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May 16, 2005

In a Word, Bias

Sometimes, it requires no more than a word in a news story to achieve a favorable or unfavorable slant.

Consider the Associated Press' choice of words when describing "collaborators" or "whistleblowers." By definition, these two words have unfavorable and favorable connotations, respectively. The American Heritage Dictionary defines collaborator as follows:

2. To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one's country.

And whistleblower:

One who reveals wrongdoing within an organization to the public or to those in positions of authority ...

It may come as no surprise, considering the AP's history, how the wire service uses these words to editorialize in its coverage of Israel:

A May 15 dispatch states:

The Shin Bet has played a key role in Israel's all-out campaign against Palestinian militants in more than four years of fighting, obtaining information from a network of Palestinian collaborators and by interrogating thousands of Palestinians rounded up in Israeli arrest sweeps.

On the other hand, hundreds of AP dispatches refer to Mordechai Vanunu as a whistleblower, for example:

Israel's interior minister on Tuesday extended a travel ban on nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu for another year, officials said.

So the AP tells readers that Palestinian informants, individuals who tell the authorities about the activities and locations of terrorists planning to murder civilians, are acting "treasonably";

whereas Vanunu, an individual convicted of treason and espionage for revealing sensitive state secrets and distributing photographs of an Israeli military installation, in violation of a country's laws and an official contract he signed as condition of employement, is deemed by the AP to be a virtuous "One who reveals wrongdoing."

Should it not be the other way around?

Furthermore, by using the word "whistleblower," the AP also editorializes that Israel's nuclear program is "wrongdoing" despite the fact that it is a legal program, like that of the United States.

Convicted nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu

The AP's use of the word "moderate" — according to American Heritage, "Being within reasonable limits" — to describe the Labor Party is another example of improper editorializing.

Posted by GI at May 16, 2005 01:21 PM