Schadenfreude as media bias

The Observer reports that in a conversation with Rupert Murdoch, Tony Blair “denounced the BBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina as ‘full of hatred of America’ and ‘gloating’ at the country’s plight.” It says that at his confab in New York, Bill Clinton “also attacked the tone of the BBC coverage at a seminar on the media. He said it had been ‘stacked up’ to criticise the federal government’s slow response.”

The BBC’s report on the criticism says:

Earlier, the BBC’s world editor Jonathan Baker defended its coverage to Newswatch after similar criticisms from some BBC News viewers and users.

He said most of its output had been “absolutely down-the-line straightforward reportage”, but added the president had made himself the “figurehead” of the disaster response.

“If things are not going well, he is there to be criticised, and if they were going much better he would expect to take the credit,” he said.

That’s an odd thing to say: There’s plenty of substance to criticize without having to make a “figurehead” as a sponge of criticism.

I haven’t seen the BBC’s coverage, so I can’t get specific in return. But we all saw last week’s Economist cover: The shaming of America. And God knows what other foreign press is saying about us, bringing us down a few pegs. But then again, what did we say about the French when they let their old people whither and die in a heat wave after they had acted so high and mighty about Iraq?

Is the bias anti-Americanism? Or is it a nationalistic bias of knocking the other guy who knocked us? Or is it a journalistic bias of schadenfreude?

  • JonT

    No Jeff, it is anti-americanism plain and simple, manifested by an intensely anti-Bush agenda and rooted in an institutionally socialist (or at the very least left-liberal) organisation.

    You can be pro USA and anti-Bush of course, and the BBC never gave Clinton this kind of negativity. But we didn’t have “the war on terror” then did we.

    The BBC are in an ideological lockstep with your chums at the Guardian.

  • Ravo

    When our domestic papers don’t carry the truth, why would we think papers elsewhere will do better?

    Will you find info like that below in any of our major domestic papers? Our own papers erroneously fault Bush here, so how can we expect foreigners to do any better?

    “Former president of the [New Orleans Levee Board] board Billy Nungesser, who was ousted after trying to reform it, says: “Every time I turned over a rock, there was something rotten. I used to tell people, ‘If your children ever die in a hurricane, come shoot us, because we’re responsible.’ We threw away all sorts of money.”

    The “more funding for levees” argument perpetuates a common misperception. The long-standing earthen levees surrounding the city did not fail. It was the floodwalls around the drainage canals that protrude into New Orleans that were overwhelmed. One breach seems to have been caused by a barge breaking loose from its moorings and battering down one of the walls. Will Nancy Pelosi now accuse Bush of underfunding barge moorings?
    It is still a matter of debate what caused the other breaches. One expert at the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center told the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune that he suspects a “catastrophic structural failure.” Another expert suggested that “the flaw may not be in the design but in the construction or materials.”

    So the flooding didn’t result from old levees desperately needing more funding. In fact, the section of 17th Street canal where a major breach occurred had just been upgraded, and the New York Times writes “received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region.” Even if Bush had larded more money on New Orleans — according to a broad-brush comparison in The Washington Post, he spent more in his first five years in office than Bill Clinton did in his last five — it wouldn’t have stopped such a breach.

    In a key respect, too much government funding was the problem. A hurricane researcher at Louisiana State University has long warned that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet — built in 1965 as a shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of New Orleans — would serve as a “hurricane highway,” magnifying storm surges and delivering them into the city. It appears that this is what happened.

    The Washington Post reports that only 3 percent of the port’s cargo comes through the canal, at a price to taxpayers of an estimated $12,000 per vessel. Still, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent $13 million dredging the canal last year. Even though there were warnings about the dangers of MRGO, even though it was commercially marginal, the Corps wanted to spend up to $38 million on keeping it going. A former employee with the Corps’ New Orleans district told the Post: “The general feeling was: ‘There’s no way we’re closing that.’ They wanted all the business they could get.”

    Here is the recipe for government, not as liberals imagine it, but as it actually exists: Take the Corps, for whom every project, no matter how unnecessary, is a “pressing need”; combine it with Congress, where Louisiana representatives eagerly diverted Corps money to their pet projects; and throw on top the corrupt officialdom of New Orleans. Then shake well — and get out of the way.

    The Orleans Levee Board, the state agency charged with protecting the levees, is so notorious that it makes Bush’s FEMA look like a paragon of professionalism. Former president of the board Billy Nungesser, who was ousted after trying to reform it, says: “Every time I turned over a rock, there was something rotten. I used to tell people, ‘If your children ever die in a hurricane, come shoot us, because we’re responsible.’ We threw away all sorts of money.”

    The board operates an airport, two marinas, and has a private police force that Nungesser says “wears more gold braid than Gen. MacArthur when he went to the Philippines.” The board just spent $2.4 million on a Mardi Gras Fountain near Lake Pontchartrain. NBC News reports that the board spent $15 million on building overpasses to a riverboat casino, and paid $45,000 to a private investigator to find dirt on a board critic — followed by another $45,000 to settle the resulting lawsuit. Feeling dry yet?

  • Jeff: Much of the BBC material is available, archived, on their web site. Why don’t you view it for yourself.

    If Brian Williams can be outraged at what he was observing and that is taken as (passion, backbone) acceptable why is the same behavior from a BBC reporter different.

    The BBC is one of the few news organizations that actually has reporters everywhere (or gets them there in a hurry) and, during interviews, asks real questions. In addition the inteviewers express opinions that the interviewee can debate.
    The world service is on lots of outlets, WNYC and WNYE radio for example in NYC, as well as satellite radio and cable TV.

    I’ve never noticed America bashing any more than bashing corrupt, vain or incompetent politicians from elsewhere.

  • kat

    {I’ve never noticed America bashing any more than bashing corrupt, vain or incompetent politicians from elsewhere.} Do you live in a bubble???????

  • UncleBeer

    The BBC has become openly biased, even to the point of creating news stories to foment regime change. Check out this story re: “heckling”:;jsessionid=ED2XQAE4NZIH3QFIQMGCM5WAVCBQUJVC?xml=/news/2005/04/24/nhow24.xml (April 24, 2005)

    “The BBC was last night plunged into a damaging general election row after it admitted equipping three hecklers with microphones and sending them into a campaign meeting addressed by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader.

    Last night, the BBC claimed that the exercise was part of a “completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling” and said that other parties’ meetings were being “observed”. However, The Telegraph has established that none of Tony Blair’s meetings was infiltrated or disrupted in similar fashion.”

    Ain’t no kind of ‘journalism’ I’d recognize….

  • Korutenshi

    Anti-American? Not so much, my European/Asian/Middle Eastern friends love us, but but hate Bush…Schadenfreude? Yea, I would suppose there is a little of that there, especially as we have always presented ourselves as more capable and moral, than others…and since our President does claim to be a strong leader, it can only be expected that some people take some delight in the whole “I told you so” scenario when we prove to be just as fallible as those we criticize ourselves. The key here is who is the source of the accusations and are they sound in light of current events. Rupert Murdoch, hmmm. The same foreigner who enabled a movement of division in this country in order to help sustain his media empire has a vested interest, regardless of the validity of his accussations. So his intent is pretty clear. And pretty hypocritical seeing as he is the Grand Pubah of Fox / NewsCorp.
    But is it so clear that the BBC is trying to verbally castigate an globally unpopular President or a President that is trully incompetent and deserving of scrutiny in light of his declared public persona? Like it or not, our President’s actions/inactions have a very real effect on the lives of those that did not vote for his leadership, and as such will use whatever means they have at their disposal to voice their discontent. Agree or Disagree with Iraq, Britons still send their soldiers there to die, so denying them a voice would lend itself even more to the idea that we are as self-absorbed as they accuse us of being. Yea, I would have to agree that there is a bit of Anti-Bush sentiment there, but with a track record like Bush’s, that is not such a far-fetched stance to take. And their scrutiny of an incompetent President that would otherwise take the credit for a successful outcome, is only fair.
    And any comparative analysis to Clinton is just lame and psychosymptomatic of something else altogether, getting hummers and starting an extraneous war in Iraq are on completely different paradigms and just their mention points to our own inability to be introspective at any meaningful level. It is why I believe that external assesment is needed more now than ever before. And that any sense of defensiveness at being criticized needs to be shelved along with our other infantile bad habits that our own mothers’ tried to dissuade us of perpetuating into adulthood.

  • kat

    Asking whether the BBC is anti-American is akin to asking if the BBC is anti-Israeli. We all know that they employ a Hamas correspondent who slants stories to favor the terrorists and that the BBC is soft on terrorists–much like Al Jazeera, Al Reuters, and other leftist outlets.
    This isn’t about criticism–it’s about promoting the leftist agenda.
    (The BBC’s correspondent in Gaza reportedly declared at a recent Hamas event that reporters and the media are “waging the campaign [against Israel] shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people.” (Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2001) Even terrorists know the leftist media are their comrades.
    (According to the Post report the BBC defended Faid Abu Shimalla, who works for the network’s Arabic Service, as a “senior and experienced journalist who knows the requirements for impartiality.”) The BBC would not know honesty, truth, and impartiality if it jumped out and bit them on the ass. The sad thing is that some 40 countries worldwide are fed the BBC bullshit and many are gullible enough to swallow the rotten pablum and thrive on it. And smart people like JJ have to ask if it could be bias. Yes it is-journalistic bias steeped in anti-Americanism fed by Jew hatred.

  • Barry Dauphin

    Well, let’s see what the reporting was like from the BBC when the subject was France andthe topic was about 12,000 dead from a heatwave:

    ‘Over 11,000’ dead in French heat

    An estimated 11,435 people died in France’s heatwave in the first half of August, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

    If you’ll read, it seems basically factual. No “shame” to be found.

  • Korutenshi

    The following is a link right next to the above mentioned article…

  • Yes, Kat, because four years ago an Arabic correspondent for the BBC allegedly expressed his solidarity with Hamas, the entire news organization is anti-Semitic.

  • (Again, I believe this thread is about Hurricane Katrina, not bashing Muslims. Or are you so consumed with hatred that you must infect everything you encounter with your Islamophobic bile?)

  • Marina Architect

    Manufactured veneer of image making are a disservice to all of us the world over. The electricity for Bush’s speech was unplugged when he left, the firefighters and heavy equipment in his photo ops were just props. By the way, without being shamed by the world press(not just us here in the US), Brownie would still be on the job. Chertoff is the real failure, DHS and not FEMA is the true first reponder. Chertoff thought he dodged a bullet and didn’t act quickly: he’s the failure. Bush has delegated this first responder task to Chertoff: Chertoff is accountable here directly.

    BBC Coverage and the Economist Article are both on target and accurate. The cats been out of the bag big time since Abu Graib: that was the defining moment in world sentiment. Watch PBS Frontline, all the world’s dictators and despots were created and fuded by our government.

    Welcome to Web 2.0, image making is over: Europen Union and Canada, Russia and Venezuela are on to the fraud of Bush/Cheney. China, Japan and Saudia Arabia are in blind denial and continue to buy our Treasury debt which finances our incompetence, war profiteering and special interest corporate profits. We have the highest per capita (that’s per person) spending on healthcare while not having Universal Healthcare and the most uninsured. We are a not the great nation that our well-polished media convey. I say this out of love for the US and as a Patriot, what do we have that Canada and France do not. Our processed food and mass culture have spread: the exception is the the intellectuals and artists of course. We need to change our government together. We need to open source our government.

    Here’s an idea: with Web 2.0, raising big money will become unnecessary to run for office. We can connect 24/7 at negligible cost. It will no longer take 30M to run for office. Let’s build up organic support for candidates with integrity online. The only issue is that we are out-numbered by deluded bible thumpers. Bush still has 40% support. His support should be 0%!

    With Web 2.0, the Bush/Cheney Rackateering Operation has been exposed though still continues. Rove had a Texas state staff member who questioned his voting record in Texas, fired with just a quick phone call. That’s how the mob works: she was wacked Bush style. All the cronyism is beyond disguting and dangerous. Bush/Cheny are guiltyof RICO Rackateering. I’m tired of empty gestures. Are you? Let’s tip this cow over.

  • Gunther

    Jarvis. I love the fact that you’re too lazy to even check the facts or actually go see what the BBC coverage was like. But you assume there was bias anyway, and then pose the question, What caused it?. Is this what you’re going to be teaching the journalism students at CUNY? To be factually illiterate but knowledgeable about every technology under the sun? I’d suggest that the first thing you should cover in your course curriculum is how to use Google. Maybe that will be way to get you to start using it.

  • doctorj

    I normally don’t get to see the BBC but one night about 3 AM I caught a report by Matt Frei concerning Hurricane Katrina. It was about day 5 after the storm. I am in the hurricane zone and, being without electricity and having no air conditioning, I could not sleep in the sweltering heat. I turned on a small battery powered TV and there he was having a fit that the dead had not been picked up. He kept harrasing the rescue workers with questions about how such a terrible thing could happen. These rescuers, many of whom had lost their homes and were separated from their own families, looked at him like one would look at a pesty mosquito but they remained polite. Then it happened. Here is a quote I will never forget. “The U.S. will go around the world to retrieve one dead soldier, but they leave their own citizens rotting in the sun.” These rescuers were still in the process of trying to find the living. They had nothing to do with President Bush. It was just a snarky, classless remark to put the U.S down.

  • kat

    Jersey, don’t be such a dork–I was clearly talking about Jew hatred. Unless you are suggesting that Jew hatred cannot be discussed unless it is related to muslims. You are likely correct.

  • I just saw some BBC coverage (highlights of the week) repeated on my local PBS station. I have to say, what I saw was pretty bad even for them.

    A reporter made a sweeping pronouncement that Americans are losing faith in the President to contend with emergencies such as this, then offered a terribly clipped version of the nursing home tragedy. *We* know that the owners of the nursing home are already targetted for litigation. But they pointedly left that part out and presented it as a mystery. “No one knows” how such a thing happened, but in context of the schpiel on Bush, it was implied that it was one more terrible thing that happened because of his incompetence.

    It’s like an amplified version of the leftist response at home, stripped of any pretense of rational criticism. Pure pig piling.

  • if any country’s president waited a week to go to the city hit hardest by its nation’s most devistating natural disaster ever,

    while people drowned while the cameras rolled

    that president/figurehead is ripe for criticism by the media, foreign and domestic.

    to even think the word “anti-american” is just as lame as thinking the word “unpatriotic” to people who criticize a war based on lies.

    when bushie said “you’re either with us or against us” i had no idea how many intelligent people would drink that super big gulp of kool aid.

    fascinating how many are still drinking it.

  • The Blair story is interesting – of course Downing Street refuses to comment. The Telegraph of course notes that Murdoch is a competitor of the BBC. As far as Clinton’s remarks go – it would be interesting to see what Dick Parsons had to say about that, since he was on the same panel. It’s somewhat curious that the only report of that is Murdoch’s story, at this point.

    Personally – probably some anti-americanism in the world press. Probably some schadenfreude. Probably some nationalism. Probably some honest reporting. And probably some disillusionment. It’s not a simple either/or.

  • penny

    “But then again, what did we say about the French when they let their old people whither and die in a heat wave after they had acted so high and mighty about Iraq?”

    Please. Creating for grandma a cool spot in the Paris heatwave isn’t exactly in the same league as organizing survival for a category 4 hurricane which will soon physically destroy the city.

    If the French couldn’t save grandma with cars, hospitals, roads and powerlines intact just what would those moron’s do if faced with Katrina? Surrender as always? They seemed to have surrendered to the weatherman.

    Dying in sweltering heat when there aren’t 120 mile an hour winds and flooding outside blocking rescuers is just stupid. The French deserve to be sneered at.

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  • penny

    Jarvis. I love the fact that you’re too lazy to even check the facts or actually go see what the BBC coverage was like. But you assume there was bias anyway, and then pose the question

    Well, Gunther, even Bill Clinton thought the coverage was biased also:

    “Bill Clinton, the former US president, and Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive of Sony Corporation, also criticised the tone of the BBC’s coverage during a seminar on the media at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York.

  • penny

    European Union and Canada, Russia and Venezuela are on to the fraud of Bush/Cheney

    Hilarious!!! But are they on to the frauds they have perpetrated. Like Putin’s autocratic dismissal of regional governor elections, illegally repatriating YUKOS back to the state for his lackeys to plunder, his human rights violations in Chechnya? Perhaps you haven’t been aware of the recent Liberal Party scandals in Canada?

    Hugo Chavez is a autocratic psychopath anyway you slice or dice it. The EU’s stagnant economics and bureacratic bloated problems aren’t anything to be commended.

    Apparently you don’t seem to be on to fraud outside of your singularly focused and not well researched universe of the lame hachneyed Bush/Cheney-ruined-my-life/world/whatever.

  • David

    >Gunther Says:
    >Jarvis. I love the fact that you’re too lazy to even check the facts or actually
    > go see what the BBC coverage was like.

    Come on Gunther give Jarvis some credit…he saw it on drudge so why would he need to do any fact checking.

  • Rick Jacobs

    I am an American who lives in Britain and I pretty much stuck with the BBC for the Katrina coverage. It was the most comprehensive, and as they have no commercial leanings to a corporation or political leanings to a government party, they never shy from depicting things as they are. No network is completely free of bias, but the BBC was bemused and later, shocked, how the federal government totally and utterly mishandled the crisis. The BBC is also exhausted with Labour Party spin that it has suffered through for years (and was very stung about the goverment’s claims about going to war with Iraq) and I think the reporting mostly focussed on what Washington was saying versus what the reporters were saying on the ground and what the pictures were showing. The BBC is brave to show things that the American networks wouldn’t dare touch and I would hardly call coverage of how those responsible have totally and utterly f***ed this up “anti-American”.

  • penny

    It was the most comprehensive, and as they have no commercial leanings to a corporation or political leanings to a government partyhere and here.

    Perhaps you missed my quote from no less than Bill Clinton, no friend of Bush, criticizing the BBC for their reporting.

    Do you read you ever read/watch anything besides the BBC for a more balanced perspective? Bet not. Better to keep your insular universe intact.

  • penny

    Here is the other British based blogger tracking BBC bias.

  • abraham

    Interesting, equate, or paint the Economist and the BBC with the same brush to prove a self-indulgent point. NOthing about how the Economist stands as perhaps the most fiscally conservative, and quite pro-american publication in Europe – and tends to part with the Republicans in a lot of geo-political positionings.

  • Alex

    Honestly, I was listening to the BBC radio the other day when I was driving down to cover the hurricane (I am a newsman) and I can honestly say I was shocked at the cold and furious way they had said some things about what was going on. I can’t point to specifics, all I know is that the tone of it, like the Americans deserved to die for being so utterly stupid, incensed me so much that I still remember it weeks later.

    The show transitioned into a talk segment, and all it referred to was the stupidity of living below sea level. The inherent failures and terrible behavior of the US Govt. It was obvious that the tone was “you deserved it for who you are.” Again and again, this was a session where I felt as though, as an American, I wanted to reach through the radio and strangle the living hell out of those radio personalities. Some of them were BBC paid.

    Look, it is one thing to be Rush Limbaugh, it is another thing to be an insensitive, hate spewing Rush Limbaugh-like and be supported financially by a governmental entity.

    I wish I had a recording of what was said. I would play it for you. Needless to say, I don’t think I will ever trust that the BBC in a blanket, we’re objective kind of tone. I wish I could have called in to that program, I would have given them a piece of my mind, for all of their insensitive, oafish, smug, ‘They got what they deserved’ talk that they brought up.

    Disgusting. And I used to read the BBC everyday. I used to trust them. I’ll be damned if I’ll listen to them now.

  • EverKarl

    Moreover, I would respectfully suggest to JJ that the current state of relations between the UK and France is not that great. Consequently, the hypothesis that the BBC coverage here would be in response to US coverage of the French heatwave is only plausible if the BBC’s POV was closer to that of France than of the British gov’t. And that may be true, but raises additional questions, yes?

  • JBK

    heh – I love these right-wing twats on this site who are so outraged!! at the BBC’s coverage of the Bush debacle, but, boy, it’s all so Drudge-like vague for them…the one clown who says he lives “in the hurricane zone” but turned on a small battery powered TV and “happened to catch the BBC one night.” Sure, and I’d love to know the brand name of that TV, that’s some helluva battery…and the “journalist who was driving down to cover” the debacle and just happened to hear BBC on his car radio, but jeez, couldn’t remember any names or details, or else he, you know, would “play them for you.” What a bunch of fucking maroons. Hey dickwads, why don’t you just go on watching Fox and keep telling yourself all is absolutely right with this country under Boy George and his cronies. Then I’m sure you can sleep peacefully. But leave the rest of us out of your fantasies. Scumbags.

  • tonynoboloney

    Aw, c’mon JBK, don’t hold back tell us how you really feel.

  • doctorj

    It is a Casio handheld TV. It runs on 4 AA batteries. Like another poster said, the BBC report was run on the local PBS channel out of Baton Rouge. We were hit hard by the hurricane, but as my sister told me, so many people are in such worse shape, you feel guilty feeling sorry for yourself. In my subdivision alone 20 houses were damaged, 6 made uninhabitable. But we have houses. My mother lives off the beach in Pass Christian, MS. Most of her neighbors only have slabs, but they have families. Some families are separated, but they know they are alive. Count your blessings.

  • Alex

    Actually, JBK, now you’re making personal attacks. So you’re the twat.

    By the way, I am a journalist. Paid to do it. Unlike you.

    Also, my personal politics (something I would never say in broadcast but will let you know here because you accuse me of being a neo-con) are burningly dyed-in-the-wool liberal. I have never, ever, ever voted Republican. I hate Drudge, but I read him to know where my enemies lie. I hate Fox News, and hate them so much that I actually quit a Fox affiliate job in Nashville, TN because of the improper political spin they put on everything (I took the job before the corporation offered the uber-Right opinion about everything, besides it was local).

    So if you haven’t walked out of a job for journalistic integrity, then you really, really, really don’t know what it is like to jump off a financial cliff to do the right thing and be objective.

    So people like you should learn that when Bill Clinton says that the BBC coverage of the hurricane is being mean and unfair, then perhaps, that even from a strong liberal perspective like Clinton’s, it is.

    I didn’t tape the conversation in the car, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the ability.

    Also, I would say this. As a person that writes into and out of people’s words every day, I know what their tone was. I understood what they were saying.

    It was, in fact, derogatory and insulting. Period.

    P.S. I too have a battery television in the dash of my car. It takes 3 AA batteries. Runs for hours. Check em out at Target.

  • Nigel Pond

    Oh come on folks — is the BBC coverage any more “biased” than that of CNN, Fox or MSNBC? It’s OK for domestic media outlets to express outrage, apportion blame and subject those responsible to probing interviews, but the BBC cannot? For the first time in a long time US media organizations put politicians on the spot and demanded answers for the pre/post Katrina fiasco — the BBC has been doing that for years.

    The BBC can never win — when Labour is in power they are accused of being anti-Labour, when the Tories are in power, they are anti-Tory, so I guess that means that they are pretty fair.

  • Nova A

    I wondered about a year ago if the BBC was biased, and in 2004 conducted experiments via their on-line “Have Your Say” program, submitted about 100 comments over the year. I discovered that if I submitted liberal-leaning or “mandarin speak” comments, I had about a 1 in 4 chance of being published. None of my conservative comments were published.

    If ones tracks “Have Your Say” roundups, one notes that the liberal-leaning comments are placed to the front about 75% of the time, with the conservative comments at the end.

    I’ve studied the BBC’s reports on Katrina over the last few weeks. I perceive them not so much Anti-American as Anti-Federal Administration. They completely avoid discussing the balance of federal, state, and local powers, creating the appearance that emergency response is the sole responsibility of the federal.

    In many cases, Bush’s name is inserted where the word “federal fovernment” or “state government” would be a more accurate choice. When Presidental popularity polls are cited, the BBC consistently chooses the lowest poll results of the 6-8 major polls conducted over the week period.

  • Glyn

    The Economist is a friend of America and a staunch supporter of President Bush. When it runs a front page headed “The Shaming of America” that is not being anti-Americanism.