- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
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
Every human culture, it seems, has had some notion of the sacred, and has placed that notion at the center of its worldview. From this, we can conclude several things: 1) that a sense of the sacred – like other universals, such as language and music – is an inherent part of our humanity; 2) that therefore we can conclude that this sense has served the cause of life of our kind through the eons in which we developed; and 3) that the experience of “the sacred” possesses an important kind of power, that it is not just an inherent part of us b Read on →
I recently had the pleasure of roaming about the grounds of the Carter Center in Atlanta. It was an early Sunday morning before any of the buildings were open and I had the place pretty much to myself except for one lady who volunteers there and was fidgeting around in one of the small side gardens. I didn’t tromp over the entire thirty-five acres, but I covered enough to be impressed with the design and the number of large Oaks that provided much needed shade from the bright sunshine and heat. The visit took me back in time to when I w Read on →
My high school years unfolded in a time when hanging out at drive-ins and burger joints was all we had. We played 45 RPMs by the Beach Boys and William Jan Berry and Dean Ormsby Torrence. You know them as Jan and Dean of “Dead Man’s Curve” and “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” fame. Surf music was the craze back then in the era of steering wheel suicide knobs, but catching a wave in eastern Georgia wasn’t easy. Cars, though, now that was a different matter. Hot, candy-colored cars possessing names like GTO, Chevelle, Firebird, and Thunderbolt mesmerized us. So there we we Read on →
July 24, Thursday afternoon, 3:30. The July sun bears down with no mercy. The humidity’s high and the terrain rough and remote. To the northwest a cloudbank promises relief but relief never comes. We drive on in no need of windshield wipers. Robert Clark and I are miles from city life headed deep into the Francis Marion National Forest. To reach our destination, we turn off US Highway 17 onto State Highway 45. We drive for miles looking for Halfway Creek Road. Our directions, scribbled onto the back of an envelope by a naturalist friend, instruct us to “turn left onto Hal Read on →