Propaganda demands that a terrorist depends on who s/he is, not what s/he does


The word terrorist is no longer used to denote any specific action but is used almost always propagandistically, to dehumanize those whom one considers an enemy and manipulate public opinion. Call someone a terrorist and their action terrorism and you have already gone a long way towards winning the propaganda war.

Glenn Greenwald highlights a perfect example of this in a recent incident in Israel where a person shot dead by Israeli Defense Forces was initially labeled a terrorist because he was thought to be a Palestinian Arab. But when authorities discovered that he was in fact an Israeli Jew, the label of terrorist was immediately withdrawn.

ZAKA rescue and recovery chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who was at the scene, said he also initially thought the suspect was an Arab terrorist.

“When I arrived with the ZAKA team at the site of the supposed terrorist attack, it seemed to be a ‘standard’ current terrorist attack, a stabbing attempt, and the terrorist was apprehended,” he said.

“I wanted to cover the body in a black bag [reserved for terrorists]. After I was asked to take care of the body I saw that he was a Jew, and that it was mistake to speak of a terrorist. I immediately notified the police and we switched to a white ZAKA body bag.”

The word terrorist is one that has ceased to have any objective meaning. When you hear a political figure use it, you can be pretty certain that it is being used dishonestly and propagandistically in pursuance of an agenda and not in any way connected to the act itself.

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    I wanted to cover the body in a black bag [reserved for terrorists]. After I was asked to take care of the body I saw that he was a Jew, and that it was mistake to speak of a terrorist. I immediately notified the police and we switched to a white ZAKA body bag.

    So they even try to punish dead Palestinian bodies. Wow.
    When I read that Charles II’s people dug up Oliver Cromwell’s corpse and performed a posthumous execution on it, I thought that was the stupidest, pettiest thing I’ve ever heard of, but I guess the Israelis want a chance to try for that distinction themselves.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    A terrorist is as a terrorist does, but a grammar/syntax cop can show up anywhere.

    Pls fix your headline!

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    moarscienceplz @ # 1: When I read that Charles II’s people dug up Oliver Cromwell’s corpse and performed a posthumous execution on it, I thought that was the stupidest, pettiest thing I’ve ever heard of…

    Ahh, the Stuarts were pikers. Read up on the Cadaver Synod of 897:

    At a Roman synod (popularly called the “Cadaver Synod”) conducted by Pope Stephen VI (VII), Formosus’ political enemies had his corpse exhumed, propped up on a throne, and subjected to a mock trial—during which a deacon answered for the corpse. His election was declared invalid, his acts were quashed, and his fingers of consecration were cut off. Formosus’ corpse was then cast into a grave, but later thrown into the Tiber River. These acts divided Rome politically, provoking Stephen’s imprisonment and his death by strangulation.

  4. patrick2 says

    This is why I try not to use the word ‘terrorist’ anymore. It’s mostly a word used for people we don’t like doing a violent thing,.

  5. Holms says

    Patrick2:
    Worse yet, they don’t even need to be doing anything violent. See the bombing campaign, and the habit of declaring all victims, including accidental victims, to be enemy combatants no matter what they were doing.

  6. Nick Gotts says

    See the bombing campaign, and the habit of declaring all victims, including accidental victims, to be enemy combatants no matter what they were doing.

    Well to be fair, they did obstruct pieces of shrapnel that might have hit the intended target.

  7. StevoR says

    @1. moarscienceplz : ” I thought that was the stupidest, pettiest thing I’ve ever heard of, but I guess the Israelis want a chance to try for that distinction themselves.”

    Hardly for themsevles – its been a part of human behaviour against hated enemies for a very, ve-ery long time.

    Not heard of Antigone and her story (play rather -Sophocles I think) with her brothers corpse, Achille’s treatment of Hector’s corpse in the Illiad, the way Tiberius and other hated Caesars were treated post-mortem, the similar post battle indignities inflicted on King Richard III of England post or hell even the way gaddafi’s corpse was tretaed after that dictator met his grim end.

    Its really pretty common practice human history wide. Not that I’m saying its the right thing do or very ethical. But certainly isn’t restricted to Israel.

  8. StevoR says

    Yep – wikicheck confirms Antigone was indeed Sophocles play with the eponymous heroine defiantly burying her brother Polynices corpse despite King Creon’s decree it be desecrated. (See : usual starter, wikipedia (dot) org / wiki / Antigone_(Sophocles_play) )

    We also have the medieval – 19th century practice of gibbeting where corpses of executed criminals would be publicly displayed for months and years after their executions. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbeting) A practice which Jewish Law incidentally forbade although it was used widely in the British empire and elsewhere incl. Iran & Afghanistan :

    “Old Testament (Torah) law forbids gibbeting beyond sundown of the day that the body is hanged on the tree. (See Deuteronomy 21:22-23.) Gibbeting was one of the methods said by Tacitus and Cassius Dio to have been used by Boudica’s army in the massacre of Roman settlers in the destruction of Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St. Albans) in AD 60–61.”

    Source wikipedia as above.

    Plus, of course, we have the tradition of heads on pikes and the hanging and quartering of bodies suchas happened famously with William Wallace among others.

    We also have the historic examples in the United States treatment of the bodies of Native Americans with scalp collecting (by both & many groups) etc .. and the mutilation of the bodies of lynching victims.

    More recently there was the heart eating scumbag Syrian Jihadist Abu Sakkar who would eat the hearts of dead Syrian army soldiers (http double dots // mic dot com / articles / 41777/ abu-sakkar-syrian-rebel-cuts-out-and-eats-soldier-s-heart-in-ghastly-propaganda-video ) oh & US troops urinating on dead Taliban fighters too. Among plenty more grim examples of public and private acts of corpse mutilation. Certainly whilst repugnant, the practice of desecrating the bodies of reviled enemies is far from unknown and very much NOT limited to Israelis.

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