Robert Fisk, the Independent’s Middle East correspondent, died on 30 October aged 74. In reviewing his life and career, the newspaper for which he worked for more than two decades wrote of their star reporter:
‘Much of what Fisk wrote was controversial…’
As John Pilger noted, in describing Fisk’s journalism as ‘controversial’ the Independent was using a ‘weasel word’.
The Washington Post published a piece titled:
‘Robert Fisk, daring but controversial British war correspondent and author, dies at 74’
Al Jazeera’s piece was subtitled:
‘The Independent newspaper confirms its acclaimed and controversial journalist died following a short illness.’
A piece in Le Monde Diplomatique was titled:
‘La mort de Robert Fisk, grand reporter au Moyen-Orient et personnage controversé’ (Christophe Ayad, Le Monde Diplomatique Online, 4 November 2020)
The trend is clear. When The Times subjected Fisk to one of its full-on hit pieces in April 2018, it wrote: ‘Fisk is no stranger to controversy.’
So why do ‘mainstream’ commentators feel obliged to red-flag Fisk’s journalism with ‘controversial’ in this way, and why is it a ‘weasel word’?
Consider that the likes of the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov and The Times’ David Aaronovitch, and numerous others, will never be described as ‘controversial’, despite their highly controversial, in fact, outrageous, warmongering bias.
Marr is not labelled ‘controversial’ for supporting a ground invasion of Serbia in 1999:
I want to put the Macbeth option: which is that we’re so steeped in blood we should go further. If we really believe Milosevic is this bad, dangerous and destabilising figure we must ratchet this up much further. We should now be saying that we intend to put in ground troops. (Marr, ‘Do we give war a chance?1
Was that ‘controversial’? How about this?
Was it ‘controversial’ for the Guardian to write this of the country that has relentlessly waged war and supported tyranny around the world since 1945:
‘Joe Biden looks to have done enough to win the White House… He will have to reassert America’s role as the global problem-solver.’ (Our emphasis)?
Was it ‘controversial’ for the supposedly impartial global news agency, Associated Press, to write this of the United States:
‘For decades, the U.S. has been an advocate for democracy abroad, using diplomatic pressure and even direct military intervention in the name of spreading the principles of a pluralistic system with a free and fair vote for political leaders’?
An awesome level of gullibility is required to believe that the direct military ‘interventions’ (wars) in oil-rich Iraq and Libya were about spreading pluralistic principles. Whether or not Iraqis have had ‘a free and fair vote’ since 2003 is a matter of complete indifference to Western politics and journalism.
It turns out that the term ‘controversial’ is only applied in corporate media to political writers and leaders deemed ‘controversial’ by elite interests.Robert Fisk: Death Of A “Controversial” Journalist