First, Some Politics

Last January 21, one of my sisters sent me an e-mail with this cryptic line: “I was thinking of you while trying to avoid the you-know-what yesterday and I was wondering if it was easier for you to avoid in Korea.” Being as it took me a day to figure out that she was talking about the inauguration of . . . of . . . of . . .Oh! I still can’t bring myself to even type it.

So yes, U.S. politics is not as present here in Korea (at least for someone who does not speak Korean), but I get my share — mostly through the internet. The British Broadcasting Corporation also airs some English language programming here as well, and this first bit stems from that.

The BBC

I have long known that the major media outlets in the United States were unreliable. Fifteen years ago I began getting my news from Charlie Rose and public radio. Comparing these two sources with the networks it was obvious that Big Media was not telling us the whole (or even accurate) story. A few years ago

I soured on Charlie Rose as I saw him increasingly becoming a shill for the group-think brought on by the republicans. Some of the most memorable moments came in his interviews of the Iranian Ambassador to the U.S. Through myopic and self-serving questions, Rose tried to back the Ambassador into a (nonexistant) corner. The Ambassador, for his part, would not lay down to let Rose walk all over him and the truth, and instead provided some cogent rebukes to Rose and to Bush policy.

As for public radio, Chicago has a wealth of locally produced programs like Worldview and This American Life which are among the best programs out there. The Chicago station (91.5, WBEZ) also buys feeds from the National Public Radio group (NPR) for morning and afternoon national news programming, and this is where I began to lose faith. Again, by listening to Big Media and public radio you will notice the discrepancy in reporting. Similarly, by listening to other alternative sources of news you will see how NPR itself is shading the truth. They do not tell out right lies, but they don’t need to, and neither did the networks. For all of Big Media’s faults, telling bald-faced lies was taboo until Fox News came along. It is a matter of the stories they choose to broadcast, and how they present them. This then is the trap NPR has stepped into: reporting facts while simultaneously distorting truth. So where is an open-minded news junkie to turn? Thankfully, then came The Daily Show and Air America Radio.

I started to think on all this last week after watching the BBC news here in South Korea. Back in undergrad school I learned that terms such as conservative and liberal are quite fluid. Even back in the 1980’s the range of political ideas here in the U.S. from liberal to conservative fell heavily on the conservative end of the European spectrum of politics. “Liberal” ideas such as Social Security and having the wealthiest few give back to the society which gave them such opportunity would be considered core, centrist ideas in Europe. With this in mind, I was watching the BBC news:

They reported Condi Rice’s comments about North Korea: the us poses no threat to them. I don’t believe anything she says (see her 911 commission testimony), so why should Korea? Then came the comments of gw bullshit about there not being a rift in cross-Atlantic relations: again, I don’t believe a word he says so why should Europe? On a side note, president bullshit made this statement to the European Union: “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table.”

Then the BBC turned to Paris. Is there an anti-American feeling in France. They went to a country/western bar with images of a floor full of line dancers in boots and stetsons: but what about when a “real cowboy” like bush comes, will he be as well received? A few interviews with the locals was followed by the BBC commentator saying dismissively that it was “rare praise from the French.” Methinks the brits have their own bone to pick with the French.

Then across town to Harry’s Bar, a landmark American bar in Paris: we are told that there was a full crowd on election night last November, where the crowds booed bush. My first thought was “way to go!” I would have cursed as loud as any. Then the narrator says that this must have made Americans feel uneasy and unwelcome. Only the assholes who voted for this cocksucker. Speaking of which, they then interviewed the head of the Republicans Abroad in Paris who said something I didn’t listen to.

Finally, on to Lebenon and the funeral for Rafik Hariri who was assassinated. Mr. Hariri was a cornerstone of stability in that country (see Robert Fisk’s report http://www.robert-fisk.com/articles461.htm). The BBC showed numerous signs in the crowds written in English, obviously for foreign consumption. They also had comments from Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns who was sent to the funeral and called for this tragedy to bolster the movement for Lebanon sovereignty which requires the complete and immediate removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. For their part, the Syrians claim their 14,000 troops are a force for stability in occupied Lebanon. As a mind experiment, change “Syrian” to “U.S.,” “Lebanon” to “Iraq,” and “14,000 troops” to “100,000 troops.” What say you now, state department?

So the bottom line here is that the British media is seemingly as co-opted as is our own. It is time to learn another European language or two.

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