The BBC and public journalism

Robert Scheer’s excellent column lauds the BBC for being independent and impartial during times of incredible pressure for patriotism. Unlike the US news networks that just roll over to politicians, the BBC has consistantly broke sensational stories that have proved to be completely true.

Politicians here (and it Britain) frequently call the BBC “biased” for the other side of whatever issue they are on. The BBC isn’t biased, they just aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. They don’t let politicians get away with saying whatever they want. They fight and yell and won’t take no. They don’t let the “official” version of events get in the way of a real investigation. In short, the BBC is everything American news should be, says it is, but cannot be.

Blair last week told the U.S. Congress that he and Bush were right to invade Iraq even if no weapons of mass destruction are ever found. Left unmentioned is that it was the coalition that chased U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq, claiming they weren’t doing their job and that the Iraq threat was growing. Clearly the immediacy of the threat from Hussein was a phony claim that Blair and Bush should have known full well was not backed up by any substantial evidence.

What’s left is the idea that we are in Iraq to build a democracy there by force. Yet the people on both sides of the Atlantic were adamantly opposed to this sort of nation-building, smacking as it does of past disasters, from the collapse of the British Empire to the U.S. war in Vietnam. In essence, we are now told to be happy with a rationale for war that we didn’t find convincing before the war started.

Scheer is right. When they write the histories, it won’t be Bush and Blair that they are lauding, it will be the British Broadcasting Corporation. Go figure.