Misrepresentation of anyone is wrong.

I should have posted this ages ago, but better late than never.

You may recall that on June 27 2003 I posted an item about the BBC’s John Willis and US talk show host Michael Savage. To recap, Willis, BBC Director of Factual and Learning, made a speech in which he claimed that Savage said the Arabs must be “snuffed out from the planet, and not in a court of law”. A correspondent to this blog by the name of Peter dug deeper and found that Savage did not say that all Arabs should be snuffed out, he said terrorists should be snuffed out – in an article written two days after the terrorist attacks of Sep 11, 2001. I said on my post that John Willis’s remarks seriously misrepresented Savage.

Since then, Michael Savage, has been in the news. He was fired from a MSNBC talk show slot for telling a homosexual caller that he, Savage, hoped the caller would die from AIDS. His employers were quite right to fire him: that remark contains a level of personal malice that is truly shocking. Protection of free speech does not oblige MSNBC to continue employing someone who brings them into disrepute.

Is John Willis vindicated then? No way.

First point: I can now be more sure than ever that Savage did not advocate genocide against the Arabs. Back in June I did have a moment of doubt. Could it be, I wondered, that even though the article that Peter had dug out clearly referred to snuffing out terrorists, Savage might have made a similar-phrased remark directed against all Arabs on another occasion – say in an unscripted talk radio broadcast which John Willis had heard? After all, I’ve heard that US talk radio can be pretty raw. To check up I took a look at Savage’s website. At that time it contained an interview with an Iraqi. That didn’t sound like Savage wanted all Arabs dead. I decided that Peter was right: such an outrageous remark would have been picked up on.

Well, now I know that it would have been picked up on. For when Savage did make an outrageous remark it was picked up on, and he was fired within hours.

Second point: there was another misrepresentation within John Willis’s speech besides that of Michael Savage. He misrepresented America. He, typically for the BBC, portrayed it as the sort of place where a talk show host can advocate the slaughter of an entire race and yet continue in mainstream public esteem. Yet in fact Savage was fired and widely condemned for a hateful remark against one person. America isn’t the sort of place that John Willis claimed. That misrepresentation goes on daily.

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9 Responses to Misrepresentation of anyone is wrong.

  1. Simon Jester says:

    Anyone else remember Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers wishing Michael Stipe would catch AIDS and die?

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  2. Ken says:

    Having lived in Britain the year following Sept 11, I KNOW which country’s media allows for the unsubstantiated slandering of individuals and races…..and it aint “America’s” (By the way, the name of the country is the United States or the US or the USA. “America” as a noun is only used in oratory or in more patriotic references such as a president’s speech. It would help BBC credibility if they would actually get the name of the country right when they trash it.)

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  3. Sandy P. says:

    — portrayed it as the sort of place where a talk show host can advocate the slaughter of an entire race and yet continue in mainstream public esteem.–

    It’s done w/the JOOOOOSSSS all the time in Europe…..

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  4. PJF says:

    I’m Spartacus! Er, no, I’m Peter.

    The Willis “quote” was too specifically identifiable with the Sept 13th 2001 remark to be something he’d heard Savage say on the radio. Willis was just regurgitating gliberal gossip.

    Speaking of BBC people telling fibs, do you remember a Keith Graves piece about Bush (supposedly) putting God on his side for the war on terror earlier this year? It was mentioned here (and again recently) but people focused on Grave’s bashing of Bible bashing rather than the accuracy of the ‘report’. I looked into it (‘fisking’ I think it’s called), and sure enough the git was just making it all up.

    If you’re interested I’ll forward it. It’s a bit lengthy, so I’m reluctant to deposit it in a comments box.

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  5. PJF says:

    Ooh, by the way, the ’email’ link I’ve given here is bogus, since I don’t want to give TVLA any assistance. Ms Solent might still have my actual address.

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  6. Natalie Solent says:

    By all means send the fisking in, PJF, to [email protected]

    (To be honest I probably have got your email address in the enormous pile of unfiled emails in my computer, but I would have trouble finding it.)

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  7. jonathan says:

    are you guys conspiracy theorists or what. what is it with this conviction that the bbc (of all places) is covertly undermining the US by wilfully misrepresenting US government intentions, misreporting them deliberately, virulently anti-semitic, morally degraded, pro-abortion, congentially apologist for anti-israeli arabist terror. presumably the bbc prejudice does’nt stop there; surely their anti-black (though you never say that-i wonder why? not a right-wing flag that, those drug-dealing, welfare living, proteo-winston silcotts).
    so, your mate peter finds mr. savage does not say all arabs should be snuffed out (at least not overtly), just terrorists (never mind the legal niceities), yet savage gets fired for wishing the death of a caller who is HIV positive. somehow, savage is vindicated as being incapable of making a genocidal reference to arabs, because it has’nt been ‘picked up on’. because you checked his website. very forensic. so ergo, the bbc is biased and misrepresents savage and by extrapolation the US and Israel and promotes anti-semitism (because Mahatir’s tirades are aired to make him look more asinine than he already sounds. In israel, they laugh at mahatir’s ravings as being ‘constructive anti-semitism’).
    well, if we’re going to whinge, let’s look at western portrayals of africa. the heart of darkness, ravaged with AIDS, haunted by mini-genocides, mud hut dwelling hunter-gatherers, congentially iiliberal kleptocracies, good for a safari etc. where’s your ‘misrepresentation’ outrage then?
    thought so; rammed up your collective mccarthyist spincter. look bottom line is, if you don’t like the bbc, go read the weekly standard or the telegraph, or like ‘the leader of the free world’, let condi rice and andrew card read them for you and give you ‘unfiltered news’. this site transparently does not care for media standards unless those standards propagate conservative mantras. and besides, the bbc hires from the population at large, and at the moment, with the tories imploding because their leader is a hard-hat and their republican ideologue cousins zealously wishing to reform the world, the public sentiment is (at least in the UK) more left of centre than right of it (though one would be hard pushed to recognise blair and blunkett as ‘lefties’). so, get a grip and a day job; or go on safari.

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  8. Henry Page says:

    You cannot make such judgements when you do not have the evidence. You may say that he probably did not make this comment, but you cannot deduce from the reaction towards Savage regarding AIDS, empathy for which takes a high profile in the USA, against Arab society generally, which does not so populist.

    You can say that you doubt but if you have not heard the speech, you cannot say that you KNOW that it would have been picked up on, especially in the days immediately following 9/11.

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  9. Henry Page says:

    CORRECTION OF PREVIOUS E-MAIL

    You cannot make such judgements when you do not have the evidence. You may say that he probably did not make this comment, but you cannot deduce thus from the reaction towards Savage regarding AIDS, empathy for which takes a high profile in the USA, against Arab society generally, which is not so populist in the USA.

    You can say that you doubt but if you have not heard the speech, you cannot say that you KNOW that it would have been picked up on, especially in the days immediately following 9/11

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