I watched Ross Kemp’s documentary on Paleastine yesterday and it was much better than I had expected. I have never watched any of his travel documentaries before – their advertising portrays them as “Our hard nut goes to see if other hard nuts are really as vicious as London East End gangsters”.
It is impossible, unless you are obscenely ill-motivated, to do a documentary in Gaza that does not leave you appalled at the plight of the Palestinian people there. But Kemp gave the Palestinians a much fairer and fuller hearing than I had expected, and while there was a great deal of editorial horror at the attitudes of Islamic terrorists and their supporters, it came over very strongly – and Kemp himself plainly “got”, that those attitudes were caused by the atrocities and indignities to which the Palestinians are subjected.
Which made Kemp’s documentary much more intelligent than Michael Portillo’s effort on Guantanamo. Portillo never for one moment questioned whether Islamic hatred of the West was in any sense caused or triggered. He seemed to accept that Guantanamo holds a core of “some 50” diehard terrorists who are intrinsically evil, and he agreed explicitly that they should be kept locked up forever even though there was no evidence against them that could stand up in court.
His glib “I am a politician and I know about tough decisions like abandoning legality” line was helped by two intellectual dishonesties. He never considered the causality of terrorism, and he did not mention the possibility that some of that “core” of fifty might be innocent. He described the moral dilemma as whether people you knew were guilty but could not prove it, should be locked up. Who says you know. they are guilty? I can tell you from first hand experience that a great deal of the War on Terror intelligence on individuals is woefully inaccurate and deliberatelly exagerrated.
Which Michael Portillo once seemed to understand:
Portillo reserved his compassion for the Uighurs, because they were anti-communist, and for the British ex-detainees who had been tortured. There was one particularly unsavoury piece of editing when showing a UK conference, at which an ex-detainee was making a very emotional and harrowing point; the director then cut away to a shot of Moazzam Begg grinning merrily and apparently completely inappropriately at the point.
The impression was given that cut-away was contemporaneous, and it made Moazzam look very bad. I don’t believe the cut-away was contemporaneous and think this was a deliberate bit of BBC demonisation. I don’t think it was genuine because of sound discontinuity, because BBC documentary crews nowadays almost never have two cameras, and because I know Moazzam.