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The Way We Speak

Today it’s time to give some thought to language and the meaning of the words we use. I realize that this is becoming increasingly difficult, in a world where labels mean more than substance, facts are made to bow to ideology, and education, reasoning and logic are considered elitist. But it is necessary in order to remain sane and rooted to the real world where said facts can up and kill you if you’re not careful. Yelling that the mess in Iraq is just the negative and faulty reporting of the biased liberal media doesn’t help the soldiers and civilians being killed by IEDs every day.

It is important to understand the words you throw around so carelessly. Like “fascist” say, as in Islamo-fascist, a very popular designation these days among the right-wing politicians running for re-election for labelling all those faceless hordes of evil extremists Muslims who want to kill us all because they hate our freedom. Do these guys know the definition of fascism? We wonder.

And point you to this article in the LA Times (via Slacktivist) on the term “Islamo-fascists” by a linguist, who has the following to say:

[Quote] Time was when right-wingers called the ACLU a bunch of communist sympathizers. Now Bill O’Reilly labels the group and others as fascist, with a cavalier disregard for the word’s meaning that would have done Jerry Rubin proud. Of course, it’s the point of symbolic words such as “fascist” to ease the burden of thought — as Walter Lippmann observed, they “assemble emotions after they’ve been detached from their ideas.” And it may be that Americans are particularly vulnerable to using “fascism” sloppily, never having experienced the real thing close up.

But like “terror,” and “evil” before it, “Islamic fascism” has the effect of reducing a complex story to a simple fable. It effaces the differences among ex-Baathists, Al Qaeda and Shiite mullahs; Chechens and Kashmiris; Hezbollah, Hamas and British-born Asians allegedly making bombs in a London suburb. Yes, there are millions of people in the Muslim world who wish the U.S. ill, and some of them are pretty creepy about it. But that doesn’t mean they’re all of a single mind and purpose, or that a blow against any one of them is a blow against the others. As Tolstoy might have put it, every creep is creepy in his own way.

[End Quote]

Edited to add: Hm, perhaps I should have titled this post “Easing the Burden of Thought” because we spend an awful lot of time doing that in this society.  As Ganesha is fond of pointing out, we like things easy and simple and, given a choice for fixing a problem of  Difficult (but effective and good) v. Easy Quick-Fix (but not lasting or effective), we will choose Easy almost every time. Because we’re lazy easily distracted morons and/or we’re being manipulated by those who stand to profit from the quick-fix non-solutions.

I can’t quite decide which is worse. But by now I’m too frustrated to give this any more thought, so I’ll go off to You Are Dumb to read someone who’s rants are much better than mine and who reminds me that there are still some smart people left who are noticing the shit storm of idiocy we are being pelted with every day and who are making an effort to point this out to anyone who stumbles across their site. Plus, it’s entertaining.


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