Monday, July 28, 2008

Short on global warming alarmism? Make some up!

The BBC has long been famous for passing off global warming fiction as news. And with dearth of fresh alarmist news to report, they've apparently decided that putting global warming propaganda into their fictional output is a more effective means of propagandising – they've resorted to making stuff up about people making stuff up. I have a piece up at Pajamas Media on Burn Up, the atrocious global warming drama that the Beeb screened last week. You can read it here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Red Cross spokeswoman equates Nato with the Taliban over civilian casualties

The BBC has been making hay with the news that a US airstrike in Afghanistan last week apparently killed around 50 civilians, sending its reporters hiking through the mountains to collect first-hand accounts of the tragedy, and generally giving the incident the sort of coverage that it wouldn't give to a story about 50 civilians being killed by the Taliban.

It's no more than we've come to expect from the BBC, and the Western news media in general. But grudging credit where it's due: when Peter Allen of the Beeb's Radio Five Live interviewed Carla Haddad, a spokeswoman from the International Committee of the Red Cross, about the incident he at least attempted to make a distinction between civilians being accidentally killed by Nato forces, and the Taliban's deliberate targeting of civilians.

Haddad was having none of it. Despite being invited to do so by Allen, she refuses to accept that there's any difference between Nato's actions and those of the Taliban, instead falling back on platitudes about appealing to 'all parties' in the conflict, and generally doing a passable imitation of a greased weasel playing Twister.

Here's the interview (I hope – this is my first attempt at recording and embedding audio. Web 2.0? Here at Monkey Tennis Centre we're still at Web 0.05). Allen first talks to a guy from international development think-tank The Senlis Council, who, while not being overly critical of Nato, says it should put more boots on the ground and rely less on airstrikes. He starts talking to Haddad at about 1:45.

In case the clip malfunctions, or disappears, here are the key exchanges:

Peter Allen: When you say you’ve appealed to all parties does that mean you actually talk to the Taliban and say ‘The suicide bombing must stop.’

Carla Haddad: The ICRC is in regular contact with all parties to the conflict, be it Nato/ISAF forces, US-led coalition forces, the Afghan Government or the armed opposition, which includes the Taliban. So the ICRC has contacts with everyone on a regular basis, and tries to remind them regularly of their obligations under international humanitarian law, or what is also called laws of war, which explains that they should distinguish between military objects and civilians.

PA: It’s probably worth pointing out, that of course, that when you get a suicide bomber, quite deliberately they walk into a crowded place and take out a lot of civilians, and do it deliberately, and that, at the least, the allied forces do intend to hit only combatants; they don’t aim for civilians but sometimes they strike them. So there is a difference…

CH: We’re not speculating on… what we’re deploring is the casualties; and many casualties are civilians. Each force has to take into account international humanitarian law and to respect it. We will not speculate we do not know the details of what happened in every single incident. All we can say is that casualties are civilian they are either injured or killed and all parties to the conflict should spare them and should make sure they’re distinguishing between military objects and civilian objects.

As an afterthought, she adds that the ICRC 'deplores' the Taliban's suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul last week. Perhaps she was worried about leaving listeners with the impression that the Red Cross supported it.

There's such a thing as not taking sides in a conflict, but this is ridiculous. The moral equivalence on display is nauseating. Haddad, and her colleagues at the Red Cross, clearly see Nato as no better than the Taliban, and the Taliban as no worse than Nato.

This is the sort of no-fault leftist claptrap that blights the work of not just the ICRC, but the UN and other transnational NGOs. There are no good guys or bad guys, just victims and oppressors, and Nato and the Taliban are equally guilty of oppressing the Afghan people.

Of course it may be that Haddad is personally sympathetic to the Taliban's aims, and just wishes it was a little more discerning in its target selection – you've got to love her characterisation of mass-murdering religious fanatics as 'the armed opposition'.

The line about 'not knowing the details' of various incidents is a transparent cop-out. And does she honestly believe that Nato and US forces need 'reminding' of their obligations under international law?

Like Allen, I'd dearly love to know what form the ICRC's 'regular contact' with the Taliban takes. Does someone from the Red Cross really call up the Taliban to complain about civilian casualties? If so what does the Taliban tell them? "Sorry, that was another software glitch"? or "Our boy mistook that busload of schoolchildren for a Humvee"?

Either Haddad is lying, which is perfectly plausible, or the Taliban is playing the Red Cross for the well-intentioned dupes that they are. Either way, by refusing to concede that the Taliban are the real enemies of the Afghan people, the ICRC is undermining the effort to defeat them, and ensuring that it'll be needed in Afghanistan for a very long time to come.

Then again, maybe they just want to ensure that they're never out of work.

Thanks to Rusty for the link.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

BBC plays 'Guess the Victims' over Jerusalem attack

I also have a piece up at Pajamas Media, on the - probably unintentional - symbolism of a Palestinian using a Caterpillar machine to murder Israelis. You can read it here.

The US media has long enjoyed playing the game of ‘Guess the Party’, wherein the affiliation of Republican politicians accused or convicted of wrongdoing is prominently featured in news reports, while that of misbehaving Democrats is buried in the depths of the story, if it’s mentioned at all.

The BBC appears to have developed a couple of variants on the game – Guess the Nationality of the Victim/Aggressor and Guess the Sex of the Victim – to be played when reporting on deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This morning the Beeb headlined its report on yesterday’s murders of three Israelis by Palestinian Hussam Dwayat ‘Jerusalem attacker acted alone’. The report began:

A Palestinian who went on a bulldozing rampage in west Jerusalem on Wednesday apparently acted alone, Israeli police say, despite claims by militant groups.

Hussam Dwayat was at work on a building site when he drove his front-loader vehicle into the street and started mowing down cars and ramming buses.

He killed three people and wounded dozens more before security personnel climbed on the vehicle and killed him.

The fact that people died doesn’t make it into the headline or the first two paragraphs. And you have to get all the way to paragraph 12 – after the BBC presents a couple of theories for Dwayat’s actions, which, while not exactly excusing the attacks, suggest that the behaviour of Israelis may have driven him to his wits’ end – to find out that two of the dead were women, and beyond that to realise how close Dwayat came to murdering two babies as well.

The BBC also doesn’t mention that the male victim was 68, and soon to be a grandfather. In fact its reporters fail to get so much of what’s relevant into the crucial opening lines of the story that if this was a test-piece in an exam for entry to journalism school they would probably have flunked it – and this despite the fact that BBC reporter Tim Franks watched the whole thing unfold.

Update: The BBC updated the story while I was writing this post, and the details of the victims have been pushed even farther down the report.

Contrast the story with the BBC’s reporting of incidents in which Palestinians are killed by Israeli troops or airstrikes. A quick search of the BBC’s site reveals a steady stream of headlines such as 'Four children die in Gaza strike', 'Palestinian children die in blast', 'Family killed during raid in Gaza' and 'Outrage over killing of Gaza boys'.

If children aren’t mentioned in the headline, they’re invariably mentioned in the first line of the report, and the facts that they were Palestinians, or lived in Gaza, and were killed by Israelis, are also prominent.

Again, contrast that with a February BBC story headlined ‘Gaza rockets injure two Israelis’, in which you have to get to paragraph five to learn that one of the victims was aged eight.

In the case of yesterday’s story the BBC appears more concerned with reassuring readers that Dwayat was some kind of unhinged loner, and not a terrorist. In the process of doing so they’ve essentially relegated the killings to the status of an industrial accident.

Readers’ perceptions are often framed by a quick glance at the headline, or the first paragraph of a story. Casual readers of the BBC’s website must get the impression that the Israelis deliberately target children and other Palestinian civilians on an almost daily basis, while Israelis are occasionally the victim of some mishap or criminal act.

Clearly the BBC doesn’t want its readers to know that Palestinians kill women and children. After all this would undermine the image, so carefully cultivated by the BBC and other media outlets, of Palestinian terrorists as ‘militants’ engaged in a war against an occupying army – or ‘urban guerrillas’, in the words of BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston, the first kidnap victim to develop Stockholm syndrome before being seized.

The tactic is subtle, but very effective, and it stinks to high heaven. But as we’ve seen, if enough people complain, they’ve been known to withdraw lies and misleading reports. You can complain here. has a rather more scientific analysis of bias in BBC headlines and reports.