W. Thomas Smith, Jr

In what the Jerusalem Post refers to as “an uncommon act of journalistic contrition,” the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has issued a public apology “to anyone who was offended” by its reference of recently-killed terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyeh as a “great national leader.”

For once, a major Western media outlet did the right thing by admitting its complicity – perhaps unwitting collusion – in what is becoming a trend toward soft-soaping terrorists and their activities. But how could the BBC have come to this is in the first place?

It’s all part of a dangerous drift toward so-called fairness – not to be confused with free speech – wherein media companies increasingly are giving platforms, equal time, and – for some strange reason – objective deference to terrorists and terrorist organizations.

After all, isn’t it important we respect and give a voice to the poor souls who are so frustrated with life and their places in it that they are forced to blow up 241 sleeping U.S. Marines, sailors, and soldiers; or torture an unarmed American sailor before shooting him in the head and tossing his body out onto an airport runway? Perhaps if you’re on the editorial staff of Al Manar: not the BBC.

Last week, a BBC television report included the line: “The army is on full alert as Lebanon remembers two war victims with different visions but both regarded as great national leaders.”

The two named “greats” were the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Hezbollah’s doctor of death, Mughniyeh.

I won’t get into who Mugniyeh was in terms of the acts of terror and murder for which he was responsible: His bloody perverseness has been widely reported. And it’s good the BBC has apologized. But I think it’s also important we take a look at the way in which the latter came clean.

The BBC's retraction (actually more of a qualifier) said: “While there is no doubt that supporters of Hezbollah did regard Mughniyeh in such terms – as a great leader – we accept that the scripting of this phrase was imprecise.”

Imprecise? Referring to Mughniyeh as a “great national leader” went far beyond simple imprecision. And what has become even more problematic in the “war of ideas” between the West and Jihadism – as counterterrorism expert Dr. Walid Phares describes it – is how a newsroom environment could exist in the West that would allow such a public accolade be paid to a butcher like Mughniyeh in the first place.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
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