We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
so patently dishonest
Why the New Guantanamo Hunger Strike Euphemisms?
Clever public relations officers working somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon have decided that henceforth the Guantanamo hunger strike will be termed a “long term non-religious fasting.” What’s more, rather than being subjected to forced-feeding the “non-religious fasters” are now being treated to “enteral feedings.” What are we to make of such obvious lexical fig leaves?
We have read and heard as bad before. Early in the Cold War the Atomic Energy Commission decided that exposure to radioactive fallout would be measured in “Sunshine Units.” While our nuclear weapons are a “nuclear deterrent” their nuclear weapons are a “nuclear threat.” During the War in Vietnam bombing became “air support,” destroyed villages were “pacified” and refugees were “ambient non-combat personnel.” With the War on Terror prisoners of war denied their rights under the Geneva Conventions became “unlawful combatants,” torture became “enhanced interrogation,” and kidnapping by secret agents became “extraordinary rendition.”
So who are the targets for the Pentagon’s new euphemisms for the hunger strike at Guantanamo? They aren’t needed to reinforce the political obedience of the core Fox News television audience. The Pentagon’s news blackout about the hunger strike at Guantanamo last December shields those viewers from awareness of the nightmare. Appeals to fear are more than sufficient to stop them from asking the wrong sort of questions.
That the euphemisms are patently unconvincing makes their deployment even more of a puzzle. Unlike the Republican Party’s “tort reform” and “entitlement reform” slogans they hide nothing. By comparison with Big Energy’s slick messages “clean coal” and “safe, proven fracking technology” they are so clumsy they almost announce themselves as official lies.
One possibility is that distorted language is intended not for the general news audience but for military personnel. Perhaps they serve the same purpose as the nonsense claimed when dictatorships construct cults of personality. For example, Turkmen are asked to believe that Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s landslide election as president ushered in an “era of supreme happiness.” Equatoguineans are asked to believe that Teodoro Obiang has a direct connection to God and was once forced to pocket the national treasury to keep it out of the hands of corrupt bureaucrats. Gambians are asked to believe that Yahya Jammeh has invented a cure for AIDS made of herbs and bananas. Expressed disbelief in such utterly preposterous claims can be used to identify dissidents.
Perhaps the Guantanamo hunger strike euphemisms function as loyalty tests in a bureaucracy so reliant on command and secrecy that some preference falsification is second nature. What better way to assess intellectual subordination in a military waging a global war without end than the demonstrated willingness to use terminology as absurd as “long term non-religious fasting?”
Makes you wonder whether the public relations officers who devised the new terms have read, or more importantly have understood, George Orwell’s classic 1984. Why are Americans who serve in the military, people routinely referred to as heroes by elected officials and journalists, demeaned by having to use language so patently dishonest? They deserve better. So does the rest of America.
- Image: "Hunger strike in Guantánamo by Patrick Chappatte - licensed by LikeTheDew.com at Daryl Cagle’s PoliticalCartoon.com Store.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner had a big-time influence on me as an adolescent as did my father who never met a funeral he didn’t like, especially if it took him back to the hill country of Appalachian Ohio where he had been raised. Even now I remember as a boy following a group of men carrying the casket of a man my father had known when he was a boy. The memory is still clear of them slipping and sliding along the dry creek bed en route to a spot in the woods where a Read on →
Brooklyn was an independent city until 1898 when it was consolidated with New York City but it retained its distinct culture and architecture from the early settlers. Its motto was In Unity There is Strength and sixty-two years later the 2.6 million people in Brooklyn still thought of it as an independent city. They didn’t like the people who lived in Manhattan. In 1959 I shared a one bedroom apartment on Nostrand Avenue, East Flatbush near the corner of Winthrop Street, one block from Kings County Hospital and a ten minute walk from the abandoned Ebbets Field. It was on the t Read on →
It has been hard to get timely, accurate information. In the early years of the 21st century, some group was tracking the transfer of dollars from the federal treasury to the states, which generally showed that the majority payments were in the form of various types of insurance subsidies: mortgage insurance, housing insurance, health insurance, flood insurance, crop insurance and higher education loans. The data collection stopped, perhaps because of objections from the insurance industries at having their transfer function exposed. Or maybe all of my computer crashes and software switches are the reason I no longer can find the information. Read on →
"The age of nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the earth." -- Teilhard de Chardin There's a new term being bandied about, and it's high time we paid heed: integral ecology. Whenever the same notion arises synchronously in a number of different contexts -- in this case the Catholic Church, the Occupy movement, the climate movement, and the new-economy movement -- it's an idea whose time has arrived. Rumor has it that integral ecology is the central theme of Pope Francis' encyclical on ecology and climate, due out at the end of summer. Read on →