RationalWiki's 2020 Fundraiser

There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff – we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.

If everyone who saw this today donated $5, we would meet our goal for 2021.

Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with PayPal Logo.png!

Donations so far: $720Goal: $3500

Collateral damage

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Warning icon orange.svg This page contains too many unsourced statements and needs to be improved.

Collateral damage could use some help. Please research the article's assertions. Whatever is credible should be sourced, and what is not should be removed.

We control what
you think with

Icon language.svg
Said and done
Jargon, buzzwords, slogans

Collateral damage is a sanitised term (euphemism) used by the military to mean unintended targets (civilians) killed in an armed situation (war).[1] It is often the accidental result of servicing the target (killing enemy troops). Sometimes this takes place through incendiary residence (napalm misses the target and burns nearby children). In many cases an entire village will undergo neutralization (every man, woman, and child dies) and the officer in charge must file an adjustment report ("We have accidentally destroyed an innocent village"). Reporters who try to write stories about collateral damage often must submit to a security review (censorship). If they refuse, they can often be persuaded by inquiry systems (whips and hot brands). If not, they must be demoted maximally (killed).

As a euphemism, the term prevents speakers from having to picture what harming civilians looks like, minimizing the responsibility of those that committed it and dehumanizing the victims.[2][3] "Collateral damage" is abstract and palatable, while "murdering civilians unintentionally" isn't.


  • Jamie SheaWikipedia, NATO spokesperson at time of Kosovo War, was referring to repetitive massacres and burnings beyond recognition of both Serbian and Albanian civilians done by NATO pilots as collateral damage.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. A definition that isn't rife with snark and italics can be found at Merriam-Webster.
  2. George Monbiot, "Cleaning the stock"
  3. Magedah Shabo, Techniques of Propaganda and Persuasion. ISBN 978-1-58049-874-6