Definition of sabotage
From French sabotage (verb is from the noun)
- A deliberate action aimed at weakening an enemy through subversion, obstruction, disruption, and/or destruction.
- (military) An act or acts with intent to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the national defense of a country by willfully injuring or destroying, or attempting to injure or destroy, any national defense or war materiel, premises, or utilities, to include human and natural resources.
sabotage (third-person singular simple present sabotages, present participle sabotaging, simple past and past participle sabotaged)
- to deliberately destroy or damage something in order to prevent it from being successful
The railway line had been sabotaged by enemy commandos
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is a saboteur. As a rule, saboteurs try to conceal their identities because of the consequences of their actions. For example, whereas an environmental pressure group might be happy to be identified with an act of sabotage, it would not want the individual identities of the perpetrators known.
- As workplace action
When disgruntled workers damage or destroy equipment or interfere with the smooth running of a workplace, it is called workplace sabotage. Taylor & Walton defined it as "conscious action or inaction directed towards the mutilation or destruction of the work environment". This can be as part of an organized group activity, or the action of one or a few workers in response to personal grievances. Taylor & Walton placed workplace sabotage into three categories: (1) to reduce tension and frustration deriving from work, (2) to make the work process easier, and (3) to assert control over the work. In general, workplace sabotage takes the form of deliberate and prolonged inefficiency by the saboteurs. Alternatively there may be repeated "accidents" which cause damage/delays to equipment, supplies or processes. Whether it is hand-tools or computer files which go missing, the intended effect is the same. The only real limit to workplace sabotage is the imagination of the saboteurs.
- As environmental action
Certain groups turn to destruction of property in order to immediately stop environmental destruction or to make visible arguments against forms of modern technology they consider detrimental to the earth and its inhabitants. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies use the term eco-terrorist when applied to damage of property. Proponents argue that since property can not feel terror, damage to property is more accurately described as sabotage. Opponents, by contrast, point out that property owners and operators can indeed feel terror. The image of the monkey wrench thrown into the moving parts of a machine to stop it from working was popularized by Edward Abbey in the novel The Monkeywrench Gang and has been adopted by eco-activists to describe destruction of earth damaging machinery.
- As war tactic
In war, the word is used to describe the activity of an individual or group not associated with the military of the parties at war (such as a foreign agent or an indigenous supporter), in particular when actions result in the destruction or damaging of a productive or vital facility, such as equipment, factories, dams, public services, storage plants or logistic routes. Prime examples of such sabotage are the events of Black Tom and the Kingsland Explosion. Unlike acts of terrorism, acts of sabotage do not always have a primary objective of inflicting casualties. Saboteurs are usually classified as enemies, and like spies may be liable to prosecution and criminal penalties instead of detention as a prisoner of war. It is common for a government in power during war or supporters of the war policy to use the term loosely against opponents of the war. Similarly, German nationalists spoke of a stab in the back having cost them the loss of World War I.
A modern form of sabotage is the distribution of software intended to damage specific industrial systems. For example, the CIA is alleged to have sabotaged a Siberian pipeline during the Cold War, using information from the Farewell Dossier. A more recent case may be the Stuxnet computer worm, which was designed to subtly infect and damage specific types of industrial equipment. Based on the equipment targeted and the location of infected machines, security experts believe it to be an attack on the Iranian nuclear program by the United States or Israel.
- As crime
Some criminals have engaged in acts of sabotage for reasons of extortion. For example, Klaus-Peter Sabotta sabotaged German railway lines in the late 1990s in an attempt to extort DM10 million from the German railway operator Deutsche Bahn. He is now serving a sentence of life imprisonment.
- As political action
The term political sabotage is sometimes used to define the acts of one political camp to disrupt, harass or damage the reputation of a political opponent, usually during an electoral campaign.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.