Channel 4 yesterday had two documentaries on Iraq – both with good aspects, but both quite seriously flawed.
The first was devoted to Dispatches: women in Iraq. It’s quite poorly edited and planned for a mainstream documentary like Dispatches, the same footage keeps on cropping up multiple times, and there are some dubious-sounding statistics. Despite that, it’s good to see footage of Iraq from beyond the usual ‘violence and high politics’ perspective, and having programmes made by Iraqis rather than Brits is a Good Thing.
Then a couple of hours later we had John Snow in “the real Iraq”, talking about why documentaries like that one are made by Iraqis – or rather, about how impossible it is for Western journalists to get enough access to interact with the real Iraq. He’s right, and it’s a useful thing to drum on about. But it all falls down because his perspective is not “why the world can’t know about Iraq” but “why Jon Snow can’t know about Iraq”.
It doesn’t do the rest of us any harm at all to be forced to rely on Iraqi journalists and bloggers, and to ignore Western reporters for anything except high politics.
He did at least make a very good point about the lack of nuanced understanding of Iraqi current affairs, in what could almost be a mission statement for the Iraq Analysis Group:
“What we have in iraq as a result of bloggers, fledgling journalists, new media of all sorts, is a kind of scattergun effect – we have a a little bit of knowledge about different bits and pieces. What there is very little of, partly because there is so little western media here, is any real analysis or interpretation of events that we can relate to”