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Old 04-20-2009, 02:10 PM
Quintas Quintas is offline
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When did the military start referring to opposing forces as "The bad guys" ?

For some reason I find it really annoying. On military documentaries on the History Channel, the soldiers being interviewed often refer to "engaging the bad guys", as opposed to "The Enemy".

Another term I find annoying from constant use lately is "In harms way". Why did it become common to refer to soldiers or policemen or firemen as being "in harms way" as opposed to "being in danger"?
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Old 04-21-2009, 03:46 PM
Chez Guevara Chez Guevara is offline
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In Harm's Way

Let me kick this off with some history and a personal opinion.

The expression was used as a 1965 film title, which in turn came from a quotation by John Paul Jones (the navy commander as opposed to the bass player) as follows:

"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way."

John Kerry employed the term in a speech to the Senate in 1986, and Bill Clinton followed suit in a speech to the nation concerning Iraq in 1998. There are doubtless other examples of its use in similar circumstances over time.

Why the phrase gained more common currency, I think, is just that some politicians and media people picked up on it, liked it and began to use it. The more people used it the more popular it became. It's like many expressions which have come briefly into fashion and, in the same way, it will disappear as fast as it came.

As an example, I recall from some years ago that 'Draconian' was le mot du jour when the implementation, or the idea of, harsh measures were being reported in the news. Then all of a sudden the word disappeared from media vocabulary and returned to its haven of relative obscurity.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:04 PM
The Hamster King The Hamster King is offline
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I don't have an answer to your question, but I would add "Good luck and Godspeed." to your list. It seemed to come into fashion about the same time as "In harms way" and have the same "I'm speaking in an archaic manner so you know I'm a serious, thoughtful person" vibe to it.

Last edited by The Hamster King; 04-21-2009 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:17 PM
Quintas Quintas is offline
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"In harms way" is not quite as annoying to me as "The bad guys". They may very well be "bad guys" but the term only makes me think of Mighty Mouse or Batman "off to fight the bad guys". It sounds ridiculous. Interviews with WW2 vets will have a quote like "From our position we could see the enemy coming towards us". Now you have generals saying "We saw the bad guys coming" Ugh.

Last edited by Quintas; 04-21-2009 at 04:18 PM.
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Old 04-21-2009, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quintas View Post
"In harms way" is not quite as annoying to me as "The bad guys". They may very well be "bad guys" but the term only makes me think of Mighty Mouse or Batman "off to fight the bad guys". It sounds ridiculous. Interviews with WW2 vets will have a quote like "From our position we could see the enemy coming towards us". Now you have generals saying "We saw the bad guys coming" Ugh.
But it has a very positive side effect : if American soldiers are Pavlov'd into thinking of the enemy in terms of "the bad guys", it intrinsically makes them "the good guys". Whereas "the enemy" makes no subtextual moral judgment, the implication is that both of you are equals, only on opposite sides of a trench line.

Of course,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pierre Desproges
L'ennemi est con. Il croit que c'est nous l'ennemi, alors que c'est lui ! (The enemy is stupid - he believes we're the enemy, when he is !)


So I can see why the US armed forces started doing this. The when...heh. No idea. If I had to guess in a feral-bottomed fashion, I'd say sometime during or immediately after Viet Nam, during that time when the American psyche wondered, ever so briefly, whether maybe they weren't so good after all.
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Old 04-21-2009, 06:38 PM
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It seems to me it is part of the new doubleplusgood doublespeak intended as propaganda. All corporations do it and the armed forces could be no less.

I remember during the beginning of the occupation in Iraq a general giving a press briefing and refering to American forces as "pro-Iraqi" and to insurgents as "anti-Iraqi". I guess the reason it did not last long is that it was confusing as hell. The Americans were "pro-Iraqis" and the Iraqis were the "anti-Iraqis"? The whole thing was surreal and I think the guy was pretty uncomfortable with that show.

"Bad guys" sound simplistically childish.
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Old 04-21-2009, 07:17 PM
YamatoTwinkie YamatoTwinkie is offline
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This may be venturing into GD territory, but I'd guess that the start of the "bad guys" references went hand-in-hand with the increased evangelization of the Armed forces.
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Old 04-21-2009, 07:39 PM
Daylate Daylate is offline
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I think they started using "bad guys" when they got in trouble for using "Indian territory".
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Old 04-22-2009, 12:02 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Robert E. Lee either could not bring himself to refer to his fellow Americans who happened to be wearing blue in 1861-65 as "the enemy," or was too ornery to dignify them with that title. So he called them "those people."
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:01 AM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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This is simply one more instance of the tendency of officialdom, evident since at least the 70s or 80s, to use demotic speech, the argot of the 'guy in the street'.

I have no problem with this one. If you don't see the enemy as the 'bad guys' then why the hell are you fighting them? You're certainly not going to muster up much enthusiasm for a war against the 'good guys' or the 'aw they're OK really just a little misguided' guys.
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:14 AM
mswas mswas is offline
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aldiboronti In the video game Eve Online we refer to them as WTs short for War Targets. How's that one?
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:22 AM
HorseloverFat HorseloverFat is offline
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>If you don't see the enemy as the 'bad guys' then why the hell are you fighting them?

Pray tell, how is some 18 year old kid told by his country to hold a gun and shoot at the invading foreigners a "bad guy?" Or do you believe every US military action is "good?" I think we forget what it means to be a soldier and who actually does the fighting when states go to war. Its not some caricature of Osama Bin Laden you're blowing apart, its some Iraqi draftee or a Iraqi family.

Dehumanizing the enemy does a great job or removing logic and compassion from the world and produces an ugly and ignorant "us vs. them" mentality. Can we at least have the dignity to just call them the enemy and accept the fact that all military action is mostly done by kids under the age of 25 and most of the deaths are civilians?

The word bad is almost meaningless and a childish word to be using, especially with something as serious as war. Why not just say "the enemy?" I suspect there is more than an element of psyops here.

Last edited by HorseloverFat; 04-22-2009 at 01:24 AM.
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Old 04-22-2009, 02:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HorseloverFat View Post
>If you don't see the enemy as the 'bad guys' then why the are you fighting them?

Pray tell, how is some 18 year old kid told by his country to hold a gun and shoot at the invading foreigners a "bad guy?" Or do you believe every US military action is "good?" I think we forget what it means to be a soldier and who actually does the fighting when states go to war. Its not some caricature of Osama Bin Laden you're blowing apart, its some Iraqi draftee or a Iraqi family.

Dehumanizing the enemy does a great job or removing logic and compassion from the world and produces an ugly and ignorant "us vs. them" mentality. Can we at least have the dignity to just call them the enemy and accept the fact that all military action is mostly done by kids under the age of 25 and most of the deaths are civilians?

The word bad is almost meaningless and a childish word to be using, especially with something as serious as war. Why not just say "the enemy?" I suspect there is more than an element of psyops here.
And why exactly is calling that same 18 year old boy "the enemy" any different?
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Old 04-22-2009, 03:52 AM
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Originally Posted by aldiboronti View Post

I have no problem with this one. If you don't see the enemy as the 'bad guys' then why the hell are you fighting them?
To protect your country.

I don't know - in the past, armies managed to respect one another while at the same time fighting as effectively and viciously as possible. My opinion is that terrorism changed this. If both sides follow essentially the same rules of war, there's room for mutual respect, but if one side follows rules and the other doesn't seem to follow any, there's bound to be resentment. If the other side is just like you but in a different uniform, you don't neccessarily hate him. If he's shooting at you without wearing a uniform, it's much harder not to.
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Old 04-22-2009, 05:16 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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To protect your country.

I don't know - in the past, armies managed to respect one another while at the same time fighting as effectively and viciously as possible. My opinion is that terrorism changed this. If both sides follow essentially the same rules of war, there's room for mutual respect, but if one side follows rules and the other doesn't seem to follow any, there's bound to be resentment. If the other side is just like you but in a different uniform, you don't neccessarily hate him. If he's shooting at you without wearing a uniform, it's much harder not to.
That's a very sanitized view of history. Guerrilla warfare has existed forever and it has only been in the last 200 years that western countries have tried to mark more the difference between civilian and military. Still, total war has not disappeared and neither has guerrilla war. Any invader in the last 200 years has faced guerrillas which they conveniently labeled "terrorists".

Here is a painting depicting what the French did in Madrid on May 3, 1808, as punishment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_of_May_1808
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Old 04-22-2009, 05:26 AM
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And it is my contention that regular troops have always felt far hore hostility towards guerillas than towards than towards other regular troops.
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Old 04-22-2009, 05:35 AM
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I can agree with that.

Still, getting back to the "bad guys", the phrase sounds childish in its simplicity and I think is used for psycological effect. Americans like to know they are the good guys and the enemy are the "bad guys".
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Old 04-22-2009, 08:00 AM
Windwalker Windwalker is offline
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God, how Orwellian can they get? We're leagues away from 1984, but stuff like this, the Patriot Act, and Homeland Security make me think that the manipulative language aspect of that novel proves to be relevant time and again.
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Old 04-22-2009, 08:08 AM
Paul in Qatar Paul in Qatar is offline
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(I would like to know why when soldiers cross the Line of Departure they say they are setting phasers to "kill.")
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Old 04-22-2009, 08:59 AM
PatriotGrrrl PatriotGrrrl is offline
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I had assumed it was used in a military context because of guerrilla warfare. To me, the term enemy implies that they are the official military of the country we're at war with, whereas the bad guys are whoever is shooting at me at the moment, whether they're organized uniformed troops or not.

The term is also widely used in civilian self defense and civil defense discussions. Of course deciding whether or not to shoot back depends on who is attacking. But for technical discussions of tactics once the firefight is on, it doesn't necessarily matter whether the bad guy is a mugger or a terrorist or a disgruntled coworker.

Last edited by PatriotGrrrl; 04-22-2009 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 04-22-2009, 10:19 AM
RiverRunner RiverRunner is offline
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Originally Posted by PatriotGrrrl View Post
The term is also widely used in civilian self defense and civil defense discussions. Of course deciding whether or not to shoot back depends on who is attacking. But for technical discussions of tactics once the firefight is on, it doesn't necessarily matter whether the bad guy is a mugger or a terrorist or a disgruntled coworker.

This is what I figured. It's just easier to use a generic term for "them people what we're trying to beat," be they enemy soldiers, terrorists, criminals, pirates, or whatever. Just say "bad guys" and be done with it.


RR
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Old 04-22-2009, 11:22 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chez Guevara View Post
Let me kick this off with some history and a personal opinion.

The expression was used as a 1965 film title, which in turn came from a quotation by John Paul Jones (the navy commander as opposed to the bass player) as follows:
Because I always like to credit the writer, I just need to nitpick this and say that the movie In Harm's Way was an adaptation of the 1962 novel Harm's Way, by James Bassett.
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Old 04-22-2009, 12:19 PM
Chez Guevara Chez Guevara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Because I always like to credit the writer, I just need to nitpick this and say that the movie In Harm's Way was an adaptation of the 1962 novel Harm's Way, by James Bassett.
Quite right.

If any of your works ever reach Hollywood, and I find out about it, I'll be sure to give you 100% credit.
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