Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Speaking names to power - re-framing the language of 'terror'

Jonathan Cook has made some excellent points on the supposed 'debate' between David Cameron and the BBC over whether to re-cast Islamic State as 'Daesh'.

If similarly applied, it would not, Cook asserts, be unreasonable for the BBC and wider media to cite the Israel Defence Forces as the 'Zionist Occupation Forces', and the Conservative Party as the 'Revolutionary Neoliberal Party'.   
This suggests multiple other possibilities in real-naming institutional villains and their military, political and economic oppressions.   
For example, the US, West or even 'international community' could be more accurately designated Neoliberal State. Nato could be fairly re-labelled Western Invading Forces, or, perhaps, Militant West.
The BBC itself could become British State Media - a moderated title denoting its main establishment-serving role, rather than any more tempting subversion of its lofty acronym.
Political and media appropriation of the language on 'terror' can also be reversed. In a brilliant edition of the Keiser Report on the tumultuous situation in Greece, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert turn the tables nicely in suggesting the entirely relevant use of 'financial terrorism', 'weapons of financial mass destruction' and 'economic warfare' to describe the actions of the Troika. 
In a further penetrating analysis, Keiser's guest, economics professor Steve Keen, takes apart the disastrous narrative of austerity economics, the repeated media misconceptions and distortions over debt, and talks candidly of the ECB as a 'central bank dictatorship'.
You won't, of course, hear the likes of Robert Peston air these kind of labels and indictments in his safely-worded BBC reports. 

But it's encouraging to see a really informing, alternative media using such well-defended vocabulary. Other useful language, with alliterative effect, might include terms like corporate control, naked neo-liberalism, militant monetarism, carnivorous capitalism, Orwellian officialdom, and state-sly surveillance.

Political 'ownership' and media manipulation of language is so normalised in headlined news and comment we barely give it a thought. The whole 'war on terror' lexicon gets unquestioningly presented as the narrative of 'external threat' without the slightest suggestion of Western states as principal terrorist agencies. 'Terror' and 'terrorism' are routinely voiced and written as things carried out by 'them', to be resisted by 'us' through the 'benign counter-actions' and language of states like 'ours'.

Similarly, corporate interests see their ideals continually prioritised, with, as we've seen in the 'mainstream' reporting of Greece, the 'dangers of default', 'urgency' of 'banking stability' and 'facing-up' to the 'debt burden' as imperative aims and issues.

Alongside BBC news, this orthodoxy has been blatantly apparent in Newsnight and other 'flagship' BBC output, all part of the system-preserving role of British State Media.

That same careful deference is also evident in the 'prudent' voice of the Guardian - see, for example, Cook's neat dissection of the Guardian's framing of Greece.

The use of such framing, as shown by people like Cook and Keiser, illustrates not only how we're being deeply manipulated, but also how it's possible to reclaim much of that language as a means of subverting power.     

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