How to Talk about War Truthfully
May 14, 2024 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Words About War. "From George Orwell’s critique of the language of totalitarian regimes to today, discussions of war and foreign policy have been full of dehumanizing euphemisms, bloodless jargon, little-known government acronyms, and troubling metaphors that hide warfare’s damage. This guide aims to help people write and talk about war and foreign policy more accurately, more honestly, and in ways people outside the elite Washington, DC foreign policy “blob” can understand." Link to the PDF.

Language Use about Gaza (PDF): "While exposing the genocide of Palestinians, it is critical to continually challenge and resist language that is used to justify the violence and render Palestinians killable. To this end, we offer ten urgent suggestions. Above all we advise using clear, accurate, honest language that describes the flesh and bone impacts of this mass violence. We urge the use of language that centers the humanity of those harmed while resisting simplistic, binary us vs. them, good vs. evil narratives that continue to be circulated by governments and media, humanizing some and dehumanizing others."

Developed by David Vine, Professor of Political Anthropology at American University, and author of several books critical of US Militarism & Foreign Policy

I was inspired to post this after hearing an interview with Prof. Vine on KOOP Radio, Austin's local community radio station.
posted by Saxon Kane (28 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
aka how to sell critical race theory without the words critical and race
posted by infini at 3:14 PM on May 14


huh?
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:37 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Not to be rude. I should have added links. But the whole middle para in the OP viz.

To this end, we offer ten urgent suggestions. Above all we advise using clear, accurate, honest language that describes the flesh and bone impacts of this mass violence. We urge the use of language that centers the humanity of those harmed while resisting simplistic, binary us vs. them, good vs. evil narratives that continue to be circulated by governments and media, humanizing some and dehumanizing others.

Is also the fundamental basis for decolonizing language oriented towards Othering and imperialism
posted by infini at 3:48 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I’m getting a 404 on the pdf—just me or?
posted by hototogisu at 4:18 PM on May 14


Messaged the mods to correct. In the meantime, correct link is HERE
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:22 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Obligatory Tim O'Brien
posted by Mogur at 4:50 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Language Use about Gaza (PDF): "While exposing the genocide of Palestinians, it is critical to continually challenge and resist language that is used to justify the violence and render Palestinians killable.

Once again, it's Israel and only Israel that people apply such heightened levels of scrutiny to.
posted by lock robster at 4:58 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


> Once again, it's Israel and only Israel that those on the left apply such heightened levels of scrutiny to.

That's not what *I* hear. Granted I don't head *everything* that is said on the left but when I hear people in my circles talk about the Israeli military's violence in Gaza they nearly always begin off with a preamble about how terrible the initial attacks by Hamas were. Same with articles in The Guardian.
posted by technodelic at 5:03 PM on May 14 [9 favorites]


spiked? brendan o'neal? jfc this thread is going well.
posted by lalochezia at 5:06 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


Really? I see it everywhere. I edited it to "people" because in fairness, I don't know the affiliation of some of the people I've seen doing it in their livestreams.
posted by lock robster at 5:12 PM on May 14


Once again, it is Israel and only Israel I am demanded to support. Nobody wants me to have Turkey's back, or support Azerbaijan, everyone agrees Saudi Arabia is fucked up.

I'm pretty sure you know and understand that difference, to have fallen so far that you're posting Spiked articles unironically to MetaFilter... yeah that might be part of why people hate Israel.
posted by Audreynachrome at 5:17 PM on May 14 [15 favorites]


The left (unlike most other people) was definitely pushing back against the language of terrorism used after 9-11 and during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
posted by ropeladder at 5:19 PM on May 14 [17 favorites]


Also, the well-established tradition of criticising Zionism from the left goes back to well before there was an Israel. Its nothing new.
posted by Audreynachrome at 5:31 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Thank you for this post, the main PDF is quite good!
posted by panhopticon at 5:35 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


The FPP is really good, in my opinion. I don't agree with all of the substitutions the first link suggests, but I really like their general principles like "Use clear, accurate, descriptive language" and "Avoid jargon."

I think these principles, and the ideas in the second link, apply to talking about pretty much every conflict irregardless of which "side" you are on.Center the people, not the abstractions.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:59 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Mod note: One deleted. A few left up. Please hold off on any further derails.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 6:09 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


> Once again, it's Israel and only Israel that people apply such heightened levels of scrutiny to.

This is a monstrous lie that will stain generations.
posted by constraint at 6:20 PM on May 14 [19 favorites]


“everyone else does genocide so why can’t we” is not the defense of Israel that guy thinks it is.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:26 PM on May 14 [21 favorites]


"The Department Of Defense."

If there was a way to generate energy from Orwell spinning in his grave, "The Department Of Defense" could power the entire world for over 200 years.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:55 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Once again, it's Israel and only Israel that people apply such heightened levels of scrutiny to.

it was said upthread but i'll say it again: lol, spiked? oh (koch) brother.
posted by busted_crayons at 12:18 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


I can imagine the conversation that is going on in some ex-metafilter discord, reddit or twitter, "they're such commie cucks they're dissing spiked instead of actually doing real critique". There's other threads for the demolition of Zionist claims.

What is clearly displayed here is the mechanism by which Zionist people are falling farther and farther into the deep well of fascistic thought. again and again since oct 7 I have seen once good people denounce the left for being both for trans people and against killing Palestinian children. The two ideas now go hand in hand. We must both eradicate filthy hamas supporters and woke ideology (trans people).

Before October 7, I would have violently recoiled at being called a Hamas supporter. On October 9, 2023, I would have recoiled. At this point, Zionists have made it very clear that the UN is hamas, UNRWA is hamas, MSF is hamas, journalists are hamas, WCK are hamas, Eurovision is hamas... I didn't think I was Hamas, but I like an awful lot of those organisations. Perhaps, if we accept the Zionist definition of Hamas, I am Hamas and proud of it. I like journalists, broadly.
posted by Audreynachrome at 5:00 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


I'm not a Hamas supporter. I apply heightened scrutiny to precious precious Israel because of their constant claims that they're both the only civilized people in the whole damn region and that any criticism of their murderous occupation and settlement of what's left of Palestine is tantamount to Holocaust denial. The Turks or Saudis or whoever are openly brutal and make no bones about it: that's why they don't get the same scrutiny. I speak Arabic fluently: I can tell you all about Hamas, who are murderous nihilists and somehow even worse than the Likud Party. I don't support either one of them, and at this point, they richly deserve each other, or would, if it weren't for millions of mostly-innocent civilians from both groups caught in the middle. A pox on both their houses.

That said, the PDF is interesting and useful.
posted by outgrown_hobnail at 5:41 AM on May 15 [15 favorites]


The US Department of Defense was renamed from Department of War in 1947.

Someone had a dark sense of humor.
posted by BWA at 8:46 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


Jus ad Bellum: Somehow, we finally got around to redefining terms. Yay. Americans should not reflect on our history because our ideals and aspirations lie at the bottom of the foulest of slippery slopes. We need to narrow our outrage and argue for the Israeli government to do as we say, not as we have done, not as we continue to do. Shame should not prevent us from trying to do better.

Jus en Bello: Murder is a legal term; if you wish to describe a wartime killing (a bunch of) people by using an overwhelming force, use the word slaughter. It's okay to do that in war. Use tactical air and artillery before you send in the grunts. Biological weapons and nukes, nope. Grenades, bullets, land mines, and, if necessary, bayonets, yep. Also, rum them over with your tanks. Civilians will die. That's why we keep trying to shoehorn the Jus into the Bello. If you know someone who's been in combat, especially in the infantry, ask them why this makes sense.

Errata:
1. Don't bring up all that shit in North Africa that we've been ignoring for the past 30 years. It's unseemly, and I will stick my fingers in my ears and yell nanananana until you stop trying.

2. Free speech isn't free.

3. People returning from war want you to know what happened there. They don't believe you'll understand, and they are afraid you will, and they don't want to see that look of dawning comprehension on your face. That's why their war stories all sound like the plot of a Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon. Many combat veterans have a strong desire to believe their tours meant something. You probably will never know what the "something" is.

4. When you are trying to shift from Orwellian doublespeak to real words, remember that you assess this shit from afar while not having actually to smell the blood. Please keep in mind that you cannot invent the smell of warfare, but you can remember it. Forever.

Finally, I am seriously impressed with the depth and breadth of some od the commenters in this thread.
posted by mule98J at 9:58 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


The US Department of Defense was renamed from Department of War in 1947.

The US has been much more warlike sense despite (or maybe because of?) the branding change. Before WWII we usually fought other countries because someone else started it. The Civil War, WWI, and WWII. Or if we really wanted someone else's stuff, like in the Spanish-American War or American Indian Wars.

Since then we've engaged in lot of wars of choice, and the choice has generally been unwise.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:48 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Mod note: Several deleted. The back and forth between users about veterans and their levels of participation in war needs to stop now, thank you.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 5:22 PM on May 15


...talking about pretty much every conflict irregardless of which "side" you are on.Center the people, not the abstractions.

You got my upvote for that comment. However please excuse me for noticing that a conflict is when you have trouble deciding whether your magenta vest goes with your yellow parachute pants. If "it" involves machine guns and air strikes, it's a war.
posted by mule98J at 11:46 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


If "it" involves machine guns and air strikes, it's a war.

Well, sometimes. Other times it's a massacre and a genocide.
posted by adrienneleigh at 4:51 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


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