The use by the BBC and certain newspapers of the word 'militants' in reference to those who take innocent hostages, murder civilians and so forth, is now well-established. It makes one nostalgic for the days when a militant was an active trade unionist, or perhaps a member of the left out selling newspapers on a Saturday morning. The use of 'terrorists', though accurate for what some of the media now call 'militants', must be thought to be overly partisan or offensive. A friend of mine suggested the other day that this new usage for referring to terrorists and terrorism could in time have the effect, through regular association, that it in turn comes to be seen as too judgemental.
What then? Will terrorists, sorry, militants, have to become activists? One can imagine a linguistic chain along which more and more benign-sounding words and phrases have to be adopted to refer to these killers, as each is progressively (!) discredited for being too, er, engaged. So: terrorists, militants, activists, aggrieved folk, people with a cause, and so on. (Thanks: RB.)