A little something about ‘scare-quotes’


Going back to what Natalie was saying about ‘scare-quotes’…

I noticed Drudge and the BBC with the same story of the discovery of some of GWB’s military service payroll records. Drudge reported it it “Bush ‘destroyed’ Military records found”. The BBC reported it “Bush 1972 payroll records ‘found'”.

Drudge was right, the BBC (typically) wrong- and suggestive. You see, what is called into question by the finding of these records? Obviously it is the original statement that they were destroyed- that statement now looks a bit fishy, and we are free to speculate. What is not open to doubt is that they have, after whatever fashon, been found.

What these scare-quotes do is suggest that the Bush campaign have somehow been hiding them all the long, just waiting for the right moment to reveal them. It’s an act of interpretation that radically restricts my freedom to interpret- precisely because it’s not *true* and the only application must be ironic.

I wrote to the BBC earlier on and said I had one word in response to their choice to showcase this story (and I spared them the detail but I suppose I really meant ‘in that manner’):Berger. The story of Sandy Berger, pants-stuffing or sock-stuffing, whichever or both, the evidence of his failings, was of course nowhere to be seen by this time, but I have to say I am more suspicious of the BBC’s choice to highlight this Bush story in the light of the Berger controversy than I am entertaining of the idea that Bush (or Rove) incubated these documents until the media was ripe to hatch them (they are not consequential anyway- so what’s the point? Do tell if you know). Thus, for me, is the BBC politicised and untrustworthy.

And, in case that seems an overreaction, this is how the Democrats responded:

‘The supposed discovery of these records on Friday afternoon, as reporters converge on Boston to cover the Democratic National Convention, is highly questionable…’

It’s blatantly obvious the BBC are shilling for the Dems.

A Fair Sampling of Opinion

…if you’re the Beeb.

Reactions to 9/11 report

Of the nine statements on the 9-11 Report, one is by George Bush. All but one of the others is in some way critical of the Bush administration or a well-known Bush critic. With the exception of George W Bush and Senator Pat Roberts, every elected official quoted in this piece is rabidly anti-Bush. How is this in any way fair since the failed oversight of the US Congress –more than the Clinton or Bush administrations– receives scathing criticism.

The unanimous final report of the Sept. 11 commission will sharply criticize Congress for failing in its role as overall watchdog over the nation’s intelligence agencies and will call for wholesale changes in the way lawmakers oversee intelligence agencies and the Homeland Security Department, lawmakers and others briefed on the panel’s findings said Wednesday. (New York Times)

What’s the meaning of ‘fair’ anyway?


Laban Tall got a shock as he caught the Beeb’s “PM” programme being fair.

Do two swallows a summer make?

Further to Natalie’s post on this subject, yesterday’s (Tuesday 20JUL04) BBC One O’Clock was the usual lightweight, right-on stuff. Stephen Sackur reported on the new session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. It was mostly filler – mention of the new Spanish something or other, the translation service, new member states, 480 language combinations, Tower of Babel (not a), etc., with the report closing as follows:

“But not everyone finds the new bigger European Parliament refreshing. UKIP now has eleven MEPs and already they’re stirring controversy. This their man on the women’s committee”

This was voiced over a clip of Robert Kilroy-Silk swallowing a sip of water, then we cut to ‘Godfrey Bloom MEP UKIP’:

“No self-respecting small-businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age. That isn’t politically correct, is it? But it’s a fact of life, I know, because I run a business”

Sackur then wraps up the report with the banal:

“That isn’t going to go down well here. The temperature inside this parliament could rise quickly.”

And that was it – back to Anna Ford. Bloom didn’t look like he was being formally interviewed – he looked more like he was inadvisedly ad-libbing at large with an apparently friendly journo, as if waiting for something else, while the camera just happened to be rolling. Whatever, even if he was aware he was being filmed for broadcast, no other information or context was given for the point he was trying to make, right or wrong in this case, that excessive regulation can have unintended consequences.

One swallow does not a summer make.

As so often, the little instance of bias I am about to point out is so tiny and insignificant that I almost want to feed it some milk on my finger. The fun part is finding out how many brothers and sisters and cousins it has under the floorboards. In this article about UKIP MEP in row over working women we have (in the grey box):

    Independence and Democracy is a new parliamentary group of hardline Eurosceptics

  • It rejects the EU constitution and the “centralisation of Europe”

  • It says it opposes xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and discrimination

Note that the first point is stated as an uncontested fact and the second as just what I & D says. Scare quotes by another name. As I said, on its own this is insignificant. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to look for other swallows.

Incidentally, I am 99% sure that when I first saw this story there was no mention of the actual point Godfrey Bloom was making – that legislation designed to give women maternity rights functions as a disincentive to employ women of childbearing age. I distinctly don’t remember, if you see what I mean, this sentence:

“They probably in quite good faith put in a piece of legislation which is designed to protect women in the workplace but what actually happens is it… writes them out of employment.”

I remember not seeing it because as soon as I saw the part of his remarks I did see I thought, I wonder if what he meant was that legislation designed to protect women can have the effect of making employers want to avoid the expense of paying for maternity leave? And I intended to look for his actual words but didn’t get round it, then came back to the Beeb and there they were. Some of them, anyway.

Now this probably isn’t culpable stealth editing.* More probably it is a useful stealth editing: the addition to the story being made after Bloom explained his remarks on today’s Today, and in the light of what he said. However the question remains as to why the BBC couldn’t find space to say that was what he meant in the first place. The original story, my memory insists, simply presented him as a comical dinosaur – and the Ceefax page 117 still does.

*Incidentally, as I say every few months and will add to a FAQ page if ever we make one, even stealth editing is better than no editing at all. Mistakes should be corrected. However there is no need for all the stealth; many newspapers manage a corrections page and the BBC could too. And/or the BBC could actually use the “last updated” field at the top of each story.  

BBC “inadvertently” takes Berger at his word.

This article is either laughable in its gullibility (at taking Berger for a truthteller) or despicable (for enabling him to lie). How did former National Security Advisor (for President Clinton), Samuel Berger, “inadvertently” remove said documents from the US Senate 9-11 archives? Whether they managed to find their way into his socks, it must have been, no doubt, an accident. Here is blogger Hugh Hewitt‘s take on this:

This isn’t just the possibly criminal action of one man, it is the conduct of the senior White House foreign policy official from the Clinton era, and the action of a confidant and advisor to John Kerry. Had Rice been the one caught tampering with the records of the Bush Administration relating to terrorism, Rice would already have been forced by a baying press to resign, and Bush would be threatened with a Watergate-style meltdown. But it is a pro-Kerry media, so watch for Berger’s attempted cover-up to get its own cover-up.

To the credit of the BBC, they do end the article with this note:

Mr Berger served as President Clinton’s national security adviser from 1997 to 2001 and is currently advising Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Maybe a scandal surrounding a former Clinton Administration official is not that newsworthy, except that, like Joe Wilson, Berger is a John Kerry advisor.

UPDATE: He has resigned from the Kerry Campaign.

Be very afraid

when dealing with the Great Satan. Here’s how the teaser reads:

Manila’s Catch 22

The Philippine choice between saving a life and angering the US

The question of how this will encourage further terror is lost on the Beeb.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo was faced with an awkward choice – to save the life of a Filipino held hostage in Iraq or support the United States by keeping Philippine soldiers there. It was a tough decision for Mrs Arroyo, just weeks after she won a new term in office. By withdrawing all 51 peacekeepers, she scored political points at home. Now she must wait to see the extent of the fallout with Washington.

…as if pleasing the US is all that matters. Toward the end of the article, the implications of this cave-in are mentioned. Why not do so from the start? Because ‘big, bad bully America’ is the favorite tune at the Beeb.

USS Neverdock has given this one a thorough look. (Thanks to B-BBC commenter, Dave.)

Lies, damned lies, and the sleazy, dishonest, BBC stealth editors who cover them up.

On Thursday I saw an article on BBC News Online headlined Diplomats mind their language, timestamped Thursday, 15JUL04, 15:03BST. It’s an amusing article about diplomatic faux pas’. One thing that caught my attention was this blatant lie:

Margaret Thatcher, again a woman unafraid of speaking her mind, was reported to have told Jane Byrne, mayor in 1960s Chicago, that “the Irish, they’re pigs”, before remembering her host’s family background and adding: “oh-oh, you’re Irish”.

I made a note and decided to do some fact-checking later. Now, after a chunk of fruitless Googling (save for this quiz page), I went back to the original BBC page to check it again. This time the offending paragraph read:

Princess Margaret, again a woman unafraid of speaking her mind, was reported to have told Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne in 1979, that, “the Irish, they’re pigs”, before remembering her host’s family background and adding: “oh-oh, you’re Irish”.

I knew the article definitely referred to Margaret Thatcher when I first read it. I checked the timestamp. Unbelievably, after such a major correction, it still read Thursday, 15JUL04, 15:03BST.

While the world went to sleep, shocked at this BBC revelation about Baroness Thatcher, the BBC’s gang of sleazy, dishonest, stealth editors crept in, Watergate style, switched the names around, and crept back out again, remembering to leave the timestamp well alone, covering up the evidence of their nasty slander.

You can verify this for yourself via Google’s cache (until it is updated with the doctored version), and compare it to the version now on BBC News Online (I’ve saved copies of both of these, just in case).

Utter bastards. They are so unprofessional – if a newspaper or a broadcast programme made such an egregious slur they’d print a correction or broadcast an apology. But not in the unprofessional Toytown world of BBC News Online – nope, they just slip right in and change it, hope no one noticed and pretend it never happened. No harm done, eh, just one of Britain’s leading elder statesmen slandered, move along now please.

This sort of awful behaviour is just not good enough. If the BBC wish to clean up News Online’s act and encourage responsibility, professionalism and accountability, they must modify their content management system so that each News Online page has attached to it (perhaps as a link) a log of i) who it was created by and when; ii) who has amended it and when. This list should include initials or an identifier specific to each author/amender. It needn’t have a description of every amendment, but major amendments, such as new paragraphs, fact corrections and so on should be recorded. The log should be recorded automatically free from tampering by authors/amenders. And in the case of major errors, such as the vicious slander documented here, News Online ought to publish an apology – and apologies ought to remain in the News Online archive, in exactly the same way they would in a newspaper archive.

So, BBC lurkers, you know what to do – publish an apology to Baroness Thatcher, and then get to it implementing the above changes to your CMS to make your people transparently accountable to us poor damn telly-taxpayers.

Update: After a bit more fact-checking (it’s not that difficult you News Online cub-journos – you should try it sometime) I found an acidic obituary of Princess Margaret, on, er, News Online, including this:

In 1979, the year Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA, Princess Margaret caused a stir when the Mayor of Chicago alleged that she had described the Irish as “pigs”

This at least places the Princess’ alleged gaffe in context – in the same year that a senior member of her family was murdered by the IRA. There’s a somewhat partisan account of the murder at An Phoblacht/Republican News. Just in passing, where else do we see terrorist murders described as ‘executions’? Sickening. Still, at least we aren’t compelled by law to buy An Phoblacht. For the record, Mountbatten was a 78-year old murdered along with two relatives and a 14-year old local lad while daytripping on his small boat on holiday in Ireland. Eighteen soldiers were also murdered that day in a vicious roadside double-bomb ambush at Warrenpoint. Some terrorist tactics never change it seems (and yet the US has never, not even once, extradited IRA terrorists to face justice, but I digress).

Even then though, the BBC’s quote is still not well founded – according to this obituary of Irv Kupcinet, the journalist who claimed to overhear the alleged remark:

…it was in a 1979 column that he quoted Princess Margaret of Britain as saying that “the Irish are pigs.” Mr. Kupcinet said he personally heard the princess say that to Chicago’s Mayor Jane M. Byrne at a dinner party. Mayor Byrne, ever the diplomat, explained that the princess was not referring to all the Irish, only those who engaged in terrorism.

It seems, therefore, that there are grounds for demanding another BBC News Online apology, this time for Princess Margaret, or at the very least the addition of a bit of context and a little more doubt into the BBC’s allegation against her.

Eating a bit of crow along with that yellowcake

.  How long will it be until the BBC corrects the record on the Iraq-Niger yellowcake story? It must be hard when the ‘Bush lied’ subtext crashes like Joseph Wilson’s house of cards.

It is not surprising that Paul Reynolds, in his ‘analysis’,  fails to mention the discredited Wilson/Plame story, so gladly trumpeted by the BBC.

Uranium: Here the report stands by the SIS report that Iraq had indeed sought uranium from Niger. It adds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well. It even says that the inclusion of the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union address was “well founded,” a finding which is at variance with that of the CIA.

Not a peep about Wilson. It must be a bit embarrassing now to have published stories like the following when the basis of them is so undermined.

Bush Questioned Over CIA Leak

US Diplomat Raises Iraq Dossier Doubts

Profile: Joseph Wilson

Since you are unlikely to hear of this from the Beeb, here, in part, is Robert Novak’s op/ed:

Like Sherlock Holmes’s dog that did not bark, the most remarkable aspect of last week’s Senate Intelligence Committee report is what its Democratic members did not say. They did not dissent from the committee’s findings that Iraq apparently asked about buying yellowcake uranium from Niger. They neither agreed to a conclusion that former diplomat Joseph Wilson was suggested for a mission to Niger by his CIA employee wife nor defended his statements to the contrary.

Wilson’s activities constituted the only aspects of the yearlong investigation for which the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, was unable to win unanimous agreement. Peculiarly, the Democrats accepted the evidence building up to the Wilson conclusions but not the conclusions themselves. According to committee sources, Roberts felt Wilson had been such a “cause celebre” for Democrats that they could not face the facts about him.

For a year, Democrats have been belaboring President Bush about 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address in which he reported Saddam Hussein’s attempt to buy uranium from Africa, based on official British information. Wilson has been lionized in liberal circles for allegedly contradicting this information on a CIA mission and then being punished as a truth-teller. Now, for Intelligence Committee Democrats, it is as though the Niger question and Joe Wilson have vanished from the earth….[emphasis added]

Novak concludes by quoting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts:

“While there was no dispute with the underlying facts,” Chairman Roberts wrote separately, “my Democrat colleagues refused to allow” two conclusions in the report. The first conclusion merely said that Wilson was sent to Niger at his wife’s suggestion. The second conclusion is devastating:

“Rather than speaking publicly about his actual experiences during his inquiry of the Niger issue, the former ambassador seems to have included information he learned from press accounts and from his beliefs about how the Intelligence Community would have or should have handled the information he provided.”

The normally mild Pat Roberts is harsh in his condemnation: “Time and again, Joe Wilson told anyone who would listen that the President had lied to the American people, that the Vice President had lied, and that he had ‘debunked’ the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa . . . [N]ot only did he NOT ‘debunk’ the claim, he actually gave some intelligence analysts even more reason to believe that it may be true.” Roberts called it “important” for the Intelligence Committee to declare much of what Wilson said “had no basis in fact.” In response, Democrats were silent. [emphasis added]

The BBC can spout off all it wants about ‘international reaction’ to the Butler report and Dyke can claim what he will. It would do better to just get down to eating a bit of crow.

UPDATE: Joseph Wilson continues to spin like a top but the major news outlets tend to either bury it (as with the New York Times and Washington Post) or ignore it altogether (as with the BBC). Michael Barone, political reporter for US News and World Report points out how reckless an approach this is.

All this is significant because for the past year most leading Democrats and many in the determinedly anti-Bush media have been harping on the “BUSH LIED” theme. Their aim clearly has been to discredit and defeat Bush. The media continue to fight this battle: contrast the way The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times front-paged the Wilson charges last year with the way they’re downplaying the proof that Wilson lied deep inside the paper this year.

Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis has argued that George W. Bush has transformed American foreign policy, in response to the threat of Islamist terrorism, more than any president since Harry Truman transformed our foreign policy in response to the threat of aggressive communism.

But there is one big difference. In the late 1940s, Truman got bipartisan support from Republicans like Arthur Vandenberg and Thomas Dewey, even at a time when there were bitter differences between the parties on domestic policy, and received generally sympathetic treatment in the press. This time, George W. Bush has encountered determined opposition from most Democrats and the old-line media. They have charged that “BUSH LIED” even when he relied on the same intelligence as they did; they have headlined wild and spurious charges by the likes of Joseph Wilson; they have embraced the wild-eyed propaganda of the likes of Michael Moore.

They have done these things with, at best, reckless disregard of the effect their arguments have had on American strength in the world. Are they entitled to be taken seriously?

Whilst Barone’s column is focused on “old media” based in the USA, it underscores the invisible footnote underlying a significant amount of the BBC coverage of the Iraq War — that ‘Bush (and Blair) lied’. Little wonder that the Beeb’s ‘value for money’ quotient continues to drop.