Tuesday, 25 March 2003

BBC Redux

More pessimism from the Beeb’s warblog in the past 24 hours. At 2252 GMT on Monday, David Willis helpfully comments on the status of the campaign:

It seems the army and militia men may well have set out from southern Baghdad with the intention of ambushing the convoys as they approach Baghdad and engage them in urban-style guerrilla warfare—the last thing the British and American forces wanted so early in the campaign.

The last thing? The BBC’s obsession with the alleged nightmare scenario is becoming preposterous, particularly since the worst-case is always what’s happening now. If on Thursday the Iraqis had strung up Saddam, Qusay and Uday with piano wire, the Beeb probably would have called that a nightmare scenario too.

Meanwhile, in today’s news, Jonathan Marcus (1045 GMT) tells us what’s going on in Basra—except, he’s in Qatar:

I think British forces are very reluctant to move into Basra, after all this is a largely Shia city they believed they would be welcomed in.

I’m not even certain that sentence parses. In the absence of any statement why the “British forces are very reluctant to move” in, it’s a complete non-sequitor that only makes sense if you live with Jonathan Marcus’s worldview. My response: “I think Jonathan Marcus is eminently qualified to tell us what’s going on in Basra, after all he’s sitting in Doha with the rest of the international press corps asking stupid questions at press conferences.”

Adrian Mynott (0845 GMT), who actually is where he’s talking about, thinks he has spotted why Umm Qasr is no longer giving the coalition fits:

The Americans tended to be much more confrontational. If they saw problems they tended to retreat and open fire if necessary. Whereas the British approach certainly has been to move in with a small squad, surround the area, and detain a few people. It seems to be working on the face of it.

Moving in, surrounding the area, and detaining a few people sounds pretty confrontational to me. But then again, I’m just a simplisme American.

Rageh Omarr (1310 GMT) fancies himself an expert on military hardware:

From my hotel room which is on the banks of the Tigris River, I can’t see across to the other side of the river bank. It’s an absolutely blinding sandstorm, and I would have thought it would be almost impossible for helicopters to be flying in this weather.

However it hasn’t stopped the bombardments of positions on the outskirts of the city. I’ve been hearing deep explosions and rumbles coming from the south, which must be very very heavy bombs because you can hear them in the here [sic] centre of the city from 20 km away.

That’s right, he apparently thinks we’re dropping precision-guided bombs on Baghdad and its outskirts with helicopters.

On the lighter side, Andrew Gilligan (0635 GMT) is putting his MI5 training to work:

We’ve seen no fewer than six ministers in the last three days. They’re travelling around incognito.

They lock you in the press conference so you can’t see where they’re going, but I sneaked out through the kitchens and saw them making off in a taxi. So they are actually still in Baghdad and still very defiant.

The name’s Gilligan. Andrew Gilligan.

Sunday, 20 July 2003

Why the American press shouldn't behave like Britain's

One common refrain, particularly from the left of late*, is that our press isn’t adversarial enough when dealing with politicians; they look to the British press, and in particular the BBC (as that is the only example sizeable numbers of Americans have been exposed to), as an exemplar of the adversarial style they want to see emulated.

Those who advocate this style, however, may want to consider Jeff Jarvis’s damning collection of links that suggest that the Beeb’s quest for sensationalism and ratings—if not an ideological bias—led it to claim that the Blair government had “sexed up” reports on Iraq’s weapons capabilities before the war. At the center of the controversy is a dead weapons inspector, David Kelly, and one of the BBC’s wartime correspondents in Baghdad, Andrew Gilligan, whose performance in a pathetic cloak-and-dagger display I belittled during the war. Now, some portions of the American media are hardly better—the reliance on barely-sourced, anonymous information from deep background has become a staple of reporting in “flagship” newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times, perhaps due to every reporter thinking he’s going to become a star like Bob Woodward—but outside the most partisan papers (the occasional crusades of the Raines-era NYT, the Washington Times and the New York Post spring to mind), no American outlets have matched the Beeb’s propensity for grinding its ideological axe.

Moreover, as Peter Mandelson (no stranger to the harsh spotlight of Fleet Street and the Beeb) points out, the British media have contributed to a decline in public discourse in that country:

The viciousness that characterises the relationship between the media and politicians is turning people off politics and corroding our democracy. Everything in Britain is conducted in an overly adversarial way, from our courts to our Parliament, our industrial relations and our select committees. It is good theatre, but does it produce good outcomes? In this case, patently not.

The pervasive cynicism of the BBC and its fellow British media almost certainly have an effect on public perceptions of democracy. As a professional cynic myself, I can’t help but believe part of that attitude was formed as a result of my political socialization at the hands of the Beeb and ITN (the only other television news provider in pre-satellite-TV Britain). A healthy skepticism about the veracity of a government’s claims is good for democracy, but the consistent and corrosive cynicism embodied in the reporting on the motives of everyone and anyone in government or the public eye by the British media seems detrimental to that country’s long-term future.

Matthew at A Fearful Symmetry has more on the blame game surrounding Kelly’s death.

* I suspect that if the current administration came from the left, these calls would be coming from the right; no Democrat I can remember was complaining about the press treating Bill Clinton with kid gloves during the Whitewater/Vince Foster/travel office/Monicagate presidency-long megascandal.

Link via InstaPundit.

Thursday, 23 July 2009


I am having some difficulty wrapping my head around the pseudo-controversy surrounding the all-SEC team. Here are the facts as presented by Chris Low @ESPN:

  1. Coaches cannot vote for their own players.
  2. Tim Tebow was not a “unanimous” selection, where “unanimous” is defined as getting 11 votes (see #1).
  3. Jevan Snead got a vote. Presumably from Urban Meyer, who couldn’t vote for Tebow.
  4. Nobody else apparently received any votes.

Left unclear: can coaches abstain or cast a tied vote?

Also left unclear: is this supposed to be based on past performance or expected performance in 2009? Tebow clearly has the longer track record than Snead, but I have a mild feeling that Snead will be a more effective quarterback than Tebow in 2009.

Maybe Spurrier voted for Duke or something.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

So it turns out that the Head Ball Coach was, after all, the man responsible for exercising independent judgment depriving Tim Tebow of his presumed rightful place as a unanimous first-team all-SEC selection. Now, on the world’s hierarchy of snubs, this may rank slightly behind the Honduran army’s failure to care very much that their de facto ex-president Manuel Zelaya is playing hokey-pokey with their border, but we can rest assured that ESPN was on the case with intrepid reporting not seen since BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan’s exploits in foiling the Iraqi information ministry.

And ESPN remains on the case today, with columnist Pat Forde brazenly calling for coaches to fill out their own ballots or Let Someone Else Vote rather than spend their valuable time doing things that are more useful to society. We all know that voters in the other college football polls are devoted full-time scholars of the game, watching all 60 minutes of all 120 (and counting!) I-A (sorry, FBS) teams in action every week before painstakingly filling out their ballots without consulting anyone else or, heaven forbid, just recycling their ballots from the previous week with a few “bumps” based on watching the 5–10 minutes of highlights from an entire day that ESPN chooses to show on College Football Final between Lou Holtz’s bouts of senility and live shots of the GameDay crew in a pitch-dark stadium parking lot surrounded by drunk, screaming teenagers. And if the college coaches can’t uphold these fine traditions, well dammit, let’s find someone who can.