We’re Going to Need a New Word

Gen Michael Hayden at NSLJ Symposium

Michael Hayden, former head of CIA and NSA. Source: Wikipedia

We’re going to have to find another word.

That’s what happens when organized groups with an agenda do their lying thing and massage, twist and shave the meaning of a word that evokes powerful emotions into a meaningless, politicized hulk of its former self.

Words have power to evoke emotion and, with some words, outrage. Somewhere back in the first half of the twentieth century the big-time government monsters among us figured this out. Instead of accepting the plain meaning of plain words and changing their behavior, they set out, first to find substitute words that would blur the emotional response to their reactions, and then to batter the meaning of existing words into dust.

Thus, mass murder became a “final solution” which morphed into “ethnic cleansing,” while slavery and brainwashing were called “re-education.” Killing a baby was labeled a “choice” and then a “termination.” In this century, we have been treated to the spectacle of torture being called “enhanced interrogation.”

It’s all the same lie, the same manipulation, the same evil.

This manipulation of words is a separate and additional evil from the acts that it attempts to gloss over. It is an act of aggression, aimed, not at the victims of whatever it is trying to cover up, but at the sanity of society as a whole. If our words become politicized gibberish, our thinking becomes muddled and gibbering along with them.

The precise and honest use of language is the essential tool for precise and honest thinking. What the spinmeisters are doing by butchering our language is destroying the ability to think clearly of the citizens of our nation and our world.

Torture is the “final solution/re-education/choice” of the first decade of the 21st century. The deliberate destruction of our public sensitivity to torture through the use of lies and ridiculous parsing has led to the destruction of the meaning of the word itself. We have arrived at the it-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-the-word-is- is point with torture.

We are faced with having to find a new word, even as the old one continues to be twisted, narrowed and broadened into utter meaninglessness.

What began as the American experiment in justifying torture to a population that had long prided itself on how well it treated its prisoners has morphed into the use of the word to label criminal malfeasance and taking positions on social issues that one finds disagreeable as torture.

On the one hand, we have our CIA and neo-con enthusiasts going around seriously trying to claim that water boarding a helpless prisoner is not torture because it doesn’t break bones and rupture internal organs. On the other hand, we have the totalitarian nitwits of the abortion-at-any-cost crowd at the United Nations trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is the killing of an innocent child.

Top that off with a conjoined United Nations attempt to claim that the Church’s admitted malfeasance in the area of child sexual abuse by priests is somehow or other torture, and you’ve got a word that no longer means much of anything.

Did the Catholic Church torture children by transferring sexual predator priests from one parish to another? No. The Church made a hash of its own moral authority and violated everything it stands for. The Church violated civil laws and its own teachings.

Is the Catholic Church the only institution with a history of allowing sexual predators to flourish in its midst? No. Virtually every institution that I know of has done this, which would make the UN’s new definition of torture ubiquitous rather than specific. What is different about the Church as opposed to other institutions is not a matter of law. It is a matter of outrage.

The Church betrayed Christ by transferring those priests. Every bishop who did this put clericalism and the good old boy buddy system ahead of his call to be a shepherd. Every bishop who did this betrayed his calling and his Lord; his Church and its people. These bishops behaved like corporate CEOs instead of priests, and that is the outrage and betrayal of their actions.

This was not torture. As evil as torture is, this was something far worse. It was a betrayal of Christ crucified among us by the men who have vowed to represent Him in this world.

This mis-use of the word torture to try to advance political and social agendas is a specific evil all of its own. Torture as a word is becoming another meaningless victim of our desire to to do evil and not be called evil for having done it.

Destroying a word as important as torture has ramifications that go far beyond linguistics. It means destroying an idea, maiming our moral understandings and weakening our ability to think rationally.

Torture is never acceptable. Torture is an intrinsic evil. I’m going to write about this in more detail, but the American experiment in thought control via the many lies and verbal shape shiftings surrounding our use of torture against prisoners since 9/11 is an evil that is separate and distinct from the evil of torture itself.

If we are outraged by the United Nations propaganda attack of trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is a sin — and we should be outraged — we have only ourselves to blame. We, the United States of America, are the ones who have destroyed the meaning of the word in order to obfuscate our own actions.

This brainwashing of the public mind by insisting that torture means something other than what it means has side effects. Evil doesn’t just stake its claim in our societies and content itself with that one spot. It is a kudzu vine that takes root and grows outward, overtaking and smothering our moral sensibilities.

The evil of lying to and brainwashing the public to accept torture by narrowing the meaning of the word into preposterous meaningless has a flip side. We are seeing that flip side at the United Nations. If a word can be narrowed into meaninglessness, the same word can also be expanded into meaninglessness.

People with agendas can use the residual emotion the word still evokes. They use this residual emotion to justify political attacks by linking the word to actions where it does not apply and than claiming a faux moral outrage against organizations, actions and even ideas they dislike.

The Church did not commit torture when it betrayed Our Lord by transferring abusing priests. That is not what the word means. The claims that the Church is today committing torture against women by teaching that abortion is a grave sin, are too stupid to try to answer. It is obvious propaganda. It demands that the public acquiesce in its own brainwashing.

But the basis for making such claims lies in the torture to which the word torture has been subjected in recent years by the social and cultural brainwashers of our own government.

The great sin — and I use that moral word deliberately — is the lie and violation of human thought that is propaganda and brainwashing by the callous mis-labeling and mis-use of powerful words. This is done first to lie to whole populations of people about matters of terrible import, and then, in its ultimate application, to get them to lie to themselves about the same things.

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