Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Linguicide Bombers

Eugene Volokh has a post (several, actually) on how Foxing retarded it is for Faux News to use the phrase "Homicide Bombers" rather than "Suicide Bombers" when referring to suicide bombers. It is pure gimmickry, end of story, and has aggravated me for years.

Why does Mr. Ailes insist his employees use "Homicide Bombers" exclusively? Maybe it's because he thinks that "Suicide" connotes too much sympathy for the terrorists who perpetrate such deeds. (I wouldn't have picked him as an afficianado of The Bell Jar, but who knows?) Or maybe it's for the same lameass reason he used to have his minions drive around the block of the first-story, plate-glass-windowed CNN morning studio in New York in a truck with a giant "Fox News" sign on it (i.e., he is a student of the Ringling Brothers business model.)

The phenomenon of the Kamikaze did not emerge until late in WWII. There were plenty of Japanese combat pilots who risked death to kill Americans before that, but generally they did not purposely end their own lives in the course of an attack. Had Fox News been around in 1945, would they have refused to distinguish between a) the established Japanese air attack practices with which our troops had been contending since Pearl Harbor, and b) the emerging paradigm of pilots who planned on not returning at all, but taking as many Allied troops to the grave with them as they could?

The great William F. Buckley opines that words exist due to what economists call a 'felt need' among their users. In other words, if there is a small town with no pizza parlor, and enough townsfolk want pizza, then sooner or later there will be a pizza place. Similarly, if users of a language demand a certain level of specificity, then the language will evolve to meet that demand. And stuff. If the function of the language is to convey information efficiently, and you want to be a part of that conveyance, why say "homicide" for "suicide?" Tim McViegh and Ted Kaczynski were homicide bombers, but not suicide bombers. They are different types of enemies than Mohammed Atta and crew. The transfer of information is made less efficient when the adjective "suicide" is omitted. What's the last time you heard of someone attempting to kill himself and only himself with a bomb? Not only that, but since the definition of homicide is simply the killing of one person by another, regardless of justification, Fox's deliberate inspecificity has now put Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable in the same category as al Qaeda.

This is the exact same thing Big Brother was orchestrating in 1984. Words were systematically eliminated from the vocabulary, so that the masses would be left with fewer ways in which to organize their thoughts, and consequently, yada yada yada. Check out Orwell's 1946 essay Politics and the English Language for more. Also, see the new Complete Newspeak Dictionary link in the sidebar.


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