From the Brussels Journal:
Tonight the BBC admitted that it has misinformed the international community by telling the world that one of the Danish Muhammad cartoons was a depiction of a pigsnouted Muhammad. The BBC website says:
Twelve cartoons were originally published by Jyllands-Posten. None showed the Prophet with the face of a pig. Yet such a portrayal has circulated in the Middle East (The BBC was caught out and for a time showed film of this in Gaza without realizing it was not one of the 12).
This picture, a fuzzy grey photocopy, can now be traced back (suspicion having been confirmed by an admission) to a delegation of Danish Muslim leaders who went to the Middle East in November to publicise the cartoons. The visit was organised by Abu Laban, a leading Muslim figure in Denmark.
What was that about limits proposed on free speech arising out of a duty not to inflame the Muslim street? Under what category of inflammation does attributing a pig-snouted depiction of Mohammed to the Jyllands-Posten cartoons fall, when that cartoon was never published by the newspaper, and as anyone from the BBC might have known by simply obtaining a copy of the cartoons? The blogs have been known this for a long time and more's the shame.
The BBC site adds the offending picture was taken from a "pig-squealing" competition.
(Update: A reader has e-mailed to say that the original of the "pig" picture was from a "pig-squealing" competition held in France every summer. Some character dressed up like a pig. See the link to the neandernews.com site on the right for the details.
Ekstra Bladet has also published a letter taken by the delegation on its mission. This gives the delegation's account of how the cartoons originated and what the reaction to them was. But it also mentions other pictures, which it said were "much more offending." These presumably included the "pig" picture, whose origin is now known.)
Western diplomats appear to have missed this entirely and seem to have made no attempt to counter some of the arguments in the pamphlet or to distinguish between the various portrayals.
This is going to rank right up there with the fake Koran-flushing story which got people killed in Afghanistan. No one has a right to expect perfection from the media. Like intelligence agencies, which they resemble in some respects, the media sometimes gets things wrong. But I'd argue that some publications have a dangerous tendency to believe stories like "right-wing Danish publication portrays Mohammed as pig" because they want to believe it. This phenomenon is called bias and bias is dangerous not because it predisposes one to a wrong set of opinions but to the wrong set of facts.
Ironically, if the BBC had published the cartoons it would inevitably have discovered that the pig picture was not part of the Jyllands-Posten cartoon set. But instead of presenting the dry facts it substituted hearsay and for days the world was inflamed over a set of images described only at second-hand; wrongly described at that and imagining the worst about what were actually a very mild set of drawings. This violent debate occurred precisely because organizations like the BBC, whose job it was to present the facts, failed signally in their duty. Instead they went through the mummery of piously refusing the show the images "out of respect for Islam" when in fact they were actually, though perhaps unintentionally, contributing to the obscurantism surrounding the whole affair. That is the kindest interpretation I can put on the matter.