There are no terrorists, and if you doubt that, just ask the BBC.
By Richard Mather
Following the atrocities in Brussels, the BBC’s flagship News At Ten programme referred to the bombers as “militants” rather than “terrorists.” Initially, I thought this was a mistake. And then the BBC did it again, this time in the context of events in Syria and Iraq where ISIS is engaging in a wholesale massacre of the innocents.
How long had the BBC been referring to suicide bombers and beheaders as “militants”? I rarely watch the BBC’s news output, so I couldn’t be sure. Someone told me that it was part of the BBC’s style guide. But, I reasoned, the word “militant” suggests someone who is belligerent or combative, e.g. a militant feminist. Not so long ago, the trade union movement in the UK was described as “militant.” But neither feminists nor trade unionists are terrorists.
So I contacted the BBC. And I explained to them that the trouble with the word “militant” is that it falls short of describing an individual who engages in acts of extreme violence with the express aim of terrorizing – of invoking fear and submission in the general population. In response, a spokesperson for the BBC told me:
“The BBC has an obligation to be impartial, independent and accurate. We use neutral language to describe news events, particularly in complex situations where any appearance of bias would undermine our credibility.”
Blinded by self-righteousness, the BBC fails to see that its credibility has been in tatters for years. A news organisation that regularly glosses over the murder of Jews by Arabs and ignores the ongoing sexual abuse of women and children in the UK by Muslim men posing as migrants cannot claim to be a credible news organization.
Besides, there can be no moral equivalence between the perpetrators of terrorist attacks and their victims, and yet the BBC’s linguistic whitewashing suggests otherwise. It’s as if the BBC is doing its best to respect the civil rights of Islamists who may be offended/shocked/outraged if the BBC uses the word “terrorist” to describe the actions of one of their co-religionists.
It seems like the civil rights of victims are less important, or at least no more important, than the rights of the perpetrators. Thanks to media organisations like the BBC, we now live in a relativistic world where both the perpetrators and victims of violence share the same moral and discursive space.
Besides, when it comes to neutrality, the BBC is curiously selective. The 2004 Balen Report, which contains the findings of an investigation into alleged BBC bias against Israel, continues to be suppressed. The BBC has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal costs in an effort to keep the report under wraps. I wonder why.
I am of the suspicion that the BBC employs the word “militant” rather than “terrorist” not because it wants to appear neutral but because it is afraid of alienating a sizeable (and very vocal) segment of its viewing audience. After all, support for Hamas, Islamic State and Al-Qaeda is entrenched in Muslim communities across the UK.
If it’s the case that the BBC is indeed filtering its news output in accordance with the wishes of Islamic State sympathisers, then it neither deserves the goodwill nor the funding of the British public who are forced, by law, to pay the BBC licence fee.
I fear that it will take something horrible such as a suicide bombing on the London Underground or in Trafalgar Square for the BBC to stop pandering to a vocal minority and to reconsider its use of terminology.
But given the BBC’s reluctance to accept constructive criticism, this seems unlikely.