Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dear terrorist: You throw like a girl

The Chronicle of Higher Education has taken a bold stance against terrorism. The Chron says it's okay to call terrorists insulting names.

Carlin Romano, a "teacher of philosophy and media theory" at the University of Pennsylvania, says it's a mistake to be too nice when describing suicide bombers and others in that class of "folks," as our president might say.
… if the admirable part of political correctness is that one shouldn't utter unsupportable, reactionary ethnic, gender, or other generalizations, that principle is misapplied in the case of terrorists, who are picked out for condemnation by their acts alone. Aren't "bastards," "scum," and so on precisely the right terms for people who seek to maim and kill presumably innocent others to make a political point?
Yes, Carlin, although I'm a scrap puzzled by the word "unsupportable" in your prohibition of politically incorrect generalizations. Are supportable reactionary ethnic, gender, or other generalizations permitted? Isn't "bastards" a slur on the children of otherwise-cohabiting parents? What "other" generalizations should one not utter?

I think that can be easily answered from the article. You can call them "savages, scum, and uncivilized losers." (Although, unfortunately, "losers" may be an unsupportable "other" generalization.) Notice, though, how carefully he tiptoes around using the word Muslims. Unless I missed one, its only occurrence is in the sentence, "Let's mention just one key goal: the education of the world's Muslim youth."

That is, while you can use various nasty names in connection with terrorists, you must not notice that these acts which Romano deplores are performed in aid of advancing Islam and making random infidels convincingly dead. The explosives craftsmen must be "picked out for condemnation by their acts alone." Such uncivilized losers are very naughty boys and girls. Probably had a poor upbringing. But "their acts alone" have nothing to do with the Religion of Peace.

Romano quotes from H.W. Fowler (whose famous Modern English Usage has, incidentally, been sabotaged by subsequent editors) for a definition of euphemism: "mild or vague or periphrastic expression as a substitute for blunt precision or disagreeable truth." Romano knows how that works.

No comments: