Fraser Nelson

The language of terror

The language of terror
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Terrorism is a propaganda war where words matter as well as bullets, and those who murdered the British soldiers at Massereene Barracks could not complain at the much of the coverage today. The BBC news, and much of the other news, announced simply that the Real IRA had carried out the attacks. Someone who does not follow the Northern Ireland peace process carefully could well take this statement at face value, and assume the IRA is back. And this is exactly what the terrorists want to convey. An integral part of the "Real IRA's" mission is to make out as if they are the genuine IRA and that the McGuinness/Adams movement is no more. 

They wish to recreate the Troubles, have the army rescale its presence, and have everyone act as if it's the 1980s over again. By repeating their name unquestioningly, the BBC is abetting their aim. Today's Wall St Journal refers to a "IRA renegades". The Sun refers to "a cowardly 'Real IRA' gang". Best of all, The Guardian denies them any formal name and introduces them only as "dissident republican paramilitaries".

No one would seriously argue that the  BBC's decision is political - it is just the unintended consequence of a house style enforced unthinkingly by a sprawling bureaucracy. Companies spotted this flaw in the journalistic system a while back, and ordered newspapers to play around with the capitalisation (such as "easyJet"). They complied. Then groups like Invesco demanded that their whole name be put in capital letters - not because it was an acronym, they because they wanted it to stand out on the page.

Terrorists are just as capable of using spin. And the BBC should know better than to fall for it.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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