Saturday, July 22, 2006

BBC's Journalistic Incursions

In the West, or that entity that we all somehow recognize as "the West", it is impossible to find a mainstream media outlet that offers a fair account of the events in the Middle East, let alone a fair analysis of it. Forget the US press, that goes without saying -- as does anything owned or operated by Rupert Murdoch.

But even the BBC is a clear example of the complete lack of objectivity in the Western media. And it's easy to point a finger at the Western media because they claim to be democratic and free of bias -- they, in fact, claim that the non-West (as we know it) is where the problem with censorship and media freedom exists.

Not so -- just take a look at simple terminology on the BBC News website: they still insist on casually describing the Israeli war in Lebanon in sheltered terms such as "Israel has carried out air strikes and small-scale incursions into Lebanon." "Carried out"?! "Small-scale"?! "Incursions"?! Nobody carries out a war, they fight out, attack out, murder out, but not carry out -- that's what you do with your groceries and your library books, it's not how you describe the violent destruction of war. "Small scale?" -- to define a parameter on the scale of any event that is costing innocent lives is pretty irresponsible, not to mention prejudiced. And to describe violating borders with tanks and other weapons of human destruction as an "incursion" is fantastic evidence of creativity but otherwise inexcusable -- an incursion is toilet papering your neighbor's front yard, not fighting a bloody war.

The Editors over at the BBC actually sit there and change words to fit this "safe" (i.e. less negative) representation of any entity, person, place, or thing that the BBC must be certain not to offend -- which is apparently a very select list. And the Editors don't really have to work too hard on this tidying up process because the journalists, if they plan to keep their jobs, have learned the game themselves.

Institutional practices in the newsroom are entirely overlooked by the public -- we search for news and information not always realizing that it's constructed, it's framed, it's not fact but depiction.

How about the use of the terms 'terrorist' and 'militant'? We've gotten past the 'terrorist' discussion -- most credible news outlets today shy from such a term that carries with it ramifications of extremism and perniciousness which should not be used lightly. So the acceptable alternative is now 'militant' -- Yes, Hezbollah is militant: it is a military operation at its core, but doesn't that describe the IDF or any other army? If Palestine were an actual country, Hezbollah would merely be described as a branch of the Palestinian army since it no doubt has similar aims as more overtly Palestinian militaries such as Hamas. Why is one destructive military operation called an army and the other a militant?

This -- the issue of mere words -- may seem trivial but it has a substantial impact on the reading public, on taking advantage of the ignorance of the masses -- and that is the key to democracy: keep the voting public stupid and on your side and you can get away with anything.

Labels: , ,