Why are so many in the media afraid to call terrorists what they are, terrorists? Instead, many use softer, more heroic, and I would say less accurate words like “insurgents,” “militant” or “rebel.”
Reuters is involved in a flap now with a Canadian newspaper chain about some Canadians journalists’ changing Reuters’ euphemisms for the word terrorism or terrorists.
Reuters saying that they don't use “emotive words” when labeling someone. Emotive?
Why don't they just say we're unwilling to relay the news in the most accurate way possible?
They're not alone. Many of the mainstream papers, television broadcasts do it as well.
Let's be clear: I am talking about the targeting of civilians by suicide bombers or other cold-blooded murderers.
Let's take a look at the dictionary definitions:
- Webster's defines terrorism as violence committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.
- Oxford defines terrorist as anyone who attempts to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation.
It sure sounds like the shoe fits for al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the world, for the Chechens who massacred children at that school, and Palestinians who target civilian buses and malls.
- A “rebel,” according to both dictionaries, is one who “takes arms against the government or ruler. That wouldn't really apply to indiscriminate targeting of civilians.”
- Both sources say that an “insurgent” is “one who revolts against civil authority, a rebel not recognized as a belligerent”—basically a freelance rebel. Same problem: It's nowhere near as accurate as terrorists when you're talking about people trying to kill civilians.
- “Militant” is another media favorite. That's about as nondescript as you can get. That’s someone “engaged in warfare or combat,” according to both dictionaries. But again, engaged in warfare against civilians?
It's not that these terms are always wrong. They're just nowhere near as right as “terrorist.” It's time for the media to step up to the plate and stop treating these killers with respect they don't deserve.