instance, the very column under question. What is the likely effect on public opinion of Simpson's sage observations? Well, let's look at the observations/opinions he is promoting:
  • America's military strength is not all that helpful in Iraq.
  • On the same day Bush pledged "nothing less than complete victory", 10 marines were killed in Iraq which, Simpson reminds us, is atypically yet particularly significant.
  • The Pentagon "presumably" witheld the news of the deaths for 24 hours for political/propaganda reasons.
  • If America can declare victory "of a kind", withdraw its troops, and leave Iraq to "sink or swim" on its own, then even if the "insurgents" ultimately win the war outright, America could claim to be uninvolved.
  • The Iraqi army is ill-suited and ill-equipped to take on the "insurgents".
  • The US "has not succeeded in neutralising the insurgency in any of the major population centres in the Sunni heartland."
  • History strongly favors an "insurgent" victory.
  • The insurgents "had the better of" the war for public opinion last week. (This, by the way, the week in which the "insurgents" killed 2 British civilians at the airport and kidnapped a German, an American, two Canadians, and a Briton, civilians all, holding them hostage. Simpson doesn't mention these events, so it is not clear whether or not he considers them to be a part of the good PR week for the "insurgents".)
This is all pretty demoralizing stuff. Which seems to be rather the point. Significantly, Simpson offers up no suggestions or opinions about what to do to correct this seemingly hopeless situation. He is content simply to encourage his readers to adopt his gloomy view of the future.

Now if, as Simpson proclaims is the case (and I think he is correct at this point), public opinion is the "real battleground" of this war, and John Simpson himself is helping to shape that opinion through the use of his (tax-funded) opinion column, then in light of the opinions he is promoting, it seems entirely fair to me to wonder just who John Simpson is pulling for.


Blogger Scott Callahan said...


9:21 AM  
Blogger chip said...

Simpson, like so many these days, has more ill-feeling for America than he does for the insurgents.

Anti-Americanism is the new religion.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

No, it's worse than that, mainly because of the pathologies he drags around.

Simpson has the unctuous, ingratiating quality of a sleazy doorman or barber or malicious drugstore clerk: Will that be all, sir? Something for the weekend, perhaps?

He thinks as badly as he writes, no surprise there, and fits just fine into the BBC's lineup of doltish agenda-mongers --- alongside Webb, Reynolds and Frei et al, poseurs all, not very sharp, dependably anti-American, always predictable with their standard issue packages of damn-with-faint-praise boilerplate about what-a-bunch-of-boobs/thugs/savages-those-former-colonials-are and thank-God-we're-blessed-by-the-companionship-of-our-bien-pensant-chums in the Eurabian Eurinal Entity, etc., etc.

Good news is that it is now open season on them. No sign that the sheep-like Brit proles are up to this task or any other, but Simpson and his kind are already having a harder time in the US and their future is bleak indeed.

One can speculate about the causes, but this is not wishful thinking.

Just look at the quality of access these guys now get. The "typical" Americans who appear on the BBC nowadays are predominantly embittered and alienated Michael Moore clones, Joe Biden has-been's, Howard Dean/MoveOn wannabees, or...zzzzzzzzzzzz...denizens from the WaPo London bureau.

The rest stay well away. How damning -- and pathetic and dangerous -- is that?

Simpson's autobiography, Days from a Different World, is an undistinguished tale of the sad and lonely life of an unloved child turned narcissist, instructive despite the unintentionally ironic title. To be blunt, I read it and thought he may have been dropped at birth but not often enough.

Simpson and his kind haven't gone over to the enemy, they ARE the enemy. The only question is how hard they fall, for they can expect no mercy and it is important to kick them hard and often on the way down, if only as damage control.

The poor Brits will be paying the price long after all John Simpsons are gone from the field.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Huldah said...

John Simpson is doing some vile work at Saddam's Trial too - he is much more interested in recasting Saddam as a bold and rather noble victim of the Americans, showing up their duplicity in accusing HIM of atrocities in what is always termed "the American backed trial" than of seeing justice done to an unspeakable dictator.

He even does this by slurring the witnesses who have come to give evidence at huge personal risk. Read this report

and make sure you have a sick bag nearby!

5:13 AM  

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