The Instigator
potassium
Pro (for)
Winning
28 Points
The Contender
clsmooth
Con (against)
Losing
22 Points

The word "terrorist" is inherently biased and should not be used by governments.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/12/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,923 times Debate No: 296
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (16)

 

potassium

Pro

Over the past six years, we have seen the word "terrorist" thrown around by the media and politicians alike, to describe almost anyone outside the country with a different point of view. The word has over 100 different definitions, and according to expert Walter Laqueur, the "only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence." As easily as I could call the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks "terrorists," they could call George Bush himself a terrorist. The fact is that both sides have killed thousands of people. Therefore, both are "terrorists." Therefore, all militarys, all militant groups in the world are "terrorists" from someone's point of view. We simply use the term as a label, or to throw into question people's loyalties, i.e. "You're with us, or you're with the terrorists." -GWB. Since the term is only a useless label, it serves no purpose, and is therefore not needed as it is not descriptive. Calling people terrorists has become an excuse to listen to phone lines, search without warrants, and even torture. Removing this word from official use would help to keep a neutral position.
clsmooth

Con

Your contention is that "governments" should not use the word "terrorist." Of course, "governments" themselves cannot speak. Representatives of those governments may speak on their behalf, so I can only assume that it is your contention that these representatives should not use the word "terrorist" in an official capacity. This is the point of view I will be arguing against.

First, let me say that you've used the word "governments," plural, which I can only assume means not only the governments of the U.S. states, counties, cities, and the federal government, but also all foreign governments as well. Is it merely your opinion that representatives of these government bodies should not use the word, or should action be taken to prevent them from using it? Should there be, for example, federal laws prohibiting officials of the federal government from using the word in public, and also prohibiting the word's use by all governmental officials on down to dog catcher? What about public school teachers? They are technically government officials. Should the word be banned in the classroom?

Where do we have the right to tell other foreign governments what words they can use? Do we need to determine the "correct" translation for "terrorist" in every imaginable language, and enact penalties for nations whose leaders utter the words? What should the penalties be?

Finally, I will close by saying that there is a generally accepted meaning of "terrorist" that goes beyond the murky definition you've presented. Terrorists are typically seen as representing no state or government. Our government uses the word to mean other things (such as the Revolutionary Guard of Iran, which is tied to the government), but I think the word "terrorist" is a good adjective for supranational groups like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah. I would agree that government officials should exercise extreme caution before using the word, and that its definition should be refined. But I see no benefit in restricting free speech or enacting politically correct rules as to what words can be said.
Debate Round No. 1
potassium

Pro

potassium forfeited this round.
clsmooth

Con

Unfortunately, my opponent did not show up for Round 2.

I will just restate that while I agree governments should be very cautious in using the word "terrorist," there is no other word for a group like Al Qaeda. What else would we call them?

The way the word is used may be biased, but the word itself isn't "inherently" biased. Words do not have inherent qualities. Subtext arises from the manner in which the words are used.

Final argument: The word "terrorist" in America means one thing, while its meaning in say, England, is slightly different, based on the context it has been used in each land. The same goes for every other English-speaking country. My point is that it's presumptuous to ordain that all governments should avoid using a word, based solely on an American's perception of how the word is used in America.

And what about non-English speaking countries?
Debate Round No. 2
potassium

Pro

potassium forfeited this round.
clsmooth

Con

As to the first comment below, I was asking for clarification. But my opponent never showed.

I don't think speech should be policed. Not even the speech of government bureaucrats.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by AREA 9 years ago
AREA
A supporter of free speech. Getting rare these days.
Keep fighting the good fight then.
Posted by AREA 9 years ago
AREA
Did Potassium propose that the word be banned and that this ban be enforced?

If he had, I must have missed that part.

Thought this was a debate on whether or not the word was biased and *should* be used...

I think what Potassium may have been getting at was how all the new terrorism laws are creating a new parallel legal system. Many would call the terror laws extra-legal.
Should you b threatened with life imprisonment and CIA camps just because you joined a group of "eco-terrorists" and damaged some property in the middle of the night in an abandoned ski resort one summer month?

Too bad Potassium never made it to round two for some clarification.
16 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by U.n 11 months ago
U.n
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture.
Vote Placed by pcmbrown 7 years ago
pcmbrown
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by els21 9 years ago
els21
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by gogott 9 years ago
gogott
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by sully 9 years ago
sully
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by mikelwallace 9 years ago
mikelwallace
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by dixielover 9 years ago
dixielover
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by 08tsuchiyar 9 years ago
08tsuchiyar
potassiumclsmoothTied
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Vote Placed by elanortaughann 9 years ago
elanortaughann
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Vote Placed by parkerdoc 9 years ago
parkerdoc
potassiumclsmoothTied
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