Much has been made this weekend of the apparent anti-war slant taken by many of those reporters covering the recent Iraq war protests. I notice this morning the same problems arising in, surprise surprise, the BBC.
Long regarded as the last word in unbiased reportage, the Beeb has of late descended deep into the fever swamp of the left. An article penned by Tom Anderson yesterday reeks of dishonety and bias.
Despite police estimates that the number of protestors reached approximately 10,000, reporter Tom Anderson insisted on pushing the claims of the Stop the War Coalition that up to 100,000 were present. OK, so he 'reported' a piece of 'news' if you want to get all technical, but that claim should be treated with the same level of skepticism as my claim to have a ten-incher tucked in my jockeys.
Further supporting the theory that the estimates were, shall we say, inflated is the anti-war march 'in pictures' from the Beeb website. Compare these two images. One is from a March protest to mark the 2nd anniversary of the beginning of the war, genuinely attended by tens of thousands of people. The other is a shot from Saturday's march, attended by *ahem* oh, y'know, tens of thousands of people. They were, like, everywhere. Crazy. Gimme a toke on that, mate. Can you guess which is which?
Lots of crazy folk
I've had more people in my bathroom.
In addition to the inflated claims made by the organisers it appears that many of those in attendance weren't even there to protest the war, but simply to piggy-back on the protest to further their own causes.
A large number of Gate Gourmet workers, whose campaign for justice after being sacked from their jobs at Heathrow airport has won huge sympathy, joined the demonstration chanting, “Troops out, workers in”.
One sacked worker told Socialist Worker, “We want to let the world know about what’s going on. Our management is ruthless and it is trying to get away with sacking permanent staff and replacing them with scab labour.
“Everyone should worry about this. There is also a feeling against the war.”
But that isn't the most interesting thing about the article. No, the newsworthy point is that the reporter notes that the families of several soldiers killed in Iraq made speeches during the rally. Look, even military families are turning against the war! Surely now is the time for Blair to present an exit strategy! Maybe. But what if one of these grieving parents wasn't what he seemed?
Peter Brierley, the father of the late Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, was used yesterday in what has become a very popular tactic of war protesters - that of using the parents of dead soldiers to put out their message with the 'absolute moral authority' to speak on matters of national security. One bonus of this approach is that the parents are largely immune from attack, as any attempt to discredit the position taken is viewed as an insensitive attack on the person. As we've seen in recent months it's a tactic utilised successfully by Cindy Sheehan (or, more accurately, her backers).
The BBC included a short quote from Brierley:
"I am totally overwhelmed. Now Tony Blair has to listen and bring the troops home.
"Looking at what happened in Iraq through this last week it is obvious that Iraq does not want the troops there and if they don't bring them out there will be more families like us."
while the Independent prints a much more direct version:
"My son was betrayed by Blair. If the Government do not bring them out, there will be more families like us."
Of course we all feel sympathy for Mr Brierley. No parent should have to outlive his child. But it appears that Mr Brierley has been used dishonestly by the protest organisers to attack the Prime Minister. You see, Shaun Brierley didn't die in Iraq. Shaun Brierley never even went to Iraq.
Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley died on March 30th 2003 in a road traffic accident while stationed in Kuwait with the 212 Signals Squadron. He was a motorbike dispatch rider providing support for British forces. Brierley died only ten days after the war began, and never entered the country. Brierley never heard a shot fired in anger. He never witnessed a roadside bomb. He was long dead by the time our forces took Baghdad. He simply didn't take part in the war in Iraq.
So how did Tony Blair betray L-Cpl Brierley?
Anderson, along with the organisers of the protest, used Peter Brierley to gain credibility - to show that there are real people who have suffered as a result of the war who are desperate for it to end. But that simply isn't true in this case. While the pain of losing a son would be no different for Mr. Brierley had Shaun died from a bullet, a bomb or a simple road accident, it's dishonest - both morally and journalistically - to use him as a tool to further the anti-war cause.
What strikes me as most interesting here, though, is that of all the hundreds of British parents who have lost children to the war, the organisers of this rally couldn't muster three of them to stand in front of a crowd and denounce it. That, I think, speaks volumes.
I'm only kidding, current readers. You know I love your quirky charms.
Don't forget to try your hand at the Caption Contest while you're here. After all, didn't your mum say you were the funniest kid in class? Prove it, bitch.