You read it here third

I was sufficiently annoyed by the BBC’s erasure of the word “terrorist” from reports about Thursday’s attacks (see previous post) that I (*ahem*) emailed the news editor of the Daily Telegraph about it. There’s no love lost between the Telegraph and the BBC, and so I thought it would be right up their street. (I managed to avoid writing the email in a green font.)

Well, having had no response to my email, I thought that was that, but then today on the front page of the paper I saw a story headlined BBC edits out the word “terrorist”:

The BBC has re-edited some of its coverage of the London Underground and bus bombings to avoid labelling the perpetrators as “terrorists”, it was disclosed yesterday.

Early reporting of the attacks on the BBC’s website spoke of terrorists but the same coverage was changed to describe the attackers simply as “bombers”.

The BBC’s guidelines state that its credibility is undermined by the “careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgments”.

Consequently, “the word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding” and its use should be “avoided”, the guidelines say.

Rod Liddle, a former editor of the Today programme, has accused the BBC of “institutionalised political correctness” in its coverage of British Muslims.

A BBC spokesman said last night: “The word terrorist is not banned from the BBC.”

My email came before that story, and since everyone knows that if A precedes B then A has caused B, well, there you go. Shame not to get a link to the blog out of them, but you can’t have everything. 😉

Though I love the way the mainstream media reports stories from the blogosphere. “The BBC has re-edited some of its coverage … it was disclosed yesterday“. The story has in fact been doing the rounds since Friday (and, indeed, was posted by Andrew Sullivan that day), but presumably it was only yesterday that a proper journalist got round to checking it out.

And both gratifying (on a personal level) and depressing (on pretty much every other level) to see how right I was about the BBC dropping the word because it was “too value-laden and judgmental” – which is almost word-for-word what the relevant guidelines say, as highlighted above.

Update (Wed 13th July, 4.55 pm): Well whaddaya know. Just had an email from the news editor at the Telegraph thanking me for the tip. Guess that sometimes post hoc is indeed ergo propter hoc after all.

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56 Responses to You read it here third

  1. John D says:

    Post hoc.
    I guess the question for the BBC is, What’s wrong with value judgments?

  2. John D says:

    Post hoc.
    I guess the question for the BBC is, What’s wrong with value judgments?

  3. John D says:

    Post hoc.
    I guess the question for the BBC is, What’s wrong with value judgments?

  4. John D says:

    Post hoc.
    I guess the question for the BBC is, What’s wrong with value judgments?

  5. John H says:

    “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” – that was the phrase I was looking for.
    Some people describe it as a “logical fallacy”. Huh. They’re just jealous, and anyway I don’t have any truck with that sort of “value judgment”.

  6. John H says:

    “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” – that was the phrase I was looking for.
    Some people describe it as a “logical fallacy”. Huh. They’re just jealous, and anyway I don’t have any truck with that sort of “value judgment”.

  7. John H says:

    “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” – that was the phrase I was looking for.
    Some people describe it as a “logical fallacy”. Huh. They’re just jealous, and anyway I don’t have any truck with that sort of “value judgment”.

  8. John H says:

    “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” – that was the phrase I was looking for.
    Some people describe it as a “logical fallacy”. Huh. They’re just jealous, and anyway I don’t have any truck with that sort of “value judgment”.

  9. John D says:

    Ha…well, what does your strapline say? And you have the truth, right? The logic of “after this therefore because of this” is superfluous.

  10. John D says:

    Ha…well, what does your strapline say? And you have the truth, right? The logic of “after this therefore because of this” is superfluous.

  11. John D says:

    Ha…well, what does your strapline say? And you have the truth, right? The logic of “after this therefore because of this” is superfluous.

  12. John D says:

    Ha…well, what does your strapline say? And you have the truth, right? The logic of “after this therefore because of this” is superfluous.

  13. Does it seem to anyone else that all this worry about retaliation is kind of like closing the barn after the horse gets out? Perhaps the BBC and American MSM feel good about not trying to make more radical Islamists mad, but they sure aren’t doing anything that would calm them down. Funny how they would accept capability and responsibility for the one but not for the other.

  14. Does it seem to anyone else that all this worry about retaliation is kind of like closing the barn after the horse gets out? Perhaps the BBC and American MSM feel good about not trying to make more radical Islamists mad, but they sure aren’t doing anything that would calm them down. Funny how they would accept capability and responsibility for the one but not for the other.

  15. Does it seem to anyone else that all this worry about retaliation is kind of like closing the barn after the horse gets out? Perhaps the BBC and American MSM feel good about not trying to make more radical Islamists mad, but they sure aren’t doing anything that would calm them down. Funny how they would accept capability and responsibility for the one but not for the other.

  16. Does it seem to anyone else that all this worry about retaliation is kind of like closing the barn after the horse gets out? Perhaps the BBC and American MSM feel good about not trying to make more radical Islamists mad, but they sure aren’t doing anything that would calm them down. Funny how they would accept capability and responsibility for the one but not for the other.

  17. John H says:

    I don’t think the BBC are worried about possible retaliation. Just about their precious “credibility”.
    Never mind that even the Muslim Council of Great Britain described the attacks unequivocally as “acts of terror”.
    If the modern BBC were reporting on the Blitz, they would give an equal right of reply to Reichsmarschall Goering.

  18. John H says:

    I don’t think the BBC are worried about possible retaliation. Just about their precious “credibility”.
    Never mind that even the Muslim Council of Great Britain described the attacks unequivocally as “acts of terror”.
    If the modern BBC were reporting on the Blitz, they would give an equal right of reply to Reichsmarschall Goering.

  19. John H says:

    I don’t think the BBC are worried about possible retaliation. Just about their precious “credibility”.
    Never mind that even the Muslim Council of Great Britain described the attacks unequivocally as “acts of terror”.
    If the modern BBC were reporting on the Blitz, they would give an equal right of reply to Reichsmarschall Goering.

  20. John H says:

    I don’t think the BBC are worried about possible retaliation. Just about their precious “credibility”.
    Never mind that even the Muslim Council of Great Britain described the attacks unequivocally as “acts of terror”.
    If the modern BBC were reporting on the Blitz, they would give an equal right of reply to Reichsmarschall Goering.

  21. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think that to call the people who write that way “journalists” is a “barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

  22. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think that to call the people who write that way “journalists” is a “barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

  23. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think that to call the people who write that way “journalists” is a “barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

  24. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think that to call the people who write that way “journalists” is a “barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

  25. Uncle Dino says:

    On tonight’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Jim Stewart referred to the Netanya bombers once as ‘volunteer martyrs” and once as “suicide martyrs”.
    I prefer to call them “murderers” myself.

  26. Uncle Dino says:

    On tonight’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Jim Stewart referred to the Netanya bombers once as ‘volunteer martyrs” and once as “suicide martyrs”.
    I prefer to call them “murderers” myself.

  27. Uncle Dino says:

    On tonight’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Jim Stewart referred to the Netanya bombers once as ‘volunteer martyrs” and once as “suicide martyrs”.
    I prefer to call them “murderers” myself.

  28. Uncle Dino says:

    On tonight’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Jim Stewart referred to the Netanya bombers once as ‘volunteer martyrs” and once as “suicide martyrs”.
    I prefer to call them “murderers” myself.

  29. D.S.Ketelby says:

    I inherited a wildcard devil’s advocate gene from my father’s side of the family, so I don’t advise any of you to take me seriously… but couldn’t this verbal parsimony on the BBC’s part be seen as an instance of heroic British stoicism/ reserve. The perpetrators of Thursday’s “system emergency” (as London Underground Ltd are calling it in their posters) were bombers, objectively speaking… but they caused terror only in so far as they also caused determination, grief, and so on; as for ongoing terror, the great majority of us are determined not to hand them that prize.
    And like I saw on someone else’s blog: “Britain’s terror alert level has been raised to a nice hot cup of tea.” The caffeine helps us stay alert.

  30. D.S.Ketelby says:

    I inherited a wildcard devil’s advocate gene from my father’s side of the family, so I don’t advise any of you to take me seriously… but couldn’t this verbal parsimony on the BBC’s part be seen as an instance of heroic British stoicism/ reserve. The perpetrators of Thursday’s “system emergency” (as London Underground Ltd are calling it in their posters) were bombers, objectively speaking… but they caused terror only in so far as they also caused determination, grief, and so on; as for ongoing terror, the great majority of us are determined not to hand them that prize.
    And like I saw on someone else’s blog: “Britain’s terror alert level has been raised to a nice hot cup of tea.” The caffeine helps us stay alert.

  31. D.S.Ketelby says:

    I inherited a wildcard devil’s advocate gene from my father’s side of the family, so I don’t advise any of you to take me seriously… but couldn’t this verbal parsimony on the BBC’s part be seen as an instance of heroic British stoicism/ reserve. The perpetrators of Thursday’s “system emergency” (as London Underground Ltd are calling it in their posters) were bombers, objectively speaking… but they caused terror only in so far as they also caused determination, grief, and so on; as for ongoing terror, the great majority of us are determined not to hand them that prize.
    And like I saw on someone else’s blog: “Britain’s terror alert level has been raised to a nice hot cup of tea.” The caffeine helps us stay alert.

  32. D.S.Ketelby says:

    I inherited a wildcard devil’s advocate gene from my father’s side of the family, so I don’t advise any of you to take me seriously… but couldn’t this verbal parsimony on the BBC’s part be seen as an instance of heroic British stoicism/ reserve. The perpetrators of Thursday’s “system emergency” (as London Underground Ltd are calling it in their posters) were bombers, objectively speaking… but they caused terror only in so far as they also caused determination, grief, and so on; as for ongoing terror, the great majority of us are determined not to hand them that prize.
    And like I saw on someone else’s blog: “Britain’s terror alert level has been raised to a nice hot cup of tea.” The caffeine helps us stay alert.

  33. John H says:

    Daniel: that’s the point. They are terrorists because they want to terrify us. The best response to that is not to let them succeed in that aim, not to try to downplay the fact that that is their aim.

  34. John H says:

    Daniel: that’s the point. They are terrorists because they want to terrify us. The best response to that is not to let them succeed in that aim, not to try to downplay the fact that that is their aim.

  35. John H says:

    Daniel: that’s the point. They are terrorists because they want to terrify us. The best response to that is not to let them succeed in that aim, not to try to downplay the fact that that is their aim.

  36. John H says:

    Daniel: that’s the point. They are terrorists because they want to terrify us. The best response to that is not to let them succeed in that aim, not to try to downplay the fact that that is their aim.

  37. D.S.Ketelby says:

    Fair enough – just thought I’d suggest another possible view of the BBC’s motives, for the sake of the argument as it were.

  38. D.S.Ketelby says:

    Fair enough – just thought I’d suggest another possible view of the BBC’s motives, for the sake of the argument as it were.

  39. D.S.Ketelby says:

    Fair enough – just thought I’d suggest another possible view of the BBC’s motives, for the sake of the argument as it were.

  40. D.S.Ketelby says:

    Fair enough – just thought I’d suggest another possible view of the BBC’s motives, for the sake of the argument as it were.

  41. John H says:

    Oh, I know, that’s fine, but to be honest I think the BBC have painted themselves into a very stupid corner here. Even their own guidelines only criticise the “careless” use of the T-word, not ban it outright. Some idiot editor has gone overboard – apparently the BBC News website even excised the word from its transcript of Tony Blair’s statement to the Commons.

  42. John H says:

    Oh, I know, that’s fine, but to be honest I think the BBC have painted themselves into a very stupid corner here. Even their own guidelines only criticise the “careless” use of the T-word, not ban it outright. Some idiot editor has gone overboard – apparently the BBC News website even excised the word from its transcript of Tony Blair’s statement to the Commons.

  43. John H says:

    Oh, I know, that’s fine, but to be honest I think the BBC have painted themselves into a very stupid corner here. Even their own guidelines only criticise the “careless” use of the T-word, not ban it outright. Some idiot editor has gone overboard – apparently the BBC News website even excised the word from its transcript of Tony Blair’s statement to the Commons.

  44. John H says:

    Oh, I know, that’s fine, but to be honest I think the BBC have painted themselves into a very stupid corner here. Even their own guidelines only criticise the “careless” use of the T-word, not ban it outright. Some idiot editor has gone overboard – apparently the BBC News website even excised the word from its transcript of Tony Blair’s statement to the Commons.

  45. Nathan says:

    Hmmm… I’m not so sure I’m so upset about it, really. “Terrorist” is a very specific word – it means someone who commits atrocities, big or small, on civilians to make a political point . Not every atrocity is terrorism: the Oklahoma bombing, for instance, was just a guy committing an evil act. It turns out that the 60-odd murders on Thursday actually *were* carried out by terrorists, but on Thursday, we didn’t know that, even though it was the obvious conclusion to jump to.
    As a news-gathering service, the BBC has to avoid jumping to, or encouraging us to jump to, conclusions that it can’t yet prove. This means it has to be a bit pernickety and politically correct about language sometimes, but that’s better than saying a powerful word like “terrorist” and it turning out not to be true.
    By the way, I’ve never heard of you before but it’s great to see your face (as it were) on the BHT. At last, someone who’ll get as bored as one rightfully should when iMonk starts on about baseball =o)

  46. Nathan says:

    Hmmm… I’m not so sure I’m so upset about it, really. “Terrorist” is a very specific word – it means someone who commits atrocities, big or small, on civilians to make a political point . Not every atrocity is terrorism: the Oklahoma bombing, for instance, was just a guy committing an evil act. It turns out that the 60-odd murders on Thursday actually *were* carried out by terrorists, but on Thursday, we didn’t know that, even though it was the obvious conclusion to jump to.
    As a news-gathering service, the BBC has to avoid jumping to, or encouraging us to jump to, conclusions that it can’t yet prove. This means it has to be a bit pernickety and politically correct about language sometimes, but that’s better than saying a powerful word like “terrorist” and it turning out not to be true.
    By the way, I’ve never heard of you before but it’s great to see your face (as it were) on the BHT. At last, someone who’ll get as bored as one rightfully should when iMonk starts on about baseball =o)

  47. Nathan says:

    Hmmm… I’m not so sure I’m so upset about it, really. “Terrorist” is a very specific word – it means someone who commits atrocities, big or small, on civilians to make a political point . Not every atrocity is terrorism: the Oklahoma bombing, for instance, was just a guy committing an evil act. It turns out that the 60-odd murders on Thursday actually *were* carried out by terrorists, but on Thursday, we didn’t know that, even though it was the obvious conclusion to jump to.
    As a news-gathering service, the BBC has to avoid jumping to, or encouraging us to jump to, conclusions that it can’t yet prove. This means it has to be a bit pernickety and politically correct about language sometimes, but that’s better than saying a powerful word like “terrorist” and it turning out not to be true.
    By the way, I’ve never heard of you before but it’s great to see your face (as it were) on the BHT. At last, someone who’ll get as bored as one rightfully should when iMonk starts on about baseball =o)

  48. Nathan says:

    Hmmm… I’m not so sure I’m so upset about it, really. “Terrorist” is a very specific word – it means someone who commits atrocities, big or small, on civilians to make a political point . Not every atrocity is terrorism: the Oklahoma bombing, for instance, was just a guy committing an evil act. It turns out that the 60-odd murders on Thursday actually *were* carried out by terrorists, but on Thursday, we didn’t know that, even though it was the obvious conclusion to jump to.
    As a news-gathering service, the BBC has to avoid jumping to, or encouraging us to jump to, conclusions that it can’t yet prove. This means it has to be a bit pernickety and politically correct about language sometimes, but that’s better than saying a powerful word like “terrorist” and it turning out not to be true.
    By the way, I’ve never heard of you before but it’s great to see your face (as it were) on the BHT. At last, someone who’ll get as bored as one rightfully should when iMonk starts on about baseball =o)

  49. John D says:

    To pick a nit: post hoc is never _ergo_ propter hoc; but sometimes post hoc is propter hoc.
    You can hate and despise me now.

  50. John D says:

    To pick a nit: post hoc is never _ergo_ propter hoc; but sometimes post hoc is propter hoc.
    You can hate and despise me now.

  51. John D says:

    To pick a nit: post hoc is never _ergo_ propter hoc; but sometimes post hoc is propter hoc.
    You can hate and despise me now.

  52. John D says:

    To pick a nit: post hoc is never _ergo_ propter hoc; but sometimes post hoc is propter hoc.
    You can hate and despise me now.

  53. John H says:

    No, serves me right for dropping Latin after one year. 🙂

  54. John H says:

    No, serves me right for dropping Latin after one year. 🙂

  55. John H says:

    No, serves me right for dropping Latin after one year. 🙂

  56. John H says:

    No, serves me right for dropping Latin after one year. 🙂

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