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Imperative security internee

Doublespeak vs Unspeak

At Daily Kos, an article by Medcat compares my work on Unspeak favourably with a recent Cato Institute paper called Doublespeak and the War on Terrorism. Well, as I argue in the introduction to my book, “doublespeak” is merely a euphemism for lying – and its notion of saying one thing while meaning another risks letting politicians off the hook. All too often, they say one thing and really mean it, as with Bush’s little narrative about evil men being Questioned by Experts.

The Cato paper, by Timothy Lynch, criticizes the language of “Homeland Security”, “national security”, “enemy combatant” and so on, yet – very oddly – it uncritically adopts the vocabulary of the “war on terror” as an apt description of what is going on. “War on terror” is the Unspeak elephant in the room. Still, some of Lynch’s observations are astute, and I did enjoy learning about a new species of person called an “Imperative Security Internee”, apparently a newly made-up category of enemy within, to whom the government will do anything it likes until the Supreme Court explicitly rules that it can’t.

It seems in general to be a prevalent attitude in the US Administration that novelty defeats law. Simply dreaming up something new on the spot, like a category of prisoner or a method of torture, renders old laws that do not mention the new thing obsolete, and gives the government carte blanche until legislators explicitly criminalize it. As Lynch aptly asks:

Should the Supreme Court rule that the Bill of Rights applies to “imperative security internees,” what is to stop the government from inventing another label for its prisoners?

I think the answer to that is “nothing”.

  1. 1  Mike Herd  September 15, 2006, 6:09 pm 

    Is it just me or is “Imperative Security Internee” uncomfortably close to Imperial Security Internee?

  2. 2  SP  September 15, 2006, 8:42 pm 

    That’s a depressing thought. And why “Internee” instead of the more common “detainee” as a euphemism for prisoner? Are we meant to think of White House interns?

  3. 3  eep  September 17, 2006, 1:09 pm 

    MedCat’s article is good, I was wondering about the difference between Lakoff and your stuff. It explains it well.

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