Print journalists have always been able to dissociate themselves from a word or phrase by putting it quotes. It is a useful shorthand way of saying: “This is is not my way of saying it.”
Broadcasters don’t have this luxury so they have to add something and end up with expressions like “so-called War on Terror” or “The Bush Administration’s War on Terror” or “the American-led War on Terror”.
This infuriates some listeners who believe they are making a political point, an issue discussed by Alistair Burnett, editor of BBC’s The World Tonight, at The Editors blog. He writes:
The BBC usually qualifies or attributes the expression ‘war on terror’ for several reasons. The main reason is that the concept in itself is disputed. It is not like ‘World War Two’ – a description which is widely accepted in the English-speaking world.
They do this, he says, “so as not to give the impression to our global audience that we are endorsing it or opposing it”.
I doubt if that will satisfy the critics: this is a debate which will run and run.