Thursday, July 08, 2010

Using and Promoting Change of Language to Make the Objectionable Acceptable

Stephen Drake, Not Dead Yet

Last week, I happened to be watching The Ed Show on MSNBC. Thankfully, the host - who I think is trying to be a liberal imitation of Sean Hannity - was on vacation. Christopher Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, was subbing for the regular host.

I was kind of paying half-attention, getting ready for a road trip the next day, when my attention focused sharply during the start of a commentary by Hayes (starts about halfway through the transcript of the show):

Imagine for a moment our country elected a bunch of people who thought that rape should be legal. Now, these pro-rape politicians knew that simply coming out and proposing that we legalize rape would be toxic and odious and rightly inspire moral revulsion among the populace. So they say this instead. Look, we don‘t support rape, but we want to legalize unilateral physical intimacy. And after they say that, they set out to make sure that no one ever called rape, rape but instead in every instance called it unilateral physical intimacy.

It‘s pretty clear that if supposedly objective news sources, say, for instance “The New York Times”, adopted that same language, they would be granting the pro-rape camp a monumental political victory. Unilateral physical intimacy is not a neutral phrase in our little thought experiment. It is propaganda, as ideologically phrased as the term welfare queen or Islamo-fascist.

Well, the same is true for the pro-torture euphemism enhanced interrogation techniques.
This immediately reminded me of Conflation and Con Job's (aka Compassion & Choices) recent maneuvers to get the Connecticut Superior Court to recognize the term "aid in dying" as separate and distinct from "assisted suicide." This was just the highest profile tactic in a long-term campaign by C&C to replace the term "assisted suicide" with "aid in dying." More commonly, the campaign is carried out with the same talking points in op-eds written by C&C members, like this one that appeared in the July 3 edition of the Bozemon Daily Chronicle.

Why is it important to them? Why spend so much effort and energy on a simple phrase? Read more.

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