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September 13, 2006
Doublespeak and the War on Terrorism
A paper from the CATO Institute.
Posted on September 13, 2006 at 2:40 PM
• 23 Comments
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Cato had another good article on the 9/11 anniversary. The line I like is: "we must remember that we have more power than our enemies to worsen our fate".
The administration's manipulation of language in their efforts to sell the American people on the "War on Terror" has long reminded me of Orwell's work. The books unending wars on Oceania and Eastasia are what I anticipate our involvement in the Middle East will be over the coming years without a radical change in our policies and leadership. How many bit flips have we had in the past 20 years alone about who are our allies and who are our enemies.
Who can see an end to a war on anyone who will seek to harm us. We haven't heard any clear answer on what/when victory will be because there can be no victory when you don't clearly define what and who you are fighting. There will always be people who hate the most powerful nations. You cannot win everyone's hearts and minds.
I am not in favor of our leaving Iraq and I am not in favor of doing nothing to protect ourselves, however, we must not change our core nation's core values in this fight.
America has endured _only_ because of the constitution. Our government works because the system is perfectly constructed. The separation of powers was not an accident but the fundamental genius of those who created the nation. The Bill of Rights is not to be taken lightly and we should never consider altering one iota of it.
It is wrong to torture. It is wrong to imprison someone indefinitely without telling them their charges. It is wrong to pretend that we can make radical changes to our civil liberties without those changes eventually affecting us all. It is wrong to think those changes to civil liberties will not be misued by future governments.
Could Orwell have been correct in his premise that governments will eventually use war to preserve themselves at the cost of their own citizen's health and well-being?
The paper is an amazingly silly piece of work, a piece of propoganda disguised as a serious white paper. For example, in the first paragraphs he equates a few instances of pork-barrel politics with a concerted campaign of doublespeak. Apparently, similar instances during World War II should require us to rename that war "The Pork Barrel Opportunity."
I strongly suspect that the author doesn't know how Harry Truman became Vice President.
@Moshe Yudkowsky - "...a piece of propoganda disguised as a serious white paper."
I thought that almost all white papers from political think tanks were pieces of propoganda to one degree or another. My only real objection to the paper is that it's very short; it really dosen't go into detail about how, when, and why these various terms came into use, and if/when they morphed into other terms.
CATO's paper could have been much, much longer if they tried to catalogue all items of doublespeak that have been foistered upon us.
Is it not ironic that a lot of this is coming from people whose grasp of good, clear language is often tenuous? (see
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/bh/... for examples. )
Remember, in 1984, citizen Smith's private rebellion was quoshed after a "debriefing" from the Thought Police and he learned to love Big Brother and conform.
I'm not sure all of it is an attempt at doublespeak as opposed to more of a disagreement about what we face. One side thinks this is a "war" which must be "fought" using the military and our foreign intelligence forces. The other side thinks this is a "police action" which must be "prosecuted" in a court of law and investigated using our domestic police agencies.
Both sides have valid points. Unfortunately, this is an enemy the USA hasn't dealt with particularly well in the 30+ years that Americans have been the target of "terrorism". Unfortunately, the political hacks are too busy playing nanny-nanny-boo-boo instead of getting on with a true bi-partisan solution to the problem.
Even if you side with the folks who call it a war, we managed to deal with a vastly more dangerous enemy without throwing away the Constitution and turning the president into a king (well, Richard Nixon tried, but he got thrown out of office).
For an in-depth treatment of politiacal double-speak, try "Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show" by Geoffrey Nunberg.
The doublespeak is disturbing and I don't think this white paper is detailed enough; however, it is interesting.
In the end, the countries now spending all their money and effort on repression, and not nurturing, will get what they deserve. It’s a shame so many are torn apart by the systematic greed, and fear, of so few.
That's not doublespeak - it's just a creative way to communicate a mission.
I would like someone to explain to me why our American media hasn't taken issues of freedom as a larger issue.
I have been wanting to get some money together to put up a billboard with the Benjamin Franklin quote that incidentally I believe Bruce quotes in his book: "The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either (Freedom or Security)."
If anyone has some spare change or would like to start a campaign of that kind, let me know. If I had gobs of cash I'd probably have done it myself, but I'm not that lucky...just yet.
Bruce, wanna throw in a few bucks?? ;-)
You would be surprised how many people can quote Mr. Franklin. And how many, even among those who do _not_ imagine it is propaganda from the likes of Mr. Lenin, how many can quote him in support of the excesses of Mr. Bush.
Surely the man who trades freedom for security theatre deserves both freedom and security less than the first man!
I like that quote, "we must remember that we have more power than our enemies to worsen our fate". Terrorists can, at most, take away my life. They can never take away my freedom. Only my government has the power to do that.
"The books unending wars on Oceania and Eastasia are what I anticipate our involvement in the Middle East will be over the coming years without a radical change in our policies and leadership."
See how effective it is, folks? "Will be" .. Patrick, you folks have been on military empire-building adventures in East Asia since the 1850s if I remember correctly (or 1890s .. Philippines, anyway) and have barely had a five-year stretch since WWII where you have not been bombing in one part or another of Mid- to East-Asia.
And that is *without* looking at proxy wars. Hahahahahaha!
Orwell was writing about the world he lived in in 1948, and he new this was a timeless expression of a timeless phenomenon, therefore set it in a timeless world "not far removed from our own" and swapped two numbers around in the date.
People can be peaceful and aware, but it takes some concerted effort. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to research that topic.
and for further explanation (some of these are not about US journalism but the same kinds of effects occur everywhere):
The only solution is broad education. People need to know how to ask intelligent questions, they need to be empowered, and they need to be responsible and not waste time chasing up blind alleys and forming lynch mobs to persecute the weak.
Remember when you give someone power, to also ensure they use it responsibly, that's all you need to keep in mind.
One more url, from Today's news (Wired in fact):
If that's not a great example of "their" use of double-speak, I don't know what is. Govt breaks "the law"? Pull them up on it. Govt pulled up on breaking the law, what a perfect opportunity to change the law, and also redefine a few English words so that they can do it even harder next time.
So .. next time, are you going to pull them up on it? I'm not. The system has been successfully undermined. Since it was first invented. You just didn't know. The system doesn't exist, and the bunch of crazies we have shouting about laws is just that, a bunch of crazies shouting about laws. Do whatever works.
Maybe it is time to go [re]read Orwell's "Politics and the English Language". Should probably read it before reading the paper referenced above :-)
Newspeak is doubleplus bellyfeel goodthinkful. Crimethinkers have been reported to Miniluv. Have a nice day.
Interesting thing is we've been doublespeaking for ages - this is old news. George Carlin, of all people, did a routine in the early 80s about "shellshock" being converted to "Post traumatic stress disorder". Political correctness is a movement that just re-uses definitions with new words that supposedly are less offensive.
Letter to the Editor
The Times (London)
November 12, 2004
From Mr Rob Aeschbach
Sir, If a suicide bomber targeted and killed civilians in Oxford Street he would be called a “terrorist��?; at a bus stop in Tel Aviv, a “militant��?; in Baghdad, an “insurgent��?.
Where is Orwell?
6 East Heath Road, NW3 1BN.
Bruce, Somethng I have picked up om reguarding media. When something happens, the paper sends the newest kid to the "CopShop" to get a "blurb-sheet" this is made up by the inhouse cop media rep. There is no research...it goes to print as is and as sworn to be truth. This is how reporters work. The great storys seem to rotate about "Artistic use of an event to get my pet idea out" .............
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