The Corner

Language Matters

Mark K: With respect to the DHS memo, I think you’re overreacting. Dan Sutherland is a friend of mine and we’ve actually discussed what his office is doing. This is not a “gag rule,” as you allege. Instead, it’s a document on strategic rhetoric — i.e., an attempt to figure out what kind of language hurts al Qaeda rather than helps it, especially when the listeners are Muslim, living in the Middle East, and having the words of American officials delivered to them through interpreters. The object certainly isn’t to avoid offending. That’s why there’s a recommendation to refer to al Qaeda as a “death cult,” for instance. I’m not qualified to say whether this is a good approach or a bad one because I don’t know a whit about communicating with this audience. But I do know that it’s not an exercise in politically correct nonsense.

It’s obvious that your real agenda here is to smear Linda Chavez because you disagree with her on immigration policy — that’s the only way I can interpret your ad-hominem, guilt-by-association argument. Maybe the next time you and I have a disagreement on The Corner, I should point out that your organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, has its origins in the left-wing population-control movement and that its founder, John Tanton, is a notorious anti-Catholic. Or is that out of bounds?

One more thing: Dan is not a “former employee” of Linda’s. I can say this with authority because I am a former employee of hers. You need to be more careful with your facts. Language matters.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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