End the Global War against Covid-19: The Ubiquity and Dangers of Military Language

Professor Jing-bao Nie1, Associate Professor Neil Pickering

1Bioethics Centre, University Of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

From China to the US, from Asia and Europe to South America, from peaceful New Zealand to peace-keeping United Nations organisations, military language pervades the discourses of leadership, healthcare, media and social media on Covid-19. Such language helps highlight the threat of novel coronavirus and mobilise broad sections of the population to action. However, war metaphors have serious dangers, both overt and hidden. They contribute to increase stigma, justify death and militarise society. Above all, the goals of public health and medicine – healing and caring – radically contradict with dominion and the violence wars glorify. In the global settings, military language undermines translational solidarity and trust, the very foundation of transnational cooperation the world desperately needs to contain the pandemic effectively.  Thus, to better respond to COVID-19 or any other public health issue, it is necessary to abolish militaristic language and use more ethically sound alternatives such as the journey and solidarity metaphors.


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