Sunday, 8 July 2018

A hardline take on the BBC's use of language



The word 'swullocking', I've just learned, is "a near-perfect old dialect word that describes a sweltering, sultry, and all-round sudiferous (sweat-inducing) day"

It's certainly been a swullocking day in Morecambe today. The bay is looking like the Bay of Naples and it's so hot here that a volcano has just this very afternoon sprung up over the sea on the Furness Peninsula and within minutes erupted and buried Barrow. (Our thoughts and prayers, etc). 

Another word that's been on my mind recently is 'hardline'.

As you know, 'hardline' means "advocating or involving a rigidly uncompromising course of action". Its synonyms include:
uncompromising, strict, diehard, extreme, tough, inflexible, immoderate, intransigent, intractable, unyielding, undeviating, unwavering, single-minded and not giving an inch (etc)
It can be a neutral word, but most people don't tend to use it neutrally. They tend to use it negatively, about others. You rarely find it used as a term of praise. 

The BBC has been putting it to quite a bit of use in recent days, especially to describe certain UK politicians. (Can you guess in advance which ones?) 

Just looking at BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning (with help from TV Eyes), the BBC presenters and reporters used the term 'hardline' about Mrs May's Brexiteer cabinet members at least eight times, including such phrases as "hardline critics of the European Union in her cabinet". 

And Uncle Mark Mardell, whilst telling us a tale today, gave us a particularly fine example on this afternoon's The World This Weekend (also concerning Mrs May's Chequers cabinet meeting):
The seven hardline Brexit ministers knew they were in a minority in the oak-panelled room.
Checking TV Eyes again, the other BBC TV uses of the term 'hardline' this past week involve President Trump's immigration policies, a Second World War era Japanese governor, Germany's right-wing interior minister, and - again - Brexiteers (BBC political correspondent Alex Forsyth using the term "hardline Brexiteers" on Friday's BBC Breakfast).

Is there a pattern emerging there? 

Possibly. 

So let's go back to June where there are 118 TV Eyes results for 'hardline'. Are there any Remainers described as 'hardline' by BBC reporters? Any left-wingers? Any pro-mass immigration people? Any EU officials?

Well, put simply: no. 

Working my way through them all, it's lots and lots more uses (throughout the month) of "hardline Brexiteers", that wartime Japanese governor again (a repeated programme), Trump's immigration policies (again and again and again and again referred to as "hardline by the BBC - when they aren't being called "controversial" that is!), "hardline tax-cutting conservatives" in the US, the right-wing Austrian government for its stance on immigration, the populist Italian and conservative Hungarian governments for their stance on immigration, European governments in general who oppose mass immigration, the conservative CSU in Germany (for opposing Mrs Merkel over immigration), a right-wing politician in Turkey (Meral Ak┼čener), "hardline clerics" opposed to women drivers in Saudi Arabia, and Italy's Matteo Salvini. And that's it.

Yes, there's definitely a pattern there, isn't there? Opponents of mass immigration, right-wingers and people who want Brexit to mean Brexit are the people the BBC chooses to call 'hardline'. 

Do you think they're using the word in a neutral sense when so doing? I don't.

1 comment:

  1. Talking of language choice...I heard Roger Bolton describe what could well be reasoned criticisms of the Today programme as "moans" and "gripes", nouns which don't suggest reasoned criticism but rather fainhearted and unhelpful belly-aching (hence Thatcher's use of such words to denounce "moaning minnies"). I didn't wait to hear the full "complaints from both sides" defence but Sarah Sands was going for it talking about the divided political landscape with a bit of echo chamber social media thrown in. Note to BBC: you can have legitimate complaints from both sides.

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