Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Monday, August 01, 2005

Whats in a name?

When I saw the story about the administration re-tooling the 'global war on terror', henceforth known as GWOT, to the new and improved 'global struggle against violent extremism', I have to admit, I chuckled.

I mean, this is classic Bush Administration semantics. What, the idea is failing? Just change the name silly! Its not social security privatization, its personal accounts! I reacted with the same amount of disdain mixed with ennui. Ho, hum...another play on words.

Having read Ezra Klein's take on the Orwellian nature of the change, I find myself wishing for the good ole days of the GWOT.

But even so, there was a comforting definition to it: terror, as used in the label, was a verb. We were going after those who plunged nailbombs down subway holes and entered cafes with dynamite strapped to their chest. Broad it may have been, but it made sense and it denoted something relatively specific.

But the struggle against extremism? What the hell is that? Whose extremism? Only Arabs? What about Palestinians? Israeli settlers, anti-abortion protestors, socialists? Those weird folks who plaster college campuses in anti-circumcision propaganda?

The war on terror promised a fight against a tactic universally recognized as savage. The war against extremism is a war against ideology. Againt opinion. Against thought and feeling and belief. And as many of us domestically could be called extremists -- Dobsen and Robertson certainly fit my definition, and Tom Coburn would certainly like to lead his very own fanatic legion --
that means we'll be defining what opinions are out of bounds and in sights of this struggle.

I'm not one to call the Bush administration fascists. I've never thought they'd cancel the 2008 election or declare martial law. Hell, I don't think they've the balls to institute a draft. But my comfort with them, with anybody, is not so great that I don't get chills when they switch to a rhetorical formulation of obvious use in turning an external struggle inward against domestic enemies. "The struggle against extremism" could as easily apply to Morocco as Montana, Saudi Arabia as Southern California, and that, frankly, should scare us all, at least a little bit. Words, as Orwell always said, are important. If the public begins to believe in the struggle against extremism with the force that we all believed in the GWOT, the later step of some charismatic leader, to turn that phrase and frame against a homegrown group he considers dangerous or unwanted, becomes a small one indeed.


Blogger scott said...

The whole GWOT name change is just stupid. It seems that some over zealous staffer put that out because Bush said completely different things yesterday.

8:21 PM  

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