11 July 2008

More Vintage Pyro-Posting

by Phil Johnson

ere's an entry from the early days of my original blog. Darlene and I had just returned from London and one of the most eventful trips we have ever made. My Journal of that trip starts here and ends here. All the entries can be found by Googling "London Journal" at my old blog. If you have a couple of hours to read it, I think you'll enjoy it.

Anyway, less than a week after our return home someone directed me to a news item about the BBC's language policies when it comes to reporting on murderous bombers. That in turn prompted the following post.




Cack-handed circumlocution and cold-hearted moral ambiguity as "aids to understanding"

(First posted 13 July 2005—exactly 3 years ago this week)
by Phil Johnson

Darlene and I were in south-central London (Southwark) when we got the earliest reports last Thursday that the London Underground had been brought to a halt by something. First reports were unclear. It was a power surge; multiple power surges; a series of explosions. No one at first seemed quite sure what had happened.

We returned as soon as possible to our hotel room to try to make some phone calls overseas. Darlene flipped on the BBC, and it was there that we—and most of London—first learned definitively that what we feared and expected most was indeed true: this was a series of coordinated terrorist attacks.

Early reports from the BBC freely referred to the unknown perpetrators as "terrorists," of course. Terrorists is the right word. It describes precisely what the perps were.

It now appears, however, that such plain language violated the BBC's own canons of political correctness. The Beeb regards the term terrorist as derogatory and therefore unsavory. Such words are officially deemed undesirable in all BBC news reports.

BBC editorial guidelines instruct writers in the nuances of careful, creative ambiguity, and they specifically cite the word terrorist as a prime example of what not to say: "Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements. The word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding."

Therefore as soon as the initial shock from the attacks subsided, a memo went out by e-mail, reminding all BBC writers about the policy. The early accounts of the attacks (originally written while the news was breaking) were subsequently re-edited to refer to the terrorists with a more neutral term: "bombers." (Gene at "Harry's Place" has posted a few examples of The Beeb's revisionism.)

In response to queries about this issue, a BBC spokesperson insisted, "The word terrorist is not banned from the BBC." But another look at the editorial guidelines reveals this (and I quote): "We should try to avoid the term [terrorist], without attribution. We should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we know them." In other words, if someone else uses the T-word and you quote it, that's OK. But the word terrorist is indeed officially banned from the BBC's own writers' descriptions of terrorist acts. Those who make policy at the BBC are apparently convinced their own "credibility" would be undermined by such unbridled moral and linguistic clarity.

Thus yesterday's BBC stories about the suicide bombings in Netanya were devoid of any mention of "terror," "terrorism," or "terrorists." The organization known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad—rank terrorists who have repeatedly claimed credit for many suicide bombings and other acts of terror, and whose central business seems to be the recruiting and outfitting of various kinds of bombers who deliberately target innocent civilians—are never properly referred to as a "terrorist" organization by The Beeb. Palestinian terrorists are always referred to with words that don't have such strong "emotional or value-judgment" connotations. Those guys blowing up mothers and babies on public buses are merely "militants."

Aftermath of terrorNow we see that the BBC won't deliberately refer to suicidal killers as "terrorists" even when they bomb civilians on the London Underground. No, the geniuses who drive editorial policy at The Beeb are convinced that neutral and ambiguous expressions are much better aids to "understanding."

It's one of the amazing and disturbing ironies of our generation that so many of the gatekeepers in the world of professional journalism (whose main business ought to be communication) subscribe to the postmodern hypothesis that double-talk and euphemism actually increase "understanding," while clarity is actually deemed an impediment to communication.

And it's not just the BBC, unfortunately. While we're at it, let's be really blunt: the same philosophy drives most of the mainstream news media. And the same sort of genteel wordsmithing is also ubiquitous in the academic world, in the world of theological dialogue—and more and more in everyday public discourse.

It all stems from several basic assumptions that have been uncritically adopted by multitudes over the past half-century: "Conversation" is invariably a better option than combat. Uncertainty is always intellectually superior to strong convictions. And moral and ethical neutrality is clearly more desirable than the hopelessly medieval belief that objective standards of good and evil exist.

Postmodernism, not merely liberal media bias, is the real culprit here.

Now, don't misunderstand. I would by no means suggest that war is always superior to peace talks, that dogmatism is inherently better than diffidence, or that neutrality per se is wrong. I believe the duty spelled out in Romans 12:18 is binding: "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." And "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9).

Nonetheless, Scripture also teaches that the soldier, policeman, or executioner who wields a sword against an evildoer is doing something good. "He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Romans 13:4).

By the way, miscreants and evildoers do exist, although value-judgments are sometimes necessary to identify them. Moreover, it is gross injustice to insist on always remaining morally neutral. True justice requires not only the ability to recognize evil, but also a willingness to punish it.

In other words, there are clearly times when combat is called for and "conversation" with an evildoer is folly. In some cases, strong convictions are needed and any pretense of benign deference is immoral.

That goes for journalists the same as anyone else—or it ought to.

Yet the high priests and priestesses of the mainstream media remain blindly committed to their credo: moral neutrality is the one permissible dogma of this postmodern era.

It is a particularly foolish—and potentially fatal—article of faith in an age of Islamofascist terrorism.

Mind the Gap


41 comments:

DJP said...

1. I'd say that this is a reminder as to why I started reading you in the first place: the clarity with which you think and write. Except that would imply it had slipped my mind... which it hasn't.

2. What's striking is that this liberal broad/slushy-mindedness does not go both ways. The Brits' enemies have perfect moral clarity about what's right and wrong, and who their enemies are. They're dead-wrong, and deadly-wrong; but they're perfectly focused and clear.

3. Ditto our situation, theologically, as a rule. Those opposed to Biblical absolutes are pretty clear on what they don't believe, and who they do oppose. But...

4. ...as the Brits' enemies achieved what they did by disguising themselves as non-combatants and exploiting the Brits' peaceableness, so do ours.

Well-struck as usual, Phil.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "It all stems from several basic assumptions that have been uncritically adopted by multitudes over the past half-century: "Conversation" is invariably a better option than combat. Uncertainty is always intellectually superior to strong convictions. And moral and ethical neutrality is clearly more desirable than the hopelessly medieval belief that objective standards of good and evil exist."

That's the home run paragraph for me!

And all the more reason, Phil, why I am puzzled and befuddled by your stern hostility towards James Dobson and Chuck Colson.

ianjmatt said...

As a Brit (and one who has been involved with two terrorist attacks - the IRA bombs in Manchester and Warrington) I think you are wrong. 'Terrorist' is a value judgement. In this case a correct one, but a value judgement nonetheless. The BBC are not portraying liberal bias or post-modern wolliness here, they are simply wanting to report the facts without making a judgement. Bias would be calling them 'freedom fighters' or similar. The people who carried out the bombings on 7/7 were bombers.

Their actions caused terror, and they targeted civilians so we may wantt o call them terrorists, but that is for you, me, the government, opinion writers, documentary makers etc to do. If the news media claims to be neutral, just reporting the facts, and then makes this same value judgement, they are being hypocritical. I would rather than the desire for neutrality (even if they often get it wrong) that I see from BBC News, ITN etc than the sort of polemicised drivel I see on Fox News Channel.

Matt said...

Hi Phil,

I agree with your general point here about the way that postmodern thinking has infiltrated all of our social institutions - including journalism - in a way that demands unquestioning acceptance of its tenants.

But I am a little reticent to demand much value-judging from the media. For example, your criticism of the BBC's general policy about the word "terrorist" is spot on...they in fact are making a value judgment of their own by choosing to not call a spade a spade. But, in the first confusing 24 or 48 hours after an attack, I have no problem with the media withholding those kind of labels until the identity and motivation of the perpetrators is known. I think that's just good journalism.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, it grieved me (as I'm sure it did you, too) to hear the reports of people attacking/berating Muslims here in the U.S. Without excusing the obvious individual culpability of those that perpetrated the crimes, I also think that the media engaged in a great deal of speculation in those first few days about who was responsible and why, and that helped fuel the fires. Now, note that much of that speculation turned out to be right (that 9-11 was planned and executed by a group of Islamic terrorists). But what I am saying is that I don't think it is the media's job to provide us with those labels until some facts are known.

So, I agree there is a real and insidious error towards postmodernism in the media. But I also think there is an opposite error (call it the Lou Dobbs or Bill O'Reilly syndrome if you like) of jumping to conclusions and engaging in wild speculation. So I'm just saying - let's make sure our cure doesn't kill the patient.

I appreciate your writing, Phil. Blessings to you.

~Matt

Phil Johnson said...

ianjmatt:

I didn't suggest that the word "terrorist" doesn't involve a value judgment. Rather, I'm saying it's folly to imagine that it's possible to communicate effectively without making some value judgments.

A murderer of innocent women and children is evil, and bending over backwards to find terms that are devoid of moral overtones to describe such a murderer isn't "neutral," it is amoral.

Phil Johnson said...

Matt:

See, there used to be a happy medium between the amorality of refusing to make any moral judgments and the crass ineptitude of Bill O'Reilly or Ted Baxter.

In 1963, Walter Cronkite teared up when he announced the death of John F. Kennedy live on the air. That, too, involved a basic human value judgment. What was wrong with that?

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD: ". . . your stern hostility towards James Dobson and Chuck Colson."

Huh?

I disagree with their strategy, not their contempt for anti-Christian worldviews.

You need to read that series on politics again. I get the feeling you still haven't understood what I am saying.

ianjmatt said...

Phil

Terrorist is what we see them as after our value judgement. Bomber describes simply what they do.

The aim of the BBC, in its charter and consitution, is to 'inform, educate and entertain' - and has a legal obligation for neutrality overseeen by the BBC trust - an independent body. The news division is seen as primarily fulfilling the first word. As such, they do strive for a neutrality, and not to make moral value judgements; which means they generally upset everyone (do a google on 'BBC anti-Muslim bias').

Choosing the word 'Bomber' is a value judgement - it is choosing a value of neutrality. It is not a moral judgement - they are making no statement on morality at all.

I remember in the 1980's the decision to call both republican and loyalist Irish terrorists 'para-militaries' provoked similar debates. As someone who has seen people killed by the IRA, had catholic friends (I am half Irish) shot by both the IRA (so-called order enforcement in their community) and murdered by loyalists I still think it is right the BBC report what people do, not tell the viewer how wrong it is.

I guess in the end it is a cultural difference as well - the shouty opinionated news style doesn't work over here at all - things are done in a much calmer manner. What Americans see as decisive Britons see as arrogant (hence the dislike of Bush). What we see as thoughtful I guess you see as prevaricating.

Ted said...

As a Brit i would not like to see Fox news style reporting in the UK. I agree with the statement posted by ianjmatt


"I guess in the end it is a cultural difference as well - the shouty opinionated news style doesn't work over here at all - things are done in a much calmer manner. What Americans see as decisive Britons see as arrogant (hence the dislike of Bush). What we see as thoughtful I guess you see as prevaricating".

Phil Johnson said...

ianjmatt: "As such, they do strive for a neutrality, and not to make moral value judgements . . ."

I do get that's how it's supposed to work in theory. Again, however, my point is twofold: 1. Such moral "neutrality" is by definition impossible. And 2. if the real goal is to inform and communicate, it is wholly counterproductive to aim at moral neutrality when the subject matter is an issue such as murder, rape, mayhem, or the bombing of innocent moms and babies on public buses.

This is not a complex point, really.

Besides, don't kid yourself. The Beeb has not achieved anything like neutrality when it comes to making moral judgments. Pretending they do is just a smarmier, shiftier style of arrogance than the shouty opinionated style of news-reading you mentioned.

I was in London for a different week not long before the bombings, and the story that dominated the news practically all week was about some members of the royal family who had gone pheasant-hunting where some school children could see them shooting at birds. The BBC's reportage was filled with hand-wringing angst about potential trauma to the children.

I never saw a single bit of evidence that any child was actually traumatized, but the BBC simply would not let the story drop.

Merely giving so much airtime to a story like that reflects a moral judgment; it is calculated to stir the passions of viewers (the BBC was expressly soliciting passionate viewers' opinions); and it gives undue weight to the opinions of people who think birds ought to have the same rights as people.

Anyone who could watch that and believe that the BBC is really aiming for a morally-neutral opinion is hopelessly naive. And I've been in the UK enough to know that the Beeb's newscasts regularly (would it be fair to day "daily"?) feature the same types of non-news stories and other subtle types of indoctrination.

Whoever decided to devote a whole week of broadcasting to the wholly theoretical traumatization of kids by bird-hunters was clearly making a moral judgment. And it did not need to be spelled out by overt editorializing in order to make the BBC's position clear.

Frankly, I can't stand Bill O'Reilly either, but his overt and incompetent championing of half-baked moral and religious opinions is in my view a far lesser evil than the secret way the smug "neutrality" of the BBC insinuates fad-driven and postmodernized moral values into their coverage.

My point: the myth of moral neutrality is itself rooted in a moral judgment—and a bad one at that.

Phil Johnson said...

Ted: "As a Brit i would not like to see Fox news style reporting in the UK."

As an Anglophile, I would love to see a return to the clarity and passion of Winston Churchill in Britain's public discourse.

Seriously. Surely there's a happy medium somewhere between Bill O'Reilly and the lisping, effeminate corporate policies that result in the firing of someone like Mr. Kilroy-Silk, whose sin was injecting a little candor into a discussion of moral and cultural values.

DJP said...

Phil, I didn't watch a lot of BBC when I was in the UK.

Do they call murderers "life terminators"?

Do they call thieves "wealth redistributors"?

Do they call muggers "physical dystherapists"?

Do they call vandals "exterior decorators"?

Do they call rapists "freelance inseminators"?

Do they call child molesters "adolescent sexuality trainers"?

Do they call polluters "environmental alternators"?

I'm thinking not... but if calling wholesale murderers of civilians "terrorists" is too offensive to the raised-pinky set, who knows?

Matt said...

Hi Phil,

I think I agree with 90% of what you are saying. Maybe the crux of our disagreement is here:

Frankly, I can't stand Bill O'Reilly either, but his overt and incompetent championing of half-baked moral and religious opinions is in my view a far lesser evil than the secret way the smug "neutrality" of the BBC insinuates fad-driven and postmodernized moral values into their coverage.

Without trying to set up some kind of BBC-O'Reilly dualism (what a frightening thought), I would argue that both errors we are talking about are serious. The BBC viewpoint is dangerous because it subverts truth by obfuscation, by word-smithing, by denying that truth exists. The O'Reilly viewpoint subverts truth by shouting, by bluster, by insisting on rightness without having to bother with reason. The former leads away from the Christian worldview by denying that we might actually be able to know something true about what happened in Palestine 2000 years ago. The latter leads away from the Christian worldview by denying that I should give the Christian claim the time of day - 'cause I'm a lot smarter and have already figured it out.

I think some in the O'Reilly crowd are those that have an intuition about the BBC error you are talking about (maybe they call it, with a frown, "political correctness"), and so in reaction they jump headlong into the opposite error. And I'm just saying that I don't necessarily take that opposite error to be less sinister than the first.

You guys have a great weekend!

~Matt

Matt said...

OK, I was about to check out, but I saw Dan's latest post, and wanted to respond briefly.

First, I love "physical dystherapists". I wouldn't have come up with that in a million years.

But, if you'll permit me a moment of pedantry, I would say that the analogy breaks down for two reasons. First, most of these terms (exterior decorators) have neutral or positive connotations. And that's not what the BBC was doing. They still called the terrorists "bombers", which everyone understands to be a Bad Thing. If they had called them "alternative subway architects" (or I guess they call it the Tube in London?) then I would be in more of a huff.

Second, in my mind the word "terrorist" says something about the intent of the person. For example, I wouldn't call one of those disgruntled postal employees who shot up their workplace a terrorist (maybe you disagree?). I would just call them, well, disgruntled. So I think it's OK for the media to not slap the terrorist label on someone until we find out a little about their motivation for doing what they did.

But, once we do have those facts, then I completely agree that it is moral cowardice to refuse to call something by its name.

Now I really am out. Grace and peace.

DJP said...

A bomber is necessarily a Bad Thing? John McCain was a bomber pilot. Does that make him a Bad Thing?

I don't know why an act that cannot have been other than morally reprehensible deserves a label that could be other than morally reprehensible. Unless you (not you, Matt) live in an amoral universe.

Which, I believe, was Phil's point.

Ted said...

I am all for clarity & passion, that is why MacArthur is my favourite (living!) preacher. But when it comes to News reporting I think that the facts should be established before one's passion gets in the way of factual reporting.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard strong criticism of MacArthur, only to find that it was unfounded hot-air, eg. taking a comment completely out of context. If the facts were clearly stated the emotion could not cloud the issue.

Regarding the BBC, I agree that moral neutrality is a myth, but the indepth coverage of issues across the BBC as a whole eg. 'radio4', 'Newsnight' and 'Question Time' allows a breath and depth that does inform & Americans are often invited to participate. Maybe your comments refer to programmes such as 'BBC News at 10' which are sadly not of the same calibre.

My general point is that within the constraints of a fallen world and hidden 'political' agendas in the media, we need as far as is possible to seek out the true facts rather than automatically believing the pontification and emotional hype that unfortunately can often be observed on Fox News.

We need to use our critical faculties and, again, I do endorse your point about the myth of moral neutrality.

Phil Johnson said...

One more point of clarity here:

What I deplore about the BBC policy is not the use of the term bombers. I used that expression myself in a blogpost in the aftermath of 7/7.

What I object to is the Orwellian censorship aimed at an equally precise expression (terrorist) under the guise of "neutrality."

You'd have to be willfully blind not to see the utter hypocrisy (not to mention the mindless amorality, which is not "neutrality" at all) in an organization which would hand Kilroy-Silk his hat for noticing the endemic psychopathies that flourish in certain Muslim cultures while the BBC herself is devoting hours—no weeks—to a tireless critique of Britain's fox-hunting tradition.

donsands said...

"the shouty opinionated news style doesn't work over here at all"-ian

I get ya.

But what about your Parliment. Those guys go wild. Lots of shouting there.
Actually, I wish our houses in Congress would do a bit of that.

BTW, I used to love to watch Tony Blair speak in Parliment with all those other Parlimentarians raising a ruckus.

Are they allowed to say terrorist in Parliment?

Ted said...

Phil thanks for the clarification point taken. As for Mr. Kilroy-Silk political correctness got in the way. When the "facts" and not the hype or spin/twist given to his words were known there was a lot of protest to the BBC about his being sacked. This is my point precisely about "facts" and hidden 'political' agendas.

donsands said... Are they allowed to say terrorist in Parliment? YES read matt's post - when the facts are known which reveals their intention not speculations, until then they would use a term such as 'suspected terrorist' in order not to prejudice a fair trial.

This time around I am bowing out - it is nearly bedtime here, time for the 'BBC 10pm News' :-)

eastendjim said...

Is the BBC striving for neutrality when it refers to someone as a "suicide bomber"?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7492987.stm

ianjmatt said...

East End Jim - yes. Suicide Bomber is pretty good as a neutral description.

Phil

Yes - In Parliament they can say what they like as long as they don't make a false accusation against another member or use language unsuitable for the chamber (i.e. incorrect forms of address, swearing etc). The laws on slander and defamation to not apply there, and there is no restriction on the content of debate - it is one of the best elements of our democracy.

Your question highlights the expectations of different areas in public life in various cultures. We want our TV and Radio news to be dispassionate, and this is culturally perceived to be more trustworthy (whether it is true or not is another question). An example that comes to mind is when the little girl Madeline McCann went missing last year. GMTV, a more populist morning news show started referring to the parents as Gerry and Kate rather than Mr and Mrs McCann and treating them as absolutely innocent despite being treated as suspects by the Portuguese police. This was felt to be too familiar, showing too much sympathy, rather than having a stand of neutrality. It was a kind of 'Greta' style of news and it was seen as 'bad form'.

Can I suggest looking at the actual guidelines here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/assets/advice/guidanceontheuseoflanguagewhenreportingterrorism.doc

I found this very helpful - you may not agree with them (not everyone here does), but it is done from a genuine desire for good reporting. I would encourage you to read the whole document.

Ted said...

Thanks ianjmatt i could not have put it any better.

Phil Johnson said...

ianjmatt:

It was not I who asked the question about parliament.

In fact, you didn't actually seem to notice what I did say. I have never suggested the BBC should be like Fox News, or even like GMTV. And I do understand the rationale given in the BBC guidelines. (My point was never about what the BBC word-police say their motive is; it's about the actual effect of their policy.) So your comment is a brilliant answer to a point of view no one here has really expressed.

My point again, simply, is that the BBC are not really objective, and that in many ways, their frequent propagandizing under the pretense of objectivity is actually worse—because it is more subtle—than the shouting obnoxiousness that you seem to believe is the only alternative.

ianjmatt said...

Phil

You seem to be wilfully missing my point I'm afraid. Yu said:

"My point again, simply, is that the BBC are not really objective, and that in many ways, their frequent propagandizing under the pretense of objectivity is actually worse"

but when I present evidence that they are not 'propagandizing under the pretense of objectivity' - i.e. that they are attempting objectivity for the sake of objectivity (even if they get it wrong) you just repeat the accusation!

I have seen no evidence of propagandizing or pretense - have you?

Strong Tower said...

Do they call muggers "physical dystherapists"?

Yep, got my vote...

I was wondering what they would call the next generation once they got to Gen-Zzz. Now I know, Gen-teel.

Kinda nondescript, bluish-green one might say, neither yea nor nay, a small duck by anyother name still doesn't smell so sweet.

Oh, you say, that's teal. Well, that's harsh. I say we just call them spectrum shifters who duck the truth.

Ted said...

Hi Phil,
I am not here to defend the BBC but you seem to be wilfully misunderstanding Matts point.

They do try to strive for objectivity even though they may fail at it. No one is bias free. Both the Left & Right political parties often accuse them of bias, so that must say something for their duty of neutrality & indeed are Phil's own comments bias free?

I'm with Matt on this, but perhaps when Phil gets on to more theological issues we will agree! :-)

a_simple_bloggTRotter said...

Matt,

Unless I am missing something, Phill's question was heading toward the not-so-bias free children who MIGHT have been warpped forever because of the Royal guns and a bird gut or two.

The attention and time this got might give away and agenda...or two.

greglong said...

Ian said:

I have seen no evidence of propagandizing or pretense - have you?

Ian, go back and read Phil's post at 10:24AM on July 11.

Phil Johnson said...

ianjmatt: "I have seen no evidence of propagandizing or pretense"

Yeah, I do get that you don't see it—even when examples are pointed out to you.

. . . which is the very thing I'm suggesting makes it more dangerous than O'Reilly's nightly wanton acts of stupidity or Mr. Kilroy-Silk's in-your-face analysis of Islamofascist culture. At least with those guys you know you're not getting dispassionate objectivity.

In the interests of full disclosure: Do you work for the Beeb or something?

Phil Johnson said...

Ted: "They do try to strive for objectivity even though they may fail at it. No one is bias free. Both the Left & Right political parties often accuse them of bias, so that must say something for their duty of neutrality & indeed are Phil's own comments bias free?"

Wow.

See, the thing is: I have made no claim that I am trying to be "bias-free," and I have no duty to maintain such a pretense. I have indeed made up my mind about a few things, and many of my opinions are fairly well settled. (I would think that should be clear by now.)

In fact, my whole point is that you cannot be truly "bias-free" and communicate truth effectively—especially when it is your duty to report about a thoroughly sinister act of mass murder and you are someone who thinks "objectivity" requires wordsmithing out all the terms that convey any kind of moral overtones.

I understand the need for a news agency to strive for some degree of objectivity in many matters, but when you think "objectivity" requires you to grope for circumlocutions that evacuate all the moral significance out of your reportage of the mass murder of your own citizens, you've gone over the edge.

The BBC's policy is grounded in a postmodern notion of truth and objectivity, and it's faulty at the root. As a matter of fact, it flatly contradicts the biblical view of truth, good, and evil.

Read back issues of the Times of London, starting half a century ago or so, and you'll see nothing of that kind of "objectivity" in historic British journalism. They especially would not have claimed "moral objectivity" in such a smarmy, self-congratulatory way whilst incessantly broadcasting cheap moralisms about animal rights, global warming, and similar kinds of politically-correct value judgments, which the British media nowadays make on an hourly basis (starting with the BBC).

Forgive me for sounding a little bit like a conspiracy theorist for a minute here, but the fact that you would insist that the news a you're getting is all delivered to you by the establishment media with a sincere striving for objectivity simply reveals how thoroughly you have been influenced by Big Brother and the thought police.

(That last comment was only in half-jest.)

Ted said...

Phil Johnson said... reveals how thoroughly you have been influenced by Big Brother and the thought police.

well i don't watch big brother i have read about it in the newspaper but how come you know about big brother? :-)

I wrote previously "My general point is that within the constraints of a fallen world and HIDDEN 'POLITICAL' AGENDAS in the MEDIA, we need as far as is possible to seek out the true facts rather than automatically believing the pontification and emotional hype that unfortunately can often be observed on Fox News.

We need to use our CRITICAL FACULTIES and, again, I do endorse your point about the myth of moral neutrality".

Phil i don't know how you could have arrived at such a conclusion unless you are reading me out of context.

eastendjim said...

ianjmatt

Would you also consider "homicide bomber" a pretty good neutral term for the BBC to use?

Both suicide bomber & homicide bomber describe the purpose and result of the bomber's actions.

However, I would argue that homicide bomber is also the more accurate term as it better describes the primary purpose and result of the bomber's actions.

ianjmatt said...

Phil

You wrote:

"Forgive me for sounding a little bit like a conspiracy theorist for a minute here, but the fact that you would insist that the news a you're getting is all delivered to you by the establishment media with a sincere striving for objectivity simply reveals how thoroughly you have been influenced by Big Brother and the thought police."

Firstly - it isn't 'all' delivered by establishment media - there are internet, newspapers etc to compare.

However, you confuse publicly owned and establishment. The BBC is owned by the people, and run on its behalf by a Trust. It is also subject to OFCOM regulations on impartiality in news. Any member of the public may have a complaint investigated into allegations of bias, the report of which is always published. Besides which, surely it would have been in the governments interest to have played up the terrorist angle on 7/7.

In addition, the content of each channel of news (BBC One, BBC Three, BBC Four, all the radio stations, web) is decided by the individual editor. Then, each programme also has an editor, which means you will get a very different tone on the Today programme, BBC Breakfast, Five LIVE breakfast etc all on at exactly the same time. The guidelines are just that - guidelines - and may be broken if the editorial needs require it. I can think of a live report from bagdad where the correspondent was speaking live right after a bombing and used far more emotive language than would have been used by another reporter later in the day - and this was judged to have been editorially correct.


I don't see evidence of pretense. The BBC have been very open in publishing that they have editorial guidelines on this.That is not pretense.

I don't see evidence of propagandizing - their aim is neutrality (even if it is missed), not propaganda. Can you show that the intention is something other than this? Besides, you give the BBC far too much credit in terms of clarity of purpose and efficiency of execution!

eastendjim said...

ianjmatt

When you really look at it, suicide and homicide are actually both secondary purposes of these bombings.

If no one dies in a bombing the bombers have at a bare minumum created terror among the general populace. In fact, terror is the primary purpose and result of all of these bombings.

According to my New Webster's Dictionary terrorism is "the systematic use of terror, esp. through unlawful violence to intimidate or coerce..."

These bombings were systematic, they caused terror, they were unlawful violence and they intimidated and coerced the public.

Would "terrorism bomber" be a pretty good neutral term for the BBC to use in covering these bombings?

Phil Johnson said...

ianjmatt:

So is that a yes? You do work for the BBC?

KATAIOANEN said...

Paul wrote Romans when Seneca and Burrus administered the Empire. I think the judgment of history is that, this was a period of good government. Paul approves; his perception is that, use of the imperial sword was likely to reflect malfeasance on the part of the executed party. He recommends that Christians be good citizens. I doubt he would have said the same thing in 64BC.
The BBC is not morally neutral. No one is morally neutral. The statements of the BBC reflect its moral stance. That particular stance is not “Biblical” morality. It is the stance of the intelligentsia in Britain, in the early years of the 3rd millennium.
On the other hand, I suspect that there is a great deal in common between Paul’s stance and that of the BBC. “διότι τὸ γνωστὸν του̂ θεου̂ φανερόν ἐστιν ἐν αὐτοι̂ς” applies to Seneca, Paul, and the modern humanistic world.
The perpetrators of this particular act are/were “terrorists”. My suspicion is that they are/were people who wish to advance a particular world view and they are using terror as a means to that end. I think there are similarities here with Truman’s action in bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Innocent” people were bombed in an effort to change the “mental climate”. I think Truman believed that his stance was ethical; I think also, that these particular “terrorists” believe their actions to be ethical.
Our gut reaction on hearing of the event is to think that the action is gravely evil and that the men who perpetrated it are wicked. On the other hand, I think we are forced to say that people should act in a manner that they believe to be ethical.
I do not think it easy, to absolutely condemn terror as a strategy. Probably many would judge it OK to generate mild anxiety in an innocent person if the result were to avert major catastrophe for many. And I think it easier to justify if the “innocent person” is one of “them” – consider the Edomite children of Psalm 137.
The persons who perpetrated this act are “terrorists”; the intent behind the action is to terrorize. But in a sense ,“terrorist” tells us more about the intent behind the act, than it does about the person or group of persons who formed the intent. They could be IRA or they could be a “fundamentalist” Muslim group. Both groups have used terror as a tactic, but their ultimate goal does not really relate to terror – rather to a particular political end (with very mild theological overtones) on the one hand, or a theological agenda (with a significant political component) on the other.
Though it is not explicitly stated, there is a suggestion in the post, that Christians should (sometimes) take the sword in hand to punish the wicked. But I don’t think that is what St Paul is recommending here. His perception is that the Roman authorities are a tool in God’s hand. This is a little different from suggesting that, Christians should (sometimes) take the sword in hand.
The post does raise the question in my mind, as to whether the apostle elsewhere (in the “genuine” letters) advises Christians to take up the sword. I do not know the answer to this question. But if the answer is “no”, then I think the post may have (to some extent) misrepresented the mind of the apostle.

Ted said...

Matt In the interest of full disclosure, do you work for the BBC or are you connected to it in some way?

I agree with your last post on OFCOM regulations on impartiality in news, that is how things work in the UK, but why will you not answer Phils question? No one is bias free including yourself, Phil and I.

I know where Phil is coming from: An American Conservative Evangelical, I am a British conservative evangelical. So could you please reveal your hand in tne interest of fair play. Do you work for the BBC, connected to the BBC in some way or a media person?

Regardless i still would not like to see Fox News style reporting in the UK!

ianjmatt said...

Sorry

I missed the question. No I do not work for the BBC - I am an evagelical here in the UK who works for a Christian publisher.

Traditions ~ 2 thess.2:15 said...

I believe that a Reading (and possibly a new publishing) of Erwin Lutzers (Moody Church)book
"Hitlers Cross" would be of great Value to our societys /World and the Church of Jesus Christ today.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802435793/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=
How soon we forget I fear.

Ted said...

Thanks Matt for your kind response.

Phil Matt does not work for the BBC and i can tell you from personal experience that i have written to OFCOM about the BBC with others and our complaint has been investigated. And from time to time the ruling of OFCOM is aired on telly.

Matt does have a point about OFCOM i can pass you their email address so that you can write to them about your perceived propaganda in the BBC so that they can investigate. But if you want a perfect system which is bias free then none exists and neither can you point us to an example of one News operation that is without this fault. Phil can you point us to a news operation presently that you would wish the BBC to emulate?

Phil Johnson said...

Ted:

I can read. See my comments about naivete above.

One more thought, and then I am done with this thread:

The "objectivity" of which you guys boast permits broadcasters to advocate the homosexual lifestyle and portray homosexuality in a positive light pretty much to any degree they like and as often as they like. But it prohibits anyone from saying on the air that homosexuality is a sin or an aberrant behavior.

So I'll say again: the brand of "objectivity" you gentlemen seem to think is so wonderfully enlightened is a mind-numbing drug, and in my view it is a whole lot more dangerous than the opinionated shouting matches you rightly deplore on the tabloid-style stations.

It's a shame you haven't enough actual objectivity to see it.