Friday, December 10, 2010

Journalism is Not an Attack

Josh Mull posted some thoughts on how the Wikileaks cables and the hacking by "Anonymous" are being framed. War, attacks, bomb-throwing. Josh makes the point that if Julian Assange is going to declare "war" on governments, he shouldn't be too surprised at the response.

Here's the heart of Josh's argument:
But the problem is that war is real. Terrorists don’t leak cables, they murder people. Insurgents don’t campaign for legislation, they kill the foreign soldiers occupying their lands and the puppet governments working for them. It’s not cool to be in their shoes, it’s terrible, the worst thing you can imagine.

War, whether asymmetrical or not, is not something you want to be a part of, not something you want to support like transparency and accountability. It is instead the complete destruction of society and basic human decency. As Ursula K. LeGuin once wrote, war is the opposite of civilization.
Of course, the war metaphors have been around for a very long time. The War on Cancer of the Nixon administration may have been the first governmental non-war war, but violent metaphors have long been attractive.

They make the bearers feel that what they do is important and that it will make a difference. Unfortunately, as Josh points out, war and violence may be neither.

This kind of language probably contributes to today's political polarization. After all, war is about killing your enemies, not conciliating with them.

So maybe we should just drop the war talk, unless we're talking about real war. It will be hard, because the metaphors of violence have penetrated deep into our speech.


MT said...

"War" isn't just hyperbolic here, it's vacuous. I wonder if it's to make us forget the pertinent charge that doesn't quite apply, which is treason. Or it's because "treason" can refer to a single act, but Assange's is carrying out a "campaign"; except "campaign" sounds political, which is the very opposite of what his opponents want to suggest, and so they just say "way."

MT said...

"war" (not way)