The Power of Words

You can tell a lot about the intentions and true goals of an organization by the words they use, compared to the facts or to their actions, or compared to words they use in other instances, or just compared to other verbiage that might also be accurate and appropriate.

This deciphering of the true meaning is practically a contact sport when it comes to Fed statements:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/06/19/business/decoding-the-feds-statement.html?_r=0

And even with the “War on Terror,” there is some attention paid to semantics:  http://www.examiner.com/article/the-war-on-terror-is-now-just-the-war

But it seems to me that the French are really onto something.  They have decided that instead of legitimizing “ISIS” or “ISIL,” they are going to instead refer to this organized crime group using a nickname that they hate, “Daesh.”  The Washington Post reports:

“This is a terrorist group and not a state,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters last week, according to France 24. “I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.’ ”

Remember how G.H.W. Bush used to say “SAD-um”?  I found it quite endearing, really, that he was so committed to the idea of annoying and disempowering the Iraqi leader that he would pronounce his name wrong on purpose.  Calvin Trillin noticed that the pronunciation changed when the war ended. (this is the first Iraq war back in 1991)

So why don’t we refer to this criminal gang as “Daesh”?  Will they somehow get madder and more powerful and more likely to try to harm Americans?  It seems like they are pretty dedicated to those goals already.  At least that is what we are told.  By law enforcementBy chairman of the joint chiefsBy the secretary of defense.  All in about the most inflammatory language possible.

For that matter, why do we call any group of armed criminals “terrorists”?  It seems to me that we are only legitimizing their cause.  If someone kills my family member, I’m not sure it will matter much if they were motivated by greed or crime in general, or if they were motivated by political or religious fervor.  Why didn’t we just use our existing organized crime laws, or adjust them as necessary, instead of coming up with a whole bunch of new stuff that applies to “terrorists”?   It makes them seem more powerful, scarier.  Like they are the Legion of Doom or something.  They are not.  They are just a bunch of well armed bullies.

Those who inflate the status of these groups must be doing it for their own reasons.  Do they want war?  Are they trying to distract the public from something else?  Bolster their own power and importance in protecting us?   I don’t know, but it’s dishonest, and it causes unnecessary fear in those who take these statements at face value.

I think I will stop using the word terrorist and associated language.  ISIS/ISIL is now Daesh.  And they are a criminal gang, or an organized crime syndicate.  No more, no less.

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2 Comments

Filed under Politics

2 responses to “The Power of Words

  1. To treat them as criminals affords them too much protection.

  2. The problem is that if you create a new class of crime (terrorism), and it includes a lower standard of protection to the accused, then all that must be done to reduce someone’s rights is to call them a terrorist.

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