The balance of power: exchanges with BBC journalists – Part 2
By MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media
October 19, 2009
A Gale Of Spring Air – Barbara Plett And The President
On September 24, we wrote to the BBC’s Barbara Plett:
Dear Barbara Plett
It’s hard to believe your article, ‘Debuts and diatribes at the UN’, was written by a member of an ostensibly free press. You write of Obama:
“New US President Barack Obama set the stage with a sweeping speech announcing America’s re-engagement with the UN. Coming after the winter years of the Bush administration, this was a gale of spring air.” (
By contrast, the “quixotic colonel”, Gaddafi, “embarked on a diatribe that rambled on for an hour-and-a-half.”
As for our own Dear Leader:
“After the Libyan leader finally sat down, an indignant Mr Brown changed his speech to defend the founding principles of the UN.”
Jolly good show! And the Iranian president:
“Mr Ahmadinejad himself didn’t mention Iran’s nuclear programme in front of the assembly, nor did he seem distracted by walkouts to protest his denials of the Nazi Holocaust, and what many see as his fraudulent re-election. In typical style he lambasted Israel and the West for double standards, failed ideologies and imperial interventions.”
This reads like a spoof of Big Brother-style thought control. Through an unsubtle mix of swoons and snarls we’re told who are the ‘good guys’ and who the ‘bad guys’. The BBC insists its journalism is carefully balanced with all personal opinions omitted – but this is not journalism, it is propaganda.
Plett replied on October 6:
Dear Mr Edwards
Apologies for the lateness of my response, I started to reply last week but have been distracted by demands on both work and domestic fronts. With regards to your comments that my article amounted to unsubtle propaganda that delineated the “good guys” and the “bad guys:”
In essence, I was writing about what three world leaders had to say on the opening day of the General Assembly, how they presented themselves on the world stage, and how they were received. I was not suggesting that any of them delivered the objective truth, the piece was meant to convey what was said from the point of view of the speaker. Given your complaint, I can see it might have been helpful to signpost more clearly.
But to clarify:
Gaddafi made some points that resonated with the audience, but his presentation was rambling and often incoherent. It was received with a mixture of curiosity and irritation, tending towards the latter as his speech wound on Ahmadinejad’s objective was to criticise the west of double standards (on nuclear issues), failed ideologies (capitalism and corruption) and imperial intervention (invasion & occupation of Iraq/Afghanistan). That was the main thrust of his speech to the General Assembly
Obama’s objective was to announce that America was re-engaging with the UN. I think it is fair to say the General Assembly broadly welcomed that. That’s what I meant by a gale of spring air: there was a palpable sends of relief to have a US president prepared to work through rather than against the UN. For sure this will be in pursuit of national foreign policy objectives, but that is the same for all members.
A final comment on “good guys” and “bad guys:” It is a fair point that stains on the US record (ie launching what the UN regarded as an illegal war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib etc) should also be mentioned if one is to accuse Gaddafi of oppressing the opposition and Ahmadinejad of fraudulent elections. The qualification I would make is that Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi were personally implicated in abuses against their own people, whereas Obama was not present at the time of the Iraq invasion and has campaigned for a US withdrawal. Also as I mentioned earlier, the piece was about personalities, not about states or state policies.
We replied on October 19:
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