Monday, August 16, 2010

Blood Money...

...or how to create a controversy. So Tony Blair's decision to donate all the proceeds from his book to a sports centre for injured soldiers is controversial, is it? Only, it seems, if you are a news reporter. When I first heard this reported on the radio, (on Radio One's lunchtime news), the reporter simply told us that 'some people might find this controversial', in light of the fact that Blair had sent some of these soldiers to war in Iraq in the first place. Notice that 'might' in there - at this point, they were pretty much admitting that this just the reporter's opinion, and that they had no evidence to back it up. With each succeeding news report, the 'controversial' aspect of Blair's donation was emphasised ever more vehemently, with the newsreader urging people to give their views on this 'controversy' online. A more blatant attempt to stir up a fake controversy on a slow news day, I've come across in quite a while.

As the afternoon wore on, they started quoting some of these opinions. Well, one of them, it seemed - someone going about how it was just 'guilt money' to salve Blair's conscience over sending 'our boys' off to an illegal war. They kept promising us a full report on the early evening bulletin, implying that there was more to come, an overwhelming condemnation of Blair, even. Sadly, there wasn't. Come the early evening bulletin, all we got was a repetition of the tired old 'guilt money' line. They did at least try to balance it with an ex-soldier who had served in Iraq pointing out that the military don't get a choice where they fight, and accept injury as an occupational hazard. Indeed, far from being controversial, Blair's donation appeared to be being welcomed by everyone involved in the rehabilitation of injured servicemen and women. To hear such lazy reporting on the BBC is disappointing, to say the least.

I wouldn't have minded so much, but they didn't even try to explore any of the issues raised. I mean, even if Blair is only making this donation to assuage his assumed guilt - so what? Aren't most charitable donations, at least in part, made for similar reasons? Don't we all give to charity in order to satisfy our consciences, even slightly? By giving to a good cause, we feel we are then relieved of any obligation to worry further about, say, famine in Africa? Aren't we really saying 'look, I've done my bit by giving five quid, so I don't have to think about the fact that a major causal factor in third world poverty is the exploitation of poorer nations by the affluent West in order to maintain our consumerist lifestyles.' Indeed, as long as we stick a few pounds in an envelope every so often, we won't have to consider making fundamental changes to the unfair global economic system. But obviously, Tony Blair is different, isn't he? He's a war criminal, after all, isn't he? That's another statement the BBC allowed to go unchallenged. God knows, I have real problems with Blair and the 'dodgy dossier, and I opposed the war in Iraq from the outset, but it really is going too far to try and label him a 'war criminal'. Sure, he may have misled parliament in order to take the UK to war, (a serious enough offence in itself), but to try and put him on a par with the likes of Adolf Hitler is a travesty and devalues the whole concept of war crimes. let's get a grip people, and try to keep things in perspective.

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