Friday, August 29, 2003

Label it terrorism, do what you like

War on Terror franchises opening around the world (CommonDreams). In Indonesia, Israel, Spain, Colombia, the Philippines and China, governments have latched onto to Mr. Bush's deadly WoTtm and are using it to erase their opponents and tighten their grip on power

This is a good example of the power of rhetoric, or, in other words, the powerful effect that langugae can have on people and societies. Label somebody as 'Terrorist' you've defined them as being evil. In many readers you'll stir up an intense hatred, precluding any rational consideration by them. And the great thing is, rarely will you have to justify your labelling. Not that that would matter that much anyway, as 'terrorist' is loose enough to encompass lots of things that are opposed to existing power structures.

'Terrorist' is a label that encapsulates strong connotations. Such labels are pretty common: call someone 'Pigheaded' if they won't agree with your aguments, but say that they have 'Integrity' if they they share the same view as you and won't be persuaded by someone else. In my view it's almost always bad to use these labels, especially if you're not going to justify them.

(I know of at least one book that talks a little about these types of labels: Straight and Crooked Thinking).

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