Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Defining Terrorism

Words can be very effective vehicles of communication. They can also be completely misused to the point that true comprehension becomes impossible. In today's media, we see far more of the incomprehensible than the effective.

For example, let's review popular media descriptions of the Islamic terrorists. I insist on the use of the word terrorist, as it is the most accurate. (We'll get to that.) In news reports and political-speak, the Islamic terrorist murderers are alternately referred to as "militants," "extremists," "insurgents," and, my personal favorite euphemism, "rebels."

The most overused term seems to be "militant,"so let's take a look at the primary meaning of that word, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition:

Militant - 1. engaged in warfare or combat: FIGHTING

That's a good start, but let's unpack that definition. What do the words "warfare" and "combat" mean?

warfare - 1. military operations between enemies: HOSTILITIES, WAR
combat - 1. a fight or contest between individuals or groups: CONFLICT, CONTROVERSY

Based on these definitions, how does the word "militant" apply to the deliberate murders of peaceful civilians, including the executions of unarmed men, women and children? Far from being "enemies," these innocent Iraqi Yazidi and Christian victims were families living their own lives with no ill will towards others when they were forced from their homes, many into horrific deaths at the hands of violent terrorists. There were no "military operations" on the part of those fleeing the terrorists; they sought no "fight or contest." But that didn't matter to the terrorists, who just wanted these people dead because they were not Muslim.

Which brings me, as promised, to the definition of terrorist:

Terrorist - 1. one who applies the systematic use of terror esp. as a means of coersion. 

To terrorize means "to fill with terror or anxiety: SCARE." 

Terrorism. Terrorists. Terrorize. These are the words that effectively communicate the evil that is occurring in Middle East. I wish that media representatives and government officials alike would start calling reality what it is.