Sunday, December 09, 2007


Here on harryzzz, the start of a new little series called: The Bullshit they tell you...

Because, just like you, I'm reading and watching the world news. But, not just like you, I'm actually sometimes running around in these parts of the world.

This gives me the possibility to tell you when a journalist or media company is telling you BULLSHIT or not. I cover the Middle East and Pakistan - so I'll keep a close watch on stories from there. Note: I'm picking on any mistake I come across, I don't have anything against any specific media outlet.

Ok, here BULLSHIT REPORT Nr. 1. And the suspect is the good old, very reliable BBC.

Step 1: Go to this web page (right click and open in new window):

Step 2: Click on: audio and video news: On patrol with the army in the Swat Valley.

Step 3: Watch the video report. It starts with: Until earlier this year Pakistan's Swat valley was popular with tourists...

Immediately after that, from 08.00 sec onward, the BBC guy aboard the helicopter says: "Now a military helicopter is our only way in."


A military helicopter the only way in? Yeah, right. Bullshit! BBC guy flew from outside Swat to the city of Mingora, inside Swat. I did, very recently, the exact same route by car. And not in some kind of 4-wheel drive vehicle, but in this one - together with my taxidriver!!! (see picture).

The trip, by car, from Islamabad to Mingora takes around 6 hours. The Taliban militants are mainly active north and east of Mingora, not south and west (the way you get into the area). All roads from Islamabad or Peshawar to Mingora are open. Of course, way too many details that TV can't be bothered with.

Hey, I immediately agree that it is much cooler to fly in by a helicopter, than to drive in with a little taxi. But to claim that "now a military helicopter is the only way in" is total bullshit.

So, yes, the report wants you to believe a lie. It misinforms the public by sexing up a story. Verdict: Guilty!

Harald Doornbos


ella said...


Yes, some journalist do push bullshit - BBC, CNN, FOX, others all beautify their reports. That's why I like your blog - you don't do it ( I think ;-) ).
Everybody knows that there is no light for couple of hours daily in Baghdad, but did anyone, anyone at all told "public" that there was(is?) no light in many Lebanese cities for couple of hours daily? No one. It is not important enough. Anyway, pro-Hezb people did not tell it because in their area there is no light so they would not look good, pro-March 14 people do not want to do it because that would mean that many people with whom they deal are corrupt. Annapolis conference was important because there was talk with people "in the know" and one could quote this or that official or a former official. But some small things like electricity, cell phones, prices - no, of course it is not explosive enough for the tv or newspapers to talk about.
Ups, sorry for a rant.

Harald Doornbos said...

@ ella,
Thanks for your words. couldn't agree more with it. I've been based in Delhi, India - My god, the powercuts we had there!!! Just hours and hours a day. Half of India isn't even connected to powerlines.

So I'm seriously getting sick and tired of all these stories from Baghdad about the power problems there. Yes, it sucks not to have power. But almost half the world doesn't have proper access to electricity. shit happens. Get a generator (I've bought, up to now, seven generators in my life and one invertor. Last generator, a tiny chinese one called "Tiger", stands on balcony here in beirut). It lights one lamp and my computer.


Nomade said...

Hi Harold,

well yes, you are right of course. But... we both know how this works behind the scenes. The BBC caries a heavy responsibility for it's employees in a war zone, and let's not forget pays a horrendous amount of money on insurance. (I know, been there) One of the clauses in most of these insurance contracts states that 'danger must be avoided if and whenever possible' (funny but true). I am sure that, when asked, the officials in Pakistan, have a thumbs down for any news crew, that considers undertaking such journey by car. They will say anything to avoid having rogue forces taking hostages even if the changes are remote. And nobody, and certainly not the BBC, can ignore such a recommendation. Now what is a journalist going to say: The Beeb-Bros won't let me? Lloyds are a bunch of weasels? Think not.
So we spice it up a little, nothing more impressive then a nice chopper-ride, perhaps with a machine gun in sight: Wow couldn't be better.

Cheers, Frans

Harald Doornbos said...

true, but wat annoys me is that the BBC guy says: "a military helicopter is the ONLY way in." I went in by car, colleague of Der Spiegel did the same, local Pakistani journalists go by car.

You see this tendency, especially among TV reporters, to make their reports look more dangerous, more sexy than it is. His desk and the audiance will think: If the only way to reach the place is by army helicopter, well, then it must be a very dangerous place. Wow, what a heroic reporter...

Fair enough when the BBC guy goes by helicopter and says: "a military helicopter is our way in". This little word "ONLY" is so wanky...

Protesters today blocked traffic in south beirut, burned tires and shouted slogans against ALL THOSE FREQUENT POWERCUTS. Did they read your comment?! lol


m.p. said...

loved that piece, your new series has had a great start. to quote an unnamed person of, i think, flemish origin: meer! meer!

frans did make an interesting point. so now we not only know how low they get, but also why. hmmm... which means they get even lower than we thought.

this blog is getting more interesting by the day.

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