August 02, 2002

Newsnight Nostalgia? Steven Pollard reports

Newsnight Nostalgia?

Steven Pollard reports on a recent BBC Newsnight on the subject of Israel:

Tonight's Newsnight was the archetypal BBC discussion on Israel. Presenter Kirsty Wark was admirable, tough questioning for all the interviewees (including Edward Mortimer from the UN, whose every sentence revealed the UN's anti-Israel bias). But what context! The opening film by David Sells signed off with this impartial thought, which summed up the tone of his disgraceful report: "What happened in Jenin was no massacre; but it was appalling in its own right". Hello? Are they not even pretending now to be neutral? This was, remember, an item about a UN inquiry which destroyed Palestinian claims of a massacre. The BBC, of course, faithfully reported the Palestinian claims as fact, so they can't admit now that they were taken in (actually it was worse than being taken in as that implies initial neutrality - they merely lept at claims which fitted in with their anti-Israel world view).

I wish I had seen that one. There are a lot of things I miss about England, and Newsnight, slant and all, is one of them, strange as that sounds. It's kind of like a less vacuous Crossfire, and it's always provocative and informative, even though it's the forum where the BBC's trademark anti-US and anti-Israel bias tends to be most clearly displayed. I wish we in the US had a political debate show that was even half as good.

I feel the same way about British newspapers, which, whatever their editorial slant, tend to contain far more in the way of actual news than any American paper. (The Independent is a flimsy exception, perhaps-- but it's still far better than the subliterate San Francisco Chronicle.) I'd say I disagree with around 80% of the editorial content of the Guardian, but even as I'm mildly outraged by the anti-American sentiment and faintly amused by the persistent paleo-leftist idiocy, I still get a lot of out of reading it. You just have to get used to the mini-op-eds mysteriously embedded within articles presented as straight news, and the hysterical, agit-prop-style headlines (which often have very little to do with the articles to which they are attached.) In fact, once you get used to this style, it can even be kind of enjoyable in itself-- say what you want about it, they do it well.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan, writing in the New York Sun (!) says that the New York Times has out-Guardianed the Guardian:

Until recently, the worst that could be said about Howell Raines’s new New York Times was that it was becoming indistinguishable from the Guardian, Britain’s pre-eminent, unabashedly leftist, slant-the-news broadsheet. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Campaigning newspapers can be highly entertaining, and the Guardian is often a stimulating read, guaranteed to raise your blood pressure after your first sip of coffee in the morning. The only problem is that Times readers might still be under the impression that their paper is an emblem of unbiased reporting. But from everything I can see, most Times readers are smart enough to realize what’s really going on...

And then there's the war... [I]ignoring the danger of inaction, almost never placing the war against Iraq in the context of September 11, and maintaining a drum-beat of hostility about the use of American force doesn’t air a debate. It attempts to forestall and politicize it. When such politicization has taken the Times to the left of the Guardian, the brand of the “paper of record” is close to being trashed.

Maybe he's right, but I think the NYT is neither as "bad" nor as "good" as the Guardian in the "slant the news" game. Sullivan's comparison of the two papers' coverage of the Iraqi threat hearing (in which the NYT, but not the Guardian, downplayed the Iraqi threat angle) makes for amusing reading, though.

Posted by Dr. Frank at August 2, 2002 12:29 PM | TrackBack