Friday, December 15, 2006

THE WAR OF TERROR– THE HOME FRONT

LANGUAGE AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF MEANING

For the generation who lived through World War 2 the term ‘the home front’ referred to rationing, and the re-organisation of labour to supply ‘the war effort’.

Nowadays 'the home front' is a very different prospect. It’s still about the things that a government has to do at home to fight a war overseas, but now the challenge is not logistics, but consent. Government govern in our name, so the difficulty is convincing the electorate that a war on the other side of the world; that has nothing to do with us or our allies, is our business, and in our best interest.

In the modern war, a media strategy is as important (arguably more important) as a military strategy. Governments will happily pay $30million to a media consultant to put the right spin on their war.

This ‘home front’ is fought with careful use of language to describe the different components. We are all familiar with some of the more notorious euphemisms, such as ‘collateral damage’ as friendly way of describing 30 civilians that were killed or maimed because the building they were in was erroneously thought to contain ‘enemy combatants’ (another of these weasel words that conceals unfavourable detail).

Beyond the obvious now notorious terms, there is a whole other layer of language and concepts that pervade through all levels of the news media and popular culture that have little to do with ‘The War of Terror’, other than they are means by which the public is coerced into endorsing or accepting war in our name.

That’s right folks, on the other side of the planet, people are being murdered in their homes or in the street, because we make it happen, our tax dollars pay for it, and the clowns we elected sign the cheques.

I intend to make this an ongoing examination of language and the construction of meaning, in the war of terror. The first instalment looks at recent comments by Sheik Taj Din al-Hilaly, and implications and consequences of the media coverage of this incident.

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