Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, February 09, 2004
POLITICAL CAMPAIGNING BY THE MEDIA gets two well-aimed serves.

This morning Paul Sheehan gives us

Media World no longer reports the political agenda, it seeks to set the political agenda.

with poll-fuelled speculation about party leadership the clearest example.

His other example, the children who were dumped overboard before the last federal election, is even better because it illustrates a practice that is less obvious and even more frequent.

Here the issue is created by pretending there's a difference of substance where none exists.

Do you prefer as your uninvited guests people who sink the boat carrying their children to those other gatecrashers who leave the boat afloat but sink the children?

Me neither.

Today one of Auntie's and Henny Herald's favourite talents gives us another nice example of the opposite of the vice Sheehan describes. It's not the manufacture of differences where none exist, but the denial of differences as different as black and white.

"It may be unreasonable in someone's opinion to use physical force. It might be right in someone's opinion". Gerry Adams prefers the term "physical force republicans" now.

"'Sensible people' would engage in armed action if they thing there is no alternative, according to Adams. That is, if the civilians of Northern Ireland won't do what you want, you kill and maim them until they see the light.

War just seems easier and more predictable than "physical force" politics, according to Adams.

There is another difference, of course. You fight wars against armies, not civilians, however inevitable civilian casualties.

Adams can see no lesson in the links between the IRA and al Quaida.

And Henny's Debra Jopson can see no difference between Adams and Nelson Mandela, whose reputation is based on preventing a blood-bath.

(You'll have to wait for the link).

Yesterday Miranda Devine did a similar piece of surgery on the confected indignation on Lord Hutton's convicting of Andrew Gilligan and the BBC:

The National Union of Journalists announced a day of protest after BBC director-general Greg Dyke resigned. Reams of newsprint were devoted to defending reporter Andrew Gilligan, with emphasis on the fact his gravest error occurred at 6.07am, as if that excused it. Gilligan's evidence to the Hutton inquiry was curious and deleted files in his personal organiser had to be recovered by a computer expert. The report shows Gilligan took a late-night pub conversation with Kelly, of which he had sloppy notes, and beat it up in the worst Fleet Street tradition.

He invented the claim that the Blair Government "probably knew" that information inserted into a dossier making the case for war against Iraq was false. Gilligan admitted during the inquiry he had no basis to make the claim and yet the BBC stuck by him to the end, and he is still being championed by colleagues, including high-profile dinners with Spectator columnists.

Gilligan was biased about the war from the start in reports from Baghdad, as Canadian columnist Margaret Wente pointed out. "He was openly contemptuous of the US military, which he insinuated was dishonest and inept, and he was ridiculing its claim [which was accurate] that it was in the process of securing the Baghdad airport."