The BBC and British attitudes

Bret Stephens presents a disturbing profile of Muslim sentiment in the U.K. Ugly sentiment that is straight from Michael Moore, and which is more extreme than anglo-British sentiment, but still very similar.

Yet there is also something too easy about this emerging consensus, which, roughly, wants Britain out of the Middle East and the Middle East out of Britain. What it neglects is the extent to which the attitudes of British Muslims perfectly reflect the attitudes of Britons generally.

Consider the findings of a July YouGov poll on the British view of America and Americans. Sixty-five percent of respondents consider Americans “vulgar”; 72% think American society is unequal; 52% take a negative view of American culture; and 58% believe the U.S. is “an essentially imperial power, one that wants to dominate the world by one means or another.” Only 12% of Britons have confidence in U.S. leadership.


Such views aren’t just waterborne; they spring from the data set from which almost all Britons judge Israeli actions. Trevor Asserson, a solicitor, has compiled lengthy reports of BBC coverage of Israel: He finds that of 19 documentaries on Israel or the Palestinians aired by the BBC from 2000 to 2004 (as compared to only five about the earlier, nearer and far deadlier conflict in the Balkans), almost all were savagely critical of Israel. “The Accused” indicts Ariel Sharon as a war criminal; “Dead in the Water” alleges that Israel bombed an American ship in 1967 to disguise Israeli atrocities in the Sinai and to provoke an American nuclear strike on Cairo; and so on.

Compound this with the similar slant and tenor of nightly BBC coverage of Israel, the U.S., Iraq, Lebanon and Guantanamo Bay and it isn’t hard to understand the sense of rage, easily descending to radicalism and violence, which typifies the political sensibilities of so many British Muslims.

True, other factors are at play. The unemployment rate of British Muslims is three times that of the overall population, according to a 2004 survey, and the country’s Muslims tend not to participate in civic life. These details get lumped together in the catch-all of “social exclusion,” and it’s something that rightly concerns British policy makers.

Yet what really ought to terrify Britain’s leaders aren’t the conclusions that divide mainstream and Muslim Britain, but the premises that unite them. From the credence given to people like Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, to the simplistic derision of the U.S. and the frenzied hatred of Israel, the two camps attend the same church and sing from the same hymnal. Until that changes, on one side or the other, Britain will have no respite from the encroaching terror. Or, to paraphrase Pogo: We have met the jihadi, and he is us.

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