January 28th, 2004

operesque

Blame the messenger



Here's a cool Memphis TV set, courtesy of my friend Christian Kracht.

The media is at its coolest when it chooses well where to stand in the conflict between conscience and power. But today happens to be a black day for the media. In Britain the BBC has been severely criticized for making just such a choice. The Hutton Report calls 'unfounded' the BBC's report that the British government's intelligence dossier was 'sexed up' to make the case for war against Iraq more persuasive. On the question of whether the dossier itself was unfounded? 'Outside my remit,' says Hutton. The report calls the BBC's editorial process 'defective'. On the question of whether the government's own editorial process is defective? Using student work from the internet? 'Outside my remit,' says Hutton.

Sure, this was not an enquiry into whether the government was right about all those WMDs in Iraq. But you cannot understand this picture, these events, without understanding that the BBC and Kelly acted the way they did because of a profound conviction that the war was wrong -- just as profound as Blair's conviction that it was right. Without that framing, the events are the senseless acts of deranged, incompetent or malicious individuals.

But who are these 'deranged, incompetent and malicious individuals'? Gilligan, Kelly, Greg Dyke... Their conviction was that people should not die in a pointless war. They had the majority of the British public on their side. It is not just they who are insulted today, it is the British public itself. We are all in one of the scales, and Blair is in the other, yet our collective weight still does not tip the measure.



I'm now extremely worried that the BBC will be called to heel and effectively castrated when their charter comes up for renewal, their independence, their ability to criticize removed. Imagine a BBC bulletin, some time in 2005:

'Here is the news from the BBC. The government has been putting its case for the war against Iran, which Tony Blair today called 'a failed state which is destabilising the whole Middle East.' Mr Blair promised to publish an intelligence dossier showing that Iran has ambitions to hollow out the earth's core. And now over to Jim McMurdo at the earth's core. How are the people down there taking this very real threat from Iran, Jim?'