FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

How Euphemisms Absolve Pillage and Mass Murder

Obama’s election in 2008 marked a new dawn for hundreds of millions of people looking to an eloquent, constitutional lawyer for “Hope” and “Change” in America. However, it quickly became apparent that Obama had little substance beyond the slogans branded by his campaign.

With a little more than a year left in his presidency, his milquetoast legacy has been embodied by his greatest skill: wordcraft. Obama’s team has continued, if not exacerbated, most Bush era policies, simply rebranding them in order to appease and confuse the public into compliance.

One of the first things his administration did was declare an end to the “War on Terror” that the Bush sociopaths launched worldwide. Turns out, all they wanted to do was stop calling it a “War on Terror,” making clear that any further military involvement abroad would simply be called “Overseas Contingency Operations.” Six plus years later, and the Nobel Peace Prize winning president now has bombing campaigns in seven different countries under his belt.

And the casualties of the empire’s plunders? Collateral damage.

There are also new terms for war. When US and NATO bombed the hell out of Libya resulting in the failed state we see today, it wasn’t a war. No, it was merely a “Kinetic Military Action,” according to government officials.

Torture is now “enhanced interrogation techniques”, and the act of kidnapping and exporting torture is simply called extraordinary rendition.

Whenever the administration sends predator drones to bomb people around the world, they are just “surgical strikes” targeting “militants”. However, simply being military aged male constitutes someone as a militant, and according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, less than 4 percent of drone victims in Pakistan are officially listed as al Qaeda.

When Obama’s cabinet dropped the term “enemy combatant”, it was a purely symbolic move to distance itself away from the Bush Guantanamo era. Unfortunately, over 140 men still remain rotting away in the notorious prison despite what they’re now called on paper. And when these prisoners go on a hunger strike, it’s now called a “long term non-religious fast”.

As journalist Glenn Greenwald reminds us, altering the names of policies doesn’t change the fact that they’re still happening:

“The Obama administration…makes only the most cosmetic and inconsequential changes – designed to generate headlines misleadingly depicting a significant reversal – while, in fact, retaining the crux of Bush’s extremist detention theory.”

Obviously this rebranding tactic wasn’t invented by Obama’s PR team. Propaganda was propelled with the advent of PR genius Edward Bernays and later Nazi mastermind Joseph Goebbels, whose powerful techniques have been perfected and employed for decades by governments worldwide. Disturbing Newspeak phrases that absolve their pillaging and mass murder have permeated society and warped our interpretation of reality.

The term “Mowing the Lawn” is what governments say to allude to the literal mowing down of civilians. Shockingly, the callous term has been used not only by Israeli military commanders in reference to the recent bloodbath of Palestinians, but it’s also been used by Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser Bruce Riedel who said this about drone strikes:

“You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.”

If you think that’s bad, officials also use the cute phrase “Shake ‘n Bake” to refer to using banned white phosphorus before blowing up people with high grade explosives. Administrators also think so lowly of the people they’re killing with flying robots that they brutishly call them “bug splats”.

Beyond war, in today’s cut throat capitalist world overrun by neoliberal doctrine, there’s a language of dehumanization employed towards everything, spoken among the elite class and policy heads in order to keep things running efficiently.

As the Guardian points out, the term “cleansing the stock” is actually used to describe excess human beings by parliamentarians. After all, you can’t afford to actually feel emotion, empathy or sorrow for the paupers at the bottom of the totem pole.

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to the natural world, the language is even more crude. According to journalist George Monbiot,

“Nature is “natural capital”. Ecological processes are ecosystem services, because their only purpose is to serve us. Hills, forests and rivers are described in government reports as green infrastructure. Wildlife and habitats are asset classes in an ecosystems market. Fish populations are invariably described as stocks, as if they exist only as moveable assets from which wealth can be extracted – like disabled recipients of social security.”

All of these devaluing terms have seeped into mainstream consciousness, dutifully repeated by media figures and then, by us.

Words hold tremendous power, and if we don’t reclaim our language and start seeing people instead of “militants”, drone victims instead of “bug splats”, or natural splendor instead of “green infrastructure”, then the voiceless are destined to be silenced forever.

Abby Martin is an artist, activist and journalist whose work can be viewed at http://www.mediaroots.org/. She currently works as a correspondent, writer and host of RT America’s Breaking the Set.

 

 

More articles by:

Abby Martin is an artist, activist and journalist whose work can be viewed at http://www.mediaroots.org/. She currently works as a correspondent, writer and host of RT America’s Breaking the Set.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 19, 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor
Kenneth Surin
In China Again
Stephen Cooper
Abolishing the Death Penalty Requires Morality
George Ochenski
The DNC Can’t Be Allowed to Ignore the Climate Crisis
John W. Whitehead
The Omnipresent Surveillance State
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
Guaidó’s Star Fades as His Envoys to Colombia Allegedly Commit Fraud With Humanitarian Funds for Venezuela
Dave Lindorff
What About Venezuela’s Hacked Power Grid?
Howard Lisnoff
Try Not to Look Away
Binoy Kampmark
Matters of Water: Dubious Approvals and the Adani Carmichael Mine
Karl Grossman
The Battle to Stop the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, Revisited
Kani Xulam
Farting in a Turkish Mosque
Dean Baker
New Manufacturing Jobs are Not Union Jobs
Elizabeth Keyes
“I Can’t Believe Alcohol Is Stronger Than Love”
June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail