1
   

When is a murder an assassination?

 
 
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2009 10:39 am
So, tucking in my son last night he asks "How important does someone need to be to be considered assassinated?" He always does these things to me and for the most part I can answer his questions...

But, I am stumped on this one. Any ideas?
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,431 • Replies: 7
No top replies

 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2009 10:55 am
Assassination usually serves the purpose of a group, and usually a political group, although it is a tool used by others. The assassin doesn't necessarily have a personal motive for the killing, but rather, is acting on orders.

The word derives from an Arabic word meaning "eaters of hashish." There was an Ismaili leader (the Ismailis are a Muslim sect), Hasan ibn-al-Sabba, who was known as the Sheik-al-jibal, usually loosely translated as "the Old Man of the Mountain." He gathered fanatical young men of the Ismaili sect, trained to be killers on the order of the ninja in Japan, would get them stoked up by feeding them hashish, and send them out to kill leaders of opposing Muslim sects, or people within the Ismaili sect who opposed him. The young men had no personal motive for killing the people he fingered, other than that their leader said so-and-so was bad man who had to be gotten rid of.

I would emphasize to your son the issue of motive in an assassination. Many assassinations and assassination attempts really qualify as murder or attempted murder (Hinckley trying to kill Reagan in order to impress Jody Foster [hey, i didn't say it had to be rational], Charles Guiteau killing President James Garfield because he didn't get a Federal job he wanted), because the perpetrator has a personal motive.

In "real" assassinations or assassination attempts, the person committing the assassination or attempting it may have a personal motive, but additionally has a motive of policy. So, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku (planned and ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, commander of the Imperial Fleet) was killed when his plane was targeted and successfully shot down by specially equipped P38s. The pilots (who were only told they were hunting a high-ranking Japanese officer--Yamamoto was not named) may well have personally hated the Japanese, but the mission and the motive were policy, and so it qualifies as assassination.
0 Replies
 
alguyton
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2009 11:03 am
@McGentrix,
Assassination is the targeted killing of a public figure. Assassinations may be prompted by ideological, political, or military reasons. Additionally, assassins may be motivated by financial gain, revenge, or personal public recognition or may be mentally ill.
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2009 01:02 pm
Ok, so let me preview possible questions...

Does it have to be a holder of public office? Don't gangs assassinate opposing gang members? Wasn't the Godfather assassinated, or was he merely murdered?

It doesn't seem to be important that money be involved, no paying hitmen or anything, right?

So, if I whack the mayor of my town, not that I have any intention of doing so and this is merely a hypothetical situation, because I don't like him it is murder, yet if I do so because I disagree with his political views it becomes an assassination?

It would seem to me that some planning would need to be involved somewhere. You can't just have an off the cuff assassination.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2009 01:45 pm
@McGentrix,
I disagree with the previous person who has posted in stating that an assassin "may be motivated by financial gain, revenge, or personal public recognition or may be mentally ill." (He/she lifted that response verbatim from Wikipedia.) Those are definitions of what motivates murder, not assassination. It isn't assassination if there is not a policy motive. Although it would almost always involve a public figure, it might not necessarily involve a publicly known figure. Killing the head of your enemy's intelligence services would remove someone who very likely is not publicly known, but it would still be a good policy move, if successful.

McG asks:

"Does if have to be a holder of public office?" No. It could be any public figure--killing a monarch who rules by right of descent is killing someone who cannot reasonably be called a holder of a public office, but it still is a murder motivated by policy.

"Don't gangs assassinate opposing gang members?" Gang members murder the members of opposing gangs, except perhaps in a rare case in which a gang leader were actually intelligent enough to have his opposing number assassinated for reasons of policy.

"Wasn't the Godfather assassinated, or was he merely murdered?" I would separate this from gangs, because street gangs don't rise to the level of organized crime. In the case of the godfather, i believe his murder was an act of revenge, rather than an act of policy. In that Michael Corleone assumed the leadership of that "family," if it were intended as a murder of policy, it failed.

"It doesn't seem to be important that money be involved, no paying hitmen or anything, right?" No, money doesn't necessarily need to be involved. It may be, but the determining factor is policy--i.e., is the murder motivated by policy.

"So, if I whack the mayor of my town, not that I have any intention of doing so and this is merely a hypothetical situation, because I don't like him it is murder, yet if I do so because I disagree with his political views it becomes an assassination?" That's kind of a tough one. It would likely be described as an assassination, but unless you had good reason to believe that he would be replaced by someone whose political views are consonant with your own, it could hardly be described as an act of policy--at the least it would be a failed attempt to manipulate policy.

"It would seem to me that some planning would need to be involved somewhere. You can't just have an off the cuff assassination. " Precisely.

******************************************************

We get the term from French. The "Old Man of the Mountain" and his assassins operated in the 11th and 12th centuries, at the time of the Crusades, and it was then that the word entered the French language. In French, meurtre means murder, and that is where our word murder comes from. But the verb for the act of murder which is usually used is assassiner--and occasionally, in some contexts, the noun assassinat is used to mean murder. The distinctions are no more clear in English, but i would say that the preponderance of usage is toward killing for reasons of policy.

However, it would make a good distinction to explain this to your son.
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2009 08:44 pm
Thanks Set.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2009 02:09 pm
@McGentrix,
I hope it proves useful, Boss. Kids have a nasty habit of asking questions other than the ones we're prepared for, and often very awkward ones.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2009 03:29 pm
Martin Luther King comes readily to mind as one who holds no office.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

WHAT'S NEXT? - Discussion by Rod3
The obscure links between artists thread - Discussion by hingehead
Famous People Name Game - Discussion by Mame
Three Truths and a Lie. - Discussion by Sofia
Historical Facts - Discussion by jcboy
Presidential word challenge help, please. - Question by Daisy Ryder
Famous Author - Question by sophocles
 
  1. Forums
  2. » When is a murder an assassination?
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 05/21/2019 at 10:29:55