Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
"Honour"? I don't think so
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Things/People I like
1. The First Amendment (both free speech and the separation of church and state).
2. Republicanism. (The head of state is called “Mr. President” not “Your Highness” or “Your Excellency” or “Your Magnificence” or whatever).
3. Ethnic pluralism: to be an American one does not have to belong to a particular ethnic group.
4. Movies (Casablanca, The Big Sleep, Chinatown…and many others).
5. Music: jazz, blues, rock-and-roll, rock….and Bob Dylan.
6. Animations and cartoons: Doonsbury, Charlie Brown…The Simpsons…Top Cat…Fantasia.
7. Fiction: Vonnegut, Heller, De Lillo, Roth…and many others.
8. The two greatest Americans: Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr.
1. George W Bush; and Cheney, Nixon, Kissinger…and many others.
2. The near-genocide of Native Americans.
3. Slavery. And Jim Crow.
4. Invading other countries and killing the natives: from Cuba to Vietnam to Iraq…and many others.
5. Creationism. Religious fruitcakes. The impossibility of being in politics without at least feigning religosity.
6. Racism. The obsession with ethnic origin (“hyphenated-Americans”).
7. Capital punishment.
8. The movies: from The Green Berets to Rambo to that unbelievable movie with Clint Eastwood which glorifies the United States’s (population: 303 million) invasion of Grenada (population: 100,000). And many others.
9. The music: Rap (which is crap)…and some other stuff…
10. Sentimentality and emotional incontinence (“I love you guys…”).
11. All those bloody CSI programmes; and for that matter most American TV.
12. Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone…and Robin Williams. And many others.
14. The health care system.
15. Fox News…and much else.
(I know, one list is longer than another). Am I an anti-American?
Saturday, August 18, 2007
BBC liberal bias? Give us a break.
What are we to make of the claim of BBC "liberal bias"? My initial reaction is simply to laugh out loud. It is so ludicrous. But actually there are several distinct claims bound up in the allegation. In one way the BBC does have a liberal bias; and quite right too. If a racist or a homophobe is interviewed on the BBC the interviewer is likely to indicate his distaste for the views expressed. This seems to me reasonable: it is not the job of public service broadcasting to reflect back the basest and most vile prejudices of our socety without mediation.
But other aspects of the allegation are simply crazy. It is nonsense that the BBC is "anti-American". It is not even anti-Bush (which is not the same thing). What it has done is to report e.g. the rise in anti-war feeling in the USA, the criticisms of the Bush/Rumsfeld strategy within the US military, and the chaos in Iraq. Spokesmen for the Bush regime get plenty of airtime; but critics get some airtime too. So it is with Israel. For decades we have been bombarded with news reports which routinely refer to "Palestinian terrorists" and "Israeli peacekeepers", to "Palestinian extremism" and Israeli "heavy-handedness" (a particularly loathsome euphemism), to Palestinian "bombs" and Israeli "strikes". When Israel invades another country it is called an "incursion" (a word I have never seen used in another context). Israeli spokesmen are intervewed at length and generally with a great deal of deference. But the BBC will also report e.g. that Israel uses cluster bombs, that there were many civilian causalties in the attack on Lebanon. (Then again, some things go largely unreported e.g. we hear very little of the Shin Bet torture centres. And collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British intelligence in "Northern Ireland" - well known at the time - went unreported for years. There are many other examples). What do the critics of the BBC "liberal bias" actually want? Do they want the BBC not to report these things? Not to report what Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say about Israeli actions? Not to interview anyone who doesn't parrot the Bush-line?
As for the claim that the BBC is anti-Tory that is simply stupid. As between the main parties (those within the political mainstream) the BBC seems pretty impartial to me. Showing Redwood miming the Welsh national anthem is dictated by news values not anti-Tory bias; it reminds the viewers who he is and places the story in some sort of context (I seem to remember that when Neil Kinnock nearly feel into the sea clutching Glyns that this was shown repeatedly, and we have seen Prescott's punch a few times). The row about the "sexed up" dossier hardly showed an anti-Conservative bias, although the BBC retreat showed deference to government (and fear for the licence fee).
As I say, between the main parties the BBC shows no bias that I can discern. Outside the mainstream it is a different matter. Not much has changed in this respect since the Bad News/More Bad News research carried out years ago. The BBC overall is pretty safe, conservative (with a small "c") and establishment; it is "liberal" in so far as it discourages racism and homophobia; it is pretty fair between the main parties; it is overly respectful to the powerful, but it does allow some dissenting voices to be heard (occasionally a Pilger or a Fisk is given air time), and will report at least some well-attested facts which discomfort the powers-that-be (such as the Israeli use of cluster bombs). Let's be clear. The concerted atack on the BBC for its so-called "liberal bias" is an attempt to muzzle criticism, stifle debate, and silence dissidence; it is authoriatian in its impulse. And the people who are launching this attack speak from the heart of the establishment: the Conservative Party and the Tory press (with Tory blogggers as cheerleaders). The BBC is far too conservative and establishment for me but it is not Fox News. And thank God for that.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Military "innocents" and chickenhawks
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The eulogising of John Biffen - even one or two of the Labour blogs are indulging a flair for the sanctimonious - reminds me of nothing so much as this vintage Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch. To his credit, Paul Linford reminds us that it was Biffen, as Trade Secretary, who refused to refer Murdoch's take-over of The Times and Sunday Times to the Monopolies Commission back in 1981, despite the fact that Murdoch already owned The Scum and The News of the Screws. Biffen claimed to be acting independently of Thatcher, a claim which frankly beggars belief. At the time Murdoch gave assurances that the papers would be allowed editorial independence, which were, of course, baloney.
Cheney in 1994 on Iraq: a quagmire
Dick Cheney (who was Defence Secretary under George H Bush) was not always quite so gung-ho about invading Iraq, as this clip reveals. His question: "What are you going to put in place?" is one junior might have considered in 2003.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Is it Brown or Browne?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
It was Peterloo that moved Shelley to write the Mask of Anarchy:
Politaholic is a Germanophile
Freedland loses the plot
These recollections are prompted by a piece in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedland arguing that the so-called grieving for Di was a rare “moment of togetherness”. Freedland argues that the “conventional” view is that the whole thing was media-orchestrated mass hysteria. That is my view but I doubt that it is the conventional one (and – as Freedland concedes – it certainly wasn’t at the time). Don’t misunderstand me: obviously when a young woman is killed that is sad. But, for me, it would be just as sad if it had been the barmaid at the Rose and Crown (at least there is a fair chance I might have a passing acquaintance with the barmaid at the Rose and Crown, whereas to most of those weeping and wailing Di was a complete stranger, known only via the media). The days that followed her death saw scenes of utter madness. Can you imagine queuing for 15 hours – 15 hours – to sign a book of condolence? I wouldn’t do that for Bob Dylan never mind Princess-bloody-Di (what did they do when they needed a pee?) Can you imagine saying, of the death of a complete stranger, that it has affected you more than the death of your own mother? (There were those who said this at the time). The whole thing was bloody ridiculous, and the bullying media consensus was slightly sinister. (Incidentally, Freedland refers to The Queen movie as embodying the new consensus. I haven’t seen the movie and have no intention of going to see it. Why on earth anyone would make or watch a movie about Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg Gotha is beyond me. So far as I can see her only distinguishing feature is unrestrained avarice). I do remember going to the pub around lunch-time that Sunday. Someone asked about the football only to be told it had been cancelled “because that stupid bitch has got herself killed”. A cruel remark, of course; although pretty standard for bar-room humour (dark and irreverent). But at least it reminded me that the image of a “whole nation” grieving was a media artefact. Sure there were many who felt like the dim-wits who queued for 15 hours. But others were more interested in the football. The insanity was widespread but not universal.