Does “Israel practice the most aggressive form of terrorism,” as Lebanon’s PM has claimed? Normally, I’d measure the actual use of violence, whether the actors intend to use fear to effect change or not. But those clever humans, not being dictionaries, will take any solid concept as a metaphor, and no word has morphed, etymologically, as much in the past half-decade as terrorism. A filibuster is political terrorism. Environmentalism is eco-terrorism. Criticism of American business is economic terrorism. Could rape and all forms of sexual violence in Iraq be called terrorism? The metaphor of terrorism has become so overused, overpowering the original meaning as to come to mean opposition, resistance, inhumanity, or just plain evil, programming a response of ultimate disdain and indignation. The role of fear is ignored. Because of those clever humans, etymological drift can have profoundly seismic consequences. The instability of the definition of terrorism may be working against the war against terrorism itself, American imperialism and security being lumped together with Iran’s and North Korea’s militarism, to the point that just aggression and terrorism may no longer be incompatible.

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