Monday, December 29, 2008

Terrorism and The English Language*

* Apologies to everyone who used that title before I did, particularly Lorraine and Anna. I've been writing this thing for years, so messed up on giving appropriate credits. However, the fact George Orwell's essay needs more publicity needs no apology.NK

Update:  January 2014.  Just discovered this first use in December 2001 in a thoughtful essay by John Pavlus.

There are a lot of people who are screwing around with the English language, generally to create what I believe the CIA refers to as "mindfuck".

Quite a few of such people seem to have axes to grind in Afghanistan, where foreign military forces (generally referred to as "NATO", "ISAF", "Coalition forces", or "UN mandated forces") are fighting people who are usually called "insurgents", "militants" or "Taliban". The fight is framed, often literally, as The Good Guys vs. The Bad Guys.

As Orwell said: "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." The current Afghan military operations could also be framed as the Afghan "resistance" fighting to rid their homeland of "foreign occupation troops". It looks quite different that way round. I'm not saying it's one way or the other, only that it's probably not one way or the other, it's more complicated.

So I wrote this thing Terrorism and The English Language which is a rip-off of Orwell's "Politics and The English Language", but Orwell's magazine has gone out of business. George, however, is on the web. So if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me, and having been rejected by respected journals like Harper's, Walrus, Frank etc., I decided to post it myself**. There are indeed problems about publishing things without proper editing or peer review, but as has been shown vividly over the past eight years, there is also a problem publishing things in respected journals like the New York Times, whose editing of Judy Miller seriously misled the entire population of the United States. And there is also a big problem in not publishing critical reviews of the "rationale" for say, the Iraq invasion, critical reviews easily available on the web and, as it turned out, entirely accurate.

**The embedded links on Google Docs somehow disappeared in the Great Google Blogger Meltdown of 2011. I shall restore these links in the fulness of time. They exist. It is not possible to make this stuff up.

I wrote to Orwell in high dudgeon.