Much of our personal and cultural perspective on the world is colored by the language in which our concepts and ideas are couched. Changing that language can therefore alter our attitudes about what we hear and see.
“Responsibility,” for example, is a word with positive reverberations. It reeks of reliability, accountability, and self-control. It carries connotations of honesty, dependability, and courage.
So why have the media adopted the buzz phrase “claims responsibility” for the violent outrages committed by terrorists who cover their faces in cowardly anonymity, hide themselves behind innocent civilian populations, plot behind closed doors, and, in general, act totally irresponsibly?
If the media changes their terminology to “admits guilt” the concept itself changes dramatically. “Guilt” is a suitably pejorative notion to apply to murder. An admission of guilt clearly conveys the message that the perpetrators know wrong from right and have willingly made their hideous choice.
Regardless of the politics, culture, or religion involved in any dispute, no matter how complicated or divisive, there is the rational approach to resolution and there is the emotionally selfish, vicious, and vindictive response.
Terrorist groups of all persuasions have defined themselves as criminal by their heinous indifference to that most fragile quality: human life. Let’s expose them for what they are and call a spade a spade.
Virginia Bola is a licensed clinical psychologist with deep interests in Social Psychology and politics. She has performed therapeutic services for more than 20 years and has studied the effects of cultural forces and employment on the individual. The author of an interactive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker’s Edge, she can be reached at http://drvirginiabola.blogspot.com