Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The war of names within war

Here’s an addendum to yesterday’s post on names.

Next time you watch the news, check out the branding (and naming) of military ideas and terms. The examples below are overly simplified- but they are there to make a branding point.

Throughout the 1980s, the Americans were supporting the Afghan “freedom fighters” in their fight against the Soviets. A space shuttle launch, which was super cool back then, was even dedicated to the “freedom fighters”. For the last 8 years, this same “freedom fighter resistance” has been renamed the “Taliban” and “Al Qaeda”. I support the “freedom fighters” but let's kick some “Taliban” butt.

In Libya, the American led military coalition is supporting the “rebels”. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the troops are fighting the “insurgents”.

It seems not a lot of people support “torture” but “enhanced interrogation techniques” can gain quite a bit of support.

We went from the hard line “war on terror” (Bush) to the milder “overseas contingency operations”(Obama 1) although it appears not a lot has changed in actual military ops.

Let’s not forget the Patriot Act (which is an acronym for Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act). Which American wouldn’t want to be a patriot immediately after 9-11? It is unlikely such an intrusive and sweeping act would have passed (or mostly renewed by Obama) under a more “neutral” brand name.

Words mean things- especially brand names. In the military and politics, the name alone can rally support around an idea or group- even though sometimes, not much has really changed.


  1. Here's another good one: When the enemy kills civilians, they are called "civilians". When the good guys kill civilians, it's called "collateral damage".

    The Mad Dog of the Middle East kills his "own people" whom he calls "rats" and the Government of Afghanistan is battling the "terrorists".

    Branding... it's so versatile!

  2. There is a blog out there on how a bad spin and deceitful marketing becomes manipulation. youarebeingmanipulated.com

  3. I see you already link to that blog. How embarrassing for me.