Monday 1 September 2008

Queasy like Sunday morning

I know it's a familiar and weary theme of this blog - launched with my very first post - but it's still a huge let-down when public figures you've admired give voice to arrant nonsense, particularly when it's of the infantile-leftist kind. Yesterday my Sunday morning reverie was disturbed by two irritating examples, both of them on Radio 4's Broadcasting House

First up was Middle East correspondent Hugh Sykes, who has one of those warm, reassuring BBC voices that make you want to believe every word he tells you. He was visiting Tehran for the first time in a number of years, and though his report wasn't quite in the Michael Moore happy-children-flying-kites category, it came pretty damn close. After a colourful tour of the markets and cafes, and some words of praise for the metro system, but barely a mention of the oppressive nature of the Iranian regime, Sykes paid a visit to the building that used to house the US embassy, which he described as being covered with anti-American and anti-western slogans. Cue explanation of why they hate us so much, going back to the overthrow of Mossadeq in the Fifties. The final sentence of his report went something like 'There's a word for this: blowback'. Now I'm no admirer of the CIA's past antics, but to see something that happened 50 years ago as (to borrow the tendentious sub-title of Stephen Kinzer's book on the coup) 'the roots of Middle East terror' is to overlook the part played by fanatical Khomeinism in fomenting Iranians' rejection of the west and secular modernity. There's a word for this, Hugh: ideology. I shall be more cautious as I listen to Sykes' future reports: apparently, he has form.

Even worse was the contribution of Paul Heaton, of Housemartins and Beautiful South fame, to the same programme's review of the papers. Prompted by presenter Paddy O'Connell to add something to a discussion about the bravery of British troops and their neglect by the government on their return home, Heaton said it was difficult to admire soldiers who had fought in an unjust war, and we shouldn't forget that fighters for the Iraqi resistance, and even IRA terrorists, could also be seen as 'brave'. I always thought Heaton's radical lyrics were a little simplistic, but this disgusting example of moral equivalence was difficult to dismiss as merely naive.

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