Monthly Archives: September 2010

‘Arms deal’ or ‘security shift’?

After reading a letter by David Traynier to the Guardian’s Ian Black regarding a report he’d penned on the recent US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, posted at Persistence of Vision, I found the article had been reproduced by the Irish Times the next day.

Traynier has since received a fairly uninterested response from Black (captured for posterity below), where he failed to answer any of Traynier’s reasonable questions:

“thanks for your email. i would say that the phrase “any military threat” includes the possibility that there isn’t actually one. a standfirst inevitably compresses material contained in the body of the article.

I thought it was worth following up, even just to allow Black the chance to dismiss another criticism.

Dear Ian Black,

I’ve just read your report for the Guardian on the US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which has been republished (in part) by the Irish Times, and I had a quick question I hope you can answer.

You explain at the beginning of the report that the purpose of the “biggest arms deal in US history” is to “shore up [US] Gulf Arab allies to face any military threat from Iran.” And again, towards the end of the piece you write: “Questions about democracy, freedoms and human rights in the kingdom clearly have a lower priority than security issues.”

Would it be fair to say that in describing the deal as a ‘security issue’ designed to face a ‘military threat’ you have framed the sale of weapons as a ‘defensive act’? It seems to me as though you have dismissed entirely the possibility that the sale of arms could potentially be viewed as an act of provocation.

Even if the reader accepts that Iran may well, now or at some future point, pose a military threat to the US and its allies, the arms deal could, even then, only be reasonably seen as a tit-for-tat provocation between regional powers, definitely not a simple case of ‘security’ against a ‘threat’.

I’d be interested to hear back from you on this. I’m also copying the Irish Times foreign desk.

Yours sincerely,



[Update: I should have said: Israel clearly sees it a provocation, and they’re an ally!]

Audio – “Conflict in the Middle East: Irish Media Bias?”

A rough audio recording of the discussion hosted by Leviathan Political Cabaret at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival, featuring Robert Fisk, Richard Boyd Barrett, John McGuirk and Vincent Lavery. The discussion was chaired by Harry Browne.

It’s here in 5 parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

For some context on John McGuirk’s rather one sided version of the attack on the Mavi Marama, we’d like to direct readers here:

‘The false reality of news journalism’ – Reporting Palestine and the Mavi Marmara

and for more on the Israel Palestine conflict:

‘Officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’

McGuirk also claimed that Hamas refused to accept the aid brought by the flotilla when it was delivered to the border by the IDF. However, this is only a half truth:

“Hamas has said it will not permit the supplies to enter the besieged territory until all detained activists are released and Israel agrees to deliver all aid consignments, including construction materials.” [The Guardian, 3/06/10]

In McGuirk’s defense I thought it was particularly unfair for Fisk to argue that one had to have been to Palestine and Israel to have an opinion on the conflict.

Book burning vs Collecting body parts of the murdered

During last nights excellent discussion hosted by Leviathan Political Cabaret the question was raised as to whether the media has been instrumental in creating the storm over the Florida pastor and the religious book burning. The New York Times had a good think about it yesterday and Juan Cole posted a list of the ‘Top Stories More Important than Quran-Burning Nut Job’ today.

But the Irish Times gives a perfect example of how media priorities shape not only our perception of the world, but the political energy devoted to the issues reported:

The caption beneath the photo reads:

“Pakistani men hit an effigy of Pastor Terry Jones in Punjab province, Pakistan.”

and just to the right of the image is a link to a story titled:

“Soldiers charged with murder

Twelve US soldiers have been charged with crimes in Afghanistan ranging from murdering civilians to keeping body parts as war trophies.”

A more detailed report on which can be found at the Guardian.

They could also be giving the front page to cancer rates in Fallujah, but they’re not.

The beginning and end of A Journey

Working my way through the 80 or so articles published by the Irish Independent, Sunday Tribune, Irish Examiner and Irish Times on the opening day of Blair’s disastrous book signing tour and thought a ‘word cloud’ might throw up something interesting. It didn’t, but here they are anyway. A real analysis will follow.

Removing the words ‘Blair’, ‘book’, ‘Tony’ and ‘signing’.

via Wordle

More on ‘bad journalism’

Last week we mentioned the Irish Independent’s Kevin Myers, this week we have the Irish Independent’s Ian O’Doherty:

The highlighted line reads:

(What are you talking about O’Doherty? You don’t have a car! — Ed)

Presumably written by a sub-editor and accidentally left in the published text.

[Update: As pointed out in the comments by Harry Browne, this is humour, not a mistake.]

For some reason the breaking news of O’Doherty’s first encounter with self-service supermarket checkouts and his irritation at wider car parking spaces for families reminds me of an article by Brenda Power in the Sunday Times back in May.

Power had, by glorious chance, happened upon a woman wearing a burka pushing a pram beneath a billboard displaying the famous Hunky Dory crisp advert, right in the midst of the controversy. This moment of pure chance prompted this article.

Also, O’Doherty claims in the article that most aid money sent to Pakistan is “being filtered away by corrupt politicians or the Taliban,” the clear implication being that to send money for relief work is to support corruption and terrorism. The truth is of course somewhat different. The Frontline Club recently hosted a discussion on the issue.

Karen Pierce, UK Foreign Office director for Afghanistan and South Asia, said that “In any event of this type there is a risk of diversion [of money] – I don’t think the risk in Pakistan is any greater in this crisis than in any other.”

“Conflict in the Middle East: Irish Media Bias?”

A discussion hosted by Leviathan Political Cabaret at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival, featuring Robert Fisk, Richard Boyd Barrett and Vincent Lavery. The discussion will be chaired by Harry Browne.

Thursday, September 9th 2010

Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire

End Times

What happened today? What was all the noise about government bonds, spreads, cats in bins. This is what happened:

The graph shows the 10-year bond yield for Irish government bonds (essentially the cost of borrowing), which looks fairly dramatic, until you look at the same data over a longer time frame, in this case the last 3 years:

Data provided by Bloomberg.