Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The passive voice in the news: anything but passive

Commenter Tatterdemalian calls my attention to this AP news item.

Take a look. Take a good look.

It's a well-known fact that many newspaper readers only peruse the headlines, and this one--"Rockets hit Lebanon despite cease fire"--would lead one to believe that Israel had fired rockets at Lebanon in violation of the cease fire. Wouldn't it?

The first paragraph--"Tens of thousands of Lebanese jammed bomb-cratered roads Monday as they returned to still-smoldering scenes of destruction after a tenuous cease-fire ended 34 days of vicious combat between Israel and Hezbollah"--is devoted to the destruction the Lebanese people have suffered. It's only in the second paragraph that the writer reveals what the headline refers to, which is the fact that the rockets fired "despite cease fire," the ones that fell short of their targets in Israel and landed in south Lebanon, were fired by Hezbollah.

The use of the passive voice in this headline is far from an isolated instance, and is emblematic of the rot that has taken over news services such as the AP and Reuters. And don't for a moment think that the passive voice would have been used if it had been the Israelis doing the firing.

[In case you've missed all the studies that show consistent MSM bias in its coverage of the Middle East, here's one.]

[CORRECTION: Those who wrote that the headline is not in the passive voice are correct. The problem with the headline is that the rockets are considered the actor rather than those who launched them. Thus the true actor is disguised, and it's left to the reader to fill in the blanks, which most would naturally do by assuming the actor was Israel.]

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