Why does the BBC sneer about Britain’s recovery but go crazy if Euroland’s corpse so much as twitches?
- Stephen Glover
In fact I suspect the UK’s “recovery” is as bogus as the Euro-zone’s “recovery” but the approach of the BBC is nevertheless… interesting… in a very predictable sense.
The odds of people dying in a terrorist attack obviously are still a lot lower than in a car accident, unfortunately.
- President of the USA Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, speaking on the Jay Leno show
So here we have a newspaper proprietor that declines to spend company money on non-commercial activity, that is entrepreneurial, likes to legally avoid tax, invests in space, and is accused of being a libertarian. This is, I think, very good news.
- Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home writes about the news that Jeff Bezos has just bought the Washington Post. I hope Simon is right about Bezos. Is he?
Once upon a time there was a wise princess. She lived in a magic castle together with her friends, who were also wise. One day, the princess, taking pity on the ignorance of the common folk, decided to go among them and teach them.
Alas! Some rough people said rude and nasty things to the princess. She had to run back to her castle and issue a proclamation. This what it said: Anthea Butler: Conservatives bashed me for speaking out about the Zimmerman verdict.
The princess was very sad. She even wondered if the people were worthy to go on being allowed to hear her wise words.
What is the role of a public intellectual in the age of Twitter and soundbites? Is it to share your thoughts for the public good, or is it to curate the heaps of hate emails, tweets and right-wing articles that trash your intellectual and social work?
The princess felt that she had to choose between sharing her wisdom and keeping a record of all the bad things the rough people had said to her. Why she felt that way, we do not know, but we know the reason was wise.
Anyway, the princess held her head high as befitted her rank. Who cares what peasants say anyway? Then she had a good idea. She gave herself a medal.
In the age of conservative grievances about education however, how many people will be willing to go through what I do every time I publish an op-ed or in order to share what they have spent a lifetime to learn?
As recently reported by the McClatchy Newspapers, the Obama administration views whistleblowing and leaks as a species of terrorism. According to McClatchy: “President Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of ‘insider threat’ give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct. … Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.”
Glenn Reynolds, talking about the role of leakers and whistleblowers.
This can be a complex issue, for all that I share much of what Reynolds says. Take, say, Switzerland, famous for its bank secrecy laws. What happens if an employee of a bank (this has actually happened in real life) gets all upset about the fact that, due to the laws, he or she cannot divulge the identity of a client even that client might be avoiding or evading taxes? (In the latter case, evasion is not a crime in Switzerland, but tax fraud is. The difference is technical). Now, suppose that person divulges all to Wikileaks, or the local Swiss newspaper, or the New York Times. Is he or she a hero? Well, if you hate Swiss banks and think its 1934 law is an abomination and that everything should be out in the open, maybe. (It might be worth noting that the person is not forced to work in a bank if he or she finds it objectionable.) But clearly, privacy, confidentiality, or call it what you will, is something that a lot of law-abiding people worry about. The same might apply in a case, where, say, a person who works for a pornography video firm starts, after having suddenly developed a “conscience”, to start sending out the names and addresses of the people who have bought videos or downloaded the stuff.
Whistleblowers can and do do a vital job and sometimes their lives are made very uncomfortable about it. There is the recent case of a person who tried to alert the public about the dreadful situation in the Mid-Staffordshire part of the UK National Health Service, for instance.
I guess one broad way to consider the issue is that with governments, unlike private sector companies, the former are paid for by taxes, and the taxpayers are entitled to expect those bodies to be run appropriately. Although watchdogs and politicians in theory are supposed to enable this to happen, in practice, monopolistic organisations with the powers of coercion are vulnerable to abuse. I have already mentioned the NHS. Consider also the less-than-perfect UK police force, which has been mired in various corruption scandals in recent years, or the BBC, the state-privileged UK broadcaster that for years allowed a paedophile by the name of Jimmy Savile to work there (although it is not known if the BBC ever had enough evidence to kick him out). In these sort of cases, a leaker of information can do the public a favour. The risk of leaks is also one of those things that keeps organisations on their toes – well, good. On the other hand, journalists need to use a bit of commonsense so they don’t become the tools of someone else’s agenda. Not all leakers are heroes, or even all that bothered about issues of liberty and justice.
One issue of course is that while it is right for a whistleblower to blab to the press about a systemic problem, it is and can be wrong to leak in cases where a private individual’s privacy and welfare might be put at risk. And for that matter, where a leaker passes on information that might aid an enemy force and endanger lives (this is sometimes argued to be the case with some of the Wikileaks stuff about the Middle East), this also crosses a line.
As far as the Obama, or indeed any other administration, is concerned, fighting against leakers may sometimes be necessary, but by and large, the best way to avoid problems in the first place is to do fewer shameful and stupid things that people want to leak about. And the Obama administration seems to be intent on collecting scandals the same way that some folk collect stamps.
Meanwhile, it appears Mr Snowden cannot find a country that will have him.
What’s the difference between Fleet Street and Hacked Off?
One is a consortium of the rich and powerful with little respect for the law that has been given unwarranted access to our government, and the other… waaait a minute.
- Solent Minor
“Journalists have to get more creative and entrepreneurial. And I think that’s the problem. There’s not a less risk-taking crowd than a bunch of journalists who like to tell everyone how to run their businesses and then, like, couldn’t run a business to save their life.”
- Kara Swisher
She was quoted on this Linkedin page here – so readers might have to log in first if they are members.
In fact, quite a lot of the journalists I know and have worked with in the smaller, more startup-style organisations are pretty entrepreneurial. They have to be. Even the process of cultivating new sources, raising awareness of who you are and what you cover, represents a sort of adventurous frame of mind that gels with business to some extent. Of course, there are journalists who despise business, want to just bank a paycheck, do a 9-5 fixed day and no more. And they tend to have a romantic view of “old Fleet Street” and its foreign equivalents, dreaming of the great days of 4-hour lunch breaks, expense accounts and all the rest of it. But in some respects that mindset is not as prevalent as it used to be, at least not based on my own personal experience.
Of course, such journalist/entrepreneurs are also, by and large, more resistant, one hopes, to the desire of the State to regulate the media in the manner suggested by the recent Leveson Report in the UK, which seems, I hope, to have lost some of its momentum (I live in hope).
At Bloomberg, it appears that some of the staff there have been a tad too entrepreneurial, if allegations are to be believed.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists are an interesting outfit, a group crowd sourcing denouncing people to various states across the globe.
Just as we see the edifying example of Edward Snowden revealing routine US surveillance of hundreds of millions of people, we have as a counterpoint the ICIJ, who are folks that clearly think there is not nearly enough surveillance being carried out by nation states… and so they want to see if like minded folks can help nations worldwide ensure there is nowhere anyone can keep their money free from appropriation by the world’s tax men.
The ICIJ no doubt warms the cockles of Tory leader Dave Cameron’s heart as much as the likes of Edward Snowden scare the crap out him.
Yet I suspect many people who have not really thought this through very well might assume people like NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden on one hand, and the ICIJ on the other, are actually doing much the same thing.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Last night I, and millions of others, saw a little bit of television history. Television history is not when they do a particularly fine historical drama. It is when the drama happens to television itself. Yesterday it did, to Greek television anyway, when Greece’s equivalent of the BBC was shut down, in mid show, live, on television. The BBC showed it, last night. Then they showed one of the sackees saying, in English, to the BBC, that the public sector of Europe was indeed rather too “bloated”.
Someone described in the headline above this piece as the “Europe TV chief” has said that Greek TV should be switched back on immediately:
The head of Europe’s public broadcasters has arrived in Greece to show support for 2,600 fired state TV and radio staff and demand that the country’s conservative government put the stations back on the air.
I had not realised that there was a “head of Europe’s public broadcasters”. Blog and learn.
Jean-Paul Philippot, president of the Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, said he would meet with Greece’s Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to hand him a petition signed by 51 European broadcast executives calling for the broadcaster’s signal to be restored immediately.
A “petition”, “calling for” business as usual to be restored forthwith. Yes, that’ll do it. Clearly, these people fear that they and their underlings could be next, as they could if the Euro-crisis gets worse, as it will.
What I particularly like about this drama is that it changes what is imaginable. Public opinion does not tend to waste its time desiring what is unimaginable. But when what is unimaginable becomes imaginable by actually happening, that can also change what is then desired.
Do yourself a favour. Just stop watching ‘the news’. Every time in the future you might then occasionally re-watch it, it becomes extremely obvious how manipulated it is, and how the obvious answer to virtually every ‘problem’ it discusses, is that the government should get booted out of whichever area the ‘problem’ is in (e.g. the NHS, various fomented wars around the world, the state of the roads).
It becomes blindingly obvious that private enterprise, the free market, and free competition should be employed instead, which is why you constantly hear about failures of the NHS to supply health services, but never hear stories about semi-free supermarkets failing to deliver food services.
- Andy Duncan
Nile Gardiner has this to say about the Obama administration:
This week, thanks to unprecedented levels of Congressional and mainstream media scrutiny of the actions of the Obama administration, the American people have been given a powerful insight into the way in which this presidency has operated. For far too long, the Obama administration has acted like an imperial court rather than a government that is accountable to the nation. The White House’s culture of arrogance and impunity, coupled with a deeply unpleasant vindictiveness, is increasingly there for all to see. Suppression of political dissent, a callous disregard for the loss of American life in Benghazi, and the relentless rise of big government – these will be three of the most of enduring images of Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.
In some ways, however, one could argue that the thuggery, deviousness and unpleasantness of this administration – and let’s not forget the Fast and Furious scandal, which is arguably the worst of all of them – in some ways shows that Barack Obama and his colleagues are not particularly crafty men (and women). If they were really as smart as some think, they would not have allowed some of these disasters to have seen the light of day. Perhaps what the stories suggest is that – as Brian Micklethwait suggested in a comment thread note the other day – that years of enjoying a placid, supine MSM meant that Obama and his colleagues got cocky. They probably thought that no matter how bad behaviour was, whether it was the ACORN episode, the blame-the-other-side nonsense over the budget impasse, Fast and Furious, Libya, insults to old friends (the UK, Poland), failure to shut down Gitmo (as promised), the IRS harassments, the AP phone record stories, etc, etc, that nothing would happen. Jon Stewart would continue to mock mostly Republicans. The MSM would, at most, treat these and other episodes as distractions. (At Reason magazine, here is an example, nicely dissected.) But I think what the administration failed to see is that even in a situation like this, cockiness will lead to a series of disasters and scandals so bad that even usual allies wake up. There is a certain inevitability. The passing of time means memories of how glamorous and appealing Obama seemed have faded.
Another point is that when Obama was elected, the expectation was enormous, although commentators at the time, such as Glenn Reynolds in the US and James Delingpole in Britain pointed out the gulf between the rhetoric, the image, and the reality. That gap has become so vast, and so difficult to ignore, that the media coverage of Obama is getting worse and worse. And all the while voters in the US are understanding that the sort of people who run the IRS will be running healthcare. Marvellous.
Eventually, even Andrew Sullivan will slag him off. Then it’s all over.
Within hours of the July 7 2005 bombings in London, the BBC stealth-edited its reports so that any references to “terrorists” that had initially appeared were changed to “bombers” or a similar purely descriptive, non-judgmental term. This was done in response to a memo from Helen Boaden, then Head of News. She did not want to offend World Service listeners. Given this reluctance to use the word “terrorist”, suspended for a few hours when terrorism came to its front door and then reimposed, I often wondered what it would take for the BBC to rediscover the ability to use words that imply a moral judgment.
One answer was obvious. It was fine to describe bombing as a “war crime” if it was carried out by the Israeli air force.
But in general as the years have gone by the BBC stuck to what it knew best: obfuscation. For instance, this article from last December, describing how fifteen Christians had their throats slit in Nigeria described the perpetrators as the “Islamist militants Boko Haram”. In venturing to describe the murders as a massacre, that article went further than most; the bombings of churches in Nigeria by Boko Haram are routinely described in terms of “unrest”, or as “conflict” – as if there were two sides killing each other at a roughly equal rate.
However, on Sunday I observed something I had not seen before. An atrocity carried out by Muslims against Christians was described as an “atrocity”. It happened in 1480, but still.
The BBC report says,
Pope Francis has proclaimed the first saints of his pontificate in a ceremony at the Vatican – a list which includes 800 victims of an atrocity carried out by Ottoman soldiers in 1480.
They were beheaded in the southern Italian town of Otranto after refusing to convert to Islam.
A reminder that “martyr” used to mean someone who died for his faith rather than killed for it. A reminder also of a centuries-long struggle against invading Islam that has been edited out of our history. You can bet the Seige of Vienna, which proved to be the high water mark of the Ottoman tide, does not feature in any GCSE syllabus. Nor does the rematch one and a half centuries later. The epic Seige of Malta was once celebrated in song and story, but don’t expect to see a BBC mini-series about it any time soon. Damian Thompson recently said a lot of what I had been thinking when he wrote about the the mass canonisation of the martyrs of Otranto in the Telegraph (subscription may be required):
Martyred for Christ: 800 victims of Islamic violence who will become saints this month
The cathedral of Otranto in southern Italy is decorated with the skulls of 800 Christian townsfolk beheaded by Ottoman soldiers in 1480. A week tomorrow, on Sunday May 12, they will become the skulls of saints, as Pope Francis canonises all of them. In doing so, he will instantly break the record for the pope who has created the most saints.
I wonder how he feels about that. Benedict XVI announced the planned canonisations just minutes before dropping the bombshell of his own resignation. You could view it as a parting gift to his successor. Or a booby trap.
The 800 men of Otranto – whose names are lost, except for that of Antonio Primaldo, an old tailor – were rounded up and killed because they refused to convert to Islam. In 2007, Pope Benedict recognised them as martyrs “killed out of hatred for the faith”. That is no exaggeration. Earlier, the Archbishop of Otranto had been cut to pieces with a scimitar.
There are, however, good secular reasons for welcoming this canonisation. Our history is distorted by a nagging emphasis on Christian atrocities during the Crusades combined with airbrushing of Muslim Andalusia, whose massacre of Jews in 1066 and exodus of Christians in 1126 are rarely mentioned. Otranto reminds us that Islam had its equivalent of crusaders – mighty forces who nearly captured Rome and Vienna.
The Muslim Brotherhood is still committed to a restored Caliphate; this week its supporters prophesied the return of a Muslim paradise to Andalusia. These are pipe dreams, it goes without saying. But they matter because they inspire freelance Islamists whose fascination with southern Europe has nothing to do with welfare payments. They think of it as theirs because they know bits of history that we’ve forgotten.
Our amnesia comes in handy in dialogue with Muslims: we grovel a few apologies for the Crusades, sing the praises of the Alhambra, and that’s it. But what does this self-laceration achieve? Arguably it’s counterproductive, because it shows Muslims that we’re ashamed of our heroes as well as our villains. Which is why the mass canonisation of 800 anonymous men is so welcome: it ensures that, even though the West has forgotten their names, it won’t be allowed to forget their deaths.