Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Our Changing Language

I've noticed a couple of words changing their definitions lately.

Eco-terrorism During the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein dumped a bunch of oil into the Red Sea. This was decried as an act of "eco-terrorism" at the time. In 1991, eco-terrorism meant an act of wanton destruction of the environment. Eco-terrorism was distinguished from humans' usual mode of environmental destruction in it was not for any use (i.e. growing food, mining minerals, harvesting lumber, etc.).

Today, eco-terrorism is used to refer to the violent tactics (usually limited to destruction of property, not people, by the way)of pro-environmental groups like the Earth Liberation Front. ELF has claimed credit for firebombing various housing developments across Northern California. I believe that ELF's tactics are counterproductive for environmental causes, but they are not terrorism. They are arson. A housing development in Maryland was set on fire a couple of months ago, and it was called an act of eco-terrorism when they thought an environmental group did it. When authorities discovered that it was gang-related, it was called arson. Why is one terrorism and the other simply arson?

I predict that we will see non-violent, pro-ecology actions, such as tree-sitting, labeled eco-terrorism. That is, if it hasn't already happened.

Lame Duck A lame duck presidency historically has referred to the period of time between losing re-election in November and the inaugeration of the new president in January. It has also been used to refer to a president's last year or so of his second term, especially if Congress is controlled by the opposing party.

I have heard it used by ABC and pundits on NPR lately (and I'm sure it has been said in other media as well), in reference to Bush's entire second term. This is ridiculous! We have a Republican president, with Republican cotnrol of both houses of Congress, and many conservative judicial appointees, and we're supposed to believe that he is a lame duck, with no hope of getting anyone to listen to him.

Why? Is it simply igorance on the part of the media, or is it planned? Some will say that it it the liberal media trying to undermine Bush's authority as president. But, it is pretty clear that the media has been more than happy to adopt the administration's vocabulary for quite some time. The latest example is referring to Social Security "personal accounts" instead of "private accounts" when the latter term didn't poll well.

I believe it is part of a strategy with two purposes. One, when the shit really starts to hit the fan due to Bush's failed policies of the last four years, he can shift the blame to Congress. "See, I'm a lame duck! I wasn't in control for my whole second term. It's not my fault!" Two, they can start angling for a repeal of the twenty-second amendment. "If you want the president to be effective, you can't cut him off at the knees four years in! He must have an unlimited ability to continue to run for re-election. If he's not doing a good job, then the people won't re-elect him!" (Of course, Diebold might.)


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