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darthslowe
17-05-2013, 05:27
So, I'm about to reveal just how American I am: I don't understand the use of the phrase "moral terror" as it pertains to the Warhammer 40,000 universe (or in the British sense, I suppose). I also don't understand why commisars are called "political officers". To me, in my ignorance, every time I read or hear the phrase "moral terror" I think of this guy in a room with a beautiful, willing, and very naked woman, except his religion (and this guy is VERY religious, but possessed of little will-power) forbids pre-marital sexual relations. This guy tries to run, frantically scrabbling about the room looking for egress, but, alas, there are no doors or windows through which to escape. This guy then enters a state in which he is terrified for his immortal soul. This, to me, is what constitues "moral terror". I know this cannot be correct, however, because carnifexes and such are sometimes described as "moral terrors".

Would someone please be kind enough to explain what is meant by "moral terror", so that I may forsake my ignorant Yankee ways? If you could throw in an explanation of "political officer" as well it would be greatly appreciated.

ForgottenLore
17-05-2013, 05:46
Well, I don't think I have ever come across the term in relation to 40K, but I assume it is an accented form of "mortal terror", which gets used here in the states.

As for commissars, watch Hunt for Red October and/or Enemy at the Gates. That is where I got my first impressions of what a political officer/commissar is.

Ruination Drinker
17-05-2013, 05:47
Go check some websites for footage of that FSA soldier eating an SAA soldier's heart. That is an example of moral terror and it is used as a tactic to shock the other force into fleeing the field. Marlon Brando gives an incredible speech about it in Apocalypse Now (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxLFdJLSho8). Moral terror really doesn't come into play in the 40k universe really, unless you stop and think about the Thousand Psyker Smoothy the Emperor pounds down everyday to keep his silky necrotic complexion.

You want terror, play some Fantasy Battles. Some of the fluff in those books is downright despicable.

Muad'Dib
17-05-2013, 06:01
Moral terror really doesn't come into play in the 40k universe really, unless you stop and think about the Thousand Psyker Smoothy the Emperor pounds down everyday to keep his silky necrotic complexion.


Night Lords (as well as Nurgle followers, Lictors, various Chaos cults...) would like to have words with you.

Political officers are members of army units responsible for securing adherence to ideology and loyalty to government in armed forces; this was also often widened to include keeping high/sufficient morale, as well.

totgeboren
17-05-2013, 06:57
I think others have said what needs to be said, but I'll give it a try (because my sig includes the phrase). What is meant by 'moral terror' is acts so immoral it shakes you to the core, and done by people who are in all other cases fully moral beings. Like the speech in Apocalypse Now which was linked above. Many real-world examples are found given in modern India in the conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Like the cutting open the stomach of a pregnant women and impaling the unborn child on spikes for all to see, or capturing, hanging and burning the children of the other side. Things like that that are all to common, and which should make anyone feel a bit queasy at the sheer evil of the act, and done by people who in normal cases are loving family members.

Political Officers are officers that exist outside the regular chain of command, who are appointed by some political organisation, and in the 40k case, have the right to execute anyone who they deem are working against the goals of the political organisation. Maintaining morale tend to be their main area of interest.
Easy examples are killing cowards and deserters, but it also includes killing officers for incompetence. They are there to ensure all know the eyes of the rulers are upon them, even in battle.

wilsonian
17-05-2013, 06:59
A political officer is some one who up holds views of the in charge governing body. Russia used them all over the place during and after the second world war. Some could argue the gestapo used by the nazi's were political officers as they upheld the nazi views.

In modern times the republican guard in Iran could be classed as Political Officers as I've heard stories of making women remove make up (if they deem their wearing too much) and telling them they're not wearing their head scarfs correct - again if they deem fit.

As mentioned - in movies, their is a scene in Enemy at the gates where the russians are fleeing after a failed assault only to run into a line of machine gun fire directed by a commissar. This gives the russian soldier an option - fight the germans and die or turn back and die at the hands of the commissar. Enforcing the will of the government.

In the 40k universe they are used to uphold the views of the imperium. Like commissars - they have a funky rule where if the squad breaks moral he executes the leading officer, takes command and they auto rally hence like in Enemy at the gate.


Examples of moral terror - in Lord of the Rings before the Orcs assault Minas Tirith the commander gives the order to "release the prisoners!" - only to have them catapult the heads of soldier's from the failed assault over the wall. It might kill one unfortunate but the idea is to strike fear - the fact ur mates head has just rained down on you means the same thing could happen to you. It shakes their moral.

Spell_of_Destruction
17-05-2013, 07:09
Moral terror really doesn't come into play in the 40k universe really.

True. The underlying theme of 40k is Cosmic Horror (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmicism). Originally, at least.

To the OP - I think what you are talking about is a moral dilemma/dilemma of conscience.

Moral terror is the ability to intentionally circumvent conventional morality in pursuit of a goal or cause. In fact it goes further than that - it uses the morality of the enemy as a psychological weapon.

Aldavaer
17-05-2013, 07:19
The political officer is also there to give the government a measure of control over the army and prevent mutinies or coup d'etat before they get started by arresting or executing "unreliable" officers or men.

talthar
17-05-2013, 09:20
I think the Imperium would be the only body to have political officers since it's the only one whose very existence relies on its citizens following a rigid belief structure. Other forces tend to values freedom (Eldar, DE) or have structures so loose they have no need of someone like a commissar (CSM). Even the Tau, with all their gum flapping about the Greater Good, doesn't use the tactics the Imperium does to keep its citizens in line.

Shamana
17-05-2013, 10:44
I think the Imperium would be the only body to have political officers since it's the only one whose very existence relies on its citizens following a rigid belief structure. Other forces tend to values freedom (Eldar, DE) or have structures so loose they have no need of someone like a commissar (CSM). Even the Tau, with all their gum flapping about the Greater Good, doesn't use the tactics the Imperium does to keep its citizens in line.

Actually, traitor guard would likely be likely to use "morale" officers to keep its men in shape and keep them following the dogma and the proper rulers. Tau ethereals may be a bit nicer (since they don't HAVE to kill one of their own, they can just tell him/her to do it), but they also fulfill a similar role - control of the military by the political body.

Moral terror is as far as I can tell using terror tactics (especially outside of a fight) to break the enemy's will to resist. Some chaos marines and cults are really good at that, as are Dark Eldar when they bother to do it, some Tyranids are engineered for that, and there are a few others. Mind you, even though GW doesn't show it much, I'd say loyalist marines aren't always above such tools - the purging the Iron hands carried out at Contqual (or however it was called where they killed 1/3rd of the population) smacks of that, too.

Krucifus
17-05-2013, 11:31
If you read the Gaunt's Ghost's book Traitor General, the Traitor Guard (represented by the Sons of Sek) are just starting to use political officers, having seen how effective they are for the Imperium.

Art Is Resistance
17-05-2013, 11:43
For a combined definition of 'Moral Terror' and 'Political Officer' google 'Alistair Campbell' :-D

Joking aside, the Political Officer trope comes from the NKVD officers who would force along the Red Army during the revolution and WW2 - they became the KGB and then FSB from the Cold War onwards.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

Menthak
17-05-2013, 16:46
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_officer_(military). The first sentence sums it up.

As for moral terror, i'd say that the issue is simply how you read it. More-al or Mau-rell.

Lord Inquisitor
17-05-2013, 16:59
Examples of moral terror - in Lord of the Rings before the Orcs assault Minas Tirith the commander gives the order to "release the prisoners!" - only to have them catapult the heads of soldier's from the failed assault over the wall. It might kill one unfortunate but the idea is to strike fear - the fact ur mates head has just rained down on you means the same thing could happen to you. It shakes their moral.

Screaming skull catapults in Warhammer have the Skulls of the Foe upgrade along those lines...

Aluinn
19-05-2013, 08:12
The political officer is also there to give the government a measure of control over the army and prevent mutinies or coup d'etat before they get started by arresting or executing "unreliable" officers or men.

There's a broader definition of the term that would include anyone appointed from a political body to oversee military operations and ensure that they coincide with the goals set forth by civilian political leadership, granted (sometimes limited, sometimes not) authority over military officers, an example being those that existed during the French Revolutionary Wars (though these had some powers that would later bee seen in the Soviet model, e.g. making sure none of the military officers, being more conservative than the general population as they often are, were secretly counter-revolutionary ... but they missed Napoleon somehow :)).

Commissars in 40K are also morale officers (more so, in fact, I'd say) which is a similar but not identical concept that often overlaps (as it did in the USSR during WWII, where Commissars were as much for giving inspiring speeches and waving flags as shooting deserters--and the latter isn't even a political function, but the enforcement of a military justice code). It would theoretically be possible to have a morale officer who was not a political officer, i.e. an officer attache whose job was purely to keep troops motivated by whatever means.

40K Commissars I would describe more precisely as morale and justice officers (equivalent to U.S. Military Police and investigatory personnel in the latter sense) than political officers, as they are, as far as I can tell, entirely a part of the Imperial Guard and not part of a separate organization other than, of course, the organization of all Commissars--which means they're neither politicians nor political appointees--and also because most of what they do as far as discipline is in line with the IG's own justice code. By contrast the NKVD officers of the USSR owed their appointments to and were responsible to the Communist Party apparatus, not the Red Army.

(As an aside, speaking of being an American, I actually find it odd that we don't really have a parallel military justice organization, given that MPs are just enforcement and judges are regular officers, with its own structure, and rely on commanding officers to apply the UCMJ. You can see that this creates problems in e.g. the number of rapes that go unpunished because an officer impunes himself for allowing it to happen under his command when it is addressed and would often rather sweep it under the rug for the sake of his own career. This could theoretically be fixed or at least greatly helped by attaching a justice officer with the specific duty to take care of that sort of thing and who would actually be commended for doing so.)

The only time they really transcend that is when they check for mutation, signs of psykers, or have to execute Sanctioned Psykers because they're acting funny, but those don't seem like extremely political duties in the 40K context given that those are really demonstrable and immediate threats (mutation being debatable, but fluff almost always associates it with Chaos/the Warp).

Polaria
19-05-2013, 08:31
Would someone please be kind enough to explain what is meant by "moral terror", so that I may forsake my ignorant Yankee ways? If you could throw in an explanation of "political officer" as well it would be greatly appreciated.

I really don't know about "moral terror", but I guess in case of Carnifex it could be a typo of "mortal terror".

Political officer however... Well, the term is usually associated with political commissars of the old Soviet system where freedom of speech did not exist. They actually had a parallel command system of political comissars/officers who were there to watch over the actual military leaders. For example, a company would have company commander who was trained in military school and was responsible for the military planning and execution of operations. Besides him would stand the company comissar who had little or no actual military training but who was indoctrinated from early on and had been selected for his fanaticism. These political officers would be responsible for the "morale of the troops", which is just a nice way of saying that they were there to ensure no-one would speak openly against the party line. At times the comissars even had right to remove the commander if they felt his loyalty to the party line was in doubt.

You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_officer_%28military%29

Angry SisterOfBattle Nerd
19-05-2013, 14:04
In modern times the republican guard in Iran could be classed as Political Officers as I've heard stories of making women remove make up (if they deem their wearing too much) and telling them they're not wearing their head scarfs correct - again if they deem fit.
Wouldn't that be basijis rather than pasdaran ?

Hengist
19-05-2013, 15:59
'Moral terror' sounds like a meaningless neologism, presumably a typo/mishearing of 'mortal terror', which obviously enough just means fear for one's life. In the 40k fluff there does exist in the Imperium the term 'moral threat', which is a political term for 'Chaos stuff'.

As others have already pointed out, the Imperium's commissars are very obviously based on those of the Soviet Union, with a healthy side order of the Gestapo. Amusingly in the British army, the commissary (a word with exactly the same derivation - both come from the medieval Latin commissarius, meaning a deputy) is in charge of the catering.

yabbadabba
19-05-2013, 16:22
I'd say there is a good deal or moral terror in the 40K universe, and much of it comes from within the Imperium.

Gazak Blacktoof
19-05-2013, 16:59
40K Commissars I would describe more precisely as morale and justice officers (equivalent to U.S. Military Police and investigatory personnel in the latter sense) than political officers, as they are, as far as I can tell, entirely a part of the Imperial Guard and not part of a separate organization other than, of course, the organization of all Commissars--which means they're neither politicians nor political appointees--and also because most of what they do as far as discipline is in line with the IG's own justice code. By contrast the NKVD officers of the USSR owed their appointments to and were responsible to the Communist Party apparatus, not the Red Army

Commissars are attached to the Imperial Guard, not a part of it. They serve alongside the IG and Navy, but are part of Munitorium. Commissars enforce the Imperial Creed and officers of the Commissariat are not usually part of the hierarchy of the IG but are an adjunct and all members of the IG are answerable to them. Because they enforce the Imperial Creed, which includes matters of faith and genetic purity and are not just employed to punish those that stray from a moral or judicial code, they are certainly political officers.

Chem-Dog
19-05-2013, 17:22
'Moral terror' sounds like a meaningless neologism, presumably a typo/mishearing of 'mortal terror', which obviously enough just means fear for one's life. In the 40k fluff there does exist in the Imperium the term 'moral threat', which is a political term for 'Chaos stuff'.

It's a term lifted pretty much from the film Apocalypse now- Just check out the memorable quotes page on IMDB - So I'd agree that it's a neoglism but hardly a meaningless one, the quote in question pretty much describes the concept. That said I don't think I've ever heard it used specifically in 40K, about 40K maybe and then only in the omnipresent narrative.

"Political officer" is a simple parallel line drawn between the Imperium's Commissars and real life equivalents. Given that the Imperium is a faith-led bureaucracy, I don't think it's unrealistic to call them as such.

Iron_Lord
19-05-2013, 17:26
"Political officer" is a simple parallel line drawn between the Imperium's Commissars and real life equivalents. Given that the Imperium is a faith-led bureaucracy, I don't think it's unrealistic to call them as such.

I think they've even been called that outright, in the novels.

Aluinn
20-05-2013, 00:58
Commissars are attached to the Imperial Guard, not a part of it. They serve alongside the IG and Navy, but are part of Munitorium. Commissars enforce the Imperial Creed and officers of the Commissariat are not usually part of the hierarchy of the IG but are an adjunct and all members of the IG are answerable to them. Because they enforce the Imperial Creed, which includes matters of faith and genetic purity and are not just employed to punish those that stray from a moral or judicial code, they are certainly political officers.

Well, I admit that it's a gray area in 40K, because the Imperium isn't a state in the sense that all the nation-states we've known to actually have officers vaguely like Commissars have been. For example, enforcing the Imperial Creed is ostensibly a religious duty; the Imperial Law is weird (being much more limited than many people might think because the Imperium is rather feudal) and AFAIK only directly enforced by Arbites (though maybe Commissars have this duty vis-a-vis the Imperial Guard; practically speaking they probably do but I don't know if it's within their technical mandate). However, since the Imperial Creed includes allegiance to the Imperium as a political authority and heresy and treason, whilst not identical, have overlapping definitions (heresy includes treason against the Emperor by default in almost all cases), I wouldn't disagree.

I also didn't know that part about the Munitorum, but the Munitorum is also strange in that it is not identical to the Administratum (the most plainly political apparatus of the Imperium), but a sub-thing subordinate to it whilst at the same time not clearly being a part of it--that is to say, it might be considered a separate bureaucracy.

Well, anyway, I don't disagree; it's just hard to compare things in the Imperium when you really examine it to things in, say, the USSR, because the Imperium is such a different animal than anything humans have actually had. Its closest analogue can probably be found in Bronze Age empires that deified their rulers, but that isn't very helpful.

But hey if they're called "political officers" in-universe, I completely accept that.