August 06, 2006

unpublic diplomacy

The British sense of subtlety is legendary of course. So it was in keeping with that refined upper crust sensibility that the British Embassy here issued its recent missive to local dailies urging them to refrain from publishing first page “horrific” photos of destruction in Lebanon.

The esteemed Embassy, for long the seat of esteemed and unsubtle power over the fate of this island and surroundings before contending with a kinder, subtler sort of influence as of 1971, obviously intended the whole affair to remain a discreet letter to the editor. It was unsubtle Al-Waqt, followed by plain Al-Watan and mouthful Akhbar-Al-khaleej, who went ahead and published it. You may see it as a classic case of a PR disaster, but to me it was both disheartening as flattering to read the statement. For one thing, the letter showed little respect even to BBC Arabic. To send a not so professionally worded statement to professional journalists makes you wonder whatever happened to British standards post metric times. (The Embassy may do well to apply for a language loan from a still-sterling HSBC). Form aside, it was flattering to see the august Embassy's pained care for our sensibility. They must have the Tunisian guy who passed away upon seeing the atrocious pictures in mind when they issued their subtle health warning to the newspapers. Photos can kill you and it is to every reader's interest to keep a blood pressure well within normal limits.

The letter, signed by a Mr. Harrison, acting for the long time no see Mr. Lamb, sadly did not suggest any alternative pages for publishing the photos. But it went to a great length to emphasize the subtle, behind closed nature of British diplomacy in the conflict. Which, coming on the heel of a press conference to the world by Mr. Blair by the side of Bush, sounded like a colossal understatement, verging on complete self-effacement.

But that’s in keeping with yet another venerable British tradition. From your borders to your passport to your history book to your ruler, Great Britain perhaps had more impact on your life than Great Almighty, but don’t expect any any boasting of this matchless success.

Consider that this is a war unleashed by the British- conceived State of Israel, driven and subsidized by British-populated United States, cheered by British-sulked Saudi Arabia, well-wished by British-reared Jordan, taken in good sport by British-miscarriaged Egypt, and mildly protested by British-midwifed Sudan and Yemen. So it was perfectly normal for Condi Rice, speaking on behalf of the new surrogate mother of empire, to happily herald the birth pangs of new -teethless- Middle Eastern offspring.

I am not laying blamer for our woes at the heavenly feet of mother Empire, heavens forbid. I’m only blaming subtle forces of heavens for our un-Irish luck with men and women of Whitehall. Even on those rare occasions where shift of policy might have a chance with men like Derek Fatchett or Robin Cook, they prematurely receive the subtle nod to another hall of the hereafter.

That leaves every editor in town to stick to subtle and photo self-effacing coverage of the conflict, lest the American–made, British-justified, Israeli –delivered guided bombs and missiles do the self-effacement for him.


At 9:09 PM, Blogger Boilerman Information Network said...

Well put... for while the sun has set on the British Empire of past, the great political machine of Britain continues to look at the Middle East; and us A-rubs, as a tiffle-tuttle minor inconvenience that can be told to sit, to stand and to bendover with a stroke of a pen. The truth being, while certain leaders in the Middle East would willingly concede to them, the British have yet to learn that the A-rub public at large is now quiet well represented in the media and newspapers (at least to some extent in Bahraini journalism, and some pan Arab channels like Al-Jazeera).


The Boilerman Cometh

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Abdulhadi Khalaf said...

After reading quotes from Harrison's letter my thought drifted to the old 'civilizing project' that his predecessors carried out in most of Africa, Asian and South America.
Centuries of mental, cultural, and physical rape but no pictures!

Then and now it the white man's burden to civilize 'the half beast half child'.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger MR said...

_h_, It all begs the question? Why do they -continue to- hate us, that much? Al-Jazeera is way too sophisticated to condone or condemn. Appreciate your dropping by.

AbuRasool, there were no pictures for the smallpox infected blankets that wiped out few native North American tribes. So the story is still in dispute, and the white man's burden continues to be light.


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