Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Terminology and terror

Would someone explain to me how the people at Fox News can constantly complain about "political correctness" (they have a column on their website called "Tongue Tied, which whines about it constantly), but still use a term like "homicide bombers."

For those who don't know, the term was first used over a year ago by Ari Fleischer. "I started to use that term is because it's a more accurate description," said Fleischer. "These are not suicide bombings. These are not people who just kill themselves. These are people who deliberately go to murder others, with no regard to the values of their own life. These are murderers. The President has said that in the Rose Garden. And I think that is just a more accurate description of what these people are doing. It's not suicide, it's murder."

Now, a smarter man than I (and, apparently, a homey) has discussed the rhetorical reasons behind this change already. What bothers me most of all is that the phrase doesn't mean anything. The phrase strips away the fact that the person who did this was willing to die in order to commit this act. This is meaningful because it's descriptive. Unless the perpetrator is part of a demolition team, then nearly all bombings are supposed to be "homicide bombings." Nearly all bombings have the intention of killing someone. What makes a suicide bombing different is that they are particularly hard to guard against because the perpetrator has little fear of death.

But even more, look at Fleischer's statement that "these are murders." In equating the broader term of homicide with murder ("The crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought." - Merriam Webster) they are diminishing both words. Consider that Bush, in his role as Governor of Texas, was ultimately responsible for the homicides of 152 Texas inmates. Only the most hardcore opponents of the death penalty consider those to have been murders. Homicide, as described by the dictionary, isn't necessarily unlawful, but is simply the killing of one human by another. Death Row could be called Homicide Row and would actually be more to the point (people aren't just sent there and left to die, but are killed). Timothy McVeigh's death certificate attributes his death to homicide and every soldier who has ever shot his weapon at another in war has at least attempted homicide.

Therefore, in their unflagging desire to twist words for their own gain, they've taken both the description and the horror from a phrase that was already horrible enough. That the RNC stooges at Fox News jumped on the bandwagon (alone, thankfully) is no surprise. Everyone knows they are a bunch of conservative tools. The fact that they use the phrase while decrying other forms of "political correctness" just shows, once again, what a bunch of hypocritical buffoons they really are.


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