Democratic Underground

Escaping the Echo Chamber
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 Zone.

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 faith-based initiatives).

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: compassionate conservative).

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) methods.

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 fun.

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 terminology?

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.


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