Monday, July 21, 2003
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEEB
The life and death of Dr David Kelly, esrtwhile weapons inspector and not-so-very-deep throat, is proving to be one of the most gripping subjects on the web.
Kelly, it will be remembered, denied at the beginning of last week that he could have been the source for the BBC's story that Tony Blair's government "sexed up" its pre-war report on Iraq's chemical weapons capabilities, because, he said, he did not recognise much of the content. Kelly's statement to parliament, his sudden death, and the BBC's forced revelation that Kelly was indeed their (presumably only) source, lead us to one of two possiblities: either Kelly was lying, or Blair's government were right to fume at the BBC, which had itself "sexed up" a story in order to further its anti-war stance.
Media sources eminating from London are reporting that the tide is finally turning, and that serious questions are now being asked about the BBC's conduct in the affair. Although it seems unlikely, it is to be hoped that if anything can be gained from this sorry turn of events, it will be a hightened scepticism for the so-called "objectivitity" of the BBC.
Anyone who has lived in a conflict zone - I happen to live in the Middle East but have heard similar sentiments expressed by people who came from the Balkans, from Africa and other parts of the world - will be aware of how facile and subjective the BBC's reporting really is. British Christian friends of mine who live in Israel told me that when an old BBC reporter friend came to visit, they were horrified to discover that he had more-or-less concocted the story he was going to tell on the plane over, before even speaking to a single individual involved in the conflict. Crass propaganda, shallow historical perspective and (to use a currently popular expression) "spin" all characterize the BBC's reporting.
Nevertheless, the BBC, in Britain at least, enjoys an unparalleled level of public trust. The written press are treated with scepticism, the democratically elected government with total distrust, but when it comes to the unelected self-perpetuating oligarchy known as the Beeb, all scepticism seems to vanish and every word is taken to be Truth. No other body in Britain - not the police, the Church, and certainly not the royal family - enjoys such a privilege.
If today's reports are a true reflection of the mood of the nation, and the spotlight is finally being turned on the messenger, then we must hope that myth of the objective BBC will finally be discarded once and for all. The BBC's self-righteous protestations and ex cathedra proclamations on all moral and political issues will then be taken as no more reflecting unbiased truth as do those of the bolshey Guardian or the boorish Sun.
Who knows, maybe Blair's government will finally act to uphold its principles and release the world from the grips of this oppressive dictatorship. This time, there is no need for firepower: economic sanctions will do just fine to disarm this non-conventional foe.
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