The Guardian reports how director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, has challenged the rhetoric adopted by the UK and US government in relation to terrorism.
I’m unclear whether it was politicians themselves or professional communicators who crafted the phrase “war on terror”, but public relations practitioners are responsible for writing speeches and media releases where such language is key.
Sir Ken really shows the importance of words in saying: “London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, ‘soldiers’. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a ‘war on terror’, just as there can be no such thing as a ‘war on drugs’.
“The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.”
This focus on the impact of words is a reminder of how language frames perceptions. Sir Ken also highlights how such language can lead to a fear-driven culture and abandoning values.