Escaping the Echo
March 22, 2001
By Susan Sigandres
I cannot be the first person driven to distraction by the
Bush regime's contortion of the English language. I can no
longer keep track of the junta's new usages of familiar words,
let alone keep pace with all the euphemisms. English words
already have multiple shades of meaning - they emphatically
do NOT need more layers of implication. Worse still, these
nonsensical words and phrases keep getting repeated over and
over in the newspapers, on the radio, on television. It's
like living in an echo chamber that exists only in the Twilight
Enough! Why should we on the left put up with this abuse
of our language? Why should the junta tell us that words have
new meanings when all their string pulling can't control the
gloriously inarticulate puppet they call their leader? We
should insist on clarity, and failing to get satisfaction
from the regime on this account, we should feel free to re-phrase
things so that they make sense to us.
Henceforth, I propose that the White House Office of Faith-Based
Initiatives be referred to as the "national religious program."
Following are some usage examples:
Bush is spending $10 billion of taxpayer dollars to fund
his national religious program (strike out: office of
Even many spiritual leaders have expressed doubt about
Bush's national religious program (strike out: office
of faith-based initiatives).
Before he became head of the new national religious program
(strike out: office of faith-based initiatives), John DiIulio
was known mostly for his theory that someday soon, marauding
bands of violent youth would take to the streets and make
life hard for businessmen and other types of people.
See how clear things become just by changing a name? We don't
even need to know the specific details of this program because
the name says it all.
Next, compassionate conservatism. The saddest part about
this phrase is that it isn't a tautology. Let's give compassionate
conservatism a new name, one that will better convey the regime's
ideology. I propose that we substitute "compassionate conservatism"
with "right-wing extremism." Thus:
John Ashcroft is a right-wing extremist (strike out:
The national religious program is an outgrowth of right-wing
extremism (strike out: compassionate conservatism).
You see how everything's starting to make much more sense?
Let's try another one. Why don't we substitute the word "intolerance"
whenever the junta uses the word "character."
Bush is a man of strong intolerance (strike out: character).
If you look into Gail Norton's heart, you will see a woman
of intolerance (strike out: character).
The nationalized religious program, an outgrowth of right-wing
extremism, seeks to help those in need by funding organizations
that have strong intolerance-building (strike out: character-building)
There is every reason in the world for us to redefine the
junta's terminology in our terms. In fact, it demonstrates
that we on the left are making every effort to cooperate with
the right. After all, we jumped right on the nicknaming bandwagon
as soon as we found out that Shrub likes nicknames. Now, we
can play along with the right's word game! And, hey, if we
don't cooperate with the word game, we miss out on all the
All that remains is for our leadership to make a concerted
effort to define conservative terminology in ways that we,
their liberal constituents, will be sure to understand. I
want Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt to publicly state their
objections to Bush's tax cut for the rich by referring to
this outlandish proposal as "Bush's tax cut for the rich."
Daschle and Gephardt should absolutely go on camera and say,
"Bush's tax cut for the rich lets a rich person buy a Lexus,
a middle-class person buy a muffler, and a poor person buy
nothing" and "The Democratic Party is offering an alternative
to Bush's tax cut for the rich" and "The other side of the
aisle has shown its true colors by supporting Bush's tax cut
for the rich."
I want Terry McAuliffe to take a leadership role in defining
junta euphemisms for the left. The conservatives have all
these twisted minds at rabid-right organizations with nothing
better to do than sit around thinking up new ways to corrupt
our language. And once the minions get their "phrase of the
day," they spew it all over the airwaves. Why can't Terry
respond to this by establishing an "Office to Counter Unintelligence"
at DNC headquarters that can translate the right wing extremist
Of course he can. And this kind of efficient centralization
will prevent our own terminology from becoming too diffused,
as has happened with our nicknames for Bush. Our Counter Unintelligence
Office can clear up any confusion by giving us appropriate
terms for new additions to the conservative lexicon. That
way, we will immediately understand the latest outrage the
junta is attempting to perpetrate.
Once we are so informed, the corporate-owned, right-wing
U.S. press becomes irrelevant and we can just tune it out.
We can let the right's twisted words echo until they dissipate
into thin air, never having heard their words ourselves.