Leadership — one person being in charge, trusting his or her own judgment, taking a decision and telling others what to do— was shied away from in favour of endless meetings of a dozen or more people trying to arrive at some sort of consensus. At the newsroom level it became impossible to discipline someone for basic journalistic mistakes — wrong dates, times and numbers, inaccurate on-screen captions and basic political or geographical facts — for fear of giving offence. You’d never see anyone, to use a technical term, get a b*****king. There’d be whispers about them. They might even get a black mark at the annual appraisal with their line manager. Sometimes, they might even be promoted to a position in which they could do less harm. But what really concerned me was when the culture of political correctness began to influence what appeared on the screen. Soon after I started on News 24 in 2003, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal returned from the Gulf to a traditional welcome from families and friends at Portsmouth. TV reporters closed in to interview crew members, the vast majority of whom were men. Of the five vox-pops that featured in the BBC News, four were with women sailors. During my stint of presenting that day I complained about this and asked if we could have some more balanced interviews, but in vain. I have always been in two minds about the value of vox-pops. They can give texture and interest to a story, but unless they are selected with scrupulous impartiality by a conscientious producer, they are worse than a waste of time — the viewer is deceived, as they were that day. For me, though, the most worrying aspect of political correctness was over the story that recurred with increasing frequency during my last ten years at the BBC — global warming (or ‘climate change’, as it became known when temperatures appeared to level off or fall slightly after 1998). From the beginning I was unhappy at how one-sided the BBC’s coverage of the issue was, and how much more complicated the climate system was than the over-simplified two-minute reports that were the stock-in-trade of the BBC’s environment correspondents. These, without exception, accepted the UN’s assurance that ‘the science is settled’ and that human emissions of carbon dioxide threatened the world with catastrophic climate change. Environmental pressure groups could be guaranteed that their press releases, usually beginning with the words ‘scientists say . . . ’ would get on air unchallenged.
On one occasion, an MP used BBC airtime to link climate change doubters with perverts and holocaust deniers, and his famous interviewer didn’t bat an eyelid.
On one occasion, after the inauguration of Barack Obama as president in 2009, the science correspondent of Newsnight actually informed viewers ‘scientists calculate that he has just four years to save the world’. What she didn’t tell viewers was that only one alarmist scientist, NASA’s James Hansen, had said that. My interest in climate change grew out of my concern for the failings of BBC journalism in reporting it. In my early and formative days at ITN, I learned that we have an obligation to report both sides of a story. It is not journalism if you don’t. It is close to propaganda. The BBC’s editorial policy on climate change, however, was spelled out in a report by the BBC Trust — whose job is to oversee the workings of the BBC in the interests of the public — in 2007. This disclosed that the BBC had held ‘a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus’. The error here, of course, was that the BBC never at any stage gave equal space to the opponents of the consensus. But the Trust continued its pretence that climate change dissenters had been, and still would be, heard on its airwaves. ‘Impartiality,’ it said, ‘always requires a breadth of view, for as long as minority opinions are coherently and honestly expressed, the BBC must give them appropriate space.’ In reality, the ‘appropriate space’ given to minority views on climate change was practically zero. Moreover, we were allowed to know practically nothing about that top-level seminar mentioned by the BBC Trust at which such momentous conclusions were reached. Despite a Freedom of Information request, they wouldn’t even make the guest list public. There is one brief account of the proceedings, written by a conservative commentator who was there. He wrote subsequently that he was far from impressed with the 30 key BBC staff who attended. None of them, he said, showed ‘even a modicum of professional journalistic curiosity on the subject’. None appeared to read anything on the subject other than the Guardian. This attitude was underlined a year later in another statement: ‘BBC News currently takes the view that their reporting needs to be calibrated to take into account the scientific consensus that global warming is man-made.’ Those scientists outside the ‘consensus’ waited in vain for the phone to ring. It’s the lack of simple curiosity about one of the great issues of our time that I find so puzzling about the BBC. When the topic first came to prominence, the first thing I did was trawl the internet to find out as much as possible about it. Anyone who does this with a mind not closed by religious fervour will find a mass of material by respectable scientists who question the orthodoxy. Admittedly, they are in the minority, but scepticism should be the natural instinct of scientists — and the default setting of journalists. Yet the cream of the BBC’s inquisitors during my time there never laid a glove on those who repeated the mantra that ‘the science is settled’. On one occasion, an MP used BBC airtime to link climate change doubters with perverts and holocaust deniers, and his famous interviewer didn’t bat an eyelid. Meanwhile, Al Gore, the former U.S. Vice-President and climate change campaigner, entertained the BBC’s editorial elite in his suite at the Dorchester and was given a free run to make his case to an admiring internal audience at Television Centre. His views were never subjected to journalistic scrutiny, even when a British High Court judge ruled that his film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained at least nine scientific errors, and that ministers must send new guidance to teachers before it was screened in schools. From the BBC’s standpoint, the judgment was the real inconvenience, and its environment correspondents downplayed its significance. At the end of November 2007 I was on duty on News 24 when the UN panel on climate change produced a report which later turned out to contain significant inaccuracies, many stemming from its reliance on non-peer reviewed sources and best-guesses by environmental activists. But the way the BBC’s reporter treated the story was as if it was beyond a vestige of doubt, the last word on the catastrophe awaiting mankind. The most challenging questions addressed to a succession of UN employees and climate activists were ‘How urgent is it?’ and ‘How much danger are we in?’ Back in the studio I suggested that we line up one or two sceptics to react to the report, but received a totally negative response, as if I was some kind of lunatic. I went home and wrote a note to myself: ‘What happened to the journalism? The BBC has completely lost it.’ A damaging episode illustrating the BBC’s supine attitude came in 2008, when the BBC’s ‘environment analyst’, Roger Harrabin, wrote a piece on the BBC website reporting some work by the World Meteorological Organization that questioned whether global warming was going to continue at the rate projected by the UN panel. A green activist, Jo Abbess, emailed him to complain. Harrabin at first resisted. Then she berated him: ‘It would be better if you did not quote the sceptics’ — something Harrabin had not actually done — ‘Please reserve the main BBC online channel for emerging truth. Otherwise I would have to conclude that you are insufficiently educated to be able to know when you have been psychologically manipulated.’ Did Harrabin tell her to get lost? He tweaked the story — albeit not as radically as she demanded — and emailed back: ‘Have a look and tell me you are happier.’ This exchange went round the world in no time, spread by a jubilant Abbess. Later, Harrabin defended himself, saying they were only minor changes — but the sense of the changes, as specifically sought by Ms Abbess, was plainly to harden the piece against the sceptics. Many people wouldn’t call that minor, but Harrabin’s BBC bosses accepted his explanation. The sense of entitlement with which green groups regard the BBC was brought home to me when what was billed as a major climate change rally was held in London on a miserable, wintry, wet day. I was on duty on News 24 and it had been arranged for me to interview the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas. She clearly expected, as do most environmental activists, what I call a ‘free hit’ — to be allowed to say her piece without challenge. I began, good naturedly, by observing that the climate didn’t seem to be playing ball at the moment, and that we were having a particularly cold winter while carbon emissions were powering ahead. Miss Lucas reacted as if I’d physically molested her. She was outraged. It was no job of the BBC — the BBC! — to ask questions like that. Didn’t I realise that there could be no argument over the science? I persisted with a few simple observations of fact, such as there appeared to have been no warming for ten years, in contradiction of all the alarmist computer models. A listener from one of the sceptical climate-change websites noted that ‘Lucas was virtually apoplectic and demanding to know how the BBC could be making such comments. Sissons came back that his role as a journalist was always to review all sides. Lucas finished with a veiled warning, to which Sissons replied with an “Ooh!”’ A week after this interview, I went into work and picked up my mail from my pigeon hole. Among the envelopes was a small Jiffy Bag, which I opened. It contained a substantial amount of faeces wrapped in several sheets of toilet paper. At the time no other interviewers on the BBC — or indeed on ITV News or Channel Four News — had asked questions about climate change which didn’t start from the assumption that the science was settled… Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1350206/BBC-propaganda-machine-climate-change-says-Peter-Sissons.html#ixzz1CEdHjymX
January 24, 2011
There will be a fourth Matrix movie. Will it star Keanu Reeves? Yes. But didn’t Neo die in the third one? Yes. And weren’t the second and third films not so great compared to the groundbreaking first film? Yes. But the only truly important questions here are these: Are you excited to see it? And what chemical enhancements do you plan on sneaking into the theater? Reeves told a London audience that the Wachowski brothers had finished working on a two-movie deal, in which he’ll star. Though the two sequels were “overwrought albatrosses that only serve to diminish the original’s impact,” the New York Post’s Jarett Wieselman writes, “Keanu said he still feels obliged to deliver the fans a movie worthy of The Matrix brand and promised that this new installment will ‘truly revolutionize’ the action genre like the original did.” The upcoming films will be shot in 3-D–exciting, Wieselman says, given the Wachowskis’ history of advancing sweet sci-fi effects like Bullet Time.
Final question: Do four Matrix films equal one Inception? Inception had four dream levels, after all.
- Are You Excited for a Fourth ‘Matrix’? Jarett Wieselman, New York Post
This week, some of the world’s most prominent business and political leaders will join top academics, artists, NGO chiefs, and religious leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting–a whirlwind of Big Idea conferences, glitzy dinners, backroom deals, and informal networking. Last year, commentators wondered whether the elite extravaganza had lost some of its cachet in light of the economic crisis. This year, commentators are probing the very purpose of the event, now in its 41st year:
- What Impact Does Davos Have? wonders Jack Ewing at The New York Times. Last year, he explains, “for all the talk of crisis prevention, participants at the forum missed what proved to be the big economic story of 2010–Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.” Ewing notes that organizers are addressing the criticism that Davos “is more talk and partying than action” by steering this year’s agenda more toward identifying concrete solutions to “global threats like scarce credit or chronic disease or, better still, preventing them in the first place.”
- It’s a CEO ‘Self-Help’ Group, suggests Gillian Tett at The Financial Times. Tett quotes an investment banker and Davos attendee who believes the summit is “where CEOs trade information and feel solidarity in a hostile world.” The world’s CEOs, Tett says, are insecure about mounting hostility toward elites, shifts in world power, and global systems that are at once interconnected and fragmented, making the world feel “like an increasingly murky, complex and unpredictable place, where shocks keep emerging in areas ranging from credit markets to oil technology to Tunisia.”
- Economic Crisis Magnified Its Value, asserts CNN’s David Buik: “It has taken world problems such as food, the failure of World Trade Organization members to reach a global trade agreement, climate change and a financial crisis in 2008, to take this event out of the jamboree category and transform it into a preeminent event for all politicians, CEOs, finance directors and economists to be supportive of.”
- Davos Is the Future of Diplomacy, declares Parag Khanna at The Wall Street Journal. Davos, in stressing authority over sovereignty and mobilizing the world’s diffuse power centers, “reflects the true parameters of global diplomacy today better than the United Nations,” Khanna charges:
We have entered a new Middle Ages: an era that most resembles the pre-Westphalian era of nearly 1,000 years ago. That was the period of history when the East was as powerful (if not more so) than the West, cities mattered more than nations, powerful dynasties and trading companies were engines of growth and innovation, private mercenaries fought in all wars, religious crusades shaped inter-cultural relations, and new trade routes over land and sea forged the world’s first (nearly) global economy.
In addition to gumming up Iran’s enrichment hardware, the U.S. and Israel have engaged in an assassination campaign aimed at the country’s scientists.In November of last year, Iranian president Ahmadinejad accused Israel and the United States of killing a nuclear scientist and wounding another with a pair of bomb attacks. In January of 2009, a senior physics professor was assassinated. In 2007, Iranian state TV reported that nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, died from gas poisoning. Israel’s Mossad was suspected. During the news conference, Ahmadinejad also admitted to the Stuxnet attack. In November, it was reported that the Stuxnet virus had infected 44,000 computers worldwide. Stuxnet is a double-edged sword. In addition to setting back Iran’s nuclear program, the sophisticated malware engineered by the U.S. and Israel at the Dimona complex in the Negev desert has been exploited to push for restrictive cybersecurity measures in the United States. Alex Jones breaks down STUXNET and what it means in terms of coming US Govt policy. “The very fact that Stuxnet exists shows that we can no longer pretend that a cyber attack on our critical infrastructure is hypothetical and hyperbolic,” declared Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Joe Lieberman in November. “You’re talking about a very well-resourced and structured adversary.” Lieberman and Susan Collins, the panel’s ranking Republican, used Stuxnet to push for their cyber-security bill, entitled The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010. The bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and extend the already-broad definition of “critical infrastructure” to the internet and would allow Obama to shut down not only entire areas of the internet, but also businesses and industries that fail to comply with government orders following the declaration of a national emergency, thus increasing fears that the legislation will be used as a political tool. “Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too,” Lieberman said in June. “The Senator’s reference to China is a telling revelation of what the cybersecurity agenda is really all about. China’s vice-like grip over its Internet systems has very little to do with ‘war’ and everything to do with silencing all dissent against the state,” Paul Joseph Watson wrote at the time… READ FULL REPORT HERE