The herd instinct of our free and fearless press is well-known: one paper has a story, and it starts gaining traction, the rest of the pack joins in. What is less common is for the herd instinct to be sparked by one news source whose employees might be expected to give out correct information in the first place. That is where we are this morning, after the BBC mis-translated German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks.
This is what the Beeb’s website told readers yesterday evening: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested an alternative to the Irish border backstop - a key Brexit sticking point - could be found within 30 days … The PM said he was ‘more than happy’ with that ‘blistering timetable’ … He accepted the ‘onus’ was on the UK, but said he believed there was ‘ample scope’ for a new deal to be reached”.
And so it came to pass that the press pack not only decided that this was the line to take, but they also believed it. Today’s front pages confirmed it, with the i Paper proclaiming “30 days to solve Brexit: Merkel’s offer to Johnson”. The Telegraph goes with “30 days to ditch the backstop”, the Express “30 DAYS TO DO A DEAL”, and the Mail pretending it can talk foreign, offering “CAN WE DO IT? JA, WE CAN!” And it wasn’t just the press.
At ITV, political editor Robert Peston joined in the delusion: “Striking that Merkel has pulled rug from under [Philip Hammond], the Gaukeward Squad and much of anti-no-deal posse by saying there is negotiation to be had in next 30 days on how to eliminate backstop. No wonder [Boris Johnson] looks happy”. They all got it wrong.
Angela Merkel didn’t say what the Beeb claimed she said. That got lost in the translation, as David Brown has explained: “What Angela Merkel said... ‘We need a backstop. Maybe we will find a solution in 2 years time, maybe we will find a solution in thirty days time…’ How the BBC reported it... ‘Angela Merkel announced that a solution to the backstop could be found in thirty days…’”. Got it in one. There was no offer.
David Allen Green, who has been keeping a watching eye on the unfolding shambles, observed “After three years, the propensity of London media to fall for the spin of Westminster politicians rather than hearing and reading what EU politicians and bodies actually do say continues to disappoint. Brexit is as much a media and information crisis as a political crisis”. And the BBC is as much a part of that crisis as the press.
And we can see how the failure of the London-centric media to understand what happened yesterday is playing with Brits abroad, thanks to Jon Worth in Berlin: “Mark my words - in 30 days from now: … the Merkel-Johnson press conference will be forgotten … the UK will still have no workable solution to avoid the Backstop If you think I'm wrong, reply to this tweet, and I will dig it out in 30 days to see”. He has made a diary entry for next month.
Our media class is not listening to those outside its hermetically sealed bubble. Alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has just been done up like a kipper by Angela Merkel and, led by the BBC, they’re trumpeting a great victory in the retelling.
The real world may not be to the media class’ liking. But that is no reason not to report on it, and report honestly and accurately. Another less than ideal day for the Beeb.
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Anybody who expects BBC "News" to "...give out the correct information..." is living in cloud cuckoo land. How many more examples are required of slanted "reports" or outright lying? The fact is the BBC is at least as bad as the rest of print and broadcast media. The only difference is it is more mealy-mouthed. All of its propaganda clerks go to the same training Uriah Heep gulag where any sense of moral truth is removed intravenously.
Occasionally one of the clerks lets the reality slip out. For instance, Clive Myrie once said during a "press preview", "I only read this stuff". For which he probably had his collar felt by the Hall-Hall Gestapo.
The clerks are, of course, bribed. They "earn" in proportion to their "reliability". For another instance, I have yet to hear even a half-reasonable explanation why a rotting water melon like Huw Edwards is paid half a million pounds per annum.
The BBC conflict with other media is merely a right wing faction fight. Both factions are full to bursting with lying gobshites. Small wonder an emerging generation either ignore them or consider the whole motley crew a laughing stock.
According to Peter Oborne in the Mail, Johnson triumphed in Berlin. If that was a triumph, what would a failure be like?
R4 Todays entire Brexit discussions this morning were predicated on this “mis-translation” of Merkel’s words to the point where in an interview with David “Walter Mitty” Davis, he basically said “I told you the German’s would cave in” and even went as far as claiming it was now up to the EU to come up with the solution in 30 days.
But as one twitter account has already asked, is this more of a failure of comprehension? I would bet good money that even if the translation had come across more accurately Davis and his ilk would still only be listening to what they want to hear.
A modern languages graduate writes...
There is one important word spoken by Merkel that's been omitted from the "within thirty days" statement. That word is "vielleicht", or "perhaps" in English and is present in all the pertinent Merkel quotes reported by the German press.
She used that word in addition to the conditional tense. Auntie reports she said "could", whereas the verb she actually used was "müsste", i.e. "would have to be".
The BBC; at best disingenuous, at worst totally and utterly repugnant
So based on some random bloke called David Brown you're upset because the BBC said "could" instead of "maybe"? The two would can be interchangeable at times. Apart from that David Brown got it wrong as well.
If you read an actual German newspaper she said ""we have said we would probably find it in the next two years, but maybe we can do it in the next 30 days, why not?"
Cheap shot at the BBC Tim.
That is a potty thing to say.
Don't mind me, captain. You know my name.
Alexander The Great Piffle reminds me of the character Peeperkorn in Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain” whose “personality” diverts attention away from those who would use logic and reason in debate.
A perfect front man for those venal characters in the wings waiting to profit from His Waffle Highness.
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