Words are important. Words are more than just a hammer to nail home a message. They have connotations, associations, subtleties. The importance of word choice is clear to anyone who’s ever read anything. Glittering and glistening might, on a very functional level, have the same meaning, but their usage and connotations differ dramatically.
That’s why messaging in media is incredibly important. It’s why if we’re constantly told migration is a problem, people think it’s a problem. It’s why David Cameron shouldn’t be surprised that his describing thousands of people fleeing conflict as a ‘swarm’ has inculcated a simmering resentment towards ‘others’ in British society, leading to the Pyrrhic triumph of populist lies.
With the Chilcot Inquiry set to release its report on Wednesday and taking what might be said to be a spiteful attitude to the myriad issues surrounding the Iraq War (You wanted a report? Well, have all the reports! Have two and a half million words worth of report! Have three times the length of the bible! Happy now, you demanding bastards?) one notable area it won’t report on is the legality of the war, or indeed on any potential criminal responsibility of the main players.
And the reason I bring this up in relation to words and their import is that the terms ‘Tony Blair’ and ‘war criminal’ have been bandied about in the same sentence many times by many people over the last decade, without people having a full justification for doing so or indeed understanding what either of those terms mean.