March 15, 2007

THE POINT BEING THAT THEY ENJOY RUM, SODOMY AND THE LASH:

Bad news for the U.S. (Frank H. Stewart, March 15, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

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 Americans pick up BBC broadcasts in English, and they 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 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.

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 security forces, corruption and censorship. 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 U.S. 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 America's closest allies, and it is strange that their government pays for these broadcasts, many of which are produced in Cairo rather than in London.


Self-loathing is fine, but leave us out of it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2007 7:58 AM
Comments

Nothing new. BBC was against Churchill during the war. Of course, Churchill loathed BBC.

Posted by: ic at March 15, 2007 1:52 PM

The BBC is wise to produce their Arabic broadcasts in Cairo.

Announcement of British policy toward Arabia should naturally come from its source.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at March 15, 2007 3:52 PM

BBC is just trying to keep pace with CNN programming outside of North America.

Posted by: curt at March 15, 2007 7:43 PM
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