Thursday, August 04, 2005

Steven Vincent on why words matter

The more I read this part of his interview, the more I think it needs to be posted in as many venues as possible. A lot of what he talks about in his FrontPage interview is important, but this quote holds the lesson that will determine whether we win or lose against the forces of Islamofascism.
FP: You discuss how crucial words are in describing the war in Iraq and how the liberal media has damaged the cause of freedom by manipulating them.

For instance, you stress how important it is that we refer to the American “liberation” rather than “occupation,” since “occupation” infers certain meanings that do not apply to anything the Americans are doing in Iraq.

What startles me is how the media refers to the terrorists as “insurgents.” This is simply incredible. We have foreign fighters coming in from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Pakistan and other nations to fight a holy war against the West in an effort to impose Islamo-fascism on the Iraqi people. And yet, somehow, the media is informing us that this is some kind of domestic “resistance.”

Can you talk a bit about this -- how the Left shapes the boundaries of debate and dialogue by controlling our language?

Vincent: Words matter. Words convey moral clarity. Without moral clarity, we will not succeed in Iraq. That is why the terms the press uses to cover this conflict are so vital. For example, take the word “guerillas.” As you noted, mainstream media sources like the New York Times often use the terms “insurgents” or “guerillas” to describe the Sunni Triangle gunmen, as if these murderous thugs represented a traditional national liberation movement. But when the Times reports on similar groups of masked reactionary killers operating in Latin American countries, they utilize the phrase “paramilitary death squads.” Same murderers, different designations. Yet of the two, “insurgents”—and especially “guerillas”—has a claim on our sympathies that “paramilitaries” lacks. This is not semantics: imagine if the media routinely called the Sunni Triangle gunmen “right wing paramilitary death squads.” Not only would the description be more accurate, but it would offer the American public a clear idea of the enemy in Iraq. And that, in turn, would bolster public attitudes toward the war.

Supporters of the conflict in Iraq bear much blame for allowing the terminology—and, by extension, the narrative—of events to slip from our grasp and into the hands of the anti-war camp. Words and ideas matter. Instead of saying that the Coalition “invaded” Iraq and “occupies” it today, we could more precisely claim that the allies liberated the country and are currently reconstructing it. More than cosmetic changes, these definitions reflect the nobility of our effort in Iraq, and steal rhetorical ammunition from the left.

The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists “the resistance.” What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour—they are the “resistance.” They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism—or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought—should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language.

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