Sunday, 20 January 2013

Algerian Gas Plant

“Small earthquake - no Britons killed”

Listening to the coverage of the Algerian Gas plant terrorist attack it quickly became clear that anglo-centric news is alive and well. Even this morning when the siege is apparently over, the emphasis has been on the three British killed, the three still unaccounted for and a mention of the one who died on the first day. While sympathy goes out to the families affected, this is not the full picture.

There was no mention whatsoever of the total number of casualties, or of other nations with their losses or even much appreciation of what the Algerian special forces may have achieved. The implication throughout the media is that they screwed up. 

There are hints that there is another side to this story. The fact that hundreds of Algerian citizens and foreign workers were rescued swiftly and safely seems irrelevant to our media and government. The implication throughout was, ‘How dare this independent country use its own forces to solve a tricky situation - without either using our crack troops or even asking us for our advice?’ Algeria has a long history of dealing with Islamic fundamentalists. Perhaps they felt they had more than enough experience and expertise to tackle an urgent threat.

By searching the news websites it appears that about 23 hostages may well have been killed. That is 17 non-British casualties. These casualties were airbrushed out of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5 news bulletins. While this may go down well with unthinking Brits it does not play too well with our neighbours. Norway, Japan and the US have all got missing casualties. You would not know this from the country’s leading media outlet. You would not know that Algeria are reporting that all 31 terrorists have been killed. 

To travel for 3 weeks in India recently was informative in so many ways. One unexpected insight was the lack of UK news on world news sites. It brought home just how tiny and mainly irrelevant we are on the world stage and how few stories actually made it - even on to BBC World. One story did get coverage for a day and that was the launch of the Leveson Report. It stood out for featuring in several bulletins on different channels.  

It is salutary to consider just how irrelevant we are on a world scale. The parochial coverage of this story reflects badly on our media and government. It also perpetuates myths that need shattering. We are no longer an Empire and despite the worst efforts of Reverend Blair, we are no longer a world power. 

We need to learn to co-operate so much better with other countries. 

The portents as far as Europe is concerned are not good.

As Michael Portillo said on ‘This Week’ about Cameron’s postponed ‘big speech’ : 
“ He (Cameron) is heading for a car crash.”

We have a lot to learn but we seem to be stuck with a government (and a media?) incapable of doing so.

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