Sunday 24 January 2016

Abusers of language (and of human rights)

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know I’ve been ‘out of the office’ for a few days During my awol many troubling issues came and went. Far too many, and now it’s too late to try and catch up. These issues might have remained unaddressed forever - if it weren’t for the fact that others have dealt with them quite satisfactorily thank you very much. I’m redundant. Superfluous. Surplus to requirements, which is great. I didn’t even watch Galloway’s Newsnight, but BBC Watch did.

Actually I do think something is happening. An ever increasing number of people are saying that they’ve more or less given up on the BBC. They seem to have concluded that it’s a lost cause.  They’re resigned to the fact that if you don’t share the BBC’s approach to life, the world, the universe and everything, you’re stuffed. 

We all know that complaining is a waste of time. You get rebuffed. If one complaint does sneak through the barricade, it’s logged on an obscure website and hardly anyone is any the wiser. Nothing changes. No “lessons” are learned.

I’ll just tackle a general theme, which is the effect of the public’s reliance on the BBC for information about things they aren’t deeply familiar with or knowledgeable about, like politics and religion. Despite our relative ignorance, some of us are especially opinionated about these matters. 
There’s also the issue of language, obfuscation, bias and bigotry.  Here’s something that’s just up my street,  about language by A.J. Caschetta.
“The belief that "political chaos is connected with the decay of language" led him (Orwell) to conclude that language had become "ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish [and] the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." Today, the ways we speak and write about the threat of Islamism are often inaccurate and slovenly, making "foolish thoughts" almost inevitable. Everyone involved needs Orwell's prescription.
The post-9/11 era is rife with what Orwell called "the abuse of language" ("war on terror," "overseas contingency operations"), but no abuse more obviously illustrates his complaints than the media cliché describing how a moderate Muslim becomes an Islamist: he becomes radicalized. This euphemism (a passive construction in grammatical terminology) denotes almost nothing. Orwell calls it a "verbal false limb," that is, a device used to "save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns." It has become the default explanation for a phenomenon few want to discuss.”
 Khaled Abu Toameh has written a piece called: Palestinians: Western Media's Ignorance and Bias
“These "parachute journalists," as they are occasionally called, are catapulted into the region without being briefed on the basic facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sadly, correspondents such as these are more the rule than the exception.” 
 Do take a look at the comments below this article (as well as the piece itself.) 
Mark Twain commented, over 100 years ago, "If you don't read the daily newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read the newspapers you are misinformed!" “ 
said a commenter.

It’s accepted - taken as read - that in any given incident you’re getting (from the BBC and other media) a combination of half-truths based on someone’s agenda rather than a complete picture, impartial, factual and fair. 
Specially where the issues are contentious, like, say, Trump. I’ve lost count of the times his infamous “Muslims ban” has been repeated without the qualifier.  It’s not only with left wing media. (there’s another example of lazy terminology)  The others are just as bad. Jeremy Corbyn’s infamous ‘friends’ statement, and the ‘tragedy’ one.
Afterwards, when these comments were widely reported, Corbyn’s supporters said they’d been taken out of context — the standard defence whenever he is criticised for saying something positive about Islamist terrorists, such as describing Hamas and Hezbollah as his ‘friends’ or the death of bin Laden as a ‘tragedy’. 
said Toby Young in the Spectator.  Of course they were taken ‘out of context’, not least because the caveats Corbyn appended were flimsy and unconvincing, as was Trump’s “until we figure out what’s going on” . But nevertheless, seizing on the statements and omitting the qualifiers altogether to make a political point is quite iffy.

The staggering ignorance shown over the public’s perception of Israel is one I’d lay at the foot of the BBC. Is that an expression? Lay at the foot of? - I mean hold it responsible. I would hold the BBC responsible for the findings of this random survey. Out of a possible choice - Israel; ISIS; N Korea; Saudi Arabia; Iran, “who's the worst human rights abuser?”

Sorry, who?

Don’t bother to tell me. I knew which it would be before the film properly got going. 

Such a shame.


  1. Yes, "radicalised" is one of those words that has undergone a transformation. There was a time when politicians were praised for putting forward "radical" solutions - in a sort of Gladstonian way. Now it is a bad word applied almost exclusively to people who should be described as Jihadis,or enthusiastic followers of Islam, since that is what they are.

  2. Then real oddity about "radicalisation" is that when the process is complete you become a religious "conservative". Which is odd because I'm fairly sure that a radical is the opposite of a conservative. But it must be true because the BBC says so.

  3. "Is that an expression? Lay at the foot of?"

    Yes, although the plural 'feet' might be better. Think it may be Biblical language relating to the stoning of Stephen where a young Saul looked after the cloaks of the executioners.

    Funny how much from the Bible has found its way into everyday English parlance!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.