Sunday, March 20, 2011

Libya and the cosy language of assets-speak

While I couldn't care less about the fate of togaed Gaddafi and his open-necked colleagues, I am intrigued by the new language of the UN's war against Libya. 'Military assets', 'naval assets', 'intelligence assets': I don't recall any 'assets' during the Iraq invasion when the the lingo of the fairground for mass destruction gained common currency ('shock and awe' etc).

My assumption is that someone in PR dreamt up 'assets' for the ongoing purpose of sanitising and propagandising instruments of war. 'Asset' is a word that customarily belongs to business and investment: it connotes something of economic value. In the general sense, an asset is a valuable item. Rather than focus on the purpose of a tank, rocket, submarine, what have you, someone has decided instead to emphasise value; and to have something of value one must own it. So, all these killer assets are first and foremost property - it is this euphemistic line of thinking that our leaders would have us follow when we listen to the news. Think assets, think house, car, garden... Tomahawk Rocket? Almost cosy.

The current air attacks on Libya sound more like a gentlemanly business takeover than a lethal military campaign.

Broadcasters and journalists have of course demonstrated their usual independence and eagerly picked up on the assets-speak. It is probably the case that if a BBC News report relabelled an asset as an aircraft carrier or fighter jet it would be accused of undermining the worthy cause. It is this bovine subservience to authority which is the modern hallmark of TV and newspaper journalism: as inclined to be used as propaganda machines as Libya's state TV channel.

I have yet to hear of Gaddafi's military assets.


Anonymous said...

Cameron is hoping Libya will be his election asset.

Joe MacFarlane said...

My presumptions, your assumption.

Anonymous said...

Are you having an astrolaunch at The Lady?

Madame Arcati said...

Oh no, but I like the fact my column starts with the Sun moving into Aries conjunct Uranus. Stargazers will understand the import. But do have a drink on me, in the spring sun.