The Power of Words
This post is not necessarily about the Arizona shooting. Iâ€™m just catching up with some of the other blogs on this site and have a bit to say about Mary Louise Olsonâ€™s posting on Jan. 1.
She alludes to the idea, gleaned from her college English professor, that â€œthe map is not the territory.â€
I, too, have admired that allusion and have interpreted it to mean that the words we use to describe something are not completely definitive, but rather offer a intrinsically biased explanation or characterization of that idea or issue, or place, or person.
We should, especially in dealing with issues that are hotly contested and laden with emotion, endeavor to use careful language.
Mary Louise went on to accuse the Obama administration of using phraseology to redefine (erroneously) such terms as terrorism, illegal aliens, and climate change. I disagree that the examples she cited are attempts to paint those issues in a more benign light.
Terrorism is an extremely vague word, being bandied about constantly and applied to many acts of violence worldwide. In my opinion it has not been applied to some that perhaps it should be, like U.S. actions (drones) in Pakistan; our new approach to discouraging “terrorism” by allowing our government the license to incarcerate anyone labeled a terrorist and keep them in places like Guantanamo without trials. This strategy has failed to gain us any real “intelligence,” damaged our Constitutional form of government, and far from curbing terrorism for fear of reprisal, has fueled the flames of hatred for the United States worldwide. The “terrorism” we are currently at war with is a â€œman-caused disasterâ€ as Obama said and itâ€™s high time we took some of the â€œcreditâ€ for causing it!
“Undocumented citizens” should probably more closely be “undocumented residents,” since they are not citizens, but “illegal aliens” is a phrase loaded with negative baggage that predisposes us to feel the need to “get rid of them” as though they were cockroaches.
“Global warming” was an earlier term for what is now labeled “climate disruption” for a good reason. Non-believers (what a funny idea, as though simply not believing in this phenomena would make it go away) were saying things like, “Ha! See, it’s colder this year. Global warming is a hoax!” Climate disruption is exactly what’s going on and the term is much more descriptive. If you want to view it as a ruse, go right ahead, but I’m thinking people can understand why the terminology has changes as the science has progressed.
Interestingly enough, Mary Louise’s next post takes the opposite tack, implying that Sarah Palin’s call for “targeting” Democratic opponents was just harmless talk, whereas the Obama administration’s definition of terrorism is an attempt to influence people’s thoughts and actions. Huh?