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manipulative writing at the BBC:
a deconstruction

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This is the second in a series of documents that analyse manipulative writing techniques used by reporters, and others, in order to promote their own political agendas.to article start

Sheikh Yassin: Life in pictures from the BBC.co.uk website

[Commentary by abelard in green]

When at at first my attention was drawn to this item, I had thought that it was a spoof but no; however, it is a work of art suitable for classroom analysis:

“1 of 9
Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin, assassinated by Israel, was an inspiration to disillusioned young Palestinians and a hate figure for Israel. Hamas is one of the largest and most militant Palestinian groups fighting Israeli occupation

Yassin was “assassinated” by “Israel”. This was a a murderous old man whose life was devoted to persuading arab youths to kill themselves and random civilians, with the determined objective of driving “Israelis” into the sea.

Now, finally, he has been removed by local security forces.

The use of the term “inspiration” is at the very least ill-selected, while the fact that Yassin opposed settlement or peace [5/9] is treated with a strange casualness.

He spent his life trying to stop peace, by getting young kids to kill people – sorry, inspiring them to kill. What we do see in the linked item is a series of innocuous pictures of an old man in a wheel chair. But now where are the bodies “inspired” by this “scholar” [2/9] associated with “charity” [9/9] ?

Further note “the disillusioned young Palestinians”. What would you call them if they were daubing graffiti on a wall, let alone blowing themselves up in your local supermarket?

2 of 9
He devoted his early life to Islamic scholarship and was considered by supporters primarily as a religious figure.

This was a ‘devoted scholar’ who dreamed of a new holocaust.

3 of 9
He was welcomed by Yasser Arafat when he was released from prison in 1997, in exchange for two Israeli agents held by Jordan after a botched mission to kill a Hamas member.

Yassin was “welcomed” from “prison” in exchange for “agents”, after a “botched” attempt to “kill”. This is not detached or objective vocabulary, nor can the response of Arafat, who condones and finances terrorism, be regarded as meritorious.

4 of 9
He became an increasingly powerful figure, and Hamas attacks, in which scores of Israelis have been killed, posed a major obstacle to peace negotiations.

“ Have been killed”—note the change of tense from immediate past to further past, and gradually the reader is led on. Next, posing “a major obstacle to peace negotiations” is offered as acceptable behaviour for an “increasingly powerful figure”.

5 of 9
Sheikh Yassin opposed the Oslo peace process and refused to recognise the state of Israel, advocating resistance rather than talks.

Here again, a rosy gloss is given to formenting violence. “Refusal to recognise Israel” is BBC and Hamas code for, “wipe Israel off the the map”.

6 of 9
Scores of Palestinians were inspired by his message to give up their lives, and became suicide bombers.

Note how only “scores” of Palestinians become bombers, but they are against “the state of Israel” [5/9] as a whole – plucky David against the mean Goliath.

7 of 9
Sheikh Yassin said all suicide bombings - the latest of which came eight days ago in Ashdod - were a "response to Israeli crimes".

The so-called Israeli “crimes” are no longer a response to indiscriminate suicide attacks; it is the suicide attacks that are a response to the Israeli “crimes”.

8 of 9
His hatred of the United States was also well known.

Yassin’s “hatred of the United States”—well, we have a growing left-wing bunch of shufflers for Madsam. After all, “hating the United States” is becoming almost respectable among idiots.

9 of 9
Hamas support was boosted by its charitable activities and support for Palestinians suffering economic hardship.”

Very noble I’m sure, but where are the bits of bodies and the blood of the brainwashed children “inspired” by this “scholar” and “charity worker”?

The comment that Hamas has done charitable work seems strange in its contiguity. It attempts to associate Yassin with “charity” even though the text, in fact, speaks of “Hamas”, not Yassin, in the context of “charitable activities”.

Hamas is called a “militant” organisation opposing “occupation”. It is not described as it is, a terrorist organisation trying “to drive Israel into the sea” by persuading young people to kill themselves and others.

To summarise: an “inspiring” figure who “opposed peace”.

It is not what is written that influences covertly, it is the emotional coda of the structure, all the time accompanied by photos of a pathetic old “scholar” in a wheelchair. It is an attempt to hoodwink, to manipulate the readers’ response.

A very common media game is to slip over the negative aspects (or vice versa) early on; and then seek to leave a contrary taste at the end. This structure is not accidental. Here, the taste is at both ends, and is about scholarship and charity.

As here, the item is often constructed with eight or nine paragraphs, with the negatives buried (as neutrally as possible) in paragraphs 4 and 5. The attention of the average reader is known often to be wandering by this point.

The general structure is designed with introductory impression-forming paragraphs, and with similar impression-forming paragraphs at the end, to reinforce the impression that the author wishes to leave with you.

These ‘reporters’are taught this sort of verbal trickery at media colleges and at the BBC.
Watch the structure of ‘news’ items, watch the final image with which they leave you. It is standard psychology – it is known as the availability heuristic. You remember what you last saw.
Further, attend not just what is said, but also to what is omitted.

You remember the air crashes they show you, you do not remember the millions of miles flown safely and without incident. But it is these safe flights which are not shown. In fact, commercial air flight is probably the safest means of transport ever devised.

Readers and viewers are being had—consider who is doing the having, what is their agenda? What of the idiots who crawl from under the stones at each opportunity, as they vigourously attempt to make anti-semitism ‘respectable’ once more?

Let’s talk of the poor Palestinian underdog. C’mon chaps – fair play – let’s blow up some Israelis, and whine when the Israelis take action to stop the killers.

This is now the standard ploy of terror organisations: playing the victim in order to seek outside support, such as money from the EU. And that agenda is now fully embraced by most of the left wing press.

The Middle East is a mess, but this so-called ‘scholar’ was a dedicated killer of innocents on both sides of the divide.

This piece is manipulation and rhetoric. It is in no way detached ‘reporting’, as is demonstrated by how Yassin is introduced to you as a scholar, and the impression you are left with him as a man of charity.

Update: 25.03.2004
“young person offered 70 virgins and $20 to blow himself up”

"The next few minutes were like an action film in slow motion. The boy froze, hands on his head, as the soldiers barked commands from afar. The military sent a small yellow robot whirring toward Abdu, to bring him scissors to cut off the vest.

“But the weight of the vest and the awkward positioning made it difficult for him to snip away the deadly vest.

“By now the boy, who gave his age as 14 although his family says he is 16, was visibly beginning to panic. He called for help, pleading that he did not want to blow himself up. But the soldiers remained in their positions as the crowd watched.

“Abdu was then ordered to take off the vest and for some heart-stopping seconds, he struggled to rid himself of the explosives-packed garment and dropped it on the road. The boy was then ordered him to strip to his underwear and kneel on concrete checkpoint floor as soldiers thoroughly searched him. He was then seized by the soldiers and the explosives were later detonated in a controlled explosion.”

On March 16,

“.... Israeli troops stopped an 11-year-old boy allegedly trying to smuggle a bag of explosives through the same checkpoint. The boy said he had been given a bag of car parts. The Israeli army suspected the explosives were to be detonated remotely.”

 


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