Monday, June 29, 2015

Explanation: Avoiding the word terrorist

My blog Friday (see below) has generated quite a bit of discussion., I would like to spend a minute to clarify the reasoning behind my recommendation to avoid using the terms "terrorism" or "terrorist":

1. The term terrorist has been overused, and misused, often applied in xenophobic, racist ways
2. Thus, the term has lost much (or all) of its meaning. In fact, a roomful of adults can never agree on what is means.
3. The term is entirely subjective, and when used by a journalist adds nothing but emotion to the story
4. So, since we don't (or can't) use it well, since it adds nothing but fire to the story, why use it at all?

A study last week showed that since 9/11, twice as many Americans have died at the hands of domestic non-Muslim terrorist than have died because of so-called "Islamic" terrorists. This study is outstanding--a chance to break through the erroneous notion that so-called "Islamic terrorism" is the #1 threat for westerners. (There's a similar study for EU countries showing that domestic EU terrorism is a greater threat than "Islamic" terrorism.)

The bigger picture is peace journalism's desire to avoid emotive, inflammatory language, particularly when said language adds nothing substantive to the story. Why make a bad situation worse?

Finally, I did not say "never use the word terrorist." What I do believe is that we can use it less, and use it more judiciously.

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