Monday, June 19, 2017

A Terrorist by Any Other Name


What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
The names are the problem, Juliet says. Romeo, after all, is wonderful. The trouble is that he's a Montague, hated for that alone by her family, the Capulets.

Names, words themselves, matter. They have power.

Consider the god of Genesis. For him (that sui generis god is surely male) god the word, logos (λόγος), calls forth the thing.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Want a more quotidian example?  

Michelle Carter was just convicted of involuntary manslaughter for sending her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, text messages urging him to kill himself - which he did.

In the Washington Post, Tung Yin has an op-ed discussing the difficulty of determining when a killing is terrorism rather than murder.  It was easy, he says, in decades past when terrorists routinely announced their motives.  Now, not so much.  

While Yin concedes that 
As far as the prosecutions go, perhaps it doesn’t matter whether reporters and ordinary Americans regard a perpetrator as a terrorist or as a mass murderer.
It clearly matters to him a great deal.  He never does say why, though perhaps it's because he's a law prof specializing in, according to a biographical note accompanying his op-ed, "national security law and terrorism." 

But to what end, exactly?

Call it murder.  The victims are just as dead.  The killers can get whatever satisfaction they get from killing bunches of people.  But really, there's nothing special.  Nothing to see here.

Just another mass murder.

Doesn't have the same cachet, does it?  Hard to find quite the same sense of nobility?  Maybe harder to convince someone to do it. 

Just a thought.  Because words matter.

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