[Nb.- since this post, editing has begun to the story. Kofi Annan, for instance, makes an appearance, and his contribution is very interesting. Imagine the report without this and you are close(r) to the original. No doubt this process will continue, but I’m sure my comments won’t be assauged by further edits. Watch out for a headline change- that really would be news. [1.17pm UK. Here’s the latest- bye, bye, ‘Top Stories’- hello ‘Asia/Pacific’. That’s only taken a matter of hours, 3 since the ‘last updated’ record, so they are recognising their mistakes- too late.]]
This is how the sub-headline runs on the main page of the BBC website. I find it shocking, and an example of how the BBC indulges certain groups with free publicity when their cause and reputation does not deserve it.
Meanwhile, the news item it advertises fails to critique the attitude at all. I may not be a fan of opinions expressed in the news sections, but this kind of story is crying out for them, formally marked out for the reader. Where are all the correspondents (a la Arnie, see below) telling us of the faultlines and reputation of this man? Well, as Natalie Solent reported here on Sept 4th (see archive), he happens to be one the respected ‘experts’ that the BBC makes use of from time to time (and no doubt the relationship is reciprocal).
Not only is the news item uncritical, it is also uninformative. What’s the OIC? Where is the ‘meeting’ or whatever it is taking place? What’s its track record- when begun etc?
Well, for any of this information we have to go the the ‘see also: quick guide section’. This means that Mahathir’s original message is undiluted by context- which seems to me to be bad reporting, especially in this kind of inflammatory story. As far as I can see, Mahathir in ‘his own words’, or a laughably uncritical ‘profile’ are the only places to gather information. In the profile he is described as ‘essentially pragmatic’- high praise from a journalist. Imagine ‘Rumsfeld- in his own words’, or described as ‘essentially pragmatic’. Actually, that’s unimaginable on the BBC website. Even to have me talk of equivalence between them is absurd. The BBC seems to think that Mahathir (the racist, homophobic, pragmatic etc) is a ‘colourful’ old boy, while Rumsfeld is a ‘loose cannon’.
The BBC’s use of these ‘quick guides’ and factfiles is disingenuous. Andrew Sullivan (see Kerry Buttram’s post below) tracks an instance of this in the reporting of the successful (so far) separation of conjoined Egyptian twins in Dallas, Texas, earlier this week.
In summary: I am appalled by the undiluted headline, and the uncritical reporting combined with the factual vacuum. I am alarmed by the connection fostered by the BBC to this man Mahathir, and the lack of a general critique- I mean preachy, finger wagging tone they usually use on US politicians- on the site of this man’s racist and militaristic creed. I consider that in reporting such an item in this way, the BBC is nailing its own anti-Jewish colours to the mast.