Advanced search be angry with the BBC Africa Desk?

(71 Posts)
SilverDragonfly1 Tue 03-Feb-15 17:01:49

First iabu but please, don't be gentle. If I'm being a woolly do-gooder I need to know. I genuinely am unsure, so thought I would ask the scariest people I know to be the judge.

In January there was a story on the BBC website about a 10 year old girl who had been rigged with explosives and used to kill 19 people as well as herself. The report referred to the 'girl bomber' and 'suicide bomber' in specific and general terms about women and children. I felt that was an inappropriate phrase to use as it strongly implies that this child and others can make the choice to commit suicide and murder of their own free will due to religious belief. In my eyes, this child was a murder victim as are any other children and many women used in this way.

I made a complaint to the BBC and received the response from the Africa Desk stating "It is impossible to know the precise circumstances of any of these people – and whether they volunteered to kill themselves or were forced to do so.
In these circumstances, while we accept the points you have made, we think it is best to use the phrase suicide bomber as that is a term our audiences are used to and so will quickly convey what has happened."

I replied to point out that a child cannot make an informed choice to volunteer to do this and that if audiences are 'used to' the phrase the BBC must take much of the responsibility for that. I also said that I felt audiences were intelligent enough to understand the difference between suicide and murder.

The BBC have replied to state they have nothing else to add (" We do not believe your complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation.") and will not be replying to any further discussions on the subject. In fact, they spent 3 paragraphs telling me that they aren't talking to me any more.

My question is, am I being unreasonable to think this is a genuine issue that deserves to be addressed? I think that portraying a little girl as a murderer is very wrong and that it contributes to the 'othering' of Muslims by suggesting that even their children are irredeemably wicked before they reach secondary age. But I'm a white, fairly privileged woman who undoubtedly has too much time on her hands. So perhaps I am getting angry about something that is okay and that doesn't really matter.

Sorry for the length, I can't see anything to cut without losing relevant details!

DurpDurp Tue 03-Feb-15 17:11:32

I can see both points of view. I don't really think viewers would be confused though. Surely everyone would understand the coercion involved with getting a child to be a 'suicide bomber'

I think you are over thinking it. Sorry but I think Yabu

OneStepCloser Tue 03-Feb-15 17:12:23

YADNBU, I totally agree with you and by using the term `suicide bomber` they are either belittling what is happening or think we, the general public, are too thick or to `gentle` to hear the truth of what is exactly happening.

I protest the only way I can, by not watching BBC News and watching Al Jezeera instead.

Their reply to you was rather aggressive as well I think.

SilverDragonfly1 Tue 03-Feb-15 17:17:48

See DurpDurp, I don't think that's the case. Yes people on here, where the demographic is educated and fairly socialist, would, but there are a lot of others out there who really do think that Muslims are evil, want to take over our country etc. Otherwise we wouldn't have the BNP, EDL or arguably UKIP.

Well, two firm and opposing viewpoints to start me off! And I did feel 'told off' OneStep!

MarthaMonkeynuts Tue 03-Feb-15 17:20:01

I'm not sure on the specifics of the case. You may or may not BU. I think 10 is old enough for criminal responsibility in this country is it not? But at that age she was almost certainly coerced into what she did. 'Suicide bomber' doesn't imply that she took part in it freely and of her own will, it is a descriptive term to describe what occurred.

TeWiSavesTheDay Tue 03-Feb-15 17:20:46

I don't think yabu at all. Is there an accepted other term that would be clearer or can be suggested? That generally makes these arguments easier...

Nolim Tue 03-Feb-15 17:21:39


SilverDragonfly1 Tue 03-Feb-15 17:26:18

In the related thread on the News board, 'used as a human bomb' or 'living bomb' was mooted.

Martha I think that is what the BBC think, but I would compare it to the thread on this board about them using the term 'child porn' instead of 'images of child abuse'. They actually took the complaints about that seriously and changed the wording, so they are obviously aware of how loaded some terms can be.

NorwaySpruce Tue 03-Feb-15 17:27:34

No amount of tweaking the term 'suicide bomber' is going to influence a BNP/EDL type.

The vast majority of people recognise the term as meaning 'concealed bomb strapped to a person'.

The degree of coercion involved is often not relevant to the news item. If 50 people die in a market place, that's the story.

The motivation (or lack of) of the bomber is secondary, and a story all of its own.

And a 25 year old man may be brainwashed/coerced/held to ransom as often as a woman or child. And women are often as idealistic and motivated in their cause as men.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 03-Feb-15 17:31:40

The BBC are shit and a law into themselves. I agree with you OP, but the BBC have stopped reporting news, and started reporting what they think will boost their audience figures.

SilverDragonfly1 Tue 03-Feb-15 17:34:59

And a 25 year old man may be brainwashed/coerced/held to ransom as often as a woman or child. And women are often as idealistic and motivated in their cause as men.

That's a fair point. The article in question was about a child and also mentioned women being used in order to lull suspicion, which is why I focussed on them.

TeWiSavesTheDay Tue 03-Feb-15 17:35:05

'living bomb' is a good suggestion.

'50 people died after 10 year old girl used as living bomb' makes perfect sense and explains what happened more accurately.

SilverDragonfly1 Tue 03-Feb-15 17:39:10

Thank you TeWi. Thing is, I do realise that this isn't some kind of game changer and saying different words won't make any impact on the conflict. But it really does make a difference to societal attitudes and opinions.

Hassled Tue 03-Feb-15 17:40:55

The difference is that while a 25 year old might be coerced/brainwashed, they equally might not have been, whereas a 10 year old child can only ever really have been coerced/brainwashed. Agree that "living bomb" is more acceptable.

And SilverDragonfly - good on you for bothering to make the point to the BBC. They may not be talking to you anymore, but I'm sure you've made someone somewhere in the BBC stop and think a bit.

TheEnduringMoment Tue 03-Feb-15 17:43:10

"Used as a living bomb" seems reasonable. But I don't think that the change in terminology will make any difference to perceptions of Muslims - whilst this child should be seen as a victim, it makes the actual perpetrators seem even more evil and incomprehensible, and they are presumably self-identified Muslims.

BuffyBotRebooted Tue 03-Feb-15 17:48:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LurcioAgain Tue 03-Feb-15 17:49:04


And words matter massively. Okay, it's not going to get through the thick skull of a BNP/EDL supporter, but it might get through to someone who, due to a relatively sheltered, comfortable life has never given the matter much thought. I think Tewi's suggestion of "used as a living bomb" is a good one.

And yes, 10 is the age of criminal responsibility in this country and we are wrong to have it set so young. Look at the children in year 5 next time you are near a primary school and ask yourself "are they capable of making adult decisions?" Of course they bloody aren't.

OllyBJolly Tue 03-Feb-15 17:51:16


This was so clearly not a "suicide bomber" and the BBC are being very disingenuous in using such a phrase. A suicide bomber is someone who knowingly goes into a situation to detonate a bomb, knowing they themselves will be a victim of that bomb. The 10 year old girl was a victim of the terrorists, not a terrorist.

Agree with itsallgoingtobefine , the BBC is no longer reliable as an unbiased news broadcaster.

BarbarianMum Tue 03-Feb-15 17:55:19


And yes it matters. No 10 year old year old independently decides to become a suicide bomber and whips up a bomb with common household ingredients or their chemistry set. Of course they are victims too.

SilverDragonfly1 Tue 03-Feb-15 17:55:33

That is a very interesting point, Enduring. I can see that it would make the adults involved seem worse. But I am imagining a scenario where people come to believe that Muslim children as a whole are different from their own children and not to be trusted wherever they live. There is already a degree of that occurring with reports about Muslim schools and the recent news about a governor's board apparently strongly influencing an Academy with a bias towards Muslim beliefs in lessons.

SilverDragonfly1 Tue 03-Feb-15 18:00:33

A suicide bomber is someone who knowingly goes into a situation to detonate a bomb, knowing they themselves will be a victim of that bomb. The 10 year old girl was a victim of the terrorists, not a terrorist.

This is my own definition of a suicide bomber and I believe that of many others as well. If the definition was 'someone who blows up for some reason, either on purpose or otherwise, like spontaneous combustion or standing on a landmine, and happens to kill some other people around them' then it wouldn't matter. And wouldn't have an emotive name like suicide bombing.

notquitegrownup2 Tue 03-Feb-15 18:07:42

I agree with you too OP. The phrase 'living bomb' is desperately sad, and reflects what happened. 'Suicide bomber' implies choice and is very emotive/pejorative. sad sad sad

Hassled Tue 03-Feb-15 19:08:25

Maybe you should email this thread to whoever isn't talking to you anymore at the BBC to demonstrate that you're not alone in feeling the way you do.

Tobyjugg Tue 03-Feb-15 19:35:44

Anyone who thinks a 10 y o could make an informed decision about such an issue is beyond hope. That being so, I see nothing wrong in the BBC's language or their responses to you.

NeedAScarfForMyGiraffe Tue 03-Feb-15 20:20:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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