Friday, December 07, 2007

Fun With Linguistics

After reading numerous news reports on "homicide bombings" and battles with "terrorists" in Afghanistan, I can't help but chuckle at the choice of words used by the media nowadays. I remember a simpler time, when attacks by terrorists who strapped a bomb to their chest and detonated it were known as "suicide bombings". After all, it is a bombing in which the perpetrator ends his or her own life, so this phrase seemed appropriate enough. Then, some genius decided that these terrorists were more aimed at killing others than at killing themselves, and surely we should name them based on their priorities. So, suicide bombers became homicide bombers. This seems to have been done largely to make the acts seem worse, as if that is necessary. I think it is more troubling when you consider that someone is willing to end their own life for no reason other than to kill other people - this is a fascinating and disturbing trend that is not discussed anymore, possibly because there are no more suicide bombers, only homicide bombers.

And then, of course, you have the battles with terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan. It seems to me that we have completely lost the true meaning of what a terrorist is - then again, the idea of a "War on Terror" is absurd in and of itself. What we are fighting is Islamic extremism - a certain percentage of Muslims have perverted their religion to the point where they feel the need to kill all non-Muslims. A terrorist is someone who murders innocent civilians in order to "terrorize" them, hopefully producing a desired effect. All of the people we are fighting in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan are no doubt Islamic extremists, but most of them have probably never committed a terrorist act of any kind, or even planned one - yet they are labeled as terrorists. Now, maybe "Islamic extremist" is too wordy for the media types, but it seems to me that we are being dishonest with ourselves in regard to our mission, with the language we use. It's time to be honest and call things as they are, because if we continue to be disingenuous with names and titles, we risk losing site of what and whom we are fighting in the first place.

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