Saturday 27 January 2018

The Liberator of Kabul speaks

Fans of the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson will doubtless have been waiting with bated breath for a transcript of his talk on this morning's Today programme, and (rejoice!) this small, obscure, ultra-left-wing website is the very place to find it:
I have to say I detest the annual blatherfest at Davos - too many groupies, too few decent hotel rooms, too much ice on the disturbingly steep streets - but each January it does provide a useful selfie of our world. 
Last year's Davos was moderately upbeat. Speakers talked about the way the world was being lifted out of poverty and pointed out that wars were fewer, and even terrorism was far less dangerous than it was back in the 1970s. 
This year? Well, the mood could scarcely have been more different. At one of the key Davos sessions the billionaire George Soros told an audience that open societies like the US and Western Europe were in crisis and the survival of our entire civilisation was at stake. 
What's changed? 
Well, it's been the year of Donald Trump of course. And American think tanks, often instinctively liberal and with a genuine world view, have been especially gloomy. Freedom House, for instance - a non-partisan outfit in Washington. For the 12th consecutive year, it intoned, countries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains. And it went on, states that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories - Turkey and Hungary, for example - are sliding into authoritarian rule. 
Human Rights Watch - another Washington-based organisation - and the European Council on Foreign Relations were just as depressive. 
These and other groups agree that political rights and civil liberties in the world deteriorated last year to their lowest point in over a decade. 
It's certainly true that China under Xi Jinping has become even more autocratic. Just think of the Swedish-Chinese publisher grabbed a few days ago by the police near Beijing when he was travelling with a group of Swedish MPs. President Xi must feel that China is so rich and has so many clients state in its pocket it doesn't have to worry too much what it does. 
Vladimir Putin is approaching yet another presidential election, and he knows it's sewn up already. Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader, who had been hoping to stand against him, has repeatedly been arrested for leading protests against autocracy and corruption. If President Putin wins it will make him the longest-serving leader in Russia since, yes, you've guessed it,  Joseph Stalin.  
Two Harvard professors, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, appearing on this programme today, argue that nowadays democratic societies can be killed by the ballot box. No need for the old-fashioned coup, the assault on the presidential palace and the radio station. Once an anti-democratic leader gets elected he - and it always does seem to be a 'he' - is in for good, because every four or five years, he'll be re-elected. 
All true, but the common thread running through this gloom and doom is the decline of American influence since Donald Trump became President. 
Of course, Xi Zinping and Vladimir Putin were getting more and more autocratic while Barack Obama was President, but large numbers of Western politicians at Davos and elsewhere clearly feel that the counterbalancing strength of the US is fading because of Donald Trump. 
Freedom House says 88 countries - including, of course, the Western democracies - are free, while 49 - Thailand, Egypt and Turkey, as well as Russia and China - are not free. 
Of course that's disturbing. But when I became a journalist, back in 1965, the balance was very different. Only 34 democracies compared with 60 dictatorship. So 88 free countries versus 49 unfree ones nowadays isn't too bad. 
The big difference is that in the past the United States dominated the world, and now it doesn't. 
We could be in for another worrying year till Davos 2019.
John Simpson always feels (to me) like the authentic voice of the BBC. 

From this, therefore, it might be said (if we're taking John as truly representing the BBC) that the BBC isn't keen on: Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Viktor Orban, Xi Jinping, the governments of Thailand and Egypt, and, again, Donald Trump.

George Soros and the liberal Washington think tanks, in contrast, are treated as voices worth listening to. 

The big, bad difference here, from John's account, does seem to be Big Bad Donald Trump.

The two Harvard professors cited - Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt- turn out to have recently written a strongly anti-Trump piece at (of course) the Guardian

("America failed the first test in November 2016, when we elected a president with a dubious allegiance to democratic norms", they said). 

We've noted before John Simpson's traditional 'BBC' gravitation towards the Guardian for his news, and this is just another instance of that 'BBC' orientation. I'm assuming he cited them after reading their Grauniad piece. 

And as for John - the BBC high-up reporter who notoriously said that the BBC let its viewers down by not giving them "clear enough guidance" during the EU referendum and that, if they had, the result "would have been a bit different" - what's more natural for him than to cite two Harvard professors who argue that "nowadays democratic societies can be killed by the ballot box"?

Change the electorate, eh, John?

Bias? What bias?


  1. Gawd, what a meandering pile of over-bearing, lazy, non-sequitos cXXp from JS. Sorry about the language Craig!

    Just this bit "Once an anti-democratic leader gets elected he - and it always does seem to be a 'he' - is in for good, because every four or five years, he'll be re-elected. " ... well try this John: Trump like all US Presidents is limited to two terms, whereas Merkel (not a "he" I think) seems to want to go on and on despite being rejected by a clear majority.

    1. Truly beneath contempt I would say that article was.

      " What's changed? Well, it's been the year of Donald Trump of course." What a cretinous thing to say! He's only been in power for just under a year. All the problems identified by Simpson are the product of the Obama era and before. Who is George Soros? Sorry, Simpson, why are you hanging on his every word? He's an effing billionaire just like Trump was but he's never been elected to anything and he is an extremely dodgy individual. Why should our supposedly reputable news oufit, funded by our money, be using Soros as a litmus test of anything at all?

  2. At least he is not handing his market rate back without a fight.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.