Friday, January 06, 2006

In praise of Justin Webb (Yes, that Justin Webb)

Normblog has a transcription of a remarkable exchange between the BBC's Justin Webb and Stephen Sakur from Radio 4's Correspondents Look Ahead program. What makes it so remarkable is the fact that Justin Webb rises to the defense of America in the face of a typically ludicrous (Webb's word) charge against it.

Sackur: One fascinating insight into human rights attitudes round the world I had in recent weeks was chatting to Mary Robinson who till very recently was the UN chief running the Human Rights Commission. She said the problem is that, because of what has happened, post-Iraq in particular, with Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, a whole host of other things she listed, it is impossible now for countries like America which basically are democracies, which many people around the world have always looked up to - the problem is now they cannot take the moral high ground and lecture other countries on how they should impose human rights values. It doesn't work any more...

Webb: That's absolutely ludicrous, though, isn't it? I mean the view in America of that kind of comment is just to throw your hands up and say 'For goodness sake...' Look at the facts on the ground, look at the way that Iraq was run before the invasion, look at Iran now, and then look, for instance, at America. I mean, can you seriously say that there is some kind of moral equivalence between the way they treat their own people and the way Americans treat theirs, the way they behave on the world stage...?

Sackur: Justin, hang on, it's all about perception...

Webb: Ah, that's a different matter... Someone in the position that Mary Robinson is in, where it shouldn't be just about perception, it should be about a knowledge of the facts on the ground - that kind of thing is what so annoys people in this country, and not just Republicans, Americans of all political stripes, who just say to the rest of the world, 'For goodness sake: look at us without your soft anti-Americanism, or your dislike of McDonalds or whatever else, or your dislike of big people, powerful people, successful people... just look at the facts on the ground.' America is a very very free country...

I haven't yet listened to the exchange myself (Norm says it is 28 minutes into the show, but I couldn't find it there), but if this is correct, color me astonished. This is not the Webb we have come to know. What next? Are we to find out in a couple of months that the condescendingly secular Webb is in fact a closet Born Again Christian?

Well, regardless, given the harsh words TAE has reserved for Webb in the past, it is only fair to give credit where it is due. Kudos to Justin for making a salient point and making it well in defense of the US.


Blogger David said...

It's all your fault, Scott. You've TURNED him! (Still at least if Webb is realising that the tide is turning and that better informed (thanks to blogs) people are beginning to ask just WHY he and his ilk (esp Frei, M) are so anti American at times then this would be A.Good.Thing.)

Keep up the good work!

1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look forward to seeing Justin on FOX...:)

If all those guys from CNN like Hemmer and Novak (well OK not that big a change in outlook for Bob) can move into the light, why not Justin?:)

Astonishing though.


2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Now that Webb looks less likely to practice to deceive, does he become disentangled?



2:05 AM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

Nope, he becomes more like the Vicar of Bray, survival being a prime directive, often the only one, for the BBC's illuminati.

The next move could even be a public and very Briddish "Sorry" , heaven help us.

Meanwhile, the best approach towards Webb, while you've got your foot on the bastard's windpipe, is to press harder. Sooner or later you'll find out what he's about. Friendship towards America ain't it.

Sakur likewise.

3:27 AM  
Blogger Simon Lazarus said...

Are you SURE that that was THE Justin Webb?

Are you truly sure?

I am not so sure. I am awaiting for some referee to make a call which could clear it up one way or another.


5:59 AM  
Anonymous Susan said...

I would like to have someone explain to me why antisemitism is a much worse problem in secular Britain than in religious America.

BBC correspondents are obssessed with the "power of the American Jewish Lobby". Antisemitism has become intertwined with anti-Americanism.

In the wake of Prince Harry's Nazi uniform gaffe a professor explained on the BBC that American are more knowledgeable about the Holocaust because of the "power of the American Jewish lobby."

6:27 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Susan: Dennis Prager's thesis (which he advances with some persuasive evidence) is that America was founded on a truly Judeo-Christian basis: not just a hyphenated sound-bite but a genuine commonality between, and mutual respect of, the two religions. And then there is the fact that people of faith have more commonality with other people of faith than with those who are anti-religion.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary Robinson was referring to how the US treated non-citizens ("Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition")
and the conclusions non-Americans would be drawing about how seriously the American administration took the fundamental
rights that Thomas Paine believed in, which should not be restricted to American citizens, by definition. I think both Webb and
Sackur missed Mary Robinson's specific point.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


Two points:

1) If Mary Robinson considers the people held in Gitmo et al to be nothing more than "non citizens" of the US, and feels comfortable taking the treatment of those people as indicative of the US posture towards non-Americans in general, then she is even more clueless than Webb suggested

2) The treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib resulted in legal prosecutions by the US government, which can indeed lead people to draw certain conclusions about the US government, albeit not the one's Mary Robinson seems to suggest are logical.


12:58 PM  

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