January 8 2008

Modern Day Language Slippage

BBC World NewsWhile watching the BBC World News on BBC America Monday night (the 7 PM EST showing), the anchor, Matt Frei, twice referred to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as a “gathering of geeks”.

Normally someone referring to myself, or those around me, as a “geek” doesn’t faze me. Whether it was from my time in the comic book industry, the toy industry, or now the technology industry, I’ve heard it more times that I can count. Heck, I even call myself a geek, a gadget head, tech fiend, etc, etc.

The problem here is that Mr. Frei is a journalist. Not only is he a journalist, but a journalist for one of the most esteemed news sources on the planet. The fact that he would refer to a gathering of people from a multi-billion dollar industry as a “gathering of geeks” is distressing to me as a journalist, not as a member, albeit on the cursory edge, of the tech community. This was a cheap shot, and one well beneath such as esteemed organization.

Matt FreiSo, did I just complain here? No, I didn’t. I did send a note via the BBC America website to express my disappointment that their anchor would lower himself to such a low-brow comment.  I don’t expect an apology, nor would I want one, but if matters such as this aren’t brought to the attention of those in charge, then it will continue to happen more and more.

Think back, when did it become so accepted to say that something you find silly or stupid to be “retarded”?  When did it also become okay to call things you disagree with, “gay”?  Never mind neither has a real connection to their current usages, but they were allowed to continue to slip, and now it’s okay to use terms originally designed to describe a group of people as something derogatory.

So when someone such as a BBC anchorman calls a group of people “geeks”, doesn’t that give the concept some credence as being socially acceptable?  And I don’t want anyone to think I’ve being politically correct here, because I’m really not, but as a journalist, he should know to pick his words better.

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