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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

BBC WORD PLAY: In the immediate aftermath of the explosions, the BBC's Web site reported "the worst terrorist atrocity Britain has seen." Shortly thereafter, the BBC had gone online and changed that phrase to "the worst peacetime bomb attacks Britain has seen." (Major kudos to Tom Gross for an unflinching expose.) Don't get us wrong, the BBC confides; we did our late night rewrite only to ensure that our credibility isn't undermined by the "careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgments." A sophisticated person might wonder: Is not a desire to avoid emotional or value judgments itself the expression of an emotional or value judgment? But since we're just ordinary folks, we'll not go there; we don't want to rile fascist killers by calling them fascist killers. Today in London, freedom fighters issued a compelling dynamite-based non-verbal communique as a means of expressing their explosive dismay at Mr. Blair's shameless defiling of Holy Iraq, acting as consort to the notorious American cowboy draft-dodger, Mr. Bush..." "The word terrorist is not banned from the BBC," assures the BBC. Phew, now we feel better. But only a little, because this clarification (swell though it is) comes from people who clearly play cricket with words, whole phrases, complete thoughts. People who make a point of going back to revise their reports with the aim of lending the benefit of the doubt to other people who, equipment willing, would happily decimate every square inch of Britain and the United States, including every Muslim living therein. These are people — the BBC word fresheners — whose very existence would make Winston Churchill want to extract his own teeth with slip-joint pliers. Of course we mean that in the positive sense. Tea, anyone?