Monday, February 20

Reporting.

This is interesting:

Did you know that the British Embassy in Iran was attacked with petrol bombs on Tuesday, in an anti-cartoon protest? No, neither did I. You would have known if you lived in Germany, the United Arab Emirates or Taiwan but none of our papers seemed to think that the story was important enough to print. Try doing a News Google and you won't find much from the UK media.


For crying out loud. What is wrong with journalism in this country? British soil is under attack from enemy forces. If this isn't news, what is? A good journalist might tie this story in with the last famous UK-versus-Iran freedom-of-speech case and mention the British Foreign Secretary's assurances that the Iranian Government's assurances that Salman Rushdie was no longer in danger were genuine and believable. But even the thirdest-rate of third-rate reporters should be able to, well, report the incident.

I can't help but wonder what the coverage would be like if Yvonne Fletcher were killed today. Well, OK, it'd be condemnatory, because she was a female police officer — The Sun would no doubt call her a "girl cop" — but what if gunmen fired from the Iranian Embassy and killed a male police officer? Just how much stick would the Government get from the BBC for sending in the SAS? Would they even risk the bad PR? And how many British "peace activists" would try to shield the Embassy from the evil British Government?

Now I think about it, of course, I realise that the media would simply blame Bush & Blair — some blaming them in that indirect, well-those-poor-Iranians-were-provoked sort of way we've become so used to; others just going the whole hog and claiming that the shots were actually fired by CIA operatives. (If only the CIA were good enough to infiltrate an enemy embassy. They can barely infiltrate the CIA.)

In other crap reporting news, there's the current raging "abuse" scandal that's been the main story on the news for a week or so now. Remember, no newspaper or broadcaster in the UK will publish any picture of Mohammed because, so they tell us, it would be wrong for them to upset Muslims. However, every newspaper and broadcaster has published this footage of Iraqis being beaten by British soldiers, while simultaneously informing us that this footage will upset Muslims. (And that alone says something, doesn't it? Why wouldn't the footage upset Christians, who are supposed to be non-violent? And why wouldn't footage of Christians being beaten or, say, having their throats cut upset Muslims? Why, when there is footage of Christians suffering, don't any of our journalists ever think to say that it will upset Christians across the whole world? Because underlying all their reporting on Islam lies the bedrock assumption that all Muslims think alike, that all Muslims react to everything in the same way, that a slight against one Muslim is a slight agaisnt them all. If Islam were a race, I'd call that racist.)

The main thing to bear in mind about this story is that, had the British soldiers simply shot those Iraqis dead, there would be no story. During a war, side A throw grenades at side B and side B react by shooting side A? Big deal. Sure, a lot of people who oppose the war would have continued to do so, but they wouldn't have singled that one story out for special treatment: it would have just been another plank in their general anti-war platform. But merely beating the grenade-throwers gets the Prime Minister apologising and soldiers arrested. What does this tell our soldiers? It tells them: in future, shoot.

The BBC call the grenade-throwers "youths". Quoth Jon:

Ah, yes, youths. Doubtless out scrumping apples when they got jumped by crazed squaddies. Pretty much the whole of the [mainstream media] has taken the same line. I suppose we can count ourselves lucky they didn't go the whole way and call them 'scallywags'.


On the BBC this morning, they were "demonstrators". True, insofar as pretty much any action demonstrates something. Among other things, the youths were demonstrating momentum and thermodynamics.

No report I've seen has managed to mention the youths' throwing of grenades — if it bothered to mention such a minor detail at all — without calling them "home-made" grenades. I don't understand why such an unimportant detail would be reported so thoroughly. After all, our own armed forces are trained to improvise weapons out of whatever's lying around, just in case they find themselves in trouble and unarmed. All "home-made" means is that it didn't come off a production line. Every bomb the IRA ever planted was home-made. A plane was blown out of the sky over Lockerbie by a home-made bomb. Three tube trains and a bus were blown up in London last July by home-made bombs. Is it supposed to make us feel better? Or is it just because the public no longer understand the word "improvised"?

But Alison at Making Headlines has managed to uncover just how bad the reporting really is. After much trawling, she's found this:

(Filed: 23/03/2004)

Fourteen British soldiers were wounded, three seriously, and some set on fire when a demonstration turned violent yesterday in Basra, southern Iraq.


That's the same riot in which the beatings occurred. As Alison points out, since this story was covered by the media at the time, what this means is that, despite the riot being their top story for over a week, they haven't managed to research it to the extent of checking their own, or each others', archives. Pathetic.

John Reid's right:

Troops, he will say, are now operating on an "uneven playing field of scrutiny", where the forces' actions are analysed down to the "level of the single private soldier", while the enemy "refuses any scrutiny at all and endeavours to exploit our highly prized free media against us".


He might want to ask his own Prime Minister and the Ministry of Defense to back him up on that, rather than apologising to the Iraqis who set British troops alight and having the victims arrested.

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