Saturday, October 08, 2005

Guardian Shows Its Stupidity

Rarely have I read a dumber article:
BBC programme editors turned lukewarm on a claim by a BBC2 programme that George Bush believed God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan after a strong denial by the White House.
So far, no problems... but as the article progresses, its intense dislike for President Bush take root in what is supposed to be a news article.
In the programme, Palestinian minister Nabil Shaath said Mr. Bush had told them during a meeting in June 2003 that God had given him a mission to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and also to create a Palestinian state.

Abu Mazen, another minister attending same meeting, said Mr Bush had told him: I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."
No mention of past claims made by Shaath (or Abbas) which later turned out to be false, nor any questioning as to why this is only being talked about two-and-a-half years later. This alone is not all that important, but worth noting. The latter portion of the article is where things get more interesting: [Also interesting is the reference to Abu Mazen as 'another minister' - do they not realize he is the Prime Minister? Even if he wasn't PM then, wouldn't his statement carry more weight than Shaath's?]
As the BBC release was embargoed until 10.30pm yesterday, it had been expected the story was being saved for the corporation to break and would first appear on BBC2's Newsnight.

Yesterday afternoon, as newspapers and other agencies began inquiring into the story, the White House refused to comment. But later in the day a spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Mr Bush had "never made such comments."

However, Mr McClellan admitted he had not been at the June 2003 meeting referred to in the BBC2 programme.
The implication is that McClellan is 'admitting' that he really has no idea as to what happened in the room, and his denials are baseless. This is complete idiocy. McClellan is the White House spokesman, and is not expected to sit through meetings with foreign dignitaries. His job consists of telling the media the White House's stance on a given matter. The White House stated the story was untrue - McClellan's personal experience in the matter is meaningless.
Newsnight decided not to run the story. The official reason given was that the running order was packed and included another story about Mr Bush.

Subsequently, the Today programme also decided not to cover it - except in its newspaper round-up.

However, after it appeared in most of the national newspapers, BBC Breakfast featured an item, while Radio 1, 5 Live, News 24 and BBC online also ran it.

But the BBC News website's coverage was distinctly lukewarm - running the story under the headline "White House denies Bush God claim", rather than the press release's headline of "God told me to invade Iraq, Bush tells Palestinian ministers".
Another idiotic comment - whom should be more trusted, the Palestinian ministers, or the White House?! The Palestinians are not exactly known for their honesty (and don't give me 'oh, Bush lied' garbage, please... I think everyone in their right mind would trust the WH sooner than the PA).
One BBC source said: "The denial by the White House put some programme editors off. It probably played a big part in some of their decisions not to run the story."
Again, in the tone of the article, this seems to imply a chastening of these editors; but these are the ones who are thinking properly. If the White House has denied outright an outrageous claim made by a couple of Palestinian ministers, the right thing to do is doubt the story.

Especially aggravating is the last few lines of the story:
The lukewarm response by other BBC outlets to a BBC News exclusive in the wake of a denial by the US government is likely to dismay the new head of television news, Peter Horrocks.

Just a few days ago he urged staff not to be afraid of being first with stories, as long as they were factually accurate.

It is perhaps inevitable that suspicions may be raised about any cautious reception to BBC stories that do not present Mr Bush in the best light following Rupert Murdoch's comments that Tony Blair had told him BBC World's coverage of Hurricane Katrina was "just full of hate for America and gloating about our troubles".
Dismay?! He wants 'factually accurate stories' - this is clearly questionable at best, and more likely a complete fallacy.

Perhaps, the Guardian should think more about Mr. Murdoch's comments, which are far closer to the truth - the BBC has been notorious in its coverage of many news stories, consistently jumping at stories that were anti-Bush or the right, only to find later that they were far exaggerated or just false. (Read some fact-checking sites for more.) That they even considered running this story (and did in some places) is bad enough; their responsibility in holding off in the majority of instances is actually commendable.

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