I just had a weird experience at the BBC website. (Yes, I know, is there any other kind?) While looking for their coverage of the Hutton report, I clicked on a link from their main page that had the text "BBC chief 'was sacked'". On the story page
, the headline was "Dyke 'sacked' by BBC governors". Scare quotes are from the original text. The main point of the story, however, wasn't that Greg Dyke was 'sacked', but that he offered to resign if Dyke didn't have the "full support" of the board. After a discussion, the board "suggested" that he leave.
Now as everyone who's been around knows, technical differences between quitting and getting fired, to use my national vernacular, can get downright murky, and quite often, an offer to resign is actually a request not to get fired, while admitting mistakes were made and that being fired wouldn't be a consequence that was out of line. Plus, it gives the firee the opportunity to protect his reputation and resume. So far so good. Dyke offered to resign, hoping that it didn't have to come to that, and the board took him up on his offer. A situation much like a Scotsman offering to pick up a check and finding himself chagrined when the offer is accepted. Whoah, when did this site begin engaging in cheap ethnic stereotyping?
Calm down, it's a joke (and a really bad one). If it's not Scottish, it's crap!
But here's the thing. The BBC use of scare quotes around what they consider dubious propositions, such as 'terrorists' or even, on at least one occasion
, a rather concrete concept such as 'dead', has always had one inherent defense: that the quotes aren't ironic quotes, but rather actual quotes, meaning that the BBC is quoting someone who uttered what's between the quote marks.
But nowhere in the article titled "Dyke 'sacked' by BBC governors" and linked to from the front page by the text "BBC chief 'was sacked'" is anyone quoted as saying 'sacked'. I played the video associated with the article and no one says it there either. Hmm.
It seems to me that the BBC can't rely on the quoting excuse to use scare quotes if no one actually said what the BBC's "quoting". I was thinking about posting on this picayune issue yet again because it proved that the scare quotes were in fact ironic and not actual quotes, belying the BBC's claim of straight reporting of facts without political considerations coloring (or colouring) their reporting. Then I thought, eh, the BBC's in quite a bit of trouble anyway. The BBC's concern with this minor issue would be as a Scotsman concerned that his kilt was of the wrong clan when it was 10 below outside and he had no pants. Hey!
So just when I was deciding not to post about this (a not posting trend which has gone on for several weeks, my half dozen regular readers will have noticed), for some reason I refreshed the article page and immediately saw that the story's headline had been changed to "Dyke forced out by BBC governors".
Ah, so someone, either inside or outside, must have noticed that their scare quote rationalization rules had been violated and a change was made. What this tells me is that they generate the scare quotes as ironic quotes when they are in the mood, and haphazardly rely on someone having actually said the thing to intrinsically justify them. After all, it's not unusual that a Bush admin release will use the word "terrorists". Or that the Pentagon might say "dead".
Oppositey-like, it also demonstrates that the BBC does not
get their ironical, dubious, so-some-mentally-ill-people-believe quotes from actual quotes, because there is no such quote in the article. Nor anything close. The headlines, scare quotes and all, come from headline writers whose choice of what to ironically quote represents their own views of what's ironic, or dubious.
Some 15 or so minutes later, the link from the front page had been changed to "BBC chief 'was forced out'". Though I have to say that no one is quoted as saying 'was forced out'. They'll no doubt change this when they notice it.
BBC Take 1
BBC Take 2