When I joined the BBC, by the way, 20 years ago now, it was assumed, it was a basic standard, that you adopted the idiom that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
If you use terms like militants, insurgents, guerrillas, you are not saying these people are evil. The word ‘terror’ conjures up a lot more. If I can persuade you that somebody else is a terrorist, then what we are doing is saying that we agree that this person is morally wrong.
Can’t have that. As Tim Blair says, “Who are we to deny this individual the truth of his journey?” Here’s one The Good Blair didn’t mention:
… certainly at the time of 9/11, they used the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the perpetrators. But it is quite funny, that when one of the senior managers suggested that it shouldn’t be used again, there was, not a rebellion but I think several staff members think that the BBC should enter the real world, and accept the language of what people in the street are saying. Now fine, but in doing that, as I say, you are in a way, supporting the Bush Administration and the language that it uses and its enemies.
Rees is exactly what you’d expect, but it is interesting to learn that several World Service staff members, while not exactly rebelling, thought that the word “terrorist” should be used.