Why is it that the media can no longer be relied on to be fair? The slanting of news and comment to give the worst possible interpretation of public figures and public life is a phenomenon that goes to the heart of today’s culture. The mixture of cynicism and frustrated power drives provides the rich but unhealthy mix spooned out every day in the press and on television. For instance, anyone who relied on the New York Times for a world picture would be seriously misled. And the same goes for the BBC.
To listen to the BBC output is to be assured that everything in the United States is in bad hands, and nothing there goes right. Night after night, Matt Frei, a chief correspondent in Washington, finds some way of twisting the news in an anti-American sense. He reached a low recently when President Bush announced that a sum of several million dollars was to be given to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Frei then showed us four AIDS victims in the American South who said they could get no treatment. So in doing good to others, the President was actually doing harm to his own. That’s the moral of Frei and the BBC.
A fine example of this inverted moral is to be found in a two-part BBC film, shown these last two days, with the title No Peace, No Plan – the Inside Story of Iraq’s Descent into Chaos. These films purport to reveal that President Bush and his administration had no idea what they doing by invading Iraq. Ignorant, whimsical, incompetent, they threw other peoples’ lives and money to the wind. A story-line for the Left is being established, and it goes like this: Colin Powell would have stopped the overthrow of Saddam Hussein if he had known how to, but Donald Rumsfeld overrode him. Praise the supposed liberals, blame the supposed neo-conservatives.
A slew of self-important and sneering Americans were interviewed, including Ambassador Barbara Bodine and Larry Wilkerson, Powell’s aide, to bad-mouth their colleagues and denigrate everything that had been done or not done. In their eyes, it was purposeless to single out mistakes of conception and planning because everything was a mistake. The BBC demonstrated to its satisfaction that the British should have had nothing to do with all this. Tony Blair was too superficial even to criticize Bush, let alone stop him. A general with a face like a boot and no powers of articulation had the gall to call Rumsfeld “intellectually bankrupt.” One slimy British diplomat after another looked to camera, said that the whole Iraqi affair was a disaster and none of it was their fault, they had entrusted everything to the Americans and were shattered to find that the Americans had let them down.
Intermittent clips stressed the horrors of suicide bombings, the shelling of Falluja or riots in Basra. Failure all round the compass, then. Not a single voice suggested that the overthrow of Saddam might be a necessary prelude to a new and humane Iraq, and perhaps a challenge to other disgusting regimes in the region. Nobody put the argument that it makes geo-strategic sense to have a large military force in between Iran and Afghanistan. Nobody even hinted that it is better to fight Islamists on their territory rather than have them come and fight us on ours. To these moralists of the age, an ultimately pacified and successful Iraq would still be presented as imposition and failure.
The BBC has really become a political party, and these films are advertising its campaign. The sooner the BBC puts itself up for election, the better.