Don’t single/double quote me

star-BBCBBC and the ‘M’ word

The ‘M’ word in this case is not Muslim, a word that the BBC turns somersaults to avoid using in a negative context, particularly when relevant to the story. The ‘M’ word is militant, a word the BBC generally uses to avoid using the ‘T’ word, terrorist.

The BBC essentially forbids the use of the word terrorism (and derivatives) on the grounds that no agreed consensus on what it means and involves a value judgement. The BBC, as far as I can discover, doesn’t warn their staff against using any other word from the estimated 1,022,000 words available in the English language.

So many words in English have multiple and sometimes contradictory meanings and involve value judgements. How about zionist and antisemite for a start.

Speaking as a onetime teacher of English as a foreign language I lost count of the number of times that pupils opened their dictionaries (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary) and decided incorrectly that the meaning of a word was the first in a list of available alternatives. This can lead to terrible misunderstandings but that’s the English language.

The BBC chosen euphemism has become “militant”. Note the quotation marks (inverted commas for the English). The BBC sometimes  uses them to show they are not buying into the meaning AKA scare quotes and sometimes to show that someone else said it – especially the word terrorist. Are there BBC guidelines on when to use them in their single and double form? I haven’t discovered any.

However those same guidelines on terrorism say;

As such, we should not change the word “terrorist” when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves

So why do they use them around the word militant six times in Israel strike ‘kills militants’ on Golan Heights frontier?


Screen grab from BBC webpage

Was there any doubt they were killed or that they were in BBC-speak militants?


Screen grab from IDF Spokesperson on Twitter

I defy the BBC to provide even one instance where the Israelis said “militant”. Israel says “terrorist”.

Off on a slight tangent

Five Minutes for Israel much preferes Boaz Ganor’s definition of terrorismTerrorism is the deliberate use of violence aimed at civilians or civilian targets aimed to achieve political goals. If the BBC would adopt it they wouldn’t have to do this semantic dance with single and double quotes and M/T words.

“Israel strike kills infiltrators on Golan Heights frontier”. FIXED!

Extra credit

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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