The t-word and the BBC

by Chris Bertram on July 12, 2005

The usual suspects are getting exercised again about the fact that the BBC’s guidelines tell its reporters not to use the word “terrorist” as part of a factual report unless it is in the mouth of someone else. Melanie Phillips goes one better and accuses them of censoring Tony Blair’s use of the word:

The BBC’s censorship of the ‘t’ word gets worse and worse. In his statement to the Commons today, the Prime Minister repeatedly referred to terrorism. BBC Online’s account of this speech excised those references almost entirely, with only one reference in a quote to ‘the moment of terror striking’.

Perhaps she should have checked whether Blair speech is reproduced in full on the BBC website , as it is, before sounding off.

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07.12.05 at 4:30 pm

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1

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.05 at 2:49 am

Via AndrewSullivan:

Early on Friday morning another BBC webpage headlined “Testing the underground mood,” spoke of “the worst terrorist atrocity Britain has seen.” But at 12:08 GMT, while the rest of the article was left untouched, those words were replaced by “the worst peacetime bomb attacks Britain has seen.”… In its round-up of world reactions, BBC online was also quick to highlight the views of conspiracy theorists. The very first article listed by the BBC started by quoting Iranian cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani saying Israel was behind the London attacks. It was followed by a commentary on Iranian state radio explicitly blaming the Mossad.

2

Matt McGrattan 07.12.05 at 2:52 am

Phil Rees in his book “Dining with Terrorists” has an excellent account of the BBC ban on the use of the word ‘terrorism’ and also discusses some of the detailed, and heated, debates within the BBC that surrounded the use or non-use of the word post-9/11.

The ban is far from unthinking and is made for extremely good reasons.

But of course we already known not to expect factual accuracy or sane reasoning from Melanie Phillips.

3

Katherine 07.12.05 at 2:53 am

yes, yes, I don’t like the usual suspects any more than you do.

but: the BBC policy is silly. Yes, some people use the word “terrorist” in an inconsistent and policy-driven way. The solution to this is pick one definition and stick to it consistently. It isn’t that hard to do.

Plenty of U.S. news organizations, for example, are pretty scrupulous in talking about “terrorists” in Iraq in cases where there is deliberate targetting of civilians, and “militants” or “insurgents” when it is not clear.

I mean, what’s next, are they going to decide “genocide” is no good?

4

Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 3:56 am

The solution to this is pick one definition and stick to it consistently.

A guy who has a bomb but doesn’t have an aeroplane? While there may be U.S. news organizations which are scrupulous in talking about “terrorists” in Iraq, I doubt that they are scrupulous with respect to other conflicts. If there are, I would like to know their names.

5

Katherine 07.12.05 at 3:58 am

The usual version is:
–not a government–there are other names for the awful things governments do
–hopes to accomplish political goals through fear instilled by deliberately attacking civilians

6

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 4:11 am

Well we’re in trouble right away then Katherine. If terrorism means anything, it means the deliberate use of violence against non-combatants to pursue political ends. That is something governments also do. I can see, though, why many of those who are keen to push for news organizations to employ this language are also keen to promote a state-exempting definition.

7

Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 4:36 am

Sebastian Holsclaw, quoting Andrew Sullivan quoting The Jerusalem Post: In its round-up of world reactions, BBC online was also quick to highlight the views of conspiracy theorists.

Any truth in this? At the moment, the World Reactions page has quotes from Kofi Annan, George W. Bush, Jacques Chirac etc.

8

abb1 07.12.05 at 4:41 am

Only some states are exempt.

9

soru 07.12.05 at 5:07 am

To be consistent with the dropping of the value-laden word ‘terrorist’, surely they would also have to cease using such disputable words as ‘occupation’, ‘war’, ‘president’, ‘state’, ‘government’, ‘election’, ‘democracy’, ‘legal’, ‘judge’ and ‘policeman’?

soru

10

Ray 07.12.05 at 5:14 am

No, they wouldn’t.
Next question?

11

johnhayter 07.12.05 at 5:32 am

Those heroic, hard-bitten folks over at Testy Copy Editors have had a number of interesting discussions about media use of the word “terrorist”. If you’re feeling queasy after reading Melanie Phillips, take it as an emetic:

http://209.35.198.168/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=2858&highlight=terrorist+insurgent

12

John East 07.12.05 at 5:33 am

Hey everybody, get off Melanie’s back. I disagree with a lot of her beliefs, but in this case she’s done us a service in highlighting BBC stupidity.

Matt McGrattan, your comments come across to me as twee, politically correct relativism, and as such are far more objectionable than anything Melanie has to say. It doesn’t matter in the least whether ones political colour or ideology are right, left, or centre, the systematic abuse of our language is a very poor substitute for argued debate. Redefinition, or fudging the meaning of words seems to be very popular these days, but if we do not share a common language how can any meaningful communication between us be possible.

Britannica online defines terrorism correctly as, “the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.” In case the BBC didn’t notice, this is exactly what happened last Thursday, and the repeated use of the word terrorist was appropriate. Politically correct censorship, for whatever reason, to prevent the use of this word or edit reports after it was used was not appropriate.

13

abb1 07.12.05 at 5:57 am

I wish they’d drop ‘democracy’, though.

Elections with a single candidate to vote up or down they call ‘dictatorship’, elections with two very similar candidates to choose from – ‘democracy’. Proportional representation with two dozen parties to choose from – also ‘democracy’. Constitutional monarchy with a parliament is sometimes a ‘democracy’, sometimes not.

There’s gotta be a better way to describe and rate various powersharing arrangements and electoral systems.

14

engels 07.12.05 at 6:11 am

Can’t we have a rule that accusations of the BBC being “biased” will only be taken seriously if they come from people who have a hope in hell of making the claim that they themselves have some minimal standard of objectivity?

15

johnhayter 07.12.05 at 6:21 am

Mr East, you clearly believe unlike most lexicographers that “terrorist” has only one meaning and that it is correctly defined by the Britannica: “the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.”

Answer me this. Air Marshall Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command in WWII, who destroyed the strategically unimportant city of Dresden. Terrorist?

16

engels 07.12.05 at 6:23 am

John East. Given the general level of your post, I’d be interested to know which of Melanie Phillips’ opinions you do in fact disagree with. I’d hazard a guess you don’t know very much about any of the following things: the BBC, “moral relativism”, the historical events which fall under your definition.

17

Ray 07.12.05 at 6:24 am

“the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.”

So “shock and awe” counts as terrorism? Fallujah counts as terrorism? Hiroshima and Nagasaki count as terrorism? You see the problem.

18

bi 07.12.05 at 6:27 am

John East: but in order to have a common language, isn’t it imperative that people at both ends of a communication must have the same understandings of the same words? No matter what Britannica online may say, the fact is that people have their own private definitions of “terrorist”, and if you include the word “terrorist” in a report you can’t be assured that people won’t get the wrong idea: in that case, how can you say we have a “common language”? At least if someone writes “peacetime bomb attacks”, there’s a more common understanding of what “peacetime” is, what “bomb” is, and what “attacks” are.

This is not political correctness. My understanding of “politically correct” is that it takes an accurate, precise, but derogatory term and replaces it with a less derogatory (but maybe less accurate and precise) term. E.g. replacing “blind” with “visually challenged”, even though “blind” can only mean one thing in this context. This isn’t the same as taking an imprecise term and replaces it with a more precise term.

Then again, perhaps my understanding of “political correctness” differs markedly from yours, so we’re in fact speaking different languages. Alas many people are starting to use “PC” as a catch-all term for everything they dislike…

19

bi 07.12.05 at 6:28 am

Ray: actually I’d classify Hiroshima as terrorism.

20

Ray 07.12.05 at 6:33 am

I think the people who are unhappy that the BBC isn’t using the word ‘terrorist’ would be slightly more unhappy if the BBC were to start describing the US as a ‘terrorist state’. I could be wrong. Maybe they’d all dig out their copies of Britannica and say, “Hmm, well, I guess it _does_ kind of fit”. (who knows, they might even flip forward a few pages and read the definition of ‘torture’ too.)

21

Jimmy Doyle 07.12.05 at 6:36 am

Well, I don’t see the problem. Chris said,”If terrorism means anything, it means the deliberate use of violence against non-combatants to pursue political ends. That is something governments also do.” I agree. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were particularly extreme forms of terrorism. What is “problematic” about describing them that way? Fallujah I don’t know enough about, and I doubt many other people do either. Much of the allied bombing campaign was as clear a case of terrorism as one could hope for. (Did anyone else feel slightly sick at the report that a *Lancaster* dropped a million poppies at the recent WW2 commemoration? It was a bit like using a machete to cut the ribbon at the ‘New Directions for Rwanda’ pageant.)

22

soru 07.12.05 at 6:44 am


No, they wouldn’t.

Fair point, there is no obligation on them to be logical or consistent, they are free to call the terrorist bombs in London whatever they choose.

It would be better to say there is no consistent argument to be made against the use of the definition of terrorism as _non-military_ violence against civilians that wouldn’t also apply to many other commonly-used words they do use.

One man’s policeman is another man’s fascist thug.

soru

23

Jon H 07.12.05 at 6:47 am

Sebastian, what, exactly, is the problem with the BBC highlighting the ravings of an Iranian state newspaper?

They provide samples of a number of regional media outlets. The Iranian rant is placed in contrast next to more reasonable statements.

Should they have chosen a passage from the Iranian paper which was not so over the top?

I suspect that, if the BBC had not included that bit, they would be slammed for whitewashing the Iranians by concealing the Iranian anti-Semitism.

Do you really want to be informed? Or do you want the unpleasantness hidden from view? Or do you want the BBC to add redundant editorial commentary saying what we already know, that it’s a nasty, irrational, anti-Semitic rant.

It’s really a pretty stupid criticism.

24

bi 07.12.05 at 6:57 am

soru: that just shifts the question to how “non-military” should be defined. No go.

25

y81 07.12.05 at 7:53 am

I don’t see why different definitions of the word “terrorism” are a reason for not using the word. People have different definitions of words like “war crime,” “torture” and “abuse,” too. Was Bomber Harris a “war criminal”? What about Harry Truman? Is the wearing of short skirts by prison guards “abuse” or “torture”? How about wrapping someone in the Israeli flag? The fact that people disagree on these questions doesn’t stop the BBC, or anyone else, from using those words.

26

Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 7:59 am

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were particularly extreme forms of terrorism. What is “problematic” about describing them that way?

Some very reasonable people (Katherine for example) don’t feel it it is appropriate to use the word in that way. But the essence of the problem is that some words, such as terrorism and fascism, have become useless for purposes of conveying information, which is what news bulletins are supposed to do. At this stage all they do is stir up emotions.

27

Jimmy Doyle 07.12.05 at 8:00 am

y81:

“Was Bomber Harris a “war criminal”?”

Yes.

“What about Harry Truman?”

Yes.

There has been no charge for this enlightenment service.

28

Anthony 07.12.05 at 8:02 am

Personally, I like this definition:

“Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought” (Schmid, 1988).

Which covers last Thursday.

The BBC are totally out of order on this, as witnessed by the fact their style guide was ignored by most of their reporters after the attacks, and is still ignored by some. They, at least, know what it is when they see, which is more than can be said for some of the people in this thread.

29

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 8:09 am

The explanation for the BBC’s position is pretty obvious, I should have thought, though defending it wasn’t part of my original post. Various states, and particularly Israel recently (e.g. during the Lebanon war), have sought to stigmatize any irregular armed resistance against them as “terrorist”, whether or not there is evidence in the particular instance of deliberate targeting of civilians. The purpose of this extension of the term is to delegitimize any resistance movements and to legitimize any action against them by said states. Rather than become a party to such rhetorical strategies (which start to evacuate the terms they use of meaning), news organizations decided to refrain from using the term as a neutral descriptor and instead to enumerate the details of what individuals or groups had done. That rather leaves it up to the viewer/listener/reader to decide whether the word “terrorist” applies in a particular case.

30

soru 07.12.05 at 8:16 am

_that just shifts the question to how “non-military” should be defined._

Well, obviously, the rabbit-hole goes as deep as you want to dig it.

The BBC is happy to use the word ‘military’ in other circumstances. In fact, I think they are even prepared to go out on a limb and refer to the Nazis as fascists.

soru

31

abb1 07.12.05 at 8:16 am

Fair enough, Hiroshima and Dresden happened during a war, that’s a good excuse.

“Cuba has probably been the target of more international terrorism than the rest of the world combined and, therefore, in the American ideological system it is regarded as the source of international terrorism, exactly as Orwell would have predicted.” — Noam Chomsky

32

John East 07.12.05 at 8:22 am

John Hayter,
I most certainly believe that words must have an agreed meaning if they are to be hurled backwards and forwards in a debate. The alternative is chaos.
Your question concerning Bomber Harris is an excellent example whereby one side of an argument might claim that he was a hero, and the other side would respond by calling him a terrorist. What often happens next is that an increasingly heated argument ensues over whether Bomber Harris was or wasn’t a hero or a terrorist. And yet, both protagonists in the argument are almost certainly in full agreement that he was responsible for the destruction of Dresden. The whole debate has degenerated into a rather childish argument over what the word “terrorist” means.
I’m simply arguing that such sterile debates, where nouns degenerate into terms of abuse would not occur if definitions were agreed. OK, I’ll happily concede that the world is not all black and white, language evolves, and that some nouns can legitimately be used in different circumstances. However, the BBC has demonstrated a PC agenda that goes far beyond legitimacy.

Engals,
I’d hazard a guess that your comment, “I’d hazard a guess you don’t know very much about any of the following things: the BBC, “moral relativism”, the historical events which fall under your definition.”, is pretty specious, unless of course you have the ability to read my mind.

Bi,
You may be correct, but the logic of what you say is that we should each have our own personal language.

33

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 8:27 am

In fact, I think they are even prepared to go out on a limb and refer to the Nazis as fascists.

Indeed they are. But what would we think of a BBC news report that referred to any contemporary regime as “fascist” (unless self-identified as such) without scare-quotes or commentary. The Milosevic regime in Serbia, or the current government of Burma, or the goverment of Zimbabwe, or Sheikh Al-Qaradawi?

34

Anthony 07.12.05 at 8:52 am

Probably the same way I’d feel about you calling the attackers on on the World Trade Centre Islamo-fascists, which you did (i.e. it wouldn’t bother me at all).

What is laughable is that despite trying to avoid calling the attackers terrorists, the BBC have yet to find a replacement word for terrorism. So they have tlakshows about how we will tackle “terrorism”, despite the fact that they find terrorist a loaded term full of “value”.

35

soru 07.12.05 at 8:52 am

_a BBC news report that referred to any contemporary regime as “fascist”_

That would be bad, even though I would agree with Paxton that Milosovic’s regime was ‘something very like fascism’.

Orwell’s essay ‘politics and the english language’ (http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/patee.html) comes to the conclusion ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous’.

Hard to imagine a phrase that did more violence to the english language than ‘peacetime bomb attack’.

soru

36

johnhayter 07.12.05 at 8:57 am

John East.

I would agree that we need to establish common ground in our definitions before we trundle them into debate. Unfortunately, language, being a shared construct, is an imprecise tool for the job. Certain words, as you allow, have a spectrum of meaning, and are emotive.

Tell me how these pairings make you feel – an honest reaction.

Bomber Harris: terrorist.
Yassir Arafat: freedom fighter.
Gerry Adams: freedom fighter.
Yitzhak Shamir: terrorist

If any of these pairings confuses or enrages you, that’s because the words “terrorist” and “freedom fighter” tell us more about the writer’s political standpoint than they do about the perpretrator’s motive.

Non-emotive terms are preferable.

37

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 8:57 am

Probably the same way I’d feel about you calling the attackers on on the World Trade Centre Islamo-fascists,

I’m not the BBC. If I were, and I were in the business of providing news reports, a rather different set of reasons would bear on me than those that actually do. Personally, I’m very happy to call Milosevic a fascist, etc etc – that’s not the point Anthony.

38

Matt 07.12.05 at 9:49 am

In general I roughly agree w/ the BBC policy. I don’t know that it’s perfect but I think it’s reasonable. Where I do think they are open to legitimate criticism is that it seems for some time on the 7th they were using the “T-word” quite regularly- “Man on bus may have seen terrorist”, “terrorist bombs in underground”, etc. It didn’t take them long to switich back and clean things up, and you can understand how in the excitment this might happen, but it’s also easy to see how this would (rightly) annoy the hell out of those who don’t like the policy and seem hypocritcal. They have gone back, it seems, to the old policy and didn’t deviate from it for long. I hope they’ll stick with it.

39

bi 07.12.05 at 9:58 am

John East: not “should”. Each of us _already_ has a personal language; it’s just that some parts of our personal languages happen to be the same. You’ll agree that there’s a difference between “is” and “should”, and right now it’s a case of “is”.

40

soru 07.12.05 at 10:05 am


Non-emotive terms are preferable.

How long do you think a term attached to people trying to kill you, me and the BBC reporter will remain non-emotive?

soru

41

John East 07.12.05 at 10:07 am

John Hayter,
Your list of pairings such as Gerry Adams: freedom fighter and Bomber Harris: terrorist did cause me some concern, not because my political standpoint was offended, but because I would try to avoid the use of a phrase like “freedom fighter”. This is consistent with my pleas above that “terrorist” should be used as a noun, and not as a fluidly defined term of abuse. “Freedom fighter” beggars the question, “Freedom from what?”, and requires a value judgement or a mutual understanding of the context.
Would it not be better to say something like, “Bomber Harris the Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command whose actions should be condemned”, or “Bomber Harris the Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command whose actions should be commended.” Hey presto, we could then stop arguing about semantics and begin to address the real argument for or against what Bomber Harris actually did.

42

engels 07.12.05 at 10:11 am

Soru – Murderer, assassin and killer have stood the test of time. Next, please.

43

Anthony 07.12.05 at 10:12 am

Chris,

You talk as though not using the term terrorist is a neutral position. How can it be?

There are very few people who would not characterise last Thursday’s bombings as acts of terror. Acts of terror are carried out by terrorists.

Although the “freedom fighter” or “terrorist” argument may stand in relation to more ambigious groups, particularly in 1980s Cold War politics, there is no sizable section in the UK population, or I would argue worldwide, who would consider last week’s bombers to be freedom fighters and therefore it is hard to see how the word terrorist can either offensive or ambigious.

You’ll not be surprised to learn I’m with Norman Geras on this one.

44

adrian 07.12.05 at 10:14 am

I remember in the afermath of the Mogadishu hijacking, a spokesman for one or other organisation claiming responsibility agreed to be interviewed for television. Somehwere in the interview came this exchange (I quote from memory)

“Does it bother you that murder is committed in the name of your cause”

” it depends on your definition of murder…”

“Murder is a dead Lufthansa pilot on the tarmac of Mogadishu airpot”

The interviewee was rendered speechless

If you want to know what terrorism is, it’s 50 dead bodies in the burnt out London Underground carriage 150ft below ground on the Picadilly line.

45

bi 07.12.05 at 10:16 am

Anthony: It’s not a neutral position? If you don’t use the word “terrorist”, suddenly you’re a fan of Osama bin Laden? Oh please.

46

Ray 07.12.05 at 10:21 am

John East – how can you agree that using the term ‘terrorist’ leads to a sterile debate about the meaning of the word, but condemn the BBC for avoiding the term?
Does anyone think that ‘bombers who killed 70 people’ is a more sympathetic description than ‘terrorist’?

47

Anthony 07.12.05 at 10:22 am

Anthony: It’s not a neutral position? If you don’t use the word “terrorist”, suddenly you’re a fan of Osama bin Laden?

It would help your argument if you did not invent a position I did not articulate. While you may enjoy making strawmen, I do not waste time playing with them.

48

Anthony 07.12.05 at 10:22 am

test

49

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 10:24 am

I don’t think that either “terrorist” or “fascist” are neutral terms and there is no question that those who planted the bombs in London are terrorists. But you and the person whose website you are “with” are being extremely disingenous in your statements of outrage at the BBC since you fail to address the fact that the term has been systematically debased by states and their spokespersons who have promiscuously broadened its usage in an effort to delegitimize their opponents (see my comment #29 above). News organizations are rightly wary of attempts to co-opt them into such rhetorical strategies.

50

abb1 07.12.05 at 10:27 am

I agree that it would be better to use the word ‘terrorist’ in a factual moral-judgement-free manner. Here’s is a terrorist, that guy is a B52 pilot, that other guy is, say, a torturer at Gitmo and there you see the secretary of ‘defense’. Just another career choice, that’s all.

51

Jon H 07.12.05 at 10:29 am

So, when the vile Uzbek regime said the protesters were terrorists, and as such could be mowed down in the streets, should the BBC have used “terrorist”?

52

John East 07.12.05 at 10:31 am

Ray,
You said, “how can you agree that using the term ‘terrorist’ leads to a sterile debate about the meaning of the word…”
I didn’t say that using the term ‘terrorist’ leads to a sterile debate. I said that terrorist should be used where appropriate i.e. to describe last Thursday’s terrorists.

53

Katherine 07.12.05 at 10:31 am

“Well we’re in trouble right away then Katherine. If terrorism means anything, it means the deliberate use of violence against non-combatants to pursue political ends. That is something governments also do. I can see, though, why many of those who are keen to push for news organizations to employ this language are also keen to promote a state-exempting definition.”

No. That is false. Terms are descriptive as well as carrying moral baggage. “Terrorism” has a meaning, it is a useful term. Insisting it must apply equally to governmental groups, although that is not what the traditional definition has been, is the leftish equivalent of Fox’s insistence on calling them “homicide bombers” instead of “suicide bombers.” There are other words that we have when governments target civilians. Massacres. War crimes. Atrocities. Genocide, in some cases.

It’s both descriptive and condemnatory, but lots of terms are both descriptive and condemnatory.

I mean, how would you feel if the NY Times refused to use the word “torture” because “one man’s torture is another’s coercive interrogation”, or what not?

I don’t have a huge wish that terrorism be defined to exclude governments. But, I think that while targetting civilians is one part of its definition, there are other parts too.

54

Katherine 07.12.05 at 10:34 am

“nonmilitary” probably makes more sense than “non-state”.

55

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.05 at 10:40 am

“soru: that just shifts the question to how “non-military” should be defined. No go.”

Such a deeply stupid response that only an intellectual could buy. If you are going to play that game the question just shifts to how any words that you put between the quotes should be defined.

This is a classic definitional problem. The fuzziness of definitional borders most certainly does not render words like “terrorist” empty of useful reporting value nor does it void the utility of exploring the definitional borders. If a news organization doesn’t want to get caught up in emotional value disputes on the borderline cases (does the PLO engage in insurgency or terrorism) fine, but to ban the words in the clear cases foolish. Only moral idiots can’t understand that intentionally blowing up a subway for people going to work in London by a small non-state group is terrorism. If you don’t want to get into a big discussion of whether or not wartime air-bombing counts as terrorism, fine, but to fail to call the clear cases terrorism is a value-laden judgement that the BBC does not bother to be so careful about when pushing other ideological agendas.

The fact that there is disagreement on the close definitional questions doesn’t excuse you on the clear cases. That is why the popularized versions of post-modernist analysis end up like such crap. It is a perfectly legitimate crticism to note that people use words slightly differently or have different views of the delineating borders. It is awful analysis to use that to conclude that clear cases don’t exist or that there is no clear understanding by a huge majority of people that certain things really are “terrorist”. The BBC goes too far in the crap-analysis side of things–though not as far as some on this board.

56

engels 07.12.05 at 10:42 am

Such a deeply stupid response that only an intellectual could buy.

Ignorance is strength, eh Sebastian?

57

Ray 07.12.05 at 10:44 am

John, even if we all agree that last Thursday’s bombers can be described as ‘terrorists’ (which I think is accurate), the problem the BBC has is that there are plenty of actors that some people think should be described as terrorists, and others think should be described as something else – states, freedom fighters, whatever. Using the word ‘terrorist’ only when all agree that it is appropriate would place the BBC, unwillingly, on a particular side of those debates. (And using the word when some don’t agree that it is appropriate would lead to those sterile debates)
Why is it so important to you that the BBC uses that word and not another?

58

Katherine 07.12.05 at 10:44 am

“the term has been systematically debased by states and their spokespersons who have promiscuously broadened its usage in an effort to delegitimize their opponents (see my comment #29 above). News organizations are rightly wary of attempts to co-opt them into such rhetorical strategies.”

Just one last thing: that is PRECISELY why it’s important for news organizations to find a specific definition and stick to it.

Again, would people here support abandonment of the words “torture” and “genocide”? Of course not. You simply pick a satisfactory definition–and I agree that targetting civilians must be part of it–and you use it.

The Kagame government has used the word “genocide” in a similar way to the way many governments use the word “terrorist.” All sorts of civil society groups have been broken up and accused of promoting a “genocidal mentality.”

Should the press stop using the word? Should they have stopped using the word “Communist” during the Cold War?

59

Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 10:48 am

“Terrorism” has a meaning, it is a useful term. Insisting it must apply equally to governmental groups, although that is not what the traditional definition has been, is the leftish equivalent of Fox’s insistence on calling them “homicide bombers” instead of “suicide bombers.”

If we are concerned with traditional definitions, there is a much longer tradition of using the term to describe the use of terror by those in power to intimidate their opponents. AFAIK the term “terrorist” was coined to describe those who organised the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France.

60

Anthony 07.12.05 at 10:48 am

Chris,

In that case those “co=options” should be fought on their own terms, it does not mean that the term should never be used.

In fact, a later commentator makes the point by talking about the Uzbek regime’s attempt to co-opt the word terrorist. The BBC were rightly on to this from the start and did become a mouthpiece for the Uzbek regime. That does not mean that they should avoid using the term when warranted.

If Blair is using the term correctly, then the BBC is not being used by using the same terminology, but is describing a reality – unless of course you hold the position that the attacks last Thursday were objectively not terrorism.

Would you argue that because some right-wing Serbs use the term “ethnic cleansing”, that the events at Srebrenica should be described in some other less “politically loaded” way?

61

Anthony 07.12.05 at 10:50 am

Sorry:

did become a mouthpiece for the Uzbek regime.

should read:

did not become a mouthpiece for the Uzbek regime.

62

soru 07.12.05 at 10:52 am

_should the BBC have used “terrorist”?_

Obviously not, it should not use the word in cases where it doesn’t apply.

As it is, it can be hard to tell from BBC reports whether they genuinely don’t know what’s going on, or simply are being deliberately euphemistic.

soru

63

roger 07.12.05 at 11:01 am

Interestingly, Allawi spent a little time in the nineties trying to plant bombs on buses and such in Baghdad. So should the headlines about Allawi’s appointment as head of Iraq last year bee: U.S. SUPPORTS TERRORIST FOR IRAQI POST? And should he have been reported as a terrorist in headlines like: SENATE APPLAUDS CHIEF IRAQI TERRORIST?

Admitttedly, headlines like that could themselves be construed as terrorist acts, as they would operate to increase mortally the blood pressure of the hammier belligerants (Phillips, Hitchens, the Washington Post editorial board, etc.).

64

John East 07.12.05 at 11:01 am

Ray,

The waves of relativism, and definition stretching flowing in this thread are beginning to make me feel giddy.

Language need not be this complicated, and whilst it does evolve slowly, at any given time words are defined in the current editions of dictionaries.

Maybe the BBC simply needs to buy a dictionary.

65

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.05 at 11:07 am

“Such a deeply stupid response that only an intellectual could buy.

Ignorance is strength, eh Sebastian?”

It takes an intellectual to weave such complicated lies to himself that he can get trapped in them. Some have even accused me of that. Non-intellectuals seem to be taken in by other types of lies. The statement is not inherently self-contradictory.

66

Ray 07.12.05 at 11:14 am

Take another term – liberal. It has some specific meanings*, but in the US it seems to have become a political swearword, basically. In this context, would it be right for a US version of the BBC to ignore the popular usage of the word ‘liberal’, and keep using the term as it is defined in the dictionary? Or would it be better to acknowledge that the term is itself a political battleground, and use words with meanings that are not being fought over? The answer seems clear to me.

If the word ‘terrorist’ has become problematic, it is not because of the BBC. Its because of those who would use it as a synonym for ‘evil-doer’. While you could argue that defending the language is part of the BBC’s job, surely their main task is to report the news, and in this they should use words whose meanings are clear to all.

And anyway, as I said above, why is ‘bomber’ more sympathetic than ‘terrorist’?

* which are just as contradictory as the definitions of terrorist we’ve seen on this thread

67

Jon H 07.12.05 at 11:18 am

soru writes: “As it is, it can be hard to tell from BBC reports whether they genuinely don’t know what’s going on, or simply are being deliberately euphemistic.”

Maybe it’s simply because their reporters regularly have to deal with people on both sides of various conflicts.

I mean, it’s easy for Andrew Sullivan to sit in P-town and declare things to be terrorism. But he’s not a reporter in Kashmir talking to people who he described as terrorists last week. Or people who supported said act of terrorism and thought it justified. That’s a good way to get killed, or at least fail to get the story.

I submit that the BBC maybe can’t afford to get tunnel vision focused on Al Qaeda, like American pundits and networks that purport to do international news.

68

abb1 07.12.05 at 11:27 am

There are other words that we have when governments target civilians. Massacres. War crimes. Atrocities. Genocide, in some cases.

The problem is that these terms are never used to describe actions of the government under which the media operate. For example, much admired by the US media Sen. McCain had become a hero by bombing another capital, trying to convince people there that the socio-econmic system they chose is not a good one. While his motivation were probably somewhat less rational than those of the London bombers, the method is the same – commiting crimes against humanity, atrocities for political ends. Nevertheless – the London bombers are terrorists and Sen McCain is a hero. What gives? Who in the media calls his actions ‘crimes’ or ‘war crimes’? Nobody.

69

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 11:32 am

Katherine, sorry, but you are just plain wrong that the “traditional definition” has excluded state actors. Some people have tried to frame definitions that exclude states, but that has never been universally accepted and the first “terrorists” were the Jacobins who were governing France at the time. See the “Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism .

70

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 11:37 am

Anthony, how ridiculous that you should use a grubby little euphemism like “ethnic cleansing” of very recent coinage as your example. I’d much rather that the BBC spoke of the forced displacement of populations by intimidation and murder than used terms like that.

It would also help in future debates if you would pay attention to what other people say. So, for example, you write in #60 reponding to my #49 above :

unless of course you hold the position that the attacks last Thursday were objectively not terrorism.

This, even though I had stated in #49:

there is no question that those who planted the bombs in London are terrorists.

71

Matt 07.12.05 at 11:38 am

Katherine,
It’s worth noting, I think, that one official defition of “terrorist organization” and “terrorist activity”, that found in the INA (INA section 212(a)(3)(B)(iii))has no mention that the activity must be non-military or non-state. Assasination, for example, falls under the rules, but assasinations are often military opperations. Such an action would fall pretty clearly under the definition of terrorism in the INA even if one were part of a military team on an officail mission. You’re probably right about the paradigm case of terrorism, but that’s certainly not part of the definition of the term, nor the way it’s used in the laws.

72

Uncle Kvetch 07.12.05 at 11:39 am

Interestingly, Allawi spent a little time in the nineties trying to plant bombs on buses and such in Baghdad. So should the headlines about Allawi’s appointment as head of Iraq last year bee: U.S. SUPPORTS TERRORIST FOR IRAQI POST? And should he have been reported as a terrorist in headlines like: SENATE APPLAUDS CHIEF IRAQI TERRORIST?

Yes, and similarly, thinking back to the 80s, I don’t recall the contras in Nicaragua or the mujaheddin in Afghanistan ever being referred to as “terrorists” by the mainstream US media, although they certainly fit any “reasonable” definition of the word.

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soru 07.12.05 at 11:41 am

_ That’s a good way to get killed, or at least fail to get the story._

If they are operating under those kind of constraints, surely they should have a presenter give a disclaimer before the piece-to-camera?

soru

74

Katherine 07.12.05 at 11:50 am

the INA’s definition is overbroad in more ways than one. I am not wedded to non-state, I am not even wedded to non-military–the one part of the definition I am wedded to is the purposeful targetting and murder of civilians. I do think that it’s stupid to say that a definition with a connotation of immorality has to cover all equally immoral activities. Words can be descriptive and condemnatory at the same time. All I am saying is: come up with a definition you can live with, use the word “terrorism” when the definition is met, don’t use it when you’re not sure it is met, and let that be the end of it. But it makes as much sense to abandon the word terrorist in describing the London bombings because it is overemotional, as it does to abandon the word genocide in reporting on Darfur or the word torture in reporting on Abu Ghraib or the word massacre in reporting on Sbrenica or the word fascist in reporting on Italy, Germany and Spain in the 1930s because they are overemotional. Some words are emotional because of the things they describe–which is why the people having hissy fits when the BBC uses “bombers” instead of “terrorists” are also being stupid, the things they do speaks for themselves. But in a less detailed description, we need to use shorthand, and it is generally best to speak in specifics rather than generalities when the specifics are accurate.

75

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.05 at 12:00 pm

I have to wholeheartedly agree with Katherine (which I will admit doesn’t happen enough). Just because there are definitional issues on the hard cases doesn’t get you off the hook on the easy cases. If you can’t report shocking someone’s genitals as torture, if you can’t report Dafur as genocide and you can’t report bombing the tube in London as terrorism you aren’t being a good reporter. And that holds true even though there are questions about exactly where the line between torture and rough treatment might be found, despite the fact that the Bush administration sometimes tries to call torture “interrogation”, despite the fact that no-one commiting genocide calls it that, the fact that the EU didn’t want to call the killings in Dafur genocide, and despite the fact that some people would prefer not to call the PLO a terrorist organization. None of those disagreements excuse you in the clear cases of torture, genocide, and terrorist activity.

76

Anthony 07.12.05 at 12:01 pm

Sorry Chris, thanks for pointing that out, so tell me again why you think the BBC shouldn’t call terrorists, terrorists – given that you think it is terrorism so clearly.

77

Jimmy Doyle 07.12.05 at 12:02 pm

Chris, I’d still be interested in what you have to say to Katherine’s #58. If the Israelis and others have used the word “terrorist” to stigmatise people who aren’t in fact terrorists, how on earth does that supply a reason for the BBC to stop using the word, as opposed to being careful about *how* they use it? I don’t see how that even *looks* like a reason. It certainly doesn’t show that there can’t still be a perfectly clear definition (as clear as most of the terms that get used in these contexts) that could be stuck to consistently.

78

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 12:07 pm

If you can’t report shocking someone’s genitals as torture, if you can’t report Dafur as genocide and you can’t report bombing the tube in London as terrorism you aren’t being a good reporter.

I take it by “can’t” you mean “don’t” Sebastian.

A reporter who writes that someone’s genitals were shocked to extract information is telling me that the person was tortured. You may need them to tell you that shocking a person’s genitals is, also, by the way, an act of torture. I, however, am quite capable of drawing that conclusion for myself.

79

abb1 07.12.05 at 12:12 pm

Jimmy, you can say: “the US military bombed Fallujah” and “such and such bombed the London tube”. Or you can say: “Terrorist US government bombed Fallujah” and “Islamic terrorists bombed the London tube”. Which one do you prefer?

80

Eve Garrard 07.12.05 at 12:13 pm

The original claim seems to be that Israel debased the term ‘terrorist’, so the BBC, in order to retain its intellectual purity, can’t and shouldn’t use it any longer.

But some people have called playing loud music ‘torture’, so out that goes, and others have called making rude remarks ‘racism'(now there’s a term that gets terribly misused), so the Beeb had better give up
on that; and then we’ll have to dump sexual harassment and ethnic cleansing and genocide and holocaust and war and peace (since all these terms have been misused quite frequently, often for nefarious political purposes) and democracy itself had better go (remember what the USSR used to call democracy?), not to mention insulting and provoking (some people feel insulted and provoked so easily it’s ridiculous), and more broadly refuting and proving (people so often claim to have refuted something when all they’ve done is deny it) and argument itself (the things some people call
‘arguments’, I wouldn’t wash the dishes with them!)

Or maybe we should accept the fact that terms do get misused, and just keep using them precisely, in order to counteract this.

81

soru 07.12.05 at 12:15 pm

_I take it by “can’t” you mean “don’t” Sebastian._

It would seem to mean “can’t”, as the original reporters wrote it the other way and had their words changed.

soru

82

Chris Bertram 07.12.05 at 12:17 pm

Damn, Jimmy, you know I’m off out to see the Bottle Rockets and you ask me a question that demands a longish answer … Here’s a short one instead:

The BBC can say all it needs to say by spelling out the unvarnished facts (see my reply to Sebastian #78). Since it can do so, there is not need to have a specially nuanced policy on the correct use of “terrorist” just to appease the people for whom use of that word has immense symbolic significance. The BBC is a vast bureaucratic organization and, obviously, it is important that its many reporters observe a consistent policy. The simplest consistent policy, and one that can be observed with no loss of moral content, is not to use the word.

83

Katherine 07.12.05 at 12:22 pm

as I said, as an immediate description “shocking someone’s genitals” or “blowing up a subway full of people on their way to work” is, actually, preferable–more specific is more informative than more general. But there are followup stories, and in those you need to use shorthand. “Terrorist” is a useful term that is more specific and more descriptive than many of the terms that the BBC uses instead.

I don’t spend much time worrying about this, normally. I am as annoyed as you by everyone who gets into a huff because the BBC or Reuters said “attack” or “bombing” instead of “act of terrorism”–there are better things to do. But the BBC has better things to do than edit this word out of their stories, and when people use scare quotes around terrorism–not the BBC, I’ve encountered this most in academic writing–it drives me batty. I think the BBC’s concerns are needless, and I am very prickly indeed about journalists who think that calling things what they are is biased. (this manifests itself in other, far more destructive forms in the United States.)

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Anthony 07.12.05 at 12:24 pm

Priceless.

You think the BBC should not use an appropriate word to avoid appeasing a certain section of people.

Which people are you concerned about?

And who are they appeasing by not using it?

85

Andrew Brown 07.12.05 at 12:32 pm

One point in defence of the BBC’s policy in this particular instance, which no one seems to have made: “Terrorist” is a word which makes poeple frightened and angry. In the circumstances of a terrorist attack, neither emotion is helpful.

86

bi 07.12.05 at 12:38 pm

Anthony: _It would help your argument if you did not invent a position I did not articulate._

Then in what sense exactly is “peacetime bomb attack” not a neutral phrase? You tell me.

Folks, here’s a fact: _”terrorist attack” conveys a whole lot less information than “peacetime bomb attack”._ Reason: a terrorist attack can be conducted in many ways: planting bombs, firing missiles, shooting people at random, etc. But when one is told that there was a bomb attack in such and such a place, one can reasonably infer that the bombing was targetted at civilians and thus it was a terrorist attack.

Which brings me to fact #2: _It’s a raw fact that there was a bomb attack. It’s an inferred fact that there was a terrorist attack._ Apparently, just mentioning the raw facts has suddenly become an act of evil liberalism! Oh my.

In conclusion, *those who are truly PC are precisely those who insist on the word “terrorist”.* They insist on replacing a precise term with a more vague term just so that it satisfies their moral senses.

87

Sebastian holsclaw 07.12.05 at 12:40 pm

“The BBC can say all it needs to say by spelling out the unvarnished facts (see my reply to Sebastian #78). Since it can do so, there is not need to have a specially nuanced policy on the correct use of “terrorist” just to appease the people for whom use of that word has immense symbolic significance.”

The value laden choice to excise the perfectly useful word terrorist is a political choice reflected in the fact that the BBC is perfectly happy to use all sorts of value-laden words with disputed meanings in other venues. Their choice not to do so in this very limited subset of cases instead of having a precise definition of a charged word and their seeming interest in excising it even after it has been PROPERLY used suggests that there is more going on–which of course you don’t want to look at for even a moment.

88

Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 12:40 pm

I am not wedded to non-state, I am not even wedded to non-military—the one part of the definition I am wedded to is the purposeful targeting and murder of civilians.

For the guys who write the BBC’s editorial guidelines it isn’t that simple. If they call one bomber a terrorist and another an insurgent, they have to be able to justify that, just as if they call Jean-Marie LePen a fascist and Ayatollah Khameini a theocrat. The line between civilians and “legitimate targets” is blurred, as is the line between authoritarianism and fascism. The sensible way to handle this is to use reasonably clear terms: “we report, you decide.” That, ironically enough, is the BBC’s practice.

Does anyone seriously think that, if the BBC referred to last week’s bombing as terrorism while continuing to refer to those who target Iraqi policemen or members of the IDF as insurgents or militants, Andrew Sullivan, Norm Geras and Melanie Phillips would be happy? The campaign would continue until the BBC became indistinguishable from Fox News.

89

bi 07.12.05 at 12:46 pm

Sebastian Holsclaw: let me repeat what I said.

90

Anthony 07.12.05 at 12:49 pm

Does anyone seriously think that, if the BBC referred to last week’s bombing as terrorism while continuing to refer to those who target Iraqi policemen or members of the IDF as insurgents or militants, Andrew Sullivan, Norm Geras and Melanie Phillips would be happy?

The former also target civilian Iraqis indiscriminately, and the latter blow the legs and arms off customers in Israelis restaurants.

Would you shudder at them being called terrorists in those circumstances?

91

bi 07.12.05 at 12:53 pm

Anthony, you’re a language fascist. Yes, that’s an accurate term.

92

bi 07.12.05 at 12:54 pm

Anthony: by the way, answer my question.

93

nick 07.12.05 at 1:04 pm

Melanie Phillips’ blog is a good example of how certain columnists really do depend upon their subeditors. As the friend of a former Daily Mail subeditor, I already knew this quite well…

94

Anthony 07.12.05 at 1:04 pm

bi, I don’t argue with people who clearly can’t argue. It’s not fair on them.

But let’s be clear here, I’m not the one suggesting a word should not be used. You are.

95

engels 07.12.05 at 1:05 pm

Maybe either Sebastian or Katherine could go throught this, say, and point out where exactly they believe the article might be made more accurate, if they were allowed to carry out the political correctness policing which they favour.

96

Katherine 07.12.05 at 1:10 pm

Oh for fuck’s sake. The article is fine as it is. I am not the one suggesting a ban on the use of certain terms, nor am I suggesting that anyone who declines to use them is an appeaser, nor I am going through reporters columns and nitpicking their language. I am saying, the BBC’s official decision to never, ever, ever use the word “terrorist” without attribution is unnecessary and misguided.

97

Anthony 07.12.05 at 1:16 pm

It says “Anti-Terrorist officers”.

I assume that should be changed to anti-bomber officers, lest the BBC be seen to be supporting the government’s position by using their terminology.

98

abb1 07.12.05 at 1:18 pm

I would also add that at least some of the ‘usual suspects’ insist on always using the word ‘terrorists’ when describing what ‘they’ do to ‘us’ for one purpose only: to add legitimacy to the so called “War On Terror”. Ministry of Truth kinda stuff.

99

engels 07.12.05 at 1:23 pm

Anthony – You’re just wrong there. That’s not what the policy requires.

100

bi 07.12.05 at 1:26 pm

Anthony: You agree that saying “peacetime bomb attacks” is just reporting the raw facts, no? Yet you say that using such a phrase is not being neutral. So are you not saying that reporting the raw facts is not neutral? That the only way to report something neutrally is to include words which _you_ feel should be included? Tell me why that’s not language fascism.

And when oh when will you answer my earlier question? I am waiting…

101

Anthony 07.12.05 at 1:35 pm

This is utterly pointless, you have a fixed position, and further debate has no purpose.

If you wish bi, you can chalk this up as a victory over a fascist. That’ll make you happy.

Have a good night.

Engels,

It was a joke strawman, similar in nature to some of those offered to me as “arguments”.

Night.

102

bi 07.12.05 at 1:42 pm

Anthony: _This is utterly pointless, you have a fixed position, and further debate has no purpose. If you wish bi, you can chalk this up as a victory over a fascist._

Oh, sure I will. :-\ Maybe one day when you feel like it, you can actually answer my earlier question…

Now let’s hunt for the next source of Liberal™ Media™ Bias™. Happy hunting!

103

Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 1:46 pm

The former also target civilian Iraqis indiscriminately, and the latter blow the legs and arms off customers in Israelis restaurants.

Which highlights the problem with Katherine’s proposal. In an arena where some acts qualify as terrorism on her definition and some do not, the reports would refer to terrorists in one case and militants in another. A further complication is that some militant groups use terror, some don’t; the reporter doesn’t always know which group is responsible for the latest killing, or even whether all the victims were civilians. To me it seems clear that Katherine’s approach is unworkable. In every case where the word might have been used, but wasn’t, there would be complaints.

Would you shudder at them being called terrorists in those circumstances?

Are you trying to make a point of some sort? Looking at your other comments I suspect this is just an attempt at sarcasm.

104

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.05 at 2:00 pm

“If they call one bomber a terrorist and another an insurgent, they have to be able to justify that, just as if they call Jean-Marie LePen a fascist and Ayatollah Khameini a theocrat. The line between civilians and “legitimate targets” is blurred, as is the line between authoritarianism and fascism. The sensible way to handle this is to use reasonably clear terms: “we report, you decide.” That, ironically enough, is the BBC’s practice.”

Ah, but the BBC does use ‘insurgent’ so your analysis rather dramatically breaks down. And surely you don’t think that ‘insurgent’ is the proper term for those who committed the London attacks, or do you?

Terrorist is not just a subset of insurgent the way fascist is a subset of authoritarian.

Terrorist may be less revealing than ‘bomber’ but “terrorist bombers attack London tube killing X” is at least as helpful as “bomber who targeted the London tube and successfully killed more than 50 civilians”

I note that the BBC uses the word “torture” and “genocide” both of which have as many negative connotations as “terrorist” and both having serious definitional issues on the border.

105

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.05 at 2:04 pm

I also note with amusement that Katherine is being treated as some kind of right-wing apologist here which if you look at the tagline on about 95% of these articles you would find that she rather decidedly is not.

106

engels 07.12.05 at 2:16 pm

Sebastian, if you refer to me, I didn’t assume Katherine was a “right-wing apologist”, although I did mention her in the same breath as you, because, in this case, she is defending a similar position.

107

Katherine 07.12.05 at 2:22 pm

of course there would always be complaints. I am well aware that certain people will never stop kvetching about the BBC, and I would pay a fair bit of money to get it broadcast here instead of our crap. and as I said, if you’re not sure that the definition applies in a given case, you could simply use a term that you’re certain is accurate.

108

Uncle Kvetch 07.12.05 at 2:28 pm

Sebastian, as long as you’re still around, I’m wondering how you respond to what I posted in #72. Should the US-supported Nicaraguan contras and the mujaheddin in Afghanistan have been referred to by the US media as “terrorists,” back in the day?*

If not, on what basis do you draw the distinction?

If so, isn’t this misrepresentation at least as grievous as whatever the BBC is being accused of?

*IIRC, the “neutral” media term in the 80s for both groups was “rebels”; Reagan and his acolytes, of course, preferred “freedom fighters.”

109

engels 07.12.05 at 2:46 pm

I’m rather wary of wading into this this late and probably going over ground that has already been covered but, Katherine, as far as I can see from the above, your preferred definition of “terrorism” is organised violence against civilians for political ends. Have you therefore accepted that the BBC should refer to certain actions by the armed forces and governments of the US and the UK as “terrorist” acts? If you do believe this is the most honest policy, don’t you think it would be a politically fraught course to follow?

110

Katherine 07.12.05 at 3:10 pm

As I said, I think that as the term is actually used, I think that non-military violence has become a part of it. I think the main resistance from this is from folks who think for political reasons that it’s unfair to call only non-governments terrorists, or unfair not to sometimes call Israel and the United States and other countries terrorists. I think this is an unncessary worry, because there are terms that carry equal condemnation, which do not carry the connotation of killings by an irregular, non-uniformed, non-military group. These words include “massacre”, “atrocity”, “mass killing”, or “war crime”. I am not sure those terms are any less politically fraught than terrorism. To the extent that they can be proved of U.S. and British forces, and to the extent that one must abbreviate rather than describing the specific crimes in detail, the press should not hesitate to use them.

If there is an alternative definition of terrorism that I think is accurate and sensible, which clearly applies to actions by US or UK troops, they should use it. I think there would actually be few examples of this, because:
1) I am talking about deliberately targetting civilians, not accidentally, recklessly, negligently, foreseeably, in mistaken self defense etc. I am talking about a situation where if you were given the chance not to kill this particular person because you knew he was a civilian, and you went ahead and killed him. This is not so common for the British and American military.
2) In cases where it has happened, the facts tend to be in dispute, and as I had previously stated, if it is not clear whether “terrorist” is accurate you should not use it.

111

Katherine 07.12.05 at 3:14 pm

(I do count Dresden and Hiroshima as deliberately targetting civilians btw. I’m not aware of comparable bombings in Iraq. Fallujah, you may say, but that was less clearly a civilian target, and I just don’t know enough about what’s been proven to say civilians were targetted.

Once again, people should realize: “terrorism” carries evil connotations, but it does not have to cover all possible evil behavior to be a useful term that an objective journalist could use in good conscience.)

112

Katherine 07.12.05 at 3:25 pm

BTW, for an example of failing to call a spade a spade that may be more destructive, and more likely to upset people on the opposite side of the political spectrum:

“alleged U.S. practice of “rendition,” in which terror suspects are sent to nations like Egypt and Pakistan, where torture is a regular part of interrogation.”

There is no alleged about it, there are 20+ confirmed specific cases and the administration does not even deny that either we send prisoners to those countries, or that those countries regularly use torture.

“There is no way of confirming his story, and U.S. officials have refused to comment on rendition.”

Actually, we do know that he told multiple people this, in calls recorded by the Italian police which Nasr did not know were being recorded by the Italian police. And his account matches many, many other accounts of prisoners being tortured in Egypt. And U.S. officials have, in fact, commented on rendition, though not specifically on the Nasr case. The administration’s official line is that we get assurances that prisoners won’t be tortured, but they no longer bother denying that some prisoners have been. On multiple occasions, former CIA officials–some of them anonymous, some of them not–have acknowledged that the prisoners are routinely tortured and we know it.

That’s why I think journalists should choose language with the goals of clarity, specificity, consistency and accuracy, and not with the goal of avoiding controversy and offense.

113

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.12.05 at 3:26 pm

“If not, on what basis do you draw the distinction?”

Deliberate targetting of civilians. Both cases you cite were insurgents fighting against the army, in the first case the Nicaraguan army and in the second case the Russian army. I’m not asking that all of what goes on in Iraq be labelled ‘terrorist’.

I’m asking that the obviously terrorist acts like London or 9/11 or Madrid be called ‘terrorist’. It really isn’t that tricky of a distinction. Most non-college graduates could easily grasp it. If you think some things are too close to call, fine. But not EVERYTHING is too close to call.

114

abb1 07.12.05 at 3:34 pm

Here you’re falling into this fallacy, this typical MO where no action of the ‘good guys’ can realistically be condemned since no one can ever have 100% proof that civilians were deliberatly targeted. People who bombed Falljuah will not be investigated, let alone tortured, to find out what exactly their intent was.

At the same time the bad guys are assumed to be terrorists right from the beginning. So, if a London tube bomber placed his/her explosives next to a uniformed soldier – that makes it a reckless and negligent military attack but not a terrorist act, correct? Well, I guess the BBC doesn’t know if there was a soldier on the train.

115

Uncle Kvetch 07.12.05 at 3:43 pm

Deliberate targetting of civilians.

The contras in Nicaragua most unquestionably did just that, on numerous occasions. If they were not a “terrorist organization,” they were at the very least committing acts of terrorism with the full knowledge, cooperation, and support of the US government. It’s not even remotely “too close to call.”

Edgar Chamorro, a contra PR official whose duties included bribing Honduran journalists, received praise from his CIA handlers when he lied to U.S. reporters about the goals of the contras. But he was read the riot act on those rare occasions when he let the truth slip out, either about real goals or the routine nature of contra atrocities. Sickened by the atrocities and his role as a paid deceiver, Chamorro resigned and told his story in a sworn affadavit to the World Court in 1985.

In a letter published in the Jan. 9, 1986 New York Times, he described the end results of one particular policy countenanced by the Reagan-CIA-Negroponte crowd: “During my four years as a ‘contra’ director, it was premeditated policy to terrorize civilian noncombatants to prevent them from cooperating with the [Sandinista] Government. Hundreds of civilian murders, tortures and rapes were committed in pursuit of this policy, of which the contra leaders and their CIA superiors were well aware.”

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engels 07.12.05 at 3:52 pm

Katherine – I think the problem with defining terrorism as essentially non-state is that this is completely ad hoc, from a moral point of view. It introduces a bias into the definition in favour of the status quo: the Chechyens are terrorists but the Russian Army can not be, whatever it does. The analogy, with torture, would be someone who said that it is not torture if the victim is black (or a woman, or a serf, etc). Although this concept could be applied in a formally consistent way it is morally inconsistent (and repugnant, and fundamentally illiberal).

You might say that there are other words available, but the term terrorism, I think, usually carries a stronger degree of condemnation than the alternatives.

You might claim that this usage is widespread, but, if so, it is important to remember that this situation is itself the result of political pressure. I think in academic usage the more inclusive definition is the more common.

You are right to make the point that terrorism, like torture, like many other concepts, has indeterminate boundaries and the existence of these does not mean that the concept can never be unproblematically applied. However, you can not be too cavalier with the idea of leaving the hard cases alone. Terrorism is a highly condemnatory concept and as such its use casts a quasi-judicial duty on the speaker to use it fairly. It simply isn’t good enough to only use it in the easy cases, any more than a judicial system that only convicted obvious murderers would be fair.

More importantly, these “hard cases” are frequently hard because we are unwilling to condemn our own governments and their allies, or to go against our own prejudices, even when the definition seems to fit. This makes the previous point even more important. To extend the analogy, it is like a judicial system with a marked bias to release people “like us”.

To sum up, my main points are that you can not define moral concepts in any way you choose, nor can you just capitulate to the most popular usage. You have to examine, for yourself, whether your definition really is consistent in a moral and not just a formal sense. And you have a duty to apply it in a fair and consistent way. This defintion, I think, will fail on both counts.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 3:59 pm

Sebastian,

I’m well aware Katherine isn’t a right-wing apologist. Given your stance on torture I can hardly regard you as one either. The left-right classification doesn’t make a lot of sense these days, what with people who call themselves conservatives defending spendthrift fiscal policies, dismissing IR realists as reactionaries, complaining that their opponents don’t have enough revolutionary ideas etc.

Ah, but the BBC does use ‘insurgent’ so your analysis rather dramatically breaks down.

Nothing I said was based on a premise that the BBC doesn’t refer to insurgents as insurgents. Of course it does. The BBC refrains from saying which insurgents are terrorists and which ones aren’t. As to the London attacks, like practically everyone else I consider terrorism a perfectly accurate description but I understand the reasons for avoiding the word in news bulletins. For the reasons given I think that’s a sound policy.

Katherine,

…if you’re not sure that the definition applies in a given case, you could simply use a term that you’re certain is accurate.

That wouldn’t solve the problem. It isn’t just a matter of tiresome complaints. The complaints would frequently be justified because the biases of individual reporters would inevitably affect their decisions. There are too many borderline cases. The targets could be soldiers, off-duty reservists, would-be recruits. Suppose, for example, a bomb goes off at a bus-stop; was it terrorism, or was the bomber planning to approach a soldier before setting off the bomb? There aren’t enough hours in the day to deal with the arguments that a busy newsroom would have to consider. Once you admit that state actors can be terrorists it gets even more complicated, since they don’t usually announce that they are using terror. They may say that particular segments of the population “don’t get it” and leave it up to the rest of us to figure out whether the claims about avoiding civilian casualties are sincere. The “if you’re not sure” clause introduces a bias there. You won’t be sure until the files are opened many years from now and old soldiers publish their memoirs.

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abb1 07.12.05 at 4:36 pm

You might say that there are other words available, but the term terrorism, I think, usually carries a stronger degree of condemnation than the alternatives.

I don’t know if this is true, I think the Nuremberg trials, for example, did a pretty good job in condemning state actors without any use of ‘terrorism’. The problem is that the state actors rarely go on trial, not the powerful ones anyway. And so there’s rarely an opportunity to apply all those harsh terms to them. For example, when Mr. Sharon is called ‘war criminal’, a typical response is: hey, he hasn’t been convicted of any war crimes. Sure he hasn’t, because he is a powerful guy.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 4:43 pm

Katherine / Sebastian,

With regard to your efforts to combat torture etc., I should have added, more power to you both.

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Katherine 07.12.05 at 4:50 pm

“You might say that there are other words available, but the term terrorism, I think, usually carries a stronger degree of condemnation than the alternatives.”

Than massacre?

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J Thomas 07.12.05 at 4:50 pm

I just spent more than ten minutes of my life looking at this utterly useless thread.

You guys are arguing about whether some media company ought to use particular words. You’re arguing about tiny details of the slant of the media.

Meanwhile we have a crisis. We’re approaching 2000 troops dead and many more wounded. We’re having a lot of troops that aren’t re-enlisting and not being replaced. The war effort is in danger, and there’s no evidence of any effective planning toward a successful completion.

We depend on training iraqi forces to replace the US forces that will have to leave, and how are we training them? We’re training them to use the same tactics that have worked so well for us so far?

And you guys are arguing about the choices of wording for the news.

How about this — somebody suggest to the british media and the american media and so on that they report political news using Basic English. If you can’t say it with an 800 word vocabulary then there’s probably something you’re trying not to say.

They could report the casualties in iraq as “killing by coalition forces”, “killing by iraqi government forces” and “killing by unknown persons”. Then if necessary they can speculate about the motives of the unknown persons.

Sheesh.

Putting aside the arguments about what various third parties ought to have done, what result do we want from the war?

I personally am undecided. Here is one possible scenario that I think would be in some ways nearly as good as we could get:

It becomes more and more obvious to the american public that we’re losing in iraq. But the republicans keep insisting that we’re winning. In 2006 the democrats win seats but not enough to actually win any paricular battles against the highly-regimented republican legislators. So the war continues, worsening with unchanged tactics but cosmetic improvements, for two more years. Democrats say it isn’t working and some alternative is needed repubicans say there is no alternative and insist that we’re doing well. Just before the 2008 elections various republican legislative candidates start talking about withdrawal with honor, Then the republican presidential candidate talks that way, but he’s real mealy-mouthed, he says he has a plan for victorious withdrawal but it’s a secret and it doesn’t have a timetable. Masses of registered republicans vote libertarian, to the point that in one single election the GOP becomes a third party, and voting republican rather than libertarian means you’re throwing your vote away. Remaining republicans change the name of the party to the National Religious Party.

In 2010 the libertarians get enough seats to be a serious threat to democrats and we get a real two-party system going. Meanwhile we withdraw from iraq under fire, and spend the next 50 years arguing about whose fault it was.

That doesn’t seem very good to me, but it might be the best we could do.

Here’s an alternative: In early 2007 we impeach Bush and Cheney and the next guy in line arranges a military withdrawal. We give money and military supplies and so on to the iraqi government even though they insult us and make a big show that they’re independent of us. Maybe without our soldiers there they’d get enough support to take over the country. Democrats don’t get credit for it, and republicans do pretty well at the polls in 2008. Our military comes out considerably better than they would with an extra year holding decaying positions. The economy comes out considerably better. I tend to think that’s worth more than destroying the republican party. But some days I’m not sure.

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soru 07.12.05 at 4:52 pm

_Should the US-supported Nicaraguan contras and the mujaheddin in Afghanistan have been referred to by the US media as “terrorists,” back in the day?*_

Self-evidently they should have been, when referring to news reports in which the reporter is in a postion to know civilians _were_ actually deliberately targetted by people not wearing uniforms.

Avoid the use of the right word there, and you lose the ability to distinguish between a situation where someone is accused of clear terrorist actions, but the reporter doesn’t know the truth of the situation, and one where everyone agrees on the facts, but people disagree over whether those actions were or were not terrorism.

soru

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Katherine 07.12.05 at 4:54 pm

as far as the contras i’d say: it would be appropriate use “terrorist attack” in articles about attacks on churches and otherwise targetting civilians, and not about attacks on the Nicaraguan army.

interesting that they use “terrorism” and not “terrorists”. “Terrorism” is the more necessary word, as not a whole lot is lost in the use of “bombers”, “shooters,” “kidnappers”, etc. I just hate the idea that you can’t use these words accurately because politicians use them inaccurately, or that anything that will cause anyone to criticize you is not objective and must be avoided. (Granted, they probably get more crap for not using “terrorist” than using it.)

BTW, what definition does the British Anti-Terrorism Act use?

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Kevin Donoghue 07.12.05 at 5:17 pm

BTW, what definition does the British Anti-Terrorism Act use?

IANAL and I haven’t read it, but I think for UK legal purposes a terrorist (as distinct from politically-motivated murderer, kidnapper etc.) is a member of one of the organisations on this list:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism/threat/groups/index.html

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soru 07.12.05 at 5:41 pm

http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Terrorism_Act_2000

(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

Of course, a legal clause makes a poor dictionary definition – taken in isolation, and literally, it would seem to fit, say, pro-smoking campaigners like ASH.

soru

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engels 07.12.05 at 5:47 pm

I just spent more than ten minutes of my life looking at this utterly useless thread. … You guys are arguing about whether some media company ought to use particular words. You’re arguing about tiny details of the slant of the media.

In case you hadn’t noticed, j thomas, this is in fact the topic of the thread. So rather than moaning at us all for wasting your precious time you might consider giving us a fucking break.

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engels 07.12.05 at 5:52 pm

“You might say that there are other words available, but the term terrorism, I think, usually carries a stronger degree of condemnation than the alternatives.”

Than massacre?

A massacre is an act, not an individual or a tactic. Regardless of the degree, it is often not even appropriate – you can have acts of terrorism which are not massacres, if they don’t kill large numbers of people.

I really don’t think you will get very far with this, since if the alternatives are equivalent, you won’t have anything to complain to the BBC about to begin with.

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engels 07.12.05 at 6:54 pm

abb1. I was not saying terrorism is the greatest crime there is. It’s easy to think of worse crimes (yes, think of Nuremberg). I was saying that the alternative ways of describing a particular terrorist act are likely to provide less strong condemnation than describing it as terrorism, provided it is terrorism (and nothing worse). But this is completely unimportant to my argument as it is Katherine who needs to make this claim to begin with.

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Juan Golblado 07.12.05 at 7:43 pm

What I don’t get is that the BBC bans the T word in the name of neutrality but journalistic neutrality can only be achieved through accurately reporting the news. Replacing the only word in English that means “targeting innocent people on purpose” with words that mean something else makes it impossible for a BBC report of an attack on innocent people to be accurate.

And so you come full circle: in the name of neutrality the BBC has made neutrality impossible to achieve. Whenever it reports on terrorism without using the T word it has produced a biased report.

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absolutely amazed again 07.12.05 at 9:27 pm

I remember the last time this subject came up here — Beslan.

All the usual suspects argued that it was A-ok not to use the T-word event though, yes, of course, they thought Beslan was terrorism.

Same thing again.

Yep, it was terrorism. No one’s so much as said it wasn’t.

But, yes, it makes perfect sense not to call it that. And yes it makes sense to go back and change all the stories to make it looks as if the T-word was never used.

And, yes, there’s a whole slew of people arguing that this is a very wise policy.

Absolutely boggles the mind.

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snuh 07.12.05 at 9:45 pm

“Whenever it reports on terrorism without using the T word it has produced a biased report.”

i’m having difficulty locating anything that could be called “bias” in any article to do with the london bombing on the bbc website. notwithstanding your bold claim that it is impossible to “accurately report[] the news” without using the word “terrorist”, i’ve managed to figure out that the attack involved “targeting innocent people on purpose”, notwithstanding my reliance on the bbc’s reporting.

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bi 07.13.05 at 2:21 am

absolutely amazed again: The job of a news source is to _report the raw facts and let readers make their own conclusions_. Why are you so bent on requiring news sources to infer all sorts of things for their readers? Why are news sources obliged to call the London bombings “terrorism” if a reader can easily infer this himself?

And Juan Golblado, why’s it that reporting the raw facts has suddenly become an act of Evil™ Liberal™ Media™ Bias™?

Read this again, you wankers.

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Shalom Beck 07.13.05 at 3:31 am

Shalom Beck’s theory of the BBC, developed by reading through the old four volume Collected Essays, Letters, and Journalism of the late BBC staffer George Orwell

1. The BBC is a tax-funded agency of a democratic state. Its reporting decisions should, on the whole, advance the interests of that state. This means:

A. The BBC is a political educator, providing a democratic political education.

B. The BBC advances British foreign policy by propogandizing non-Brits

2. However, as agents the BBC staff have their own interests. In particular, they have a personal interest in career advancement, which to some extent conflicts with their duties as employees of the BBC.

3. The BBC staff also have personal political views, which may conflict with the interests of the British state or with their own professional interests.

To use the word “terrorist,” today, is in the global war between Islam and the Jews to take a decision to side against those who deliberately set out to kill Jews. Motives that I would categorize under 1B, 2, and 3 make BBC staffers reluctant to use the word, therefore.

But the interesting question, I think, is whether the BBC’s role as a democratic educator is furthered or compromised by this reluctance.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.13.05 at 3:46 am

To use the word “terrorist,” today, is in the global war between Islam and the Jews to take a decision to side against those who deliberately set out to kill Jews.

– Shalom Beck, reporting from Belfast.

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Shalom Beck 07.13.05 at 3:50 am

” – Shalom Beck, reporting from Belfast.”

I know that this a devastating criticism, but I don’t understand it.

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Shalom Beck 07.13.05 at 3:51 am

” – Shalom Beck, reporting from Belfast.”

I know this is a devastating criticism of what I wrote, but I don’t understand it.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.13.05 at 4:15 am

I know that this a devastating criticism, but I don’t understand it.

If you don’t understand it, how can you know what it is? It’s not an especially subtle point. BBC editorial staff have been reporting on terrorism for many, many years, sometimes at uncomfortably close range. For the most part their experience was not gained in a “global conflict” between Muslims and Jews, but in a strictly local conflict between (mostly Catholic) Irish nationalists and (mostly Protestant) Unionists.

The fact that you refer to a “global conflict” suggests it looms large in your mind. Not everyone sees it that way. For many US soldiers it will be over when their tour of duty ends. For many Iraqis it is mostly a conflict with other Iraqis. For many millions of people in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia it hits the news bulletins now and then, scarcely affecting their lives at all.

This does not purport to be a devastating criticism of anything. I merely suggest that you consider the background to the BBC’s policy before drawing conclusions about it. You will usually arrive at better conclusions that way.

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engels 07.13.05 at 4:28 am

Shalom Beck’s theory of the BBC… The BBC is a tax-funded agency of a democratic state. Its reporting decisions should, on the whole, advance the interests of that state.

Looking forward to Shalom Beck’s equally incisive theory of Oxford University. Being a “tax-funded agency of the State’ academic motives and ethics would clearly be too much to expect when Orwell have obviously proved that its mission is to slavishly “advance the interests” of The State. And I thought I was a reductionist…

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KentResident 07.13.05 at 5:21 am

I have been reading Mel Phillips, and wonder if the wider topic of a reformation within Islam should be under consideration by moderate Muslims

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engels 07.13.05 at 5:39 am

I have been reading Mel Phillips

Please don’t give Melanie Phillips the “oxygen of publicity”.

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engels 07.13.05 at 5:43 am

BTW, as we are in favour of calling of calling a spade a spade here, could we also petition the beeb to refer to Miss Phillips as a “stark raving loon” since, on any reasonable definition, she is one?

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engels 07.13.05 at 6:16 am

Shalom, I should also add, for clarity, that while Oxford University is partially “tax-funded”, the BBC is not (it’s funded by the Licence Fee), and neither are “agencies of the state”.

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KentResident 07.13.05 at 6:29 am

whatever people’s view of Mel Phillips,let’s focus on the need for a reformation within Islam

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abb1 07.13.05 at 6:39 am

…in the global war between Islam and the Jews…

If that were the essence of this global war, it would’ve been over long time ago. Please consider a possibility that the Jews might be just stuck in the middle (and used as pawns) of a much more significant conflict.

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chris y 07.13.05 at 11:10 am

kentresident,

There have been lots of Reformations within Islam, these two, for instance.

If you mean that it would be nice if all Muslims became cuddly agnostics instead, I suggest you look closely at the blood soaked activities of Luther and Calvin before you call for a Reformation.

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JohninLondon 07.14.05 at 5:31 pm

Chris Bertram

The whole point of your post is WRONG.

On Monday afternoon the BBC website did NOT post the text of Blair’s statement on its home page or on the linked “London Bombs – In Depth” page. All it posted, as the lead item, was its weasel version of his statement, with the T word excised. All Blair’s 10 or so references to the terrorists and their deeds as terrorism were excluded or covered by euphemisms such as “bomber” – as in the headline of the report :

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4670945.stm

I had to go to the website to get the full text – and that was where the stark comparison struck me- and others.

If you look t the index story number of the full text, it is numerically more than 1000 higher than the main report which the BBC posted. Which indicates much later.

Please email me if you dispute this and I will provide chapter and verse of the stuff I was posting on blogsites on Monday.

And please provide a correction to your piece. You are FACTUALLY wrong. The BBC did mislead the world about what Mr Blair had actually said. Presumably to stick to their ludicrous T-word policy. A policy which, for example, did not let them describe the killing of 25 or more children in Iraq yesterday as terrorism.

I assume you would accept that it is quite wrong of the BBC to have done this.

Incidentally, please note that the blogsite that has made most of the running on this issue has been Harry’s Place – not what you sneer at as “one of the usual suspects” – it is a leftie site.

So – I have called you on your post, on a matter of fact. There is ample contemporaneous evidence to support what I say. I will be interested to see if and how you respond.

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JohninLondon 07.14.05 at 5:37 pm

Sorry – I should have said that I hd to go to the Guardian website to get the full text of blair’s statement on Monday.

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Chris Bertram 07.15.05 at 2:08 am

If you look t the index story number of the full text, it is numerically more than 1000 higher than the main report which the BBC posted. Which indicates much later.

What you say seems to hinge on this. I’ve no idea how long it takes for the BBC to get through 1000 urls on their web site, nor whether having a number 1000 higher indicates 1000 postings later. All I can report, accurately, is that, having read the Melanie Phillips piece I was able to go, immediately, to the BBC site, and find the unexpurgated Blair speech. You suggest that there was some earlier time when I couldn’t have done so. That may be true.

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JohninLondon 07.15.05 at 3:04 am

Chris Bertram

On Monday afternoon and evening the BBC website did NOT carry the full text of Blair’s statement.

How do I know ? Because I emailed the main BBC report which excised the T word and therefore distorted what Blair was saying to M Phillips and others and also posted it at various blogsites. These emails/postings also gave the URL of the full texdt t the Guardian website – this was the only place I could find it.

In any event, the man in the street does not normlly read the full text of public statements such as this – they read the media reports which are BASED on the statement. The Page 1 version headlined version. Any full text would not be carried on Page 1 – it would typically be on a subsequent page – “buried inside”. On Monday afternoon evening I could not find the full text on the BBC site.

Further, I submit that it actually immaterial whether the full statement was present somewhere else on the website. What matters in this case is that the BBC excised nearly all the instances of the T word in their main report. Including Blair’s clear statement, dramatic at the time, that ascribed the actions on 7/7 were by “Islamist extremist TERRORISTS”.

So I say again the whole thrust of your post is wrong.

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JohninLondon 07.15.05 at 3:13 am

Chris Bertram

And I should have confirmed that stories are numbered sequentially on the BBC website. For example – the BBC’s main report of Blair’s statement on Monday was /46709455. Postings of yesterday’s news have news moved into the range /4679XXX and then /468XXXX.

The case against the BBC is NOT that it suppressed the full text, or even that it delayed it. It is that its main story DISTORTED Blair’s statement.

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JohninLondon 07.15.05 at 9:19 am

So, Mr Bertram

Were you wrong or were you wrong ?

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