The BBC and the UN’s problem with morality

It was only a couple of days ago, and it was a story about Africa- but the UN’s renewed choice of Zimbabwe to sit on their human rights commission cannot be found in the Beeb’s Africa section. In fact it is difficult to find anywhere- and the relevant article is filed as an ‘Americas’ news item. Bizarre.

It is considered an ‘Americas’ story because the US has been one of the complainants against this action.

Surely this is another case of protecting Annan from the consequences of what happens on his ‘watch’?

But meanwhile, by contrast, this story about a Burundian woman being honoured by the UN for humanitarian actions has been prominent everywhere, including where it belongs, in the ‘Africa’ section.

This just sums up the wrongheadedness of the Beeb and the UN, who often these days seem partners in crime. The cause of suffering, ie. the tolerance of foul and callous leadership in Africa, is demoted to a footnote, while the sticking plaster of what amounts compassionate gesturing (whatever the great good that this hard-pressed woman has done) is foregrounded- and thus we get warm and fuzzies about the UN and totally misled about our failures to confront the evils that plague Africa.

Interestingly, this article, about the UK cutting aid to Uganda in a political gesture, is considered relevant to Africa. Somehow the US (and others unnamed) complaining about Zimbabwe being given a human rights podium at the UN is not.

(p.s.- also check out the articles for UN apologism eg. making Annan seem in tune with UN critics- rather than out of touch as he is; not mentioning the UN’s failure in Rwanda and Burundi as they proceed to honour a woman who didn’t fail.)

Well, didn’t the BBC do a good job of selecting a representative audience of normal citizens to ask questions of Blair, Howard and Kennedy?

Well, didn’t the BBC do a good job of selecting a representative audience of normal citizens to ask questions of Blair, Howard and Kennedy? And there I was thinking that the audience would be full of the BBC’s usual partisan, grimly self-righteous, ranting loons, shaking with rage and shouting out abuse. How wrong could I have been?

And didn’t that man with the funny-coloured (NHS?) teeth who was in charge manage to restrain himself manfully from constantly interrupting with inane Paxmanian-style comments?


Slugger O’Toole notes that the BBC World Service describe the Ulster Unionists as ‘loyalist’ and the Democratic Unionists as ‘hardline loyalist’.

The SDLP are ‘moderate nationalist’.

Then there’s ‘republican Sinn Fein’.

Good to see that the BBC know who the real hardliners are. A year ago the Today programme was describing the ‘gulf between republicans and unionist hard-liners’. By republicans they meant, of course, Sinn Fein/IRA.

The BBC advises the electorate.

I am rebuilding from memory an email I accidentally deleted. It doesn’t matter that I can’t remember the author’s name as he did not want it used. He pointed out this entry from the ‘Election Monitor’, the BBC’s campaign weblog:

PM Tips

By Mark Mardell

Chief Political Correspondent

POSTED: Thursday 21 April, 1610BST

A tip from a colleague for getting rid of Labour canvassers. Just tell them: “I will give you my vote because I so admire Tony Blair’s stand on Iraq.” Evidently they back away in confusion, unwilling to offend the nutter.

Neat trick on the part of the BBC – because if anyone does say they are offended, then ho, ho, they must be a nutter.

Remember, due to the unique way it is funded, it’s your BBC.

UPDATE: My original correspondent added, speaking on his own account, “- or a supporter of freedom and democracy” after the word “nutter”.

Admin notes.

I’m afraid I might not have time to post for the rest of the week. So any emails you send me pointing out examples of BBC bias might be even slower than usual to appear.

I have a bleg. I would like to be able to do screenshots on this blog. I know how to do a screenshot on Windows XP: press CTRL + PRT SCR or ALT + PRT SCR, then save the thing to a document. I also know how to make a picture called whatever.gif appear on the blog: you go <IMG ALIGN=”LEFT” then a space then SRC=”whatever.gif”> …

What I don’t understand is

1) How you make your screenshot into a gif, or even if it matters.

2) How do you find out what the “full path name” of the source file is.

3) How do you just save the window you are on rather than the whole screen.

I would be grateful if readers could either direct me to a good explanation online or just tell me, if it’s quick.

UPDATE: Thank you one and all. Please don’t send any more advice for now as I am going off to experiment with what you have said. This, for me, is sometimes a slow process. To avoid mixing up how-to computer comments with BBC-related comments I have fiddled with the timestamp of this post to make it no longer the topmost one.

The EU Serf writes:

The EU Serf writes:

An important way to understand what someone thinks is the way in which they use certain words. The BBC’s insistence on words like Militant is the best known example.

Yesterday evening on the BBC World News bulletin at 18:00 GMT I came across another misuse of phrase which surprised me even for the BBC.

Yesterday Bulgaria and Romania signed EU accession treaties. The story was about the difficulties faced by both countries in meeting EU requirements and was shot in Bucharest the Romanian capital.

Corruption is the biggest issue and they had a discussion with school teachers who were trying to teach their pupils about the EU and anti corruption issues. But I quote:

“It is ironic that teachers, who are themselves accused of corruption, should be at the front line of the anti corruption drive.”

What could this corruption be? Allowing cheating on exams? Taking money to allow pupils to jump queues for popular schools?

Apparently what the BBC means nowadays by corruption is, get this:

Teachers giving private lessons in their spare time.

That may be illegal in Romania, I have no idea and they are probably working cash in hand, which is tax evasion, but neither of these could ever be called corruption.

Has the BBC re designated the word corruption to mean breaking the law? Not paying tax? The despots of the world would love such a definition. Or was it just bad journalism?

Private lessons in exchange for a guaranteed exam pass would be corruption. Working part time after hours is just coping with socialism. Given the fact that such moonlighting was common among BBC journalists until recently you would think they would be a little more understanding.

Ghana is growing.

Alex Singleton sent me this link from his Globalisation Institute Blog. In this BBC article by Peter Day, Day says that the Ghanaian economy has shrunk for much of the last twenty years. No it hasn’t. This case study on Ghana by Andrew McKay and Ernest Aryeetey takes a long time to load but has a great deal of info. What I noticed most about the graph Alex cited, the greeny-yellow one on page 11, is how much steadier Ghana’s economy has been in the last twenty years.

That said Peter Day’s article is informative and, rightly, upbeat. It is positive about the good that businesses, both locally owned and foreign, can do in Africa – and that is something we haven’t always seen. This was pure BBC-think though:

You might also say, if you pushed it, that mobile phone access is fast becoming a basic human right, like clean water and access to affordable healthcare, two other things which many Ghanaians do not yet have.

Africa has had a great deal of things being defined as basic human rights, the provision of which was too important to be left to the profit motive. It has not worked well. Since it did not pay people to produce them, those very things have been in the shortest supply.

Selling your birthright for a mess of pottage.

This is about Dr Who. Be warned: spoilers coming up.

Reader Mark comments:

Surprised the biased BBC blog hasn`t made a post about the two part Doctor who programme, the second part of which was shown last night.

Basically the story turned out that a family of aliens (high up and powerful in government) wanted to start a war for profit despite not having a UN resolution, one of their motives was oil. There was a bogus threat of 45 seconds. Yet to whip the people up in a frenzy the alien family were behind the crashing of a spaceship into big ben in order to give them a reason to start a war.

Worked it out yet?

I`m against the iraq war but for the bbc to put out a programme which basically suggested that Bush (i`m not a fan)was behind 9/11 in order to start a war on iraq was grotesque. I expect to see that kind of extremism on anarchist/islamic and white supremacist websites, not on the BBC.
I phoned up and complained. Gave them an earful.

It’s all a bit of a shame. Last week we had me and a whole bunch of hardened BBC-bashers falling over themselves to praise Dr Who. There was a great deal to praise in the latest episode, yet I suspect that the part that will be remembered and discussed will be one speech delivered for, oh, 45 seconds or so. (Delivered very well, I must say. Good acting portraying good acting. You saw for a moment how this bumbling substitute could hack it as a politician.)

If I’m right about one thing then my take on this will less harsh than Mark’s. In that case I will say that the 45-seconds stuff was a weak and ill-judged joke that, for a few minutes, quite threw out my willing suspension of disbelief. I spent time thinking about Bush, Blair, the Hutton report etc. and as a result missed what the alien plot actually was. (Never did quite work it out. What was stopping the aliens from just slagging the earth? It seemed to rely on their being some aliens up there who weren’t in on the conspiracy but no one ever mentioned them. But as I said, I wasn’t paying attention.) Assuming I am right, I will say that artistically that is a horrible crime. “Let that be a warning to scriptwriters,” I will say, “not to let the temptation to make a passing political point mar otherwise fine pieces of work. Don’t sell your birthright for a mess of pottage.”

More in sorrow than in anger: that will describe my reaction if I am right on this one aspect. It is tacky to make partisan political points in what is ostensibly a children’s programme. It may even be against the rules to do so during an election campaign. It will date quickly. It is yet more evidence that the BBC is biased: you could live for nine hundred years before you saw a corresponding pro-Iraq-war pointette being slipped into a children’s drama.

OK, what is this one thing that I think should decide my, and by implication your, attitude towards all this? It is this. At the time it didn’t even occur to me that the spaceship hitting Big Ben was part of the political point the scriptwriter was trying to make. It did not occur to me that it was meant to be a parallel to the airliners hitting the twin towers of the WTC. I assumed, and still do incline to believe, that the only political jab was against Mr Blair and his “45 minutes.” Why do I think this? Because, in the story, no one was mentioned as being killed as the ship hit Big Ben, and the whole thing was meant to look like an accident anyway, whereas the important fact about the planes hitting the Twin Towers was that a great many people were murdered in a manner that flaunted its own deliberateness. True the Dr Who episode did depict a vessel crashing into a famous tall building, but if I did not spontaneously see a parallel despite having spent a great deal of the last three and a half years obsessing about the consequences of September 11 2001 then it seems reasonable to assume that the writer didn’t intend one.

If, however, there was an intentional suggestion that the airliners crashing into the Twin Towers were fake, then it would be different. One, it would be a pretty sick joke. Two, we’ve had enough of the BBC giving credence to conspiracy theories to an adult audience, let alone children.

But like I said, even on the more generous interpretation, it’s a shame. A serious drama should be like a swimmer diving into a pool and swimming to the other side in one smooth, perfect trajectory. When he finally emerges, gasping, he breathes the ordinary air with gratitude because he has lived, for a while, in another element. A light, self-referential drama such as Dr Who is like the same swimmer coming up for air several times during his crossing of the pool. Each time your head breaks the surface, each little joke, each little hommage to the programme’s past such as the corridor-chasing back and forth across various Downing Street conference rooms, does diminish your belief a little – but it also makes your passage a more relaxed and enjoyable experience. But hearing those words “45 seconds” was like being yanked out the water, left to hang around in the cold while you think, “what the hell was that about?”, and then feeling obliged to jump in again to the no-longer so inviting water.

[This post slightly edited for clarity on Monday evening.]

And still they claim to be unbiased!

If anyone doubted the BBC’s bias before they’ll surely be having second thoughts today:

The BBC was last night plunged into a damaging general election row after it admitted equipping three hecklers with microphones and sending them into a campaign meeting addressed by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader.

I do think that the Conservative response is far too mild. If I were Michael Howard I’d announce that no Tory would appear on any BBC programme or answer questions from any BBC journalist until after the election. Would the BBC be legally allowed to cover othercandidates in such circumstances?

St. George And The BBC.

BBC Online has some regional coverage of St George (patron saint of England, feast-day today) this year, including this BBC London item, which garnered a huge and overwhelmingly positive response to the question “should London have a major St. George’s Day celebration ?”. We seem to be getting less coverage these days which suggests that celebrating Englishness is reserved for knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.

Not so only a few years back. Here’s a piece I wrote in 2002.

‘Twas the feast of St George, 2001, 10.30 at night, and in my country hovel life was good. Some red wine and garlic bread (traditional English fayre), a good book, Radio 4 murmuring gently.

“And for St George’s Day, a special guest talks about England and what it means to be English”.

Who could it be, I wondered – Peter Hitchens perhaps, or Simon Heffer of the Daily Mail who has advocated English self-rule – maybe Sir Patrick Moore, whose knighthood was long delayed because of his English nationalism (he was I believe a member of the English National Party during the 1970s/80s).

“And here in the studio we have Billy Bragg !”

I almost fell off my chair (may have been the wine) as the Bard of Barking held forth, turning out to be so proud of his Englishness that he felt English about once every three days, otherwise feeling European or a citizen of the world.

(For foreign surfers, Billy Bragg is a singer and poet of far-left views – not perhaps the first name that would spring to mind when the words ‘English patriot’ are pronounced. Some of his songs are quite memorable but George Brassens or Jacques Brel he ain’t – nor Tom Waits or Randy Newman neither. He is a strong anti-racist who has left the multicultural city and chosen to live in a leafy, white and conservative area – Dorset).

I did wonder as this year’s St George’s approached how the BBC could top that this year. Tariq Ali perhaps, or Peter Tatchell ? And as the day approaches, a sighting shot on St George – the BBC News site announces “St George comes under fire”. A Simon Pipe recorded that ‘some critics say St George’s Day is best ignored.’ Well, one critic to be precise – the historian Professor Ronald Hutton, who believes that “It would be a sure sign of a loss of nerve” if we celebrated St George’s day.

An alternative voice (you know how keen the BBC are on diversity) comes from Chris Doyle, of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, who says toasting St George is “deeply insensitive” – after all, the Crusades were only seven hundred years ago. (note : why is it that ‘harking back to the past’ is obnoxious when we praise the glories and great deeds of the English, but such a good thing when we berate ourselves for (perceived) past sins ?)

And this year ? He’s back ! The voice of England has an essay on the BBC website, looking to a future ‘where anyone, of any race, will be happy to call themselves English’. What, even passing tourists ? Even the French ? The Scots ? Martin McGuinness ? If everyone can be English, then why should anyone wish to be ?

The site says “Billy Bragg is proud to be English, but not everyone who lives in England feels the same way. For millions of his fellow countrymen and women, English patriotism reeks of racism.”

That’s bad news – the BBCs chief political correspondent Andrew Marr helped draw up the notorious “British=racist” Runnymede Trust report a couple of years ago, now English=racist as well !

And what does Billy Bragg think are the defining characteristics of Englishness ? He thinks we need a debate, and only then can we see “the common elements that give us, the English, a sense of belonging“. This contradicts his earlier assertion that “everyone has their own, personal definition“. His definition includes the writing of William Blake and George Orwell.

In 1941, when my parents generation – the last heroic generation of Britons, the generation described by Peter Mandelson and Clive Soley in a Labour Party document as ‘racist and xenophobic‘ – while this generation was fighting Hitler prior to electing Labour in the 1945 landslide, George Orwell wrote his essay “The Lion and the Unicorn”.

In it he wrote of the English left-wing intelligentsia as follows : “In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman, and that it is a duty to sneer at every English institution ….It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God Save The King’ than of stealing from a poor-box.”

Times have moved on, and the ideas of this ‘island of dissident thought’ are now those of our ruling elite. And the BBCs negative, carping coverage of the feast of St George, patron Saint of England, shows only too well that Orwell spoke truth.

(For a full fisking of Mr Bragg’s essay go here.)

War crimes.

Reg Jones wrote to the BBC regarding this link: “War crimes – have we learned anything?” and copied us in. He wrote:

Classic BBC worldview regarding war crimes:

“… Buchenwald last week, Belsen this, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki still to come in August.”

Why didn’t Mr. Simpson have the courage to follow up and explain just how the men responsible for dropping the A-bomb ie Truman, Stimson, and Oppenheimer escaped war crimes trials at the end of World War II. Was it victor’s justice Mr. Simpson or was there a slight distinction to be made between Buchenwald and Hiroshima?

If you’re going to raise Hirsohima in the context of war crimes at least have the courage to follow through. Since no distinction was made we are left with the BBC’s World Affiars editor’s cheap insinuation that there is no real moral/criminal distinction to be made between a Hiroshima –which arguably saved both American and Japanese lives– and Buchenwald.

How nice.

But let us not stop there:

“Haven’t we learned anything? Are we no further forward than we were 60 years ago?…But we haven’t yet managed to persuade those who think they can slaughter people as a matter of policy that they will inevitably pay a price for doing so. True, there is justice sometimes…”

Speaking of “justice sometimes”… did anyone notice Mr. Simpson omission. I know it was a very obscure news story. There was recently a war. The country had a bit of a genocide problem in the past. The leader of the country was not such a nice man. He is in jail now. He and his henchmen will be facing justice.

This country now has the chance to say “Never Again!” and mean it.

Strange that the BBC World Affairs Editor doesn’t mention this. No, on second thought it’s not so strange.

In his email to me he also asks whether Mr. Simpson was a supporter of “enthusiastic action” with regard to Iraq?

I can’t immediately answer that question when it comes to Mr Simpson as an individual. He seems to me typical of the old BBC in both its faults and virtues. Let’s put it this way, we might not care for his views, but he is by no means a favourite of the anti-war left either. I do remember him being joyfully enthusiastic about the liberation of Kabul and they hated him for that. Continuing my partial defence (note to our esteemed commentariat: partial defences where appropriate are necessary if one is to gain assent when attack is appropriate) of Mr Simpson, the headline referring to war crimes was almost certainly written by a sub-editor, not him. His actual words refer only to “past horrors” and “killing on an industrial scale,” and that first paragraph could be read as general introductory hand-wringing over the horrors of war.

OK, end of partial defence. The very significant ommission of recent events in Iraq in a discussion about making dictators and war criminals “pay a price” was unimpressive to the point of black comedy.

I’ve been busy

and am late in posting some interesting emails. Jeremy Sharon writes:

the BBC reported the IDF’s killing of a ticking bomb terrorist in Nablus on Thursday, April 14 here ,but have thus far failed to report the shooting of a soldier and civilian in Gaza by a sniper of the Popular Resistance Committees today (Monday, April 18) reported here at the Jerusalem Post. The incident last Thursday seems to have been reported pretty promptly but obviously things seem to be taking a little longer today at the Beeb’s internet department because I still can’t find any mention at all of today’s shooting incident on their website. I guess it’ll turn up tomorrow…or Wednesday…end of the week at the outside.

It is Wednesday and I didn’t see any reference to them. (Let me know in comments if I’m wrong.) I would partially defend the BBC in that the shootings of the Israelis were non-fatal, hence less newsworthy. Yet the BBC’s under-reporting about the stream of attacks on Israelis makes deaths like those of the man in Nablus look as if they are aggression out of the blue. It has now been admitted by the Palestinian Authority that the three Palestinians killed on April 9 were smuggling weapons, not playing football as claimed. Why don’t you learn that on the BBC report? All it says is

Last week Israeli troops killed three Palestinian youths near the border between Gaza and Egypt, sparking a barrage of mortar fire aimed at Jewish settlements.