Lincoln * Institute

Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Crazy Word Games, from Team Obama

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

It looks like the "intelligence" in the Obama administration isn't too intellectual.

Instead of using the word "terrorism" to describe things such as the terrorist attack on 9/11, Janet Napolitano, head of Obama's Department of Homeland Security, says we're now supposed to use the words "man-caused disasters." That sounds like a wreck at the Indy 500.

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Napolitano explained that the new phrase "demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear, toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur."

That change to nicer wording puts Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the 9/11 hijackings and the suspected pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, in the same boat as those folks who shipped the contaminated peanut butter from that plant in Blakely, Ga. Both produced "man-caused disasters."

And how wise is it for our security experts to expand their mission to cover "all risks that can occur"? They couldn't even nab the 9/11 suicide pilots, here in the U.S. illegally, who were sitting big-as-life in those flight-training classes in Florida, looking not unlike that whole gang of similarly angry malcontents from the Middle East on the Most Wanted posters. Now they're going to secure everything in our refrigerators?

And why the change to "move away from the politics of fear"? It's normal to be afraid of salmonella-coated peanuts, normal to fear an exploding passenger jet that's smashing through your office at the top of a skyscraper, and normal to use politics to punish the perpetrators.

On top of being a little nuts and naive with the words, Napolitano, by employing "man-caused," is also guilty of making a politically incorrect faux pas in an administration that prides itself on being the most politically correct. The British Sociological Association (BSA) warns that words "can reinforce beliefs and prejudices, but can also be used to challenge sexism."

Providing guidelines on nonsexist words, BSA advocates the use of alternative terminology that challenges "inaccurate, sexist and heterosexist assumptions." Instead of "man in the street," BSA recommends "people in general," and "layman" should be "non-expert."

The "rights of man" should be changed to the "rights of the individual." At work, "manning" should be "staffing" and, getting history right, "forefathers" should be "ancestors" and "founding fathers" should be just "founders."

To reduce the bad feelings associated with hierarchy, slave trading and inequality, "old masters" should now be called "artists" and a "master copy" should be referred to as an "original copy."

More oddly, BSA recommends that "disseminate" be replaced by "broadcast," "inform" or "publicize." It seems that the post-macho word police at BSA aren't too happy about how seeds are sowed.

Related specifically to Napolitano's usage of "man-caused," BSA states that "man-made" should be replaced by "artificial" or "synthetic." So instead of adopting Napolitano's sexist language and calling the terrorist attack of 9/11 a "man-caused disaster," we could go all the way with political correctness and describe the two planes crashing into the World Trade Center as a "synthetic disaster" -- or better yet, an "artificial occurrence."

Playing more word games, the Obama administration's recommends replacing the saber rattling "war on terror" with the more soothing sound of "overseas contingency operation." It sounds like someone traveling in Greece who needs an emergency appendectomy.

Here at home, Ms. Napolitano is singing a far different tune on terror, much less soothing.

On April 7, the Department of Homeland Security sent a heads-up report to law enforcement offices across the country warning of a "resurgence" of "rightwing extremism activity."

For starters, the report, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," warns law enforcement to be on the lookout for "groups, movements and adherents" who are "mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority." That could be a nice mom who's speaking out against a federal curriculum in her local school.

Also included on Homeland Security's watch list as potentially violent are those who are "dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration." You're no threat, in short, if you're pro-abortion and don't care about Mexicans coming across the border without a flu check.

Also bad and to be watched by the local cops are the "primarily hate-oriented" (defined as hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), along with "rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet" and "disgruntled military veterans."

Recipients of the aforementioned report, subsequently leaked, were warned that the document was "not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid need-to-know."

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Ralph R. Reiland

Phone: 412-884-4541

E-mail: rrreiland@aol.com