Saturday, March 22, 2008

BBC erases all traces of lies over Bush speech report; so what have we learned?

Updated: Courtesy of commenters db, Jonathan and John, here are the grabs:

Now you see it…
Now you don't…
Exhibiting a thoroughness worthy of Orwell's Ministry of Truth, the BBC has been busy erasing all traces of the corporation's blatantly dishonest reporting of President Bush's speech on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

I'll provide a quick recap for anyone who's new to the story (you might also want to read, in the following order, my previous three posts) before bringing things up to date. On Wednesday the BBC reported the speech under the headline 'Bush speech hails Iraq "victory"'. The headline was supported by the following sentence in the story:

He said recent troop reinforcements had brought about "a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror".

However, this isn't what Bush said. What he said was:

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.

'Opened the door to' is obviously very different to 'brought about' – the BBC's own words. The deceitful editing of the story, and the equally deceitful headline, were clearly designed to expose the President to the ridicule of the BBC's viewers around the world, by creating the impression that he was once again prematurely declaring victory in Iraq, as he was ridiculed for doing back in 2003.

I wrote my first post about the story on Thursday, and emailed a few of the bloggers I read on a regular basis. Charles at Little Green Footballs linked, and by Friday morning – almost certainly as a result of word of the LGF post reaching the BBC – the headline on the story had been changed to 'Bush says Iraq invasion was right'. However, the misleading sentence mentioned above was still in the story, and the 'Bush hails victory' headline still appeared on a video of the speech.

By this time the dishonestly headlined, mendaciously edited BBC story had been displayed prominently on the website for two days. With the site attracting around 13 million unique viewers per week, we can safely assume that several million people around the world saw the report of President Bush 'claiming victory' in Iraq.

As I noted in my second post (linked by Pajamas Media) the BBC's 'Have Your Say' thread on the story was filled with comments hostile to President Bush and the US, with many commenters citing and ridiculing the 'victory claim' which Bush never made. At least two commenters called for Bush and Tony Blair to be hanged, and this in a 'fully moderated' thread. Here's one of those comments:

Late on Friday night/Saturday morning I emailed the BBC, using the comments form provided on the website (here – it's not too late to let them know what you think), to point out that the deliberately misleading sentence remained in the story, and the inaccurate headline remained on the video clip; I also sent links to mine and Charles's posts. I received no reply from the BBC, but by lunchtime on Saturday the story had been corrected, and the headline on the video clip had been changed.

I stupidly didn't think to screen-grab the headline on the original story – to be honest I didn't expect the BBC to correct it – but after it was changed I did screen-grab the video player. Here's the original version, with not one but two references to Bush 'hailing victory':


And here's the 'after' version, with the first reference corrected and the second deleted:


Update: Also via db and Jonathan, here's the sentence in which Bush's words are misreported:

Before:
After:

Even as I write this post, the Middle East page of the BBC site still features a link to the Have Your Say thread (comments are now closed) which takes the form of a quote from one of the comments, accusing Bush of 'arrogance' for declaring victory:

It's inconceivable that the headline and sentence which created such a misleading impression of Bush's speech were simply 'editing errors'. I used to work as a sub-editor on a daily newspaper in the UK, and a story as important as this would one have been seen by perhaps six different journalists before the paper went to press.

I've no doubt that at least as many BBC journalists would have been involved in putting together the Bush story, and senior ones too. The BBC is fat with British taxpayers' money, and its news-gathering operation is probably the best-resourced and most over-manned in the world; they wouldn't have farmed this job out to the intern.

The journalists who edited the report knew exactly what they were doing. They had access to the full transcript of the speech, and the video. They cut-and-pasted, or typed out, Bush's 'incriminating' words. It's clear that the decision to manipulate his words, and to headline the story with a lie, was approved at a high level.

Even for a news organisation with an undisguised political bias, the manipulation of a key speech by such an important figure would be despicable behaviour. The BBC's actions are made worse by the fact that it maintains the pretence of impartiality, although anyone familiar with its reporting on issues from Israel-Palestine (see also this story) to global warming knows this isn't the case.

As I wrote in my second post, the BBC is trusted by, and influences the opinions of, millions of people around the world, and such influence demands a similar degree of responsibility. It's one thing to 'bash Bush', but the BBC's selective and biased reporting on the war on terror can only embolden the jihadists and their state sponsors (anyone who seriously doubts there's a link should read this), while simultaneously undermining the political and public support that US, British and allied troops so desperately need.

I've been calling the BBC for its biased reporting since I started blogging last year, but my beef with the corporation has now become personal – my brother is due to deploy to Afghanistan with the British Army in September. The situation there is dangerous enough without the BBC stirring the pot – I would hate to think of he, or any coalition soldier, being targeted by some previously friendly Afghan who's been enraged by the latest exaggerated, context-free BBC report about coalition forces causing civilian casualties.

But the safety of our troops appears to be a secondary consideration for the BBC after its desire to see the US defeated and humiliated, first and foremost in Iraq (although its position, like that of the US media, will no doubt change if Obama or Hillary is elected President). The majority of its journalists, like their fellow soft-left/progressive travellers, want a world in which the US has less influence, and bodies such as the UN and EU have more.

In pursuit of this goal they have no compunction about manipulating the news to suit their agenda, whether by omitting inconvenient facts, or by applying the corporation's legendary double standards (Castro, for example is always the Cuban 'leader', while Pinochet is the Chilean 'dictator') and moral equivocation (Palestinian terror attacks are no worse than Israeli actions aimed at preventing those attacks). And sometimes, if they think they can get away with it, they'll simply lie.

When they're caught, like Eliot Spitzer the fact that they have been caught is the only thing they're sorry about. They have no shame; they despise and disregard their critics (as I mentioned, I've had no reply to my email – what could they possibly say?); and they'll brazenly attempt similar chicanery again, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

When Charles linked my post at LGF, one commentator was driven to despair by the fact that the mainstream media can apparently keep getting away with manipulating the news in this way, and suggested that bloggers who draw attention to biased reporting are only preaching to the choir.

I know how they feel, but the events of the last few days have shown that the BBC can at least be forced to remove misleading and dishonest material from its website, even if it doesn't acknowledge that it's had to do so. If the alarm is raised quickly enough the propaganda effect can be contained, and the damage to the reputations of individuals, groups or countries limited.

Conservatives, and anyone who believes people should be able to make up their own minds about an issue based on a fair presentation of the facts, are engaged in nothing less than a battle for the truth. We may never be able to win outright, but we can't afford to lose.

Update: Thanks to Charles for linking again, and for bringing what I think is hugely important story to an infinitely bigger audience than I could. I think a couple of other people have linked too, so thanks, but my sitemeter is wall-to-wall lizards so it's hard to tell.

Thanks also to Glenn, and fellow Beeb-baiter Marc at USS Neverdock, who maintains one of the most comprehensive catalogues of BBC bias on the web.

Atlas links, and also links to this story on the New York Times using US war dead for propaganda. Just like the BBC they've now backtracked. So much bias, so little time...

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27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that, Bro. Personally, the BBC is as entrenched as Goebbel's old Reichministry, and I think you'll only knock them off their perches the same way as we did Goebbels: aerial bombardment.

Anonymous said...

It seems to be a rather widespread phenomena -- media putting their "liberal" urge to change the world ahead of concentrating on honest reporting as to what's going on in it -- and not just in US or Britain.

DB said...

"I stupidly didn't think to screen-grab the headline on the original story"

Having read your account I made a point of doing so.

jonathan riley said...

screenshot

thud said...

The beeb only exists now to enable those who would destroy our freedoms and our beliefs...nothing short of destruction can redeem it.

Mike said...

db and Jonathan: I want to have your babies.

Give me a few minutes with Photoshop…

Michael said...

I agree there is no way this misreporting was an accident and, as you say, it must have involved several reporters and managers.

So, the interesting question is: why correct it at all? I mean, once they have decided to lie to support their political agenda, why not just continue to roll with it? Is it because there are others in the organization who do care about accuracy and could inflict some pain on the rogues who put this up? Are they worried outsiders (politicians, etc.) might get involved? Seriously, what is the perceived threat? They already demonstrated contempt for the truth by lying in the first place and almost certainly don't view a blogger or two as a serious problem. Knowing the precise answer to this question could be useful.

John Trenchard said...

i also screengrabbed the original headline:

over here

Mike said...

Michael:

Good question. I think once they were caught they couldn't just leave it up there. Maybe, like you suggest, they were worried about politicians or industry watchdogs being alerted.

And I'm sure there are journalists at the BBC who are committed to honest reporting – they're just in a minority.

Dom said...

Mike,

"Is it because there are others in the organization who do care about accuracy and could inflict some pain on the rogues who put this up? Are they worried outsiders (politicians, etc.) might get involved?"

I suggest yes and yes. Over the last few years the BBC has been taken to court by the government (the Hutton Inquiry), a slew of insiders have criticised its liberal bias and a number of high profile lawyers not to mention The Telegraph have compiled dossiers on them - it hasn't changed them a great deal, but senior editors will be more cautious when bloggers such as yourself and Charles catch them out. Bear in mind that the market leaders in quality, mid-market and tabloid news are all conservative (The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Sun respectively) which pits them against the BBC/Guardian/Independent angle and ought to keep the "impartial" BBC on its toes. License fees keep going up and it does make the front page.

johnnydee said...

Quit your whining.
Lemme see all the posts you make when FOX News makes misleading, deceitful and plain lying headlines.
Your integrity would be enhanced if you complained across the board at all media manipulation.
Or do the right wing media not have a bias?

Mike said...

Johnnydee…

1. Living in the UK I don't get to see a lot of Fox News. In fact I don't get to see it ever.

2. We're not talking about bias or manipulation, we're talking about proveable lies.

3. When did lefties start caring about integrity?

Quit making yourself look stupid.

Dom said...

johnnydee,

I can't see how a post that intends to inspire integrity can begin by telling someone who is calling the media out on a lie to quit whining. You confused integrity with a popular anti-war agenda, however well-meaning. Mike's posts are about the BBC's integrity - you give a shit or what?

johnnydee said...

Nice dodge.

Are you gonna complain about the right wing media lies/manipulation/deception?

Or does the RW press not have any bias?

Anonymous said...

johnnydee, here's an idea. You show us a left wing site that reports on the left wing lies/manipulation/deception as well as that of the right wing. Give us an example that gives you a basis for your demands of right wing sites.

We're waiting.

Dom said...

johnnydee,

"Are you gonna complain about the right wing media lies/manipulation/deception?

Or does the RW press not have any bias?"

I take it you agree that the BBC told a lie consistent with a left-wing agenda. Since you're all about integrity, I'm sure you care that the BBC has become as openly biased as the generally patriotic Fox News, but if you can identify clear lies on Fox News, by all means blog about it. I'm sure you wouldn't be the first anti-Fox blogger - but one with integrity? I'd be impressed. My experience is that people abuse the notion of integrity - which is essentially doing what you lead people to expect honestly and properly - to smear others without much basis. Mike pointed out a BBC lie. You claimed that the fact he doesn't equate the BBC to Fox is a stain on his integrity - BS. Personally I think it's pretty embarassing that my license fee supports this political agenda - embarassing because I also know what the BBC can be like at it's best. Current affairs shows are generally impressive, and other BBC output can be great, but the whole news outfit is a stain on the integrity of the BBC.

George Junior said...

Only slightly off topic: I searched your site (found via Instapundit) but I couldn't find any mention of the BBC's use of the Deghayes' photo affair - he was recently released from Guantanamo.

I panned the Guardian for it but the BBC was just as guilty. You can find the details here:

http://georgejunior.blogspot.com/2008/03/photo-journalism.html

Laziness, poor research, manipulative journalism or not really something to get worked up about? You be the judge.

G said...

See, the problem with johnnydee is, that since he's a liberal, anything to the right of him is a right-wing conspiracy. By using the liberal tactic of redefining truth to suit his own values, he makes a middle of the road news service like Fox appear to be part of the "vast right-wing conspiracy".
Also, it seems the Brits (BBC) are having a bit of a problem understanding and using the Queen's English.

kcom said...

johnnydee, when paying for Fox News becomes mandatory then you might have a more fitting comparison. As it stands, you can turn off Fox News any time you want and that's the end of it. On the other hand, the BBC gets your money no matter they do. You'd think they would feel just a modicum of responsibility to honestly serve all the people that pay for their existence.

sfcmac said...

The MSM doesn't just cut-an-paste or omit selctions, they make it a point to change the wording to suit their opinions. Joseph Goebbels is smiling.

pettyfog said...

I'm linking you to a few Fulham fans as well.

Good work!

Anonymous said...

Humbert said it best:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
Thank God,
the British journalist.

But seeing what the man will do
unbribed
There's no occasion to.

Anonymous said...

Dom, you whined, "Living in the UK I don't get to see a lot of Fox News. In fact I don't get to see it ever."

Well then, get Sky you cheap-ass. Quit making yourself look stupid.

You guys are freakin paranoid about the BBC. Get a life...

Anonymous said...

You worry about what he said. The rest of the world will judge him by what he did.

Ashok said...

Came in via LGF. Just wanted to thank you for your thorough reporting on this issue, and your making a clear and compelling case for the significance of the headline & sentence in the story.

Sometimes I tend to forget just how damaging media bias against other points of view is, given that I've gotten used to conservatives and thoughtful liberals being smeared in one way or another for a long time now.

Anonymous said...

arrrived from charlescrawford.biz.

Glad i took the trip very interesting journal.

You were once "on" newspaper and if you get a minute why do papers show bylines but not the BBc.?

I ask because although rightly berating the BBc as a whole the berating is more useful if personally directed.
For example David "Hapless" Harabin non scientist BBC science journo is mocked and derided blogwide for his stuff on "global alarmism" which is often... well words fail me!

It must be chastening at the very least to read that the world jeers at your news and regards you as a tosser!

Being held to account presumably helps to extreme bias at bay.

Mike said...

Anon – thanks for dropping by. I'll go check out Mr Crawford.

The BBC does sometimes have bylines on the website, but often the stories are just wire reports from AP, Reuters etc which BBC journalists edit, and to which they add their own editorialising masquerading as 'analysis'. For a good example of this see the post near the top about the BBC report on the latest Iraq casualty numbers.

If someone's name is on a story I'll single them out, but equally deserving of criticism is the 'group think' that prevails at the BBC on issues such as Iraq or global warming.

Harrabin's stuff appears both on the website and on TV. Richard Black is another shameless climate alarmism shill who writes for the website.