Foe - Terms


"Enemy" is a strong word, and "emotions associated with the enemy would include anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, fear, distrust, and possibly grudging respect". As a political concept, an enemy is likely to be met with hate, violence, battle and war. The opposite of an enemy is a friend or ally. Because the term "the enemy" is a bit bellicose and militaristic to use in polite society, informal substitutes are more often used. Often the substituted terms become pejoratives in the context that they are used. In any case, the designation of an "enemy" exists solely to denote the status of a particular group of people as a threat, and to propagate this designation within the local context. Substituted terms for an enemy often go further to meaningfully identify a known group as an enemy, and to pejoratively frame that identification. A government may seek to represent a person or group as a threat to the public good by designating that person or group to be a public enemy.

The characterization of an individual or/and group as an enemy is called demonization. The propagation of demonization is a major aspect of propaganda. An "enemy" may also be conceptual; used to describe impersonal phenomena such disease, and a host of other things. Throughout religious theology, "the Enemy" is typically reserved to represent the human tendency to do evil, often personified as a malicious deity, such as the devil or a demon. Conversely, in some instances God is also described as an enemy; for example, in 1 Samuel 28:16, the spirit of Samuel tells Saul: "Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?"

"The enemy," as the object of social anger or repulsion, has throughout history been used as the prototypical propaganda tool to focus the fear and anxiety within a society toward a particular target. The target is often general, as with a ethnic group or race of people, or it can also be a conceptual target, as with an ideology which characterises a particular group. In some cases the concept of the enemy have morphed; whereas once racial and ethnic claims to support a call to war may later have changed to ideological and conceptual based claims.

During the Cold War, the terms "Communists" or "Reds" were believed by many in American society to mean "the enemy," and the meaning of the two terms could be extremely pejorative, depending on the political context, mood, or state of fear and agitation within the society at the time.

Generally, the counterpoint to an enemy is a friend or ally, although the term frenemy has been coined to capture the sense of a relationship wherein the parties are allied for some purposes and at odds with one another for other purposes.

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