EDITOR’S NOTE: DUH! Someone point out that maybe the Beeb was saying “so-called Islamic State” instead of “so-called Islamic State TARGETS” — in other words, rightly doubting the terrorist’s legitimacy as “the Islamic State” — which is an appropriate form of skepticism — rather than doubting that the targets were actually associated with the terrorist group. This seems likely. In which case, I am officially an idiot. Never mind…
“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
That’s the rule tyro journalists are taught from the start: Take nothing for granted; believe nothing that you haven’t checked.
But as much as American reporters may have internalized that, no one in this country takes it to the extremes that British media do. Even in their headlines, they attribute things that American media would not, putting the most routine statements of fact in quotes. For instance, today they have a headline that says, “Top Nigerian ‘internet scammer’ arrested.” Because you have to be careful — it may turn out he really IS a deposed minister who wants to share several million dollars with us.
This practice reached a new level today. I received this news alert today from The Washington Post:
And this one right after it from the BBC:
I could see putting “Islamic State targets” in quotes, as the Beeb often does with government statements.
But “so-called”? To me, that’s just a few shades short of “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
Did the Beeb have some particular reason to doubt that these were actual ISIL targets in this instance — reason that escaped other news outlets?
The thing is, they had already covered themselves with “Pentagon says.” If the Pentagon had said we’d shot down pretty pink winged unicorns, you really wouldn’t need to distance yourself further, as long as you included the “Pentagon says.” No matter how scrupulous you are.
There’s such a thing as being too scrupulous by half, and I think the BBC accomplished that today…
Oh, by the way, in case y’all want to talk about the alleged U.S. airstrikes in Libya (“alleged” because, for all we know, there were no airstrikes at all!), this would be a good place to do it. Just ignore my pedantic ramblings…