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Thread: The Misuse of Language and Fighting Evils in Society

  1. -1
    Maynard the Hammer's Avatar
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    The Misuse of Language and Fighting Evils in Society

    When you hear the words "oppression," "genocide," "racism," or even "torture" or "rape," do you immediately recoil as you always did? I don't. While I hate those evils as much as ever, I no longer assume the term always describes the reality.
    It undermined the war against torture to characterize what some Americans did to some Iraqis in the Abu Ghraib prison -- actions that were indeed sick, un-American and shameful to our military -- as "torture." Labeling abuses as "torture" filled me with pity for all the people around the world who had experienced real torture.

    I kept thinking about those whose bodies were burned who were put into human shredders (in Saddam's Iraq) or who had burning hot steel rods shoved into their rectums. How did these poor souls react to seeing the Western media routinely describe humiliating and frightening naked men for the sadistic amusement of guards as "torture"?
    Individuals and groups on the left have done the same to the word "genocide." The term originally meant an attempt to murder all members of a racial, ethnic, national or religious group. Today, it is used to describe an Israeli attack on Palestinian terrorists that also unintentionally kills some civilians, and to describe what America is doing in Iraq and even what America has done to its black population. So, when one hears "genocide" today, one immediately wants to know who is using the term and against whom.
    No term is more often used by the left than "oppressed." American women are routinely described as "oppressed," as are America's blacks, Hispanics and all poor people. But if American women, the freest women in human history, are oppressed, what term is left to describe the treatment of women in Arab and some other Muslim countries?
    The tragedy of all this is that when evils are defined down, good people are left verbally unarmed when the real evils present themselves. It is yet another way in which the left, intentionally or not, undermines the battle against evil.
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    Awsi Dooger's Avatar
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    Which side has trouble with definitions? Did Dennis Prager even pay attention when this administration was redefining torture seemingly on a whim a few years ago to suit their own purposes? Apparently not.

    There was one memo defining torture as basically on the brink of death. They used that one so they could call Abu Ghraib abuse and not torture. That brings us back to John Yoo again, mentioned atop zach's thread today. He was the Robert Bork-like legal counsel who wrote the 2002 memo on torture which was widely condemned and had his colleagues calling for him to denounce the memo or resign from his academic position.

    I'm in need of a pizza so I'm not looking this up, but I distinctly remember Alberto Gonzales flubbing his definition of torture during his confirmation hearings as Attorney General. In fact, I was watching when Joe Biden made fun of Gonzales during the hearing for not being candid or specific regarding his definition of torture. The justice department finally released a second memo which parsed and superceded the earlier memo, and provided a much more expansive definition of what constituted torture.
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    Dolphan7's Avatar
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    Interesting article. We do indeed over-use and mis-use terms and words everyday in this country. I wouldn't chracterize it as a left only phenomenon though. But the article does hold their feet to the fire.

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    Maynard the Hammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Awsi Dooger
    Which side has trouble with definitions? Did Dennis Prager even pay attention when this administration was redefining torture seemingly on a whim a few years ago to suit their own purposes? Apparently not.

    There was one memo defining torture as basically on the brink of death. They used that one so they could call Abu Ghraib abuse and not torture. That brings us back to John Yoo again, mentioned atop zach's thread today. He was the Robert Bork-like legal counsel who wrote the 2002 memo on torture which was widely condemned and had his colleagues calling for him to denounce the memo or resign from his academic position.
    not a bad counter-example. any others?
    I'm in need of a pizza so I'm not looking this up, but I distinctly remember Alberto Gonzales flubbing his definition of torture during his confirmation hearings as Attorney General. In fact, I was watching when Joe Biden made fun of Gonzales during the hearing for not being candid or specific regarding his definition of torture. The justice department finally released a second memo which parsed and superceded the earlier memo, and provided a much more expansive definition of what constituted torture.
    thats because he wrote a memo earlier that said that it wasnt torture unless someone was caused a lot of pain or near death. the redefinition of torture in the public by those who cried "torture! "torture!" is the reason why he had to backtrack on it. this is exactly what prager is talking about. the meaning of the word was successfully changed to the point that the government had to adopt it
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    Miamian's Avatar
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    The other word to add to the list is "resistance."
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    Awsi Dooger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maynard
    not a bad counter-example. any others?
    Not so much an example as a disagreement with Prager that the left routinely describes women and blacks and Hispanics as oppressed. I'm trying to remember a prominent Democratic politician using that term. Edwards has the poverty theme but I just looked at the text of his stump speech and it doesn't include oppressed. I know Jesse Jackson in the wake of 9/11 said terrorism was used as a vehicle by people who felt oppressed.

    I wonder if Dennis Prager has ever used the term democracy in terms of what we're attempting in Iraq? If so, and I'd thrill to wager yes, then using his theme of not the same meaning, does he really expect democracy there to mirror what it is here?
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    Maynard the Hammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Awsi Dooger
    I wonder if Dennis Prager has ever used the term democracy in terms of what we're attempting in Iraq? If so, and I'd thrill to wager yes, then using his theme of not the same meaning, does he really expect democracy there to mirror what it is here?
    is democracy an evil?
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    Rafiki's Avatar
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    I would say that the media over-uses words that are unnecesarily dramatic. They play on our shock value and eventually de-sensitize us to them. When you look at newspaper articles the ones with more emotionally provoking wording will always attract more attention.

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    Awsi Dooger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maynard
    is democracy an evil?
    Why would Prager limit a discussion of evolving or conveniently applied definitions to evil terms only? I realize that's the focus of his article.
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    Maynard the Hammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Awsi Dooger
    Why would Prager limit a discussion of evolving or conveniently applied definitions to evil terms only?
    i dont think he would. its a valid point. if people freely elect their leaders, i dont know what else you would call it. free society and democracy arent quite the same either.
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