Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Watching the Neo-conservative Bulldogs

Check out this smart running commentary on Fox News Channel at Guarding the Henhouse. Here's their take on the term 'homocide bomber'--

First, it is redundant. All variations on the word 'bombing(er)' imply using explosives with, at least, disregard for human life (otherwise, it would just be 'demolition'). News reports will usually mention when a bombing takes lives or its proximity to other people. Putting 'homicide' on the front of it would be like the third mention of the same concept.

Second, this format is not being used consistently in other contexts. What could justify a journalist, stylistically or in fairness, using the phrase 'homicide bomber', but not 'homicide stabber', 'homicide poisoner', 'homicide drowner'... ? They are all deaths, and the context in which they were committed shouldn't dictate a stylistic variation. Unfortunately, I suspect that the political context of these bombings is exactly the reason for its use.

Third, 'homicide bomber' is not as specific as 'suicide bomber'. The Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh are accurately described by 'homicide bomber', even though they bombed remotely. More description is necessary to succinctly convey the details of their crimes. In news reports, you may have heard the Unabomber being described as a 'mail bomber' and McVeigh as a 'truck bomber'. In the same style, 'suicide bomber' dispassionately and compactly conveys that the person brought and detonated the bomb on his person.

Finally, and I think most important, journalists should not latch onto buzz words created by one particular interest group. 'homicide bomber' was coined in the 'pro-Israel' activist community, and spread throughout conservative circles that were pointedly trying to show their solidarity. Given that almost no other non-Murdoch owned news media outlet uses this term, I believe Fox News should think again before further compromising their neutrality.

I agree that the final point is the most important, but it is also the most important reason that they use the term. Fox News explicitly does not consider itself neutral--the term serves the viewpoint they espouse. While there may be a bit of a liberal tinge to other media outlets, it's worse journalism ethics to consciously choose to take sides on the news.

Hat tip to The Moderate Voice.


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