Warfighter! What is it good for? July 6, 2010 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Can we talk about what was in the links in the original thread and have the duke-out over a single word here?

This kind of summed it up for me - not picking on a specific person:

Funny how this place can fixate on a single word, and ignore the entire post.

Words mean things. Sometimes those things are important. Choice of words is meaningful. We live in a culture that glorifies violence on a number of aesthetic levels, including by means of choosing specific language. This is an inseparable part of the post.


I'm personally tired of "words mean things", but if we can get the warfighter grar moved over here I think it would be good.
posted by lysdexic to Etiquette/Policy at 7:57 PM (224 comments total)

lysdexic: "I'm personally tired of "words mean things", but if we can get the warfighter grar moved over here I think it would be good."

More like GRAW, amirite?
posted by Rhaomi at 8:01 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even though it was an insta-derail, it seems The Whelk kind of nailed it and wonder of wonders, the semantic quibble became the most interesting aspect of the post.
posted by rhizome at 8:06 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd probably agree to some extent if the terminology were chosen by the OP (as it could possibly be considered editorializing). In this case, he/she just used the terminology from the content of the link.

I'm waiting for the day when a poster links to King Lear and is accused of being a monarchist, or something.
posted by qvantamon at 8:06 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Whelk kind of nailed it and wonder of wonders, the semantic quibble became the most interesting aspect of the post.

Until a heavy-handed mod came along and sterilized it, that is. Bah!
posted by ryanshepard at 8:10 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, really, you're going to delete half the thread? When you use ideologically-charged propaganda-derived langauge in a post, people are going to object to that. If you don't like it, use neutral terms. That wasn't a derail at all — the language was intrinsic to the post and subject, and people should not be able to use whatever offensive and loaded language they choose on the front page without anyone being able to challenge them on it.
posted by enn at 8:10 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]




When you say "you", enn, who are you addressing?
posted by boo_radley at 8:15 PM on July 6, 2010


"Warfighter" is the U.S. military's current gender-neutral, service-neutral, role-neutral soldier term of art. It's a pretty inoffensive neologism by current DoD standards. Getting pissed about warfighting seems to me to be more productive than getting pissed about "warfighters."
posted by killdevil at 8:16 PM on July 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wow, really, you're going to delete half the thread?

Yes. Someone wants to make a passing note about "warfighter" in an otherwise earnest attempt to look at the content of the post, okay; giant derail with people yelling at each other about jingoism and lingo, that's more of a Take It To Metatalk Pronto situation. Getting invested in a derail does not make the derail something other than what it is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:16 PM on July 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Regarding "Warfighter:"

It seems to be perceived frequently as a euphemism, or alternate word, for "soldier." It's not. A lot of warfighters aren't soldiers - they're marines, or sailors, or airmen. "Warfighter" is a way of saying "Any individual who is a member of the Armed Forces," without using terminology like "soldier" that's actually specific to one branch.

As for the notion that 'warfighter' is horrific... look, armies can do lots of things, but the vast majority of what armies and navies and air forces do is fight wars. Hell, for that matter, there's a strong case to be made that they shouldn't do anything else - certainly our current use of the Army and Marines as peacekeepers has been hampered by recruitment and training being centered around their use purely as a war-fighting force, rather than one focused on constructing peaceful nations. You don't have to like that we fight wars. You don't have to approve. But that's what a fucking army is for. Armies protect people? Sure. By shooting, or being willing to shoot, at invaders. Armies are for fighting wars. And wars are horrific. I'd much rather use language that's honest, like "warfighter," so we don't allow ourselves to pretend that the use of force is anything but a horrific, unpleasant thing - even if we find it necessary.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:16 PM on July 6, 2010 [21 favorites]


I mean, just read the thread:

i DID click on the link and i was treated to an extended metaphor that says "less nutritional armor is needed when fewer insurgents are allowed in the area" (see graphic at 45:41)

And the mods are going to say that issues of militarism in the use of language are off-topic? Give me a break. Using "warfighter" is like using "pro-abortion" for pro-choice people — it makes an assertion, and it is entirely appropriate for commenters to take up and debate that assertion.
posted by enn at 8:18 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The post was not about terminology. The discussion about terminology that took place would have been better in a post about terminology. If you want to make a post about how/why we use the words we use to describe the military, maybe delve into how/why they have changed over time, that might be interesting.

In a post about nutrition, a fistfight about its semantics is a derail, no matter how righteous it may be.

On preview, cortex beat me to it.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 8:18 PM on July 6, 2010


(That post originally went, verbatim, into the other thread; I expect it to be deleted out of there momentarily, so I've reposed it here.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:19 PM on July 6, 2010


My comment was deleted in the original thread, and I'll just repeat the relevant content, with an addendum:

Learn some fucking self-control.

Addendum: As qvantamon said, it's in the content of the link. If you're going to cry about it and try and derail a thread about an innocuous usage of a word, at least try not to take it out on the OP.
posted by Snyder at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Getting invested in a derail does not make the derail something other than what it is.

cortex got to it before I did, I have the same basic feeling. Someone who read the words of the post decided to get het up about them and hollering ensued at the expense of the linked content. I agree I dislike the term warfighter. This is the place to talk about that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of warfighters aren't soldiers - they're marines, or sailors, or airmen. "Warfighter" is a way of saying "Any individual who is a member of the Armed Forces," without using terminology like "soldier" that's actually specific to one branch.

As I pointed out in the other thread before it was deleted, "servicepeople" is a perfectly good word with a longstanding history for members of the armed forces regardless of branch.
posted by enn at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The post was not about terminology.

It is routine that posters' framing assumptions are challenged in in-thread discussion. If someone made a post about the nutritional habits of Al Qaeda but referred to them in passing as "freedom fighters," I really doubt that comments challenging that appellation would be deleted and the thread allowed to stand; probably, such a strongly editorial post would be deleted, as this one should be if no one is going to be allowed to challenge the framing.
posted by enn at 8:22 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


As I pointed out in the other thread before it was deleted, "servicepeople" is a perfectly good word with a longstanding history for members of the armed forces regardless of branch.

It's a shitty euphemism, and if you have a problem with warfighter as a word, bring it up with the NIH.
posted by Snyder at 8:23 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is routine that posters' framing assumptions are challenged in in-thread discussion.

It's not the poster's framing assumptions, it's in the fucking link. Did you even bother to click on it?
posted by Snyder at 8:24 PM on July 6, 2010


Exactly. Whenever I hear the term "warfighter" I think of GRAW.
posted by demiurge at 8:26 PM on July 6, 2010


It's not the poster's framing assumptions, it's in the fucking link. Did you even bother to click on it?

Yes. I could have said "the nutritionists' framing assumptions adopted by the poster," I guess, and if you makes you happier please feel free to consider me to have done so. (Of course, the use of the word in the source material makes it even more legitimate as grounds for discussion in-thread.)
posted by enn at 8:26 PM on July 6, 2010


I'm not sure if I dislike Warfighter because it's an awful neologism or if it's just because I'm a pedantic prescriptivist, but either way, it just clangs around inside my head like a bell that's come loose from its moorings and is bouncing down the tower stairs.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:27 PM on July 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


I really doubt that comments challenging that appellation would be deleted and the thread allowed to stand; probably, such a strongly editorial post would be deleted, as this one should be if no one is going to be allowed to challenge the framing.

We'd tell people to fight the framing out in MetaTalk, same as with this one. Really since the word's in the link we're pretty much stuck not knowing how much the OP was agreeing with the warfighter terminology and how much they were just quoting.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:27 PM on July 6, 2010


It's a pretty inoffensive neologism by current DoD standards.

Which is to say that it's part of an maddening, toxic thicket of fascist doublespeak that I'm sick enough of hearing in the MSM - I expect folks here to be smart and insightful enough not to parrot it.

Using the term w/out comment was, to my mind, worth noting, and its inclusion in the linked presentation went a long way to discrediting what the speaker had to say for me.

I don't think that refusing to take a post at absolute face value - or declining to discuss something that's at least partly insane in the most literal and self-referential terms - constitutes a "derail".

That said, I'm a little pissed off right now.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:28 PM on July 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


It is routine that posters' framing assumptions are challenged in in-thread discussion.

It was in the article the poster linked to. I can tell you as someone working for a DoD contractor that "warfighter" is absolutely unremarkable bog-standard terminology and I see it used in all manner of different contexts all the time. You may not like it - as has been pointed out, we could actually have a pretty good post on the blue about terminology for members of the armed services over the years - but in its context, it's not taking a position; it's just using standard jargon for the field.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:29 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


We'd tell people to fight the framing out in MetaTalk, same as with this one.

I wish you would reconsider that policy. It gives posters carte blanche to make controversial assertions immune from rebuttal if they can wrap them in coded language instead of stating them outright.
posted by enn at 8:30 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I, like jokeefe, have never heard of the word 'warfighter'. How long has it been in common use?
posted by unliteral at 8:31 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I don't really think the derail was delete-worthy just as a derail. I didn't see it, so I don't know if anyone was calling anyone else a fuckwit in-thread, but how was that thread not going to go there with that word just hanging there like rotten fruit? Sure, move it to MeTa if it gets out of hand, but the pruning? I'm on the fence at best.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:33 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It gives posters carte blanche to make controversial assertions immune from rebuttal if they can wrap them in coded language instead of stating them outright.

We really think it doesn't. And we don't see it come up, like ever. "peace officers" and "pro life" and other nonsense jsut isn't part of the deal here. I agree I would have preferred not to have seen it in the post because to me it's a loaded term, but I do not think this is a slipperly slope. If people start abusing this general mechanism, we'll change it. I don't know hank well enough to know what his take on this topic is generally but he hasn't seemed like an axe-grinder to me.

If we think people are being editorializing in their posts, by using loaded language, we have the option to nix them for that alone. We do not think that is what is going on here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll play devil's advocate here in defense of the "toxic thicket of fascist doublespeak."

First, I'd like to endorse Tomorrowful's post, which is spot on.

Second, I'd like to point out that, colloquially, the term "warfighter" is often used to distinguish between those who are actually expected to deploy and either be combatants or directly support combatants, and those who do not ever deploy but provide the "sustaining base" for the warfighters.

Third, I find the idea of describing a term as clear and specific as "warfighter," which pretty much can't be interpreted as anything other than "individual who fights in a war." as doublespeak to be risible. I think somebody needs to reread their Orwell. Calling a handgun a "peacemaker" is doublespeak. Calling someone who fights in wars a "warfighter" is not. Period.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 8:39 PM on July 6, 2010 [25 favorites]


I, like jokeefe, have never heard of the word 'warfighter'. How long has it been in common use?

I think it was not long after 9/11 (not sure if there's a connection, mind you) that it started being common in Defense circles. I don't see it much outside DoD/contractors/etc - most media will use longer phrases like "Members of the Armed Forces" or say "soldiers" even when, by military standards, that might be incorrect - in particular most people I know would say "Soldier" to refer to a Marine.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:40 PM on July 6, 2010


I'm now curious as to the last time jessamyn and cortex disagreed on a topic that was brought to Metatalk.
posted by item at 8:40 PM on July 6, 2010


ereshkigal45, I don't want to rehash everything I said in the other thread but I think the TomDispatch article (scroll down) by a retired air force officer which I linked to there provides a good explanation as to why people would object to a term that may at first glance seem less euphemistic than the alternatives.
posted by enn at 8:42 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


It gives posters carte blanche to make controversial assertions immune from rebuttal if they can wrap them in coded language instead of stating them outright.

I agree in principle that weasel words (for lack of a better term) can be dangerous. In this specific case, however, I wish I understood what "controversial assertion" you think the OP made. He used an icky, clunky word, used regularly by the feds, that we wish didn't get used. I didn't see an assertion, or even an editorial, other than maybe appreciation that the material was presented clearly.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 8:45 PM on July 6, 2010


The gender-neutral, non-ideologically-loaded term appearing in places like the title of the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act is "servicemember." The gender-neutral, ideologically-loaded term spreading like a cancer through the DoD is "warrior." Its use as a defining term represents a regression from the idea of a profession of arms to the idea of (as Colonel Bateman wrote in my previous link) personal honor as a commodity. While violence and fighting spirit will always be essential to the military, in a civilized society they are no more than means to an end. In a warrior culture, they are ends in themselves, and that's what I think people find so disturbing about the post's implicit framing.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 8:45 PM on July 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


How is "warfighter" which is used to describe someone who is a professional, you know, fighter of wars doublespeak?

A case could be made I think that the word glamorizes the role but if anything "servicepeople" is the doublespeak word.

Google shows warfighter has been in use for at least 20 years.
posted by vapidave at 8:48 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Calling someone who fights in wars a "warfighter" is not.

"Solider", "Marine", "Sailor" - these terms (and the dozens of other traditional, related ones) worked fine.

The rise of "warrior", "warfighter" and other cartoonish, macho terms has nothing to do with technical necessity - it has to do with a need to inflate, dramatize, and justify the role of service members in immoral, pointless, and unpopular wars that the DoD desperately needs to sell to the men and women that are getting maimed and killed in them. And to the public.

It's straight out of the Goebbels playbook, and it's horseshit.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:48 PM on July 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


I agree in principle that weasel words (for lack of a better term) can be dangerous. In this specific case, however, I wish I understood what "controversial assertion" you think the OP made.

Describing service members as warfighters makes the statement that fighting wars (rather than discouraging them) is the purpose of having a military; that wars are the routine business of the armed forces and, thus, that there's nothing unusual about always being at war, since, hey, that's what warfighters do, right? And on top of that, the more dramatic word appeals to the ego and to the testosterone, it glorifies war, and it makes it sound like a video game.

Is it hank, the nutritionists who chose the title, or the policymakers whose interest they were trying to capture with that title making these assertions? I don't know, but I don't think it really matters.
posted by enn at 8:54 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's straight out of the Goebbels playbook, and it's horseshit.

It's like seventh grade up in here.
posted by mlis at 8:56 PM on July 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


I do hope the word WARFIGHTER isn't the easiest-to-translate definition of an American in the international vocabulary. Pretend for a moment you are an illiterate farmer in country x. Who are these men and women?

They call themselves "WAR"+"FIGHTERS" the etymology is a simple threat.

So yeah, i think the very language is potentially damaging to troops, as if the tactics employed aren't credibility-damaging enough.
posted by Hammond Rye at 8:57 PM on July 6, 2010


I took a quick glance at that post (before the fold only), read it as some kind of satirical post about Gamers who took their gaming way too seriously, and chose NOT to pursue it as I found the whole thing kind of embarrassing (for the gamers that is). Now I find that Warfighter is actually a term I'm supposed to take seriously in reference to actual state sponsored armed combatants, and I'm even more embarrassed (for the Warfighters that is). No wonder the thing got derailed.

As Monty Python once observed, what a stupid concept!
posted by philip-random at 9:03 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had a *ton* of GI Joe figures as a kid and even Hasbro never came up with anything half as inane as "warfighter". I have never heard this word used before today -- though our Canuck soldiers are often called "peacekeepers".

The fact that there are people who don't see "warfighter" as laugh-out-loud ridiculous boggles my mind.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:08 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna start calling my car a roaddriver.
posted by stavrogin at 9:09 PM on July 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Everyone should go read the essay that haltingproblemsolved linked to above.

Indeed, the key difference between a Soldier (or a Marine, or an Airman) and a "warrior" is almost that simple. A serviceman does his job as a part of a complex human system, he does so with discipline and selflessness as his hallmarks. Courage also matters, of course, but it is but one of several values that are needed. The serviceman is the product of a Western society which, while it values individualism intrinsically, values subordination in pursuit of a collective objective as well. A warrior, on the other hand, is the product of a culture or subculture which is essentially purely honor-driven. That is not a good thing.

The author, a Lt. Col. in the Army, goes on to discuss why it's not a good thing in greater detail. Seriously, go read it.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:11 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The rise of "warrior", "warfighter" and other cartoonish, macho terms has nothing to do with technical necessity - it has to do with a need to inflate, dramatize, and justify the role of service members in immoral, pointless, and unpopular wars that the DoD desperately needs to sell to the men and women that are getting maimed and killed in them. And to the public.

Yes. The idea of "warrior culture" is a very old way to sell war to populations (you can check recruiting posters from WWI to get an idea of this, also). Fighting wars should, ideally, not be the first job of the military, and "warfighter" undoes the idea of professionalism and particularly of service.
posted by jokeefe at 9:14 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a non-military person myself, I've heard "warfighter" from members of the military (mostly), and that mostly as part of some interview or such. It's increased in frequency the last few years, certainly since Sept 11, 2001.

For the most part, it's been used as a compliment, often of an officer: "He's a warfighter"*; He's someone who's primary job is combat. Because being the one in the thick of battle (as opposed to being a REMF or civil affairs type) is the honorable, estimable path.

For me, when the word "Military" comes up, I automatically think "Kill-people-&-break-things"/threaten others with same unless they shape up. "Warfighter" is not a particularly bad term to my ear, especially when you're talking about "soldiers" in the field. They have guns and grenades and body armor for a reason.

Now, the things we send our military to do can be a contentious issue. I'm all up for contending. But I think we obscure the bottom line "kill people/break things" part of the nature of the military at our peril.

This discussion made me think of this article which, among other things, discusses the idea that there is a growing disconnect between segments of the population who encourage their children to join the military (often out of a sense of national duty and service), and those who don't, and see the military as just another lifestyle choice, in addition to moral qualms about the uses to which the 'Murrican military has been put recently.

I wonder how much that relates to people's reactions to the word.
---
*For the record, I know several female vets who qualify. But when I've heared the term used, I can't remember an instance of it being used to refer to a female member of the armed services.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:16 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


> we're pretty much stuck not knowing how much the OP was agreeing
> with the warfighter terminology and how much they were just quoting.

Well, I can tell you. It's their word, in the title of the conference.
It was new to me.
The post above from tomorrowful educates me about it: "in its context, it's not taking a position; it's just using standard jargon for the field." That's how I read it, it's from the title of the piece.

More explanation of the conference at the link to Day 1:
http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=8107
Note it's a temporary link; there's a permanent link included in the information at the bottom of the page, excerpted here:

NLM Title: Nutritional armor for the warfighter : can omega-3 fatty acids enhance stress resilience, wellness, and military performance? [electronic resource] / sponsored by the Samueli Institute, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Publisher: [Bethesda, Md. : National Institutes of Health, 2009]
Subjects: Combat Disorders--diet therapy; Dietary Supplements; Fatty Acids, Omega-3--therapeutic use; Military Personnel; Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
...
NLM Classification: WB 425
NLM ID: 101518969
CIT File ID: 15352
CIT Live ID: 8107
Permanent link: http://videocast.nih.gov/launch.asp?15352

As to why I left the word in? I barely thought about it; it was a new word to me, it has a clear meaning to the people who use it; it's in the title.

The best guidance I know for choosing words, which makes me reluctant to change someone else's word for something they understand when I don't, includes this:

"... What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them.... unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning."

http://www.plainlanguage.gov/whatisPL/definitions/orwell.cfm
Lovely piece of writing to find at a government website, eh?
posted by hank at 9:17 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gonna be a long, hot summer, eh, mods?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:19 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The military is for killing people and breaking things. If they're not doing that (or preparing to do that), they're being misused.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:19 PM on July 6, 2010


This is why we should all preview, and read the damn comments, before posting. Sorry, Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:22 PM on July 6, 2010


Thanks for coming over hank. You can watch the little video on the FAQ to learn how to make hyperlinks. Saves us a little bit of time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:22 PM on July 6, 2010


It's straight out of the Goebbels playbook, and it's horseshit.

No, you're thinking of Wherfachter. As in 'Eating peanut butter toast is where I'm a Wherfachter.' Which is true.

our Canuck soldiers are often called "peacekeepers".

Guh? They should only be referred to as such when participating in peacekeeping missions on behalf of the UN, I think. If they're not wearing the blue berets, calling them 'peacekeepers' is a very bad idea, and I have never heard them called so outside of the appropriate context.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:27 PM on July 6, 2010


"Veterans"
"Combatants"
posted by Burhanistan at 9:29 PM on July 6, 2010


The rise of "warrior", "warfighter" and other cartoonish, macho terms has nothing to do with technical necessity - it has to do with a need to inflate, dramatize, and justify the role of service members in immoral, pointless, and unpopular wars that the DoD desperately needs to sell to the men and women that are getting maimed and killed in them.

Actually, the use of the term "warfighter" has nothing to do with dramatizing or justifying war. It stems directly from the push during the 80s and early 90s to privatize big chunks of military infrastructure and support systems. At the time, the distinction was a useful one to draw a bright line between those things which clearly needed to be done by the military, i.e., fight wars, and those things which could be, in theory, better done by the private sector like, e.g., run utility systems.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 9:31 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


A godawful deletion in service of doublespeak. Just. Awful. The whining right wins again.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


At the time, the distinction was a useful one to draw a bright line between those things which clearly needed to be done by the military, i.e., fight wars, and those things which could be, in theory, better done by the private sector like, e.g., run utility systems.

That may have been the in-house origin, but I don't think it's a coincidence that they gained broader currency post-September 11th / Iraq / Afghanistan.

Whatever their use w/in the military, these terms are being disseminated in (and echoed back from) the wider culture for propaganda purposes.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:37 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wordfighters
posted by nola at 9:38 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can one of the people making the double-speak claim show how 'warfighter' is an example of such, or are you guys just using a boogey-man buzzword to try and bully a wobbly go-cart across the finish line?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:41 PM on July 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Freedom Fryers.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:43 PM on July 6, 2010


"Limbless Cold Sweat Nightmare Sufferers"
posted by Burhanistan at 9:44 PM on July 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wait, hmm.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:44 PM on July 6, 2010


Warfighter. Military strokespeak.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:49 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can one of the people making the double-speak claim show how 'warfighter' is an example of such

It's a bullshit Pentagon neologism that exists to jingo-ize, sanitize and romanticize war to taxpayers who sit in fucking armchairs and watch FOX News on repeat while waving the American flag. It didn't exist as any significant part of the English language until the last few years. It exists to assuage dirty feelings about right-wing violence overseas.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:53 PM on July 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Can one of the people making the double-speak claim show how 'warfighter' is an example of such, or are you guys just using a boogey-man buzzword to try and bully a wobbly go-cart across the finish line?

This wasn't inspired by - and definitely can't be "shown" by reference to - a particular example or instance. It's a reaction to the increasing, and more pervasive, use of fascistic, hyper-patriotic neologisms (or worse, verbatim revival of actual Nazi Deutsch like "homeland" and "enhanced interrogation".)

"Warfighter" and "warrior" are among these - these are terms designed to stroke the ego of the listener, cultivate a frightened - or enraged - bunker mentality, and stifle critical thought and critical voices. They're toxic to democracy and to all of our safety.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:57 PM on July 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


...jingo-ize, sanitize and romanticize war...

Huh. And to me, it just makes it sound all the more awful. Go figure. Then again, I'm not their target demo.
posted by davejay at 9:58 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like I said, it was a new word to me, one I don't remember ever seeing before.

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."
Google warfighter: About 1,790,000 results
Word's all over the place. Dang. I used to have a pretty good vocabulary, but I'm definitely not keeping up.

I know an older acronym for the antonym:
REMF, the people who don't risk dying.
posted by hank at 9:59 PM on July 6, 2010


Whatever their use w/in the military, these terms are being disseminated in (and echoed back from) the wider culture for propaganda purposes.

Oh, yes, ryanshepard, but it's even worse than you thought. The evil US military has used Above Top Secret Nazi resurrection technology to bring Goebbels back from the dead. Not only is this out of the Goebbels playbook, but the Poison Dwarf himself is calling the plays! Better go spread the word!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:59 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Y'all need to learn to let some oxygen enter your lungs.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:01 PM on July 6, 2010


Eh, seems a useful way to distinguish servicemembers who are in combat from those in support positions. It couldn't possibly be more clear: those who are fighting in war. I don't think it carries any of the jingoistic baggage of "warrior" unless you intentionally load it that way. And if you're doing that, then it's your problem -- you're likely so sensitive to the very existence of military forces that any unfamiliar terminology that comes that field will irritate you.

The shrieks of "doublespeak" are amusingly ignorant of what the term actually means.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:05 PM on July 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


I joined the Army in 2003 and got out in 2006, deployed to Iraq, was involved in battery- and battalion-level HR, and this is the first I've ever heard "warfighter". We always used "servicemember/s", and more rarely, "serviceperson/people".
posted by Evilspork at 10:06 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The shrieks of "doublespeak" are amusingly ignorant of what the term actually means.

Either way, down the Memory Hole.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:08 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok then how are they "warfighters"? They don't fight wars, they fight fires. Don't step to me I don't admire . . .

The energy you eat is from your own pyer

it's 1984 again

This shit is so dyer

I put the ring in the telephone, the lint in your dryer

you knew you knowed it back when you once conspired

the truth will find you out, no warfighter liars

pull my zippo out, flick the wick on my lighter

it makes a fire

how do magnets work anyway?
posted by nola at 10:11 PM on July 6, 2010


how can they be warfighters if the united states government doesn't declare war (or abide by rules of war)? the last "warfighters" were in world war 2, no?
posted by nadawi at 10:12 PM on July 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's a bullshit Pentagon neologism that exists to jingo-ize, sanitize and romanticize war

>these are terms designed to stroke the ego of the listener


I don't dispute either of those assertions - I abhor the use of 'warrior' which I have heard more often, because I feel it panders to a very vulgar and asinine view of the military and their role - but that ain't what I asked about.

Like the quoted part of this MeTa says, 'Words mean things', and I think, regardless of whether I agree with your position and opposition to the term, you guys are being sloppy with your rhetoric.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:12 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fighting wars should, ideally, not be the first job of the military.

Wut?
posted by Cyrano at 10:15 PM on July 6, 2010


exists to jingo-ize, sanitize and romanticize war

How does a combination of the words "war" and "fighter" in any way sanitize war? On the contrary, it makes it very explicit what their job is. Certainly doesn't sound clean or romantic to me.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:16 PM on July 6, 2010


Like the quoted part of this MeTa says, 'Words mean things'

You're right, I take back my original statement. Words don't mean a thing, clearly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 PM on July 6, 2010


how can they be warfighters if the united states government doesn't declare war (or abide by rules of war)? the last "warfighters" were in world war 2, no?

"War" is a state of belligerence between two nations.

"Warfighting" is what happens when the people with the guns and greandes and AC-120 gunships all dressed alike start doing what they've been trained to do with live ammunition in public.

People complain (me included) about the one without the other, but not to the point that latter stops going on (and on and on and on) without the former.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:24 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have much of a problem with "Warfighter," besides it sounding awkward and like something a first grader would come up with.

I do have a HUGE problem with the continued description of the "War on terror" as a literal "war," as in describing the country as being in "wartime." I was appalled when Bush started it, disgusted when the media swallowed it wholesale, and not all that surprised when Obama continued it. I'm still waiting to find out exactly what country we are at "war" with. You can't get much lazier and stupider than confusing a metaphorical, rhetorical "war" with a literal one.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:29 PM on July 6, 2010


On the contrary, it makes it very explicit what their job is.

See, that's the problem - you've been sold on the imperialist thinking.

Their job should be (and in most countries is) peacekeepers. When they are fighting, they have fucked up and are not doing their job right.

You Americans, you've got a different word for everything!
posted by Meatbomb at 10:30 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I wonder if they've scored any hits on the Walls of Heartache yet?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:30 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or if they'd like to come out and plaaayy-aaayyyyy?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:31 PM on July 6, 2010


Their job should be (and in most countries is) peacekeepers.

If "Peacekeeping" can't happen without the presence of a gun, there really isn't any peace to keep.

"Peacekeepers" is every bit as loaded of a word, with every bit a potential to be exploited as "Warfighters."
posted by Cyrano at 10:47 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


We already have a word for "warfighter": Warrior. If that's too narrow a descriptor (as I believe it is, since it doesn't apply in peace time at all, which is somewhat worrying as that would seem to suggest that there won't be any), what's wrong with "Armed Forces Personnel"?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:55 PM on July 6, 2010


I'm still waiting to find out exactly what country we are at "war" with.

Afghanistan and Iraq. Granted, they're not exactly countries anymore, as their governments have been forcibly ousted, but, um, yeah. They're really wars, though.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:00 PM on July 6, 2010


We already have a word for "warfighter": Warrior.

Honest question: Do you thing that, here on Metafilter, the same derail wouldn't have happened if "Warrior" had been used in the original post?
posted by Cyrano at 11:05 PM on July 6, 2010


So, this is the first time I've ever heard-- seen, rather-- the term "warfighter." And I'm frankly more than a little bit confused, because I can't help but parse it in a way that is apparently precisely opposite in meaning to what it's intended to convey. To me, a "warfighter" sounds like it should be someone who, y'know, fights war. Y'know, like a firefighter fights fire. As in, like, fights against.

Like I said, I'm confused. And, believe it or not (and I know how hard it may be to believe but I swear I'm telling the truth here), I'm not a particularly dumb guy. Which makes this particular neologism particularly fucking stupid.
posted by dersins at 11:06 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agree with dersins - I'd never heard the term before and assumed it meant someone fighting the concept of war as opposed to fighting in a war. The English, it is not so good. Reminds me of bookreader or speechtalker or something.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:12 PM on July 6, 2010


Honest question: Do you thing that, here on Metafilter, the same derail wouldn't have happened if "Warrior" had been used in the original post?

Oh, of course it would. Anywhere, really.

To me, a "warfighter" sounds like it should be someone who, y'know, fights war. Y'know, like a firefighter fights fire. As in, like, fights against.

But then you'll have a bunch of warfighterfighters starting a warfighterwar with the warfighters, who will then join forces with the warfighterfighterfighters. And then the warfighterwarfighters will have to come in and break that up...
posted by Sys Rq at 11:19 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty appalled here. If we can't discuss the article linked to, an article that uses that word "warfighter" which is new to me and apparently a lot of people, what can we discuss?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:21 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we just award this thread the 2010 Beanplate Award in the "Special Effort to Get All Worked Up" category and go back to "amirite"ing everything?
posted by fatbird at 11:47 PM on July 6, 2010


If I had been told "warfighter" was a term created by anti-war activists, I'd think, "Yep, that sounds pretty accurate. Soldiers aren't 'peacekeepers' or 'defenders of freedom' or whatever. They fight in wars. That's what they do." But, since we learn this is a term created by the DoD, well, NOW it's a term that clearly is glorifying war.

To me, a "warfighter" sounds like it should be someone who, y'know, fights war. Y'know, like a firefighter fights fire. As in, like, fights against.

Heh. I remember once an immigration rights advocate pointed out to me the role of a "minister" in government affairs. The Minister of Finance protects the economy. The Minister of the Environment protects the environment. But the Minister of Immigration is often the guy who seems to distrust anyone who comes to the country.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:53 PM on July 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


It stems directly from the push during the 80s and early 90s to privatize big chunks of military infrastructure and support systems.

Yes, this. The term has been around for 15 years at least, it just didn't start to drift into the public consciousness (along with a lot of other things military) until 2001-2003 or so. But it's been a part of the DoD lexicon, at least unofficially, for a long time.

Basically the whole concept is that, given that there are statutory limits on the armed forces' total uniformed personnel headcounts, to say nothing of budget dollars, you want to make sure those people really count. You don't want to 'waste' a uniformed person doing something like cooking food, or driving trucks outside a combat zone, either of which you can get a contractor to do. You want those uniformed people doing things that (in theory) only people in uniform can do -- fighting. Specifically, fighting wars. Hence warfighters. It's not real creative, admittedly. (Although I'm tempted to say that by DoD standards it's downright poetic, just because it's not an acronym.)

The whole effort, I think, was a mirror of the outsourcing craze that went through the private sector at about the same time (not sure which inspired which) -- accepted 'wisdom' was that an organization should try to do one thing well and outsource the rest. If you take on premise that the military's "core competency" is fighting wars, then it's easy to see how everything else looks like fluff ripe for outsourcing to someone who won't count against your headcount.

There is definitely more than a whiff of "warrior culture" stuff going on in there as well, but my feeling is that stuff is basically the spin that certain people slapped on what was basically a big reorg and outsourcing push that a lot of other people might not have otherwise been too keen on. In that way it might be propaganda, but it's not propaganda aimed at the public so much as it is/was inwardly directed by some parts of the military establishment on the rest.


But just taking the word at face value in plain English, it seems fairly appropriate. The people getting called 'warfighters,' are, in fact, people who fight in wars.

It's not doublespeak; it's the literal, perhaps unpleasant, truth. It would be doublespeak if we called the same people 'peacekeepers' when they in fact were not. (Or if you want to be glib, like calling what's clearly a war department the "Department of Defense." Clausewitz saw that one coming, though.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:09 AM on July 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think it's perfectly acceptable to call "warfighter" doublespeak. On the surface it appears to simply mean "someone who fights in a literal war", but it's also designed to imply "someone who takes responsibility"--i.e. the rest of us are not warfighters; the warfighters are shouldering our burden. The word "war" already connotes a process that involves an entire society, even to the point where it's used metaphorically to emphasize that something affects us all ("drug war", "war on poverty"); "warfighter" is an attempt to import that connotation. It's a deliberate attempt to sound more important/honorable/macho, masked as an attempt at objectivity/neutrality.

Spin might be a better term for it than doublespeak, actually. But doublespeak works just fine.
posted by equalpants at 12:10 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not really about the term itself, it's the weirdo nuspeak naming convention that seems to have crept into our governments lingo post 9-11 and refuses to leave. Warfighters fight for the homeland against the Axis of Evil.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:14 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


'Warfighter' is corrupted, degenerate, and ignorant propaganda.

Here is the text of the Oath of Office sworn by every officer in the U. S. military:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.[1]

Members of the military are defenders of the Constitution, not warfighters.

A warfighter sounds like someone a true and faithful member of the military would need to defend the Constitution against-- and I think that's exactly what could happen if the kind of contemptible depravity which leads to terminology like 'warfighters' is allowed to go much further in this country.
posted by jamjam at 12:21 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a relevant-to-this-discussion (I think) 2005 TEDTalk about the America's "war" capacity vs our "everything that comes after" capacity.

The high level summary is that we're asking the same 19-yr-olds who operate and make up the most powerful war machine in history to be the people who handle the "everything else after the fighting" part. And it's not working out well:
We field a first half team in a league that insists on keeping score until the end of the game. That's the problem, we can run the score up against anybody. And the get our asses kicked in the second half.
THe suggestion (and presenter is a Pentagon planner) is that the military be separated into 2 groups:
  • The young trigger-pullers, the "warfighters" (called the "Leviathan force") whose job it is to apply overwhelming violence against the enemy combatants. Kill people, break things, shock & awe, crack open all the endless 50-gallon barrels of Pentagon whoop-ass we buy with our tax dollars.
  • The older, more mature "Systems Administrators" whose job is the "everything else" part. These are the nation builders, the civil engineers, the aid-hander-outers, the ones building international security in partnership with the international community, the ones who (unlike Leviathan) come under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. This is the "40-year-old cop" force, where experience and long-term horizons are more important than being a front-line combatant.

    The "Sys-Admin" force would be the one we have stationed across the globe. They're out there basically permanently building schools rather than running insurgent hunts. The "Leviathan" only comes out for a specific purpose (win a war), and then goes home.

    Those who are arguing that Fighting wars should, ideally, not be the first job of the military, and "warfighter" undoes the idea of professionalism and particularly of service sound like they're arguing for a "Sys-Admin" based military. Barnett also called this "The military the rest of the world wishes we had".

  • posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:34 AM on July 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


    I'm glad the derail was deleted. The first comment off the bat about "warfighter" wasn't bad by itself, but the ensuing posturing on both sides of the aisle over the word was a huge distraction.

    I don't like the word as a neologism, and I think saying it makes the speaker sound like they have marbles in their mouth, but I'm fine with the meaning.
    posted by zippy at 12:47 AM on July 7, 2010


    My god. Let me not be the first to say that some of you people have absolutely insane obsessions/priorities.
    posted by cucumber at 1:17 AM on July 7, 2010


    I think Leviathan Force fought the X-Men once or twice.
    posted by doctor_negative at 1:23 AM on July 7, 2010


    I AM KRAGNAR THE WARFIGHTER

    FETCH ME A ROAST BOAR AND A FLAGON OF YOUR STRONGEST ALE

    NOW BE SILENT AND LISTEN TO MY TALES OF WARFIGHTING

    DO NOT QUESTION KRAGNAR, WENCH

    OR YOU WILL TASTE THE FLAT OF MY BROADSWORD
    posted by maqsarian at 2:43 AM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


    No warfighter but the class warfighter!
    posted by Abiezer at 3:06 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Guys, the warfighter thing, which you only really see nowadays on the MRE package (Warfighter tested, warfighter approved) is something that only really makes sense within the context of American military culture.

    It is meant in the case of MREs to reassure those who will have to eat them that what they're getting has at least been given a thumbs-up by a jury of their peers and not foisted on them by bureaucrats with no understanding of what a hot meal means to someone who has slept maybe four hours in the last seventy and is exercising heavily.

    The American military has spent a lot to research what works and what doesn't about food at the ground-pounding soldier level.

    In the early Nineties, there was a time when MREs came with a lot of "comfort" foods. It was a disaster. Nobody wants a hot dog in the field, much less a meal of four.

    MREs are designed to improve morale and cohesion by giving G.I.s a nutritious entree and side
    and lots of little snacks to swap with their buddies or eat on the fly.

    As anyone who has ever been forced to eat them can tell you, they get old fast. That's what's behind the warfighter stamp on the package. It's there to reassure that poor PFC who's got to eat these things that somewhere, some other PFC whose world, like his, is focused on not getting blisters on his feet and keeping his rifle clean, has said this particular meal is not total crap.

    I realize there are not a whole ton of military people here,
    posted by atchafalaya at 3:37 AM on July 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


    Well, probably best not to write these long responses on my phone.

    Anyway, you may be right to call it propaganda, but it's not "Here's your mighty repast, Warrior!"
    It's more "Here's your chow, you poor schmuck. We know it sucks to be you, so we tested this on other guys like you first. Only 6,437 more before you never have to eat another one!"
    posted by atchafalaya at 3:45 AM on July 7, 2010


    A godawful deletion in service of doublespeak. Just. Awful. The whining right wins again.

    I find myself amused at your characterization. I flagged most of that derail because it was a derail. I finally made this post because I was tired of the flaming over a single word.

    If it were really in service of doublespeak, there wouldn't be a MetaTalk in the first place, would there? Any MeTa of "why did my 'words mean things' post get deleted?" would get deleted or closed. That's service to doublespeak.

    And for pete's sake - double speak is about hiding things: "ungood" ≈ "bad". What is "warfighter" hiding?
    posted by lysdexic at 4:07 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Sorry I couldn't participate, my mom was having a meltdown and needed to be hospitalized. As someone who earns their living feeding 'warfighters' I can tell you that I despise the term. We haven't always used that term, it seems to have sprung fully formed in the late 1990s. That's Natick marketing you are seeing. We don't talk about the warfighter in our meetings, we talk about our customers. I also dislike 'tip of the spear.' When we (civilian employees of DoD) were called 'associates' I had to tell my boss that I didn't work at fucking Kmart.

    Nation building? So much bullshit. Not their mission. I remember being floored when I was talking to someone in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs during a hurricane a few years back. We were supplying MREs and bottled water, and I was struck that we had big corners of our bureaucracy dedicated to this stuff.

    Guys, the warfighter thing, which you only really see nowadays on the MRE package

    No, it's on every PowerPoint slide in my agency. "Resource Stewardship. Warfighter Support. Workforce Development."
    posted by fixedgear at 4:07 AM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


    I'm sorry about your mom. I hope she gets better.

    Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs

    0.o This is in the company?

    *Googles "Natick"*

    Oh.
    posted by lysdexic at 4:23 AM on July 7, 2010


    I'm the daughter of two former Air Force officers (one of whom is a Gulf War I veteran) and I work for a small defense contractor now. I had never heard the term 'warfighter' until a Navy captain, who was one of our customers, four years ago talked about getting "the right technology to the warfighter." It came across very much as a "those people over there right now actively fighting a war" descriptor, rather than "these other people, who are also Navy servicepeople, who hang out in the US running test missions and get to go home to their families at night."

    That said, I immediately recoiled at the term, and when I asked my parents about it they both said they'd never heard it and that it sounded "dumb." So yes, it's actively used now in non-MRE capacities, but it wasn't always, and not everyone is really excited about it.

    Another one I hate? "In theatre." The "Afghanistan theatre" or the "Iraq theatre." Not a fan.
    posted by olinerd at 5:07 AM on July 7, 2010


    Another one I hate? "In theatre." The "Afghanistan theatre" or the "Iraq theatre." Not a fan.

    Isn't this very old terminology? Certainly it's pre-World War II.
    posted by Justinian at 5:49 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Y'all go ahead and argue about wars. Meanwhile my middle daughter's boyfriend is in the sandbox where his job is to get rid of IEDs. I'd say he's fighting war, myself.

    (My son was at USAFA during part of Weida's time there. He called the cadets "warriors." Now that? was ridiculous.)
    posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:05 AM on July 7, 2010


    Yes, "theatre" is from Clausewitz.
    posted by haltingproblemsolved at 6:05 AM on July 7, 2010


    "I'm still waiting to find out exactly what country we are at "war" with. You can't get much lazier and stupider than confusing a metaphorical, rhetorical "war" with a literal one."

    What country were we fighting in the American Civil War? (Note that the premise of the war was that the CSA was not a country).

    "Members of the military are defenders of the Constitution, not warfighters."

    All officers of the U.S. Federal Government swear an oath to defend the constitution, not just military officers. That is, FBI agents, TSA screeners, IRS file clerks, and HHS auditors, FDA scientists, etc. Hence the need for "military" to specify the mode of the defense and words like "warfighter" to designate those in close combat.
    posted by Jahaza at 6:28 AM on July 7, 2010


    I actually prefer warfighter to serviceperson. The military is dangerous. We should think of it as being dangerous, not just to other countries but our own. Let's be honest about what it does.

    You don't like warfighters? Then let's cut spending on warfighting. And the next time some cowboy president decides to get froggy with another country, he won't have as many spare warfighters to fight wars with.
    posted by empath at 6:41 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    If you are arguing that we need one term that accurately and exactly covers everybody (medic, nuke launcher, drone pilot, bayonet thruster, consulate guard, napalmer, cook, etc.) and that describes their shifting roles (peacemaker, warmaker, speed bump, rattled saber, cannon fodder, etc.), and that neither glorifies nor insults them, you are wasting your time. But "military personnel" is pretty good. It says what people are members of and not exactly what each of them does, but we know what the military does.

    (A noun string like "international death infliction or threat specialists" might be to some tastes, but it's a little unwieldy.)
    posted by pracowity at 6:54 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    There was a good comment in that post about 'warfighters' originally referring to military personnel who were actually in combat (bombdroppers, gunshooters, minesweepers, etc.), and then naturally extending to their support personnel (tankfixers, spitshiners, shipshapers), and, eventually, everyone in the military, even if they work in South Dakota painting office furniture or whatever. Linguistic mission creep, or something.

    I thought it was good, and I was sorry to see it go. (Then again, I'm currently a little sidetracked by the thought of raising tilapia in a 55-gallon drum in the backyard, so maybe I'm not the authority on derails.)
    posted by box at 7:17 AM on July 7, 2010


    > I can tell you as someone working for a DoD contractor that "warfighter" is absolutely unremarkable bog-standard terminology and I see it used in all manner of different contexts all the time.

    You're stuck so deep in the bog you can't see out of it.
    posted by languagehat at 7:24 AM on July 7, 2010


    I'm kinda partial to "army man," but I realize there are all kinds of problems with that.
    posted by marxchivist at 7:27 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


    We need to be a little more specific. Gunshooter! Tank-Driver! I gets confused by all this general stuff.

    Also, I don't think it's so bad to just say "servicepeople." It is usually possible to figure out by context who is actually doing the fighting. By usually I mean always.
    posted by Mister_A at 7:49 AM on July 7, 2010


    I'm sorry it's taken me this long to get around to reading this thread; it's just that I've been hunkered down with my PS3 playing through The Flamening of Mefi, the new expansion pack for WarFighter II: Hank's Bloodlust.
    posted by koeselitz at 7:57 AM on July 7, 2010


    I find myself amused at your characterization.

    Wikipedia calls it a neologism. People who work in the services have remarked how new the term is. My deleted characterization had more than a ring of truth to it, apparently.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    What am I missing about this fight?

    From my take on the original post, warfighter is the most accurate word to use. It isn't talking about servicepeople who are in a branch of the service doing something other than engaging an enemy, it's talking specificially about people who fight wars. You can be angry about it or feel that it is something that is anti-servicepeople or anti-military, but if you're going to get so crazy about it, you should probably complain to those who have started using it the most.


    Gates: Overhead Savings Would Benefit Warfighters

    “The frequency of flights is based upon the warfighter's needs,” [Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert H. McMahon] explained

    New System to Deliver More Intelligence to Warfighters
    Once on the ground, Valiant Angel will enable more warfighters to access, retrieve and store massive amounts of still and video imagery, including full-motion video and wide-air surveillance projects.

    So a word which accurately describes people who use that word to describe themselves is a problem, why?

    Seriously, please explain because I feel like I'm missing something huge here.
    posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:14 AM on July 7, 2010


    (btw all those links are from the Department of Defense homepage)
    posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:14 AM on July 7, 2010


    On closer review: what olinerd said. (sorry)
    posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:15 AM on July 7, 2010


    > What am I missing about this fight?

    That not everyone agrees with you. A shock, I know.

    > From my take on the original post, warfighter is the most accurate word to use.

    From other people's take, it's a horrible jingoistic chest-thumping neologism that has spread appallingly fast due to the horrible jingoistic chest-thumping nature of an influential part of American society.

    Glad I could help.
    posted by languagehat at 9:28 AM on July 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


    neologism: A neologism (pronounced /niˈɒlədʒɪzəm/); from Greek νέος (neos 'new') + λόγος (logos 'word') is a newly coined word that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language.

    ... because, like "warfighter" before these threads began, I realize I didn't actually have functional definition for it.
    posted by philip-random at 9:44 AM on July 7, 2010


    To expand on my erstwhile colleague-in-language-description's explanation.

    1. I get that the warfighter terminology was in the original post and I'm not in any way pointing the finger at hank for repeating it.
    2. Making a point about something by coining an unecessary neologism is something the US government [and other people with agendas] seems to like to do. It's an easy way to figure out who is on your side and who isn't "Do you accept the use of my new word? Y/N? >_" If you don't disagree with the need to coin a new term, you may not mind the new term. If you disagree, you may mind, you may mind a lot.
    3. So I think of how I feel about things like Freedom Fries [obvious nonsense], "peace officer" [insidious rebranding], friendly fire [lies, though possibly raises an important distinction], PTSD vs. shell shock, downsizing [lies, you are firing people because it's good for your bottom line], lethal injection [you killed someone by poisoning them] and related terms. Then you have things that are a bit more entrenched [pro-life] that are the standard terms nowadays, and you have to think how much of a stand you want to take about the political implications of word choice versus the communicative ideal of being understood. People draw those lines differently and/or may think of you as more or less of an asshole depending on the choices you make.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:46 AM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


    Gotcha.

    I guess what I was missing was why people were so offended by it -- which I think was because there were two separate groups of folks who don't like the word but for two different reasons (those like languagehat for the jingoism and those who think it is somehow anti-armed services); I personally think it is a truly accurate way to describe a specific type of service person who is serving a specific role at a specific time and feel that avoiding using language to cover that up is really dangerous in a "peace keeper"/"pro-life" way. But to each his own.

    But I see better where everybody is coming from now; thanks.
    posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:56 AM on July 7, 2010


    "peace officer" [insidious rebranding]

    Peace Officer:
    –noun
    a civil officer appointed to preserve the public peace, as a sheriff or constable.

    Origin:
    1705–15
    Three hundred years is one hell of an ongoing rebranding campaign if that's what it is. I always thought of "Officer of the Peace" as an old-school term, not some kind of newspeak.

    In California at least, a "peace officer" has a specific definition, in that they're a sworn public law-enforcement official with a badge and gun and powers of arrest.

    Other states may use the term differently or use a different term. But I don't find "Officer of the Peace" to be a particularly insidious term, if an archaic one.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:01 AM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


    Making a point about something by coining an unecessary neologism is something the US government [and other people with agendas] seems to like to do.

    Like GRAR and schmoopy?

    HAMBURGER!

    *Blows brains out*

    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:08 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


    But I don't find "Officer of the Peace" to be a particularly insidious term, if an archaic one.

    Agreed, but my read on it [as an obviously biased person] is that it was a term that was hardly ever used and then started springing up all over the place post-WTO and post-9/11. That is, it's always been a term that was available to be used to refer to police officers, but then it suddenly started to be the preferred term to refer to police officers, I felt.

    Of course now that I've started spouting off about this, it turns out that yeah there's a specific definition (more) and my objection was more about feeling that people were like "hey call them peace officers form now on" which was, in fact, incorrect.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:09 AM on July 7, 2010


    You gonna eat those brains?
    posted by Schmoopy at 10:09 AM on July 7, 2010


    On further review, I also want to, at least in a face saving measure (if saving face can ever be done by proclaiming ignorance) mention that I was unaware of the newfound fondness for "warfighter" as a term outside of the mention of it here.

    Having poked around a little bit more, which is probably something I should have done before asking for an explanation as to what all the hubbub was about, I can totally understand why it rubs people the wrong way in the world at large, but still feel like it was the right one to use here and still find the avoidance of a word that best describes something because it is being used elsewhere for other purposes a problem.
    posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:16 AM on July 7, 2010


    Blazecock Pileon: "I find myself amused at your characterization.

    Wikipedia calls it a neologism. People who work in the services have remarked how new the term is. My deleted characterization had more than a ring of truth to it, apparently.
    "

    Ok, then, lemme try again. I was amused that you wanted to call me the "whining right". This flower grandchile is not "right" of anything. I mostly consider myself to be supporting the troops by opposing the war. So, I was amused.
    posted by lysdexic at 10:39 AM on July 7, 2010


    Agreed, but my read on it [as an obviously biased person] is that it was a term that was hardly ever used and then started springing up all over the place post-WTO and post-9/11.

    Yeah, in the age of the paramilitarization of law-enforcement, "peace officer" does have the faint whiff of Orwell if one is not familiar with the term. And when they get their Sith on, they don't look all that peaceful.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:57 AM on July 7, 2010


    I was amused that you wanted to call me the "whining right".

    You sure seem to be a whiny right-winger, at least based on your opening comment:

    I'm personally tired of "words mean things"

    This philosophy sounds whiny and Orwellian to me. If this observation amuses you, chuckle away, I guess.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 AM on July 7, 2010


    He's tired of the phrase "words mean things"; not the actual semantic concept of words having meaning. There's no need to resort to basically calling the guy a fascist over this.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:21 AM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


    lysdexic would appear to be a her and yeah, Blazecock Pileon completely misread her point in a most uncharitable way, then resorted to cheap insults.
    posted by Burhanistan at 11:29 AM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Whoops, sorry, lysdexic. Shoulda checked your profile there.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:26 PM on July 7, 2010


    Man, I love Rob Liefeld's new comic Warfighter! It's almost as good as Bloodwulf.

    I know! Who would have thought that his clumsy phrasing, poor grasp of anatomy and pouch fixation would be the perfect metaphor for America's continuing imperial misadventures.

    The panel where he confused Jalal Talabani with the Taliban and then blew his face of with the gun that fired d-cup assassin chicks with tiny feet! TAKE THAT TERROR!
    posted by klangklangston at 1:46 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    It's weird — I associate the specific phrase "words mean things" with Rush Limbaugh's pontificating, and seeing someone called a whiny right-winger for disliking the phrase ... well. I suppose I'll start chuckling now.
    posted by rewil at 3:49 PM on July 7, 2010


    a word that best describes something...

    Combatant

    A. adj. Fighting, contending in fight, ready to fight. In Mil. usage, combatant officer: an officer who takes part in active fighting, as distinguished from the non-combatant officers of the medical or the commissariat staff.


    1632 B. JONSON Magn. Lady III. iv, Their valours are not yet so combatant, Or truly antagonistic, as to fight. 1791 PAINE Rights M. (ed. 4) 114 The separate head-quarters of two combatant armies. 1868 Regul. & Ord. Army {page}301 The Senior Combatant Officer must preside.

    B. n. One who combats, a fighter, warrior; in early use, esp. one who fought in single combat.

    1489 CAXTON Faytes of A. I. i. 3 Chaton the vayllaunt combataunt or fyghtar. 1593 SHAKES. 2 Hen. VI, II. iii. 95 Sound Trumpets, Alarum to the Combattants. 1667 MILTON P.L. II. 719 So frownd the mighty Combatants. 1774 PENNANT Tour Scotl. in 1772 123 In the duel..each combattant fell. 1860 MOTLEY Netherl. (1868) I. i. 9 The combatants in the great eighty years war.

    (OED)

    So 500 years old and none of the overtones (not trying to point fingers just saying).
    posted by tallus at 4:05 PM on July 7, 2010


    My preferred phrasing is State-Sponsored-Combatant.

    Helps differentiate them from mercenaries, so-called terrorists, freedom fighters etc.
    posted by philip-random at 4:20 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    IED Fodder
    posted by Burhanistan at 4:24 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    commissariat staff is what I do, only my supply line stretches from Bayonne to Baghdad.
    posted by fixedgear at 4:53 PM on July 7, 2010


    I just spent 10 years working for a defense contractor. If you don't like the word "warfighter" I think you should get used to being pissed off about it. And I mean just that, get used to it. Because it's the word that people will be using well into the future. Lots of people. It will be common.

    You can complain other words are better. That will change nothing. Warfighter will become the go-to word for people in the military across a wide variety of media and in popular usage. Journalistically it may be a crap word, I doubt that will matter in the slightest.
    posted by y6y6y6 at 5:27 PM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


    LAWGIVERS!
    posted by Devils Rancher at 6:38 PM on July 7, 2010


    Their job should be (and in most countries is) peacekeepers. When they are fighting, they have fucked up and are not doing their job right.

    No, their job is to fight wars. We should hope that they don't have to work very often, though. When they are fighting, the politicians have fucked up, not the military. It's not the miltary's job to choose when to fight. The military isn't designed to rebuild countries or societies, it isn't suitable to be a police force. It's designed to destroy things, prevent enemies from taking a patch of land, kill people. It is the bluntest of blunt instruments.

    As for this whole "warfighter" thing, I'd heard the term when I served ('84-'87, USAR, 3/35 AR BN, Bamberg, Germany). At the time, it was used to distinguish between combat and combat support personnel on the one hand, and non-combat support personnel on the other. But I didn't hear it all that often. Of course, not being an officer, there were probably all sorts of things I didn't hear that often.

    I like "warfighter." It's an ugly word, that describes an ugly and unpleasant job that no one should have to do. It sounds clunky, unlike "warrior." No one aspires to it. It doesn't sugarcoat anything. It means what it says.
    posted by me & my monkey at 8:27 PM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


    Well, hey, did y'all get to the second hour of the second day in the video?

    The speaker, a marine (responsible for delivering food, who was filling in for an army guy, in front of a mostly army audience) put up this picture (easy to find):

    http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=62833&d=1229521422

    He said it was going 'roung on the Internet, and was his desktop picture.

    The audience laughed along with him.

    It made the point of the program, that everyone needs better nutrition.

    Then he talked about what he could buy with the pennies per day per person allocated, to feed them -- and how it was often unhealthy food, the subject of the two-day meeting

    Good thing we civilians can laugh at ourselves the same way, eh?
    http://www.plognark.com/?q=node/10541
    posted by hank at 8:54 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


    hank, it would be super helpful to us if you'd make the URLs into hyperlinks because otherwise we tend to go through and fix them. Here's an FAQ entry that tells you how to do it.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:59 PM on July 7, 2010


    THE LAWGIVER... BLEEDS!
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:42 PM on July 7, 2010


    A search of Fox news for the word "soldier" yields 11,595 results.
    A search of Fox news for the word "warfighter" yields 42 results going back to 2003.
    posted by vapidave at 11:35 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

    From other people's take, it's a horrible jingoistic chest-thumping neologism that has spread appallingly fast due to the horrible jingoistic chest-thumping nature of an influential part of American society.
    The odd part to me is that those people aren't embarrassed by their emotional reaction. Why do people seem so proud of being blindly upset over a word? I'll never understand.
    posted by planet at 1:03 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    To me what I consider mind-boggling is that the fury over the word seems to stem from who created it more than anything else. I honestly cannot imagine someone disputing that soldiers fight in wars; that it is somehow inaccurate to contend this. If anything is Orwellian, it's terms like "peacekeepers" and "defenders of our way of life" and shit like that. On the face of it, military people are designed to fight in wars.

    Furthermore, I could just as easily see "warfighter" being used as an insult as some chest-thumping crowing. I've known plenty of military folk who take issue with the idea that they signed up to go out and kill; that they're itching for battle. "Hey, I'm just trying to pay for college" or "Hang on now, we also take care of business during a natural disaster" or "I'm learning skills to help me in the civilian world" and what not. You could easily counter with, "Bullshit, you're a warfighter" as a means of denigrated what they do.

    If anything, it's a term that cuts the crap about what the military is about. It's about war. Whether you like war or hate it is immaterial to the accuracy of the term.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:34 AM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


    "Whaleshit--you're a bullfighter."
    posted by box at 5:41 AM on July 8, 2010


    You're stuck so deep in the bog you can't see out of it.

    Last time I checked, "warfighters" are people who fight wars. They shoot people. They bomb people. They reload the bombs so more can get dropped on people. I'm incredibly strongly opposed to the current pair of pointless stupid wars we're engaged in. But to call them anything other than warfighters seems disingenuous. They don't "Serve our country" - well, they do, but lots of people do, including diplomats and doctors and firefighters. They aren't just uniformed. They aren't just people who signed an oath. They are, however, the ones fighting wars and killing people on our behalf, and I think that while it may have originated deep inside the military-industrial complex, it's a word that is in no way euphemistic.
    posted by Tomorrowful at 7:21 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Regardless of the (rather silly in my opinion) debate of whether or not "warfighter" connotes something jingoistic, the word just sounds silly and contrived.

    Also, just to clear up. The term "warfighter" is not Orwellian double speak. It might be an aggressive, emotion laden term, but it's fairly descriptive nonetheless. Let's not run around here calling each other Orwellian right wing whiners here on such a thin premise, especially if we're going to quibble about how words have meaning.
    posted by Burhanistan at 8:01 AM on July 8, 2010


    > But to call them anything other than warfighters seems disingenuous.

    So the entire English language was disingenuous until circa 1990? Interesting point of view.

    > If you don't like the word "warfighter" I think you should get used to being pissed off about it.

    Don't worry, most of us have long gotten used to being pissed off about a lot of things.
    posted by languagehat at 8:51 AM on July 8, 2010


    hank, it would be super helpful to us if you'd make the URLs into hyperlinks because otherwise we tend to go through and fix them.

    Jessamyn, this needs to be automated.
    posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:18 AM on July 8, 2010


    > links
    OK, I'll encode them so they're clickable. Sorry for the annoyance.

    > Orwellian
    "Orwellian" has come to mean writing in the ways Orwell mocked, not in the ways he advised.

    "... unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning."

    Politics and the English Language--George Orwell, 1946
    posted by hank at 9:23 AM on July 8, 2010


    Can we just settle on "gunhaver?"

    Cheat Commandos, rock rock on!
    posted by albrecht at 10:36 AM on July 8, 2010


    When I was an Army officer stationed in Korea around 1992 or so in the 2nd Infantry Division (the Army Division responsible for defense of the DMZ), the new Division Commander mandated that 2nd ID personnel were to be referred to as warfighters as opposed to just soldiers. In the typical military way of doing first and asking questions later (this is a feature not a bug), we got around to inquiring as to the why's of the new turn of phrase. It boiled down to these things:
    1) It was a badge of respect to those putting themselves in the forefront. Side note: I didn't say "tip of the spear" that's my favorite military term to loathe, followed closely by "boots on the ground".
    2) It was a roundabout way of saying "this job isn't to be relegated to a civilian". As others have mentioned there was a definite push to move non-critical positions to civilian support, and have the military focus on its core missions.
    3) It made it clear that our jobs were to fight in wars.
    4) It had an interesting corollary with the word firefighter in that our jobs were to fight to prevent wars.

    3) and 4) may seem contradictory, but it should be a familiar idea to those that have served in the military. Wars to the military are what finals are to college students. You have to prepare for them because you know their coming, but you'd much prefer that you could skip them.

    I was surprised when I first heard the term in wider distribution, since it was a term I associated with that particular unit, but I really don't know how broadly the term was actually used. What I can confirm though, is that the word was in use in the early 90's.

    I'm not affiliated with the military anymore, so I can't say how the term is used now. At the time, though, it had a particular connotation for a concept missing a particular terminology, namely how to differentiate between a service member that had a reasonable expectation of engaging hostile forces if hostilities erupted, from a service member who would probably wouldn't see hostile action. It's probably interesting to note that at that time there still existed the concept of a "front line". Counter-insurgency operations like Iraq and Afghanistan have shown clearly that other models exist, and this may account for its broadening to include most or all of the uniformed services.
    posted by forforf at 10:52 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them...

    The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer...

    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow.

    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:09 PM on July 8, 2010


    >
    The great enemy of clear language is insincerity


    Warfighters, while perhaps used to chest thump and or sound cool and aggressive (and sounds silly to boot), is pretty clearly descriptive. What's so hard about this?
    posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


    I seem to remember a lot of discussion about the neologism "cisgender" when it appeared in an FPP, and a flurry of complaints about how commenters who objected to the term derailed the true subject of the post. Those complaints were valid, and the derails should have been (were?) deleted. It's the same concept at work here -- which is why deleting the derail was the right decision.
    posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:31 PM on July 8, 2010


    Why is "combatant" a better term? Seems equally loaded w/r/t making it sound like the soldier's only function is 'combat' i.e. fighting and killing people. Is "combatant" better because it has a more intellectual ring to it? It's got that Latin suffix after all.
    posted by r_nebblesworthII at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2010


    Now, if you want to label people who are resisting an occupying army "terrorists" then maybe you have a case for Orwellian double speak.
    posted by Burhanistan at 12:38 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase—some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse—into the dustbin, where it belongs.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:41 PM on July 8, 2010


    So, not for nothing, but those Blackwater / Xe guys. Not in the military, but should we call them warfighters?
    posted by dersins at 1:41 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    > So, not for nothing, but those Blackwater / Xe guys. Not in the military, but should we call them warfighters?

    If we just called them "civilian contractors" or something, that would be a bit of double-speak. "Mercenary" is certainly apt, but good look with the Pentagon press using word that might as well be "whore". Maybe someone on the inside can say if those guys are lumped in the same silly "warfighter" designation as other people who shoot and/or activate weaponry against designated enemies under specific or general orders from military or Executive Branch command.

    Hmm. Maybe we could call them PWSAWADEUSGOFMEBCs.
    posted by Burhanistan at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2010


    good luck, rather.
    posted by Burhanistan at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2010


    Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

    Man, BP, I just don't get it. It seems to me you'd be in favor of "warfighter" as it's about as euphemism-free as you can get. You're not going to hear "warfighter" and be thinking about humanitarian missions - which the military isn't designed for. You're not going to think about anything other than the brutal truth of what the military does. It kills people.

    When I was in basic training, one of the first things the drill sergeants said is that we were all now hired killers. If you couldn't live with that, you were in the wrong place. You'd be put in a position to kill people that you didn't know, for reasons that you may not understand. I was fortunate to be part of a peacetime Army, where you could shrug that off a little bit with the thought that it was unlikely to actually happen during your term - and if it did, a tanker stationed in Germany would have a life expectancy of a half hour, maybe - but now? That expectation no longer exists. You're going to kill people. You might get killed.
    posted by me & my monkey at 3:00 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


    > Why is "combatant" a better term?

    Because it's an actual English word as opposed to a Pentagon invention that attempts to provide a hard-on to a generation that grew up with macho video/computer games.
    posted by languagehat at 3:03 PM on July 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


    If that was their intention, they ended up with a term that, in its bluntness, handily de-prettifies decades of glossy terms for what a soldier does. If I were taking the macho angle for the Pentagon's PR, I would've gone with something like "thrillseeker" or "modern crusader" or "deathbringer" or something.

    Fight war not wars.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:39 PM on July 8, 2010


    Warfighters, while perhaps used to chest thump and or sound cool and aggressive (and sounds silly to boot), is pretty clearly descriptive.

    Burhanistan and others have provided two definitions of the word "warfighter" which are, in my view, contradictory:

    1. "Warfighter" is used without irony, its meaning fully descriptive, used by the Pentagon to accurately portray the job as unglamorous, brutal, violent. People are killed.

    2. "Warfighter" also has glamorous (to wit: "cool and aggressive") connotations, amplified as it now enters wider popular exposure to an audience that consumes glamorized violence by way of video games (some sanctioned by the military), movies, music, and other forms of pop culture.

    According to Wikipedia, which seems to provide a fair definition of the term:

    Doublespeak (sometimes called doubletalk) is any language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words, resulting in a communication bypass. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs), intentional ambiguity, or the reversal of meaning (for example, calling war "peace", or maintaining the status quo "change").

    Identifying the word "warfighter" as Orwellian speech or doublespeak seems reasonable, given the ambiguity about its intent.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:58 PM on July 8, 2010


    Identifying the word "warfighter" as Orwellian speech or doublespeak seems reasonable, given the ambiguity about its intent.

    Only if you stretch the meaning of "doublespeak" in Humpty-Dumpty fashion, to mean whatever you like. You might think that organized violence is a terrible thing, or cool and aggressive, but it's blindingly obvious that being a "warfighter" is about participating in organized violence. The only ambiguity there is how people feel about war.
    posted by me & my monkey at 6:32 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


    To follow up on that, you could make the same argument about "hired killer" based on your enjoyment of John Woo movies.
    posted by me & my monkey at 6:33 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Why do you suppose the Pentagon chose "warfighter" rather than "hired killer"? Think about that.
    posted by languagehat at 6:58 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


    So, not for nothing, but those Blackwater / Xe guys. Not in the military, but should we call them warfighters?

    As I understand it, officially they're supposed to be taking over duties like guarding American officials and doing the laundry and cooking the meals, the non-warfighting stuff, the better to allow the uniformed soldiers to do what you're not supposed to contract out, i.e. being the ones "fighting the war" (such as it is).

    Doesn't always work out that way, because we're not supposed to be hiring mercenaries to fight our wars. Although in one sense we're hitting that Late Roman Empire model of fielding an army, like it or not. And that means more and more mercenaries and auxiliaries (e.g. The Northern Alliance) being our "warfighters".

    And yes, there is a difference between a professional uniformed citizen-soldier who is part of a national army and a mercenary.
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:11 PM on July 8, 2010


    Only if you stretch the meaning of "doublespeak" in Humpty-Dumpty fashion, to mean whatever you like.

    At this point, given what has transpired in this thread, to be accused of stretching the meaning of any words is wholly, bitterly ironic.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:28 PM on July 8, 2010


    Wordstretcher!
    posted by Devils Rancher at 8:26 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Why do you suppose the Pentagon chose "warfighter" rather than "hired killer"? Think about that.

    You've never been in the Army, clearly. The military comes up with the dumbest, clunkiest, least appealing nomenclature for anything and everything you can possibly think of, with a matching usually-indecipherable acronym for each. Their bureaucracy is unrivalled by anything in the civilian world. They are not Madison Avenue.

    I invite you to spend some time with the DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms:

    http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/dod_dictionary/

    (otherwise known as JP 1-02)
    posted by me & my monkey at 8:46 PM on July 8, 2010


    > At this point, given what has transpired in this thread, to be accused of stretching the meaning of any words is wholly, bitterly ironic.

    Ah, come off of it. You're trying very hard to be convincing about "Orwellian" which is a nebulous soft term at best. It's not like there are academic departments that have disciplines in detecting specifically "Orwellian" usage. It's more an excuse for your to label people as right-wingers than any real debate.
    posted by Burhanistan at 9:33 PM on July 8, 2010


    Because it's an actual English word as opposed to a Pentagon invention that attempts to provide a hard-on to a generation that grew up with macho video/computer games.

    Or this.
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:49 PM on July 8, 2010


    You're trying very hard to be convincing about "Orwellian" which is a nebulous soft term at best.

    Now it's a "nebulous soft term", except when it's definitely not doublespeak.

    Okay, whatever.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 PM on July 8, 2010


    "Why do you suppose the Pentagon chose "warfighter" rather than "hired killer"? Think about that."

    You mean, why did they chose "warfighter" rather than "killhire"? All those I's and L's look the same in their font. It's really awkward.
    posted by klangklangston at 10:46 PM on July 8, 2010


    > Now it's a "nebulous soft term", except when it's definitely not doublespeak.

    It's both. "Warfighter" is clearly what it says it is and does not actually point to something that is in reality the opposite. But "Orwellian doublespeak" also a soft term that has no institutional or academic rigor, so it's kind of silly to presume that labeling something as such carries any weight outside of rhetorical pissing matches on the internet.
    posted by Burhanistan at 10:51 PM on July 8, 2010


    Okay, whatever you say!
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 PM on July 8, 2010




    Man, who cares what it's called? It's not Orwellian if "Orwellian" means "using two contradictory terms in juxtaposition". It is Orwellian if "Orwellian" means "maniuplation of language by the government, intended to influence politics/culture/whatever". It is Orwellian if "Orwellian" means "manipulation of language by the government, period". It may or may not be doublespeak, along similar lines. (It fits the definition of "doublespeak" as I understand it, but mileage may vary.)

    Can't we all just agree that it's militaristic bullshit, like "homeland"?
    posted by equalpants at 11:25 PM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Can't we all just agree that it's doubleplus not un-Orwellian?
    posted by Sys Rq at 11:29 PM on July 8, 2010


    > Can't we all just agree that it's militaristic bullshit, like "homeland"?

    Sure, but if people opt to use it unironically then that shouldn't grant others a pass to insult them or their viewpoints without looking at the rest of their statements.
    posted by Burhanistan at 11:32 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Sure, but if people opt to use it unironically then that shouldn't grant others a pass to insult them or their viewpoints without looking at the rest of their statements.

    Agreed, on the condition that such a person may still be considered guilty of the lesser offense "not doing everything in their power to prevent the spread of militaristic bullshit."
    posted by equalpants at 11:38 PM on July 8, 2010


    > Agreed, on the condition that such a person may still be considered guilty of the lesser offense "not doing everything in their power to prevent the spread of militaristic bullshit."

    Well, shit. Everyone here is guilty of that then.
    posted by Burhanistan at 11:40 PM on July 8, 2010


    Hmm, guess you're right--that's too weak a charge. Everyone everywhere is guilty of that. Make it "allowing militaristic spin to infiltrate one's vocabulary", then.
    posted by equalpants at 11:57 PM on July 8, 2010


    Make it "allowing militaristic spin to infiltrate one's vocabulary", then.

    Heaven forbid we call military people by what they actually do. They fight in wars. That's the unadulterated truth. "Spin" would be to say they liberate the oppressed, or defend democracy and so forth.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2010


    > Make it "allowing militaristic spin to infiltrate one's vocabulary", then.

    Well, since we're well into quibbling territory (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you), then you may want to rethink some broad swaths of your usage, then. You're swimming in it.
    posted by Burhanistan at 10:18 AM on July 9, 2010


    I see it as top-down vs. bottom-up language change. This is not [I don't think?] a community of soldiers saying "please, call us warfighters." and then seeing some grassroots language change rippling through the armed forces. This is the non-warfighters saying "please, call them warfighters. We like the way it sounds and we like the way it looks and we'd like you to use this word instead of the other words because we're trying to create a subtle perception shift in how these people are viewed"

    And language can change that way, certainly, but people react to that. People also react to other forms of language change, certainly the transition from Negro to African-American to Black was a bit of a pain in the ass. However, I think for most people, there's a difference between having a personal relationship with someone who has told you the terminology that they prefer, and getting a memo from top brass saying "From now on, please refer to genocide as ethnic cleansing"

    And a lot of people just don't like getting told what to do. And a lot of people like telling others what to do. And here we are. Whether or not the term is accurate is one thing. How it arrived in our language is another.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:19 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


    This is the non-warfighters saying "please, call them warfighters. We like the way it sounds and we like the way it looks and we'd like you to use this word instead of the other words because we're trying to create a subtle perception shift in how these people are viewed"

    It sounds more like - as someone who was actually in the military commented - that it was rather used to distinguish between the people in the military who were serving in a non-combat capacity and those who were. "Creating a subtle perception shift" doesn't seem to be the case here.

    Whether or not the term is accurate is one thing. How it arrived in our language is another.

    That's pretty much how it looks to me. If this term had been invented by pacifists, I doubt there'd be much of an issue. I am far from the Pentagon's greatest cheerleader, but I'm willing to concede that maybe not everything they do is for nefarious purposes. Creating this term seems like it was done more for bureaucratic reasons than rah-rah recruiting reasons.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:35 AM on July 9, 2010


    > Heaven forbid we call military people by what they actually do. They fight in wars. That's the unadulterated truth.

    So why not call them hired killers? They're hired by the government. They kill. That's the unadulterated truth.
    posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Sure, I'll call them hired killers. I have no objection to that.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2010


    If there was no euphemistic intent, the Pentagon would keep using the word "combatant" or "soldier". The use of a new, jingoistic term is Orwellian in any reasonably rational sense.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:52 AM on July 9, 2010


    Seems any response I could make to that would just be me spinning my wheels here, so I'll just step on out.
    posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:55 AM on July 9, 2010


    So why not call them hired killers? They're hired by the government. They kill. That's the unadulterated truth.

    As mentioned above, it's been done. That doesn't make "warfighter" any less accurate a description, does it? Or more euphemistic? No? I didn't think so.
    posted by me & my monkey at 10:55 AM on July 9, 2010


    FROM: SECDEF
    TO: ALL DOD STAFF AND CONTRACTORS

    RE: NEW DESIGNATIONS

    EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, ALL US MILITARY PERSONNEL WITH BE DESIGNATED BY EITHER ONE OF TWO TERMS, AS DUTIES INDICATE: 1)GOD-MEN HEROIC ENEMY KILLERS; 2)SUBHUMAN INFRASTRUCTURE LACKEYS.

    PLEASE IMPLEMENT THE NEW TERMS IN ALL CORRESPONDENCE AND DOCUMENTATION
    posted by Burhanistan at 10:56 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Jeez, I can't avoid typos to save my HMMMV for anything. WITH = WILL.
    posted by Burhanistan at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2010


    I see it as top-down vs. bottom-up language change. This is not [I don't think?] a community of soldiers saying "please, call us warfighters." and then seeing some grassroots language change rippling through the armed forces. This is the non-warfighters saying "please, call them warfighters. ...

    I don't think that's especially accurate at all. The military is a top-down organization. Military terminology doesn't come from privates and work its way up, it comes from officers and works its way down. If some general decides to emphasize "warfighters" over "combatants," that's not the "non-warfighters" saying anything.

    If there was no euphemistic intent, the Pentagon would keep using the word "combatant" or "soldier".

    The Pentagon is not a single entity. Neither is the miltary. You'll still see the words "combatant" and "soldier" used in lots of places. But soldiers aren't necessarily combatants or warfighters, and warfighters and combatants aren't necessarily soldiers. Soldiers are members of the US Army. Marines aren't soldiers, sailors aren't soldiers. Not all members of the Army are combatants.

    I would note, though, in defense of the idea that there's no euphemistic intent here: you don't see the word "warfighter" mentioned by recruiters, or recruiting materials. No, it's far too ugly a term for them to use.

    I would further note, in defense of the idea that there's no euphemistic intent: "warfighter" is not a euphemism. The brass is often incompetent, but not THAT incompetent. But in the last twenty years, there seems to have been a push by military officers to resist the deployment of the military for non-war goals: policing, nation-building, etc. I think that's a good idea, because the military isn't good at those sorts of things. If you want those sorts of things, you need to use something better suited to those goals.

    The use of a new, jingoistic term is Orwellian in any reasonably rational sense.

    Man, you are sure willing to die on that hill. Jingoism, as distasteful and objectionable as it is, isn't necessarily Orwellian, no matter how many times you assert it is.
    posted by me & my monkey at 11:09 AM on July 9, 2010


    Descriptivism, by the way, can be used as a slimy defense for all kinds of euphemistic speech. Take, for instance, the moniker "pro-life" in an abortion debate. "Perfectly" descriptive in itself— depending on the beholder's personal take on the subject, of course. Who wouldn't want to be "pro-life"? Why are you "anti-life"?

    People who are arguing for the meaning of the word "warfighter" as a pure sum of its parts ("war" and "fighter") are ignoring a great deal of the history about who came up with the term, who wants us using that term, and why they want people using new terminology when there is already widely accepted and entirely unambiguous terminology.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 AM on July 9, 2010


    Jingoism, as distasteful and objectionable as it is, isn't necessarily Orwellian

    In the context of this thread, it most certainly is.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 AM on July 9, 2010


    Descriptivism, by the way, can be used as a slimy defense for all kinds of euphemistic speech.

    That doesn't validate your assertion that this is what's happening here. The word "warfighter" doesn't leave anything out. There's no corresponding opposing "pro-choice" bit missing here. You may disagree with the idea that wars should be fought in specific cases, or at all, but in any case it's perfectly clear what "warfighter" means.

    who came up with the term

    Who is that exactly? My understanding is that it came from the same vast bureaucracy where all the other military terms of art come from.

    who wants us using that term

    I haven't seen any evidence that anyone cares what term you, or other non-military people, use. This is used by the miltary, and industries that cater to the military. The link that started all this crap, isn't really intended for civilian consumption.

    and why they want people using new terminology when there is already widely accepted and entirely unambiguous terminology.

    This is coming from the guy who doesn't know the difference between combatant and soldier. Maybe we do need simpler and clearer terms after all?
    posted by me & my monkey at 11:42 AM on July 9, 2010


    This is coming from the guy who doesn't know the difference between combatant and soldier.

    This is irrelevant and a bit of a cheap shot, considering you're arguing for a nuanced view of "warfighter" as someone who serves a specific role in the military — just as specific as what you claim for the terms "soldier" and "combatant".

    If there's a reasonable man-on-the-street difference between "combatant" and "soldier", the term "warfighter" is no more simple, no more clear, no less technical than previously accepted and commonly unambiguous terminology.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 PM on July 9, 2010


    It may be a bit intentionally snarky - I do love you, BP, really - but it's not intended as a cheap shot. I don't think my view is especially nuanced, though. "Warfighter" refers to the people who actually fight wars. Those people are actually a pretty small slice of the military.

    As for "man-on-the-street", I don't think that's an especially useful test for military terms, unless the street happens to run through Ft Benning.
    posted by me & my monkey at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2010


    > This is irrelevant and a bit of a cheap shot,

    This is a cheap shot, which you haven't yet apologized for or addressed. Try not to complain about such things when you're issuing them right and left.
    posted by Burhanistan at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


    You're incredible.

    I made an admittedly harsh criticism of a fairly snide follow-up to a bad Metatalk post and I gave my reasons why — but it was not a "cheap shot", and you asserting that yet again will not make it so.

    I regret even saying this much in any kind of direct response to you. You're toxic and you have a habit of twisting my words, so I expect some kind of rejoinder along those lines, but this is all you're getting from me, though.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 PM on July 9, 2010


    Narcissism blinds.
    posted by Burhanistan at 2:14 PM on July 9, 2010


    it was not a "cheap shot"

    Your definition of "cheap shot" seems to depend on which end of the gun you're on.

    I always enjoy reading what you have to say, even when I disagree with it, and I'm sure I'd like you in person, and I like the fact that you're in a domestic partner relationship, and anyone with "cock" in their username is alright in my book. But you don't seem to have any compunction about making snide and arguably nasty responses to anyone who slightly disagrees with anything you write.

    So, if you want this to be "Orwellian," fine, I'm not going to argue any more. But by stretching the word so thin, you dilute it of any real meaning. There are plenty of Orwellian things that are actually worth your anger. The word "warfighter," as unpleasant or objectionable as it may be to you, isn't one of those things. There are plenty of substantial criticisms you can make about the military, or the government, or the prosecution of the endless global war on "terror" - and I'd probably agree with every one of them. But this is not one of those criticisms.
    posted by me & my monkey at 2:37 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


    If doublespeak doesn't include entities of power using euphemistic and contradictory speech to mislead, manipulate and profit, then I'm genuinely surprised. Nonetheless, I do think a lot of people outside the sphere of Metafilter would agree this is at least part of how doublespeak is carried out and why it is problematic. If doublespeak or Orwellian criticisms do not apply here, then the ideas they represent would have little meaning any more.

    Anyway, I'm spinning my wheels on this, so I'll just quote the master again and hope that "warfighter" is consigned to the garbage heap of popular speech, along with "shock and awe", "axis of evil" and other similarly manipulative jargon that worms its way into popular use:

    Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase—some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse—into the dustbin, where it belongs.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:36 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


    "How it arrived in our language is another."

    And has it been taken up by the likely advocates is still more informative I think. What follows is very unscientific but I think the ratios are so large that they are informative.

    A search of Fox news for the word "troops" yields 34,896 results.
    A search of Fox news for the word "soldier" yields 11,595 results.
    A search of Fox news for the word "warfighter" yields 42 results going back to 2003 (most of these incidences are direct quotes).

    If anything the most bellicose mouthpiece of the more bellicose party has shied away from using the term "warfighter". I think this more closely parallels policies such as blocking from public view the coffins that contain dead soldiers as they are unloaded from airplanes.

    Let me pose this rhetorical question: If the people and networks that are more in favor of these conflicts think it would advance their cause to introduce the term "warfighter" into the popular vernacular why are they not doing so?

    My answer of course is that "Support our Warfighters" brings to mind war and fighting which the advocates of war and fighting would prefer we not parse.


    I think that the Military finds the word useful internally and with contractors but a liability with the public.
    posted by vapidave at 6:31 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


    If doublespeak doesn't include entities of power using euphemistic and contradictory speech to mislead, manipulate and profit,

    I'm still wondering how "warfighter" is euphemistic. What, exactly, does the word "warfighter" conceal or contradict about what it is supposed to describe?
    posted by Snyder at 8:22 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Well, since we're well into quibbling territory (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you), then you may want to rethink some broad swaths of your usage, then. You're swimming in it.

    At the risk of being infuriatingly dull by explaining this: my irony-meter is not so broken that I could use military metaphors here and not know it. I was adopting a playful tone to emphasize that I was attempting to de-escalate* the adversarial tone in this thread. I think there's been a lot more nitpicking here than actual misunderstanding; a lot of "okay, I get what you're saying, and I disagree; but I also noticed that you used a couple of words in a nonstandard way, and I'd rather attack you for that than talk about the actual disagreement."

    *Shit, there's another one!
    posted by equalpants at 2:42 AM on July 10, 2010


    The need for such a word exists. Where I work, fixing submarines, it means "they guy who's actually going to have to use this shit in a fucking submarine under the ocean for several months." As opposed to the words "servicepeople" and "sailor" which include some of the active duty guys doing the same thing as me. As hank pointed out, the word we need is the opposite of REMF.

    "Combatant" isn't the same, because it's even more specific (and sounds too legal-lingo sterile as well.) A combatant is actually engaged right now in fighting a war. A [mystery word] might turn into a combatant, but normally is just a guy out there in a crap situation without the resources that the rest of us have. So what if that valve leakage is barely in-spec and we technically don't have to repair it? It's a pain in the ass to the [mystery word], and if it gets any worse out there, he won't be able to do anything about it.

    "Warrior" has connotations already of, you know, William Wallace, samurai, etc. That word would be the war-glorifying, I'd-feel-stupid-even-saying-that-in-conversation word.

    So tell me what word I need in this sentence: "We're not re-insulating this steam piping because would look cool. We're doing it because the [mystery word] needs to not have to worry about burning himself all the time and living in a sauna."

    "The Troops" is kind of it, but has lately (since the Iraq war) been hijacked as a mindless patriotism word. I mean the real, individual, dude.
    posted by ctmf at 11:12 AM on July 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


    I'm still wondering how "warfighter" is euphemistic. What, exactly, does the word "warfighter" conceal or contradict about what it is supposed to describe?

    I ">already addressed the contradictory aspects of this word. Don't be dishonest and pretend that I didn't.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:44 PM on July 11, 2010




    Then please be so kind as to explain the discrepancy between your theory and the actual usage as I cited above.

    "Identifying the word "warfighter" as Orwellian speech or doublespeak seems reasonable, given the ambiguity about its intent."

    Bullshit. They aren't using the word (evidence above) because it is descriptive.

    You have it exactly backwards.
    posted by vapidave at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2010


    ctmf: “‘The Troops’ is kind of it, but has lately (since the Iraq war) been hijacked as a mindless patriotism word. I mean the real, individual, dude.”

    {There's a troop / He's not plural...}

    posted by koeselitz at 12:23 PM on July 12, 2010


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