Thursday, July 14, 2005

Eye of the Storm: The Journalistic Integrity of Frank Gardner

The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, has provided a outstanding example of true journalistic integrity in the week following the London bombings. Eschewing the sentimentality, sensationalism, shallow analysis and uninformed speculation that runs rampant in the media in such times of crisis, Gardner sits calmly -- in his wheelchair -- amidst the furor and offers reasoned, cogent, impeccably phrased, well-sourced insights. This is even more remarkable when you consider why Gardner is in a wheelchair: he was shot point-blank by al Qaeda marauders in Saudi Arabia last year and has been left permanently disabled. Yet he retains his commitment to reality-based reporting. (The Guardian described his contribution very well here. And here's a good write-up of his ordeal and recovery, The Man Who Would Not Die.)

I've been wanting to write about Gardner for some time, but was finally prompted by a very good piece by Seumas Milne in the Guardian today, a portion of which singles out Gardner's realistic take on the "terror war." It's a small part of a longer article that is worth a read in its own right. But here's the Gardner-related excerpt:

"The first piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that al-Qaida and its supporters have no demands that could possibly be met or negotiated over; that they are really motivated by a hatred of western freedoms and way of life; and that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination. The reality was neatly summed up this week in a radio exchange between the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, and its security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was left disabled by an al-Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia last year. Was it the 'very diversity, that melting pot aspect of London' that Islamist extremists found so offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's capital, Marr wondered. 'No, it's not that,' replied Gardner briskly, who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. 'What they find offensive are the policies of western governments and specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim lands, notably Iraq and Afghanistan.'

The rest of the Milne piece is here.