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This paper aimed at a minimal definition of terrorism. Forms of terrorism were also distinguished. The linguistic techniques employed by some terrorist organizations were discussed using the Critical Discourse Analysis Theory. The purpose was to find out to what extent these linguistic techniques enhanced the recruitment of members in the various terrorist groups. The findings revealed that terrorists’ speeches and narratives were mainly through the Social Media; through this channel, they have recorded great successes at recruiting many youths.
An Overview of Terrorism and Language
Terrorism has now become a global problem and issue. If it is not Boko Haram, Niger Delta Militants and Cattle Herdsmen in Nigeria and its neigbouring countries, it is Al-Shabaab in Somalia, or Al Quaeda in Afghanistan or ISIS in Syria.
Infact, attacks by terrorists have been reported the world over. On August 25, 2011, the United Nations building in Abuja was bombed leaving many people dead and many others seriously injured. On October, 1, 2011, Boko Haram launched twin bomb blasts which claimed eleven lives in Abuja. (Newswatch PP 10-21). Prior to this period, on October 1, 2010, two cars loaded with bombs exploded near the Eagle Square venue of Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary celebration killing over ten people. What about the abductions/kidnapping of people and destruction of pipe lines by Niger Delta Militants? On the international scene, terrorists’ attacks have been reported. In the United States; for example:
On September 11, 2001, the United States became victim of the most deadly and devastating act of terrorism with the destruction of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre by means of hijacked passenger aircraft, and a similar on slaught on the country’s military HQ, the Pentagon (qtd. In Omego, 83).
In 2008, Mumbai, the largest city of India was coloured with blood when Islamic terrorists from Pakistan took the whole world by storm. The attack which drew widespread condemnation across the world came between November 26th and 29th of the same month, killing atleast one hundred and seventy three (173) people and wounding about three hundred and eight (308). The attack was said to have witnessed the display and application of the latest information and communication technology gadgets (Senam et al, 99). There are indications that the world all over is now bedeviled by this menace. No wonder governments around the world have come to see this evil phenomenon as a major threat to global security. In the words of Crenshaw:
… the rise of ISIS and associated Jihad violence taking place in Syria and Iraq have reverberated widely. The effects can be felt not just in the horrific attacks that took place in Paris in January, 2015, but across the Asia – Pacific region as well, including Australia (en.wikipedia).
No matter the reasons/ideologies, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, referred to this ideology as “conspiracy theories, of Extremist” … championed by “violent extremists”.
Nevertheless, terrorism is not a recent phenomenon in the world. Its history goes back to 48. A.D, when a Jewish sect called the Zealots carried out terrorist campaigns to force insurrection against the Romans in Judea. These violent revolts included the use of assassins (Sicarii or dagger men) to infiltrate Roman legionaries with a sica (dagger), kidnap members of staff of the temple guard to hold to ransom in exchange for money or use poison on a large scale to eliminate them. The zealots’ justification for their killing of other Jews was that these killings demonstrated the consequences of the immorality of collaborating with the Roman invaders and, by implication, to discredit the Romans for inability to protect their Jewish collaborators. Eguavoen explains that:
This basic principle has so far informed the strategies in all boiling terrorists’ zones of the world today. Such terrorist groups, as will be listed later often create a sense of insecurity and fear amongst citizenry and give the impression that their government is unable to protect them. The aggression is not only towards the offending government as it were, but also government that supports their target government. (29)
According to the findings of this writer, the first terrorist to wear the label proudly were French revolutionaries. After 1789, Maximillan Robespierre, the radical leader in the post revolutionary period, famously said that “virtue is powerless without terrorists” (qtd in Imobighe and Eguavoen eds. 30). More recent examples of terrorists groups apart from those operating in the Middle East, include the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force in Northern Ireland, Bassque Fatherland and liberty (EFA) in Spain, the Shrinrikyo cult in Japan, the Shining Path Guerrillas in Peru and Al-Qaeda which later gave birth to Boko Haram Sect in Nigeria and ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
It is no doubt that language, being a social phenomenon, a multipurpose and an indispensable instrument whose major function is to make communication possible among its users is extensively employed by all terrorists. The use of language cuts across all facets of life – politics, education, religion; the media-man, the Engineer, the Educationist, the Politician and the Terrorist. With language, one can build or burn a city. God knows the potentiality and power that is in language and so “confounded their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7 KJV). This was when men in their nature of mischief planned to build a tower otherwise “Tower of Babel.”
Terrorists also, understand well this efficacious power of language and so employ it strongly to get people by their sides.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to find out the linguistic techniques employed by terrorists and the extent to which these linguistic techniques enhanced the recruitment of members.
The following research questions guided the study.
The grounding of this study or the approach adopted is Critical Discourse Analysis Theory (CDA). CDA’s major concern is to explore “the ways language is used to persuade and manipulate both individuals and social groups” (Bloor and Bloor, 1) it is also concerned with studying and analyzing written texts and spoken words, to reveal the discursive sources of power, vehemence, inequality and bias and how these sources are initiated, maintained, reproduced and transformed with specific social, economic, political and historical contexts (Van Dijk, 1988). CDA is developed out of Functional Linguistics which stresses the importance of context in the interpretation of language. Functional Linguistics refused to see language as a collection of bald words and sentences, but as symbols of communication manipulated by users to achieve social goals. The idea is to illuminate ways in which dominant forces in the society construct versions of reality that favour their interests. This paper examined how these dominant forces within a framework of discourse access and discourse structures that have created bias in the society. In this case recruitants and terrorism sympathizers.
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