May 28, 2009

Worse than a crime, a blunder

Obama's Press Secretary tweaks the tail of a big bad wolf he thinks has the measure of:
“You're not going to find very many of these newspapers and truth within 25 words of each other,” Gibbs continued.

The British Press is more adept at telling truth to power than the lapdogs whom he's addressing. The particular story denied by Gibbs has a named source with impressive credentials. Moreover it's carefully written. It may not be true, I hope it isn't, but the reporting looks responsible compared to plenty in the NYT or the W.Post or the LA Times, regular sources of plagiarism, unsourced half-truths and outright lies. The British Press is more streetwise, more diverse, more hungry, more competitive AND it has a sense of humour. When stories are made up, the rest of the pack will tear into the fabrication and editors get fired - Piers Morgan memorably so.

Gibbs didn't need to set this up. The UK Press now has a vested interest in contrasting the truth of their stories with the truth of his. He will lose.

UPDATE - from The Daily Telegraph's response:
Can you imagine Gibbs making these remarks about The New York Times or The Washington Post, or NBC, ABC or CBS? This would never happen. The British press, especially the Telegraph, has been singled out because they frequently publish articles critical of the Obama administration and are not afraid to take on the status quo in Washington. Increasingly, millions of Americans are turning to online UK news websites for cutting edge reports on American politics and U.S. foreign policy that the mainstream media refuses to cover in the States, especially if it is unflattering to the Obama White House.

Robert Gibbs' completely unwarranted rant against the British press is an absolute disgrace, and the President should disown his views. An unreserved apology by Gibbs is also in order.

For all its talk of "raising America's standing" in the world after the Bush years, the Obama administration is doing a spectacularly bad job of reaching out to its allies. Unfortunately this is the new face of America's public diplomacy, which will only serve to alienate public opinion across the Atlantic. Congratulations Gibbs - you've just made an enemy out of the entire British media, quite an achievement for the man in charge of selling the President's message.
"The entire British media" is hyperbole only if you think of the BBC as British.