Cherry picking terror and ‘explaining’ radicalisation at the BBC

h/t RS

On August 30th the BBC News website published an updated version of a commissioned backgrounder which first appeared in June of this year. Titled “Who was behind the jihadist attacks on Europe and North America?“, the backgrounder is based on a study analysing 63 terror attacks in the 28 EU countries, Norway, Switzerland and North America over the past three years.

“A series of attacks in Europe over the summer months has raised the number of people killed in the West by jihadists during the past three years to more than 420, writes Dr Lorenzo Vidino.

The deaths of 16 people in Barcelona and Cambrils earlier this month highlighted the continued threat posed by Islamist militants.”

Along with many other countries, Israel does not fall into the geographic area covered by the study concerned and readers are told that:

“Although the vast majority of Islamist attacks are elsewhere in the world, an unprecedented number have taken place in Europe and North America since the declaration of a “caliphate” by the so-called Islamic State, in June 2014.”

The first link in that paragraph leads to a feature published on the BBC News website in December 2014 under the title “Jihadism: Tracking a month of deadly attacks”. Israel was not included in that study either for reasons discussed here at the time.

The BBC’s narrow focus on what it terms ‘jihadist attacks’, together with its long-standing refusal to classify attacks against Israelis as terrorism, means that while audiences are provided with a backgrounder concerning 63 terror attacks that resulted in 424 deaths in geographical areas with a combined population of some 883 million, a country with less than 1% of that population that saw over 70 people killed in acts of terror during the same time period (September 2014 to August 2017) remains off the radar.

At the foot of this backgrounder readers are provided with a link to the study upon which it is based. That paper includes analysis (from page 78) that does not appear in the backgrounder but is relevant in light of the BBC’s standard portrayal of the topic of radicalisation.

“…it is not uncommon for many voices within the media, the policymaking community and the general public to make sweeping statements about what causes radicalization, often attributing the phenomenon to one causal factor. Arguably the most common factors utilized in these mono-causal approaches is integration – or, more specifically, the lack thereof – and socio-economic deprivation. While variations of this argument abound, at its core the theory argues that radicalization is simply the byproduct of the marginalization that plagues large cross-sections of Muslim communities, particularly in Europe. The theory argues that a lack of access to opportunities education, and jobs, alongside a general level of disenfranchisement, that drive young Muslims to lash out at the societies in which they were born and embrace an ideology that enables them to avenge their frustrations and offers new meaning to their lives.

This theory applies the broader axiom that extremism and terrorism are byproducts of poverty and exclusion to the specific case of Western Muslims. The issue has been debated for decades and has polarized both the academic and policymaking communities. While it is not this report’s aim to enter this debate, it can be safely said that a large body of evidence has refuted the existence of a clear and linear link between poverty and terrorism. Rather, many studies analyzing radicalization dynamics throughout the world have shown that contrary to commonly made assumptions, higher degrees of sympathy for extremist ideas and involvement in terrorist groups are found in individuals with higher degrees of education or economic success.” [emphasis added]

Following last month’s attacks in Spain, the half-hourly news bulletin ‘BBC Minute’ told audiences around the world that:

“The factors pushing people towards groups advocating violence are familiar. Unemployment, a feeling of exclusion from Spanish society, a certain degree of racial prejudice. There is a class that feels it’s excluded from normal society.”

Similar messaging was seen at the time of the 2015 attacks in Paris when the BBC heavily promoted the message that the terror attacks were attributable to radicalisation prompted by socio-economic factors and alienation.

On the BBC Teach website, a video titled “E is for Extremism” (intended for pupils aged 11 to 14) answers the question “what causes extremism?” as follows:

“…when someone becomes an extremist later in life, it’s called radicalisation. Why does this happen? Well, life can be hard. Complicated problems to do with politics, economics, culture, jobs, environment, jobs, government, can overwhelm us. When life feels unfair extremists attract other angry people by giving them someone to blame.”

Obviously the BBC’s presentation of the issue of radicalisation is rooted in a chosen political narrative rather than being based on the evidence found in studies such as those cited in Dr Vidino’s report and elsewhere. 

 

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BBC bias on terrorism highlighted again in reports from Spain

As was the case when vehicular terror attacks took place in Stockholm, Nice, Berlin and London, despite its supposed policy of avoiding the word ‘terrorist’ without attribution in order to avoid “value judgements”, the BBC made appropriate use of that and related terminology when reporting on the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils on August 17th and 18th.

As readers are no doubt aware, attacks on Israelis using the same or other methods are never described by the BBC as terror in its own words. The reason for that glaring double standard lies in the BBC’s failure to distinguish between method and aims, with the result being that when somebody deliberately drives a vehicle into a group of people, the corporation’s description of the attack as terror – or not – depends on the perceived aims and affiliations of the perpetrator.

Earlier this year the BBC came up with a new ‘explanation’ for the egregious double standard repeatedly seen in its reporting of terror in Israel and elsewhere – particularly Europe.

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The bottom falls out of that argument when we recall that the BBC did use the term ‘Jewish terrorists’ to describe the perpetrator/s of the arson attack in Duma, despite the existence of an “ongoing geopolitical conflict”.

The corporation’s complaints department also appears to have tried to find a way of dismissing the fact that UK forces are involved in the military campaign against jihadists in Iraq and Syria by means of use of the term “direct physical combat”. Notably, the BBC is apparently not inclined to promote the notion that those actions of a state fighting terrorism might be “considered as terrorist acts”.”

Like the UK, Spain is also a member of the international coalition “united in defeating Daesh” and the word terrorist has also been seen in a BBC report concerning another country involved in “direct physical combat” with ISIS.

The fact that the BBC does manage to report terror attacks in other parts of the world using appropriate language means that its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology in coverage of Palestinian attacks on Israelis becomes even more glaring and the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines and guidance is highlighted all the more. Absurdly, the BBC will no doubt still claim that it produces ‘impartial’ and ‘unbiased’ reporting from Israel.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

BBC’s vehicular terrorism double standards on display again

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”