Words are the primary tools of editors and reporters, and they can be used, either consciously or unconsciously, to promote either war or peace. Using actual examples, I will demonstrate that far too often Canadian editors and reporters have chosen to use words that have become tools of war, and thus the blog title; Weaponized Words.
Audiences have great power to resist media messages, and this is especially the case on issues about which they feel knowledgeable or are concerned about enough to research their own opinions. However that leaves many areas where the mass media can have a strong influence on audience opinion:
* Complex global issues, where people feel the need to rely on experts in the media or experts selected by them;
* Issues of lesser interest to the individual, but still important, where the individual is unwilling to spend a lot of time studying the issue, but feels he/she must have an opinion on it (eg. Middle East).
Moreover the mass media 1) primes the public by setting agendas – telling them what is important to think about, and what is not; 2) frames the debate – by telling the public how to consider the issues, and 3) uses the propaganda repetition technique of constantly repeating certain things until they are become “common knowledge” or “common sense”, and thus not readily amenable to doubting or disputing.
There is nothing inevitable about the mass media creating weaponized words. In fact editors and reporters have a plethora of choices:
1) They can choose which topics to emphasize and which to ignore;
2) They can choose who to interview and who to ignore;
3) They can choose which sources to treat as credible and which to ignore;
4) Within an article, they can choose which related information or contextual details to include or ignore;
5) They can choose how to phrase their eye-catching headlines;
6) They can choose which photos, images and metaphors to employ;
7) They can choose to parrot the words of government officials without analysis, or choose to critique them;
8) Most fundamentally, they have an unlimited choice of vocabulary; verbs, nouns,
adverbs and adjectives, from which to choose, each of which may have differing positive or negative connotations.
This blog will employ several tools to analyze media reports, but will primarily use the tools of critical discourse analysis (CDA) and content analysis. Critical discourse analysis is carried out essentially by examining the choices that editors and reporters make (as per the above list), and considering what other reasonable choices could have been made, but were not. This technique has the power to reveal hidden agendas or biases on the part of writers; some of which might be hidden to the writers themselves.
The main principles underlying this blog are my beliefs;
1) That in the 21st century, in the Western democracies, one of the crucial components of warfare (along with bombs, aircraft and soldiers) is information, and without the weaponized words provided by the media, there would be much less warfare, violence and injustice in the world;
2) That mainstream media in Canada, more often than not, is providing weaponized words through inaccurate and misleading reporting on the Middle East, and particularly on Israel/Palestine;
3) That the Middle East is the area of the world that has the greatest potential to create the conditions for a major war or massive acts of violence that could ultimately reach all the way to Canada and threaten Canadian well-being;
4) That the media should be held accountable for the suffering and killing it is facilitating through its use of weaponized words. I believe that the mainstream media in Canada is not only failing in its responsibility to accurately inform the Canadian public; it is actually doing something much worse. It is acting as an accomplice to crimes of violence, injustice and warfare in the Middle East, and supporting events that could ultimately harm Canadians..
Initially the primary focus of this blog will be on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), with special attention to its online presence, CBCNews.ca. While there is a serious problem of misleading Middle East reporting from privately-owned media in Canada, the CBC is owned and financed by the Canadian public and has a clear mandate to serve broad Canadian interests, not those of the small group of powerful, biased media owners. Unfortunately it can be easily demonstrated that CBC just as consistently misreports on Middle East issues as those privately-owned media outlets. This creates the unbalanced and harmful situation in which virtually all Middle East reporting in Canada has a biased slant and is inaccurate.
Another element of CBC’s mandate is to provide an alternative source of information and perspective, particularly to governmental sources, and this is clearly not happening on Middle East issues. In this blog I will provide examples of where CBC chooses to echo and amplify the most ridiculous and false claims of the Canadian Government regarding this region without making any reasonable effort to fulfill its mandate of providing unbiased critical analysis of government pronouncements and policies.
The goal of this blog will be to monitor the mainstream media, particularly the CBC, to identify when they are abusing language, and promoting fallacies and falsehoods that tend to make war, violence or injustice in the Middle East more likely to occur. We believe the mass media should be realigned to serve the broad Canadian public rather than serving special interest groups and foreign governments. Canadians, and the world, will not know security and peace, and there will be no turning swords into plowshares until weaponized words are replaced with peace-promoting ones.
I welcome comments and criticism to all of the postings on this blog. Also I would welcome my attention being brought to any Canadian mainstream Middle East reporting that I have missed that either supports the premises of this blog, or tends to refute them.