Metaphor at war

Erin Steuter: At war with Metaphor: Media, Propaganda, and Racism in the War on Terror

Taken alone, using animal metaphors does not necessarily seem so nefarious. Indeed comparisons to animals – eating like a pig, strong as a bull – are fairly common in nearly any language. The danger lies, according to Steuter, when we move beyond simple comparisons, to persistent metaphors; people are no longer like something, but have become something. You’re not like an animal; you are an animal. Steuter points out that we have seen this kind of dehumanization before in some of the most brutal and bloody human conflicts.
In April 2008, it was revealed that the Pentagon, with the complicity of the major American news agencies, had co-ordinated the use of military analysts in US coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to drum up support for the military operations. The American media has been roundly criticized since for allowing military officials too large a place in shaping the media's approach to its reporting on the war on terror and related elements.

Steuter agrees that militaries – American and Canadian – have played a large role in pushing the animal metaphor. "I think there's a sort of masculinity and intensity and power in the military language and I think the media is sometimes quick to adopt it to take on some of the power and authority for themselves." But she is quick to add that chalking up how the war is framed only to military officials is scratching the surface.


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