The “euphemizing” of America

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Why do we so easily accept words and phrases that inaccurately, but perhaps more pleasantly, describe less-than-pleasant things or concepts or actions? While some euphemisms are relatively innocuous (water closet instead of toilet; passed away instead of died), many are far more insidious. Why has it been so easy for organizations such as the Pentagon and corporations to make up jargon to explain, or to explain away, their unethical, dishonest, greedy actions? I am sick to death of it, and the connection between Republican talking points and corporate talking points is like white on rice. Must be because the connection between Republican power and corporate power is equally inseparable.

When did this crap start? When did we begin to allow such dishonesty in our public discourse, and in our corporate-speak? Immanuel Kant said, “Honesty is better than any policy,” but we surely don’t seem to believe that, in either the political arena or the military-industrial complex.

The one that always makes me want to throw a brick through my teevee machine is “friendly fire.” I remember there was a made-for-TV movie with that title, starring Carol Burnett, when I was a kid, and that was the first time I heard the phrase. WTF are we thinking when we allow the military to cover up its mistakes with this crap? It’s not just innocuous-sounding, it almost sounds…well…friendly. Like a sociable gathering around some flaming logs, with marshmallows and hot chocolate. Why don’t we insist on calling what it is: a major fuck-up that killed our own people? Or take “collateral damage.” Yes, it can refer to the destruction of buildings and other infrastructure, as a result of bombing or other war activities, but it also refers to the killing of innocent civilians. Or the popular, “non-operative personnel.” In other words, dead soldiers. How much less tolerant would we be of the actions taken by our government if we named these actions accurately? I think the American people would be much more outraged if they heard honest language regarding the results of war, and if they saw the flag-draped coffins coming back home, containing the bodies of those “non-operative personnel.” And apparently, “peace” has become a dirty word, with almost a reverse euphemism used for that, as if military personnel are afraid to speak it, for fear that people might decide it’s a good idea. Instead, they use the twisted permanent pre-hostility. Let’s start calling these things what they are, starting with the Department of War, currently known as the Department of Defense. If we had a Department of Peace, maybe we’d be more intentional about seeking it and working towards it. And getting rid of the useless, clueless, unelected George W. Bush, and his Orwellian outlook (remember “When we’re talkin’ about war, we’re really talkin’ about peace” idiocy?) will be a step in the right direction.

In corporate America, I listen to euphemisms every day. We accept “downsizing” because it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as putting people out of work in order to have a positive impact on the bottom line. They say, “You need to be a team player,” and they mean, “You need to kiss up to the folks in certain positions on the org chart.” They say, “You need to see the big picture,” and they mean, “Accept the fact that management is always right, and you, the employee, are always wrong.” “Keep the lines of communication open” should be heard as, “Work under the kindergarten, tattletale mentality, and rat out your co-workers so we can limit their pay. If you don’t it’s YOUR pay that will be limited since we won’t know who else to blame.” Corporations also use the reverse euphemism. Unable to call a pay bump a “raise,” since it really is not anything close to a real increase in what one takes home on one’s paycheck, they call it “an opportunity for a monetary increase” which, if it happens, is on paper only.

Then of course we have the out-and-out whoredom of the mainstream media, and particularly the shills at Fox. E.D. Hill’s questioning whether the Barack/Michelle affectionate fist-bump were really a ‘terrorist fist jab’ is just one small example; I won’t go into some of the vile filth spewed by the likes of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, Ingraham, et al.

In the political sphere, and also in the corporate world, I think the non-apology apology is one of the most egregious misuses of language. News flash, folks: “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “I’m sorry IF anyone was offended by ___” are not apologies. At best, they are acknowledgements of the feelings of some other person or group of people; at worst, they are accusations that the person or group of people is too thin-skinned.

Any time I hear that kind of phrasing coming out of someone’s mouth, whether that of a politician, or the tender-toed, territorial twit who happens to be my boss, my estimation of that person tanks, big time. It’s part of what sunk Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate for whom I could have respect.

Let’s bring back some honesty in our language. If the words and phrases we use make us uncomfortable, it’s probably because they are supposed to. We should not be comfortable with our soldiers killing our own. We should not be comfortable with companies running GDP into the ground by limiting the purchasing power of American consumers.

We should not be comfortable with the deaths of innocent civilians in a war we shouldn’t be fighting.

Call things what they are.


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  1. The lying liars exist and will remain; we can call them on their lies, but

    tell me lies, sweet little lies

    will always seduce the nonthinking populace.

    And the no-brainers outnumber us.  When their livelihoods are affected and their families are being forced to live in the tent cities we shall call Bushburgs, they will move to the left.  One would wish they could grasp reality before that moment…but one doubts that they even know what reality is.  They have been seduced by American Idol and Survivor and the latest scandal about Britney Spears…and they never had much intellectual curiosity to begin with: that’s why they voted for GWB in 2004.

  2. It appears that things are becoming evident.  Sociopaths run the world and the words coming out of people’s mouths only put them into the proper ideological prison cells.

    The Euthanizing of America.

  3. not “contractors”.

    “Contractors” sounds like they’re serving lunch and putting in new plumbing.

  4. a book written by Frances Fitzgerald about the death of a son in Vietnam by fire from his own side.  I would need to check it but it goes way back in war history, whether or not it was coined by the Pentagon or not would make an interesting research project.

    My favorite I love to hate is ‘peacekeeper’ for a deadly nuclear warhead missile designed to rain down death and destruction on whomever it lands on, friend or foe.

    Euphemisms are our way of hiding from painful truths and show our reluctance to actually call a spade a spade (most unPC now) and look things squarely in the face. It has reduced racial dialogue to a farcical level.  The names and tags we apply to various uncomforatble subjects have become more and more ridiculous.  Personally I long to think that part of the change we can believe in is an easing of the comfort level we can all find in discussing race, religion, gender, disabilities, those who are different from what we consider the norm, as though the norm can be determined. What exactly is NORMAL? and every other social taboo in the book.

  5. Gas guzzling, air polluting SUVs have names like Sequoia or Forester.

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