The Trivialisation of a Cold-Blooded Killer: Why giving nicknames to terrorists is an insult to their victims.

I don’t want to keep writing about terrorists. I really don’t. But every time I try to walk away from it and do something else for a while I read something that annoys me enough that I have to pen something or silently seethe, and I would always rather write. As such, here we are again.

Today that frustration stems from how terrorism is dealt with in the media, particularly how certain, individual, terrorists are treated. Yesterday a tape was released threatening the brutal execution of two Japanese men who crossed the border into Syria, and the media is once again filled with talk of ‘Jihadi John’ and his threats.

Can they just not? This isn’t your mate John from down the pub, you know, the one with the funny nickname that’s completely ironic. No, this is a man who has committed a number of brutal murders on camera for purposes of propaganda, a man who is threatening more murders still. And yet, the papers have the nerve to give him a cute, diminutive nickname that quasi-legitimises what he is doing by putting it in the context of Jihad.

Frankly, they should know better. They, of all people should be aware of the power of words and the effect that they can have on people. What he is doing is not a ‘holy war’ it is murder and snuff videos, and it is about time we started calling it that, in all contexts. The only thing this nickname achieves is to enhance his own fame, whilst his victims, who were trying to do good in the region, are slowly forgotten. I wonder how many people could name any of those killed now without looking it up? My guess would be not many, and that is the real tragedy.

So, in future, whenever I read ‘Jihadi John’ in print, I shall be taking a pen to it, crossing it out, and writing ‘Murderous Coward’ in its stead, and I would encourage everyone else to do the same.

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9 thoughts on “The Trivialisation of a Cold-Blooded Killer: Why giving nicknames to terrorists is an insult to their victims.

    1. Hi there. First of all, thanks for your interest, always interested in discussion. On your point, I’m not sure it does, though that may have been the original thought process. I think it was originally to emphasise the fact that the man was British, which I understand, but to keep using it even now seems poorly thought through at best and disingenuous at worst. My main issue, as I say, is that it helps him to cultivate a media personality when nobody now speaks about the people he has killed, most of whom were doing important humanitarian work.

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      1. I understand but the media has consistently failed to put this whole issue of terrorism in context. And it’s deliberate because of who owns the media and also because the story ceases to be about good guys and bad guys.

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      2. Yes, I see that. I think the point is to create a narrative, and that’s what they are doing by giving it an antagonist, basically making their lives easier to the detriment of the story. Realistically I doubt it will change, but it never hurts to air grievances, does it? Sometimes that’s all that’s possible in these cases.

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    2. I totally agree with you. These psychopathic narcissists thrive on their name in the media and we are just giving theme more of what they want. I propose a more appropriate nickname like “Jihadi Jack*off”

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  1. I think by giving a cute nickname, the media not only unintentionally humanizes the terrorist but gives the terrorist infamy. The latter is similar to when school shootings occur over here in America and they’re televised and talked about in the media non-stop. If we stopped giving scums like that media exposure, then maybe they would go away, and in turn, maybe others wouldn’t get ideas about how to execute such awful acts.

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    1. I think you’re right regarding the school shootings coverage, and it’s a connection I hadn’t necessarily made. It’s a fine line between reporting on the events, which there is a need to do, and creating a narrative around the perpetrator of a tragedy, which, as you say, can build awareness of the cause or motives behind it and create infamy.

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