June 03, 2003


“Just about the only person criticising Bush in the US media is Sean Penn,” reports The Guardian’s Gary Younge:

Dissident voices do exist. While you will rarely hear them on television, most big newspapers have at least one columnist who was opposed to the war, and several magazines have published articles that are critical or revelatory. The problem is not so much that such views are unavailable as that they have been effectively marginalised. Only those sympathetic to them might seek them out, while others looking to form opinions are unlikely to stumble across them. Presumably Sean Penn would not have paid around $125,000 (£76,000) to take out a full-page ad in the New York Times on Friday to write an essay against Bush if he thought he could read it elsewhere.

But, as Younge writes, such views are readily available in “most big newspapers” and “several magazines”. Presumably Sean Penn is too stupid to find them, although he does possess the magic sympathy key required to “seek them out”. Where exactly are these dissenters being hidden? Behind fucking Garfield?

Fearing the contamination of the pool of domestic information, many Americans have voted with their remote controls and browsers. American audience figures for BBC World news leapt 28% in the first few weeks of the war, elevating its Baghdad correspondent, Rageh Omaar, to sex symbol status. Meanwhile, American visitors to the websites of the BBC and progressive news organisations such as the Guardian have risen exponentially since September 11.

Fearing the contamination of their collective minds, sailors aboard the HMS Ark Royal stopped watching the BBC. And stats at pro-war sites leapt at least as much as they did at any “progressive” (ie, not) website.

In short, views that offer an informed critical analysis of the Bush administration's foreign policy, particularly with regard to the Middle East, are not part of the national conversation in the United States.

In short, what?!

And until Americans can have that conversation with themselves they will not be equipped to converse with the rest of the world about the relative legitimacy or otherwise of their government's actions but will instead continue to retreat into a combination of belligerence, bemusement, defensiveness and demagogy.

Weren’t they the guys in the Banana Splits? “Hey, Demagogy! Check the mail!”

Posted by Tim Blair at June 3, 2003 12:40 AM

Just because the correct opinion is being published doesn't mean it isn't being marginalized. As long as there is someone somewhere who doesn't share it, it's being oppressed, made to feel as if (because it's not part of the dominant power structure) it's less worthy, "other." Clearly the only answer is to enforce the acceptance of Sean Penn's and The Guardian's opinions by any means necessary.

Posted by: Mike G at June 3, 2003 at 01:03 AM

Clearly we all need to watch more CSPAN. Which, I might add, had Noam Fucking Chomsky on last night. Oddly enough, I did not see him forced to listen to a note of a Godsmack song, much less receive a single blow by a black-visored policeman. This fascism sucks. Where can I apply for a refund?

Posted by: gg at June 3, 2003 at 01:15 AM

Do the people who write articles like this have a clue? I mean, really -- what they're reporting is completely false. Do they know it? Are they Blairing these stories? Or are they just so unbelievably dumb they actually believe themselves?

Posted by: Robert Crawford at June 3, 2003 at 02:21 AM

Gary Younge is simply a liar. The ignorance excuse is not credible, particularly because the bullshit splatter pattern points in only one direction. What's amazing is that there is a market for this stuff, even in the Grauniad.

Posted by: Harry at June 3, 2003 at 02:48 AM

Why do we fisk this stuff? All roads lead to the same dead end. (as I said at my blog. ;) )

Perhaps we should start smacking around protestors. They get persecuted, I get happy. Everyone is satisfied.

Posted by: trevalyan at June 3, 2003 at 03:18 AM

My response to this article was "Huh?" I had to actively go out and look for opinions favoring the war, or even giving a decent analysis of what was going on that didn't amount to hand-wringing. CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Time, and Newsweek had such negative, and repeatedly wrong, coverage that I eventually started reading blogs for balance.

Posted by: Donald at June 3, 2003 at 03:22 AM

He doesn't factor in people like me who checked Australian and UK newspaper websites every day at 6:00 AM because A) the US newspaper websites and blogs don't have the latest news at that hour or B) I wanted to see how foreign liberals were reporting the latest news. It had nothing to do with needing to find noble dissent.

Posted by: Moira at June 3, 2003 at 03:36 AM

Luckily he did no research before writing his column. I have always found it is much quicker that way. Of course he could have read either of our local papers here in Seattle and he would still be looking for the PRO-war articles... One of them was inarguably pro-Saddam. And judging by today's lead article (not editorial!) still is..

Posted by: Cliff at June 3, 2003 at 03:48 AM

The reason why "dissent" is being marginalized is because the loudest dissenters are, not to put too fine a point on it, batshit insane.

People get tired of reading how the Dixie Chicks have been hooribly oppressed and their entire life ruined and suffered horrible state-mandated tortures because they're going to make only $15 million in record sales this year instead of $16 million they thought they would make before the ugly one popped off about how awful Bush is.

Especially since, on the next page over, we can read about people who are suffering REAL opression, like Suu Kyi or Morgan Tsvangirai.

The leftist media has marginalized itself, and people are turning to FOX, because while it may be biased, at least it isn't bugfuck.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at June 3, 2003 at 04:02 AM

I just conversed my arse off with the German-French TV channel ARTE for 3 straight days...on camera. So there!


Posted by: Wallace at June 3, 2003 at 07:03 AM

Gary Younge is right. Other than Madeline Albright, Kofi Anan, Peter Arnet, Hans Blix, David Bonoir, Pat Buchannan, Jimmy Carter, Jacques Chirac, Noam Chomsky, Bill Clinton, Cheryl Crow, Walter Cronkite,
Dominique De Villipian, Howard Dean, E.J. Dionne, George Galloway, Jeanine Garofalo, Al Gore, Arianna Huffington, Molly Ivins, Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich, Madonna, Michael Moore, Viggio Mortensen, Ralph Nader, Robert Novak, Nancy Pelosi, Sean Penn, Dan Rather, Scott Ritter, Andy Rooney, Gerard Schroeder, Brett Scowcroft, Al Sharpton, Martin Sheen, Mark Shields and Juan Williams, I have been unable to find any anti-
war voices on Television here in the United States.

Posted by: BushisworsethanHitlerSatanandKennyG at June 3, 2003 at 09:25 AM

"Fearing the contamination of their collective minds, sailors aboard the HMS Ark Royal stopped watching the BBC."

..or not. From the same newspaper you cite, from the very next day: http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,7493,933025,00.html

The BBC has dismissed claims that its news channel, News 24, has been banned from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier in the Gulf because the crew felt it was too pro-Iraqi.

News 24 was available aboard HMS Ark Royal for an 80-day exclusive period, then the crew sampled rival channel Sky News but had now gone back to the BBC service, according to a BBC spokesman.

"We think it is great that they have this choice. They apparently sampled Sky for a while and have now returned to News 24," he said.


Posted by: Bon Scott at June 3, 2003 at 10:22 AM

...Or maybe yes, after all. The BBC is the government news organ, so there probably wasn't a lot of choice to go back. I think the Navy made its point pretty clearly, despite the Beeb spin.

That the Beeb flack could describe its coverage as "comprehensive and impartial" without being struck by lightning is as elegant a proof of God's nonexistence as anything else I can think of.

Posted by: Harry at June 3, 2003 at 11:14 AM

The BBC is the government's news organ? Well of course - that'd be why Blair and co. were so very very happy with the BBC's coverage of the war. Ahem.

It seems more likely that the initial report was mistaken; the upshot seems to be that the officers were upset with the BBC coverage, tried Sky, went back to the BBC.

But what would I know, I'm just a dead rock singer.

Posted by: Bon Scott at June 3, 2003 at 11:41 AM

Well, the PM may not have been happy all the time, but by himself he's not the government. You can be pretty sure much of his cabinet and, moreover, a vast majority of the Labour parliamentary membership, were pretty pleased the Beeb carried their water.

Posted by: Harry at June 3, 2003 at 12:07 PM

So because bits of the government were pleased with the BBC, that makes the BBC the government's news organ?

That argument is about as valuable as the royalty cheques I used to get from Alberts back in the day.

Posted by: Bon Scott at June 3, 2003 at 03:02 PM

No, that's not the point. The Beeb is a government news service, as opposed to a private news service like ITN, because its operating costs are underwritten by taxation, not by appeal to an advertising market. Pretty obvious, no? You may argue that the Beeb isn't a government news service, but rather a government-supported news service, if you like -- but that's semantics. Arguing that it isn't beholden to the hand that feeds it isn't a winning position in any debate.

Posted by: Harry at June 3, 2003 at 04:09 PM

The Banana Splits? I hadn't thought of that. It would explain the war protesters' position.

Snorky was always my favorite. The one that couldn't speak.

If only.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at June 3, 2003 at 04:39 PM

Like all salivating Left wing media,the ABC, SMH, BBC etc,they ignore the positive and accentuate the negative. Always. Typical. Enough said.

Posted by: aussieoldfart at June 3, 2003 at 04:39 PM

Except that it isn't semantics - the independence of the BBC from the government is something the BBC fights to maintain. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/news/news297.htm )

They may be just words, but they're very important words - and I'm an expert on important words, as I penned some of the greatest double entendres in 20th century pop lyric.

For my part, I'm glad the BBC is independent - do you think the government would have approved of them taping us at the London Marquee back in 76? Not flamin' likely.

Posted by: Bon Scott at June 3, 2003 at 05:38 PM

Good to hear that American BBC viewership went up 28 percent. I'd like to hear the actual numbers though, since raising the viewership from 150 to about 200 would still make that statement true.

Posted by: Tom Brosz at June 3, 2003 at 06:13 PM

Why is it that the Beeb can get every nickel from the government, but still be virtuously independent of it, while other news outlets are under deep suspicion of being corporate lackeys because they get a fraction of their income from corporations? And a miniscule fraction from any one corporation, at that?

Posted by: T. Hartin at June 3, 2003 at 10:17 PM

T. Hartin - Helen Caldicott , in an interview with Pacifica radio, explained why government control is good and corporate influence is bad. Corporations are evil, but the government represents the people, which is good.

Works for me.

Posted by: Dave Weigel at June 4, 2003 at 02:30 AM

And everyone thought Americans don't enjoy dry humor...

Posted by: Harry at June 4, 2003 at 02:41 AM


I haven't seen the figures on BBS's US ratings, but if BBC viewership did rise 28% it was because the BBC was available in (I would guess) 50% more households once the war started. That's because the BBC was picked up by many local PBS stations (Public Broadcasting System, funded by the federal government and periodic 45 day pledge "week" drives) in lieu of in-house coverage of the Iraqi war. At least one PBS outlet is available for free in all of the large and medium sized media outlets here, but prior to the war, most did not carry any BBC news coverage.

Posted by: BushisworsethanHitlerSatanandKennyG at June 4, 2003 at 06:03 AM

One suspects, communards define oppression as, someone still daring to gainsay the contrary to their beliefs and assertions.The performance of greenies is, for example, revealing on this count: Peter Gareth showed this inclination during a 60 minutes interview, his visage changing from sunnyville to snarling resentment; it was quite revealing.

Posted by: d at June 4, 2003 at 01:37 PM