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'Propagandising For War' - Gareth Porter Responds To The BBC Today Programme On Syria

A report published by the London School of Economics last month found extreme levels of bias in BBC reporting. The 'impartial' BBC's early evening news was almost five times more likely to depict Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a negative light. In the time period studied (September 1 - November 1, 2015), no headlines on this key news programme presented Corbyn in a positive light.

But this is a mere drop in the ocean of the corporation's pro-establishment bias. It could hardly be more obvious that BBC news reports, comment pieces and discussions are overwhelmingly hostile to US-UK government enemies like Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and Syria, and overwhelmingly favourable to the United States and Israel. It has long been clear to us that BBC journalists perceive this, not as bias, but as an accurate depiction of a world that really is divided into well-intentioned Western 'good guys' and their enemies, the 'bad guys'.

On August 20, the BBC website featured a Radio 4 Today programme discussion hosted by former political editor Nick Robinson interviewing BBC World Affairs Editor John Cody Fidler-Simpson and Dr. Karin von Hippel, a former State Department official dealing with US strategy against Islamic State.

The discussion was introduced with the following written text, which was repeated in slightly altered form in Robinson's spoken introduction:

'Exactly five years ago President Obama called on the Syrian President Bashir-Al-Assad to step down but today he is still in power.'

The prominence and repetition of the observation of course conferred great significance. The implication: for the BBC, Obama is not just the leader of another country, he is a kind of World President with the authority to call on other leaders to 'step down'. In reality, Obama made his demand, not in the name of the United Nations, or of the Syrian people, but because, as President George H.W. Bush once declared: 'what we say goes'.

In his introduction, Robinson described a disturbing image that 'has gone viral on social media' of a Syrian child allegedly injured by Russian or Syrian bombing. The child, five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, is depicted sitting between Obama and Putin. Robinson noted that one of these images carried the sarcastic caption: 'Thank you for keeping me safe.' We have found the image but not that caption.

One reasonable interpretation of Robinson's introduction, then: five years ago, Obama called on Assad to go, but 'failed' to follow through in making that happen – 'little Omran', and numerous other Syrian civilians, are continuing to suffer as a result. Adam Johnson writes that the viral picture of Daqneesh has 'amped up calls for direct US intervention against the Syrian government' made by numerous 'laptop bombardiers' 'jumping from one outrage in urgent need of US bombs to the next'. The BBC's Today programme discussion can be understood as a further example of this media herd behaviour.

John Simpson agreed with Robinson that Obama had been keen to avoid 'the kind of dreadful errors' - he meant crimes - that George W. Bush had committed in Iraq, and so had 'wanted to stay out of things'. According to Simpson, Obama's failure to intervene in Syria has been a 'disaster'. After all, Russia recently 'managed to attack Syria with its planes from the airfields of Iran'. As investigative journalist Gareth Porter notes below, the Syrian government in fact invited Russian military support, so Russia can hardly be described as attacking Syria. Simpson, by contrast, argued that Russo-Iranian cooperation was 'a link up which would have caused absolute consternation in the United States, and worldwide, just a few years ago'. In other words, the world's sole superpower has proven powerless to stop the kind of military cooperation it practices the world over all the time – how awful!

Simpson's imperial sympathies have been aired before on the BBC, notably in October 2014:

'The world (well, most of it) wants an active, effective America to act as its policeman, sorting out the problems smaller countries can't face alone.'

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