The Corner

What’s in a (Country’s) Name?

When I wrote about the “president” of Vietnam last week, I did just what I’ve done now: put quotation marks around “president.” Communists and other anti-democrats are always borrowing the language of democracy. They do it in order to perfume themselves. The Khmer Rouge called Cambodia “Democratic Kampuchea,” during the time they were ruling over that country, and depleting it of people.

This comes up in Impromptus today, when I mention the old East Germany, or the “German Democratic Republic,” as people said — including people in free countries, who had no excuse. I remember the NBC host of the Olympic Games, during the 1980s. He seemed to revel in the correctness of “German Democratic Republic.” He would not say “East Germany.”

People in Dresden (for example) had guns to their heads. There was no excuse for anyone else to cooperate in totalitarians’ lies.

A reader writes,

You always hear “Canada,” “France,” or “Mexico,” not “the Dominion of Canada,” “the Republic of France,” or “the United Mexican States.” But professors and the like love to say “the People’s Republic of China.” It would more accurately be called “Some People’s Republic of China,” or “Some People’s Non-republic of China.”

Above, I used the T-word: “totalitarian,” or “totalitarians.” In my column today, I cite an article published at ESPN’s website. I read it because it was about Katarina Witt, by whom I was smitten, like everyone else. The writer said that Katarina “became the first East German athlete . . . to persuade the totalitarian government to let her turn pro.” I almost fell out of my chair: “totalitarian government”? That’s not the way the “mainstream media” spoke of East Germany when it was alive and kicking, believe me.

So, when the Castros fall, will our “MSM” speak honestly about Communist Cuba? I doubt it, frankly — too much invested.

P.S. The old joke about “German Democratic Republic” was that it was three lies in one: East Germany was not a republic and not democratic. It wasn’t all that German either, given control by Moscow.

P.P.S. National Review enjoyed referring to SDS as “Students for a Democratic [sic] Society.”

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