About This Site

Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
(What are figures of speech?)
Ask Figaro a question!

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    « Fangs for the Metaphor | Main | Porn for Spies »

    The Attractive Worm

    It’s Label Monday again! Using figures and tropes, Figaro attempts to label events and issues. Today’s mission: name the brilliant cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities. Positively Hollywood in its story line, it involves top government leaders, nefarious Iranians, and Russian consultants (one of them an Angelina Jolie lookalike named Natasha, no doubt) bearing worm-infected memory sticks. So if you were to make a movie, what would you title it? Here’s Figaro’s nominee.

     This week’s label: Possession

     Why “Possession?” Because the Stuxnet worm Satanically possesses particular industrial centrifuges—specifically those at two nuclear facilities in Iran—and causes them to spin wildly out of control. Possession is a powerful metaphor. What’s more, the label implies a group of geeks who gain control—possession—of the means of mass destruction. And so “Possession” also qualifies as a metonymy, a trope that, among other things, swaps an action (possession) for the thing that acts (the worm, or the plucky geeks who developed it).

    It’s clear from the recent wikileaks that leaders around the world have been, well, possessed by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. An Israeli military strike seemed inevitable. Then along came Stuxnet early this summer, possibly developed by Israel’s secretive cyber corps Unit 8200. Picture the scene.

    Geek: Sir, if you’ll just hold off the attack a few more months, my hackers can dismantle those centrifuges without a single missile being fired.

    Commander in Chief: What do you need from me?

    Geek: Someone to infiltrate the facility and plant the worm.

    Commander in Chief: Natasha.

    Geek: Sir?

    Commander in Chief: Her name’s Natasha.

    PrintView Printer Friendly Version

    EmailEmail Article to Friend

    Reader Comments (11)

    It's one of the most thrilling real-life international intrigues--if it's true.
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarlo
    It's a great movie title, Fig (in fact, I seem to recall watching a movie entitled "Possession"). But how is it as an issue label?

    As an alternative, how about JUKED NUKEM?
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Esvey
    Love your takeoff from Duke Nukem, Ellen. Though I'm not sure "possession" is such a bad issue title. "Worm possession" pretty much sums the thing up.
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    In that respect, you're right, so long as you add that "worm" in front of "possession." I could see "worm possession" used by the media!
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllen
    "Memory Stick" makes a nice movie title, too. Especially its Freudian implications.
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEddie
    "Worm possesion" should be shortened to WormPo since that's what a programmer would do. What figure would that be?
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJane Edgars
    A nice portmanteau, Jane.
    November 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Nice photoshopping, Fig! Wasn't she eating a strawberry in the original? Is a memory stick the new sexy cyberfruit?
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard
    Thanks, Richard. Photoshopping and figuring aren't that far apart, rhetorically. Both involve artful dodging ("dodging" being a photographic term) and witty juxtaposing. Or just witty posing.
    November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    My suggestion is "Stuxnik," after the famed first satellite, launched by the USSR (Sputnik). This computer worm/virus is launching the new era of Internet technological militarism! And to think that somehow the Germans were involved!

    November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Matluck
    Very nice! The idea of a worms race also appeals to us figuratively.
    December 2, 2010 | Registered CommenterFigaro

    PostPost a New Comment

    Enter your information below to add a new comment.

    My response is on my own website »
    Author Email (optional):
    Author URL (optional):
    All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.