Introducing Generic BBC America Correspondent…

(This one is work safe)

Talking of which, here are the opening and closing words to James Naughtie’s report for the Today programme on Tuesday:

Naughtie: New York, Ground Zero around the corner. I’m standing on the site of a planned Islamic centre with a mosque, a proposal that’s turned into an angry national debate here and acted as a proxy for the wider culture war between President Obama and liberal opinion on the one hand, arguing that America stands for religious freedom, and the conservative Right on the other, saying that a mosque would be provocative, offensive and wrong.


Naughtie: Which leaves the writer Sam Lipsyte looking out to America from New York, wondering what on earth he can do, and dreaming.

Lipsyte: Sure, is there [sic] a lot of tittering and grousing and sort of blanket dismissal that there could be anything but hate in the Tea Party, and I gotta say that what, y’know, their presentation lends itself to that conclusion. And at my most despairing moments I too have that sense of why can’t New York just be its own country.

Judging by the latest poll for the New York Times, Lipsyte’s dream utopia could only be realised if they deported more than half the people (via Newsbusters):

Two-thirds of New York City residents want a planned Muslim community center and mosque to be relocated to a less controversial site farther away from ground zero in Lower Manhattan, including many who describe themselves as supporters of the project, according to a New York Times poll…

Over all, 50 percent of those surveyed oppose building the project two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, even though a majority believe that the developers have the right to do so. Thirty-five percent favor it.

Opposition is more intense in the boroughs outside Manhattan — for example, 54 percent in the Bronx — but it is even strong in Manhattan, considered a bastion of religious tolerance, where 41 percent are against it.

And yet BBC correspondents such as Naughtie, and Hilary Andersson, prefer to give the impression that such opposition is the sole preserve of a scary, reactionary right-wing Tea Party movement.

Latest BBC Spin on Obama & the Mosque

The concluding, take-this-away-as-your-final-thought, paragraphs of a BBC article on the reaction to Obama’s support for the Ground Zero mosque:

“It was a bold decision – Obama could have stayed out of what is ostensibly a local matter,” wrote polling analyst Nate Silver on the political website
“But a careful evaluation of the polls reveals it to be less politically risky than it might at first appear.”

That would be the same Nate Silver who admitted recently his participation in Journolist, the controversial exclusive email list for Democrat-supporting hacks:

Almost always, I made exactly the points in these discussions that I made on FiveThirtyEight. Sometimes, I used the phrasing “we” when participating in these discussions, which I would not ordinarily use on the blog. I’ve disclosed from the first day of FiveThirtyEight’s existence that I’m usually a Democratic voter, and Journolist’s membership consisted of mostly Democrats, so this seemed fairly natural.

The anonymous BBC journalist’s description of a “polling analyst” from a “political website” doesn’t really do justice, does it? One of the new intake, perhaps, or just an old BBC hand? Same difference either way, I guess.

Hat tips to commenters David Preiser and Craig, the latter adding this:

That article’s use of polling evidence leaves a lot to be desired too:  
“While polling suggests a majority of Americans oppose plans to build the mosque, a Fox News poll released on Friday suggested 61% supported the developer’s right to build the mosque.”  
That poll comes in two parts, and the second part (the one the BBC quotes) needs to be seen in context:  
36. A group of Muslims plans to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center a few blocks from the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Do you think it is appropriate to build a mosque and Islamic center near ground zero, or do you think it would be wrong to do so?  
      30% Appropriate  
      64% Wrong  
37. Regardless of whether you think it is appropriate to build a mosque near ground zero, do you think the Muslim group has the right to build a mosque there, or don’t they have that right?  
      61% Yes, they have the right  
      34% No, they don’t have the right

All in all, quite a tendentious piece of Obama back-covering. Still, what’s new?

Update 20.00. I think we have our answer as to which BBC journalist is trying hard to spin this story in Obama’s favour – former Newsweek political correspondent (and Twitter follower of Nate Silver) Katie Connolly.

Obama Season on BBC 2

Last Sunday I blogged about the BBC’s decision not to show a documentary because it apparently failed to meet the “strict rules on objectivity”.

On Wednesday the BBC issued the following press release:

It’s one year since the inauguration of Barack Obama and BBC Two has the British premiere of a remarkable Storyville film, By The People: The Election of Barack Obama. Filmed by two young filmmakers who were given remarkable access to Obama’s election campaign, it has captured moments of extraordinary candour and intimacy. This film will be complemented by Simon Schama’s two-part film, Obama’s America, which considers the daunting challenges facing the president; and God Don’t Live Here Anymore?, in which theologian and writer Dr Robert Beckford journeys into heartland America to investigate the impact of Obama, both as a politician and a believer.

How objective can we expect that little lot to be?

From Hank Stuever’s review of “By The People” in the Washington Post:

HBO’s uplifting but stultifyingly naive, please-drink-a-little-more-Kool-Aid paean to the historical highlights of President Obama’s campaign and election…

At a recent VIP screening in Washington, the campaign’s advertising director joked that [filmmakers] Rice and Sams wound up in the way of all best shots of America’s Obama moments. The audience — made up mainly of political reporters who lived through the campaign, and some White House staff — laughed at that, mainly because, as almost everyone acknowledged, “By the People” is really just a very long commercial for Obama.

And here’s the Associated Press:

The documentary has a laudatory tone; after following Obama for two years both Rice and Sams said they voted for him. The film could leave Obama fans pining about potential yet unfulfilled and give opponents another example of the media fawning over the president.

On the day after Obama’s victory, the BBC’s Storyville editor Nick Fraser wrote the following on his blog at the Independent:

I have never seen anyone like Obama. Politicians do not have the wisdom or brass to address us in this way. So, in common with the rest of America and indeed the world I watched the events at Grant park, succumbing to the hope.

Little wonder a “stultifyingly naïve, please-drink-a-little-more-Kool-Aid paean to the historical highlights of President Obama’s campaign and election” appealed to him so much.

As for Schama and Beckford – the BBC covered the previous administration by commissioning aggressively anti-Bush films from the likes of Republican-hating activist Greg Palast. For analysis of the current administration it turns to a historian who is one of Obama’s biggest cheerleaders, and a theologian who has a poster of Malcolm X on his office wall at Birmingham University.


It’s really not news — it’s pushing a point of view.

When I read that I thought that yet another important political figure had grasped the truth about the BBC. That it was said by Obama’s chief adviser David Axelrod was even better. I know Axelrod is essentially a Daley machine hack from Chicago but he was the mastermind behind Obama’s meteoric rise from obscure non achieving, inexperienced, state senate placeman to Saviour of the World in five years so he must have his finger on the pulse.

But then the penny dropped. He wasn’t talking about the BBC – he was fingering Fox News (or the right wing Fox News as the Guardian likes to call it.)
Apparently the White House feels that Fox, unlike ABC, CBS, NBC and the other cable channels CNN and MSNBC is not being particularly helpful to the President. In fact Axelrod accused Fox of having a “perspective” and I doubt he meant it was leftward.

Now for an administration to come out so openly against a major media outlet is unprecedented – imagine the furore if George W Bush had made a similar remark about MSNBC. Yet the rest of the US media have been strangely muted about the whole affair as has the BBC….I wonder why?

The one honourable exception has been ABC’s Jake Tapper who tackled White House spokesman Robert Gibb. Gibb bumbled away in his usual Oliver Hardy manner – and the rest of the media sat on their hands.

Fact is, of course, that from fairly early in the Democrat primaries the networks and CNN and MSNBC were in the tank for Obama and gave him a very easy ride and continue to do so – for the moment. They invested so much capital in pimping the product that to take him off the shelf so early would destroy the little credibility they might still think they have. Axelrod is irritated by not having a full house hand. Fox is the one channel that has refused to worship at the Obama altar and the administration doesn’t like it.

So – is it just sour grapes? Of course not – Axelrod is an old Chicago hand. You don’t worry about not being liked in the Daley universe – but you do worry about the numbers..and Fox has the numbers, surging far ahead of the other cable channels. Fox has power and therefore needs containment in case the others are tempted to leave the temple and follow a similar path.

Actually there has already been a mild attempt to show a degree of buyer’s remorse on a recent edition of NBC’s Saturday Night Live – yes that SNL where Tina Fey was encouraged to poke fun at Sarah Palin week after week during the 2008 campaign and not only revived her flagging career but won several awards for service to the cause. SNL did a very feeble skit on Obama with a mock report card which appeared to suggest that the man had spoken brilliantly but actually achieved very little.

Axelrod was not best pleased so within hours someone had a quiet word with CNN because they actually presented an item which fact checked the skit and “proved” that SNL were not being fair!

No danger of anything like that over here, thank goodness. As Dan Hannan remarked to Fox’s Glenn Beck (the tearful Glenn Beck as the beautifully balanced Matt Frei calls him) the idea that any right winger would be allowed a permanent slot on the BBC would be laughed out of court…..

Mardell OBNs Obama

The President of cool, calm and thoughtful

If there was a message, it was about tone. Opinion polls seem to show that whatever people think of his policies, people like the president. His calm and thoughtful manner, the impression that he will look at a picture in the round, rather than make a knee-jerk judgement, seems to go down well. This interview showed him as almost professorial, like a distinguished figure from a think-tank, compared with the Obama who roused the troops when he talked to the unions, or indeed when he addressed Congress. The message is that Obama is still keeping his cool, and sticking to long-term goals.

Mardell has only been BBC blogging for a few weeks but it is quite clear that he is attempting to out Dionne E J Dionne himself in reaching for that coveted place in Private Eye’s OBN spot. The gospel according to Mardell is crystal clear. Here is a cool,calm, reasonable guy just trying to do his best to keep his fellow Americans healthy by setting up a government controlled insurance option and a handful of wingnuts were dominating the media and drowning out reasonable debate

Indeed, in the four or five speeches I heard on the radio, details of tax rises and healthcare were hardly mentioned: the theme was “recapturing America” from “tyranny” and regaining “freedom”.

Mardell’s answer? Obama needs to “rise above” the 24 hour news cycle, focus on strategy and leave his “foot soldiers” (orchestrated, one assumes, by David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel) to deal with things at the tactical level.

The implication here is that the US media (TV and print) is allied with Obama’s opponents in ferociously undermining the administration’s healthcare proposals….if only! The big guns of the US media (with the exception of Murdoch’s Fox channel and his papers) are as dominated by the left as the BBC over here. The Tea Party healthcare protests stemmed from a similar spontaneous grassroots movement opposing the magnitude huge burden of debt being placed on future generations by the Obama/Pelosi/Reid stimulus. The Tea Parties had been happening for months, well reported in the blogosphere but generally ignored by the US media (and, naturally, the BBC)

Whilst painting the opponents of Obamacare as a noisy, angry minority Mardell conveniently forgets the fact that most polls are currently reporting the USA as either evenly divided or with a slight majority against the proposals..

But then the US networks and the Beeb, so meticulous in reporting anti Bush demos, Hurricane disasters and corrupt Republican politicians, suddenly developed tunnel vision once the Democrats took over. Hence little or nothing was reported about the background of Obama’s prospective “Green Czar” Van Jones until the blogosphere pushed it forward. To be fair to Mardell it was bubbling just before he arrived (ignored by Justin Webb, of course, until Jones resigned) but nothing about the current ACORN scandal from either Mardell or, apparently, BBC News.

No doubt about it – apparatchnik Mardell toeing the BBC line in the USA as diligently as he did in Europe….


It’s easy to understand why the likes of Justin Webb gets so excited about the Obama Presidency. The hard-left ideology that underlines Hopenchange resonates precisely with that running through those employed by the State Broadcaster. Despite a short period in power, Obama has managed to cuddle up to just every tyranny in the world. Naturally this excites the BBC, and so when Obama embraces Venezuelan thug Chavez – smiles all round. It’s incredible to compare the unrelentingly favourable coverage Obama gets from the BBC compared to the unrelenting hostility Bush got. The BBC’s troupe of in-house comedians still make jokes at the expense of Bush but when it comes to Obama, silence. So long as Obama is being nice to Iran
to Cuba, to Russia, to those poor oppressed Palestinians – all is well in the BBC garden. We observed the same during the Clinton era but Obama has already demonstrated his much more extreme leftism and that ensures he becomes the poster boy for those who dare to claim they are an impartial news gathering organisation.



Anyone catch Justin Webb’s salivating coverage of Obama’s press  conference just after 7am this morning? Justin reaffirmed his faith in the Obamessiah  declaring to all us unbelievers that The One COULD speak without a teleprompter and of course that there was a real prospect that economic progress was being made via the latest Trillion Dollar “stimulus”.  (aka transgenerational income theft) Naturally there was no voice to dissent from the BBC view that Obama is “getting to grips” with the domestic economy. Then, just before 8am, up popped race hustler the Rev Jesse Jackson who was also fawned over.  Jackson’s theory that those who commit knife crime are “victims” of the system was allowed to float by unchallenged. Evan Davies delicately brought up the possibility that the Dem-originated CRA might have contributed ever so slightly to the sub-prime disaster but again the shakedown artiste was allowed to waffle his way around that one! If you want to hear BBC bias, just listen to how they treat extreme leftists like Jackson.


The BBC dutifully reports that Obama is “angry” at those AIG bonus payments and it has been spinning Democrat outrage like mad for the past two days. The aim is to show us just how principled the new administration is compared to the evil Bush. I wonder why it is that with all those expensive world class – ahem – journalists working for the BBC, nonetheless they fail to report that senior Democrat Chris Dodds actually wrote the AIG exception into the “stimulus” bill and Obama signed it? A better journalist might enquire WHY President Obama is “angry” about legislation that he signed into law..but of course the courtier scribblers at the BBC show no such desire to go after the real story.


Even as Gordon Brown digs the UK into ever deeper recession, BBC coverageof Obama’s unfolding administration continues to put the fawn into fawning. His newly announced treasury team, replete with Harvard and Berkeley professors, appears to offer little different in substance to the current Bush/Paulson endless bail-out approach – other than they will bail even more out! This is “the jolt” that Obama promises and which the BBC uncritically lets pass without deeper economic analysis. It seems to me that the BBC gets excited when politicians extend the malign tendrils of government into every part of private business, and so Brown and Obama can expect an easy ride in the time ahead.

Compare And Contrast …

The BBC News home pages for the 2004 Presidential Election and the 2008 Presidential Election

They’re .. er .. somewhat different in tone, to put it mildly. And they must have used up all the website’s scare quotes in 2004. Then we had :

‘Liberty’ at the heart of President Bush’s foreign policy.

Rice begins work on ‘great cause’.

Not to mention

What Bush means by ‘liberty ‘US vote ‘mostly free and fair’

Admittedly the 2004 page is post-inauguration – but I don’t remember coverage of the result being quite so “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, that the King of Glory may enter in“. Indeed, I recall a certain gloom creeping in at the time the results were announced – one observer claimed that “every single BBC reporter looks like they have just swallowed a wasp“.

You may remember that after 2004, the BBC’s post-election theme was ‘Divided America’.

Although the 2004 vote was 51/48 and the 2008 vote was a not-radically-different 53/46 percentage split, I somehow think that the ‘Divided America‘ theme will go back in the toybox for a few more years.

Not that the BBC weren’t following the pack.

(via Booker Rising)