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Straight face on insanity

Watching Britain’s Channel 4 news channel last night, I was treated to the amazing scene when its main newscaster, Jon Snow, announced that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been reelected by more than 99 percent of the vote. No mention was made of the fact that the elections did not permit anyone else but Hussein to stand, thereby rendering the vote’s outcome a total farce. What was even more bizarre was how Snow – a man of the Left – announced the result with a totally straight face.

To be fair, the programme’s subsequent coverage of the poll highlighted its essentially coercive nature. Even so, Snow’s performance was telling.

14 comments to Straight face on insanity

  • Good Lord! Rush Limbaugh was making just this point on the radio yesterday and I was laughing at the silliness of the US Liberal Media. For some reason after listening to the tongue-in-cheek coverage the “election” got on Tuesday’s Today programme, I thought we were a bit better off. Obviously not.

  • A_t

    yesyes!! it’s all a massive liberal conspiracy so that we can be ruled by ruthless moustached bastards. John Snow, and indeed the entire Channel 4 news team actually hate democracy, & would love to see elections like the Iraqui ones over here very soon.

    On the other hand…
    who in this country doesn’t know Saddam’s a tyrant? Who didn’t know there was only 1 candidate on the ballot?

    I hear the paranoia decreases greatly as soon as you stop hitting the crack pipe.

  • Illuminatus

    The last comment by A_T missed the point. Channel 4 did indeed mention, later, the farcical nature of the election, but Snow’s delivery was still a joke, as if describing a serious election.

    No one would like to see genuine democracy in Iraq more than Samizdata contributors. Nuff said.

  • A_t: the way Jon Snow reported the news of the Iraqi ‘elections’ is telling. It tells of how biased the newsreader is and how his confused socialist mind and hatred of all things US enables him to report this travesty of voting as a serious new item.

    It is not us with our alledged paranoia but the reporter announcing that a dictator was reelected by more than 99 percent of the vote with a straight face, who has serious problems with reality.

  • Russell Whitaker

    Fox News’ coverage of the farce has been appropriately hilarious: their reporters can’t even keep a straight face when reporting the Iraqi election results.

  • The NY Times had a similar story, calling the election “a show of loyalty.” They weren’t really in favor of it, but sometimes objectivity is really not objective. Link

  • I actually thought C4 coverage was quite good in comparison to the BBC at six. The BBC covered the ‘election’ without bothering to mention its coercive nature and stressed the popularity of Saddam.

  • A_t

    well… it does have to be said, he does enjoy *some* popular support, & it’s probably bolstered by seeing him stand up to ‘global bullies’. All the evidence doesn’t point to support for Saddam collapsing the minute defeat looks likely (though it’d be nice if that was the case). This is not to defend the man in any way, or to pretend that he’d win a genuine free election.

    & do you expect Channel 4 news to mock the elections? Even if events are ridiculous, if they’re important, they cover them in a sober way. That’s what they do. If you want news that comes with opinion built in, there are plenty places you can look…. eg. Fox.

  • And here is another blogger who found the omission of coercion an appalling example of reportage. Backs up my anecdote on the BBC


  • Tom

    This A_T guy doesn’t get it, does he? He, or maybe it is a she, says the elections are “important” Important, to whom, exactly? I guess Saddam needs to convince some idiotarians out there, but surely the “importance” of such elections is non-existent. I stand by the fact that newscasters should at the very least have noted, from the start, the essentially rigged nature of those elections. There was nothing sober or objective about Snow’s performance the other night. It was a joke.

  • A_t

    My point is this:

    however ridiculous Saddam’s behaviour, it’s a serious matter, particularly if you think he’s a threat. The behaviour of someone you’re possibly due to go to war with should not be a laughing matter. Channel 4 news aims at a particular, literate section of the population. I’d be very very surprised to find a single viewer who got the impression that the elections were meaningful, at least in the sense that ours are. They are however meaningful, if only to expose Saddam’s hypocrisy & tyranny. By holding these elections, Saddam is forcing his people to acknowledge their ‘approval’ of his rule. To laugh at that would, in my book, be disrespectful. All I want from my news are the facts. I can then make up my own mind whether to laugh, cry, or remain impassive.

  • A_t is really off the mark here. I remember several ‘elections’ communist style – 100% turnout, 100% vote for whatever commies where in the government/party at the time. Yes, some people supported communism because they benefited from it and perhaps believed the anti-capitalist/western propaganda.

    This, however, did not make the exercise any more legitimate or less oppressive! It was just a routine functioning of the regime and in no way expression of free support or electoral rights! I am convinced it is the same in Iraq. In an oppressive regime, the popular support is impossible to gauge. I can see similarities between the personality cult of Stalin (and other communist leaders) – the fervent displays of devotion beyond the wildest imagination of a free citizen in the western world – and the images of Iraqi demonstrations and voting for Saddam.

    Also, the ‘victories’ of the Soviet empire over the US and the ‘capitalist imperialists’ had absolutely no effect whatsoever on whatever popular support there might have been for communism within the Eastern bloc. It just doesn’t work that way.

    And yes, A_t, I have met Muslims, London is awash with them, both educated ones and the fundamentalist ones. For example, I know an educated (worked for 16 years for KPMG in UK in a senior position) and devout (prays 5x a day, doesn’t drink, lives honestly etc) one. His view is yes, 9/11 was horrible etc, BUT the US this and that and Israel and blah, blah… It is that BUT that I object to and what may turn him into my enemy.

    There simply is no but when it comes to terrorism and both types of Muslims – the extremist as well as the silent ones must get the message. No amount of perceived wrongdoing by the US can justify attrocities that has been committed by Islamic extremists.

  • I think the Iraqi elections were certainly newsworthy, but reporting on them as though they were a serious event is worse than worthless. Objectivity is sometimes impossible, and acting like it is always possible gives people a skewed impression of the media (and makes the media look like morons).

    Tom: I doubt that any serious anti-war commentators would use the “election” as evidence of anything other than Saddam’s tyranny. Even Noam Chomsky (who I’m guessing you would consider the archetypal “idiotarian”) thinks Saddam is an evil tyrant.

  • A_t

    Adriana, i think you misunderstood me. I wasn’t in any way at all suggesting the elections were anything less than a farce. However, I felt they were a pretty sinister farce, & it would be in poor taste for a usually sober programme to adopt a humourous tone when reporting on them.

    Also, if the BUT is enough to make your Muslim friend into a potential enemy, then you can count a large number of non-muslim UK citizens, myself included, in that group too. Are we to believe the US’s foreign policy has been lily-white? That every single injustice which fuels popular resentment among people who harbour and support terrorists is merely ‘perceved’?

    This isn’t in *any* way to justify terrorism; it’s just pragmatism. If you can see practical, non-harmful steps; making foreign policy rather more ethical, for instance, which might decrease popular support for terrible actions such as 9/11 and the recent attack in Bali, it’s not ‘giving in’, or following the terrorists’ agenda; it’s acting in a responsable manner and safeguarding your own country. To claim that we’ve always been right, and anything a terrorist group suggests is wrong is plain black & white stupidity. Their methods may be wrong, but say some stupid vigilante idiots started shooting people in the name of some of the things advocated by this site, and the libertarian movement in general, would that suddenly make these ideas devoid of worth?

    And before anyone starts on me, no i’m not in any way whatsoever suggesting i’d like to live under sharia law, or anything like that. I love living in a liberal democracy, much as i may complain about things. What I’m suggesting though (and feel free to contest this), is that Bin Laden etc. get a lot of tacit support from people who probably don’t actually want a fundamentalist state etc., but who feel wronged by the US & the West in general. To dismiss these claims without even looking at them, to make this into an oppositional ‘us or them’ thing is very very counterproductive.

    Also, let’s not get the Iraq & the Muslim fundamentalist thing confused; they may be part of the same general anger/resentment towards the US and ourselves, but they’re very very different phenomenae. As has been stated in many publications recently, Iraq’s probably the most secular state in the entire Middle East, including Israel.