< HOME  Saturday, July 01, 2006

BBC chastised for using ‘captured’ not ‘kidnapped’ and ‘detained’ not ‘arrested’

A person can't even speak for themselves without running afoul of the word police. Words are their domain - their specialty - not ours.

Only they can decide which words describe which occassions.
The BBC has decided not to [use] the term "kidnap" in relation to the story of Corporal Gilad Shalit and the resulting fallout in Gaza. The corporation instead says he has been "captured". Hamas cabinet members picked up by the Israeli army were "detained" rather than "arrested".

The BBC's foreign editor, Jon Williams, explains the decision in the BBC editors' blog. It's worth quoting the relevant section here.
Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry value judgments. Our job is to remain objective. By doing so, I hope we allow our audiences on radio and television to make their own assessment of the story. So we try to stick to the facts. Civilians are "kidnapped"; Cpl Shalit was "captured". Since troops don't usually make "arrests", the politicians were "detained". Doubtless some will disagree. But that's, in essence, the heart of the story - two competing narratives.
The blog has attracted dozens of responses and made it by far the most active entry on the BBC editors' new forum, which was launched this week to make the corporation's news processes more open and accountable. Inevitably, many say the BBC's choice of words makes it biased towards the Palestinians.

I agree that the BBC should be careful in its choice of words; we all should be. And I agree that the Hamas politicians were "detained" rather than "arrested" - an arrest suggests some kind of process following the gathering of evidence, the laying of charges and an ultimate trial. There is no suggestion of charges being laid in this case. (And I'm not making any value judgments here, at least not intentionally.)

But to say that Cpl Shalit was merely "captured" is nonsense: it's fake objectivity. Patently, he is being held as a kind of hostage. It looks like a kidnap and feels like a kidnap. Therefore, surely, it should be called a kidnap.
Call it what you want. But, please, no more the double standards.

One of the commentators,"Cheeseboy," says it best.
Two points. One is that all objectivity is false- everything has a context, and an implied narative.

The second is that if one were really being "objective" what are the thousands of Palestinians being held without charges or trial but "hostages"?
It's time to call a spade a spade. But if you must call it a heart, at least be consistent, or prepare to be called what you are - a hypocrite.


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