Tuesday, February 12, 2002

A Reply

I've been negligent about checking my statistics recently, and so didn't spot a piece by Natalie Solent on my rather fizzled out argument on the role of the media in Daniel Pearl's kidnap.

1. The kidnappers said that they were going to treat Pearl as (they thought) the Camp X-ray prisoners were being treated. I believe it because they said so, not because of some geopolitical theory. Of course they are also enemies of America on more general grounds. So what? What will motivate their hands to give or withold water, to strike or not to strike the bound man in front of them is "an eye for an eye." The idea of turning the tables is common to all mankind. I'd worry about that even if that particular e-mail turned out to be a hoax.

They didn't form the group because of Camp X-Ray, they didn't lure Mr Pearl into being kidnapped because of Camp X-Ray and so I think it fairly safe to say that hopefully false reports of his death from possibly hoax e-mails should perhaps be taken less than seriously. Strange "geopolitical theories" like being mighty annoyed at your next door co-religionists and ethnic cousins being bombed by the Goliath on the block may have something to do with it.

2. Much of the coverage of the shackles, goggles etc. made out falsely that that stuff was on permanently.

This was the impression that one could have got from the coverage, yes. However I would be interested (and slightly surprised) to see where they actually wrote that this was permanent. It should be a professional British paper and not Socialist Worker or killallinfidels.co.uk

3. The idea that there might one day be equivalent revenge on American prisoners was obvious. I read criticisms of Camp X-ray from your side of the fence that made exactly that point. I think even Colin Powell made it. It is one of the many factors that make it the duty of a reporter to be honest.

It is also a duty of reporters to ask questions. The idea that another country's war should stop our reporters asking questions about what is at the least an irregular detention is odd for a libertarian.

An interesting question - and I genuinely don't know the answer - when was the last time that so many people were held as "illegal combatants" by a first world country due to a war fought in another country. Internment doesn't count (that could at least be said to be a British criminal matter). This is purely of academic interest.

4. The idea that reporters might be kidnapped is also fairly obvious. It happens regularly. Intelligent self-interest should have led them to think of this.

The uprising/massacre in Mazar-e-Sharif is a cause celebre in the Muslim street despite heroic feats of either ignorance or self censorship by the Western press on the ground. Self censorship would not have saved Daniel Pearl.

5. Finally, Pakistanis can read the Mirror via the internet just as I can read Dawn magazine. It's not that primitive a country. And if the Mirror is not influential there, the BBC certainly is. There is nothing unlikely about the BBC taking its tone from the Mirror, the reporters all know each other.

Now the Muslim millitants may be among the small minority with internet access, they may be willing to look at the internet for their world view rather than Abdullah the Mullah down the street, they may further spend their time looking up the Daily Mirror rather than the New York Times or killallinfidels.co.uk

I, however, think that this is a very long shot, much like I think that the idea that the BBC would pay attention to a declining red top tabloid on foreign affairs.

Natalie Solent is off for some skiing (she's only been on the slopes once so is too qualified for Britain's winter olympic team), so I hope that she is still in one piece when she's back.


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