There was a moment of delicious irony on this morning's Today (some 2h 37m in).
Justin Webb was interviewing Israel-hater Alistair Crooke and Sir Menzies Campbell (no great friend of Israel either) about the EU's upcoming decision to designate Hezbollah (the Lebanese terrorist organisation) a "terrorist organisation".
Should Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, be designated a "terrorist organisation"?
Mr Crooke (inevitably) was against the move; Sir Menzies gave a disinterested-sounding commentary on the subject, though he sounded vaguely in favour of it.
The irony, of course, arises because many of us have long asked:
Shouldn't Hezbollah, the Lebanese
militantterrorist group, be designated a "terrorist organisation" by the BBC?
Famously (or notoriously), the BBC prefers to call Hezbollah (and other such terrorist groups) a "militant group" and advises its journalists to avoid the use of the term "terrorist" (unless quoting a third party).
As you'll have noticed, Justin described Hezbollah in precisely that way in his question to Sir Ming and Mr Crooke.
So, why shouldn't Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group, be designated a "terrorist group" by the BBC?
The BBC's Editorial Guidelines on the issue give the BBC's way of thinking:
- There is no agreed consensus on what constitutes a terrorist or terrorist act. The use of the word will frequently involve a value judgement.- As such, we should not change the word "terrorist" when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves- This should not mean that we avoid conveying the reality and horror of a particular act; rather we should consider how our use of language will affect our reputation for objective journalism- In a digital age, it is no longer possible to assume an easy split between domestic and overseas audiences.
To paraphrase Neil Kinnock: I'll tell you what happens with this kind of guideline. You start with a woolly-minded assumption. This is then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a BBC – a BBC! – refusing to describe terrorist massacres from Mumbai to Mombasa, Bulgaria to Beslan, London to Boston as terrorist attacks.
Maybe the BBC should follow the lead of the European Union - (it usually doesn't find that too difficult!) - and begin designating Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.