Sunday, October 07, 2012

3634 Exploding words

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise,
there wouldn't be religious people."
--  Doris Egan  --


I thought I knew what terrorism is.  I believed it to be acts or threats of violence designed to create fear in a group loosely represented by the target of the violence, for political purposes.  That word seems to have exploded.

According to the local police blotter, "acts of terrorism" and "terroristic threats" now include stuff like a guy standing on his neighbor's lawn brandishing a baseball bat threatening to kill the neighbor's dog if he doesn't keep it confined, or a guy setting fire to the car belonging to the guy who "stole" his girlfriend.

Um, didn't we already have terms for those acts?  Where's the political purpose?  How is it "terrorism", instead of threatening bodily harm, destruction of property, vandalism, whatever it used to be called?

I don't understand.

Likewise, I thought I understood what "bullying" is.  I believed a bully to be one who used size, strength, position, or credible threats to repeatedly coerce or intimidate another of lesser power, the key in the definition being that the bully starts with power over the victim, and the coercion is ongoing. The bully is not expressing anger.  It's simply an exercise in power to hurt.

This word also seems to have exploded.

News item of a few days ago:  A female TV news anchor received an email from a viewer who commented that he was disappointed in her because she was overweight, and said that as such she was not an good role model for youth.  She made the news by responding to that email on the air.  (First off, I don't understand why it was necessary for her to respond on the air, but that's not the point.)  In all of the articles I read, the guy was called a bully, and the story was linked to October being the anti-bullying month. 

Um, don't we already have terms for guys like that?  "Bully" isn't one of them.  He has no power over her at all, no power to injure her physically, financially, or socially.  It was one email where he proved himself a fool.  He did not bully her.  He did not attempt to coerce her.  He simply insulted her.

When we allow words like "terrorism" and "bullying" to explode, we weaken them.  People are using them to get an emotional reaction.  If we allow that to continue, eventually "terrorist" will simply mean "someone who frightened me" and "bully" will simply mean "someone who annoyed me".

We need to guard words to keep them pure.

1 comment:

rockygrace said...

There was just an article in the paper today about a gang member up in Albany who basically shot up a christening party in order to intimidate another gang's members and was convicted under New York's anti-terrorism statute. Um ... no.