February 04, 2004


British reader Frances Robinson writes:

Had to chuckle over your Feb 1st entry, quoting the Guardian on protesting BBC hacks:

"Leading figures including Joan Bakewell, Ben Brown, Gavin Esler, Jonathan Ross, John Simpson and Jeremy Vine were among 10,000 BBC employees who backed a newspaper advert yesterday, expressing 'dismay' at the loss of Dyke and vowing their commitment to a 'fearless search for truth'."

Leading figures?

Hmm ...

They are actually pretty second division, even by BBC standards (if BBC and standards can be used in the same sentence).

As someone who has to pay for their bilge, let me summarise:

Joan Bakewell - fading autocue-reader, now seen (by very few) doing arts and travel segments on BBC's unwatched cable channels. Partisan leftist.

Ben Brown - complete blank. Still, I'm sure mum loves him.

Gavin Esler - third-string Newsnight presenter, only called in on slow news nights. Partisan leftist, though less so than Newsnight's second-stringer, Kisty Wark, aka Stalin's Granny.

Jonathan Ross - moronic talk-show host.

John Simpson - a legend in his own lunchtime. Claims to have led the capture of Kabul in 2001. (I'm not making this up.) Not a partisan leftist, but only because he treats everyone with Olympian disdain. Basically a pompous blowhard and general laughing-stock.

(For an example of Simpsonís Olympian disdain, consider his response to a concerned American soldier after Simpson was injured in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq.)

Jeremy Vine - downwardly-mobile autocue-reader. Sacked, first, as Newsnight's second-stringer, then as front-man of daytime politics show, he's currently making a hash of the morning slot on the Beeb's easy listening radio station. Partisan leftist, but such a buffoon even the left probably wishes he wasn't.

So that's the gang of "leading figures" rushing to Dyke's defence.

If I were Hutton, I wouldn't be losing much sleep.

Meanwhile, the BBC isnít taking its humiliation lying down:

The BBC pledged today to broadcast as planned a comedy mocking the British government over last week's Hutton report, despite worries the program might inflame a dispute between the two institutions.

Posted by Tim Blair at February 4, 2004 01:31 PM

Check this out for quality BBC journalism:


This is even better than Al Gore inventing the internet.

Posted by: steve at February 4, 2004 at 02:20 PM

Simpson may have a generally deserved reputation as a legend in his own mind, but the friendly fire that he & Special Forces & the Kurdish forces came under had to have made for one harrowing experience. His translator killed, the legs blown off. Corpses, bodies burning. I donít even blame him reacting badly when he mistakenly thought the soldier was about to stop him from broadcasting.

Posted by: ForNow at February 4, 2004 at 02:43 PM

Wouldn't the BBC airing that comedy show be the equivalent of me getting a warning for bad on-the-job conduct (telling clients that they're "useless fuckheads", for example), and then proceeding to plaster posters around the entire city proclaiming that "MY BOSS IS A WANKER!" ?

Posted by: Marty at February 4, 2004 at 02:45 PM

Oh, I'd also expect to keep my job after all this too.

Posted by: Marty at February 4, 2004 at 02:46 PM

I listened to Simpson "liberate" Kabul live on BBC World. (Listened, because he was reporting for BBC radio. It was taped, and we got to see the tape sometime the next day.) I'll never forget the way the beauteous Nisha Pillai wriggled with glee as she introduced it. It was fun, even if Simpson was a bit full of it.

That was his high point as far as I'm concerned, though. He's also an admirer of Harper's bizarre publisher Lewis Lapham. Simpson and Lapham strolled the streets of New York on Simpson's World as Lapham explained---and I may misremember slightly---how 9/11 was good for the US, because it would make us more humble. Even Simpson was slightly shocked, or pretended to be.

The point about that friendly-fire incident, ForNow, was that Simpson immediately assumed that the soldier had come up to stop him from broadcasting, and that the Voice of the Mighty Simpson was enough to stay the soldier's hand.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at February 4, 2004 at 03:06 PM

Simpsonís behavior after the friendly fire takes that meaning on with any definiteness only in the collateral light of his behavior in other situations. As a standalone paradigm of his behavior it offers a meaning that tends waver & fade against the background of the horror that he had just witnessed. I donít know, itís a horrible incident & we didnít witness him in detailed actuality of character revelation. Just not an incident that Iíd single out to razz him for.

Posted by: ForNow at February 4, 2004 at 03:56 PM

Angie, Nisha Pillai beauteous? You need to get out more. I've seen better heads on boils.

Posted by: slatts at February 4, 2004 at 04:24 PM

John Simpson may be pompous, but he has a lot to be pompous about. And if he's a laughing-stock, it's because he doesn't mindlessly follow the Leftist Official Line on everything.

I think he's completely wrong in the stand he's taking, but I don't question his intellect, nor his intellectual honesty.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at February 4, 2004 at 04:29 PM

I wonder if any senior Enron employees threatened to walk off the job if their CEO wasnt resinstated immediately...

Posted by: Paul Dub at February 4, 2004 at 04:40 PM

'resinstated' is of course a misspelling of reinstated, rather than a painful process involving plastic injection machinery.

Posted by: Paul Dub at February 4, 2004 at 04:44 PM

I agree with Alan Brain. Simpson is the one BBC journalist I trust. If he had come up with the "sexed up" dossier, the BBC's actions would have made sense.

And I think that, as a general rule, it is courteous and reasonable to interpret what someone says in a way that does not make them appear mad or cretinous. How the left crowed when Mrs Thatcher said "I believe in grammar, me". Could she have been joking? Might Simpson have been joking when he claimed to have liberated Kabul? It makes more sense to me than the idea that he really believed it.

Posted by: rexie at February 4, 2004 at 06:43 PM

" ...planned a comedy mocking the British government ... "

When you can't rely on logic and reasoned arguments to make a case .. resort to mockery.

I always liked listening to the BBC World broadcast in the US. Always regarded the BBC as the best in the world for news.

Too bad the BBC feels it must be ideologically pure at the expense of unbiased reporting.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at February 4, 2004 at 06:53 PM

Simpsons broadcast was astonishing. He'd just watched that bomb drop over him and explode, minutes earlier and not 5 metres distant. Afterwards, bleeding from the ears and face, steel embedded to the hilt in the spine of his flak jacket he records his story. He'd just missed being killed or maimed and he has the balls (without sounding too excited) to berate a marine who he mistakenly thinks is trying to stop him filming. He recovers with grace when he realises his mistake. Say what you like about his politics but the guy is tough.

"I think I've just got a bit of shrapnel in the leg, that's all. OK, I will. Thanks a lot."

Posted by: GnuHunter at February 4, 2004 at 07:46 PM

"Too bad the BBC feels it must be ideologically pure at the expense of unbiased reporting."

If I read correctly, one instance of bad reporting pertaining to the Iraq Invasion has been (correctly) named & shamed by a formal inquiry.

I am quite confident that the vast, very vast, majority of workers for the BBC will maintain a pretty high degree of quality in their work. It would appear from early reports in England, that a substantial number of English persons feel similarly. Not sure the collective noun that is the BBC is capable of upholding an ideology.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at February 4, 2004 at 10:12 PM

Having given fench politico Pasqua a mauling the BBC is strangely silent in respect of george Galloway named and shamed (and vastly enriched)by the ABC list of Saddam's bagsheeshed buddies.
Is there something really juicy lurking in the BBC corridors ? Having already rubbished the former reports from the politically incorrect Daily Telegraph , how will they re-spin the reports from the ya ya sisterood ?
i, for one am panting with anticipation

Posted by: davo at February 4, 2004 at 11:18 PM

"Chico", you've not been paying attention. The BBC did such a bad job covering Iraq in general that the crew of the Ark Royal voted to stop listening to them.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at February 4, 2004 at 11:25 PM

Chico that BBC "collective noun" should be institutionally socialist...

And who can forget the story that the BBCs defence reporter, wrote a memo to BBC about the reports of "setbacks" being crap.

Posted by: Rob Read at February 5, 2004 at 01:16 AM

Don't know a whole lot about Simpson, but that story makes me respect the man as at the very least a tougher than usual reporter.
Don't really like the refernce to an 'own goal' though, as I tend to view our guys as more than 'players'.

Posted by: Kyle at February 5, 2004 at 06:16 AM

rexie, Simpson (and his crew) were stomping into Kabul on foot ahead of the military. There were Afghan civilian vehicles travelling along side them. The Taliban had fled. There were people (mostly kids) cheering him from the side of the road, dancing about in the road, and occasionally leaning down from a vehicle to pat Simpson on the head.

He said something along the lines of "It feels strange to be liberating a city like this." So it was sorta kinda a joke. I gather that it was mostly British journalists who had given him flack for it. He was interviewed on American TV and mumbled something about how what he'd said was foolish, really. I was a bit disappointed he'd backed down.

That doesn't mean I'll stop referring to him as John "Liberator of Kabul" Simpson, because it's fun. Still don't care for him much.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at February 5, 2004 at 07:17 AM

Questionable content!

I posted the above comment using "road side" (as one word) instead of "side of the road", and I got a warning that my post was rejected for "questionable content", that content being the letters a-d-s-i-d-e. The hell?

Posted by: Angie Schultz at February 5, 2004 at 07:20 AM