Monday, January 19, 2009

Self-congratulatory Media

Balancing act in an asymmetric war, by Chris Curtis, Broadcast Magazine, 16th Jan 2009.

I read through this piece expecting to find mealy- mouthed justification and plain lying, and I was not disappointed.

'BBC World News editor John Williams says the ban on journalists travelling into Gaza has made reports from around the region all the more important' Er, that doesn't make any sense. If the story is in Gaza, how does a piece from Ankara shed light on it? Making even less sense are his quoted words "Because we have bureau in Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Cairo and Beirut, we can put the pieces of the jigsaw together". I thought you said you couldn't get into Gaza, and now you say you've got a whole bloody bureau there? So lets see, there was no ban on journalists travelling into Iraq, yet the BBC coverage from there was appalling- scanty, biased and highly selective. Yet Gaza has a permanent bureau. How many 'bureau' staff do you need to cover one tiny strip of land so narrow you can see all the way across it?

'...Channel 4 News foreign editor Ben de Pear: "I've been surprised by the extent to which Israel has attempted to control the story, but Gaza is a chaotic place and it hasn't been as watertight as it wanted". There's one in the eye for those evil Israelis huh? Sadly Bendy doesn't mention any actual things that Israel did in 'attempting to control the story'. I hear and read that a lot, but nobody has mentioned any actual things done by Israel. They excluded the international journos from Gaza, but how many would have actually walked into that maelstrom of missiles, mortars and jdams? Not only that, but EVERY SINGLE BBC piece included the exclusion 'warning' at the beginning.

There is this hilarious bit of flummery at the end- 'Perhaps the best way to ensure impartiality is to be criticised for bias in equal measure by both sides'. Really? That rule would stand up to zero critical thought. Impartiality would mean reporting what happened, regardless of whose 'narrative' it suited. It would mean gathering the facts, and then relaying them to the audience, in as straightforward way as possible. But British politics (and let it never be forgotten that the BBC is a state broadcaster) means that telling the unalloyed truth about what goes on in Israel and its environs would send the muslims in Britain into paroxysms of anti-British hate. British muslims are very very easy to piss off, have no self-control or desire for self-control, and allow themselves to be used by extremists all the time to blackmail our politicians and civil society. Straight reporting of the facts about palestinian arab stupidity and self-destruction would 'enflame community relations', so it doesn't happen.

I watched many news bulletins during the three weeks of military ops, and not once did I hear anybody on the BBC refer to Hamas as a terrorist organisation, despite the fact that the US, Britain, Canada and the EU all have Hamas on their list of proscribed terrorist organisations. If I go out and collect money on the street corner for Hamas, I can go to prison. Yet this article calls them 'an irregular band of guerilla fighters with inferior firepower and medical infrastructure.' You know, a bit like Robin Hood. Enormous quantities of relevant facts were omitted from broadcast after broadcast about these merry men. Many times it was mentioned that Hamas won an election in Gaza; never mentioned was the disgusting little war which followed the election, where Fatah operatives and politicians were murdered in the street, thrown from buildings and tortured to death. Also strangely absent is any mention of the NEXT election, which everybody in the media know will never occur because there is now no opposition of any kind to Hamas in Gaza.

Over and over again, TV broadcasts presented the same rigid set of 'facts': the palestinian casualty count, the proportion (pure guesswork) of civilian casualties, the number of days the Israelis had been bombarding, a run-through of which cities had anti-Israel marches and some boilerplate about 'terrible destruction'. And of course, that they couldn't report from inside Gaza because of the dastardly Israelis.

Missing from these reports? Every kind of historical context, military assessment and political analysis. In the same way that stories about the IRA and northern Ireland never mentioned the REASON why Catholic ulstermen wanted to kill and maim Protestant ulstermen (and vice versa), we pick up the story as if it just started last weekend. The story doesn't even reach back as far as the Israeli withdrawal from Gush Khatif and the rest of the strip. I remember only one broadcast that mentioned this extremely pertinent fact. Every broadcast from the BBC belittled Qassams and BM-21s, making out that they were annoying firecrackers. Wouldn't we all love to see every BBC newsreader have to put up with incoming Qassams for three years. There was virtually no reporting of the military situation- no effort to analyze the tactics being used by both sides, no effort to devine intent or mission goals. Thats probably because as soon as you start analysing Hamas's tactics, things start getting disgusting. Who stores their explosives unders schools, mosques and family homes, other than vile barbarians? Can you imagine if it was the Israelis doing that?

There was no political analysis of why Hamas had provoked this confrontation with Israel. No BBC person I saw at any stage seemed interested in that vital issue. Forget for a moment the issue of land rights: what about simple rational calculation of interest? How could it possibly be rational to provoke Israel to tear apart the Gaza strip to destroy Hamas, when the human catastrophe would be inevitable? Never heard a peep. Presumably the BBC has bought into the idea that sacrificing Gazan civilian lives on the altar of Hamas propaganda is worth it in the long haul. Utterly disgusting.

The penultimate paragraph says 'The consensus among broadcasters is that the industry worked hard to produce strong, balanced coverage of a politically and emotionally sensitive conflict'. Can't... express... feelings... words... won't... come...

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