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Listening Post
US Memorial Day: A semantic minefield
We report on the US media and the terminology that galvanises America's wars.
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2012 14:06

Every year on the last Monday of May, US news outlets dedicate their day's coverage to Memorial Day - commemorating soldiers killed in action.

This year, Chris Hayes, a presenter on US network MSNBC, sparked controversy when he questioned the US media's habitual use of the word 'hero' when describing American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was a chance to ask a difficult question: whether those who die in war have perished in vain or, even worse, have been killed in a cause that was actually wrong - and to ask whose interests the rhetoric of military heroism serves.

But his comments caused outrage among right-wing media outlets and Hayes was forced to publically apologise. What Chris Hayes learned, apart from a few new ways to apologise, is that to many Americans, this is not a discussion even worth having.

In this week's feature, Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro on the terminology that galvanises America's wars.

"The word hero gets thrown about a lot in American public discourse. And when we start applying that term to the military, it all of a sudden becomes very difficult to question the military's actions because if it's always heroic their actions are always beyond reproach. And so Chris is opening up a whole question about what does it actually mean to think about using terms that sort of end up inhibiting or preventing military criticism."

Elisabeth Anker, the author of Melodrama, Media & September 11

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