by AG Moore May 1, 2011
What’s in a name? “Vandals Attack Embassies in Libya after Airstrike”, the AP headline announced this morning. What makes those who violated the embassies vandals and not Gaddafi loyalists? Or nationalists? What, for that matter, is the difference between an insurgent and a freedom fighter? Or, from another perspective, how does one distinguish a terrorist from a rebel? How are these labels assigned?
Are the U. S, actions in Iraq and Afghanistan those of liberator or imperialist? Were Fifteenth Century Spanish priests in the New World missionaries or colonialists? As news is spoon fed to us through media organs like AP and Reuters, must we not inquire as to the cultural and political filters that influence terminology?
Lexicon is a powerful editorial tool, more subtle and potentially invidious than overt commentary. Orwell coined the term Newspeak, which is traditionally considered to be a tool of government. But Newspeak is not exclusively a formal extension of political bureaucracy. The phenomenon invades speech at every level. Language is culture. Every time we consume a news factoid we have to be on guard against the deliberate – and the incidental – elements that can manipulate world view.