Friday, September 26, 2014

Euphemisms: The Euthanasia of Words

One must really hand it to President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron for their anti-ISIS speeches at the U.N. on Wednesday: They managed to condemn ISIS, or the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, without much uttering the words “Islam” and “Muslim.”

Not once did Cameron in his UN speech mention “Islam,” but rather “Islamist extremism,” surely a redundancy in terms. He did, however, utter “Muslims” or “Muslim” five times. The rest of his speech stressed that other Muslims were also being killed by the “extremists” and, echoing George W. Bush from nearly a decade and a half ago, indicated that ISIS had “hijacked” Islam, thus exonerating Islam.  He mentioned “evil” once, at the end of his speech.

Did Hitler “hijack” Nazism? Did Stalin “hijack” Communism? Did Ruhollah Khomeini “hijack” Islam?

Obama mentioned “evil” once, also, and uttered “Islam” four times. From him we heard the usual puffery about Islam being benign and peaceful and the cornerstone of Western civilization, and repeated his assurances (to Muslims) that we are not at war with Islam. It’s a statement he made in Cairo and in Ankara, Turkey (“In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. “) It’s an “extremist ideology” that has declared war on the West, it’s the “violent extremists” who are responsible for the thousands of deaths and the carnage, not Islam itself, implying that Islam is just a hapless spectator to horrific crimes, and not the perpetrator of them.

Obama will not acknowledge that Islam is nothing if not “extremist” or “radical” or “violent.” However: Islam is as Islam does. That is the immutable fact which Obama and his ilk disguise in their patter of dhimmitude, multiculturalism, and moral relativism.

One can even pronounce a proscribed word and not mean that it has any connection to reality or the word’s actual meaning. Obama has made a rhetorical career of it.

Obama will throw a tantrum and berate his military advisors if they try to “paint all of Islam with the same brush.” That is, as a conquering, murdering, raping, looting ideology, as ISIS is and does. If the future indeed does not belong to those who “slander” the prophet of Islam – that is, identify Mohammad as the conquering, murdering, raping, looter he was, provided he actually existed – then the West is cooked per halal style, with our throats cut with knives or machetes we handed to our executioners , our property looted, our womenfolk sold off as sex slaves and concubines, and our children enrolled in politically correct madrassas.

Denial, willful ignorance, wishful thinking: the hallmarks of our age. If you know the truth about ISIS and Islam, as Obama does, and deny the truth, that is to side with Islam and ISIS.   Cameron is merely a knee-knocking fool, whose middle name must be ostrich.

Everyone but a semi-literate dolt reading the British press knows that the term “Asian,” when it occurs in a story about the Pakistani grooming gangs or an attack on white Britons, stands for the prohibited and unmentionable term “Muslim.” But it isn’t only careless usage of the term “Muslim” which could incur judicial disapprobation, jail time, and financial and personal penalties, but the wrath of Muslims over their “outraged religious feelings” or the alleged imputation of their ethnicity, as though mentioning a criminal’s Islamic affiliation was tantamount to expressing one’s “racism.”

Euphemisms, except in certain, defined circumstances (such as in dramatic dialogue, or in lyrics or poetry, or in humor), are corruptors of language and of minds. Euphemisms are not metaphors or similes for anything.  Their purpose is to disguise facts, not serve as guides to facts or as a means of clarification. Their primary purpose is to help a mind evade perceiving and dealing with reality. A euphemism used in dramatic dialogue can be justified if it stresses a disguised fact; but there is no justification for employing a euphemism when dealing with reality.

Politically correct writing and speech employ euphemisms by the dozen (see my two columns on the subject, “The Ghouls of Grammatical Egalitarianism” and “Thought Crime: The Logical End of Politically Correct Speech”) and a mind that consciously, habitually employs them is either epistemologically corrupt or in the process of becoming corrupt. The malady is reversible by choice, and so is not irreversible except in the most corrupt minds. An act of volition is necessary to cure oneself of the habit.

Here is an example of a not-so-complex euphemism, one employed by federal nutrition “experts” and the education bureaucracy: “Managed choice,” meaning an authoritarian desire to force Americans to choose what they, the bureaucrats, consider to be “healthy diets,” and to force parents and their children to associate with others in schools and neighborhoods, whether or not  they wish to associate with them. “Managed choice,” however, is a contradiction in terms.

Suppose one said to you: “The situation here is pure anarchy!” How would you interpret the statement? First, what is the definition of anarchy? The Oxford English Dictionary lists four possible meanings. And what is the context? Is one referring to a food fight in a school cafeteria? Is it a metaphor on the contents of someone’s mind or about a bizarre argument? Is the speaker referring to an “absence of government” or a “state of lawlessness”? A collapse of civil authority?

The purpose of euphemisms in any political, moral, or cultural discussion is to deny reality by denying words of their meanings. “Workplace violence,” a particularly egregious evasion of facts coined by former Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano with the approval of Barack Obama, is another euphemism for Islamic jihad.   

Allow me to demonstrate the employment of metaphors, but not of euphemisms.

Euphemisms are fig leaves for those uncomfortable with reality, and political correctness in speech and the written word demands that everyone affix them to their own minds, else be charged with indecent exposure. Euphemisms are the ObamaCare death panel for language. Words are buried alive, or injected with the poison of subjectivism. Censorship is the “managed choice” of language.

There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? The last sentence, however, was an example of a metaphor employing a euphemism against itself. A censor, however, will not warn you to “Choose your words carefully,” but rather to “Choose my words carefully.”

Because euphemisms are words, let us hear from an expert on language and words, novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand, who rarely, if ever, employed euphemisms. Here she discusses the origin and purpose of language:

In order to be used as a single unit, the enormous sum integrated by a concept has to be given the form of a single, specific, perceptual concrete, which will differentiate it from all other concretes and from all other concepts. This is the function performed by language. Language is a code of visual-auditory symbols that serves the psycho-epistemological function of converting concepts into the mental equivalent of concretes. Language is the exclusive domain and tool of concepts. Every word we use (with the exception of proper names) is a symbol that denotes a concept, i.e., that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind….

Concepts represent a system of mental filing and cross-filing, so complex that the largest electronic computer is a child’s toy by comparison. This system serves as the context, the frame-of-reference, by means of which man grasps and classifies (and studies further) every existent he encounters and every aspect of reality. Language is the physical (visual-audible) implementation of this system….

Concepts and, therefore, language are primarily a tool of cognition—not of communication, as is usually assumed. Communication is merely the consequence, not the cause nor the primary purpose of concept-formation—a crucial consequence, of invaluable importance to men, but still only a consequence. Cognition precedes communication ; the necessary pre-condition of communication is that one have something to communicate.

The habitual or congenital usage of euphemisms, therefore, reflects a desire to emasculate one’s own cognition and the deliberate attempt to divert or con the cognition of others.

What is the origin of modern Euphemism-Speak? Linguistic Analysis and a hyena’s litter of minor theories about language. Rand wrote:

There is an element of grim irony in the emergence of Linguistic Analysis on the philosophical scene. The assault on man’s conceptual faculty has been accelerating since Kant, widening the breach between man’s mind and reality. The cognitive function of concepts was undercut by a series of grotesque devices—such, for instance, as the “analytic-synthetic” dichotomy which, by a route of tortuous circumlocutions and equivocations, leads to the dogma that a “necessarily” true proposition cannot be factual, and a factual proposition cannot be “necessarily” true….

The reductio ad absurdum of a long line of mini-Kantians, such as pragmatists and positivists, Linguistic Analysis holds that words are an arbitrary social product immune from any principles or standards, an irreducible primary not subject to inquiry about its origin or purpose—and that we can “dissolve” all philosophical problems by “clarifying” the use of these arbitrary, causeless, meaningless sounds which hold ultimate power over reality. . . .

Proceeding from the premise that words (concepts) are created by whim, Linguistic Analysis offers us a choice of whims: individual or collective. It declares that there are two kinds of definitions: “stipulative,” which may be anything anyone chooses, and “reportive,” which are ascertained by polls of popular use.

  In other words, fifty million Frenchmen can be right, individually, or collectively – but never wrong. That’s what euphemisms can do to language, any language, distill words into meaningless symbols. Which does not facilitate communication between men.

What rushes in to fill that vacuum is the euphemistic babble of Obama and countless other politicians, academics, and their fellow travelers in the cult of “speaking in tongues.”

2 comments:

mattbarrow said...

Great comprehensive article.

I took me four reads and four Advil for it all to sink in.

One euphamism I like is, "Campaign contributions" as a euphamism for bribes.

Now, many are just trying to fund a preferred candidate. Some Joe in Kansas supporting his favorite candidate with a $20 donation is a good example of a proper political process.

The Koch brothers supporting Free Market organizations is another, given a free market makes their job more difficult. Tom Styer (sp?), on the other hand, is a cronyist who is heavily invested in (another euphemism) "Clean Energy".

As Walter Williams and many others have pointed out, there wouldn't be the big money in politics if there was nothing to buy. So let us quit kidding ourselves ("kidding", another euphemism).

Edward Cline said...

Mattbarrow: Thanks for the compliment. If you're familiar with Shakespeare, you'll note that countless English and foreign terms are employed in the dialogue as euphemisms, which later became normal terms in the English language. Shakespeare's plays, more than any others of his time, overhauled the language in a generation after his death.