The Corner

Our Political Language: Time to ‘Jeer Loudly Enough’

One of George Orwell’s most important observations, put in a seminal 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, was that typical political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Enter Senator Mendendez with the latest effort at political self-parody. Congress, the senator tells us, is not being asked to issue “a declaration of war, but a declaration of our values to the world.” No, Bob, it’s really not. Words matter. The president wants Congress to allow him to order the military to use physical violence against a sovereign nation. We can have a debate as to whether that’s a good idea. Often, contra the asinine “war never fixed anything” crowd, it is. But let’s not pretend that it’s a debate at the Model United Nations. At the very least, we are discussing remotely launching explosives at facilities that will almost certainly have people inside them.

Everyone does this, of course. But the Left is particularly prone to it in this area because it fears being exposed as hypocritical. (Hint: It is.) Thus, did Deputy National Security Director tell journalists in 2011 that the Nobel Peace Prize–winning president wasn’t doing anything as gauche as waging war in Libya, but was instead:

enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone. Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.

“Kinetic military action, particularly on the front end”?

“War,” then.

Equally odd is the lengths to which the president and Nancy Pelosi have gone to assure us that they don’t like war. Who does? Still, that doesn’t really matter. The anti-war movement is against war, it’s not only against war waged by people who feel no regret. And what of those people who are not of the anti-war movement but who are opposed to this action? Well, they typically oppose the plan because they consider it to be bad policy. That the president feels guilty and recognizes the severity of the situation doesn’t change the fact that he’s set on going through with it and they don’t think that he should.

Occasionally, Orwell thought, “if one jeers loudly enough,” one can expose the silliness of political language. This is one of those times in which doing so is imperative. Guns are designed to kill people, taxes are taken by force, and bombing foreign countries is war. Demand that your representatives have the courage to speak plainly and, if they won’t, perhaps ask them not to speak at all.


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