Words are weapons

Level 3 | Advanced

1 Pre-reading
The following words are all taken from the text.Which of them do you regard as positive, which as negative and which as neutral? 1. liberation 2. dark forces 3. civilisation 4. terrorist 5. militant 6. freedom-fighter 7. guerrilla 8. insurgent 9. hero 10. martyr

2 Key Vocabulary
Match these words from the text with their meanings: deadly unpalatable crusade unwary reckless secular divisive vague salient loaded

1. not connected with religion 2. with a second or hidden meaning 3. able or likely to kill people 4. not thinking about the possible bad effects of one’s actions 5. extremely unclear 6. likely to cause arguments between people 7. unpleasant to think about or accept 8. a holy war 9. not paying attention to the dangers around you 10. particularly noticeable or relevant Now read the text

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Words are weapons
Level 3 | Advanced

From ‘civilisation’ to ‘WMD’, words are weapons
Simon Tisdall
econd world war posters warning that "careless talk costs lives" represented a lasting truth. Then the fear was that spies might overhear conversations of value to the Nazis. The equivalent US slogan was "loose lips sink ships". Sixty years on, in another era of conflict, the careless talk comes more often from politicians - but it is potentially just as deadly. When George Bush, soon after September 11, referred to a "crusade" against al-Qaida, he helped persuade Muslims that they were under renewed attack from Richard the Lionheart in a US navy bomber jacke t .I n the context of a potential "clash of civilisations",Bush’s loose use of language was not only insensitive. It was unthinkingly reckless. Bush has avoided the word "crusade" ever since. But he still regularly talks about the need to defend "civilisation" and "the civilised world" against "dark forces". He never quite says which part of the planet is the "uncivilised" or "dark" bit. Perhaps he means Kandahar in Afghanistan or Eastbourne in England. It is unclear. But the unspoken implication is deeply divisive, even racist, not to say insulting. Words can define how a people sees itself: the US declaration of independence is one obvious example. Yet modern-day Palestinians also see themselves engaged in a struggle for "independence" and "freedom" from external oppression. The current US government ignores such semantic paradoxes. Words such as "imperialism","emancipation","selfdetermination" and "liberation" define how history is scripted, how the future will be shaped, how contemporary conflicts are perceived and thus how they may be resolved.

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Terrorism is a salient case in point. In the abstract, "terrorism" is a terrible thing; everybody deplores it; nobody supports it. Why then is terrorism such a growth industry? Because its definition is not agreed. It depends where you stand. Terrorism has thus become a much abused word. For Donald Rumsfeld, for example, the recent helicopter attack at Falluja was simply the work of "terrorists". That statement conceals a larger, unpalatable truth. To the oppressed of the world, the men of violence are, variously, militants, freedom-fighters, guerrillas, insurgents, heroes, martyrs. The real terrorists belong to the "other side". Yet "state terrorism" is a concept that is barely recognised by the ostensible oppressors. Which brings us back to Bush. By declaring an openended, global "war on terror", Bush invited every aspiring autocrat to do his worst in the name of "security" (another much-scandalised word). From Chechnya to Colombia, Pakistan to the Philippines, the anti-terror "war" has expanded with Bush’s blessing. In this loose-lipped, rapid-fire lingo, such people, whether killed or locked up in Bagram or Guantanamo or a thousand other hell-holes, are by definition "evil". Here, you might think, is another trap for the unwary, to be sidestepped by sensible politicians in the secular West. Not a bit of it. The latest addition to the modern leader’s essential vocabulary, is WMD. This is now a universally understood term, or so you might think. WMD is proliferating, it’s deeply frightening, and it’s coming to a cinema near you. Yet symbolic WMD is also a reason why civil liberties are everywhere under siege, why military budgets are rising, why the developing world is not developing, and why your opinion

is ignored. In fact, WMD is a vague term that can be used to cover a multitude of supposed sins. Developed countries have their own WMD, of course, but their arsenals are somehow regarded as acceptable. Not so the WMD in developing countries or "rogue states" (whatever that means). This species of unauthorised WMD is deemed destabilising. There are certain words, conversely, that the West’s leaders carefully avoid. These include "resistance" - too encouraging a label for the "remnants" opposing Iraq’s emancipators, especially when used with a capital "R", as in French. And then there is "occupation". Occupation, as in Iraq, is a no-go word; liberation is far preferable. Occupation makes it sound as if the US has barged uninvited into somebody else’s country and refuses to go away. It makes Iraq sound like Palestine, Tibet, Afghanistan or, heaven forbid, Vietnam. That really is careless, ship-sinking talk. Greater sensitivity in use of language is required of politicians – and indeed the media. The urge to suppress arguably loaded words should as a rule be resisted as inimical to free expression and better understanding. As every spin doctor knows, acceptance of "official" terminology can amount to implicit endorsement of official policy. But the search for the right word requires constant awareness of ambiguity and politically and culturally charged, multiple meanings. As ever in human discourse, there is truth and there is propaganda. It is important to be able to tell the difference. Before passing the ammunition, pass the word.

The Guardian Weekly 20-11-03, page 14

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Words are weapons
Level 3 | Advanced

3 Comprehension Check
Which of these statements best reflect the meaning of the text as a whole? 1. When George Bush used the word ‘crusade’… a. it had a negative impact on everyone. b. it started a war with Muslims. c. it had negative associations for Muslims. 2. Which words have replaced the word ‘crusade’ in Bush’s vocabulary? a. attack and defend b. uncivilised and dark c. self-determination and liberation 3. What is the problem with the definition of terrorism? a. t is a growth industry. b. Terrorists are freedom-fighters or heroes. c. The definition depends on your perspective. 4. Why do Western politicians avoid words like ‘resistance’? a. Because such words might encourage people fighting against occupation. b. Because they are too negative. c. Because they want to ignore political problems. 5. Which of these titles best reflects the general theme of the article? a. Freedom and terrorism b. The power of words c. Weapons of mass destruction

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Words are weapons
Level 3 | Advanced

4 Vocabulary: Find the word
The words and expressions are in chronological order in the text. Find 1. A word which means ‘people inside a country who secretly support the enemies of that country’. 2. A word which means ‘a person who has complete power in a country’. 3. A slang word for ‘language’. 4. An expression which means ‘a terrible place’. 5. An expression which means ‘under prolonged attack’. 6. An expression which means ‘a country which is considered to be dangerous by other countries’. 7. An exclamation which you use when you hope something will not happen. 8. An expression used to describe a person who helps politicians to present their policies in a positive light.

5 Vocabulary: Collocations
Match the verbs with the nouns they collocate with. Check your answers in the text. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. to overhear to shape to resolve to declare to ignore to resist to endorse to tell a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. war an urge someone’s opinion a conversation a conflict a policy the difference the future

6 Discussion
Do you agree that the words used by politicians can shape our opinions of world events? Think of examples of terrorists and freedom-fighters in history and discuss why they are labelled in this way.

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Words are weapons
Level 3 | Advanced

Key
1 Pre Reading There is no definite answer to this question but, given the general meaning of the text, the following are likely answers: 1. liberation 2. dark forces 3. civilisation 4. terrorist 5. militant 6. freedom-fighter 7. guerrilla 8. insurgent 9. hero 10. martyr positive negative positive negative negative positive negative negative positive positive 3 Comprehension Check 1 c; 2 b; 3 c; 4 a; 5 b

4 Find the word 1. spies 2. autocrat 3. lingo. 4. hell-hole 5. under siege 6. rogue state 7. heaven forbid 8. spin doctor

2 Key Vocabulary 1. secular 2. loaded 3. deadly 4. reckless 5. vague 6. divisive 7. unpalatable 8. crusade 9. unwary 10. salient

5 Vocabulary 2: Collocations 1 d; 2 h; 3 e; 4 a; 5 c; 6 b; 7 f; 8 g

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