The Power of BBC Misrepresentation.

My fellow-poster on Samizdata, Paul Marks, is a fairly anti-war libertarian who opposes neocon views. (He knows what he is opposing and does not use “neocon” as a catch-all term of abuse.) Despite his own opposition this is some of what he had to say about yesterday’s BBC documentary “The Power of Nightmares”:

The program claimed that Soviet support for terrorist groups was another ‘myth’ indeed that the wise CIA rejected this ‘myth’ because they know it was originally based on CIA lies about the the Soviet Union. The trouble is that the Soviet Union DID support terrorist groups. The Marxist ones (including some in the Middle East as well as east Asia, Europe, and Latin America) were natural targets for Soviet support, and support them it did. The basic point of the Soviet Union was to spread Marxism all over the world – oh sorry this is another ‘neocon myth’.

On the basis of the above if The Power of Nightmares claims that ‘neocons’ have made up a ‘myth’ about an international network of Islamic terrorist network, I will take it as an indication that such a network does indeed exist. Do not laugh. The program was already laying the ground work for claiming that no such network exists – just a few isolated individuals. And that these individuals are the way they are because of the wicked United States. For example the United States corrupted Egypt – under President Sadat the economy was controlled by a “handful of millionaires”. The basic fact that Egypt was (and is) a state dominated economy and that Sadat only allowed a bit of private enterprise round the edge was utterly ignored.

“But” the defenders of the program will cry “The Power of Nightmares contained lots of interviews with neocons and other people who would defend all of what you say above”. So it did, but it did not allow any of these people to present the evidence for what they said – it allowed them to say something and then (at once) treated what they said as utterly absurd. The program (and I suspect the whole series) has an agenda – and that agenda is to spread lies. Many of them (although not the one about Sadat) may be nice lies for libertarians and traditional American Conservatives to hear, but they remain lies. And the people who were interviewed by the program, in order to be held up to contempt, would have better advised to say “no I will not be interviewed by you, because you are from the BBC and will leave out any facts you do not like”.

Boldface type added by me because I noticed exactly the same pattern. A thirty-second interview would immediately be followed by the commentator saying, often without evidence but with a tone implying that this was undisputed fact, that whatever the interviewee had said was rubbish. Read the whole post, including the comments by John Thacker.

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97 Responses to The Power of BBC Misrepresentation.

  1. rob says:

    BBC news bulletins are having fun with the newly published data on MPs salaries & expenses. We are invited to be outraged at their profligacy.
    BBC does not appear to grasp that they too are funded by a compulsory levy & that we should be given a similar right to closely examine the pay & expenses of their news staff.
    At least we could vote out an MP that we felt abused the system (Hamilton). We have no say on BBC costs.


  2. Someone Who Knows says:

    A small point perhaps, but I understood the claim discussed (and dismissed) in “The Power of Nightmares” to be not that the Soviet Union just supported worldwide terrorist groups, but actually set them up in the first place. Which is clearly rubbish.


  3. Ken Kautsky says:

    “No, I will not be interviewed by you, because you are from the BBC and will leave out any facts you do not like”.

    This is very sound advice for any person foolish enough to even consider taking part in an interview with an unaccountable, out-of-control, competition-crushing state financed, information bureaucracy. Forget Eastern Europe – England is the true home of Karl Marx.

    Tessa Jowell should resign under the much neglected doctrine of ministerial responsibility.


  4. Yorkshirelass says:

    Andrew Marr, in his article in the Guardian on 28th February, 1999 entitled “Poor? Stupid? Racist? Then don’t listen to a pampered white liberal like me” states..”And the answer, frankly, is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress”. If this reflects opinion generally at the BBC, then that would explain a lot.


  5. DumbJon says:

    Well, now isn’t this the key point ? Doubtless, Paul Marks would dearly love to quote the old line about government conjouring up hobgoblins which the public will then clamour to be led away from, yet his integrity won’t allow him to buy into a flawed thesis just for political ends.

    It’s a sign of the times when a political activists on one of the more far-out websites has more objectivity than a publically-funded, impartial-by-charter, broadcasting monolith.


  6. Andrew Zalotocky says:

    The other obvious point about this program is the timing. Is it really just a coincidence that they’ve chosen to broadcast a program denying the seriousness of the terrorist threat so close to a U.S. presidential election in which security will be a key issue? Or is it a deliberate attempt to use whatever influence they have in America to harm Bush, by spreading the idea that the threat of terrorism is a fiction just when it will have the most impact?

    I know which option I’d bet on. I’m also pretty sure that a genuinely impartial broadcaster would not have shown a series like this until after the election to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.


  7. Rich says:

    As Americans constantly remind us, their election is none of our f*cking business so I doubt the BBC has any influence.

    I thought the programme was pretty interesting and worthwhile although clearly to be taken with a pinch of salt. It just should be balanced with some similarly off centre stuff from the other side of conspiracy theory (i.e. an expose of all the WMDs that they’ve REALLY found in Iraq).

    Having said that, I forget the programme title but the BBC did show that drama about dirty bombs exploding outside Liverpool Street recently (including mass riots outside decontamination tents) which was fodder for ‘war on terror’ fans everywhere.


  8. rob says:

    Strange – BBC item on killing of Hamas leader (the nicely named), Adnan al-Ghoul, has this paragraph –

    “Nearby, in the buffer zone along the Egyptian border, an Israeli soldier was killed in an explosion on Thursday. Military target”

    The words “military target” are bold.
    The BBC obviously want to impress that the soldier is a military target, whilst an Hamas bomber is presumably a civilian target.


  9. Fausta says:

    “No, I will not be interviewed by you, because you are from the BBC and will leave out any facts you do not like”.
    Which is why Thomas Sowell doesn’t do TV or radio interviews anymore.


  10. Kerry B says:

    Natalie, this is a perfect example of why BBC distortions are of concern far beyond the UK. Maybe you saw this item (from a westerner teaching in China) in The Corner.

    “One of the things I find particularly distressing is how the careless and hateful rhetoric of Democrats and the media have been swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the Chinese, who receive it via (God help us!) the BBC. Bush evil. Bush stupid. That’s what my students believe; the dismissive tone of their voices, when they mention President Bush’s name, speaks more than any words can. Democrats and the media are so insular, that they do not begin to conceive of the impact of their propaganda and how that shapes the way the rest of the world views us.


  11. Kerry B says:

    What has poisoned the perception of the U.S. abroad is not the actions of GWB, but that of the Democrats and the media who noised abroad their disdain and lack of support for Dubya, all for political gain. Had the Democrats and media done what was right, the U.S. would be in different odor around the globe.” [Emphasis added]


  12. dave t says:

    Slight off topic Paul Wood has a ‘report’ saying how dangerous it will be for the Black Watch etc in the Sunni Triangle etc etc. really laying it on thick but……not a peep about the fact that Y Coy 1 PWRR have endured some 820 odd attacks on their firebase in the so called safe area of Basra, more sustained attacks than at any time since the Zulu Wars! Is it not nice how the Beeb try to make the overall picture worse well knowing it is not. Nice of them to think about the relatives back in the UK – oops they didn’t – sorry!


  13. Ant says:

    OT: a funny Google article.

    I found this quite hilarious. A hack has done a Q&A about Google. BBC love Google.

    In its insightful content, one of the questions from the person-that-does-not-exist is “How come Google can make its money if it doesn’t charge me for using it?” Then we have to have advertising explained to us like we’re 5 years old.

    But it gets better. One of the questions (which isn’t even a question) is: “This web search stuff is all very well, but I still can’t find the email I sent my boss last week.”

    Don’t you love that pally, down-to-earth feeling of that non-question? But it’s such a non sequitor to talking about a search engine. Why would you bring that up? But, no… wait… Google has a desktop search tool! What a freaky coincidence that is!


  14. Rob Read says:

    Free gmail accounts for BBC staffers maybe?


  15. David Field says:

    The problem with this programme was not that it made a (false) argument buit that it used psychological persuasion techniques to try and influence viewers’ minds.

    Very disturbing that the BBC thinks an issue of such seriousness can be treated in this sinister manner.



  16. chevalier de st george says:

    well, a quick look at ION PACEPA’s testimony will convince any reasonable person that the KGB had everything to do with financing and promoting the disinformation to make terrorism effective against the west.
    read how the russians reinvented ARAFAT to make him presentable and the darling of the Union radical left.


  17. rob says:

    Russia & Kyoto
    Main BBC article reports joy at Russian signing, but fails to mention that Kyoto does not require Russia to cut emissions from current levels & in fact will have carbon credits for sale.
    As near as we get is
    “For Russia, backing the pact is more a political move than an environmental one, our correspondent says.”
    A reader has to go to the business pages to get some indication of the medium term effect on Russia, even then their credit position is not spelt out.


  18. Pete _ London says:

    Kerry B, I agree with what you posted except:

    “Democrats and the media are so insular, that they do not begin to conceive of the impact of their propaganda and how that shapes the way the rest of the world views us.”

    I believe they are veru aware of their impact, both at home in the UK and US and globally. The media war against the US during Vietnam demonstrated their power to influence and they have never forgotten that lesson.

    Luckily I was in the pub when ‘The Power of Nightmares’ was aired but its plainly another Michael Moore effort. Makes me glad I refuse to be parted from my money for a tv licence.


  19. R Figaro says:

    Off Topic

    I just heard a piece on BBC radio America by Peter Day. This was one of the most biased anti-Bush pieces of rubbish since the Dan Rather(CBS) and ABC news scandals. Peter Day interviewed an ex-Clinton official and another obviously biased economist regarding America’s deficit. Of course it was all blamed on Bush with no one to counter from the Bush camp they never mention 9/11 and the huge hit on our economy but most of all they conveniently forgot about the Clinton’s parting gifts a recession and sinking stock markets. Over the last few years I have noticed many cases of overt bias I have complained directly to BBC regarding many other bias related issues but of course never get a responce. It is sad to see one of the world’s greatest broadcasters become so corrupt and biased.

    Thank You for letting me get this off my chest.

    R Figaro


  20. rob says:

    I heard an interview on this initiative on R5Live –

    “A new campaign to encourage young Americans to vote on election day is using a novel incentive – sex pledges.

    Voters who visit the Votergasm website can choose from three different levels of commitment:

    “Votergasm citizens” must pledge to withhold sex from non-voters for a week after election night

    “Patriot-level commitment” requires a voter to have sex with another voter on election night as well as withholding sex from non-voters for a week

    Those who take the most extreme pledge, called “American hero”, commit themselves to having sex with another 2004 voter as well as turning down all non-voters until the 2008 vote.”

    The implied promiscuous behaviour would suggest that pledgers have little sympathy for W’s “just say no” drive.


  21. JAN says:

    US election: Your campaign trail pics

    6 kerry, 3 bush.

    selection of the best pics sent in?
    not-so-subtle pro-kerry bias at BBC?

    cant wait for news 24’s election-night coverage.


  22. Mike says:

    More OUTRAGEOUS bias from the BBC:

    The author claims that the reason Basra and Sunni Triangle security sitution is different is because of the kind British approach versus the violent American approach.

    According to this idiot, it has absolutely nothing to do with the foreign fighters and sunni muslims staging the majority of the attacks in the American occupied sunni triangle. But this is exactly whats happening. What about the other parts of Iraq under American control like the north that are just as quit as Basra? This is virulent anti-americanism. Maybe the reason the Americans are more testy in certain areas of the sunni triangle is because most of the people who bomb, kill, and maim are actually there! Not basra. what a joke.


  23. JAN says:

    I read that one Mike and couldnt believe it either. Where the hell are these people coming from? Are they allowed to get away with it because its an opinion piece and not a proper news article?


  24. john b says:

    No, more like because it’s true: US troops aren’t primarily trained for peacekeeping; British troops are.

    Why do you people hate Britain and our soldiers?


  25. Andrew Bowman says:

    john b: “Why do you people hate Britain and our soldiers?”

    What a nasty, deceptive, manipulative, insulting question to tack onto the end of what might have been a semi-relevant point (although a point that still ignores the reality of the differences between the situations in Basra and some areas further north).

    No one here “hates Britain” or “hates our soldiers” as you suggest – if you want to find those kinds of sentiments look inside your own head and at the words and deeds of your fellow Guardian reading lefties.

    What a putz!


  26. StinKerr says:

    I think you’re reaching there, john b. Nobody said anything about hating Britain or your soldiers. Indeed we are grateful and appreciative of the British soldiers who helped bring freedom to Iraq.

    I’m proud of the Jocks who executed the bayonet charge when they found themselves ambushed and out of ammunition. I’m also humbled by the bravery of the Salvadoran soldier who, finding himself in a similar situation, pulled his knife and went after the enemy.

    I don’t know enough to compare training regimes, but it’s my opinion that soldiers are trained for the job they are likely to be sent to do.

    We all know the main use that British soldiers have been put to in Ireland, therefore their training for that type of mission.

    Look at what American soldiers are doing on their own in Iraq and Afghanistan. Check out and That’s just two that come immediately to mind.


  27. Susan says:

    I hate the British media (mostly) especially the al-BBC and the al-Guardian, and the snobbish left-wing British chattering classes along the lines of Antonia Fraser or any old Guardian editor or reporter. I certainly don’t hate British military people or British people in general.

    British (and Ozzie) solidiers are much better allies to have than Frenchmen or Germans (despite what John F. Kerry believes.)


  28. wally thumper IV says:

    The Guardian is read by people who long for the old Soviet Union. They deserve your hate.

    Yesterday, on the heels of its catastrophic failure in Ohio, Grauniad demanded: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr – where are you now that we need you?” Go here..

    Where’s the outrage? And where’s the BBC?

    A healthy society would cry hate crime and sedition, but Britain long since ceased to be a healthy society so all you will hear from its craven elites is the sound of silence…broken now and again by a slight shuffling sound, the footfall of folks voting with their feet, headed for Australia and the US.

    Time, perhaps, to recall that Britain isn’t just the US’s oldest ally but also its oldest enemy.


  29. wally thumper IV says:

    hmm…try again:,,1333748,00.html


  30. Susan says:

    Some people ask why Americans should care about al-BBC and al-Guardian. Yes it is true it’s not our media and I guess you could extrapolate that it is therefore none of our business.

    But the significant factor is that the BBC in particular is worldwide media, and it’s media in the world’s lingua franca, English. English is the language of the old British Empire and of the world’s only superpower. Thus when al-BBC broadcasts its pro-jihadi, pro-Islamofascist propaganda, it is literally beamed all over the world. This is why I care. The BBC is a threat to my way of life if not my own actual life.

    wally thumper: al-Guardian cravenly deleted that article joking about Bush’s assassination. you won’t find it online anymore.

    It is truly sad to see a world-beating culture like Britain’s be destroyed by the idiocies of the childish, selfish, fascist Left. Of all the countries of Europe, I would have thought Britain would be the most stubborn and the hardest to destroy from wit


  31. Susan says:

    that should be “the hardest to destroy from within.” Even little socialist Denmark and easy-going, dope-smoking Holland are proving tougher nuts for the Islamofascists (and their looney Leftist) allies to crack.


  32. Ant says:

    OT: “Women undecided in US election”

    A fluff piece by the BBC hacks at

    “Opinion polls suggest 60% of the undecided voters in this election are women,” and such epic proportions deserves a BBC article!

    It goes on to say “The threat of terrorism is a major concern for women, but they come to different conclusions on which candidate would best keep them and their children safe.” Because as we know, all women are mothers and work in the kitchen!

    Then it brings up an article which is so vague and could apply to any person in the US anyway.


  33. James says:

    M. Chevalier…
    Great link re: Arafat…Another thing that made him more presentable was media manipulation. He kidnapped a Beirut journalist and cut bits of him off and sent a bit, with a photo of said bit being cut, to every journo covering the Mid-East beat in the early 80’s…Thus bloodthirsty terrorist scum becomes cute and cuddly indigenous freedom fighter…

    Why can’t our governments use tactics like that on al-BBC? 😉


  34. wally thumper IV says:

    Susan: I agree w/ all you say except the idea that Britain ought be hard to destroy from within. Most of the job is done already; this is an enervated, disengaged, defeatist culture whose leaders cannot be trusted to act in the interests of the British people or remain a reliable ally.

    A prediction: many Brits will secretly rejoice if the BlackWatch takes a hit. Each body bag will lead to obscene mike-in-the-face interviews with distraught relatives and much BBC piety about the folly of Americans.

    Destruction of the BBC’s propaganda machine is just one brick in a big wall; the larger job of rebuilding Britain will take many years. Add in all the demographic, economic and racial pressures and you have a recipe for civil unrest and violent social change.

    Meanwhile, most of Britain can’t be counted on for more than a good sob and a few flowers when the going gets tough.

    Put bluntly, though your intent was different, the toughest voice in Europe today probably is Denmark’s.


  35. Susan says:


    I was thinking of the Britain of Nelson, Montgomery, Wellington and Churchill. Surely it is not all gone in the wink of an historical eye? Only in 50 years?


  36. wally thumper IV says:

    Not in wink. It takes three generations to “re-engineer” a society. The post-Bevan left has been at it for fifty years now.

    Before long, Britain will blow like Mt. St. Helens.


  37. Alan says:

    “I was thinking of the Britain of Nelson, Montgomery, Wellington and Churchill. Surely it is not all gone in the wink of an historical eye? Only in 50 years?”

    It hasn’t gone exactly but it is slowly and surely ebbing away down the pan. I doubt very many children learn about Nelson or Wellington these days. Ask a British child about Montgomery and you’re likely to be told he’s a golfer. Churchill is probably the only figure who is studied in any depth in British schools. Seeing that he smoked, enjoyed drinking, posed for pictures holding guns and had a firm belief in fighting to the finish, I wouldn’t be too suprised if the politically correct elite of the left eventually denigrate and trivialise what he did. Oh yes, and the holocaust never happened.


  38. Rich says:

    Do any of you actually live in Britain cause I really haven’t seen this cultural disaster? There’s occasional flaps about asylum seekers, chavs, terrorists and whatever but every time I go abroad I’m struck by how unhysterical it is compared to the comparable bugbears of foreigners. Other than Scandinavia of course where despite being ‘socialist’ they happily get on with their ridiculously pleasant lives – how ideologically insensitive of them.

    Most of us, in line with the rest of the world, think that Bush is a bit of a f*cking idiot but trust me, when we’re in the pub we talk about footy not American politics.


  39. wally thumper IV says:

    R: I was born and raised in Britain; I live there now. I spent many years in the US. I have lived and worked other places, too.

    As for …Most of us, in line with the rest of the world, think that Bush is a bit of a f*cking idiot but trust me, when we’re in the pub we talk about footy not American politics.

    …Oh deary me. Because the Guardian and BBC are now under continuous fire for ludicrous, lying coverage of the US elections, and have failed to influence them despite endless meddling, the current spin — picked up by you like a good useful idiot — is “we don’t care.” Who are you trying to kid?

    I don’t trust anyone who says “trust me” and “footy.” I spend plenty of time in the pub. You’re simply out of your depth.


  40. Rich says:

    So where exactly do you live where British civilisation is falling to bits and the citizens aimlessly wander around spitting anti-Bush bile, their poor little minds warped by the BBC and the Guardian, cause I haven’t been there??


  41. Belly says:

    What is it with some of you people?

    How the hell do you get from ‘British people don’t give George Bush the credit he deserves, partly due to media misreporting’ to ‘this is an enervated, disengaged, defeatist culture’ and ‘the BBC is a threat to my way of life if not my own actual life’. In terms of contact with reality this is on a par with dreadlocked anarchists who firmly believe that the US is the reincarnation of Nazi Germany.

    It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic.


  42. theghostofredken says:

    Hello everyone, I’m glad to see you’re all as rabid as ever. As a side note, wally thumper IV: the term footy (footie?) is an acceptable abbreviation for football, unless of course it’s American Football where any arbitrary term such as “bananas” or “splodge” will do as it doesn’t really matter for a game you have to run ten yards then fall over, every 20 minutes. Susan: I’m interested in your “Britain of Nelson…” post. Britain is thought of in Europe as being far too obsessed with its Imperialist past and only this morning I had to sit through 5 minutes of drivel about the Crimean War enactment on BBC Morning News. Also, all the people you mention except for Wellington are on the History syllabus for GCSE.


  43. Alan says:

    “…it doesn’t really matter for a game you have to run ten yards then fall over, every 20 minutes.”

    Sounds a bit like the antics of the players in the Man Utd – Arsenal game at the weekend….


  44. Pete _ London says:


    Wrong, wrong, wrong – ‘footy’ is not an acceptable abbreviation for football at all. ‘Football’ is the only acceptable term. In the UK using ‘footy’ and ‘soccer’ mark you out as someone who has no cultural grounding in the game but has jumped on the bandwagon.

    Also, you state:

    “Britain is thought of in Europe as being far too obsessed with its Imperialist past …”

    By whom? The Guardian? And who gives a damn what “Europe” thinks of our past anyway? I think its you who is embarrassed by Britain’s great history and want to see it brought low. And on the subject of being obsessed with an imperialist past have you not heard of the French? They bow to no-one in reliving the glories of the past.


  45. PD says:

    Ugh. The BBC is a threat to people’s lives now? Come on, this is getting ridiculous.

    Rob.. your early comment on that Hamas chief getting killed is a little confusing. As I undestand it “Military Target” is in bold because its a subheading, which refers to what is beneath. And as I read it, the Hamas leader is being referred to as the military target. Or were you suggesting that the BBC was using some sub-concious trickery in placing Military Target on the next line after reporting an attack on an Israeli soldier?

    Also I agree with Rich, I really can’t see where this destruction of Britain is occuring. And I swear the guys at BBC Online put up a few more pictures of Kerry than Bush to just wind you lot up.

    Cheer up guys, my history lessosns taught me that there have been much worse times in the past!


  46. Rob Read says:

    I’m more worried by the Beurocratic Imperium planned for us by “our” self proclaimed europeon elite.


  47. Pete says:


    As someone who has had a season ticket for the (less than) mighty Tottenham Hotspur for the past 20 years, plays every weekend and has a Sky dish solely to enable me to watch football, I reject your accusation that I am insufficiently obsessed.

    Having said that, whilst I maintain that footy is an acceptable verbal term it does look a bit gay when written down. I will desist from using it in future and thank you for pointing this out.


  48. Rich says:

    That was me, not sure what happened there??


  49. Anonymous says:


    I probably wouldn’t get too worried about things that are so far removed from reality that you can’t even spell them.


  50. Pete _ London says:

    Pete (ghostofredken? I’m getting confused here)

    Truce called. As a long standing season ticket holder at the Arsenal (hereafter referred to as the North London 49ers) I’m sorely tempted to make a sarcastic comment.