Brussels paper’s condescending description amounts to demonizing minority
In its report by Tokyo correspondent Bernard Delattre of 22nd February 2023 Le Soir, the French-language Belgian daily, appears to be breaking several of the articles of the country’s Code of Practice for the media.
In a story which makes sensationalist claims about similarities between the assassination of Shinzo Abe last year and the shooting of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963 in Dallas, Texas, the Family Federation is described in a condescending manner that oozes with hate speech and amounts to demonizing minority. Le Soir uses the expression ‘la sulfureuse secte Moon’ – the nefarious Moon cult.
Larousse, the authoritative French dictionary, maintains that ‘sulfureuse’ is used about someone ‘who smells of brimstone, hell’. Dictionnaire LeRobert says it describes that ‘which evokes the devil, hell’. As used here, the word carries definite overtones of negativity – ‘heinous’, ‘atrocious’, ‘despicable’, ‘wicked’, ‘evil’ – at worst something ‘demonic’ – Le Soir demonizing minority religion.
This adjective qualifies the word ‘cult’ (secte) too, in a powerful way. The well-known Roman Catholic sociologist of religion Massimo Introvigne, by many considered the world’s leading expert on new religious movements, has this to say,
“A large majority of scholars of religions agree that there are no cults. ‘Cult’ is just a label used to discriminate against groups that powerful lobbies, for whatever reasons, do not like.” (Quoted from the article The Abe Assassination. The Word ‘Cult’ Is A Tool for Discrimination, published by Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights, 2nd Sept. 2022.)
Le Soir’s description of the Family Federation is a flagrant violation of the Belgian ‘Code of Practice’ for the media. In Article 27 (Respect for the Privacy and Human Dignity) it states,
- “The journalist does not encourage discrimination or racism. He ensures that the wording of the reporting does not stigmatise when mentioning ethnicity, nationality, religion, philosophy, sexual orientation or gender.”
Article 4 (Faithful Reporting) requires that,
- “The journalist must distinguish clearly for the public between his factual reporting and his commentary. The journalist must distinguish clearly between facts on the one hand and suppositions, claims, and opinions on the other hand.”
That is exactly what the Brussels paper does not do. Its characterization of the Family Federation is presented as factual, and not as opinion. It makes no distinction at all between facts and claims.
The same can be said of the next sentence in the article, “This religious movement ruined the family of Tetsuya Yamagami”. Le Soir omits to mention that the family felt ‘destroyed’ after the father committed suicide already in 1984, seven years before the mother of the family met the Family Federation.
As we know, omitting facts is a well-known strategy to paint a certain verbal picture. Where there is only opinion, facts do not have to be distinguished. Readers easily amalgamate and therefore confuse the two, reading opinion and claims for facts.
At best, one may regard Delattre’s description of a religious minority as a thoughtless comment written without much understanding of the religious landscape. At worst, the Brussels-based paper’s use of words such as sulfureuse and secte could be seen as an obvious attempt at demonizing a minority. This publishing standard is reminiscent of a certain Nazi-regime’s treatment of another minority in the past century.
Image featured above: Positional relationship between former prime minister Shinzo Abe and the shooter Tetsuya Yamagami on his assassination. Sourced from Nikkei.com. Photo: Asanagi / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC CC0 1.0 UPDD
“Le Soir Demonizing Minority” – text: Knut Holdhus