Robert Fisk, The Independent’s
Middle East correspondent, in a speech at the annual Al Jazeera forum, discusses the words
and narratives inherited by journalists when reporting on conflict and
“Power and the media are not just about cosy relationships between journalists and political leaders, between editors and presidents. They are not just about the parasitic-osmotic relationship between supposedly honourable reporters and the nexus of power that runs between White House and state department and Pentagon, between Downing Street and the foreign office and the ministry of defence. In the western context, power and the media is about words – and the use of words.
“It is about semantics.
“It is about the employment of phrases and clauses and their origins. And it is about the misuse of history; and about our ignorance of history.
“More and more today, we journalists have become prisoners of the language of power.”
“Is this because we no longer care about linguistics? Is this because lap-tops ‘correct’ our spelling, ‘trim’ our grammar so that our sentences so often turn out to be identical to those of our rulers? Is this why newspaper editorials today often sound like political speeches?
“Let me show you what I mean.
“For two decades now, the US and British – and Israeli and Palestinian – leaderships have used the words ‘peace process’ to define the hopeless, inadequate, dishonourable agreement that allowed the US and Israel to dominate whatever slivers of land would be given to an occupied people.”
Read the rest of the speech.
He also gave a list of “danger words” :
CHANGE AGENTS (whatever these sinister creatures are).
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