Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Don't mention the "T" word

Hmm, interesting reports this week that the BBC has issued a decree to its many reporters, insisting that phrases such as "misguided criminals" or "bombers" are used to describe the four men responsible for the recent London bombs. These instead of "terrorists", as a way of writing more factually and less emotively about the events.

It's a tricky language issue, this one. Makes no difference to the four men concerned, of course... And though I usually much prefer to call a spade a spade, I can see that a small semantic shift here might help to avoid fanning the flames of BNP-style hatred in the aftermath of the bombs. And if one of the men had been my son, it might help my terrrible grief not only that he died, and was willing to die, and was happy to take as many innocent people with him as possible, if somehow I could call it something other than terrorism. Euphemism can play a powerful social role in helping us cope with terrible taboos.

The question the first article explores is whether this is really about objectivity or sensitivity, or whether it is about avoiding stark moral reality and using language that is so empty of any meaning that clear well informed thought becomes almost impossible. If you're with the new pope on the modern curse of moral relativism, you might incline towards the view that this is empty political correctness. If you think political correctness has some value in making our social relationships more dignified, then you probably won't. Though it's a complex issue and either/or judgements are of little use.

Not that you'd know that from the American papers reporting this story!! Okay, so, to the best of my knowledge these papers are little more than chip wrappers, but it's nonethless interesting to see what the land of the free really thinks about our state media institution.

The Kinston Free Press manages to keep its contempt to an offhand sneer about the "oh-so-proper" BBC. But check out the Desert Dispatch and keep reminding me never to visit Barstow, California. Though I admire their use of the word 'expunged', you cannot be anything but gobsmacked by the fantastical leap from what the BBC actually decreed to the journalist's assertion that the BBC will also be calling rapists "unplanned lovers" - er, when nothing of the kind has been suggested. But worst of all is the description of the BBC as "terror-coddling". Now there's a new word to track, guys... "Terror-coddling"??!! Try and think about what that might actually mean and then watch as bits of your brain melt.

Oh the land of the free.... Thank the heavens above I don't have to live there.

Stop castrating the language

The ever-changing English language

Curse of the language corrupters


At 8:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is p/c gone mad. The perpetrators of these outrages are terrorits, plain and simple, just like the IRA and their "Loyalist" counterparts.


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