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BOOBS ON BEEB! Sully railed at the BBC—and a certain scribe knew he must follow:

THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2003

DOG BITES MAN, KURTZ SAYS: We marveled this morning at the way Howard Kurtz began his report on the BBC’s war coverage:

KURTZ (pgh 1): “Be patient, Saddam Hussein said today, victory is near,” the anchor intoned.

(2) Moments later, the camera lingered on a huge pile of rubble. “The Iraqis say this is—or was—a girls’ school at Basra,” the anchor said.

(3) The woman narrating the news is Lyse Doucet, who works for “BBC World,” a global broadcast whose tone is so different from that of the American networks that it sometimes seems to be examining a different war.

Apparently, something in those first two paragraphs is supposed to strike us as strange. According to Kurtz, Lyse Doucet’s “tone” is so unusual that it should bring us right out of our chairs. But what does Kurtz show Doucet doing? In the first paragraph, she is shown quoting something that Saddam Hussein said. In the second paragraph, she is shown paraphrasing something “the Iraqis” have said. Something about that is supposed to be odd. But we pose a great question: What is it?

Of course, everyone knows why Howard Kurtz is posting pap about the Beeb. Andrew Sullivan has hammered the BBC too. And when Andrew Sullivan says to jump, Howard Kurtz knows to jump high:

KURTZ (pgh 6): “The Beeb is a mandatory government-run service staffed with the usual people who go into government-run media, i.e. left-wing hacks,” British expatriate Andrew Sullivan writes on his Web site. “The BBC is increasingly perceived, even by sympathetic parties, as the voice in part of the anti-war forces…How the Beeb ceased to become an objective news source and became a broadcast version of the Nation is one of the great tragedies of modern journalism.”
Sadly, Sullivan’s accounts of the Beeb’s misbehavior are often as hazy as Howie’s. In Wednesday’s andrewsullivan.com, the Boob-like Brit was very upset with an edited quote by Katha Pollitt. The quote came from a letter by Pollitt. In it, Pollitt said the BBC was providing better coverage than was NPR. Here is the quote Sully ran:
POLLITT: On BBC, there is serious discussion of how the invasion of Iraq is being received around the world—not so well, it turns out. There is much discussion of the bombing of civilians, of the apparent good cheer of the Iraqi leadership and the seeming lack of universal jubilation among the population; last night there were substantial interviews with an Iraqi official and with Paul Wolfowitz. I’m a fan of NPR, but I have to say I think they’re missing an opportunity here.
But if the war is being poorly received around the world, shouldn’t a major news org say so? Sullivan seems to say no. In her full statement, Pollitt describes the NPR coverage further. To see her full letter, click here, then scroll back to 3/25:
POLLITT: [On NPR], we hear a lot about how Americans are feeling about their loved ones in the military, and some about Iraqis worried about family back home, but there’s very little hard analysis of what this war means in terms of global politics or America’s position in the world.
If true, that’s surely a problem. “I oppose the war,” Pollitt writes, “but even if I favored it, I would want a more serious discussion of its meaning. We’ll be living with the consequences for a very long time.” Duh! But at sully.com, this sensible statement is seen as a voice straight from Hell.

And now he’s dragged Howard Kurtz in the stew. How absurd is Kurtz’s critique? Weirdly, he makes this complaint:

KURTZ (pgh 7): The stark contrast of the understated British tone makes the American broadcasts seem flag-waving and patriotic. The underlying assumption in these broadcasts seems to be that the U.S. of A. is fighting for a just cause, and the embedded correspondents, while providing unvarnished reports, are openly sympathetic to our fighting men and women.

(8) But on Tuesday’s edition of “BBC World,” Washington anchor Mishal Husain seemed to regard British military reports of a local revolt in the southern Iraqi city of Basra with skepticism.

Weird, isn’t it? A journalist approaches official reports “with skepticism”—and Kurtz thinks that counts as big news. Adding to the comedy, a picture caption makes the same oddball point. Under a photo of Husain, the Post writes: “Washington anchor Mishal Husain has seemed skeptical of coalition claims.”

Of course, every sane person knows that scribes are supposed to be “skeptical” of official reports. For the past, oh, three or four hundred years, this has been one of the well-known bases on which western culture has functioned. But Saddamism lives in the soul of us all, and Junior Saddams always seek to take power. A Junior Saddam has come here from Britain—and it isn’t the skeptic Husain.

WILLING TO DO AND SAY ANYTHING: Is something wrong with the BBC? We haven’t studied their coverage. But Andrew Sullivan will do and say anything to sell you his view of the war. Here’s a Sully report from Wednesday about that infernal BBC:

ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM:
BBC WATCH: A classic simple summarizing sentence. No political or military context. Just post-bombing pro-Saddam propaganda:

Britain and the US are now seen by ordinary Iraqis as having made victims of those they say they want to liberate.
Just incredible.
Those Beebers are “just incredible,” Sully says. They’re peddling pro-Saddam propaganda. But was that “summarizing sentence” which he quotes presented with “no political or military context?” Simply put, Sully is lying again. Here’s the report which Sullivan quotes—the last three pghs, not just the last:
BBC: The targeting in the air strikes has not been indiscriminate but, as in all wars, there are mistakes and there are civilian casualties.

That seems to have been what has happened here, but the political price of such mistakes in this war will be much more costly.

Britain and the US are now seen by ordinary Iraqis as having made victims of those they say they want to liberate.

“No political or military context?” According to the BBC’s report, the targeting of civilians has not been indiscriminate. Indeed, mistakes are always made in war. That seems to be what happened here. Question: Who is trying to be more fair—the Beeb, or that other British import?

The Daily update

BOOBS ON KERRY: Puzzle again at Kurtz’s first statement:
KURTZ (pgh 1): “Be patient, Saddam Hussein said today, victory is near,” the anchor intoned.
Weird, ain’t it? Is there any news org in the western world that hasn’t quoted (or played tape of) Saddam? But when Doucet quotes Saddam, it strikes the compliant Kurtz as quite strange. Key Point: When Junior Saddams (and their helpers) start to pimp their weird messages, those messages don’t have to make any sense. They don’t have to make sense at all.

More examples? In a similar but a lighter vein, consider one of Mickey Kaus’ compulsive complaints against ol’ debbil Kerry. (Click here, scroll back.) Last Friday, the Compulsive One channeled his latest complaint, seeking succor from the Prospect’s William Bradley. Here is the passage from Bradley which Kaus oddly quoted:

BRADLEY: [Kerry’s] vote last fall giving George W. Bush the authority needed to launch a war against Iraq prompted some Kerry gymnastics…as the senator explained how he was changing his position without, um, changing his position. Even more worrisome for Kerry partisans than his parsing of his position on the war—he would be for an Iraq war if necessary but not this war so undiplomatically put together by this president—should be his performance at [the state party chairman’s] reception Friday night…Kerry treated this event, which usually takes the form of a meet-and-greet affair, as something far more formal, delivering a 40-minute address that most of the crowd quickly tuned out. [Kaus’ deletions]
Bradley and Kaus were quite worried. But look again at what had them troubled. According to Bradley’s paraphrase, Kerry had said that “he would be for an Iraq war if necessary but not this war so undiplomatically put together by this president.” Somehow, that is supposed to strike us as odd. But can anyone possibly figure out what is supposed to be odd in that (paraphrased) statement? According to Bradley, a certain solon said that he would be in favor of a war if necessary, but that this war wasn’t it. In the real world, such a statement would puzzle few folks. But Bradley and Kaus began turning their heads like cavemen who just saw their first flashcube.

But remember: In the land of the Kooks and the Crackpots who now rule your culture, the simplest situations are treated as strange. Indeed, when a targeted journalist quotes Saddam, it’s presented as news in the Post. Your strange ruling clique feels no need to make sense. Their grunting is quite prehistoric.