The Language of Blood and Death: Terrorists, Militants, and Attackers Then and Now

Narrating war and terror. A historical perspective.

For those of us in developed societies, it is hard to overstate the importance of words and images and the effect they have on our lives. Although we live in a world in which many people don’t have the time or energy to read much in the way of books or hard news, words and language are as important now as ever before. Whether we’re aware of it or not, those of us in modern, developed societies are immersed in an ongoing narrative that’s constantly swirling about us, informing and transforming perspectives. Powerful forces in over-extended economies desperate to generate infinitely increasing profits focus tremendous energy on creating and broadcasting information to influence how we should feel about ourselves, others, and the world in general. While the Shakespearean stage has never and will never really exist for many of us, an unceasing flood of commercially-generated narrative holds us transfixed in a rush of words, images, and archetypes that are constantly chiseling away at our brains: shaping, directing, urging. We exist within and are caught up in this narrative even though most of us are merely observers and bit players in it.

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The Absence of Morality Since 9-11 is Destabilizing the World

If the post World War II years introduced the law to normative economic analysis in a modern way, it was September 11th that solidified its dominance in legal and policy-making circles. I believe this is one of the reasons why, despite all the tireless talk about God, country, and our duty to the unborn, both the word and concept of morality has been wiped from serious consideration in precisely those areas that need it the most.

Today, truth and morality aren’t much more than bytes of information that can be shaped at will by those who believe they have the power to get away with it. Instead of the Golden Rule, policymakers increasingly rely on ideas whose main aim is to maintain the status quo for the power elite while delivering pre-selected values to the largest quantity of people in the most efficient way possible. Yet, for all the scholarship, mathematical equations, and bright red lines, there is little about these snaking, complex ideas that isn’t open to interpretation. Consequently, what passes for morality has been turned into a matter of subjectivity.

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