“Terrorism” to be called “man-caused disasters”

Still more Orwellian newspeak from the new administration from the head of Homesland Security, no less, Janet Napolitano. She wants to replace the word “terrorism” with “man-caused disasters.” The very person assigned to protect us from terrorism does not believe that terrorism exists, prefering to imagine it as an impersonal disaster her office just has to clean up after. This is too much even more for The Washington Post, or at least Gene Weingarten’s column/blog, “The Gene Pool”:

Today we learn that Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano no longer likes to talk about “terrorism.”    She prefers the term “man-caused disasters.”  

Even in the gated-community Gene Pool, a reliable redoubt for escaped New Dealers and Bleeding Heart Liberals from this and other eras,  this smacks of the craven politics of pacification — political correctness gone nuts.    Bhopal was a man-caused disaster.  Three-Mile-Island was a man-caused disaster.  Terrorism is terrorism.  What Napolitano has done is remove the moral responsibility for it.  
 Thus, today’s challenge is to help Ms. Napolitano by giving her some additional expressions she might adopt for things that might otherwise not sound so nice.   Your expression can be addressing any sort of social concern.  

Here’s one: 

Don’t say “Islamofascist suicide bomber.”   Call ‘em “fatal disease carriers.”

Weingarten asks readers to come up with their own suggestions. Let’s do the same. What are some other new terms that would be useful to the new Obama administration?

[THIS IS FOR REAL. NOT AN APRIL FOOL'S JOKE.]

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Angry Lutheran

    This is nothing new, of course, and certainly not limited to the Left. The attitude of Those In Charge towards the masses can be seen in the term used the past few years for any large-scale weapon: "Weapon of Mass Destruction". This covers bombs and biological weapons, the latter of which destroy only [sic] life. It is clear that the death of a US citizen is nothing more to Our Beloved Leaders of both parties than the loss of their property, no more and no less troublesome than the loss of a building, or a car, or a bridge.

  • Angry Lutheran

    This is nothing new, of course, and certainly not limited to the Left. The attitude of Those In Charge towards the masses can be seen in the term used the past few years for any large-scale weapon: "Weapon of Mass Destruction". This covers bombs and biological weapons, the latter of which destroy only [sic] life. It is clear that the death of a US citizen is nothing more to Our Beloved Leaders of both parties than the loss of their property, no more and no less troublesome than the loss of a building, or a car, or a bridge.

  • Dan Kempin

    Instead of recession, they could say the "Great Republican Evil Economic Nightmare," and instead of consequences (as in "The consequence of massive borrowing will be further recession) they could call them "Circumstance Affected Results."

    The flaw is that I couldn't find a way to blame George Bush, but on the plus side, the acronym is "GREEN CAR."

    Hey, this is fun!

  • Dan Kempin

    Instead of recession, they could say the "Great Republican Evil Economic Nightmare," and instead of consequences (as in "The consequence of massive borrowing will be further recession) they could call them "Circumstance Affected Results."

    The flaw is that I couldn't find a way to blame George Bush, but on the plus side, the acronym is "GREEN CAR."

    Hey, this is fun!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/wcwirla wcwirla

    Given the left's penchant for inclusive language, I take the "man" in "man-caused disaster" literally and seriously as a thinly veiled shot at patriarchy.

    Or simply more weaselese from our bureaucratic ferrets.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/wcwirla wcwirla

    Given the left's penchant for inclusive language, I take the "man" in "man-caused disaster" literally and seriously as a thinly veiled shot at patriarchy.

    Or simply more weaselese from our bureaucratic ferrets.

  • Dan Kempin

    In light of President Obama's eagerness to dispose of nuclear weapons, particularly to restore the relationship with Russia that has "drifted" during the Bush years, (Yes, he actually blamed Bush to the Russians this morning,) perhaps we should find a less offensive term for warheads. I was thinking perhaps, "Anachronistic Inherited Guilt," but then the acronym would be AIG.

  • Dan Kempin

    In light of President Obama's eagerness to dispose of nuclear weapons, particularly to restore the relationship with Russia that has "drifted" during the Bush years, (Yes, he actually blamed Bush to the Russians this morning,) perhaps we should find a less offensive term for warheads. I was thinking perhaps, "Anachronistic Inherited Guilt," but then the acronym would be AIG.

  • Bob H

    How about calling policies that allow and support indiscriminate killing of babies before they are born "pro-choice". Oh sorry, that one's alrady taken.

  • Bob H

    How about calling policies that allow and support indiscriminate killing of babies before they are born "pro-choice". Oh sorry, that one's alrady taken.

  • JonSLC

    I too noticed the "man." Thought at first, "Who let that gender-specific term slip?" Then realized that it likely was not a slip.

  • JonSLC

    I too noticed the "man." Thought at first, "Who let that gender-specific term slip?" Then realized that it likely was not a slip.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    i would love to see the context. this COULD just be the normal bureaucratic necessity to classify things so they can develp a standard response methodology. I am not sure the new term means all this article says it does, and I am not sure that homeland security is trying to get people to stop using the term terrorism in favor of using this term. …….. context is important. sounds like the talk radio/tv conservative echo chamber needs to dig really deep these days. break out the hipboots….

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    i would love to see the context. this COULD just be the normal bureaucratic necessity to classify things so they can develp a standard response methodology. I am not sure the new term means all this article says it does, and I am not sure that homeland security is trying to get people to stop using the term terrorism in favor of using this term. …….. context is important. sounds like the talk radio/tv conservative echo chamber needs to dig really deep these days. break out the hipboots….

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    FWS, Weingarten is a LIBERAL. Hillary Clinton, our secretary of state, has herself said that we would no longer speak of the War on Terrorism. Softening all of these terms is a genuine strategy.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    FWS, Weingarten is a LIBERAL. Hillary Clinton, our secretary of state, has herself said that we would no longer speak of the War on Terrorism. Softening all of these terms is a genuine strategy.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/PeterLeavitt PeterLeavitt

    So, St. Obama and his feckless followers are asking American warriors to fight and die against "an overseas contingency operation" fought by those involved in "man caused disasters." There has to be a better word than "Orwellian" to describe these Obama caused disasters of language.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/PeterLeavitt PeterLeavitt

    So, St. Obama and his feckless followers are asking American warriors to fight and die against "an overseas contingency operation" fought by those involved in "man caused disasters." There has to be a better word than "Orwellian" to describe these Obama caused disasters of language.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    Well dr Vieth. you can count ME as someone who thinks all of things called "wars" right now. war on crime, terror, poverty, drugs, etc… are all a manipulative use of the english language. Just what IS the war on terrorism? our military efforts in iraq and afghanistan and now pakistan? Those look like conventional post war occupations by military "victors". the creation of homeland security? tighter border controls? maintaining a policy of torture? are these all "war initiatives"?

    good for Secretary Clinton.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    Well dr Vieth. you can count ME as someone who thinks all of things called "wars" right now. war on crime, terror, poverty, drugs, etc… are all a manipulative use of the english language. Just what IS the war on terrorism? our military efforts in iraq and afghanistan and now pakistan? Those look like conventional post war occupations by military "victors". the creation of homeland security? tighter border controls? maintaining a policy of torture? are these all "war initiatives"?

    good for Secretary Clinton.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stadler stadler

    Unless someone can point to a different source, this is all coming from this interview with Napolitano in Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,…

    The relevant bit reads:
    —————————-
    SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

    Napolitano: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.
    —————————-

    Note that Napolitano is not actually saying that she no longer uses the word terrorism. In fact, in prefacing her "man-caused disasters" bit, she uses the word herself.

    Sadly, I don't have much reason to expect that conservatives here will give this interview the best-construction reading they could, but there's the context, at least.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stadler stadler

    Unless someone can point to a different source, this is all coming from this interview with Napolitano in Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,…

    The relevant bit reads:
    —————————-
    SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

    Napolitano: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.
    —————————-

    Note that Napolitano is not actually saying that she no longer uses the word terrorism. In fact, in prefacing her "man-caused disasters" bit, she uses the word herself.

    Sadly, I don't have much reason to expect that conservatives here will give this interview the best-construction reading they could, but there's the context, at least.

  • Cincinnatus

    The questionable terminology isn't the use of "war" but the use of "terrorism." I too detest, or at least am skeptical of, the various wars we have declared, most of them serving merely as excuses for government consolidation. This new nonsense, however, is a linguistic attempt to remove moral and, more importantly, personal responsibility from acts of political violence (i.e., terrorism). Language is a powerful tool, and it is disheartening to see that even "terrorism" has become a value-free phenomenon. For the purposes of analogy, this is like causing murder "death by external or unnatural causes" or something along those lines.

  • Cincinnatus

    The questionable terminology isn't the use of "war" but the use of "terrorism." I too detest, or at least am skeptical of, the various wars we have declared, most of them serving merely as excuses for government consolidation. This new nonsense, however, is a linguistic attempt to remove moral and, more importantly, personal responsibility from acts of political violence (i.e., terrorism). Language is a powerful tool, and it is disheartening to see that even "terrorism" has become a value-free phenomenon. For the purposes of analogy, this is like causing murder "death by external or unnatural causes" or something along those lines.

  • Cincinnatus

    calling* murder

  • Cincinnatus

    calling* murder

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    terror-ism. the word implies that people who practice terrorism have as their aim to make people terrified. and to what end? to terrify them into doing what terrified people do. terrified people tend to abandon their values or WHATEVER IS FELT NECESSARY to deal with whatever is making them terrified in as emotional a way as possible. for example torturing people. and for example giving up our civil liberties just so we can FEEL safer. TRUSTING the government not to abuse limitless authority to do certain things when we give them unchecked and unbalanced power. A form of trust certainly that stabs the heart of our form of government that was designed very specifically to always check and balance power and try as much as possible to limit it.

    it seems they have won this war on many levels. most of our actions since 9-11 have in fact been re-actions.

    fighting a "war" against terrorists implies a level of panic and impulse that we WOULD do well to move away from.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    terror-ism. the word implies that people who practice terrorism have as their aim to make people terrified. and to what end? to terrify them into doing what terrified people do. terrified people tend to abandon their values or WHATEVER IS FELT NECESSARY to deal with whatever is making them terrified in as emotional a way as possible. for example torturing people. and for example giving up our civil liberties just so we can FEEL safer. TRUSTING the government not to abuse limitless authority to do certain things when we give them unchecked and unbalanced power. A form of trust certainly that stabs the heart of our form of government that was designed very specifically to always check and balance power and try as much as possible to limit it.

    it seems they have won this war on many levels. most of our actions since 9-11 have in fact been re-actions.

    fighting a "war" against terrorists implies a level of panic and impulse that we WOULD do well to move away from.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    we were a country designed to be ruled by law and not by men. we started , under bush to be ruled by men ("trust us" betrays that fact) rather than by law.

    Obama for all his talk about constitutional law and being ruled by law has so far not shown me any tangible proof that he really means what he said during the campaign.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    we were a country designed to be ruled by law and not by men. we started , under bush to be ruled by men ("trust us" betrays that fact) rather than by law.

    Obama for all his talk about constitutional law and being ruled by law has so far not shown me any tangible proof that he really means what he said during the campaign.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stadler stadler

    I love how, once again, the media has taken an administration official's quote out of context and run with it, but since here it reinforces fears about Obama, nobody questions the media. Makes you wonder how seriously people take their claims of (liberal) bias.

    Weingarten says "Napolitano no longer likes to talk about 'terrorism.' She prefers the term 'man-caused disasters.'" But this is plainly belied by her use of the word "terrorism" in the sentence before she mentions "man-caused disasters".

    But it's a short hop from a poor media citation to someone breathlessly claiming that this is a "linguistic attempt to remove moral and, more importantly, personal responsibility from acts of political violence", perhaps without even having read the interview the quote occurred in. Thanks, media.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stadler stadler

    I love how, once again, the media has taken an administration official's quote out of context and run with it, but since here it reinforces fears about Obama, nobody questions the media. Makes you wonder how seriously people take their claims of (liberal) bias.

    Weingarten says "Napolitano no longer likes to talk about 'terrorism.' She prefers the term 'man-caused disasters.'" But this is plainly belied by her use of the word "terrorism" in the sentence before she mentions "man-caused disasters".

    But it's a short hop from a poor media citation to someone breathlessly claiming that this is a "linguistic attempt to remove moral and, more importantly, personal responsibility from acts of political violence", perhaps without even having read the interview the quote occurred in. Thanks, media.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks for digging up the source. But Weingarten–who is a liberal, as he himself emphasizes in the excerpt–doesn’t say she never uses the word in conversation. He said she doesn’t “like” it, and in her official testimony before Congress she used “man-caused disasters” instead and your source confirmed that she doesn’t like it. She is trying to “nuance,” she says, getting away from the “politics of fear” to being ready for whatever occurs. I think your source still shows that she is working with and thinking with euphemism and that she is falling into the syndrome Orwell talks about in his essay “Politics and the English Language.”

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks for digging up the source. But Weingarten–who is a liberal, as he himself emphasizes in the excerpt–doesn’t say she never uses the word in conversation. He said she doesn’t “like” it, and in her official testimony before Congress she used “man-caused disasters” instead and your source confirmed that she doesn’t like it. She is trying to “nuance,” she says, getting away from the “politics of fear” to being ready for whatever occurs. I think your source still shows that she is working with and thinking with euphemism and that she is falling into the syndrome Orwell talks about in his essay “Politics and the English Language.”

  • Cincinnatus

    You're still missing the point by questioning the terminology of "war" rather than "terrorism." Terrorism is what it is, as you defined it in the first line of your first reply to my comment. Why not call it that? The removal of personal culpability from language is troubling, and is not restricted to "terrorism."

    As for the rest, I largely agree with you: abstract "wars" on principles or ubiquitous phenomena that are endemic to human nature (drug use/addiction, for instance) are dangerous to rights and liberties, as many have argued before.

    p.s. Are you really surprised that Obama is failing to fulfill the rhetoric of his campaign?

  • Cincinnatus

    You're still missing the point by questioning the terminology of "war" rather than "terrorism." Terrorism is what it is, as you defined it in the first line of your first reply to my comment. Why not call it that? The removal of personal culpability from language is troubling, and is not restricted to "terrorism."

    As for the rest, I largely agree with you: abstract "wars" on principles or ubiquitous phenomena that are endemic to human nature (drug use/addiction, for instance) are dangerous to rights and liberties, as many have argued before.

    p.s. Are you really surprised that Obama is failing to fulfill the rhetoric of his campaign?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    am I surprised? not really. but that rhetoric is STILL the RIGHT rhetoric. the very rhetoric our leaders need to be spouting. and THEN BOTH democrats and republicans need to follow that rhetoric to where it leads. I am talking about respect for the rule of law and never allowing americans to torture people they hold captive or allow proxies to torture.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fws fws

    am I surprised? not really. but that rhetoric is STILL the RIGHT rhetoric. the very rhetoric our leaders need to be spouting. and THEN BOTH democrats and republicans need to follow that rhetoric to where it leads. I am talking about respect for the rule of law and never allowing americans to torture people they hold captive or allow proxies to torture.


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