Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

The global war on some nouns but not others

Posted by metaphorical on 26 December 2006

I just ordered “War On Terror,” The Board Game.

You have to like almost any board game that needs a moral defense, especially when it can actually provide one.

It seems there is no clear-cut, globally accepted definition of terrorism – neither in a linguistic, nor a militaristic context. The United Nations spent over 8 years trying to find a definition that all its members would agree to. It gave up. Mainly because any definition implicated one or more of its members in ‘terrorism’.

 Title 22 of the US Code (Section 2656f(d)) defines it as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets”. This definition shows promise, but then, isn’t invading Iraq – whether cynically to get your hands on cheap oil, or altruistically to get rid of a corrupt regime – an act of “premeditated, politically motivated violence”? Fortunately the US Code clarifies that terrorism has to be perpetrated by “subnational groups or clandestine agents”. There seems little reason for this addendum, other than to safeguard against the notion that a country or government might at any time be found guilty of terrorism.

 If terrorism is an act of “politically motivated violence”, then surely the War on Terror is one form of political violence to wipe out another form of political violence. Suddenly we find ourselves in an Orwellian language swamp where the keeper of the definition controls the reality of the word.

You have to also like this, from the FAQ:

But isn’t it a bit tasteless? That depends on your taste. Personally, we think the actual “War on Terror” is in pretty bad taste. This is just a board game.

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One Response to “The global war on some nouns but not others”

  1. Very very interesting. Sometimes I think we overstate the need for everything to have a defintion or label. But then you have something like this…”terrorism” that clearly needs to be universally defined if we are indeed going to fight a “war” against it. And here were in the Orwellian linguistic shoot-out. Very very interesting.

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