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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Hunting the Terrorists — The Impact of Words on Actions

Implications can be very powerful tools. When the media hypes language using phrases, such as “hunting terrorists”, listeners should be concerned with the consequences. Not does this kind of phraseology raise ethical and moral questions but lays the groundwork for heavy-handed legislation down the road.

Connotations of Hunting Terrorists

In the Who or What are Contemporary Monsters? chapter, we provided a summary of the official U.S. rhetoric that was used to communicate why it was necessary to pursue the War on Terror. Before we turn to the question of who the terrorists are that threaten the U.S. and other—especially developed countries—it will be instructive to look at some of the specific government actions that have evolved out of this war. This will add an important dimension to our understanding of the terrorist monster, as he is symbolized in the Western mass media. By and large these actions are a logical extension of the heated rhetoric that was so well communicated in the years after the 9/11 attacks. Continue reading “Hunting the Terrorists — The Impact of Words on Actions”

Terrorist or Insurgent?

Where have all the terrorists gone? Seems like the longer the Global War on Terror continues, the less the western media refer to the other side as terrorists, preferring substitutes such as militants, insurgents, and bombers. This chapter delves into the metamorphosis.

Summary (The Terrorist as a Modern Monster)

This chapter will focus on the controversial debate over what the words “terrorist” and “terrorism” actually mean. What is meant, for instance, when the media or officials tell us we’re threatened by terrorists? Adding to the confusion, other words seem to be used almost interchangeably with terrorist or terror root words. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on, words, such as “insurgent” and “extremist”, are increasingly replacing “terrorists” in the lexicon of Western officials and news media. Continue reading “Terrorist or Insurgent?”