At today’s press briefing a reporter asked Press Secretary Tony Snow if the Iraqis were currently engaged in a civil war. This is what Captain Subterfuge had to say:
“Yes, you have a number of sectarian violence operations going on, but you’ve also seen now in targeted neighborhoods in Baghdad, there has been a notable decrease in violence in three of the neighborhoods that have been targeted in the last week, and that’s obviously a promising sign; that’s not a victory lap.”
Don’t you just love the “sectarian violence operations” bit? I just love it when a guy has the balls to intermingle doublespeak and semantic argumentation.
Look, I have no idea whether or not we should label the fighting in Iraq as “civil war” or not. Sorry, but I’m just not a Sunni or Shiite scholar””but, luckily enough, I am a scholar of language, and the phrase “sectarian violence operations” makes me want to plunge a pencil into my eye. I completely realize that Snow must avoid the term “civil war” at all costs. Not only would using “civil war” to describe the situation in Iraq validate the criticisms of the Democrats, but the term also carries with it an incredible amount of cultural baggage which would absolutely undermine the administrations insistence on progress in Iraq. But seriously, couldn’t he have come up with a much better line of bullshit?
I sometimes wonder if to become a politician you have to take some kind of euphemism/doublespeak workshop. Wouldn’t that be a neat class to take? Probably be even neater to teach.
“Okay class, as politicians, how would we answer to a grand jury if we found ourselves in an unfortunate scandal involving a portly intern, a cigar, and our trousers around our ankles? Yes, Billy, go ahead.”
“Uh”¦I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman?”
“Very good, Billy. Class, do you see what Billy did? Instead of actually denying that he received fellatio from his intern, which would have been an obvious and damming perjury, Billy instead used the subtle term ”˜sexual relations.’ Sexual relations functions as a smokescreen, because it doesn’t ever specify an actual act. So, if evidence surfaced that further incriminated Billy, he can simply say that he meant “sexual realations” as “intercourse,” which he in fact did not have. Good Billy.
Tony, you haven’t said anything all day. Did you read your homework? Well, let’s find out, shall we? Now, what would we call the civil war in a sovereign nation that we were occupying and supposedly liberating?
“Ummm”¦well, mmmm, maybe “sectarian violence operations?”
“Are you answering me or asking me, Tony?”
“Well, that’s a terrible answer then. “Sectarian violence operations?” Really? You need to re-read our chapter on subtly. A term so obviously euphemistic will in fact have the exact opposite effect we’re after. Instead of confusing the public it will simply draw attention to the fact that we’re totally full of shit. Please, see me after class.”
Or that’s how I imagine it anyway. I’m sure the real thing would be even better.
In honor of Tony’s dumb-ass answer I invite you to listen to George Carlin’s take on euphemistic language, which originally appeared on his album “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics.”