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:
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...
You might also enjoy:
Clooney sells watches while the Chinese shoot monks
Gazans driving Caterpillars; Rachel Corrie spinning in grave