Entry from April 16, 2013

On Magic Words. . .

. . . Or words with the power to create their own reality.

Take for instance “Women.” A now notorious tweet from Amanda Marcotte about the Gosnell trial reads: “Man, the feeding frenzy over Gosnell is a sobering reminder of how much hatred there is out there towards women.” She means that outrage over the MAN who (allegedly) murdered numerous women and new-born babies should be seen as a manifestation of hatred towards WOMEN. How does that work, exactly? Because the word “women” as she (and many others) use it has the ideologically specialized sense of “women who believe in an absolute right of abortion at any stage of pregnancy and even after it.” Of course the word is used as if it meant what it used to mean, and still means to most people, in most contexts, namely a female human being of adult years. This allows the feminist ideologue to portray women who have a different opinion on the subject of abortion as, somehow, not proper women. In the same spirit, Gloria Steinem once called Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson “a female impersonator” for being insufficiently zealous in supporting legalized abortion. This would be incomprehensible without our knowledge of the alchemical process which the word “women” has undergone with the help of feminist ideology.

The Gosnell trial may also prove to have allowed at least a partial rehabilitation of the old word, “abortionist,” long since taboo for journalists, who uniformly, even on the pro-life side, prefer “abortion doctor.” Now I notice that James Taranto’s characteristically brilliant piece about the Gosnell trial and the media’s reaction to it, refers to the quondam “abortion doctor,” Kermit Gosnell, as an “abortionist,” as does a photo caption accompanying the same article. Perhaps we shall have to have yet another quasi-theological argument, analogous to that over the question of when an abortable life becomes a non-abortable life, on the subject of how many live, post-partum babies you are permitted to kill before you make the fatal transition from being an “abortion doctor” to being an “abortionist”?

And then there’s “torture.” Today’s New York Times headlines: “U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes.” That review sounds pretty partisan to me, but it must also have been the least laborious investigation in history. For the moment the reviewers decided to use the word “torture” to describe what had been done by “U.S.” it magically became torture, since that is one of those self-validating words — like “abortionist,” to choose an example at random — that cannot be used in a nonpartisan way. All you have to do is pick something someone you don’t like is doing to an enemy, call it “torture” and there’s your conclusion. U.S. Practiced Torture. But does this use of words actually add to the sum of our knowledge about what the U.S. does — or did? “News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials’ claims that they were not,” says the Times. Just so. But they stopped wrestling some time ago and adopted the language of the antiwar left, as the “review” has now done too. Big news.

Finally, there is “austerity.” Once again, it is The New York Times which brings us the news: “Europe Split Over Austerity as a Path to Growth.” Actually, Europe is split over austerity period — as is U.S. But add to the word “the path to growth” and you get something that tilts the argument in favor of the anti-austerity faction. For the unspoken term in the debate is non-austerity as a path to growth — that is, what used to be called “reflation” and, more recently, has variously been called “stimulus” or “quantitative easing.” These Keynesian measures have been tried, both in Europe and U.S., and have not provided much of a path to growth, which was the purpose for which they were tried. Therefore, their advocates have been driven back on accusing the advocates of the alternative, which the Keynesians call “austerity,” of not providing a path to growth either, as if austerity’s purpose were the same as that of reflation. But advocates of “austerity,” who usually do not call it that themselves, have a different purpose, which is to reduce indebtedness so as to provide a firmer economic base for growth in a subsequent phase of the process. The headline thus gives us a misleading idea of the nature of the “split”, but one which favors the view of the forces opposed to “austerity.”

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