* His crime? Supporting the removal of the fascist dictator Saddam Hussein and of the hellish Taliban regime. Supporting Israel’s right to defend itself
* Why there are “Tony Blair – Wanted” posters on the London underground
* “Great capital city. Shame about the awful BBC”
This dispatch mainly concerns the United Kingdom but the points in it have important implications for the future of the Middle East and the longevity of Western democracy.
1. The BBC-led elites take aim for Tony Blair
2. “The elites have long loathed the PM (and America and department stores and Israel)”
3. “The Trial of Tony Blair”
4. The Sun’s guide to Tel Aviv
5. “Like Bin Laden accusing Ahmadinejad of being a bit harsh on the Jews”
6. “Blair of the Critics” (National Review, March 5, 2007)
7. “The Biased Broadcasting Corporation” (New York Times, March 15, 2007)
8. “Great capital city. Shame about the awful BBC” (Times of London, March 16, 2007)
[Note by Tom Gross]
Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, is only 53. It is less than two years since he was re-elected by a wide margin (his Labour Party has a comfortable 66 seat majority), and he still has more than three years of his term to run. (The next election doesn’t have to be held until June 3, 2010.) The British economy remains buoyant. And yet within the next few weeks, Blair is likely going to be driven out of office – by his own Labour party.
His crime? Supporting the removal of the fascist dictator Saddam Hussein and the hellish Taliban regime. Supporting Israel’s right to defend itself last summer against attack from the Iranian-controlled Islamic fundamentalists of Hizbullah. Not siding with dictators against America.
The article below, by Jonathan Foreman in the National Review, explains what is puzzling to many outside observers. How the BBC-led elites in the UK have literally driven Tony Blair from office with their incessant propaganda against his foreign policy.
“THE ELITES HAVE LONG LOATHED THE PM (AND AMERICA AND DEPARTMENT STORES AND ISRAEL)”
As Foreman, who is one of the founder subscribers to this email list eight years ago, writes: “Tony Blair is loathed by the British establishment to a degree that is hard for many Americans to appreciate. Unlike the Bush hatred so endemic in Democratic and mainstream-media circles, Blair hatred is not a strictly partisan affair. Indeed it is not an exaggeration to say that the prime minister is reviled by most of the political class.
“At the extremes, the left-wing Independent and the right-wing Daily Mail have long loathed the PM (and America and department stores and Israel) with equal passion. But now almost all the papers are frothing at the mouth with anticipation of the prime minister’s supposedly imminent fall… It apparently infuriates the chattering class that Blair remains in power so long after he was declared finished by elite opinion…”
“Bizarrely the visceral hatred of Blair – similar to Thatcher hatred, Clinton obsession, and Bush loathing in its intensity – has little or nothing to do with any of his ill-considered constitutional reforms (a separate legislature for Scotland, etc.) or any of the other failures of his administration…
“No, Tony Blair is hated mostly for the big things that he has done right – the really important, civilization-protecting things like overthrowing Saddam and the Taliban, and intervening in Sierra Leone to stop a savage civil war. Many on the Left hate him for being a liberal interventionist and of course for being such a close ally of Uncle Sam...
“THE TRIAL OF TONY BLAIR”
“How bad is it? Well, to really appreciate elite hatred of Blair you have to check out the London cultural scene.
“A couple of weeks ago Britain’s Channel 4 ran a massively promoted show called ‘The Trial of Tony Blair.’ The program was advertised by ‘Tony Blair – Wanted’ posters on the London underground. It envisioned a 2017 trial of the former PM for ‘War Crimes’. As one leading columnist wrote in anticipation of the program ‘Tomorrow night, we will finally have our revenge.’
“There’s also a new play, or rather a theatrical happening, entitled ‘Called to Account: The indictment of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair for the crime of aggression against Iraq – a Hearing’…
“January saw the opening of an art exhibition at the Tate Britain museum entitled ‘State Britain’. It recreates the antiwar installation (sample poster: ‘stop genocide of Iraq’) and includes a painting of Blair washing his hands in a bowl filled with blood…
“To most Americans and other fair-minded people there is something bizarre about the notion of Tony Blair as a ‘war criminal’ deserving of the full Nuremberg treatment. After all, if he’s the villain, who then are the good guys, besides Saddam and his supporters, and the fanatics who think it’s O.K. to set off suicide bombs in crowded nightclubs?”
I recommend reading Jonathan Foreman’s piece (below) in full. It has lessons for what the elites may succeed in doing in future in America, Australia and elsewhere, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the future ability of the free world to defend itself.
THE SUN’S GUIDE TO TEL AVIV
In contrast to the elites, Israel remains popular with some working class people in the UK. For example Britain’s most popular newspaper, The Sun, has this positive guide to Tel Aviv, published in advance of Saturday’s crucial Israel-England international soccer match. They even mention Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend Bar Rafaeli who was cited in my last dispatch. The Sun is owned by Rupert Murdoch and some of its senior editors subscribe to this email list.
The Sun’s positive article about Tel Aviv contrasts greatly with articles in The Guardian in recent days which have demanded that Israel be thrown out of all international sporting events.
“LIKE BIN LADEN ACCUSING AHMADINEJAD OF BEING A BIT HARSH ON THE JEWS”
I also attach below two recent articles on the BBC. The first, from the New York Times, is written by Frank H. Stewart, a visiting scholar at New York University.
Stewart writes that the “BBC World Service plans to start an Arabic television service this fall… If the BBC’s Arabic TV programs resemble its radio programs, then they will be just as anti-Western as anything that comes out of the Gulf, if not more so. They will serve to increase, rather than to diminish, tensions, hostilities and misunderstandings among nations.”
Stewart says “The British are among our closest and most reliable allies, and it is strange that their government pays for these broadcasts, many of which are produced in Cairo rather than in London. If the BBC models its Arabic television service on its Arabic radio service, yet another anti-Western, antidemocratic channel will find its place on the Arab screen.”
As a result of Stewart’s article in the New York Times, Gerard Baker published a piece in the Times of London castigating the BBC. “When the editorial pages of The New York Times accuse the BBC of anti-Western bias it is worth taking notice. It is a little like Osama bin Laden accusing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of being a bit harsh on the Jews. It suggests that in other, even pretty unlikely, parts of the world, people are waking up to the menace to our values represented by the BBC. The British sadly, seem curiously content to remain in thrall to it.”
-- Tom Gross
“TONY BLAIR IS HATED MOSTLY FOR THE BIG THINGS THAT HE HAS DONE RIGHT”
Blair of the Critics
The British prime minister has been uniformly maligned by ill-informed critics.
By Jonathan Foreman
March 5, 2007
Tony Blair is loathed by the British establishment to a degree that is hard for many Americans to appreciate. Unlike the Bush hatred so endemic in Democratic and mainstream-media circles, Blair hatred is not a strictly partisan affair. Indeed it is not an exaggeration to say that the prime minister is reviled by most of the political class.
Check out the newspapers. (The British are the biggest newspaper readers of the world and British pols are terrified of the press) At the extremes, the left-wing Independent and the right-wing Daily Mail have long loathed the PM (and America and department stores and Israel) with equal passion. But now almost all the papers are frothing at the mouth with anticipation of the prime minister’s supposedly imminent fall – their columnists fed tidbits by the staff of his would-be successors, the comically treacherous Chancellor Gordon Brown and the Tories’ apostle of political correctness David Cameron. As the dubious police investigation into “cash for honours” scandal gets rapturously overblown coverage, the whole tone has become relentless and shrill, the pundits basically screaming: “Why won’t he go already?”
It apparently infuriates the chattering class that Blair remains in power so long after he was declared finished by elite opinion. More than a year ago Blair was definitively deemed a discredited lame duck by the BBC’s Today Programme, the oracular flagship radio show listened to by every MP and treated with Pravda-like deference by all of Fleet Street. Yet he refuses to resign. Can’t he see that it’s all over? That his “illegal” wars are a disaster? That his slavish deference to Bush has provoked terrorist attacks? That all of us have decided that it’s time for him to go?
Bizarrely the visceral hatred of Blair – similar to Thatcher hatred, Clinton obsession, and Bush loathing in its intensity – has little or nothing to do with any of his ill-considered constitutional reforms (a separate legislature for Scotland, etc.) or any of the other failures of his administration, nor even because of the ghastly youth-worshipping “Cool Britannia” ethos of his early years.
No, Tony Blair is hated mostly for the big things that he has done right – the really important, civilization-protecting things like overthrowing Saddam and the Taliban, and intervening in Sierra Leone to stop a savage civil war. Many on the Left hate him for being a liberal interventionist and of course for being such a close ally of Uncle Sam.
Some of the Right hates him for the same reasons, though others only oppose the war on terror because Tony Blair is for it. This portion of Tory opinion hates him – and this is not a joke – because his government banned fox-hunting on horseback. Anything and everything else he has done since is deemed equally wrongheaded or even evil.
How bad is it? Well, to really appreciate elite hatred of Blair you have to check out the London cultural scene.
A couple of weeks ago Britain’s Channel 4 (the network behind last year’s docudrama fantasy about the assassination of President Bush) ran a massively promoted show called The Trial of Tony Blair. The program was advertised by “Tony Blair – Wanted” posters on the London underground. It envisioned a 2017 trial of the former PM for “War Crimes” against Iraq in the International Court in the Hague. As one leading columnist wrote in anticipation of the program – much praised for its ham-handed, supposedly biting satire – “Tomorrow night, we will finally have our revenge.”
There’s also a new play, or rather a theatrical happening, entitled Called to Account: The indictment of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair for the crime of aggression against Iraq – a Hearing. It is running at a fashionable London theater called the Tricycle. The professional-class audiences whoop it up as a senior barrister Philippe Sands – a member of the same radical firm as Tony Blair’s wife Cherie – “tries” the prime minister for his alleged crimes.
If that weren’t enough, January saw the opening of an art exhibition at the Tate Britain museum entitled State Britain. It recreates the antiwar installation of well-known Parliament Square protester Brian Haw, (sample poster: “stop genocide of Iraq”) and includes a painting of Blair, Chancellor Brown, and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw washing their hands in a bowl filled with blood and labeled Iraq. It has been widely praised.
To most Americans and other fair-minded people there is something bizarre about the notion of Tony Blair as a “war criminal” deserving of the full Nuremberg treatment. After all, if he’s the villain, who then are the good guys, besides Saddam and his supporters, and the fanatics who think it’s O.K. to set off suicide bombs in crowded nightclubs?
These vengeful fantasies of prosecution for alleged “war crimes” reveal a callow ignorance as to what war crimes really are. They also reflect a European elitism. After all, Blair could not have more democratic legitimacy: he won his last election after the beginning of both “illegal” wars.
It’s obvious that the people who put these shows on – and those who watch them – know little and understand less about the real war in Iraq (as opposed to a fantasy war in which SS-like British and American troops deliberately target Iraqi civilians for murder and torture).
They are as clueless and self-indulgent as the Hollywood actor-activist Tim Robbins and his politically illiterate play Embedded. (Certainly they have no idea that most of the civilian deaths in Iraq have been inflicted by Sunni militants, former regime elements, and Wahhabi volunteers.) Nor do these anti-Blair crusaders believe that there is any real terrorist threat other than that “provoked” by Bush and Blair’s wars.
I have met senior judges and lawyers who really, truly believe that Blair and Bush lied about WMDs. I pointed out to one top barrister that if Saddam’s WMD threat had been a lie rather than an error, then surely the Coalition would have been better prepared for the moment when no WMDs turned up. Or if the Bush-Blair alliance was so evil, would it not have been willing to fake the discovery of the forbidden weapons? It was clear the barrister had never even thought the matter through.
Moreover the British chattering classes are convinced almost to a man (or woman) that Guantanamo is at best a gulag in which all the detainees are innocent victims of paranoia and aggression, and where the quotidian tortures rival those of the Gestapo. They “know” that the war in Iraq is really about stealing oil, doing Israel’s evil bidding, boosting corporate profits, or some vicious combination of all three. The war in Afghanistan is equally “pointless” and “unwinnable.”
They fully buy the media line that radical Islamism is somehow a creation of these wars rather than a phenomenon that predated 9/11, and that solving the Palestinian question will somehow bring peace between Shia and Sunni and end bin Ladenite dreams of restoring the medieval caliphate.
But even if the Blair haters did have a clue about the reality of terrorism and today’s wars, the really important thing about anti-Blairism is that it is a cipher for the envious, ill-informed, elitist, and bigoted anti-Americanism that is endemic among the British upper middle class. Blair is constantly, endlessly condemned as “Bush’s poodle.” Supposedly he is so keen to win Washington’s favor that he has ignored and even endangered British interests. Indeed by (allegedly) uncritically siding with the U.S. on all foreign policy and security questions, he has supposedly provoked Islamist terrorism in the U.K. – as if Islamist extremism didn’t exist here before the Afghan and Iraq wars. There are shades here of the Nuclear Disarmament hysteria of the 1970s when British governments were said to have endangered an otherwise safe island by allowing the basing of U.S. nuclear bombers in the U.K.
The fact that Blair has shown enormous moral courage and not given in to the anti-Americanism of many of his erstwhile friends and colleagues has only made his unpopularity worse. Nor does the fact that many ordinary people, especially the pro-American working class still support Blair and the war, do him any favors. (The proletariat also eat at McDonalds, watch trash TV, and take sweaty vacations at Florida Disneyland instead of Tuscany and the Dordogne — their pro-Americanism is a measure of their vulgar ignorance.) Indeed, each day that he stands his ground in the war against terrorism and for Western democratic values, the more he incurs the loathing of the bien-pensant.
Now that Blair’s days in office are numbered, the papers in London are filled with snide columns about the huge amount of money the former PM may make when he goes on lecture tours in the U.S. One can only hope that the columnists are correct and that a grateful America makes him a very rich man indeed.
THE BIASED BROADCASTING CORPORATION
The Biased Broadcasting Corporation
By Frank H. Stewart
The New York Times
March 15, 2007
Last summer, the Archbishop of Algeria remarked to this newspaper that when satellite dishes first appeared in Algeria, they were typically positioned to receive French broadcasts. Now the majority receive programming from the Persian Gulf.
“If you watch Western television, you live in one universe,” said the archbishop, “and if you watch Middle Eastern television, you live in another altogether.” The Middle Eastern broadcasts, he added, tended to depict the West in a negative light.
Washington is well aware of this problem and has tried to address it. In 2004, the United States established its own Arabic-language satellite television station, Al Hurra. But Al Hurra has not been a success, and stations like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya, based in the Gulf states, continue to dominate the region.
Those stations will soon face a formidable rival. The BBC World Service plans to start an Arabic television service this fall, and the BBC knows what it is doing. It has been broadcasting in Arabic on the radio for more than 60 years and has a huge audience.
This new television station might sound like good news for America. Many of us pick up BBC broadcasts in English, and we respect their quality. But the World Service in English is one thing, and the World Service in Arabic is another entirely. If the BBC’s Arabic TV programs resemble its radio programs, then they will be just as anti-Western as anything that comes out of the Gulf, if not more so. They will serve to increase, rather than to diminish, tensions, hostilities and misunderstandings among nations.
For example, a 50-minute BBC Arabic Service discussion program about torture discussed only one specific allegation, which came from the head of an organization representing some 90 Saudis imprisoned at Guantánamo. This speaker stated that the prisoners were subject to disgusting and horrible forms of torture and suggested that three inmates reported by the United States to have committed suicide were actually killed. Another participant insisted that the two countries guilty of torturing political prisoners on the largest scale were Israel and the United States.
At the same time, the authoritarian regimes and armed militants of the Arab world get sympathetic treatment on BBC Arabic. When Saddam Hussein was in power, he was a great favorite of the service, which reported as straight news his re-election to a seven-year term in 2002, when he got 100 percent of the vote. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enjoys similar favor. When a State Department representative referred to Syria as a dictatorship, his BBC interviewer immediately interrupted and reprimanded him.
The Arabic Service not only shields Arab leaders from criticism but also tends to avoid topics they might find embarrassing: human rights, the role of military and security forces, corruption, discrimination against minorities, censorship, poverty and unemployment. When, from time to time, such topics do arise, they are usually dealt with in the most general terms: there may, for instance, be guarded references to “certain Arab countries.”
By contrast, the words and deeds of Western leaders, particularly the American president and the British prime minister, are subject to minute analysis, generally on the assumption that behind them lies a hidden and disreputable agenda. Last summer, when the British arrested two dozen people alleged to have been plotting to blow up airplanes crossing the Atlantic, a BBC presenter centered a discussion on the theory that these arrests had taken place because Tony Blair, embarrassed by opposition to Britain’s role in the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, wanted to distract the public while at the same time associating Muslims with terrorism.
The British are among our closest and most reliable allies, and it is strange that their government pays for these broadcasts, many of which are produced in Cairo rather than in London. If the BBC models its Arabic television service on its Arabic radio service, yet another anti-Western, antidemocratic channel will find its place on the Arab screen.
GREAT CAPITAL CITY. SHAME ABOUT THE AWFUL BBC
Great capital city. Shame about the awful BBC
By Gerard Baker
The Times of London
March 16, 2007
For someone who has not lived in the city for more than a decade, the occasional trip to London is a reminder of how richly it deserves its new reputation as the world’s capital.
As my colleague James Harding wrote in times2 this week, there’s a vibrancy about London these days that easily eclipses New York or Paris or Tokyo. To many residents, perhaps, life in London may be a struggle against rising crime and a crowded Tube and overpriced housing, but from an international perspective, it is truly the world’s preeminent urban locale.
In fact, in anything other than the most literal, geographic expression of the term, London is really no longer an English city at all. Its great economic dynamo, the City, powers corporations from Shanghai to Seattle. Its labour force, drawn to it by the opportunities of its free markets, is much more polyglot and multinational than any other urban concentration in the world.
But there’s salt to this strawberry. London’s political culture has been uprooted from its English heritage. It is run – if you can call it that – by a sort of postmodern communist Mayor, whose political voice – minus the annoying nasal whine – would sound right at home in Paris, Bologna or San Francisco. It hosts a metropolitan elite that loftily gazes three ways: outward, at the supposed superiority of anything not British; inward, at its own ineffable genius; and down its elegantly pampered nose, at the provincial trivialities that consume the dreary lives of the rest of the population.
But worst of all; much more, much more baleful than any of these irritations, is the political, cultural and intellectual hegemony exercised by the ultimate self-serving metropolitan monopoly, the BBC. Much worse because, unlike mayors and snobs, its domination of the rest of the country is so complete and so permanent.
On a recent trip back to Britain, I happened to hear on the BBC an interview with Helen Mirren, shortly before her Oscars triumph. Amid the usual probing sort of questioning that is the currency of celebrity journalism (“How do you manage to look so young? Is there anyone since Shakespeare who has come close to matching your talent?”) one particular gem caught my attention.
Dame Helen was asked how difficult it had been to play such an “unsympathetic character” as the Queen, the eponymous heroine of her recent film. She replied, quite tartly, that she didn’t find the Queen unsympathetic at all and launched into her now familiar riff about how she thought Elizabeth II really, surprisingly, quite agreeable.
It was a little incident, a small crystal in the battering hailstorm of drivel that pours daily through the airwaves. And yet to my mind it signified something so large. It had nothing to do with politics or Iraq or America. It was so telling in its revelation of prejudices and presumptions precisely because it was on such a slight matter as the sensibilities of an actress.
It betrayed an absolutely rock-solid assumption that the Queen is fundamentally unsympathetic, and that anyone who might still harbour some respect for the monarch – or indeed for that matter, the military or the Church, or the countryside or the joint stock company or any of the great English bequests to the world – must be some reactionary old buffer out in the sticks who has not had the benefit of the London media’s cultural enlightenment.
More than that, the question – all fawning and fraternal and friendly – contained within it an assumption that, of course, every thoughtful person shares the same view.
You really do have to leave the country to appreciate fully how pernicious the BBC’s grasp of the nation’s cultural and political soul has become. The groupthink and assumptions implicit in almost everything broadcast by BBC News, and even less explicitly by much else of the corporation’s output, lie like a suffocating blanket over the national consciousness.
This is the mindset that sees the effortless superiority, at every turn, of benign collectivism over selfish individualism, exploited worker over unscrupulous capitalist, enlightened European over brutish American, thoughtful atheist over dumb believer, persecuted Arab over callous Israeli; and that believes the West is the perpetrator of just about every ill that has ever befallen the world – from colonialism to global warming.
I’m often told, when I take on like this, that I’m ignoring the quality of BBC output. But I spent almost a decade in the employ of the BBC and I can say, without demeaning my gifted colleagues at The Times, that it has probably one of the highest concentrations of talent of any institution in the world. But that, of course, is the problem. It perpetuates its power by attracting and retaining an educated elite that is distinguished by its unstinting devotion to collectivist values. I’ve no doubt it does what it does very well. It is what it does I object to.
A necessary word here about our sponsor. Anything critical of the BBC written by an employee of Rupert Murdoch is instantly dismissed. It’s not an unreasonable instinct. Outside Murdochland it is solemnly assumed that each morning the drones of News Corporation are given their marching orders on how to interpret every event so that it conforms precisely to the commercial and political instincts of the proprietor.
In the real world, not only does the Murdoch media have only a fraction of the reach of the BBC, but a casual glance at its output demonstrates it is far less monolithic in its outlook than is the BBC.
Fortunately, in the US this week, I was struck by an article on the oped pages of The New York Times, the very citadel of leftish political correctness. Written by an apparently completely sane professor at a prestigious US university and entitled “Biased Broadcasting Corporation”, it assailed the BBC’s Middle Eastern services for their consistently antiWestern tone and content.
When the editorial pages of The New York Times accuse the BBC of anti-Western bias it is worth taking notice. It is a little like Osama bin Laden accusing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of being a bit harsh on the Jews. It suggests that in other, even pretty unlikely, parts of the world, people are waking up to the menace to our values represented by the BBC. The British sadly, seem curiously content to remain in thrall to it.