Wednesday, August 16, 2006

loaded words

It's not a surprise to know that many of the terms we hear used in a political context are created with a particular purpose in mind. Controlling the language of a debate gives a big edge to one side or the other. I started to understand that 40 years a go as a high school debater, just beginning to "start thinking" (as my father used to suggest I do, not always kindly - but that's another story).
I don't know who invented all these terms, though it's tempting to simply say that Karl Rove did , the way you think all poetic devices started with Shakespeare. And I wouldn't pretend to think that only one side does it But it's surprising how someone will quote a bumper sticker to you and think they're saying something original. It's then you know this stuff really works.
Anyway, here is a sampling, complete with the meaning we're supposed to get. No question I'm more critical of those coming from the right:
Islamofascist - A term which did not exist even two years ago. It is supposed to mean the people with whom we're waging war these days. It has nothing to do with REAL facscism, which is an economic system which unites the interests of business and state. This term's real purpose is to make us connect the last war with fascism, WW II, with the current one. Both great ideas, right? It's also a bit milder than saying that it's a war on Islam. Why, we could never make war against a religion, could we?
War on Terror - Since we have no declared enemies (no, not one), we have to fight against a technique - terror. Something in this also implies that the war will never be over.
Political Correctness - using other words in a way which offends no one. The practice is universally hated, and the line extends around the block of all those who claim NEVER to serve it. It can also be a putdown meaning people who think differently from ME.
Pro-Life - really means "against abortion", but in the Reagan tradition, it's always better to be FOR something. Other side is "Pro-Choice". No one, however, is "pro-death", "pro-imprisonment" or "pro-protection". "Pro-family" is also a loaded word roughly meaning "anti-Democratic". "Pro-family" gets big use in church, where no one bothers to define anything very much.
Partial Birth Abortion - not a medical term, though it sort of sounds like one. No one is partially born, and no lives are saved by banning this procedure, whatever its medical term is. This one is a triumph of the right. It will likely be litigated for decades.
tax burden - it simply means taxes, but the words are used together to make you think that running the War on Terror should really be free. The Dems, naturally prefer "tax investment", which sounds smart.
death tax - another from the GOP Hit Parade, it refers to the tax now levied against only multi-million dollar estates when the mega-rich go to the, uh, final estate. A tiny number of already wealthy people become even richer when this tax is abolished.
fair tax - you might guess this is what I pay, but you'd be wrong. It used to be called the Flat Tax. Now it has a new name in order to get you to see at a glance why people living in travel trailers should pay the same tax rate as those who own their own islands. "It would be so simple", say its advocates. Yes, until the same people who love it so make it complicated, and not in favor of the po' folks.
detainees - a nice little euphemism meant to describe those held without charge in certain, sometimes unknown spots all over the world. Sounds pretty harmless, until you realize that the detaining lasts the rest of your life.
stay the course - what we keep doing to make Iraq the Islamic Sweden it is today. Also, the reason we have no real plans to leave.
cut 'n run - any plan other than "stay the course", such as bringing troops home to their families. Remember "pro-family"?
liberation - what we used to say we had done for the Iraqis. Trouble is, once you've been liberated, there's usually a party of some kind. We had OUR party. Remember "Mission Accomplished"? Seems like a long time ago, right? Well, it was almost three and a half years ago, and the Iraqi haven't had THEIR party yet. The term also used to apply to those other party guys, the Afghans.
drive by media - term referring to all news media other than the righteous radio right. Credit Rush Limbaugh with this one. I used to hear him say that the bad guys weren't shooting at the media because they were secretly allied on the same side. A few dozen reporters killed or wounded while doing their jobs, and his pet phrases change. Of course HE doesn't drive by anything, including the drug counter.
9/11 - the event all policy goes back to. Possibly the Bush administration's biggest intelligence failure, nevertheless used as a rallying point which seems to excuse every subsequent blunder and justify every little reduction in one's right to be left alone.


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