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The BBC and terrorism

The language we use matters – it provides clarity to our own thoughts and enables us to be clear to others about what we mean. The language people use to us matters doubly, both as an attempt to control, or at least move, our thoughts, and also as a guide to the beliefs of those talking.

The BBC refuses to use the word “terrorist” in connection with attacks on civilians perpetrated in the name of Islam. Contrary to what it says, it has at times used the word “terrorist,” but never in connection with the Middle East or those acting on behalf of any of its peoples.

The BBC”s John Simpson explained that use of the word implied taking sides, and inviting the audience to take one side rather than the other. He might have explained that on the Middle East violence, the BBC prefers to steer an honourable middle course between innocence on the one hand and guilt on the other, between truth and falsehood, between morality and depravity, between those who mutilate and decapitate babies, and those who do not.

In logic this is called the Argumentum ad Temperantiam, the supposition that the middle course is somehow superior because it is not one of the extremes on either side of it. It is a fallacy because sometimes one of the extremes can be correct. It some people are saying two plus two equals for, while others are claiming that it equals six, the BBC would probably plump for five.

The BBC pursues its own agenda, representing its own groupthink. By declining to use the word “terrorist” they are, whether they admit it or not, taking sides. The Hamas attack – to speak of only the one thing here – is by definition a terrorist attack. There is no purpose other than to provoke a reaction by creating fear. It is the reaction that is being sought – Israel reacting. That’s why the slaughter of babies. A couple of thousand fighters is not a danger to the State of Israel nor, to be disquietingly nonchalant about it, is the slaughter of a couple of thousand Israelis. The entire point of the attack is to create the reaction which could be that danger.

This is the definition of terrorism. Therefore Hamas have been terrorists here and we should say so. This is for the clarity of our own thoughts, whatever the anti-Israel fifth column at the BBC might think about it.