I was aware that some people didn't think the 'war on terror' was an appropriate metaphor for the... er... attempt to combat terrorism. I don't agree with that view, but still, it has become familiar. New to me, however, is the suggestion that the phrase is also offensive, a suggestion coming from counter-terrorism officials:
They say the term "war on terror" will no longer be heard from ministers. Instead, they will use less emotive language, emphasising the criminal nature of the plots and conspiracies. The government in future, they add, will talk of a "struggle" against extremist ideology, rather than a "battle".What the report neglects to say, but I can vouchsafe to my readers as a normblog exclusive, is that somewhere deep within the bowels of Britain's security apparatus a new committee has been established. Its remit is to render the language of what has previously been referred to as a 'war on terror' inoffensive. Thanks to a security mole, I have in my possession a minute of the inaugural meeting of this committee, from which I liberally quote:
First business is to settle on the name of our committee.
'The Struggle Against Terror Committee'?
No, no, Trev, won't do at all; 'Struggle' still contains an adversarial element which might offend any number of people.
Hmmm... 'The Campaign Against Terror Committee'?
That's better but still worries me for some reason. Any thoughts, Clarice?
Yes, 'Campaign' is too energetic and, followed by 'Against', it does conjure up the thought of, well, struggle or warfare.
I know... What about 'Committee for the Idea that Terror May Be Unhelpful'?
If I may, Sir Rupert...
Please, David, do go ahead.
Two points. First, I thought it was already decided that we were replacing 'Terror' by 'Extremist Ideology'. Second, 'Idea that etc' retains a somewhat authoritarian ring since it doesn't problematize its own constructed and relative nature. Might I suggest, in light of these two considerations, 'Committee for the Debatable Point of View that Extremist Ideology May Be Unhelpful'
Lovely. We're making brilliant progress here - but I'm sure all members of the committee can now see that 'Extremist Ideology' will have to go as well. It undermines what 'Debatable Point of View' brings out so nicely. To adapt a well-known saying: 'One person's extremist ideology is another person's programme of social liberation.' Clarice?
'Committee for the Debatable Point of View that What Some See as a Programme of Social Liberation May...' Uhh... No... 'May Be Unhelpful' is too abrasive. Got it! 'Committee for the Debatable Point of View that What Some See as a Programme of Social Liberation is Itself Also Debatable'.
Marvellous. Well done, all of us! We now have, for the name of our committe, a real instrument of public harmony.
Excuse me, Sir Rupert...
Haven't we slightly lost sight of the idea that there's something we need to... well, stop from happening?
Oh, put a sock in it, Rocky. That's typical of your macho posturing and lack of feeling for the realities of a world of diverse viewpoints. Meeting closed.