Thursday, July 28, 2005

Language games that remind me of Stalin...

Blumenthal in Salon, Via Atrios I learn that the "War on Terror" is out; the "War on Violent Extremism" is in:

Since Bush's speech at Fort Bragg, N.C., on June 28, for which the White House asked for and received national television coverage, and in which Bush reaffirmed "fighting the global war on terrorism," mentioned "terror" or "terrorism" 23 more times, and compared this "global war on terrorism" with the Civil War and World War II, his administration has simply dropped the words that more than any others Bush has identified as the reason for his presidency.

Throughout July, administration officials have substituted new words for the old. Instead of trumpeting the "global war on terrorism," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have sounded the call to "a global struggle against violent extremism."

Now I would expect that this could eventually be shortened to a war against "extremists," which brings me to Stalin, who in purging the Soviet Communist Party of anyone who was perceived as a potential threat to his rule, targetted his enemies as "left deviationists" or "right deviationists," while his policy was allegedly the "General Line."

In so doing, Stalin was distancing himself from "deviationists" (although of course "deviating" from any prior policy at the drop of a hat or the shot of a pistol). Likewise, Bush is in effect distancing himself from the label "extremist," even though you can't call the PNAC agenda, privatization of Social Security, abolition of the right to privacy, and any of a dozen other things anything but extremist.

It won't work as long as moderates and progressives actively work against right-wing extremism wherever they find it.

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