The Oxygen Of Publicity




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 Counter-narratives must be disseminated and key facts – for instance, that more Muslims have died in Pakistan as a result of Taliban actions than American drones…must be widely publicised.’  Maajid Nawaz,  Quilliam




The BBC has reported extensively on the protest by the Stop The War Coalition against the opening of an airbase to operate drones from the UK.

The story was endlessly reported yesterday and was the top story most of the day giving maximum publicity and exposure to a small campaign led by a highly dubious group.

You have to ask why?

The BBC reported that maybe 200 protesters turned up.

On a petition run by STWC after 10 months there are a mere 2,500 signatures:

David Cameron: End the secrecy surrounding the use of British drones!


So what’s the big story then BBC? Why the blanket coverage and headline news?

The use of drones from the UK isn’t a big story…the RAF have been operating them from a US base in Nevada for years….their location in the UK is surely irrelevant if you object to the principle….and we have known the base was going to be opened since at least May 2011.


Who is running the protests? Essentially the hard left Socialist Workers Party along with CND and War on Want.

‘War on Want’ is ostensibly a campaigner against poverty but is highly political and is edging more and more towards ‘Muslim’ orientated issues….Palestine and withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Its new senior campaigns officer is Rafeef Ziadeh, a co-founder of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid who identifies herself as a “refugee from occupied Palestine.”

Stop The War Coalition is controlled by the extreme left Socialist Worker’s Party and is famously not actually opposed to war, just wars that the West look like winning.

The SWP was not against the war, it was in favour in the war, it was in favour of Saddam winning the war, and it was in favour of the British losing.’

The STWC ran its anti war campaign in coalition with the Muslim Association of Britain…a Muslim Brotherhood group……

Very few are likely to be keen admirers of the SWP’s extreme left agenda, or indeed of Islam’s inherent conservatism. While they may have marched alongside hardline Islamic groups over Iraq, their sympathies with them are unlikely to extend to calls for an Islamic Caliphate of Great Britain.’

The Socialist Worker’s Party ran ‘sharia like’ kangaroo courts to ‘examine’ claims of rape against their own senior members, a story ignored for a long time by the BBC….

Socialist Workers Party leadership under fire over rape kangaroo court

Woman says she was asked about her sexual past branded a slut by senior party members after she accused one of rape


The BBC tells us what the protesters claim: ‘Campaigners say the switching of control of flights to the UK marks a “critical expansion in the nation’s drones programme”.

They are calling on the government to abandon the use of drones, claiming they make it easier for politicians to launch military interventions, and have increased civilian casualties.’

“I think people feel that there is something sinister and disturbing about the idea that someone can attack a foreign country thousands of miles away with, simply, the push of a button and this technology that is being introduced is giving carte blanche to governments to fight wars behind the backs of people with no public scrutiny or accountability.



Here is a BBC report from 2010 that feeds us the same line  that the STWC want to create now, that these drones are robot-like killing machines operated by people who think it is a computer game and are so detached from the war that they lose all human feeling and empathy.

This is the STWC’s own take:

‘Remote-controlled mass murder begins at Britain’s first drones base’ 

There is a deliberate attempt by them to conflate drone use in Pakistan with that in Afghanistan:  

’Though the MoD insists it operates with aircraft only in support of British troops, and only in Helmand province, the use of UAVs has been dominated by the CIA’s controversial programme to target insurgent leaders in Pakistan.

These strikes have sometimes caused civilian casualties, and have raised questions over the legality and morality of using remotely piloted systems in areas that are not conflict zones……Now is the time to ground the drones before the UK ratchets up even further remote-controlled slaughter.


……..But they are entirely different.  In Pakistan the drones are operated by the CIA under their own mysterious rules of engagement (and it may be noted with the tacit agreement of the Pakistan government which doesn’t close off their airspace) to target individuals.

In Afghanistan the military, not the CIA, operate the drones and the rules of engagement are the same as for aircraft.

Here the BBC is playing up the campaign’s message giving it some credence, the oxygen of publicity as Maggie Thatcher might have called it:

Drones playing ‘more important role’

Drones have been used by the US and British military for many years, but are now fast becoming the focus for anti-war campaigners in both countries.

But it is the idea of being able to use a machine to kill other human beings from the comfort of a chair thousands of miles away, using a screen reminiscent of a video game, that has galvanised campaigners in the US and Britain against drones.

Many feel that they have been introduced with little public debate.’…

…an echo of STWC’s own propaganda:

Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extra-judicial assassinations, without democratic oversight.’



But just how real is that impression of a ‘computer game’ killing machine operated by people disconnected from the battlefield, and how different is that from other weapon systems?

That is a crucial question, it is the central theme of the objections to the drones….a line that designed to be as emotive as possible, catching people’s eye whilst diverting them from reality.

The BBC needs to consider the political context of this story….just who are the campaigners and what is the underlying reason for their campaign?

The BBC needs to put the drone technology into context….it is a man sat in front of a computer screen acquiring targets and operating weapons by using that screen.

But just how different is that to any other weapon system? Is it different at all?

We know that this was a long time theme , disconnect of the crews from the killing…. famously in WWII in which bomber crews dropped bombs from thousands of feet up onto cities teeming with civilians.

But it applies to many weapon systems…tanks can fire shells for several miles, artillery for 10’s of miles, rocketry for thousands, submarines firing torpedoes or cruise missiles. The crews have no contact with the victims. In their case they can’t even see them unlike the drone pilots who can visually confirm the correct target personally.

How do manned aircraft operate over Afghanistan? In exactly the same way as the drones…the pilots acquire the target using the same type of systems as the drones, they then fire weaponry using the same systems as the drone pilot does…looking through a computer screen…and all from 20,000 feet up.

What’s the difference? None.

Here is a quotation from Alan Moorehead, a WWII journalist, in his book ‘The Desert War‘:

I crouched in a dugout with one of the artillery commanders while he gave his orders into the telephone to the American Long Toms a mile or two behind us. It all seemed so easy; just a few figures spoken into the telephone, then the air above us was full of tearing express trains and we grabbed our glasses to watch the hits. They fell among the high brown rocks, first with a quick yellow flash, then with a snow-white column of smoke that streamed steadily upward until it was caught by the cross wind on the mountain crest and billowed out into the grey and formless cloud…..this was killing by remote control, without the maddening stimulus of hand-to-hand fighting. One could carefully assess the targets and take aim with the same unemotional calmness of a sportsman shooting grouse on the moors.’

German artillery might answer back but the principle is the same, how other weapon systems are just as ‘remote‘ as drones…. ‘killing by remote control….no maddening stimulus….unemotional calmness.’




The other aspect to this is the motivation behind the protests…the SWP has had a long association with Islamist extremists and here it seems that such people are running a parallel campaign against the drones as part of a wider campaign:

About 60 Muslim men and women protested outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London and called for a Jihad to purify the land of Muslims. The activists accuse the Saudi regime of helping the West’s “crusade against Islam” by hosting US Drone bases.



 London Muslims protest against Saudi cooperation with drone bases


The drone campaign is just one aspect of much wider campaigns against the war in Afghanistan and the ‘Global War on Terror’ as was once named, run by STWC and of course numerous Islamist groups…amongst others…..all tying in numerous strands such as Israel/Palestine, Syria, Chechnia, Iraq, Afghanistan amongst many other issues.


The BBC is giving such groups enormous publicity and credibility by giving them such extensive coverage.

Intentionally or not, and we know the BBC is inherently opposed to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the GWOT, they are giving a unbalanced impression of reality.

Operating drones over Afghanistan is no different to operating aircraft in technical and military terms, the rules of engagement being the same…their use in Pakistan by the CIA is a completely different issue that concerns politics and legality of the strikes there.

The BBC’s lack of clarity on the subject, the technical issues and the conflation of Pakistan with Afghanistan means that the Public cannot get a fully informed idea of the reality and is then swayed by emotive images and rhetoric much of which is actually based on the drone strikes in Pakistan.

To be fair to the BBC their defence correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, has treated the issue with a certain level of fairness…its just that she hasn’t given what is a crucial rounded picture of the technology and a context such as comparison with other weapon systems, and whilst she separates British use from the CIA’s in Pakistan she still brings in the casualty figures which she must know the reader or viewer will readily absorb and will be the one fact that stands out for them, the one that will stick in their minds whenever they think of drones…something the STWC is keen to encourage:

She says the “overwhelming majority” of missions the British drones are used for involve surveillance.

She says the MoD told her British drones are not being used for targeted assassinations, unlike the Predator drones used by the US in places such as Pakistan.

Estimates suggest CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed up to 3,533 people between 2004 and 2013.….About 890 of them were civilians.’



What we don’t get are the figures for civilian casualties in Pakistan caused by the militants….50,000 civilians have been killed by the Taliban and other groups in the ‘Badlands of Pakistan’….Panorama last year tells us that…but the figure should also be on these reports about drones here and now to give context if the BBC is highlighting casualties caused by drones.


This is a political battle and the BBC has stepped right into it without much thought of the consequences…..a much more nuanced and indepth reporting is needed especially if they are going to give this story such a high profile….at the moment it seems the balance of publicity is in favour of the anti-drone campaign…but as this is tied up with militant Islamists perhaps a bit of circumspection is in order.


Here Maajid Nawaz, in the Sunday Times (pay walled) spells it out:

Counter-narratives must be disseminated and key facts – for instance, that more Muslims have died in Pakistan as a result of Taliban actions than American drones…must be widely publicised.’


Whilst the BBC is supposedly not a ‘propagandist’ it must be careful not to inadvertently give powerful support to jihadists and to do that it must give the fullest information possible under the obvious constraints of time and space. A counter-narrative? No, just the facts, all the facts.


Drones are not really the issue here……the Islamist attempt to close down military action against them so that they can continue their dreams of  Caliphate in ‘peace’ is….

A dream reflected in Maajid Nawaz’s title of  his article in the Sunday Times:

Boston, the latest triumph of a global jihad brand.


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32 Responses to The Oxygen Of Publicity

  1. Doublethinker says:

    Just another example of the BBC knee jerk reaction to a liberal left cause. Any and all liberal left causes get their support. I noted yesterday on the Today programme in the space of 10 minutes the BBC was critical of the use of tasers by the police, on the grounds that occasionally mistakes were made in their use; wanted the UK to intervene militarily in Syria, because it was the moral thing to do; and , as reported above, boosted those who opposed the use of drones in the struggle against the Taliban; and finally, wanted UK business to stop buying cheap goods from the developing world.
    I did wonder what the BBC stance would be if drones were used over Syria and significantly reduced the level of casualties and also if they had asked workers in Bangladesh if they wanted people in the UK to stop buying the products they made for our shops.
    I am astonished that so many people apparently still listen to the BBC news and current affairs ,my exposure to Today yesterday was a rare event. The whole BBC news and current affairs output , with the honourable exception of Andrew Neil’s shows, is so transparently biased that they either make you laugh out load or make you angry.


    • Dazed & Confused says:

      Since when were the Socialist Workers Party….A.K.A “Stop the war” Liberals?……They’re Socialists and damned nasty ones at that, but the BBC give them unfettered coverage and attention…


      • Mark says:

        I agree – the SWP are a very nasty bunch, advocating wholesale intimidation, vandalism and rioting as the bread and butter of their existence.


  2. London Calling says:

    Squeamish old BBC: killing Taliban insurgents is bad, man.

    Leftists, Peaceniks, Pacifists, Islamists, the “Stop The War” mob have to find some cause to occupy themselves since Iraq went off the boil. Now its drones.
    The problem is the BBC News editorial team and their inate sympathies with Left Wing student politics. When sent a press release or campaign briefing by a “Stop the War” type organisations, instead of adding it to the kitty litter tray where it belongs, it goes into the “Big it up, hold the front page!” tray.
    The departure of Boaden has made no difference. The enemy is embedded within BBC News, from top to bottom


  3. Joe Chapman says:

    Ah yes the Socialist Workers Party. It reminds me of the Holy Roman Empire, in so much as it was neither holy,nor roman, nor an empire.


  4. John Anderson says:

    As Alan says, the BBC was droning on about drones all day – trying to whip up greater attendance at the protest than the pitiful crowd that gathered there.

    This is another example of editors inside the BBC deliberately trying to foment trouble.

    None of the UK press gave the drones issues the headlines the BBC accorded to this non-story. It should have been spiked. WHO at the BBC is responsible for this distorion of news values ? WHO at the top – and WHO at the desk level. At the desk level it is impossible not to suspect a ragbag of Muslims and leftie fellow-travellers.


    • Ralph says:

      We’ll see a Panorama or the like on drones in the near future justified by the ‘public interest’ in the story. It’s creating news not reporting it.


  5. TL;DR says:

    So basically that’s 1000’s of words in one post that could be boiled down to; “I don’t understand how news works”


    • Mat says:

      Really you don’t know how news works? well it’s very simple you have a load of story’s and you pick what you want to put out to the public most of the press goes with the main story’s run by other networks !where as if you only chuck out that which ,even though no one else cares happens to go along with your own bias and prejudices then you work for the BBC !
      There you go !


    • London Calling says:

      Can’t even manage an anagram of TROLL properly?


    • Alan says:

      The BBC does News?

      Tell me more about that.


    • Guest Who says:

      Usually the default weekend shift 140 characterless attempted assassinations of Alan’s extensive, free, researched, source-cited contributions don’t go much further than ‘Na, ni-nah, ni-nah, ni nah nah’, true, but at least there’s often a stab at tackling a fact.
      Budget cuts?
      ‘Whilst the BBC is supposedly not a ‘propagandist’ it must be careful not to inadvertently give powerful support…’
      Or deliberately. Like troop deployments or ordnance settings?
      That would never do.


    • Dwayne says:

      You forgot to add ‘Bloody Muslims’. That about covers it.


      • Andy S. says:

        Dwayne, (how many names is that you’ve used on this site?) that is a pathetic and childish post, typical of the level of so called argument Beeboid trolls sink to.


        • Dwayne says:

          For pathetic and childish posts see Alan.

          So many of his posts are based around the idea shared by like-minded internet forum types tht theres a Muzzie coming over my garden wall any moment to kill me and my family and take over the UK.

          I’m sure it has nothing to do with paranoia or bigotry.


      • Mat says:

        Dwayne you really should stop that evil anti bomber kind of hate speech it’s naughty and will get you thrown out of aunties big new tax payer funded manky heaven !


  6. stuart says:

    did you notice (chris nineham) putting his head up as spokesman for these assorted bunch of commies and apologists for radical islam,who is he you ask,oh yes,the swps leading gobshite,in the week where 11 anti british muslim fascists got jalied for planning to blow up 2000 people in birminham you would think that these commies would have something beter to do,why dont these leftist idiots hold protests against the muslim islamists who want to murder us and blow us to pieces on the streets of the uk.can you answer that swp chris nineham.


  7. chrisH says:

    Yet another kite running non-story.
    I can therefore set my watch and calendar that the BBC will be blowing the souffle with gaily-painted straws until somebody somewhere outside their phone a friend tufty club takes an interest, and “goes on air” to tell the rest of us that this is “something to campaign against, to legislate for, to enquire of”
    Nah, f*** off.
    It`s war.
    Suppose there`s no chance of Polly, Shami , Clive etc getting a free ride up in one…carve `em a seat , and let`s see if they ARE effective.
    I`d watch it anyway.


    • Mat says:

      ‘Polly, Shami , Clive etc getting a free ride up in one’ Hehe all I can see is them taped to the wing and Front 242’s ‘circling overland’ playing


  8. spooky says:

    Note that STWC silent over military aggression by Syria and North Korea, etc.
    Bit like the old days of CND saddos with their luv for Soviet aggression.
    Not too that whereas EDL or BNP are always labelled “far right” by BBC, no mention of far left STWC, drawing most of it’s support from fascist left SWP.


    • Amounderness Lad says:

      They can all be gathered together under an “Umbrella Group” (I believe that’s the in term for the Trots Coalitions like to hide behind) called “We Support Anybody Who Wants to Annihilate “The West” (Britain and the US) and It’s Values Whoever They Are and However They Do It”
      They all use different names and operate in different areas but with the same long term aim in mind, to disrupt and weaken “The West” as much as possible in the hope of subjugating it under a Marxist Totalitarian Regime, with them in total control, obviously.


      • Mark says:

        George Galloway’s War on Want was another of those politically-loaded charities from the 1980’s. Along with CND, they spewed anti-Western bile whilst remaining silent about the behaviour of the Soviet Union and its satellites.


  9. DJ says:

    Just going on convictions alone, I’d say there were more jihadists out there than there were nutters on that march, so how come one group is a tiny minority and the other is the Voice of the People?


  10. Derek says:

    “I think people feel that there is something sinister and disturbing about the idea that someone can attack a foreign country thousands of miles away with, simply, the push of a button Jihad?


  11. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Cameron’s doing it wrong here. All he needs to do is say The Obamessiah asked him to do it, and the protests and BBC scowling will evaporate pretty quickly.


  12. Andrew says:

    My impression of the drones is that they make more accurate intelligence and targeting possible; but let’s assume I’m wrong. Will the BBC hold Islamic terrorists to the same standard? When they attacked the Boston Marathon, did the BBC argue that there would have been more moral justification for an attack on, say, the White House itself or a US diplomat somewhere, as fewer innocents would be involved? What of the 7/7 attacks in London? No focus at all, so not all victims were even kuffars, let alone British government or army officials.


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      More accurate intelligence and targeting? Somewhat. What’s more important for the President is that they eliminate the messy political baggage of imperialist boots on the ground and hand-wringing over dead US troops. It’s the easiest way for a Nobel Peace Prize laureate to expand warmongering into as many countries as He likes, and kill US citizens without due process of law anywhere in the world, without drawing too much attention or criticism.

      The moral justification for murdering innocents is, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s all the justification the press required of the 9/11 mass murderers, so why should these new boys need anything more? It’s really a shame that the bomber brothers didn’t rely on the BBC for their news, or they’d have known that the current President has ended those wars, and there’s no longer any need for their jihad.


      • Andrew says:

        Surely “9/11” was in 2001 and the Iraq and Afghanistan actions came later, unless you mean Iraq in 1991 after the invasion of Kuwait. The attacks of 7/7/2005 in London were after Iraq/Afghanistan.


        • David Preiser (USA) says:

          Yes, I kind of misspoke there. I was thinking US foreign policy in general, which was given by so many as justification for 9/11. You’re right that 7/7 was specifically about Iraq and Afghanistan, and I should have said that.

          In any case, this is what prompted my comment:

          Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.

          No word on whether or not one of the websites he turned to was CBBC Newsround…..