Government rhetoric challenged

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.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “Government rhetoric challenged”

  1. I met Yvonne Ridley, the journalist captured by the Taliban in 2001, in Edinburgh a few years at an inaugural Islamic conference. I’ll always remember her saying how aghast she was when she flew into Heathrow and saw an army tank sitting.

    Is this another way of driving home a message steeped in fear about the “war on terror?” Or is someone like her who was accused of suffering from stockholm syndrome bound to say that anyway?

  2. I don’t think she is alone in her reaction to the visual communication of a tank. I remember going up to London shortly after the 7/7 bombings – Waterloo station was on high alert and there were dozens of police with guns. I’ve never felt more afraid, when in reality I should have felt safer.

    When we have to give up some key freedoms in response to terrorism, I feel we’ve lost something that we were defending in the first place. There are many more positive ways of communicating what we are trying to achieve than the rhetoric of fear.

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