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The press fans the flames

The Ottawa Citizen's David Warren describes in his column today how the BBC twisted the Pope's remarks to provoke the latest storm of outrage passing through the Middle East:

The BBC appears to have been quickest off the mark, to send around the world in many languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Urdu, and Malay, word that the Pope had insulted the Prophet of Islam, during an address in Bavaria.

He had not, of course. Pope Benedict XVI had instead quoted, carefully and without approval, remarks by the learned 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaeologus, in debate with a 14th-century learned Persian. He was trying to provide a little historical depth to present controversies about the meaning of "jihad", and his very point was that on their own respective theological terms, Muslims and Christians were bound to talk past each other today, in the same ways as they did seven centuries ago. But in the most conscientious media reports I have seen, even the Byzantine emperor is quoted out of context.

By turning the story back-to-front, so that what’s promised in the lead -- a crude attack on Islam -- is quietly withdrawn much later in the text, the BBC journalists were having a little mischief. The kind of mischief that is likely to end with Catholic priests and faithful butchered around the Muslim world. Either the writers were so jaw-droppingly ignorant, they did not realize this is what they were abetting (always a possibility with the postmodern journalist), or the malice was intended. There is no third possibility.

From the start, the BBC’s reports said the Pope would “face criticism from Muslim leaders” -- in the present tense. This is a form of dishonesty that has become common in journalism today. The flagrantly biased reporter, feigning objectivity, spices his story by just guessing what a man’s enemies will say, even before they have spoken.

While I don’t mean to pick especially on the BBC, when other mainstream media are often as culpable, they are worth singling out here to show the amount of sheer, murderous evil of which this taxpayer-funded network is capable.

The fact that the Pope was not insulting Islam is very clear if the context of his speech is understood, but the chance to stir up trouble by the BBC was too much to resist. The truth was simplified, and the suggestion was made that there was something to be outraged about. Warren predicts how the story will play out over the next week:
From now on, the reporting will be about the Muslim rage, and whether the Vatican has apologized yet. That is the “drama” the media will seek to capture -- the drama of the cockfight -- because they know no better kind. That the Pope said nothing intrinsically objectionable will be overlooked, in deference to the Muslim rage, just as the media hid the Danish cartoons from their viewers -- preventing them from discovering how mild they were.

But again: even without the BBC doing the devil’s work, with unbecoming enthusiasm, the story could have carried to the Muslim world, where a new wave of anti-Western, and specifically anti-Christian hysteria is now rising, similar to what was enhanced by tendentious misreporting after the Danish controversy. There are enough other agents provocateurs both in my business and outside it; and surely, enough radical Muslims digging for grievances to extend their own power.

The manufacture of grievances, to justify strident demands for their redress, is the tyrant’s stock-in-trade. It is what took Adolf Hitler to power over the Germans, and it is what today’s Islamic fanatics depend upon to control the Muslims, and push them towards an apocalyptic jihad against the West. Moreover, the basic tactic of bullying is to demand apologies for exaggerated or imaginary offences. It is to make the decent kneel before the indecent.

That the BBC provoked this latest 'scandal' should in no way absolve the Muslim world from their hyper-sensitivity to these imaginary slights. But pouring gasoline on a fire is not responsible journalism. People are going to wind up dead because of this.

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