Thursday, October 14, 2004

14 October 2004: Furcal

Short blog today as I'm in bed with the lurgi, but I couldn't let Mark Bechtel's weekly CNN column pass without comment. He argues that, despite his officially neutral position as a journalist, he wanted the Braves to lose because Rafael Furcal had been given dispensation to play to the end of the season before going to jail for a month for his second drinking-under-influence-of-alcohol offence in four years, instead of going directly to jail, do not pass 'Go', do not collect any celery. It sends out a bad message, argues Bechtel, when sports celebrities get treated differently in criminal settings than you or I would. And with that, I fully agree.

The problem was that his piece, which gets quite vicious and rhetorical at times, fails to represent the facts of the case. Furcal does indeed "clearly need help", which is why he's going on a drink rehab programme when the prison term is over. Bechtel doesn't mention this - he instead talks about how pathetic the judge was. But worse is the clear statement that Furcal was "on the streets" during the Braves post-season play - no he wasn't. He was under curfew, except when playing, which means the same thing as house (or hotel, on the road) arrest. Have a look at the official statement if you don't believe me.

Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to be an apologist for Furcal's actions, or to make any comment on how the State of Georgia justice system works. I simply wish to point out that, like a great deal of the US media in general, commentators exaggerate and even lie to get their point across, at which point it becomes polemics rather than reporting. Whether it's Fox News or Michael Moore, I'm sick of seeing it, and to see it begin to appear on CNN is more worrying.

On the flip side, that was why the BBC hired Andrew Gilligan in the first place. And look where it got them.

Happy birthday, Mum!

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