Thursday, April 02, 2009

Playing with terms

Changing the names of things may play well with the political base, but it doesn't keep the bad guys from wanting to destroy us.
WASHINGTON — When President Obama briefed Congressional leaders at the White House last week on his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan, Senator Harry Reid offered some advice: Whatever you do, he told the president, don’t call it a “surge.”

Not to worry. Mr. Obama didn’t and wouldn’t. The exchange, confirmed by people briefed on the discussion, underscored the sensitivity about language in the new era. Mr. Obama and his team are busily scrubbing President George W. Bush’s national security lexicon, if not necessarily all of his policies.


Obama advisers said they were not trying to de-emphasize the danger of extremism but to take the politics out of it. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, used the term "terrorism" during her Senate confirmation testimony, but also referred to it as "man-caused disasters." She later said that it was a deliberate attempt to change the tone.

“That is perhaps only a nuance,” she told Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, “but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

But the risk, in the minds of some critics, is looking like the government no longer takes the dangers of the world seriously. “They seem more interested in the war on the English language than in what might be thought of as more pressing national security matters,” said Shannen W. Coffin, who served as counsel to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “An Orwellian euphemism or two will not change the fact that bad people want to kill us and destroy us as a free people.”
(from the New York Times, via Althouse)

And let's hope the euphemisms don't numb us to the real dangers of terrorism that are actually out there.

"Man-caused disasters." :-P It's only April, but that already gets my vote for the most clunky phrase of the year.

1 comment:

KeithAlanK said...

"Man-caused disasters" is the worst spin term I have ever heard.