Lies, Cliches and the Middle East
Words are a contested battlefield. Propagandists long ago figured out if you control the vocabulary you could dominate any debate or issue, conflict or war. On almost any given day you can read or hear variants of the following: Our enemies live in strongholds and emerge from nests or caves to carry out brazen ambushes. They have no respect for human life and are led by hardliners, warlords and terrorist commanders. Their culture is tribal. We and our coalition partners live in homes in nice neighborhoods. To defend freedom and spread democracy our F-16s, helicopter gunships and drones carry out missions. We are led by statesmen who respect human life and international law. Such is the lexical quicksand and nowhere is it more treacherous than in the Middle East.
Robert Fisk, based in Beirut, was the renowned Middle East correspondent for The Independent. He was winner of the Amnesty International UK Press Award and the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom. The Financial Times called him “one of the outstanding reporters of his generation.” He was the author of Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, The Great War for Civilization, and The Age of the Warrior. He died in October 2020.