Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Power Of Language

I followed a link from Crooks & Liars to an thought provoking post at The Fear of All Sums. The blogger finds himself in "enemy territory" at a New Year's Eve party -

Anyway, I have nothing against these folks. They seemed damned decent to me and I liked them. They didn't strike me as partisan political junkies at all. They were ordinary folks who, like anyone else, were reacting to the news of the day. But the conversation was peppered with vintage BushCo talking points despite the fact that I didn't get the feeling these were rabid Bush supporters. Still, they were riding the "fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" horse like Willie Shoemaker...

My opening came when one of the guests mentioned that our involvement in the war was now longer than our involvement in World War II. That factoid seemed to surprise some of the others in the room and that gave me the opportunity send up my trial balloon.

"That's true," I said, "but when you really think about it, it's not really a war so much as it is an occupation," I offered helpfully."I mean, there's not really a line of troops with tanks, air support, attack chopper and gunships facing our guys over there," I added.

I finished it off with what I admit was a bit of superficial rhetorical camouflage, "So, if you look at it in terms of other occupations, it's not really that long at all."

Everyone reacted positively to that one, to my pleasant surprise, agreeing that it was more like an occupation than a hot war like WWII or even Vietnam...

But something happened in that room when I managed to get people to acknowledge the true nature of what's happening in Iraq. Once they accepted the idea of it being an occupation instead of a war all the talk of "victory" ended abruptly...

So here we see how language, the words we choose to use, effects the direction and tone of the debate -- a fact that I promise you is not lost on the Bush Administration. The power of language is why our media establishment is so squeamish about naming the obvious civil war that is taking place in Iraq. They insist on calling it all "sectarian violence" because "civil war" just seems too damning for their tastes and those of the White House. They would be even more squeamish about labeling our presense there an occupation if any significant pressure to do so even existed.

It's a long post, and I encourage you to read all of it and today's follow-up post.

All too often, when I find myself in social situations, I wind up pissing someone off, if not the whole room, so I have some serious lessons to learn from this guy.

Blue Girl, Red State commented today about the right-wing criticism of the profanity in the lefty blogs in her post Un.Fucking.Believable. Frank Luntz, making the rounds promoting his new book, chastizes left-wing bloggers for being angry. I'm right there with Blue Girl in my reaction to the events of the last six years. But my goal is to harness the power of language, to reach a few people in my sphere of influence.

Easier said than done.

1 comment:

FearItself said...

Isn't it amazing. Right-wing bloggers can openly call the public execution of photographers for taking pics of Dick Cheney's vacation home but, to hear the news world tell it, WE'RE the ones who are "angry".

The "liberal media" strikes again!