Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Suddenly, CNN is skeptical when a dictator claims US bombs have killed civilians

(Thanks to Protein Wisdom for linking)

My latest post for Big Journalism...

This CNN report by Nic Robertson on funerals for alleged Libyan victims of allied bombing, including civilians, is model of hard-nosed reporting; of refusing to swallow government propaganda, and of speaking truth to power. And this should come as no surprise, since CNN’s track record in challenging Arab dictators’ claims of casualties caused by the American military goes back...

Sorry... CNN’s track record of uncritically accepting Arab dictators’ claims of casualties caused by American bombing goes back to the first Gulf War, when Peter Arnett parroted the Iraqi regime’s version of the Al-Amiriyah shelter incident. During the final stages of the air campaign leading up to the allied ground assault into Kuwait, US aircraft bombed a Baghdad command and control facility; the regime claimed it served a dual purpose as a civilian air raid shelter, and that some 400 old men, women and children were killed. While no transcript of CNN’s coverage apparently survives on line, this self-penned puff-piece by Arnett includes his version of the incident; for a US government account, see the case study in this overview from George W. Bush’s White House of Saddam’s record of faking or deliberately causing civilian casualties to exploit for propaganda purposes (And while this is not the place to revisit the claims and counter claims, I couldn’t help but note that reports by CNN, the BBC and others stating that the casualties were old men, women and children also mentioned that many bodies were so badly burned as to be barely identifiable as human).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Don't the Bush haters at Channel 4 realise Obama's in charge now?

Shortly after US combat search and rescue teams and air support scrambled to rescue the crew of a downed F-15 fighter-bomber last week, the British liberal media scrambled to cover the aftermath of the rescue. Judging by the swiftness with which Lindsey Hilsum of far left-leaning Channel 4 News managed to file this report, it may have been available for consumption by critics of the western intervention in the troubled north African state before the US aircrew were safely aboard the USS Kearsage.

The following short sentence sums up the content and tone of the whole story: "Osprey aircraft came in, all guns blazing, assuming - as the American military tends to do – that this was hostile territory." Hilsum doesn't claim to have seen this with her own eyes, and she doesn't even attribute the account to local eye-witnesses. An unsubstantiated report is reported as settled fact, and this is then filtered through an editorial prism - in what is supposed to be a straight news report – whereby Hilsum claims to be privy to the motivation behind the US forces’ acting as they allegedly did. And the language – ‘all guns blazing’- reads like fiction, or at best gonzo journalism. Does Hilsum know how many guns an Osprey has? Is she sure that they were all firing? And not just firing, but blazing – a word that has no meaning in a factual news report, being used only to suggest that the American fire was reckless and indiscriminate.

Inconveniently for Hilsum, the US military have stated that not only were no shots were fired during the rescue, but that the Ospreys in question were not even armed, instead being protected by a supporting ‘package’ of other aircraft, two of which dropped 500lb bombs during the rescue. So Hilsum is either lying, or passing on the lies of others because they fit her far-left narrative. Neither possibility would bring credit to a programme that holds itself up as a flagship of serious news journalism, but perhaps the show’s agenda – anchorman Jon Snow is a self-avowed leftist – is considered more important than its record.

Hilsum has a track record which includes anti-American reporting from Iraq for the British socialist journal
The New Statesman. Her latest is nothing more than a rehashing of the meme that has arisen in the UK media, going back to Gulf War One, of the US military as gung-ho and heavy handed, often to the detriment of civilians and British forces. (I’ve previously written about it at Big Journalism). Although this media crusade reached critical mass during George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror, when it comes to the employment of American forces against non-westerners, even the Obama administration can’t catch a break from the British media.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

When Muammar met Mandela

Here's a fun clip with which to torment your favourite liberal - Gadaffi being welcomed to South Africa by Nelson Mandela. Going by the attire it seems to be this visit from 1999.

But, you may protest, 'The West cozied up to Gadaffi! Blair visited him!' They certainly did, and they were idiots to do so. But this isn't one of those awkward, staged, diplomatic/business trip encounters. The chemistry between these guys is electric.

Thanks to the peerless Peter Hitchens for the tip-off. He mentions the video in one of his posts on Libya, all of which are well worth your time.

Coincidentally, Thomas Friedman is hoping for some Arab Mandelas!

Just a reminder: the cuts aren't as bad as Labour and the BBC would have you believe

As London clears up after yet another anti-cuts riot, the Mail on Sunday's Stephen Glover reminds us how relatively minor the cuts actually are, and why they're necessary.
The extreme severity of the cuts is now accepted as universally as are the laws of gravity. Even many card-carrying Tories will unthinkingly assume that the marchers have a reasonable case, though they may disapprove of the way in which it is expressed.

No one, or almost no one, will point out the amazing truth, which is that these cuts — variously described as ‘savage’ or ‘draconian’ or, by the TUC, as a ‘massacre’ — are actually comparatively mild. Far from being ‘slashed’, public expenditure at the end of the process in 2014-15 will be a mere three per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2009-10 before the cuts began.
That wasn’t a misprint. Three per cent lower. In 2009-10, government spending was £669 billion. In 2014-15 it is projected to be £647 billion, if you strip out the effects of inflation, or an estimated £764 billion if it is included. Expenditure will be £710 billion in 2011-2012, so in money terms it has already gone up.
The above shouldn't detract from the real hardship that many people will suffer as a result of the cuts, but as Glover points out, the scale of the cuts is an order of magnitude less severe than Labour, the unions and their media allies would have you believe...
But the three per cent figure is not what the overexcited and angry marchers will hear from a succession of speakers during the marathon rally in Hyde Park this afternoon, who will include TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, as well as Ed Miliband.

The audience will be roused to a state of fury with scare stories about plummeting police numbers and the impending privatisation of the NHS. They will hear about libraries up and down the country closing as a result of wicked Coalition policies, and the hairs on the backs of their necks will bristle as they are told about the inevitable collapse of the welfare state.
Glover goes on to remind us how Gordon Brown, ably assisted but current Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, got Britain into this mess...
In other words, Gordon Brown went on a massive bender, splashing out ever larger sums of money on new hospitals and new schools — sometimes to dishearteningly little effect — before producing a final splurge in order to alleviate the worst effects of the recession. During these ten years, the proportion of GDP eaten up by public spending rose from 36 per cent to 48 per cent, the highest ever peace-time figure.
The report by Tim Morgan which Glover references is here.

BBC tries to play down violent aftermath of union-backed protests endorsed by Miliband

Peter Hitchens writes in The Mail on Sunday about the BBC's appallingly biased reporting in the build-up to yesterday's union-organised rally/family fun day/full-scale riot in London - you need to scroll a good way down the Mail's comprehensive report on yesterday's events to get to his contribution. Hitchens writes about how the BBC's Newsnight and Radio 4's Today programme gave predictably sympathetic coverage to the anti-cuts protestors.

This morning the Corporation (I used to use 'the Beeb' as an alternative reference for the BBC, but I've decided that's far too twee and cuddly-sounding – 'Corporation' better evokes the vast and sinister nature of the organisation) is in full damage-limitation mode, after the rally and march were followed by widespread violence.

The headline on the BBC's website (my bold) is 'TUC condemns post-rally violence', and the sub-heading is 'Union leaders who organised an anti-cuts protest condemn later violence in London's Trafalgar Square in which some 200 people were arrested'.

(The story itself is placed below a report on a murder which, horrific as it is, only affects and is of interest to a handful of people, in a further attempt to minimise its significance).

The second paragraph of the main report says: 'Hours after a peaceful march to Hyde Park, there were clashes between police and protesters in Trafalgar Square.

All of this is a lie.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vintage Chomsky: Wisconsin the same as Egypt; Obama worse than Bush

Noam Chomsky shows he hasn't lost his sense of perspective as he discusses events in the Middle East with Jeremy Paxman for the BBC's Newsnight programme.

Amid the boilerplate about the West's support for dictators, and the perfectly sensible suggestion that the West shouldn't get involved in Libya because it's a civil war, there are a couple of Chomskyesque gems.

At around the 2.30 mark Chomsky relates how an Egyptian labour/labor leader sent a message of solidarity to protestors in Madison, Wisconsin. "In Madison they're trying to preserve aspects of democracy that are under serious attack," he tells Paxman. "In Egypt they're trying to gain rights that have been denied them. The trajectories are crossing but they're going in opposite directions."

You heard it here first. In a few short years the workers of Egypt will be enjoying a 30-hour week and universal healthcare, and retiring on final salary pensions at 50. Meanwhile those workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere in America who are lucky enough to have a job will be eking out a living selling kebabs, collecting scrap metal or hand-crafting clay bricks, and living in constant fear of arrest should they even think about protesting against President-for-life Palin.

Chomsky then comes out (at around the five-minute mark) with an observation that conservatives can at least agree on, albeit for different reasons. Asked by Paxman if Obama has proved to be no better than Bush, Chomsky replies "In many ways he’s worse".

For some reason Paxman - who you’d think would be familiar with Chomsky’s off-the-reservation brand of leftism - is taken aback with this and asks him to elaborate. It’s predictably downhill for there: “escalating war in Afghanistan... supporting criminal acts by Israel... Nuremberg trials... yadda yadda...”

Paxman has a reputation for being a formidable interviewer, so his inability - or reluctance - to seriously challenge the worst of Chomsky's nonsense ("Turkey is a respected country" was another corker) is disappointing. There's a fuller version of the interview here, but it's probably not available outside the UK.