Monday, March 23, 2009

The Importance of Language: Terrorists, Dissidents, and Copy Editors

Five and Twenty Years Ago I remember how I mentioned Burma Days by George Orwell to Christopher Hitchens during a long boozy afternoon at the Iron Gate across from The Middle East Institute where I was "Resident Scholar" [I neither resided there nor was much of a scholar] and he suddenly launched into Orwell's paramount theme: the decline of language equals the decadence of politics. Hence, 1984's WAR is PEACE, etc., stood for the descent of 20th c. politics into agitprop sloganeering, etc. along with its other themes that socialists/communists of the time accurately saw as aimed at themselves.

The New York Times is the chief villain in what Hitchens sees accurately as the craven cowardice and slipshod sloppiness of the journalistic culture, which has rotted to the point where the White House Press Spokesboy can insult private citizens routinely without censure by the "organs" of the Obama White House, the NYT, WaPo, LAT & the three "networks."

Hitchens' entire mini-dissertation on the difference between Irish "overwhelmingly Catholic ... dissidents" & Iraqi "homegrown terrorists" ----effectively there is none and both are murderous terrorists endorsed by the Red Cross---is worth reading.
The term [dissident] describes only attitudes and not actions, and it is most famously associated with the intellectual opposition to Soviet totalitarianism. (Prior to that usage, it was principally applied to those religious people of conscience who refused allegiance to the established Catholic and Episcopalian churches, which ironically would perhaps qualify the word dissident as being "overwhelmingly Protestant.")

Plainly, something has been lost when such a historic term of honor and respect is loosely applied to homicidal thugs who shoot a Catholic policeman in the head and use pizza delivery workers as human shields. But in a media world where Bin Laden's murderous surrogates in Iraq can be given a homely moniker, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. As a novel about the Nazi era has recently reminded us, the Furies of antiquity were so much dreaded that they were sometimes apotropaically named "the Kindly Ones," or Eumenides. If you want a quick definition of euphemism, this would do: It consists of inventing nice terms for nasty things (perhaps to make them seem less nasty) and soft words for frightening things (perhaps to make them seem less scary). We should have learned by now that this form of dishonesty is also a form of cowardice, by which some of the enemy's work is done for him. We have seen through propaganda terms like collateral damage and ethnic cleansing. Let us not put up with homegrown for something vile and alien, or the abuse of the moral term dissident for something that is both cruel and coercive.

Yes, Christopher, the MSM is a collection of cowardly quislings who help the US's enemies without and within do their work, even when they are homocidal thugs.

You see, if homocidal thuggery were criticized by the media mavens, the media might become actual targets of said thugs, and wouldn't THAT be a shame!

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