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Fighting it out

Justin Webb | 02:45 UK time, Monday, 17 March 2008

Two things are interesting about Keith Olbermann's attack on Hillary Clinton. American viewers who haven't seen it might be amused/gratified/horrified but British viewers will be amazed, I should imagine, that it could be allowed: the rules on broadcasting impartiality in the UK ban such comment even on cable.

The longer I live in the US, the more I wonder (this is me, not the BBC!) whether it is rather more grown-up to allow Keith O and Fox News and all the other essentially partial voices to fight it out in the public square. I certainly don’t buy the idea that there is no such thing as impartiality - and there is still a hunger for broadcasting that strives for it -but there is room for Keith O as well!

Meanwhile, fascinating that the war in Iraq has disappeared from US television. Keith O and the rest are great fun, but you need more.

His outburst reminds me that Sally Bedell Smith's none too flattering book about the Clintons, For the Love of Politics, is now out in paperback in the US; with a truly frightening photo on the front and an afterword whose central message might be summed up thus: "Told you so!" The book contains the line - which got me into hot water when I repeated it on the airwaves - that Hillary "tends to reminds men of their first wives". But it is worth reading for the wider context as well.

Meanwhile, those of us living in DC are preparing either to sleep safer in our beds or to endure a modern day Wild West, depending on your point of view, when the Supreme Court hears the DC gun case this week. It's a case of truly historic proportions. To British eyes, the case for more guns not fewer is a hard one to make but these proponents do a calm and persuasive job. I am fascinated by the fact, as it appears to be, that burglaries while a householder is in a home are far, far fewer in number in the US than they are in the UK. Guns - the argument goes - make innocent people safer.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 04:59 AM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Kirana wrote:

justin, maybe there are more such burglaries in the UK not because the UK has gun control, but because of UK law. american burglars know that the law will side with the houseowner for breaking their heads open with a bat, and so need to pick a time when no one's home. british burglars need not discriminate, because houseowners wouldn't dare defend their families in case of being jailed for it and so it makes no difference if anyone's home or not!

  • 2.
  • At 06:27 AM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Owen Glaze wrote:

American news wasn't always this way. It used to be that the news channels offered a substantive review of the news, choosing to compete in terms of quality rather than spin. The whole problem started with the advent of Fox News and its opinion-based programming. These kind of shows that offered a more exciting and controversial perspective than the comparably bland news were instant ratings successes and proceeded to systematically wipe out authentic news broadcasting. The pressure from Fox New's success prompted the two other cable news channels, CNN and MSNBC, to adopt these shows, replacing the traditional news report. Now it's the O'Reilys and Olbermanns that domintate the scene.

This style of news reporting, a style which forces its opinions on its viewers under the illusion of fact, I think, is very damaging to public knowledge. These hosts offer not only there opinions into the mix, but also, more often than not, their own political agenda. Reporting from these figures always follows some set method of misinformation and spin whether that involves omitting some details while focusing on others, picking weak opponents to represent an opposing viewpoint, or simply presenting their own opinions or judgements as fact. Because so much of the primetime media (at least from cable networks) is dominated by this programming, it is difficult for one to find an unbiased report of the news, and that is troubling. But the worst thing about some of these pundits is not their opinion-based programming, but their apparent ties to specific political parties. This renders their reporting as a simple summary of the politcal talking points and attack strategies.

The backlash against media bias has had its own troubling consequences as well. Much of the public has become so disenfranchised by the media that some people have begin to reject the news outright. It has been my experience that many news stories which deliver a blow to one specific political party or ideology are often reduced by some to little more than partisan sniping in a biased media. It's this kind of broadcasting that has aggravated the present political divide in this country. These political pundits have fostered their own opposing political camps and have made it their mission to create controversy and their goal that these sides should attack one another in an endless (and at some points seemingly needless) political bout.

  • 3.
  • At 07:09 AM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

I don't know what you're getting at Justin. All the news coverage and the opinions expressed by the public (esp on this blog) appear impartial, reasoned and rationale.....

Wouldn't it be nice if the candidates discussed, the press report, and the public comment on the real issues for a change.

America - keep on voting.....

  • 4.
  • At 09:20 AM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Paul Lauber wrote:

Keith Olbermann seems to be a very interesting case study for the left in a medium virtually wholly dominated by right-wingers.

I had assumed long ago, that the left would never have an answer to someone like Bill O'Reilly. Perhaps it is because I'm about as progressive as they come, and simply refused to believe that my fellow, oh-so-sophisticated progressives could possibly stomach sitting in front of a TV for an hour and listen to someone harp on and on about the great injustices facing the progressive movement in the country. Certainly, people on the left had tried with Air America radio, Phil Donahue and a few others, but they all failed. And I felt confirmed in my belief that only conservatives wanted news cherry-picked and slanted in a manner pleasing to them, but Mr. Olbermann's success has given me pause, and needless to say I am not a fan.

I'm not familiar with the details of U.K. impartiality laws, but inevitably, no matter how well-written the laws are, it is impossible to get unbiased journalism through good governance.

Edward R. Murrow, perhaps the greatest hero of American journalism, took on McCarthyism in a very biased way. Mr. Olbermann has annointed himself as the heir to Mr. Murrow and even uses Murrow's trademark "Good Night and Good Luck." That requires a lot of audacity, especially considering that Mr. Olbermann hasn't the intellect to justifiably shine Mr. Murrow's shoes even over 40 years after his death.

The truly concerning thing now, in this era of the talking heads, is that the vast majority of Americans get their news, not from conventional anchors, but from editorialists. Hannity and Colmes, Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann, Tucker Carlson and the list goes on. It seems as if Fox News and conservative talk radio have left their mark on mainstream journalism and now just getting the facts is inadequate, we need to be told how these facts outrage us, too. Whenever I hear Rush Limbaugh bashing the science behind global warming without any credentials in climatology or Sean Hannity arguing with a guest over whether or not Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq, my stomach turns thinking about all of those people who use these sorts of shows as a substitute for real news. What results, sadly, is the belief that there are no real facts about climate change or those weapons of mass destruction, only opinions. That level of distortion cannot be good for anybody.

Maybe what America needs is a law banning commentary shows from airing on so-called "news networks," so nobody gets confused. It would be more accurate now to call the networks, Fox Commentary Network and Commentary Network News. Or maybe in the internet age, where anybody can find the facts they want to find, no matter how untrue those "facts" are, that would be like closing the fence after the horse has escaped and won the Kentucky Derby.

  • 5.
  • At 10:11 AM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Matthew Hunter wrote:

Does the 'More People with Guns = Safer from Guns' argument extend to Nuclear Weapons?

  • 6.
  • At 10:44 AM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Tom Scott wrote:

Have you got any evidence for your claim "that burglaries while a householder is in a home are far, far fewer in number in the US than they are in the UK."
I feel it is wrong that you should make much a claim without providing chapter and verse.

  • 7.
  • At 11:13 AM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I am no fan of having more guns on the streets. And 'if we weren't starting from here', and with the benefit of hindsight, maybe the founding fathers wouldn't have put the right to bear arms in the Constitution.

But here in Britain, almost all handguns were banned following the Dunblane school massacre, which was carried out using legally held guns. There was some widespread support for this at the time as it was felt that gun crime, which was relatively low at the time, needed to be clamped down on.

Sadly, the Government only really clamped down on legally held guns, and due to porous borders and lots of 'deactivated replica' guns being part of a thriving trade in 'reactivation', gun crime is now on the increase. In London especially it is a real problem among the young.

I am no fan of the NRA, and their implacable opposition to any form of regulation or management of gun ownership, but neither do I believe that removing all legally held guns is going to provide some form of crime free utopia either.

  • 8.
  • At 12:22 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Jon Gardner wrote:

Justin, I complained a few days ago about your slowness in reporting the Ferraro furore. In the interests of fairness, why has there been no reporting of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright comments (Obama's pastor)?

  • 9.
  • At 01:23 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Martin Johnston wrote:

I have to disagree about the role of the media here. The media should be trying to present the facts not manipulate them as has happened in this election.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC have been a downright disgrace to journalism through their constant cheerleading for one candidate in this election. That for me is very dangerous.

When the media start to determine who the winning political candidate is then alarm bells should be ringing.

  • 10.
  • At 02:43 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Bryn Harris wrote:

I guess it depends on the overall arrangement. The system here in the UK comprises a politically partial press counter-balanced by the fairly impartial TV news. As long as people have recourse to impartiality somewhere in the media, then opinion pieces can be tolerated.

Isn't this very blog, and all the other blogs of BBC reporters & editors, a sign that the BBC wants to move in to the op-ed territory traditionally dominated by the newspapers?

Guns! How many Americans feel it an infringement of their rights that they are made to sit a test before driving a car? How many Americans kick up a fuss because the state does not allow them to own plutonium? I'm guessing very few, because most people readily acknowledge that those things are dangerous in the wrong hands, and therefore need limitation & regulation. But guns are different, for no other reason other than because 18th century lawmakers said so. Why are those lawmakers held to be so much wiser than lawmakers of all other generations? Didn't they arrive at the rights of the constitution through a process of change and modification (i.e. of British laws)? So why should the process of modification stop? The only possible justification for stopping it is to say that those lawmakers had some sort of insurmountable, apocalyptic wisdom. And that is clearly irrational nonsense, unbecoming of the leader of the Western world. Wake up !

  • 11.
  • At 02:52 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Geoffrey wrote:

Mr Justin, for a web blog you're just a wee bit behind with the Olbermann story which hit the media/blogs on 12th March! It's a great shame we are unable to have a similar blast or three at our own politicians like this!

  • 12.
  • At 03:32 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Doug wrote:

You are undoubtably correct in pointing to the DC Guncase as a standard that displays the American difference. Here in Texas, the death penalty is only for those who get to court. Far more are killed in the act of burgulary and assault than make to the death chamber. One segment of the case presented in "The Legal Times Online" I've copied here.

"After all, an individual right to arms can have life-or-death consequences. And self-defense — exercised on behalf of individuals or as “necessary to the security of a free State” — is clearly “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental [and] implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed,” to quote Washington v. Glucksberg (1997)."
Written by Alan Gura and Robert A. Levy

I found that interesting in that DC being the center of Federal Government having the most constrictive of gun laws.
Thank you again for a most interesting topic. Doug

  • 13.
  • At 03:59 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • AnonymousCalifornian wrote:

Actually of the opinion that all humans, including journalists, are partial, even if they try to hide it or not let it affect their reporting.

Therefore, personally support letting all sides (within reason: obviously people supporting murder and violence should be excluded) air their opinions. The viewer has to be respected enough to let them have the responsibility for determining which view is the proper, accurate one. An reader/viewer with access to all angles and faces of a story is more equipped to make an informed decision.

Which sort of leads to the liberal/conservative (both in the American sense) dichotomy.

Liberals believe the 'little people' (in this case the readers/viewers) must be protected and coddled. The poor dears are incapable of coming to the proper decision on their own. Thus it is the media's duty to give an 'unbiased' (there ain't such a thing) reporting of the news, even paradoxically for analysis (where striving for impartiality is even more difficult).

Conservatives believe the decision should be up to the reader/viewer to make the decision for himself, and that he is intelligent enough to sift through chaff and and glean the wheat of what actually happened for themselves.

So, bring on Olbermann, liberals, conservatives, and toss in the few who pretend to be impartial. People should be smart enough to come to their own conclusions.

  • 14.
  • At 04:05 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Ermy wrote:

I am a bit perplexed as to why, in none of the news reports I have read on the American elections...barack Obama has always been referred to as an African American! He is, in fact, as much White American, as he is African American. The description Mixed Race, is common in the U.K, is this not a 'category' within the American race classifications.

Yes, african American is a nich headliner, but let us not deny the man his true identity. after all, he was raised, by his white mother, and grandparents. It is an injustice to his maternal family, and an injuestice to his identity.

On an after thaught, I wonder if race would play as big of a role, if a black man sought the premiership in the that would be interesting!

  • 15.
  • At 06:17 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Mary wrote:

“British viewers will be amazed, I should imagine, that it could be allowed: the rules on broadcasting impartiality in the UK ban such comment even on cable.”

Really!! I find that extremely hard to believe indeed!! I thought, what with your journalists pulling out all the stops when interviewing your prime ministers and government officials-something I am extremely jealous of by the way-, and the, so I’m told, allowance of anything-and I mean “anything”-to be aired on TV after 9 p.m., that the UK, of all countries, would be the least likely to impose any kind of strict rules when it comes to broadcasting, political or otherwise!!! Wow! You learn something new every day!

“I certainly don’t buy the idea that there is no such thing as impartiality - and there is still a hunger for broadcasting that strives for it -but there is room for Keith O as well!”

Well, certainly not in private, as everyone has an opinion. But in public it most certainly can, and has been done quite well in my opinion! Not the least of such broadcasters demonstrating this remarkable and difficult ability-on the whole-in my opinion, are the BBC and CNN. After all, a journilists-and news anker’s job is to report the news, not shove their ideas down people’s throats! Interviewing leaders/government officials is one thing, but as far as resighting the events of the day goes-that is exactly what should occur! Someone states what happened during the course of a day-‘”such and such a person said this, such and such a person disagreed and responded back with that.” Its easy not to attack someone on a news show-you just don’t attack them! Or at least use a disclaimer such as ‘”I think, or I believe” etc. But I do agree with you that there can, and should be room, and we (US and UK alike) should have both; opinionated TV and news paper columnests, and as-fair-as-can-be news reporting.

“To British eyes, the case for more guns not fewer is a hard one to make.”

Well, I should like to think only to those British people who believe that more guns equals more unnecessary deaths and injuries as I do-and not all British people. To anyone-no matter the nationality-it is, or at least can be difficult to debate any topic-especially if the one your debating is steadfast in their views, or has a well compiled case against you.

“I am fascinated by the fact, as it appears to be, that burglaries while a householder is in a home are far, far fewer in number in the US than they are in the UK”

I am fascinated by the just learned fact, that burglaries happen while a householder is in a house in the UK!! If you ask me, that’s just plain stupid! Who would want to burglerise a home while the owner is in it!? The people who do that must be drunk or high, or some combination of the two! Although I doubt that this is the case (in the US) due to those home owners having guns, it must at least partially be due to something else-and I urge you to investigate it.

My opinion? Readily available guns equals more unnecessary deaths and injuries-simple as that.

  • 16.
  • At 06:22 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Peg wrote:

The slanted reporting in America is why I started visiting the BBC for news coverage. I believe the mainstream media has been slanted left for years and the popularity of right wing hosts on cable programs is disappointing as well. It seems to be a matter of too many outlets fighting for the same fractured audience.

People like to hear what reinforces their views. They also move toward what they see as the popular view. Mark Twain wrote about this long ago in "Corn-Pone Opinions" -- interesting that it relates so much to what we still see today. With commentary substituted for news people can find what they need to reinforce preconceived notions and thus we are polarized even more. I would hate additional legislation but can see the value in more clearly labeling programming that pretends to be news. What I see on TV is not the journalism I learned about in college!

The use of this blog (and others) to discuss topics is clearly a way to express opinion, but the BBC wisely regulates it as linked content vs. selling it to us as news. Hats off to the BBC... I will continue to visit here for my news coverage.

Also Justin, good point on lack of coverage of Iraq. Perhaps our impartial media is too caught up on the horse race the Democrats are hosting?

  • 17.
  • At 06:25 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Richard Lake wrote:


Enjoying the blog, particularly the accusations of bias from all sides.

Have you seen this
I don't know if it has any credence, but might there be a solution in the offing?

Keep up the good work

  • 18.
  • At 06:27 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • David Cunard wrote:

It should be pointed out that MSNBC is a cable channel and not subject to the same regullations as those which are over-the-air transmissions. In any case, for the most part MSNBC has far fewer viewers than Fox News and, like NBC itself, appears to have a left-wing slant. I don't think anyone takes a lot of notice of Keith Olbermann! Bill O'Reilly is a different matter, with a much greater following.

  • 19.
  • At 06:39 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Brett wrote:

If you "don't buy the idea", then you won't get it broadcast. That's exactly the problem, so-called "news" is manfactured for public consumption with commercial underwriting in the form of advertising by mainly corporate sources. It's bought and paid for - as are it's employees - by those who sponsor it and own it. It's inherently partial. Partial to corporate interests that control it and partial to the Duopoly Party political system that serves those interests. How much coverage do you ever see about third party candidates for instance, unless it's negative, dismissive asides? How much criticism of American empire beyond the "honest mistake" variety? The self-censorship - both of omission and commission - of the media insure close adherence to the "party line" in America. As American journalist, A.J. Liebling once observed, "People everywhere confuse what they read in the newspapers with news". Television is even more effective at that given its greater impact and brevity. Internet and cable communications have opened up new possibilities for alternative views to be heard. For example, it's possible to get Al Jazeera's coverage of the Middle East and other outside(r) sources. This has, of course produced great consternation among the ruling elites who wish to control the flow of public information to very "partial" media sources. So much so, that as the Daily Mirror reported in '05, that at an April '04 White House 'summit', Bush and Blair discussed the idea of bombing Al Jazeera's headquaters in Qatar. This was on top of bombing it's Afghan offices in 2001 and bombing it's Baghdad and Basra centers afer the invasion of Iraq. In an interview in summer '05 before the Daily Mirror revelations, then Defense Sec. Rumsfeld stated, "If anyone lived in the M.E. and watched a network like the Al Jazeera day after day after day, even if he was an American, he would start waking up and asking what's wrong." Wouldn't it be more "grown-up" to allow third party candidates and foreign observers - who are greatly impacted by American policies - to have full opportunity and access to "fight it out in the public square", too?

  • 20.
  • At 07:03 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Mary wrote:

#2 Owen Glaze and #4 Paul Lauber: Please stop saying things like ‘”Most of, or all Americans get their news from opinionated talking heads and shows” because its certainly not true, and gives foreigners a distorted view of us. This American, for one, gets her news from what she deams to be fair, or as fair as can be news sources!! Nor would I implore you to say that Americans have become disalusioned from the opinionated news, and have therefore dismissed it altogether and just don’t pay any serious attention to it at all, because that’s not true either I’m certain! Its just I feel people should be careful when generalizing nationalities.

#7 Bedd Gelert: Yes I see your point, and agree with you, but again, it comes down to which is the lesser of two evils? Only Utopia can end all gun crime-and I’m still having trouble finding it. So given the remaining two choices, should we have more guns or less guns-my answer has been, and will always be a resounding “less guns!!”.

#10 Bryn Harris: I would urge you to re-read the blog. He explains that the Supreme Court is hearing a case for DC guns. That’s the highest court in the land. That fact, should in and of itself should be a reminder, that the gun debate is very much well and alive in the US and not, as your posts implys, that all Americans want guns and that’s the end of it!! That being said, your previous argument doesn’t stand as well, it being seen (hopefully) now, that the process of “change and modification” to our gun laws has been going on since our nation’s inception and the writing of that amendment, and that it continues to be both on the state and national level!! And while we certainly look up to our founding fathers (for obvious reasons I should hope), we certainly don’t worship them (or at least not me!!!) as your posts so rudely suggests! I think I am somewhat widely agreed with when I say that Americans view their construction of the bill of rights as largely with good intention, but certainly not without flaws and imperfections!! And I, for one, definitely don’t think that they had “insurmountable, apocalyptic wisdom”!! Those charictoristics should only be attributed to a higher being from religious people in my opinion! People may certainly have a lot of wisdom, and enviable wisdom at that, but no one’s wisdom should be unchallenged, because no one knows everything there is to know!!

  • 21.
  • At 10:25 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Liz wrote:

It seems like the Ferraro comments are really indicative of a greater trend that is rarely talked about and never reported on. Her comments represent the old guard liberals that, throughout the 60s set out to fight for civil rights and women's equality. They supported affirmative action and promoted minorities to positions of importance. And underneath their great benevolant actions they felt very very good about themselves for having worked so hard to "save" the poor and minority populations.

Read the comments of Ferraro, Clinton ("it took LBJ to really effectuate civil rights change, not MLK"), and so many of her backers and the new underlying message is loud and clear. Having saved all us little people, they are furious to find the new generation, the little upstarts, the ungrateful benefactors of their magnanimous efforts contest their power and assumed role in the liberal movement. It was all so much easier when we were starving uneducated masses waiting for a great white saviour.

It is an attitude that is more pervasive among liberal elites than anyone cares to imagine. It is a sentiment that can only tear this country further apart.

  • 22.
  • At 10:25 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Bryn Harris wrote:

#20 Mary. Yes, you're right, I didn't properly address the different ways in which Americans interpret their living constitution.

At first glance it seems that the UK constitution is all too easy to fiddle with, as it is not codified, while the US constitution is so exalted as to make it sacrosanct and unchangeable. In truth, both have room for change and both have inertia mechanisms: in the UK it is the emphasis put on tradition and continuity (see the furore over the abolition of the role of Lord Chancellor); in the US, the validity of the constitution and Bill of Rights as founding touchstones & quasi-scriptural documents.

It is undeniable, surely, that Americans view the laws of the founding fathers as more valid than other, later laws. It prevents meddling with the foundations of US society & government, and guarantees the stability of the American way of doing things. Good. But it also makes it harder to effect change when change is necessary. That's what inertia mechanisms do.

(Of course, not everyone says that change of the gun laws is necessary. I do, but I'm not a US citizen, so it's not my call.) I guess my question should be - just how feasible is it for American citizens and judges to defy the weighty, solemn authority of the founding fathers and deny their timelessness? Does the inertia mechanism work too well, and give out-of-date laws a longer life than they deserve?

I'm not making any claims for the UK system, I should say. Gun control here was, perhaps, an over-hasty reaction to a terrible shooting. It hinged quite narrowly upon that single event (Dunblane), whereas at least in America the issue is a wider debate on the relationship of state and individual.

  • 23.
  • At 10:48 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Pat wrote:

"I certainly don’t buy the idea that there is no such thing as impartiality - and there is still a hunger for broadcasting that strives for it"
Interesting statement, with its triple negatives! From your comments so far I gather that you yourself have no such hunger. There always seem to be an often subtle (which of course differentiates it from the American media which doesn’t care much for subtlities) pro-McCain, anti-Obama (and indifferent to Clinton)slant in your posts. Otherwise you wouldn’t had to wait for this one from Keith O to find something to be “amused/gratified/horrified” about – esp. because obviously you are a regular reader of the writings of the like of Karl Rove and Robert Novak! And then you are “surprised” when someone suggest that the blog has a republican slant! Very smart indeed!

Great comment by Paul Lauber (#4), btw - can't agree more! I am not a fan of Keith O either. However I think that a real foil for the likes of Bill O’Reilly can only be people like Stephen Colbert. The only way to beat them is to rise above them and to expose them.

  • 24.
  • At 11:09 PM on 17 Mar 2008,
  • Mary wrote:

#14 Ermy: And indeed Obama isn't being denied recognition of his true identy here either. Indeed, it is due to his uneeque past, that the media are swooning over him, and are therefore consiquently being atacked, RIGHT, left and center, for not asking harsh enough questions of him with respect of what he would do should he get the presidency.

With respect to how a black man would fare if he were to attempt to run for the premiership in the UK, my guess, given my understanding of how a parlamentary system functions, is that that individual would have a far easier time running for the premiership than the presidency, simply because the people don't vote for the individual person in the UK, they vote for the party, which then elects the prime minister. This simple fact iliminates the entire "race" issue from the public sphere. Given that circumstance, the pundants need only worry about whether certain members of parlament are racest as opossed to the general population.

This, is one of the reasons why I am incredibly envious of the parlamentary system!

Curious - what about Wright/Obama? I'd love to hear your take on it?

It's not just Keith Olbermann, but Chris Matthews and others at NBC & MSNBC who seem to have a thing against Hillary. I'm usually a huge fan of Olbermann, but I can't help wondering if they've all been drinking the Obama Kool-Aid over there at NBC.

  • 27.
  • At 12:41 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Fred wrote:

To Kirana post #1 and others:

Please do not perpetuate this myth. Homeowners in the UK are allowed to defend themselves and their property by using "reasonable force" to do so under European Law. This has been the case for a very long time - but the force used has to be proportionate.

We should also take this moment to dispel the myth that any burglar has ever successfully sued a homeowner for injury during commission of a crime. It's never happened, despite what the press imply on an almost daily basis.

  • 28.
  • At 01:25 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Bob wrote:

Can someone please answer this question: Why did Michigan and Florida break party rules and have early elections? Who made that decision and why? Thank you.

  • 29.
  • At 01:48 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Mary wrote:

#22 Bryn Harris: Yes, I conseed that we do revere the laws implimented by our founding fathers more so than subsiquent laws, simply for no other reason than that they are what our existance is based upon-as the Lord Chanceler, queen, etc are for yours. There is room for change in our constitution, and that change has been implimented with the addition of the 17 amendments to it over the past 230 years or so. It is, sadly, much, much more difficult to change ours (at least), due to the fact that you would need a 2/3rds majority vote in both the house and senate, which, as I'm sure your aware, are extreemely hard to come by!! If it weren't for that, change would come to it much quicker and easier.

To be honest, I was always under the impression that the UK didn't have a constitution. I mean I knew that it was/is subject to an EU treaty, but one of its own is news to me, so I'm not sure of the process which must be undertaken in order to make significant changes to it. But every country, truth be told, has certain elements that were an attempt to be made at changeing them, a, to use your words, fuss would be kicked up. Its not just ours, and its not just yours.

To answer your questions: "just how feasible is it for American citizens and judges to defy the weighty, solemn authority of the founding fathers and deny their timelessness?"

Sadly, I'm afraid to report that it isn't very feasible at all. This, I think, pretty much boyals down to the fact that the amendment permitting gun ownership is the second one in the constitution. As you know, the bill of rights is perhaps the most revered thing in our constitution, and that being the case, my guess is it would be damn near impossible to take it out, or change any one of the other amendments. If the right to bare arms was the 11 or 12, than perhaps yes. That being said, this isn't to say that we just throw up our hands, as I've stated earlier. The best we can do in this perdicament, since I am like you and upose this '"right" in our constitution, is make subsiquent laws, though not revered as much I admit, nevertheless they are laws just the same, and therefore must be followed just like every other one, that put incredibly strict regulations on those who may, and may not own guns. And that's what we have done-although not nearly enough in my opinion!!

"Does the inertia mechanism work too well, and give out-of-date laws a longer life than they deserve?"

Unfortionately yes, due to the above mentioned reasons. But again, I stress that this mechanism is in every nation's make-up somewhere, and is therefore, I would wager, hard to change in any country. It is incredibly unfortionate, in my opinion, that our inertia mechinism had to be gun controll, of all things!!

  • 30.
  • At 02:11 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Mary wrote:

O, one more thing Bryn Harris: "American way of doing things"? Well not so much anymore. I mean may be when we were first inceeved, but now, with the interdependent global economy and the creation of the United Nations etc and so forth, its rather the "western" way of doing things-I think. To say that its "American" just isolates us more and that's the last thing we need now!

  • 31.
  • At 02:24 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Owen Glaze wrote:

Just as a follow-up to what I posted previously in response to #20 Mary, I don't believe most Americans are distorted by the news; I think most people have the judgement to see through bias in the media and make decisions from the facts alone. My concern is that opinion journalism, principally that which advocates a partisan agenda, is taking an alarming precedent in some of the American news media. I may have been too overzealous in my condemnation of opinion journalism, as the concept in itself is not corrupt. Having someone else make political judements outsie the fray of Washington can be a good thing. Even if the host may have political tendencies leaning to the left or right, I think it's healthy to hear different perspectives. But it's the partisan influence on some of the media, which causes many biased hosts to defend a member of the same party or attack a member of the opposite regardless of the circumstances, that I deplore. I challenge anyone here to watch an Olbermann or O'Reilly show and say that's not bad for America. I apologize for coming off as a cynic and making some general statements; my gripe is not with the American people, but rather a sectar of the media that only offers a one-sided outlook with clear ties to a partisan political agenda. I really do trust the majority of the American people to listen to their heart and do what's right.

  • 32.
  • At 02:55 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Andrea wrote:


How would Brits respond to Rev. Wright's comments?

I'm find them as racist as any I've seen in a long time.

  • 33.
  • At 04:49 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Asia wrote:

Response To #5- Matthew Hunter:
Interestingly, there is such a thing as "More Nuclear Weapons= Safer World" theory- I think Samuel Huntington really promoted it through his "Sustained Arms Race" Model (or perhaps some other model but this one is part of it too). The idea is as more and more nations get more and more nuclear weapons, then everyone realizes that destroying another country also means destruction to their own country and thus, they refrain from actually using nuclear weapons. Of course, the caveat being that once a country breaks through in its technology to create even a better weapon than the nuclear weapon, then the "arms race" towards "more massive things" is over.

  • 34.
  • At 07:35 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Pendragon wrote:

Justin is their anything about America that You do not think is better than the UK ?.I have seen the undignified hectoring that American Political Commentators engage in and frankly,I would much rather stick with the Objective views that respect my right to form my own opinions based on facts,that we enjoy in this Country.
I have to say that your remarks on Gun Control appaled me.You neglected to mention that while burglary may be more common here ,Violent crime is much higher in the USA.I am proud to say we do not sacrafice our children to a Gun Cult.

  • 35.
  • At 08:49 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Hugh wrote:

"The longer I live in the US, the more I wonder (this is me, not the BBC!) whether it is rather more grown-up to allow Keith O and Fox News and all the other essentially partial voices to fight it out in the public square."

You might be right, but does it need to be done with such ludicrous self importance?

  • 36.
  • At 09:09 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Masum Ahmed wrote:

I watched FOX News and bill orailiy for the first time a year ago and I simply couldn’t figure out if it was satire or news, as it was all OTT for a brit like me. Anyone with intelligence can see through most of the arguments and see that its slanted, I think most of the viewers of these programs already hold the views of the presenters and so its mainly preaching to the converted. But they are trying to influence the news agenda, as most new across the channels, no matter what it is has a narrative or a hook, these guys play on that more then other

But its interesting that during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars the US and most of the UK media lambasted new channels like al-jazeera for being biased and slanted. If you look back and compare them with the output of Fox you can see that they where mush more neutral then Fox, although now with the English language channel Al-jazzeera probably puts most of the western news companies in the same when it comes to reporting real impartial news. Watch Fox for entrainment and get your news from better sourced outlets like the net or BBC!

  • 37.
  • At 11:13 AM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

This piece points out the difference between what is called the news media in Britain and the US. In Britain, the electronic news media is dominatef by a single entity, BBC. There are others like ITV but there is no denying that BBC is the 800 pound gorilla which dwarfs all of the others. It is supposed to be impartial but its reporters, editors, and managers have found a myriad of subtle ways to infuse their opinions and corporate political culture with factual reporting to a degree that they are often difficult to separate and sometimes very subtle. Some of its techniques are not so subtle.

In the US, there are countless voices, some purely opinionated, some mixed, and some almoste entirely objective. Among the large commercial mass electronic media like MSNBC, FOX, CNN there is usually a clear separation of dry factual reporting and editorializing or analysis, the first being largely unbiased matter of fact while the others being exclusively the province of those doing the editorializing. Even there, often dissenting views are allowed to be presented by their proponents. Therefore we see and hear all manner of views from programs with clear protagonists such as Hannity and Combs, the O'Rielly Factor etc. As a privately owned news organization, compaines like CNN are allowed to have and present a point of view, it is up to the viewers to select and the market to determine what it wants. FOX makes no pretense of being anything other than an organization with a conservative point of view as judged in the American political spectrum.

It is unreasonable however to compare BBC to the commercial networks in the US when the best news reporting is on other outlets like PBS, NPR, C-Span, and a host of other more specialized channels. There, BBC is by far outclassed. There is no comparison between the limited biased reporting of BBC and say the Nightly News on PBS which presents first well researched background on each topic covered (sometimes from BBC as a source) and then allows protagonists from among the best qualified for each point of view to present those views unedited and withought engaging in a rancorous debate with the moderator as is so common on BBC when it interviews someone it doesn't agree with. We also have available remarkable interviews hosted by people like Charlie Rose who far outclasses his BBC counterparts like Owen Bennet-Jones when it comes to extracting the essence of his interviewees for the audience to know and judge itself. The Rose interview with Sarkozy is an object lesson on how to conduct an interview. Other networks like Book-TV shown on C-Span 2 on weekends far outclasses BBC's alternative "The Word." BBC also has nothing comparable to American Business Reporting or other news/analysis programs like the Leon Charney Report, by far the best reporting on the Middle East I have ever seen. BBC just isn't in the same league with these programs as an informative vehicle for understanding the world but they take time and they are not available on all subjects at every hour of the day and night unless you seek them out on the internet.

As for guns, they have a special place in American culture. The right to defend oneself, one's family, and one's home from a variety of marauders and the state itself comes from the earliest days of the beginning settlements where colonists lived among potentially hostile tribes of "Native Americans" and from the tyranny of the state itself as imposed by the British Monarchy particularly under the rule of the tyrant King George III. Many Americans also enjoy hunting for sport, a throwback to a time when this was an important sorce of food for many colonists and those who pioneered the wilderness. Remarkably, much of the American wilderness is still untouched and unspoiled. Fly across America and it is amazing at just how large and empty the American land still is. The price we pay in victims of gun crime is considered regrettable but acceptable to the far worse alternative of being victims of armed criminals and especially a tyrannical state. Perhaps Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia might not have happened if the secret police never knew if they would be met by a barrage of bullets when they knocked on the doors of innocent citizens in the middle of the night to take them away to be jailed and killed. With probably close to 200 million privately owned guns in the US, that is not a likely scenario here. The right to own them is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and as almost every politician who tried to infringe on or take it away discovers, it's a right Americans will not give up easily. There are countless examples like Senator Tydings of Maryland who tried and found it was the undoing of their political career.

To be fair, Olberman's remarks were clearly trailed as a "comment". Little different from the main piece on the "editorial" page of any newspaper worth reading, and in the days when I did read newspapers, the editorial page (with its attendant letters) was the first and often the only page I read.

Namaste -ed

  • 39.
  • At 04:04 PM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Gerard wrote:


Saw your report on the DC Hand Gun Ban on BBC America last night. I don't own a gun and have no intention of getting one, but an excellent book on the subject is "Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist", by Richard Feldman. Explains the workings of both sides of the "gun debate" (and neither side comes out looking especially noble).

  • 40.
  • At 04:19 PM on 18 Mar 2008,
  • Len wrote:

Hah! Impartiality laws? Sorry to tell all you Brits but it doesn't get any more partial or biased than the BBC, the Biased Broadcasting Corporation. Seems to me that Jeremiah Wright's views are pretty mainstream in the European media.

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