Much can depend on just a few words. David Hicks pleaded guilty in front of “an ad-hoc military tribunal designed to try non-US citizens according to an unacceptably low standard of justice.”
He was released today from prison. Here’s how some news sites described him.
The ABC online: “Confessed terrorism supporter” but in photo caption “Convicted terrorism supporter”. A quick search shows that the ABC don’t mind describing Hicks as convicted (1 and 2), therefore implying his conviction was real and just. And listening now to the news break in the cricket, ABC radio are using the word “convicted” too.
The Age: “Confessed terrorism supporter”. The word “confessed” could imply guilt and doesn’t leave open the real possibility that Hicks read a confession purely to get home to Adelaide.
My favourite though is from the News Corp team: They shorten it to just “Terrorism supporter”. I mean what the f***!? You’d think he has an Al-Qaeda scarf and jumper.
Am I being finicky? I don’t think so. A lot of thought goes into what words to use in a situation like this. And a few words can begin to form the accepted truth. And as you can see, the different Australian news sources are gradually forming a timid consensus.
Try some of these on for size: “Returned Guantanamo Bay detainee”, “Alleged Terrorism Supporter”, “Former US-detainee”, “Australian-who-was wrongfully-detained-without-charge-in-a-kangaroo-court-and returned-to-Australia-when-it-became-politically-convenient, David Hicks”?
Okay, that last one was a bit flip’, but perhaps you see how a few words can change your feelings towards the man, and his story.