On Saturday BBC Views Online published When suffering gets personal

, an article by John Simpson, as part of their ‘From our own correspondent’ series, reflecting on his feelings about the incidents he reports on in light of the recent birth of his son, Rafe. Simpson writes:

And to see the miracle of other people’s lives snuffed out wantonly on the streets of Baghdad or Kabul, or London for that matter, for some scarcely understood political or religious motive, seems to me nothing short of blasphemy.

I do not just loathe the stench of high explosive, I have come to loathe the attitudes of people who use high explosive for their own purposes: insurgents, terrorists, the intelligence services of a dozen countries, governments which target towns and cities and always have a ready apology when they kill the wrong people.

A laudable observation of what most decent and humane people just know innately, without requiring a revelatory experience – although I suppose we must remember that people at the BBC these days do seem to have issues when it comes to telling right from wrong. Curiously though, Simpson lumps together all users of high explosives as if they are equally loathesome, without stopping to note that there is a big difference between terrorists and insurgents, who tend to seek to maximise civilian casualties to further their cause, and responsible governments who go to great lengths to minimise civilian casualties to further their cause – even if on some occasions some of their representatives could try harder and be less glib when apologies are sadly necessary.

I hope I never did think that attacks on civilians – any civilians – were justified but now I know for certain they are not.

Again, this isn’t a sentiment that most people would have any doubt about, ever. Perhaps Simpson’s lack of certainty reflects the offensive BBC-think that insists that ‘terrorists’ are ‘militants’, because terrorist as a word has negative connotations, without of course stopping to remember that the reason why the word terrorist has negative connotations is precisely because of what terrorists do!

The fact is, my time reporting on violence and bombings in places like Baghdad and Kabul has shown me one essential thing: that the lives of the poor, the stupid, the old, the ugly, are no less precious to them and to the people around them, than the life of my little son Rafe is precious to me.

Another statement so obvious that it is remarkable solely because Mr. Simpson thinks it needs to be said. Still, we can but hope that Simpson’s revelations might better inform the BBC when it comes to distinguishing between right and wrong,
between terrorist and militant, when reporting and recording events around the world.

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16 Responses to On Saturday BBC Views Online published When suffering gets personal

  1. Fran says:

    “Still, we can but hope that Simpson’s revelations might better inform the BBC when it comes to distinguishing between right and wrong, between terrorist and militant, when reporting and recording events around the world.”

    It would be nice to think so, Andrew, but I doubt it. The holier than thou way in which Simpson states the bleedin’ obvious doesn’t mask the sort of sloppy ethical thinking so prevalent in the BBC and so nicely exposed by your brief fisk.


  2. Horace Dunn says:

    Simpson says:

    “I am sorry if this sounds pious or sentimental. I do not mean it to be.”

    Yes you do, John.

    As you point out, his remarks – that war is a hideous and dreadful things – are so obvious that they need not even be stated. Nonetheless, Simpson has decided to state them. Why? It’s not that he doesn’t find them obvious. Clearly he does. He does not however feel that they are obvious to us, the punters.

    Being a BBC person, he has such a low opinion of us ordinary people that he feels that WE need to be told. Clearly we’re not intelligent or refined enough to arrive at these conclusions ourselves. That is why we have to be taxed in order to have highly educated and deeply moral people like Simpson et al to lecture us about right and wrong.

    It’s classic BBC schtick.


  3. Kid Gloves says:

    “…that the lives of the poor, the stupid, the old, the ugly, are no less precious to them and to the people around them, than the life of my little son Rafe is precious to me.”

    What an incredibly arrogant thing to say


  4. Bob says:

    I think the article says more about John Simpson than anything or anyone else.


  5. Pete says:

    This Simpson piece was not news. Proud new parents often think they’ve come to a new understanding of the world, especially middle-aged ones like Simpson. We pay for news not homilies. Thought for the day is the place for them, not a news programme.


  6. Anonymous says:

    In John Simpson’s world, terrorists = misguided criminals.


  7. Andy says:

    Simpson has a talent for dispensing platitudes as if they were pearls of wisdom.


  8. Verity says:

    Horace Dunn – Please step forward for your Oscar. Excellent. Simpson states the breathtakingly, mind-bendingly obvious because he thinks other people don’t share his elevated vision; we have to have such lessons spelled out for us in alphabet blocks.

    Kid Gloves – Copy.

    What a posturing jerk!


  9. John Backhouse says:

    Everything above about Simpson being a posturing, pious arse is true. I think, however, there is something more insidious about it. I think the BBC are aware that many people have cottoned onto their flagrant policital bias and, so, they are trying to couch their message in more general “humanistic” terms. So, “we’re not biased we just feel so terrible about it all. Will nobody think of the children?”. Strange that they don’t make eloquent pleas for the Israeli children killed by suicide bombs or the the American children orphaned by 9/11. Presumably, Israelis and Americans aren’t covered by the BBC’s version of “human”.


  10. redcar says:

    When Simpson was producing a weekly column for the Sunday Telegraph (and had a home in the Irish Republic at the time) he wrote a piece referring to the alleged grievances of Irish Republicans in Ulster, stating that “their wrongs were as real as any in the world.”

    Excuses for terrorism from BBC staffers, anyone?


  11. Cheeta says:

    The BBC’s banning of the word terrorism is not universal. They will report its use when connected to Israel, the US or UK, but readjust it when connected to non-Israeli middle eastern sources.
    It is crazy that the BBC do not understand the need to be consist. Don’t they know what a terrorist, basically, is? It’s almost comical.
    Perhaps they should watch the second Superman movie when Clark Kent says to his boss, Perry White, “W..Why are they call terrorists, M..Mr White?”

    “Because they cause terror!” snapped Perry White.


  12. Bernard says:

    He was bombed by the USAF in northern Iraq a while back; He should have been stood down after that. Some people can recover from such an insident, while others like him become mentally ‘jellyfied’.


  13. Horace Dunn says:


    Thank you so much for the Oscar. I accept it, but not for me. Rather, it is for all BBC licence-fee payers whose resillience, dignity and goodness… [continues in same vein for half an hour]

    Seriously, though, I find increasingly that it is not what BBC people say that is the problem, but that they feel the need to say it. At the same time, of course, they feel that there is a pressing need NOT to say certain things. It is a clear demonstration of how out-of-touch they are.

    There’s a lot of talk on this site about the word “terrorism” and speculation about why they don’t want to use it. To me the reason is quite simple. THEY know what a terrorist is, and they know that someone who puts a bomb in a pizza parlour to blow up innocent civilians is a terrorist. But they fear that if they use that word it will give us (the people who don’t live in Islington, Hampstead and Clerkenwell) licence to indulge our simple-minded racism. The truth? The lower classes can’t handle the truth.

    It’s also about justifying their own existence. Why do we need the BBC? Well, because we need moral guidance, and constant reassurance, like all children. If they were to admit that we were able to look at facts and come to our own decisions about rightness and wrongness, well then they would have to question their own role in all of this. It must be difficult to accept the possibility that you might not deserve all that status, influence and money, all of which are bestowed with very little requirement for accountability.

    I would hope that if I were one of them, relishing the cushiness, that I would recognise the humbug. But I know a good many people who work for the BBC and they are all utterly convinced of the rightness of everything the BBC does and, in consequence, their own entitlement to the positions they hold.

    The BBC does a lot of great work, but it only achieves this in spite of itself. It is, at core, a highly disfunctional organisation, out of step and anachronistic. When its broadcasters try to wrestle with the paradox – they see themselves, of course, as cutting-edge and essential – we end up so often with the kind of over-funded twaddle that characterises so much of what the Corporation does.


  14. Andrew says:

    Horace, would you mind dropping me an email, in confidence, apropos of an idea I have, at biasedbbc@gmail.com please? Thank you.


  15. FredF says:

    [Deleted. Your profanity says a lot about you FredF]


  16. Charlotte Bull says:

    Yes, both the BBC and it seems, political spin doctors, all appear to believe deeply in the fact that most of us are profoundly stupid.I also agree with the experience, expressed above, that the BBC and media in general often appear ironically, to miss themselves, what appears to most people, blindingly obvious. Eg, the fact that Sadaam Hussain wouldn’t have used his weapons of mass destruction, after the first invasion in defense of Kuwait, even if he’d had them as he was neither stupid nor a fanatic. – the fact that the Labour party should have made Blair stand down as he had caused the deaths of innocents for reasons which were either outright lies or simply false – that by voting him back in we appear to hold the lives of those lost in Iraq of inferiour importance to our own, hence the belated attack in London. etc

    My point is that I’ve come to believe that some people actually do need to have themselves within a situation before their imaginations and sensitivities begin to take it in. They conclude that the rest of us must be like themselves.