Sunday, November 16, 2003

The Language of Insurgency 
Check out the use of language in ”Who Are the Insurgents?” from Time Magazine’s Brian Bennett.

Now, I think the term “insurgent” is fair, though I would limit it to describing those who confine their attacks to military targets. Other useful terms to consider, in various contexts: guerillas, irregulars, fighters, operatives, die-hards, jihadists, mujahedeen, Fedayeen, Wahabbists, or Saddam loyalists, Saddam sympathizers, radicals, elements, enemy forces, and so on.

I would confine the term “terrorist” to those who deliberately target civilians.

(Unfortunately, other governments have taken all the fun out of the terms ‘bandits,’ ‘troublemakers,’ and ‘hooligans.’)

Nevertheless, on four different occasions, Bennett chooses to describe them using the heavily loaded term ‘resistance.’

Here are the sentences.

1. According to the former Saddam aide, the deposed President is not leading the resistance nationally.

2. Resistance fighters have begun to favor rpgs…

3. The resistance, he adds, is learning how to modify other types of looted weapons, converting air-to-air missiles into surface-to-air missiles for targeting low-flying helicopters.

4. The aide says the resistance cells in his province have agreed that they will no longer conduct attacks in their hometowns.

The first usage, I think, is just fine. But why use the term ‘resistance’ when other, more specific, and less heavily laden terms are readily available?

In the last two instances, you could argue that he was merely accurately paraphrasing the language of his source (Accurately paraphrasing? Did I say that?!).

But in sentence number two, there are no excuses. The usage is all his. Nice little PR coup for the source, hmm?

So was there a conscious decision to award the Fedayeen and jihadists ‘resistance’ status? Nah. Probably just laziness with the language on the part of editors.

Henceforth, when more neutral and precise words are available, I'll simply consider the careless use of the term 'resistance' as a typo.

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