Update: Thanks to Tim at ConservativeHome for the link. If you're a first-time visitor welcome, and please take a minute to check out my earlier posts – I've only been going for three weeks so it won't take you long!
IN THE PAST week or so the BBC has published three stories containing factual errors regarding issues of international concern: the lead-up to the Iraq war, the integrity of the Bush administration and the start of the Palestinian intifada against Israel in 2000. I’ll deal with them in ascending order of seriousness.
1. The French predicted the current problems in Iraq, and warned the US accordingly.
In a story about President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent meeting with President Bush, William Horsley, the BBC’s European affairs correspondent wrote:
But it is also true that the issue of Iraq has been set aside, with the French careful not to say (too loudly): "We told you so."
The implication here is that the French predicted what would happen after an invasion of the Iraq, and warned the US accordingly. France, of course, never ‘told’ the US that its efforts to bring stability to Iraq would be undermined by al-Qaeda’s attempts to provoke a civil war, and by Iran and Syria pouring weapons and fighters into the country in a bid to stop democracy taking root.
Jacques Chirac’s decision to oppose the war may have been dictated in some part by concerns about possible consequences, but it was largely informed by his need to pander to crude anti-Americanism at home, and the desire to protect lucrative oil and arms deals with Iraq.
This particular remark is probably more of a throwaway remark, and a jibe at Bush, than anything else, but it nicely encapsulates the worldview of the average BBC journalist: Europe good and wise, America (especially under the Republicans) bad and stupid.
2. Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent when her identity was revealed, leading to the prosecution of Scooter Libby.
This report and several other BBC stories on the resignation of Karl Rove include the stock sentence:
“Mr Rove was also investigated in connection with the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame, though prosecutors decided he should not face any charges.”
As has been made abundantly clear, including here , here (by the man who broke the story which led to the inquiry) and here , Valerie Plame was not exposed, because she was not undercover. You can read testimony on the subject of Plame’s status given to a Senate committee here.
Are we to believe that no BBC journalist involved with reporting or editing the many stories about the Libby trial was aware of this fact? Unlikely, but then the BBC’s reporting of the entire Libby affair and other so-called scandals has been simplified and one-sided.
3. The 2000 Middle East peace talks between Israel broke down because of the Palestian intifada, rather than the intransigence of Yasser Arafat.
This third inaccuracy is the most dangerous, and the least forgivable. A story about Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak playing down hopes of a peace deal in the middle East includes the following:
(Barak) was prime minister in the late 1990s and came close to reaching a peace agreement that would have given up much of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
The talks - which included a Camp David summit with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and US President Bill Clinton - broke down after the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) in late 2000.
This is inaccurate. The peace talks effectively broke down (although there were subsequent token efforts to revive the process) in July 2000, after Yasser Arafat rejected what is widely considered to be the most favourable peace deal ever offered to the Palestinians and walked out of the Camp David summit. The intifada began in September, and as a number of Palestinian leaders have admitted, it had been in planning ever since the peace talks broke down.
It’s also commonly reported by the BBC and other news organizations that the Intifada was caused by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount. Again, Palestinians have admitted that this wasn't the case, and that Sharon's was simply used as a pretext for the uprising.
The inference that those who get their news from the BBC are invited to draw is that the Camp David summit, and that round of Middle East peace talks, failed because of the provocative actions of Sharon.
And that’s just a weeks worth of dishonesty and inaccuracy.
I have no doubt that there are some journalists who go to work at the BBC every day with the intention of lying, and distorting facts, in an effort to impose a leftist worldview on people who trust the organization to produce impartial reports (see here for evidence of that mentality).
Others most likely mean well, but tend to slant their reporting to suit their soft-left views, and theirs tend to be sins of omission – failing to report facts that don’t suit their narrative – rather than outright dishonesty. Still others, despite being superficially well educated, are simply not that bright; they are simply unable to understand the nuances of complex stories, and their reporting and editing serves to dumb down and unintentionally misinform.
All of the above would be bad enough if the BBC were an independent news organization with a clear political bias, stated or otherwise. However, the BBC receives hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to help it disseminate what are at best gross inaccuracies, and at worst outright lies, about the most important issues facing the world today. It’s hugely influential and widely trusted, and informs the views of people in every corner of the globe.
The sooner a campaign is launched to either scrap the license fee altogether, or at the very least remove funding for news provision, the better. In the meantime you're better off getting your news from just about anywhere other than the BBC.