Thursday, August 10, 2006

Politics and the English Language

Via Yahoo:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Muslim groups criticized President Bush on Thursday for calling a foiled plot to blow up airplanes part of a "war with Islamic fascists," saying the term could inflame anti-Muslim tensions.
Sixty years ago, George Orwell wrote in his famed essay, "Politics and the English Language":
The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.
Incidentally, I recommend all incoming 1Ls, and anyone else who has an interest in improving his or her writing, to read the essay.

Labels:

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also a bit curious insofar as "fascism" refers to a form of government, and the Al Queda terrorists are pretty much the exact opposite of a government; ratheh, they're trying to destroy most governments.

Google defines it thus: "A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."

I might give Bush the term to describe the war against Hezbollah, given their strangehold on Southern Lebanon.

I might even grant the term to describe a good portion of Middle Easter governments (also targets of Al Queda).

But to describe the terrorists as fascists strains belief.

8/10/2006 5:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

I agree. One of the better essays you can read in our lovely language.

In this case... the application is, I agree, dubious. I think what validates it is that if, and I mean, if OBL took control of a nation, its governement would be a facist one. Nonetheless, I agree, it;s an abuse of fthe term.

8/10/2006 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NEWS FLASH! President Bush doesn't use English vocabulary correctly!

Thanks for breaking this story. I will listen to further pronouncements from the president with a healthy dose of skepticism. Who knows, step one may be just mangling the English language, but step two could be something far more nefarious ... e.g., misspeaking.

8/11/2006 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One need not have a state to support fascism.

The more apt question is whether those referred to as Islamist fascists would support a system described by the previously quoted definition.

"A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism"

Replace 'government' with 'religion,' and the attribution of the term 'fascist' (inasmuch as the word can be taken to mean 'would support a fascist system') to terrorists is relatively accurate, and does not strain belief.

America's founders were republicans (in the classical sense of the word) before they had actually established a republic.

8/28/2006 12:25 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home