This story about Arnie says in passing that he has long supported the “Jewish Lobby Group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center.”
The description “Jewish lobby group” caught my eye. Hmm. The description is defensible, but subtly wrong. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has to do with the Jews and it is a lobby group – but actually its mission is a lot more specific than that. What the Center is famous for is Nazi hunting. As the decades go by, true, most of the Nazis have died off, and the organisation is now more concerned with the Jew-killers of 2003 than 1943. That still doesn’t make it just a Jewish lobby group. So far as I know the Center does not lobby for greater recognition of Jewish culture, or for subsidies for Jewish activities, or try to get out the Jewish vote, or do any of the other things that national or racial lobby groups usually do. Nor does it, so far as I can tell, press for any particular US policy with regard to the State of Israel, although it certainly supports Israel. It very specifically concerned with violence and hatred against Jews. I think the BBC no longer feel happy talking about violence against Jews.
How things have changed. Back in 1999 the BBC was much more specific:
“The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, set up in 1977, has pressed for the extradition of numerous war crimes suspects, as well as campaigning for the rights of Holocaust survivors and an end for pensions to SS officers.”
What a difference four years makes! The Wiesenthal boys have now been sent to the lobby doghouse to languish with, obviously, the rest of the sinister Jewish Lobby (a somewhat inflammatory term that the BBC hardly ever used to use), and other low-life such as the gun lobby and the hunting lobby. Joining those sinister lobbyists will be members of various brigades, notably the pro-hunting one already mentioned in the story I linked to, and the blue rinse one. Brigade, being a military word, is even worse than lobby. (In BBC-speak organisations supporting gun-control or favouring a ban on hunting are not lobbies – they are campaigns, a word suggesting mass popular action. The US NRA or the Countryside Alliance can be as massive or popular as they like, they are still usually stuck with being shady old lobbies – though to be fair I have occasionally heard “campaign” used by the Beeb to describe the Countryside Alliance.)
It is instructive to compare this to the BBC’s treatement of the homelessness lobby group Shelter, which back in March and April the BBC used to describe as a “homlessness charity”, but by August is just mentioned by name with no supplementary description at all. What is going on? The BBC is meant to be a worldwide service and usually carefully adds little notes of explanation for its many foreign (or clueless British) readers. No way is Shelter so world-famous that no explanation is needed. What I think has happened is that the BBC has felt one or two blows land home on the subject of its partisan allocation of the terms ‘charity’ and ‘lobby’ group and would rather not lead with its collective chin again. It would be just too painful to call dear old Shelter by that nasty name “lobby group”, though, so the BBC has gone with the old saw that if you can’t say anything nice say nothing.
To forestall criticism that I am just swapping the BBC’s labels, I think there is a meaningful distinction between a charity and a lobby group. If most of the money an organisation goes on giving out help to the afflicted, it’s a charity. If most of it goes on trying to get governments to do things, it’s a lobby group. The SWC is, by this description, a lobby group (but not just a Jewish one). I think Shelter is also a lobby group.
LATER: On reflection, I’m not sure about that last sentence. To be frank I couldn’t find a breakdown of how Shelter spends its money. There isn’t one on the Shelter website, but I get the impression that soup-dispensing is on the way down and politics is on the way up. Nor could I find a chart showing where Shelter’s money came in. Many “charities” nowadays are actually funnels for state money.
UPDATE: Searching BBC news for “gun lobby” I got 10 results. For “anti-gun lobby” I got 1 result. “Hunting lobby” got 47 – and I bet “hunt lobby” would get some more, “anti-hunting lobby” got 5. (Remember to take away 5 from the 47, though.) My searches were quick ‘n’ dirty. I leave it to others to do this more scientifically.
UPDATE: Stealth edit sonar ping! Ben Wald has pointed out in the comments that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is now called a “Jewish human rights group.”