The War on Words: Terrorists and Torture

This is the fourth post in a series of however many I feel like blog posts on the misuse and abuse of language with regard to controversial topics.  For some context, it might be helpful to read the posts in order starting with the first one.  The second one and third one may also be of interest.  Who knows where the crazy train will stop?

The War on Words grows ever more vicious in the quest of politicians and citizens alike to make it very clear which people cause a grave threat to the freedoms that we imagine we possess and the ones we actually have.  The battle is fought under the constant pressure of fear and loathing in the midst of desert lands and is fought over who will control the comfort of the best and biggest oasis.  It’s a battle between David and Goliath, evil murderers and other evil murderers in suits, self-righteous folks duped by religious leaders and self-righteous folks who dupe religious voters.

This battlefield is of course heavily populated by terrorists, those people we all know so well.  They are called many things, and what they are called depends on whether you want to support them, give them a fair trial, give them an unfair trial before a military tribunal, or kill them at will by drone strike without any awkward questions being asked of you.  They have been known as freedom fighters, mass murderers, prisoners of war, enemy combatants under the Bush administration, or (more recently under the Obama administration) belligerent actors.  Although the label has some very unfortunate implications for those human right things, I always get the image of a very stern thespian refusing to stop his pantomime in my mind after reading the phrase.  In particular, I find it interesting that the definition of a terrorist has undergone such a dramatic change from one that kind of makes sense to one that really doesn’t and just seems convenient for those who want to be able to kill American citizens without due process and start wars without Congressional approval.  

Of course, if we actually read the definition of terrorism, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that state-sponsored terrorism isn’t just something that Iran or Saudi Arabia do, and that our country and many others engage in it regularly via security agencies and covert military operations.  Understandably, our politicians prefer not to think of themselves as authorizing terrorism or participating in and supporting materially a system that routinely does so, and as a result they are reluctant to use the dictionary definition of terrorism.  If they did so, they might have to lie in the bed they have made, an uncomfortable situation no doubt.  They would probably see confronting their own cognitive dissonance as torturous.

Speaking of torture, it’s amazing what counts as torture these days.  I’ve heard people call their linear algebra homework, their workout routine, or merely listening to politicians torture.  That last one is only torture if you try to rationally evaluate everything they say and fact check it.  If you don’t think about it, it’s mostly harmless.  Far from harmless are what are known affectionately by those who do not have to endure them as enhanced interrogation techniques.  They make your linear algebra homework and your brutal workout look like good clean sporting fun.

Perhaps someday we will hold our elected officials accountable for the atrocities committed against our language and our fellow human beings in the name of our freedom.  Until then, I suspect that they will continue to abuse our language and our fellow human beings with equal persistence.

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18 Responses to The War on Words: Terrorists and Torture

  1. I believe Orwell’s essay on language should be mandatory reading. al-Awlaki is something I do not really consider as some sort of encroachment on U.S. citizens as he was a dual-citizen (Yemen). And his allegiance was not with Americans. However, I do concede that other measures of the past two administrations have been pushing boundaries that need to be recognized as dangerous to individual liberty.

  2. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @SolidStateTheory – You’ll have no disagreements from me on putting Orwell in the school curriculum.  And there are indeed good arguments for treating al-Awlaki as a non-citizen and I’ll even agree with some of them.  The Obama administration simply didn’t bother using them, instead appealing to the notion that bringing him to trial would just be too much of a bother and that killing him was much more doable.  That’s not the sort of thinking we should be accepting from our executive branch or anyone else engaged in law enforcement activities.

  3. Kellsbella says:

    Sadly, one must fact check the fact checkers.Oh, my opinion on al-Awlaki? Same as an RNC spokesperson:

  4. Bels_Kaylar says:

    but aren’t we back to that basic of basics, education, or keeping oneself educated? because my first reaction, is to agree, that words are being misused (you and i have already mentioned Chomsky, Lakoff). then second reaction kicks in, seeing that someone will disagree with the way i use words i.e. poetic license :). back to basics, education or maybe, vigilance re how words are being used to influence me. there are whole colleges, think tanks, foundations and/or at least classes re this, yes? now. how to keep the consumer nation vigilant.

  5. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Bels_Kaylar – Education really is the root of it.  I try to contribute via my blog and my conversations with my friends who are willing to engage on political issues.  I chose not to teach in public schools because they really weren’t interested in education, and I am.

  6. Bels_Kaylar says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – our own John Keating πŸ˜‰  again, i say ‘glad you’re here’. hope your friends/colleagues appreciate thee, too. 

  7. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @Bels_Kaylar – Hehe.  Hopefully I am not going to exemplify John Keating by getting fired amidst a tragic scandal.  Thanks for the encouragement, and I think they do at times. 

  8. AOK4WAY says:

    Interesting entry, insightful point of view, and engaging dialogue afterward… well done I noted general agreement that education is the key, but even the word “education” has come to mean something other than what it once did. Rather than teaching students to think, we teach them to feel, and rather than teaching them knowledge, we propagandize and indoctrinate them. Education is indeed the answer, most directly because it is the problem!

  9. Bels_Kaylar says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – uh, yes, i meant the positive part of the Keating story πŸ˜‰ (yay, glad you did ‘plug’ thing, so wanting more xangans to see you.)

  10. Bels_Kaylar says:

    @AOK4WAY – agreed, re ‘education’ has become…something else. my point in bringing up the character, john keating, was that he was teaching them to think, to consider other points of view, to have their own point of view, instead of marching along with the pack. now, how to reform Education in this country? 

  11. AOK4WAY says:

    @Bels_Kaylar – Simple answer to a complex question: Educate kids, don’t raise them. Educational policies and practices, and later court decisions supporting them, have demoted parents to co-raisers of children with the state, and that’s where the problem lies.

  12. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @AOK4WAY – Thanks.  I like your point that education has to be the answer because it is the problem.  Well put.

  13. BroDoc says:

    This was very good Bro. Tony, thank you for posting it. Bro. doc

  14. dw817 says:

    Where’s Ironman ?? I thought you were gonna talk about all his cool gadgets and stuff.

  15. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @dw817 – That’s not a bad idea.  Now that I’m working on a technology degree, that could be a good series of posts to write.  Iron Man has always been my favorite Marvel character from when I was very young.@BroDoc – Many thanks for the good feedback. 

  16. dw817 says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – Well yah lemme know when you write it all huh ? And don’t forget Star Trek cause they got cool gadgets and stuff too ya know ! Φ

  17. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @dw817 – Will do!@Bels_Kaylar – Requiring the children of our elected officials to attend public schools in the bottom 3% in terms of academic performance might generate the necessary urgency.

  18. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @ahmd1432@ireallylikefood – I appreciate that you might wish to educate folks on Islam.  I’m just not sure why you’re posting it here.  I didn’t make reference to Islam in my post.  In light of that, can you explain why you posted that set of links?

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