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Inflammatory, negative and over-dramatic: Your reactions to Opposing Obama

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Penny Vine | 12:29 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

Of the dozens of documentaries broadcast by the BBC World Service every month, Opposing Obama has caused more of a stir than any I can think of for a very long time.

This was Guardian columnist Gary Younge's two-part journey through Eastern Kentucky and into Arkansas talking to anti-tax protesters, fundamentalist Christians, libertarians, Democratic and Republican Party officials and ordinary citizens struggling to make ends meet, to find out how they view the last year under Barack Obama.


US President Barack Obama listens to a question during a town hall meeting at Nashua High School North, 2 February, 2010. Picture credit: Getty Images

Some of the more forthright views about Obama were included in trailers to publicise the series. These trailers brought in turn some strong opposition from listeners who thought the whole idea of the programmes was unfair.

Unyime Nseyo described the topic as "inflammatory". And Alambo Datonye Fred e-mailed from Port Harcourt Nigeria to say: "You've advertised extensively your documentary on those who feel Obama has done nothing but you don't make an effort to have another documentary on those who feel he is a good leader. What's happened to your long-held values of fairness and balance?"

And the content of the programmes sparked an interesting debate on our blog. So on this week's Over to You, as promised, we try and get answers as to why the programmes were commissioned and you can hear Gary Younge responding to those blog comments.

Also Murray Holgate, the Network Manager of the World Service in English, defends what one e-mailer called the "incredibly negatively-worded, overdramatic, endlessly repeated trailers".

Scratching the surface

And don't miss the other item in this week's programme.

There's a lively encounter between Dr Geoff Wade, an academic in Singapore who's been researching Chinese relations with Southeast Asia in the Ming Dynasty for over 20 years and Nick Baker, the producer and presenter of the documentary China's Forgotten Admiral.

Nick set out to tell the fascinating story of Zheng He, a eunuch, a Muslim, possibly even a giant and one of the world's most historic important naval figures.

But Dr Wade doesn't think Nick took a rigorous enough approach to his subject and may have misled his audience by emphasising the commercial rather than the military nature of the Admiral's voyages. And sparks fly!

What's your view on historical documentaries?

Can a programme that's only 23 minutes long ever do more than scratch the surface of a topic?

Penny Vine is this week's producer of Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and
its programmes. It airs at 10:40 and 23:40 every Saturday, and at 
02:40 on Sunday (GMT). 


  • Comment number 1.

    An avid BBC listener, I appreciate that the Opposing Obama coverage was an important public service and I applaud BBC for giving voice to the anti-Obama sentiment in the U.S. However, the BBC needs to be more culturally attuned. Racial schisms that still exist in parts of the American populace, some of whom may harbor bitterness toward President Obama. It is important to shine a revealing light on continuing racism in the U.S. so as to expose it and lead to the breaking down of these devastating barriers. This exposure needs to be done responsibly, however. The overly dramatic tone of the program trailers played upon the bitterness and hate that lie at the bottom of racism in the United States and was atypically beyond the pale for the BBC.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Opposing Obama program was justified in looking at the strong racist component in the anti-Obama movement, but in my opinion the coverage seemed to give an uncritical, virtually unmediated, account of these extremist views. At times, the BBC came perilously close to promoting the racism it should have been critically analyzing. This was more obviously the case in the trailers than in the program, but even your introduction above refers to the ignorance and zealotry voiced by these fanatics as 'forthright views on Obama'. Forthright indeed and incredibly bigoted.

  • Comment number 3.

    I certainly hope that President Obama will not take the comments made in this video to heart. Instead, I would suggest that he closely examine the locations which were chosen for the focus of the interviews. A brief review of the history of these areas will reveal that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible for the President to find acceptance in such places.

    When other Presidents have failed to fulfill the multitudinous and disparate desires of the American people, various reasons for such failures were proffered. Our new President has inherited a plethora of disfunction: an uncooperative Republican Party, a failing economy, two wars which were rushed into with no exit strategy, and a press which is always seeking a way by which it can discover a shortcoming which will negatively impact the President. Too bad it was not as conscientious when our former President was shoving us headlong into the Iraq war and away from Saudi Arabia, from which 15 of the 19 terrorists came.

    It would seem to me that the "smoking gun" perception under which we have been forced to live during the former administration, has impaired our ability to reason. How many wars will it take before we as a people learn patience and diplomacy? At the moment, if we don't like something, we simply endeavor to rid ourselves of it by bombing it. Twelve thousand tons of bombs on Iraq was supposed to relieve the onus of terrorism--Well how's that working for you now? The Afghan war is spreading into Pakistan, the situation in the Emirates is shakey and what about Iran? What shall we do, bomb them all? We've been influenced by too many cowboy movies. There are times when we have to face the fact that the only thing we've stopped using to during the course of our history, is the horse. The gun continues to be the weapon of choice.

    With regard to all these people who are so anxious to start yet another war, I would suggest that we recruit them first. Have you ever noticed that most of the blood thirsty types are over forty?

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There are so many of us who do not like nor believe in Obama and I appreciate your program to show the world that he is not universally liked at home. Neither Obama nor his appointed political thugs are liked. He is a one term president.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm having a hard time understanding why this piece was framed this way. Your correspondent devotes no attention to opponents to Obama among Progressives who feel he has disappointed them on matters of domestic surveillance, the wars, & human rights. If your intention is to cover the opposition to Obama, why neglect this group?

    Not all Obama's opponents are racist troglodytes, although that may make for a "better" story --or at least one that fits into conventional categories. I had expected better standards of journalism from the BBC.

  • Comment number 6.

    I had hoped the first African American President would be a Reaganite Conservative but seemingly inevitably we ended up with a man enamored with Marxist driven sociological philosophy. The American Constitution was founded on the belief in the PURSUIT of happiness, not the government guarantee of happiness at the intimidating expense of all productive citizens; such sociological leanings FAIL time and again. I love the BBC but please don't catagorize American Conservatives as racist; I'm an American who is smart enough to understand that, in the context of English History; William Wallace was a bad guy! :)

  • Comment number 7.

    Many here is the US use racism as an easy reason for believing opposition to Obama exists at all. It is an easy and useful conclusion for them to reach. How else could anyone possibly find fault with him? They believe racism is a problem peculiar only to America.

    The real issue of course is the socialist agenda and runaway government expansion many believe he represents. In an age where sovereign debt promises to bankrupt nations this is of great concern.

  • Comment number 8.


    Can a programme that's only 23 minutes long ever do more than scratch the surface of a topic?

    No, it can't even scratch the surface of a topic and, I am sorry that many people were easily offend with the BBC about President Obama and people opposing his ideas of reforming and revioriagating the U.S.A.

    (Dennis Junior)

  • Comment number 9.


    What's your view on historical documentaries?

    I have an very positive view on historical documentaries, since, they often provide an insight into issues from over the years!



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