Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Facts or ideology?

Here we go again. In a Guardian column by Jonathan Freedland:
Suddenly the applause died as the prime minister announced that terrorism is unconnected to foreign policy, and only enemy propaganda would say otherwise. Blair is one of the very few people left on the planet who still believes this: even the CIA now concedes that the invasion of Iraq has fuelled terrorism rather than curbed it. So when Blair said that a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan would be "a craven act of surrender", he said it to silence.
I have noted before what I think of that, but at least it's a matter of opinion. It seems however, that Freedland also has problems with his facts:
In a Comment piece headed A storming send-off - but the silences show why he had to go, page 29, September 27, we said that Tony Blair's statement that a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan would be "a craven act of surrender" was received by conference delegates in silence. That was not the case. As our "clapometer" recorded on page 6 of the same issue, the statement drew 11.44 seconds of applause.
At least (unlike other times) they ran a correction. But how such an egregious mistake could have occurred in the first place is still staggering. The whole column revolves around an event (the silence) which did not in fact take place - not even remotely. I cannot conceive that such a significant misstating of the facts could be anything other than intentional or grossly negligent. Marcus notes:
Even if Freedland's hearing aid had malfunctioned for a full twelve seconds one might expect the reporter to have witnessed the massed palms of the delegates' left and right hands being brought together in the universal physical gesture of agreement and approval for the same amount of time.
Doing so, however, would have meant admitting that the view common among metropolitan journalists that Labour foreign policy is hugely unpopular with Party members isn't supported by the facts though.
Of what value is a paper (and writer) if its relationship with the facts has become so tenuous that they are adapted a priori to an ideological position?

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