Obsessing on Death Row

Scott Callahan has put together a detailed post that’s right up this blog’s street. He compares the BBC’s approach to the death penalty in the US and China- and finds a stark contrast.

Just over a week ago I did a similar thing in relation to the BBC’s coverage of the Iranian death penalty- though not as well – on my own blog. The point is that whichever way you cut it, the Beeb basically gives alien cultures a free pass for being alien (playing up every sign of decency, downplaying every barbarism), whereas they feel free to run the USA into the ground over its penal code.

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84 Responses to Obsessing on Death Row

  1. disillusioned_german says:

    What the Beeb never mention either is the fact that Japan also has the death penalty and is one of the safest countries on the planet (in regards to violent crime).


  2. archduke says:

    and , may i add, singapore.


  3. disillusioned_german says:

    You sometimes hear about Singapore and, more recently Thailand, Archduke but only very rarely (if ever) about Japan (and their low crime rate).


  4. paulc says:

    So Lord Falconer believes that ‘compulsion may be necessary’ when it comes to ID cards.

    So you’ll be dipping your hand into your pocket for my benefit? Too kind, your grace. Noblesse oblige and all that.
    ‘Cos i’m not paying for one of the damned things.
    What is this, a ‘living’ license?


  5. Anonymous says:

    “Scott Callaghan has put together…”

    It’s Scott Callahan.


  6. simoncp says:

    No consistency is required from the BBC. They will get their cash whatever they say and whenever they say it. As for the death penalty, that is one of the issues that the metropolitan elite, senior BBC staff included, is allowed to overrule the rest of us because it knows better.


  7. Geoff says:


    It’s ironic that simoncp says that “no consistency is required from the BBC”.

    At this very moment there are two stories on the front page of the International version of the website. Under “Other Top Stories” we have ‘Lost Whale Swims Further Inland’ … and on the same page listed under “Europe” we have ‘Lost Whale Seen Heading For Sea’. Eh?

    Not bias obviously – just incompetent journalism with two articles saying that the same whale is heading in two directions at once. Confused? I was…. And we are forced to pay for this incisive reporting? Can I have half my money back please, depending on which direction the whale really is heading?


  8. ed says:

    Thanks to anon, I’ve edited the name- must’ve been in former British Prime Minister mode. Apologies to Scott.


  9. epi-me says:

    I dont know if this is being reported particularly widely – but it doesnt seem to be on the linked on the main news page. It really is quite a gentle bit of reporting, and whilst somewhat detailed still seems to skirt certain pieces of evidence:

    “Abu Hamza outlines his defence”

    Meanwhile at the times we have a shorter less detailed but more forthright piece:
    “Offensive’ remarks taken straight from Koran, defence says ”


    “It is said he was preaching murder, but he was actually preaching from the Koran itself.”

    “Mr Hamza has said things that most people will find deeply offensive and hateful. But he is not on trial for describing England as a toilet. There is no crime of simply being offensive.”

    Has there been anything on the tv?


  10. ming the merciless says:

    from that Times link:
    “COPIES of the Koran were handed to the jurors in the Abu Hamza trial yesterday as his defence argued that some of the cleric’s “offensive” statements were drawn directly from Islam’s holy book. ”

    “Abu Hamza’s remarks, which the prosecution alleges amount to an attempt to stir up racial hatred against the Jewish people, were, Mr Fitzgerald said, a reference to the Hadith – sayings of the Prophet Muhammad – in which fighting between Jews and Muslims is predicted. ”

    so is the case of the defense actually shedding light on the true nature of the “religion of peace”?


  11. Lee Moore says:

    Unsurprisingly, the BBC article contains the usual “expert” whose affiliations aren’t mentioned, but which are obvious from her comments :
    Elisabeth Semel, a professor at the University of California’s Boalt Hall School of Law, says California is speeding up the pace of executions “just as public support for the death penalty is waning”.
    Nine seconds of googling reveals that she is a committed anti :


  12. chevalier de st george says:

    IT seems obvious that the Americans being a democratic society are easy pickings for the BBC. Their american offices and staff are unlikely to be harrassed by this kind of OBSESSIVE reporting.
    Such is not the case for Iran or China.
    One should always attack those who don’t fight back no?


  13. ming the merciless says:

    lets play the game of

    “spot the israeli”



  14. will says:

    From “The Times”

    The Office for National Statistics reclassified the television licence fee as a tax. That meant that the BBC and S4C, the Welsh-language channel, were both part of central government rather than being non-financial corporations in the public sector.


  15. Ritter says:

    OT – TV Licence Fee is Dead! Long live the TV Tax!

    The ‘self-styled’ BBC ‘licence fee’ is no more. It looks like a tax on owning a TV, quacks like a tax on owning a TV……well, what do you know, now it’s official, it is a tv tax.

    The Independent

    “Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics said that the television licence fee, which helps fund the BBC, would be classified as a tax rather than a service charge.”

    The Times

    “Mr Brown should no more be pleased than BBC executives that the Office for National Statistics has seen fit to reclassify the BBC licence fee as a tax, thereby moving the corporation into central government. This will boost public spending and revenue in equal amounts, causing the overall tax ratio to rise by about 0.2 per cent.”

    Apparently the legal definition of a ‘licence fee’ or ‘service charge’ (according to Office of National Statistics is) “a compulory payment for which one receives a service directly in return”. Their rethink comes with the advent of digital tv where, with freeview, cable & satellite, one may never watch the BBC so it is arguable whether one is getting a ‘service’ in return for a fee. A ‘tax’ is defined as “a compulsory but unrequited payment”, that is, you do not necessarily get anything back. Sounds spot on in the BBC’s case.

    How ONS will classify public sector broadcasters

    Implications? Not sure. The Daily Mail thinks that the change could open the door for other broadcasters to get a slice of what essentially is a UK PBS annual budget of £2.9Billion which currently just gets doled out to the BBC automatically. Why?

    The £2.9Billion will now be added to the governments official tax take/spending figures which will increase gov spending by 0.2%. Source: Daily Mail today p19, not online (yet?).

    Staggering really. Why is no-one asking the big question, “do we need the tv tax”?

    There are umpteen possibilities other than an immediate scrapping of the tax & the BBC – a hugely slimmed down BBC, a ‘capped’ tv tax of £50 per household, a voluntary subscription offer etc etc – at least this would move us in the right direction.

    This gov. hasn’t even chipped at the edges with their so-called “review” of the charter and all colours of (green, white etc) papers. The mantra seems to be “10 More Years!”. God forbid.


  16. Ritter says:

    beat me too it Will!


  17. will says:

    beat me too it Will!

    Ah, but you tell it better, Ritter


  18. disillusioned_german says:

    Something weird just happened to me when reading the Iran crisis: Global reaction (D)HYS…

    Instead of BBCARABIC.COM I read BARBARIC.COM – conincidence?


  19. Rick says:

    Ironic really – US executes convicted killers after 25 years of appeals – Europe happily aborts babies with no right of appeal and terminates them even if they try to survive

    The BBC and European Union approve wholeheartedly of disposing of newborn life but fight vociferously against terminating those who have taken human life


  20. Rick says:

    BBC Radio 4 “Any Answers” – Jonathan Dimbleby takes call from woman in Kent who drones on about the evils of the 11-Plus and Kent Grammar Schools

    Caller from Tunbridge Wells identifies caller as Rebecca Matthews

    Dimbleby is too far out in the ether to identify Rebecca Matthews as Chairwoman of STEP – a Campaign to abolish the 11+Plus.

    How often Any Answers is hijacked by some campaign or another which fails to identify itself and pretends just to be some individual calling in


  21. Oxonian says:

    Speaking of Radio 4, people might be interested to listen to yesterday’s ‘Feedback’. About four minutes into the ‘Listen Again’ broadcast, there was a report of a listener complaining that Justin Webb was -too- pro-American. It’s followed by a good interview with Justin Webb, who actually attacks (to some extent) the BBC view towards America. It’s only a four-minute chunk, but I enjoyed it.

    I wonder if Justin Webb is going rogue? Maybe living in America is turning him, as was suggested in the broadcast, “native”.


  22. archduke says:

    there was an end of the year review program with Justin Webb as one of the panellists – and he clearly came out pro-American, and lambasted the anti-Americanism in Europe.

    i wonder how long he’ll last in his current position.


  23. Rob Read says:

    So the bBC is officially in the extortion funded sector now?

    Considering Blairistans policy of the expansion of extortion and the resultant shrinkage of freedom this does not really point the being the nescessary first nail in the bBC coffin.


  24. archduke says:

    listening to it now
    justin webb attacks the easy route of “blame it all on the americans”
    he says “its easier to attack america” – rather than china, saudi , iran – precisely because of the open nature of
    american society.


  25. richard says:

    disillusioned german

    japan is safe because there is an almost complete absence of multi-culturism.
    there are small minorities of koreans and chinese but no other large group of aliens.


  26. Roxana Cooper says:

    There is something to that. It would seem the more homogenous a society the less violent it is, which no doubt explains why multi-cultural America has always been more violent than the old world countries our ancestors escaped.

    Diversity = conflict = violence. Now all one has to do is decide if the former is worth the latter. Over here of course we have no choice, Diversity is us, but there seems no question but the divisive tactics of the ‘civil rights’ crowd has escalated tensions.


  27. Rob Read says:

    from the leftwingviewsnight email


    Thanks to all of you who have recently sent in Jokes Fit For an Eleven
    year Old. Today’s offering is from Newsnight viewer Anne:

    The Americans were worried about Bird Flu.

    No longer worried. Bush has told them he’s going to bomb the Canaries.

    Newsnight – 10.30pm on BBC2.



  28. paulc says:

    Thank you Roxana Cooper:

    ‘Diversity = conflict = violence’

    That is why a culturally diverse – a multicultural society (as opposed to a multiracial society) will fail. Especially if the ‘powers that be’ insist on conducting their ‘social experiment’ in the pressure-cooker environment of a small, rather crowded island.

    (but try explaining that to ‘Auntie’)


  29. Susan says:

    OT: A black woman poses an end to US “Black History Month”:


    She argues that black history and American history are the same things, which I agree with. Many thoughtful non-white people in the US are starting to rebel against “diversity” aka tribalism.(Sorry this has nothing to do with the BBC but I thought Roxana would enjoy it.)


  30. paulc says:

    “Something weird just happened to me when reading the Iran crisis: Global reaction (D)HYS…

    Instead of BBCARABIC.COM I read BARBARIC.COM – conincidence?”



    I think you may have had a ‘waking dream’ just like Friedrich Kekule.
    He perceived the nature of the Benzene ring, you’ve perceived the nature of BBC arabic broadcasting.



  31. ming the merciless says:

    ‘Diversity = conflict = violence’

    ermm… what about Canada?

    what about modern day southern Ireland?

    its not that simple.


  32. G Powell says:

    The BBC has been cooking the political books for a long time. Not only are all contributers as guests on the news and political debate shows carfully veted, so is everyone that expresses an opinion. It is not generaly known that even people interviewed in the street, are selected from a list. I know a butcher in Smithfield market that has been interveiwed, and on, the BBC over 30 times. They ring him up in advance,and meet him at work,to give his ” common man ” view-point on anything,” from the war to the weather. Nice man, but also a lifetime supporter of the Labour Party. Suprise, suprise. They also pay him. Of cause the only thing the BBC says that they insist on,is that he does not swere. But even he has noticed a bias in which comments actualy get on the box. Goerbels would be proud of them, if not a little flatterd.


  33. TAoL says:

    “Justin Webb…too pro-American”

    Here is a snippet of that programme. He has a delicious swipe at the Mary Robinson, former ‘Commissioner’ of ‘Human Rights’ at the ‘self-styled’ ‘United Nations’.

    (from Norman Geras’s blog – I owe him a virtual pint for this)


    ‘Sackur: One fascinating insight into human rights attitudes round the world I had in recent weeks was chatting to Mary Robinson who till very recently was the UN chief running the Human Rights Commission. She said the problem is that, because of what has happened, post-Iraq in particular, with Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, a whole host of other things she listed, it is impossible now for countries like America which basically are democracies, which many people around the world have always looked up to – the problem is now they cannot take the moral high ground and lecture other countries on how they should impose human rights values. It doesn’t work any more…

    ‘Webb: That’s absolutely ludicrous, though, isn’t it? I mean the view in America of that kind of comment is just to throw your hands up and say ‘For goodness sake…’ Look at the facts on the ground, look at the way that Iraq was run before the invasion, look at Iran now, and then look, for instance, at America. I mean, can you seriously say that there is some kind of moral equivalence between the way they treat their own people and the way Americans treat theirs, the way they behave on the world stage…?

    ‘Sackur: Justin, hang on, it’s all about perception…

    ‘Webb: Ah, that’s a different matter… Someone in the position that Mary Robinson is in, where it shouldn’t be just about perception, it should be about a knowledge of the facts on the ground – that kind of thing is what so annoys people in this country, and not just Republicans, Americans of all political stripes, who just say to the rest of the world, ‘For goodness sake: look at us without your soft anti-Americanism, or your dislike of McDonalds or whatever else, or your dislike of big people, powerful people, successful people… just look at the facts on the ground.’ America is a very very free country…’

    I am going to adopt this phrase, “it’s all about perception”, and use it to defend false claims and support breathtakingly ignorant assumptions.

    e.g. “I think all BBC employees are Trotskyite pederasts.”

    “No they’re not.”

    “But it’s all about perception, innit?”


  34. dave t says:

    Nowt on the BBC about this:

    SOUTH Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority said last night it had decided not to press charges of rape against the 21-year-old son of the British high commissioner, Paul Boateng. Cape Town police have been investigating for more than a fortnight a complaint made by a 17-year-old Johannesburg woman that she was raped on New Year’s Eve by Benjamin Boateng, one of the High Commissioner’s five children.

    Mystery surrounds the fact that the police declined to name Benjamin in their statements, describing him only as “the son of a British diplomat”. Nor have any local media named him. British reporters learned that serious allegations had been made against him only from leaks by South African journalists. However, the Scorpions did say last night that one consideration had been that diplomats and their families in South Africa enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution. The British government would have had to waive diplomatic immunity to allow any prosecution of the high commissioner’s son to go ahead, and diplomatic sources said this would have placed Britain in an extremely embarrassing position ahead of an as yet unannounced three-day visit to South Africa by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at the end of the second week in February.

    Though no officials have made any connection between Mr Blair’s impending visit and the decision not to prosecute the high commissioner’s son, it is clear that such a trial in a country with the highest incidence of rape in the world could have overshadowed political negotiations. The issue, however, is not likely to go away. Women’s organisations and anti-rape groups are certain to question whether there has been a diplomatic “cover-up”.

    Whole article: http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=101612006


  35. DFH says:

    OT. Re. Justin Webb – I blogged about his uncharacteristically pro-American comments at the time (with transcript).

    Further OT. Here’s something that really winds me up – the BBC giving airtime (and our money) to “psychics” like Derek Acorah, who was on Radio Five Live today. My (ahem) post-lunchtime response is here (warning – strong language). Natalie might be interested to know that this utter fraud is going to be in Dr Who.


  36. ming the merciless says:

    DFH – i think you’ll find thats all part and parcel of the “make britain dumber” policy.


  37. Rick says:

    If the BBC were cut adrift of corporate welfarism and slimmed down to be simply a broadcaster as opposed to a State Propaganda Ministry I personally think mental health would improve in Britain and there would be much less depression


  38. Rick says:

    How will the BBC cover this story in Guardian Online (and presumably Observer) ?

    Mark Oaten tonight resigned as the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman after allegations of an affair with a rent boy. A Sunday newspaper said it had uncovered details of the affair.


  39. disillusioned_german says:

    Richard: Yes, and still Japan is a very interesting country because it has managed to keep its culture – good on the Japanese!

    PaulC: Cheers, mate!


  40. Socialism is Necrotizing says:

    Has Justin Webb been mugged by reality?


  41. archduke says:

    SOC : justin webb, like many of us, has had an epihany and is now sick to death of the constant anti-israeli bias, and anti-american bias in the bbc.

    i cant speak for webb, but i would guess those videos of american hostages getting their heads chopped off in the name of “islam” was probably the “mugged by reality” event that you speak of.

    it was in my case.


  42. archduke says:

    that oaten rent boy thing – its on google news – and yes the beeb is covering it.


    rent boy? the chap is 23 years old.

    so Mr Oaten is a closet gay.

    so fucking what. to be honest, this kind of thing reeks of 80s “sleaze” – i would have thought that , as a country, we would have moved on from that.

    but that’s just me.


  43. Allan@Aberdeen says:

    “Mark Oaten tonight resigned as the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman after allegations of an affair with a rent boy. A Sunday newspaper said it had uncovered details of the affair.”

    But why resign? His portfolio is prefectly appropriate.


  44. Bob says:

    Mark Oaten: your tributes?


  45. archduke says:

    not paying your council tax, like what Prescott was caught with , should be a resignation issue.

    this Oaten thing just looks like the classic “i dont know if i’m gay or not” kind of thing. i suppose its better to resign in his case, as he’s open to blackmail, especially since he’s married and has a family.

    but personally speaking – i wouldnt say its a resignation issue. more of a “take a holiday for 2 weeks and think about it” kind of issue.


  46. DFH says:

    OT again A “progressive” blog has just linked to my post about Justin Webb (see above). Their take –

    Webbs (sic) modus operandi in his political reporting has been to parrot Republican talking points, and never ever gainsay his new buddies in the Washington media establishment, because then he’d lose what paltry access he has and likely his inside-the-beltway social life, poor love.
    He’s as bad as any other GOP media hack in that respect, but he also lacks the nous to realise that we are perfectly able to go to the sources ourselves, and we know those talking points he packages so debonairly are mostly lies.
    Does he really believe this shit, or is it the typical arrogance of the institutionalised BBC reporter of a certain age, who hasn’t really got to grips with the burgeoning information democracy and thinks he’s still the gatekeeper to esoteric knowledge? Or has he just gone native?

    “we are perfectly able to go to the sources ourselves”. Too damn right! Like this, for example, from one Justin Webb : “America is often portrayed as an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry, a place lacking in respect for evidence based knowledge. I know that is how it is portrayed because I have done my bit to paint that picture…”

    I’ve tried replying in the comments but I’m having no luck.


  47. Rob says:

    It has been a great month if you loathe the Liberal Democrats. Bring it on.

    Who to elect – The Anglican Church in Parliament, a.k.a Simon Hughes, or ‘Ming the Merciful’? Tough choice.


  48. ed says:

    DFH- that’s bizarre. I suppose the real issue for the fanatics is that although the BBC are on their side, they’re not enough on their side, and they can’t tell the difference- because they’re fanatics. It’s interesting that as Bush has shown endurance, and seems to be getting his way in important areas (eg. Alito), the Left has resorted to criticising the media to avoid criticising their own elected representatives or their grass roots.

    Actually my reading of the Justin Webb interview was that it was basically internal BBC politics working to bolster one of their stars. Webb has come under attack many times on blogs for being anti-American. Sackur, by contrast, has usually been considered very straight. What better way to rehabilitate Webb than to swap roles with Sackur for a time? They’ve probably worked alongside each other for many years, are roughly the same age, with youngish families if I recall- I am sure they had an understanding that Webb would be seen as being on the side of the angels by his usual critics.


  49. archduke says:

    bit of an over reaction to Webb’s outburst. in fact, i think Webb is doing us a service by portraying how the average American see’s Europe.

    long may it continue.

    i dont understand that progressive blogs angle. why bother sending an correspondent to America , and then have that reporter just report European bias about America back to us? why bother?

    Even if Webb had been doing that in the past, i think that outburst shows he’s changed. he has “gone native” – but to accuse him of being a Republican party mouthpiece is going a bit too far , and quite frankly , highly inaccurate.


  50. archduke says:

    “Sackur, by contrast, has usually been considered very straight”

    yeah – like Sackur, although his interview with Colin Powell (its on the hard talk website) was toe curling in some places.

    Webb’s outburst has given me a lot of hope that maybe we’ll start to get the American angle on things – the proper American view of things – rather that “beeboid reporter feeding U.S. stories through a Euro bias filter”

    that would be informative – and useful to the body politik.