Correct terminology is vital when discussing defence and domestic security issues

Islamist terrorism, for example, must be countered intellectually and correct terminology is part of this effort. Correct terminology prevents confusion by disproving Islamist propaganda that counter-terrorism measures applying to all Australians - and aimed only at the terrorist minority and their sympathisers - are somehow directed instead against only or all Muslims. Using correct terminology also helps counter false claims of legitimacy for any extremist cause generally.

 

Letter to The Canberra Times
Friday, 10 October 2014
(published Tuesday, 14 October 2014) 

The pervasive incorrect nomenclature highlighted by messrs Callaghan and Lee (letters, 8/9 October) is indicative of a much wider problem hampering informed public debate.

When the ADA recently raised the jarring inaccuracy of “fighter jets” with relevant ABC staff we were told the public understood this term and would not understand “jet-fighters” or “strike aircraft”.

My observation that, given its Charter, surely the ABC should instead help educate the public in this regard was met with indifference.

Part of the problem is sloppy (or biased) media use of “fighters” and “militants” to describe militiamen/troops and terrorists respectively.

The basis of the problem is that most reporting of defence, security and intelligence matters is now by generalist journalists and columnists, rather than by specialists — as usually occurs with business, science, economics, etc, topics.

Together with the incessant demands of the 24-hour media cycle, incorrect fads easily become prevailing terminology.

A prevalent example where this is actually dangerous, as well as dumb, is where ASIO is wrongly described as a “spy” agency.

This particular habitual and thoughtless usage causes unnecessary unease, and often worse, about the security-intelligence function necessary in any liberal democracy and the public co-operation with ASIO needed to protect the community generally.   

 

 

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