Tuesday, July 19, 2005

You're a spineless, pale, pathetic lot, and you haven't got a clue

Sigh. Same pig-headed, morally equivocating, craven and cowardly old CBC: 'Terrorist' and 'terrorism': Exercise extreme caution before using either word. Avoid labelling any specific bombing or other assault as a "terrorist act" unless it's attributed (in a TV or Radio clip, or in a direct quote on the Web). For instance, we should refer to the deadly blast at that nightclub in Bali in October 2002 as an "attack," not as a "terrorist attack." The same applies to the Madrid train attacks in March 2004, the London bombings in July 2005 and the attacks against the United States in 2001, which the CBC prefers to call "the Sept. 11 attacks" or some similar expression. (The BBC, Reuters and many others follow similar policies.) Terrorism generally implies attacks against unarmed civilians for political, religious or some other ideological reason. But it's a highly controversial term that can leave journalists taking sides in a conflict. By restricting ourselves to neutral language, we aren't faced with the problem of calling one incident a "terrorist act" (e.g., the destruction of the World Trade Center) while classifying another as, say, a mere "bombing" (e.g., the destruction of a crowded shopping mall in the Middle East). Here's the thing, jackass: they're both terrorist acts. That it's harder for you to openly cheer for those who murder 3,000 of your fellow upper-middle-class professionals than those who murder fifty or a hundred Israeli shoppers is not germane to the subject; both are vicious attacks on civilians, performed by megalomaniacal madmen. I realize that even the worst offenders for the 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' trope, the BBC, managed to even top themselves in that appalling little rhetorical game recently, but that doesn't excuse our very own state-funded terror sympathizers. In an ideal world, the CBC would get as much federal funding as Al-Jazeera, if they wanted to keep on playing the we-deserved-it game, refusing to honestly call terrorism for what it is. Spout whatever amoral idiocies you like, but to demand to do it on the public dime? Now that's arrogance. UPDATE: Oh, look; Zerb is citing me as among those "raging" at this policy, whom she imagines to be sharply rebutted by Skippy: What the perfidious CBC is suggesting that reporters describe events factually, and let viewers make up their own minds. Kudos, then, to the wise folks at CBC watch, who have once again laid bare the CBC's bias. The last thing we'd want would be for viewers to make up their own minds. This bias in favor of objectivity must stop right now. I mean it. We cannot afford neutral words in these dark times. What the Irrational Post has omitted is the fact that the CBC is not alone in this policy. My books are still packed for the move, which prevents me from quoting the relevant section, but the CP style guide contains a similar warning against the use of the word "terrorist." It's a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance, but the admonition (and the rationale) is the same. And I'm pretty sure that someone at the National Post knows that, because I'm pretty sure that they have at least one CP style guide somewhere in their news room, propping up the wobbly desk that they can't afford to replace until the day they make a profit, or the day of the rapture - whichever comes first. OMG he made up a funny name for the National Post!!11!!! Whose writers are all greedy fanatical fundamentalist Christians!!! 0wNz0R'd!! LOL ROTFL!1!! Mocking unfortunate juvenilia aside: so what? I don't care if the CP style guide suggests a similar policy of neutrality. Neutrality towards evil is no virtue. Omitting relevant facts isn't simply bias, it's dishonesty, but we're talking about the National Post here. While I'm at it, then, let me point out that water is really, really wet, and that it's a damn good thing we have CBC Watch to protect civilization. In practice, there's wide agreement in Canada that people who fly airplanes into buildings are one man's terrorists, not another man's freedom fighters, which makes the argument moot. A spade is a spade unless a lot of people want to call it a shovel; only then do you have to start calling it a long-handled digging implement of indeterminate type. The problem, unfortunately, is that a lot of people do want to call it a shovel. (Or, at the very least, a spade whose actions are understandable given a sense of persecution by wicked American imperialists and Zionist colonizers.) If we actually were all in agreement about the depravity of terrorism in the broad sense, true, there'd (obviously) be no need for the state broadcaster to take a side, but it's not evident that we are. The idea that using neutral language somehow promotes a point of view is clearly false. Nobody is going to decide that the 9/11 hijackers were actually on the side of the angels, just because the television calls them "hijackers" instead of "terrorists." And it's also hard to argue that the CBC, being publicly funded and all, should avoid the use of neutral language in favour of, um, slant. Nobody is going to decide that those particular terrorists were heroes because of the CBC's neutral language. But what of those who are pleased that the official voice of Canada refuses to condemn them? What of those wannabe jihadis who are just gleeful that their actions won't be censured in the west, at the very least, by the CBC (or BBC)? In this context, failing to take a side is genuinely as good as being on the other side, because it reflects a basic and insidious sense of amorality. There are things worth fighting for; for the CBC to stand back and refuse to favour, with simple terminology, the side whose civilians are randomly murdered by roving groups of megalomanial madmen, is something akin to the notion that CBC broadcasts had a duty to be strictly neutral on the world stage in 1939. I would refer Skippy to words generally (if apocryphally) attributed to Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." For good men to refuse to deign to even say a word against the barbaric acts of terrorists is even more spineless, and similarly enabling of the spread of evil. Is Canada, with all the freedoms and rights we enjoy as citizens, preferable to the totalitarian dictatorships or murderous theocracies seen in those states - subtly or openly - supporting our enemies? If so, it doesn't hurt a bit for the CBC to admit as such by openly calling terrorism, and those who support it, for what it is and what they are. If not - if, perhaps, you're not actually certain that modern western civilization presents a superior way of life compared to the alternatives - then maybe Skippy's line of reasoning makes sense, I suppose. I know which side I'm on. The CBC, Skippy, and Zerb might be a little confused - but that's their collective cross to bear, not mine.

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