I am not normally someone who fulminates about the BBC…

writes Daniel Finkelstein.

No, but we’ll listen when he does– thanks also to David Preiser who has highlighted this in the comments sections:

John Simpson hearts Mugabe

I have watched Simpson for a long time and he does seem to have a soft spot for dictators. He was once rather chummy with some of Saddam’s ministers and expressed a “sneaking regard for Saddam“.

Now he has some rather bizarre things to say about the political situation in Zimbabwe, and presents it all more as though Mugabe had won a game of chess than battered his opposition with violence.

Simpson doubtless thinks he’s being rather clever to see Mugabe’s power-politics through the haze of violence, but it comes across as apologism. One of the big things we should keep in mind regarding dictators is the mythology that surrounds them and protects them- it’s that that Mr Simpson is reporting, rather than the squalid reality. He admires Mugabe’s mythmaking, instead of reporting the reality on the ground.

Hat tip to Iain Dale too.

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44 Responses to I am not normally someone who fulminates about the BBC…

  1. doesNotCompute says:

    I note my criticism of the content of David Vance’s posts has disappeared.

       0 likes

  2. Ed says:

    Does not compute- I transferred it to the latest open thread. You’re free to make such a comment, but this was not the place. FWIW I would state I firmly disagree with you on the matter.

       0 likes

  3. James says:

    i read this and thought, what on earth, where is all the foaming muzlim-hate

    then i looked up and saw it was by ed thomas and not david vance

    so please keep up the good work and write more of this blog’s content, and it’s the one shred of legitimacy that it still has amongst the embarrasssing rest

       0 likes

  4. Biodegradable says:

    doesNotCompute | 24.06.08 – 8:01 pm

    I’ve replied to your post on the open thread.

       0 likes

  5. AndrewSouthLondon says:

    I couldn’t beleive my eyes:

    Mugabe’s remarkable comeback

    By John Simpson
    World affairs editor, BBC News, Harare

    It has been done with great brutality, but Robert Mugabe has achieved an extraordinary turnaround here………..The moral is clear: never underestimate Robert Mugabe’s ferocious determination to stay in power

    His opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been completely outmanoeuvred…….
    Even his choice of embassy has been turned against him by his political enemies……He seems as cowed as his supporters……..It all adds up to a remarkable sweeping victory for a man who only three months ago seemed to be on the ropes.

    The moral is clear: never underestimate Robert Mugabe’s ferocious determination to stay in power, nor the ability of his political opponents to destroy their own case.

    ……………………………….

    What a disgusting slimeball Simpson is. Yo! Lets hear it for the tribal racist dictator who destroyed his country and bequeathed it the shortest life expectancy in Africa whilst blaming those whose wealth he stole and dissipated. He’s just a Rocky III comeback kid.

    Can someone please not rid the world of this piece of slime? Not Mugabe,I mean Simpson. At least I am not required to contribute to Mugabe’s pension.

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  6. gus says:

    Let’s see if we can all agree on one thing. Okay???

    Mugabe is a brutal thug, and not even a LIBTARD would deny that. Right?

    Discuss!!!

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  7. James says:

    Childish name calling implies a childish mind, gus

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  8. El Draque says:

    My jaw dropped too at the “remarkable comeback” line. Not “savage seizure of power”, not “merciless repression” – just “remarkable”.
    If Pinochet had been returned to power, would the same terms be used? Somehow, I doubt it.

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  9. PacificRising says:

    “The main English-language television news programme at 8pm each evening on the ZBC is an hour-long paean of praise to Mr Mugabe and his past record.

    The programme’s reporting merges imperceptibly with the frequent election advertisements for Mr Mugabe. If anything, the reporters and newscasters praise him more than his own party hacks.”

    The above extract is interchangeable with the situation in the UK and the relationship between our leader and public service broadcaster.

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  10. gus says:

    James, did you get that from your Mommy or your therapist?

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  11. Martin says:

    Perhaps John Simpson will walk into Harare and declare how he personally “freed the city”

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20021127/ai_n12654934

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  12. James says:

    gus: neither i made it up right then, but glad you thought it sounded insightful!!

    xxx james

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  13. gus says:

    James: You sound like your Mom!!

    Please keep your kisses to yourself, as you’re not my type.
    Take care, Boy James.

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  14. David Preiser (USA) says:

    To Simpson it’s all just a remarkable story. He is amoral in this regard, and to me his words reflect the attitude I’ve been hearing from all the various Beeboids who have been on air discussing this topic in the last few days. When they can be so callous in their devotion to “No regime change; it’s an African problem that must be solved by Africans, especially South Africa; the opposition must continue to die for their (the BBC’s) principles”, any words of sympathy for the people of Zimbabwe just ring hollow. Post-colonial guilt trumps all, I guess, and damn the collateral damage.

    I don’t think Simpson is actually gloating at Mugabe’s, um, recent successes. He has definitely lost his objectivity, though, when he is rooting for a more exciting story rather than stepping back and reporting the truth. His choice of words at the end reveal that he hasn’t so much lost the plot as invented a new one. Who underestimated Mugabe, really? That’s just thoughtless, and it’s not hard to see it as a bit of cheerleading.

    He really is failing at his job, and violating editorial policy when he basically presents a falsified version of events.

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  15. gus says:

    David, there is a direct tie-in between Mugabe and Obama.
    The BBC has been trying to cleanse it’s “collective soul” vis a vis the U.K.’s colonial history. Self flagelation and such. Mugabe is a black man in charge of the colony that Britain (the BBC) feels guilt about. Ergo, he cannot be bad. Britain is bad.
    Same is true here. Obama will cleanse us. Our history of slavery and prejudice will be lifted and a new day will dawn. Never mind that Obama’s family were never slaves and the only real prejuducie that Obama has experienced has been his own biases and his “spiritual mentors” rantings for 20 years. But the common liberal doesn’t think. The common liberal is incapable of rational thought. Posturing and emotion is the liberals substitute for logic. The BBC tries to posture itself as HOLIER THAN THOU. So do American lib demogogues. But what do the actually do that is HOLY???
    NOTHING.
    They spend your money.

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  16. Atlas shrugged says:

    Maybe its partly just an old experienced lying propagandist,with blood on his hands, showing due reverence to a fellow experienced lying propagandist, with maybe slightly more blood on his hands.

    I doubt Simpson is in love with Mugabe enough to actually want to live in Zimbabwe. However there where many major employees at the BBC in the past, who dreamed of living in Nazi Germany or Stalins Russia. Some of which actually ended up doing so.

    IMO

    The lives and tortures of a few thousand human beings and the slow starvation of possibly millions, has little to do with Simpson’s, and even less for that matter, The BBC’s thinking.

    BBC thinking is the reason why in the year 2008 we still have a monopoly establishment controlled media. While no one is discussing even partial, never mind complete deregulation and a consequential true free market operating in the mind control industry.

    We will always still get nonsense propaganda and destructive disinformation on our TV screens. But I am personally sure we will get enough of the truth, enough of the time, for us to finally start thinking for ourselves. We are after all grown-ups now, are we not?

    What we have now is the worst type of media of them all.

    This because far too many people, who should know better, are still too frightened to face their true reality.

    Too many are still desperately clinging to their indoctrinated belief system, that the British MSM in particular is in anyway free, or can be trusted any more then Pravda or a copy of the last Labour Party manifesto. Its just bigger more expensive and cleverer then the rest, only because it used to need to be so.

    IMO

    95% of whats on the BBC is lies, because of what is not on the BBC, and does not tell the people about or even mention. Of the other 5% only about 20% at best is a true representation of the real world.

    That in my opinion gives the BBC at best a rating of 1% of useful production designed to educate or entertain, rather then propagate mind control and secret agenda’s. Which only just about represents half of the BBC’s minor sports coverage.

    As I hope you can all see, I do not like the BBC very much.

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  17. glj says:

    I read this earlier today, and by the time had gotten about a third of the way through the article, I had convinced myself that it was a sartirical piece. Sadly it was merely a delusional ramble.

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  18. Fleur says:

    It all becomes clear if you can recall the incident when Simpson and a team of reporters were mistakenly targeted by an air to ground missile fired from a yanky A10 in Iraq.
    The resulting carnage would have had a brain-altering effect on the previously mild mannered Simpson, to the extent that he has now come to love/fear/respects violence in all forms. eg. Mugabe.
    It happens to all ‘liberals’, sooner or later.

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  19. MisterMinit says:

    David Prieser: “He has definitely lost his objectivity, though, when he is rooting for a more exciting story rather than stepping back and reporting the truth”

    What makes you think that he is not reporting the truth?

    Also gus, don’t you think that you are going over the top with “Ergo, he (Mugabe) cannot be bad” as a BBC mantra?

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  20. gus says:

    MisterMinit, why is your concern whether or not I went over the top when describing the BBC’s indifference to Mugabe’s obvious war crimes and murder. Is it your natural reaction as a liberal to back the BBC? Do you react because you don’t like Conservatives. I’m sincere here.
    You’d have to be seriously deluded not to see what Mugabe is. Again my friend, I’m being sincere. What is the problem with saying the TRUTH about Mugabe. He doesn’t deserve white glove treatment any more than, Hussein, Milosevic, Castro or Kim Jong Il. He’s a evil person, and it seems the left tiptoes around it.
    Why?

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  21. David Preiser (USA) says:

    MisterMinit | 25.06.08 – 12:34 am |

    What makes you think that he is not reporting the truth?

    Um, the fact that he isn’t? You know, things like Tsvangirai’s supporters being beaten and killed, and the opposition candidate himself was forced to shut it down and seek sanctuary, yet Simpson calls this being “outmaneuvered”. Or maybe saying that people have been “underestimating” Mugabe? By that does he mean expecting Mugabe to step down quietly and peacefully once he realized he lost the election fair and square? Simpson must be new to the job if he thinks an African dictator in power for that long – and who had such a warm and fuzzy modus operandi – was going to slip away quietly into the night.

    He also says that the outside world “can do nothing whatever to help him,” when in fact it’s “won’t”, or, if one listens to the BBC enough, “shouldn’t”. To be fair, though, that’s a fib being told in all corners of the BBC. And how about Simpson’s quip near the end:

    But as long as he can blame it on Western sanctions, even though they are few and mostly aimed at leading members of Zanu-PF, he will remain unscathed.

    Unscathed by whom? The same people he has already beaten into submission, perhaps? There’s no viable opposition now because Mugabe is playing the sanction card? What sort of nonsense is that? In reality, as long as post-Colonial guilt trumps all (oh, and an almost fanatical devotion to the UN), he will remain unscathed by the rest of the world.

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  22. Hugh says:

    Mistermint: As Finkelstein makes clear all this talk of a “remarkable comeback” is nonsense – Mugabe has the army and a large number of thugs on hand. In such circumstances it’s entirely straightforward to retain power if you’re prepared to use violence. It’s hardly unprecedented, so what’s so remarkable? It just seems Simpson is trying to be clever by coming up with an original analysis, no matter how far it stretches the facts.

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  23. Cockney says:

    That article makes your skin crawl.

    One thing – I thought the BBC was banned from Zimbabwe so how comes he’s reporting from Harare?

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  24. Hugh says:

    Stephen Pollard agrees, describing the piece as “nauseating”.

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/stephenpollard//simpsons-nauseating-report.thtml#comments

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  25. Jack Bauer says:

    James:
    Childish name calling implies a childish mind, gus
    James | 24.06.08 – 8:59 pm | #

    Then why don’t you give us the benefit of your self-appointed “adult” description of Comrade Mugabe?

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  26. Yes, I must agree that Simpson’s piece is a shocker especially as he wrote:

    “His opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been completely outmanoeuvred.”

    So beating and murdering supporters of your political opponent is ‘out-manoeuvring’? Absolutely astonishing, even by the standards of the BBC.

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  27. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Cockney | 25.06.08 – 8:57 am |

    One thing – I thought the BBC was banned from Zimbabwe so how comes he’s reporting from Harare?

    Simpson got round the border guards by hiding up Mugabe’s backside. How else do you think he got to have such a special view of the scene?

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  28. Sam Duncan says:

    That may be the most revolting piece of reportage I’ve ever read. Even if you start off giving him the benefit of the doubt (Mugabe’s “revival” is certainly “remarkable”, if brutal and bloody), he seals it with the remark about the regime’s opponents “destroying their own case”. Unbelievable.

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  29. Martin says:

    Yep. Don’t forget the good old voting bribe of cutting off the feet of your opponents wives.

    Perhaps Gordon Broon should try that on the English to get them to vote for him (only joking – I hope!)

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  30. The Cattle Prod of Destiny says:

    I think what Simpson is doing is preaching to the converted. He isn’t writing for the general reader but his Islington lefty mates. Much like most of the BBCs output.

    So Mugabe has ‘outmanoevered’ the opposition. The fact that he ran them over, reversed and did it again, in a straight line, which isn’t much of a manoevre, is by the by. It’s what a lefty would think.

    Also the left have under-estimated Mugabe. They were frightened he may lose and they wouldn’t have that warm glow any more.

    Look at it in that light and it all seems clear.

    As to the other African countries, perhaps they are waiting to see what happens. After all most of the surrounding nations are Marxist dictatorships (or near as dammit) and they couldn’t give tuppence for their own people never mind foriegners. Plus most of them couldn’t organise a lie-in for the dead, never mind master mind the take over of another country. In fact most of them can’t run their own countries …

    No, they are waiting to see who wins. China or the West.

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  31. MisterMinit says:

    gus | 25.06.08 – 3:57 am | #

    “MisterMinit, why is your concern whether or not I went over the top when describing the BBC’s indifference to Mugabe’s obvious war crimes and murder.”

    Why not? You said the BBC thinks that Mugabe can’t be bad.

    “Is it your natural reaction as a liberal to back the BBC?”

    No, it is my natural reaction as a intelligent person to hyperbole and downright idiocy.

    “Do you react because you don’t like Conservatives.”

    What have the Conservatives got to do with this? If you must know, I’m blue all the way through.

    I can’t be bothered to reply to the rest.

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  32. MisterMinit says:

    Hugh | 25.06.08 – 7:14 am
    David Preiser (USA) | 25.06.08 – 6:33 am |

    Thanks for your comments. That was a genuine question that I asked – something that is impossible to do here without being berated for being a “liberal” that “doesn’t like Conservatives.”

    “Or maybe saying that people have been “underestimating” Mugabe? […] Simpson must be new to the job if he thinks an African dictator in power for that long – and who had such a warm and fuzzy modus operandi – was going to slip away quietly into the night.”

    Whether or not Simpson thinks that is irrelevant and I don’t actually see him expressing that opinion anyway.

    For what it’s worth, I certainly underestimated Mugabe – I wasn’t expecting him to last (obviously very naive).

    “He also says that the outside world “can do nothing whatever to help him, when in fact it’s “won’t””

    What do you think the options are?

    “or, if one listens to the BBC enough, “shouldn’t”.”

    Hmm…..

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  33. MisterMinit says:

    “It just seems Simpson is trying to be clever by coming up with an original analysis, no matter how far it stretches the facts.”

    That’s pretty much my take on it too.

    The Cattle Prod of Destiny: “Also the left have under-estimated Mugabe. They were frightened he may lose and they wouldn’t have that warm glow any more.”

    Does anyone actually have that opinion that you know of? How can you justify attributing that to “the left” (that’s a lot of people you know)? That doesn’t seem to ring true with any lefty that I know.

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  34. jimbob says:

    don’t know if anyone else heard simpson call the zimbawe electoral commission “moderately independent” on the 10 pm news last night ?

    the mdc has accused the ZEC of

    massively overprinting ballot papers
    ordering recounts without reason
    delaying the publication of the first poll without good reason
    accepting bribes for zanu pf rigging
    manipulating the register

    “moderately independent” indeed !

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  35. David Preiser (USA) says:

    MisterMinit | 25.06.08 – 10:36 pm |

    What do you think the options are?

    Regime change by force, with enough troops from as many places as possible, post-Colonial guilt be damned. Have all the African contingents they want, as long as those from certain countries are heavily supervised so they don’t do the systematic pillaging and exchanging goods for sex with children that they’ve done under the UN banner elsewhere. Tsvangirai and his party are the legitimately elected leadership of the country, Mugabe isn’t. Why should the French be allowed to cover their cocoa derrières in the Ivory Coast but nobody can intervene in Zimbabwe?

    “or, if one listens to the BBC enough, “shouldn’t”.”

    Hmm…..

    “Listen Again” to any World Service WHYS on the situation from the last three or four days. Or watch any panel discussion or interview with anyone else about it on the BBC. The received wisdom at the BBC is clearly that this an African problem, only South Africa and the other charmers can do anything (If anything it ought to be led by Zambia, but Mandela isn’t from there, so they don’t count). White troops will simply not do. And don’t dare suggest removing Mugabe by force because the BBC will call that “a coup”, even though Mugabe rigged the election to force a phony run-off!

    Basically the BBC wants them to use the Paddington Method: Give Mugabe a really hard stare.

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  36. gus says:

    The lack of backbone costs millions of people freedom and their very lives.
    Libs and the BBC talk a good ballgame, but lack the stones to take down back actors.
    The pen they feel is mightier than the sword.
    Tell that to Mugabi’s victims.

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  37. David Preiser (USA) says:

    gus | 26.06.08 – 1:13 am

    The BBC doesn’t talk a good ballgame at all. They talk about not playing in the first place. They say it would be wrong for non-African nations to do anything. Then, when somebody does suggest that African nations get rid of Mugabe, they say that’s wrong, too.

    They don’t like what Mugabe is doing, but they cannot accept any actions that would stop him. They don’t think the pen will do anything, either. In fact, they know it won’t. They honestly think it’s better to leave him in there and stare at him really hard until he leaves of his own or dies.

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  38. Joel says:

    Sometimes the news is difficult for some to understand, best you stick to Newsround.

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  39. The Cattle Prod of Destiny says:

    MisterMinit | 25.06.08 – 10:39 pm |
    Does anyone actually have that opinion that you know of?

    Oh yes.

    How can you justify attributing that to “the left” (that’s a lot of people you know)? That doesn’t seem to ring true with any lefty that I know.

    In my experience those of a left-wing persuation who are still prepared to discuss such things have long thought of Mugabe as a hero. Oh he’s a flawed man, that business with Nkomo was unfortunate, but he’s played a straight bat against those nasty South Afrikaans (the white ones) who lived in Zimbabwe – they can’t often bring themselves to say ‘Rhodesia.’

    And anyway he was bruatalised by the West …

    and, and it’s not really his fault – it’s Bush’s.

    etc etc

    Those that can see him for the monster he has always been blame Thatcher for letting him loose. As if Carrington had much control over those negotiations …

    In the end Mugabe is a product of the left. Sponsored by the USSR and propped up now by China. That’s why he’s still in power and why no one will act – no one wants to challenge China in Africa – not until it’s too late to do anything of course.

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  40. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Did anyone catch John Simpson’s report from Harare? The World News woman said that “the BBC is banned from reporting from inside Zimbabwe,” but John Simpson is there reporting anyway.

    First, I almost wonder if he has been checking in here, because he actually said that Mbeke “won’t” intervene against Mugabe. Finally.

    But, there is one fantastic moment where we get a bit of speech from Comrade Bob himself, reacting to the Queen’s revoking of his knighthood. I can’t find a clip anywhere, but if anyone can find it, it’s well worth a look. Mugabe goes on a rant and says things that most everyone here will agree with.

    He said that he has no problem with the British people, or the Queen, as she and her children have visited Zimbabwe. The problem, Mugabe says, is No. 10. There are “demons” there that “need to be exorcised.”

    Then he said that “the Archbishop of Canterbury has lost his Christ”.

    I kid you not. Hilarious, and I can’t believe BBC World News showed it. And Simpson even introduced the speech as being surprisingly mild.

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  41. Hugh says:

    Joel: Sometimes the news is difficult for some to understand, best you stick to Newsround.

    Another excellent point from Joel. So, let’s see, we’ve got Finkelstein, Iain Dale and Stephen Pollard all reckoning Simpson’s piece is a bit off – I guess they’re all just thick as well. Whereas Joel, who’s that bit cleverer, has helpfully explained that Simpson’s report is spot on because… er, um… I know: because it’s on the BBC!

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  42. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Is this a joke? The BBC has been showing footage of Zimbabweans waiting in line to vote, with a few vox pops. Strangely, the BBC stringer is asking them, “Why are you voting?” and “How important is this election to you?”

    In two or three recent reports, the BBC has been quietly setting up the scenario that Zimbabweans really have no idea that Tsvangirai is not participating, and that they think this is a normal election.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7477229.stm

    However, John Simpson has crawled out of Mugabe’s backside and gone out into the streets of Harare. To his credit (at last), he is reporting that Mugabe “supporters” are enforcing the vote for their man, stopping everyone on the street and threatening them to vote for Mugabe. Simpson admits that he was quite frightened, and says that even though he hates to use “such a cliché”, but he really did fell like he “was in Nazi Germany.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7477153.stm

    This is utter madness. How can they know that this is a sham election, yet still legitimize the voices of people voting? Is this more of the BBC trying to defend Mugabe’s hold on his throne? Will this recent coverage of citizens thoughts and votes be used to back up the BBC assertion that Mugabe is still the rightful leader of the country, and that no one should dare remove him (even though we admit he’s very nasty)?

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  43. Joel says:

    Truth is Hugh, I’ve given up. There was a time when I used to make an effort to argue the point. I thought any reasonable person could see the logic. It didn’t work.

    It’s like trying to argue with the 9/11 conspiracy brigade, its pointless.

    Then I tried to argue in the way points are made here. Didn’t work either.

    If you read an article like that and think Simpson is ‘shilling’ for Mugabe, if you think the BBC is ‘shilling’ for Mugabe, then no amount of argument, fact or evidence is ever gonna change your mind.

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  44. Hugh says:

    That doesn’t strike me as very honest. Check this thread or the post for the word ‘shilling’ and the only person who’s used it is you.

    The post says: “Simpson doubtless thinks he’s being rather clever to see Mugabe’s power-politics through the haze of violence, but it comes across as apologism.” Finkelstein, Pollard and Dale seem to have made similar points.

    Likening these claims to conspiracy theories isn’t actually an argument. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that you don’t actually have one.

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