Thursday, January 25, 2007

Neo-imperialist backlash against the BBC

I commented before on the repulsively one-sided briefing by Jeremy Bowen.

In a witty and stylish brief article in The Times, Daniel Finkelstein demonstrates effortlessly how the BBC fails its audience in its reportage on the Middle East (and the GWOT):

...I explain that for most people the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians is like that between the Cypriots. It’s a complicated row between two sets of foreigners making competing claims that are hard for anyone except an expert or a participant to evaluate.

For years that didn’t matter much. A few overexcited people (mark me down as one) arguing about a country the size of a pocket handkerchief somewhere miles away. Israel, Shmisrael. Who cares?

...A few days after 9/11 I watched a television reporter wandering through a street in the Israeli capital. He was telling viewers: “I am here in Jerusalem where it all began and where it will all have to end.” That remark, hotly though I might dispute it (9/11 did not start there and won’t end there), has become the consensus — the road to peace in the world runs through Jerusalem.

And for that reason all those obscure little arguments, all those tit-or-tat arguments between indistinguishable groups that used to seem so boring, are now of first-rate political importance. It really matters whether people understand enough to form a view of their own.

...I think its [the BBC's] staff does genuinely wish to be politically unbiased. If only they always knew how. For on Israel, they (not everyone, of course, but too many reporters and too often) sadly get it wrong over and over again. They mistake reporting equal numbers of deaths from both sides with giving people a complete appreciation of the arguments involved.

He goes on to give some alternative arguments and then finishes with:

You may regard these alternatives as absurd, even offensive. I don’t, but that’s not my point. If you want to report the Middle East in an unbiased fashion, then these arguments must be put before the BBC audience. And how can they be if the Middle East editor doesn’t even acknowledge them?

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