FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Ever notice how adept the Democrats are at the use of euphemisms to try to hide their agenda? We’ve seen it a number of times recently: “revenue enhancements” instead of “tax increases” during the debt limit debate, or “balanced approach“, which again hid the Obama agenda of jacking up taxes. How about the efforts of Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (“competitive option”) and Nancy Pelosi (“consumer option”) to hide the real Democrat agenda of governmental intrusion in private health insurance (the semi-euphemistic “public option”). Even the Harry Reid Democrats’ use of “compromise” is a veiled attempt at hiding their agenda of “my way or the highway“.
The euphemism du jour has been established today by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Apparently FEMA has discovered that Americans really do think “government” has become a bad word. In an attempt to produce a kinder, gentler “government”, FEMA and Boss Barack have decided that they are part of a big, happy “federal family. Now I come from a pretty big extended family (my mom had > 12 brothers and sisters, which means I have a LOT of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)…but I’m not all that fond of a big “federal family”.
As the Palm Beach Post points out, this isn’t the first time the term has been used. It appears to have originally surfaced during the Clinton administration, courtesy of our old friend, Al Gore.
During the Clinton administration, Vice President Al Gore responded to 1999 flooding in Iowa by pledging that “the federal family is committed to providing the necessary resources to comfort every person and family devastated by this disaster and to help them return to their normal way of living as fast as possible.”
A Google search shows the phrase appearing 10 times on FEMA’s website during the Bush years. Since Obama took office, “federal family” has turned up 118 times on fema.gov, including 50 Irene-related references.
The Post also notes:
“’Government’ is such a dirty word right now,” says Florida State University communication professor Davis Houck. “Part of what the federal government does and any elected official does is change the terms of the language game into terms that are favorable to them.”
I think Obama and FEMA are simply misreading the public and are fundamentally mistaken here. “Government” isn’t a dirty word – too much government and the wrong kind of government is the problem. Conservatives are not anarchists – we don’t unilaterally oppose government, although we do believe it should be no larger than what the U.S. Constitution dictates. We also believe government does have its place, and there are right and appropriate places for government to act. For example, with respect to Hurricane Irene, the National Weather Service (NOAA) provided an invaluable resource in forecasting the path of the hurricane and giving residents in the path ample warning to seek shelter and high ground to escape the impact of the storm. As a resident of Tornado Alley, every year I personally am thankful for NOAA Weather Radio and the warning services they provide.
What has angered Americans about “the federal family” isn’t that it’s “government – the problem is the insatiable appetite for our tax money by “the Family”.
The problem here is that the Left doesn’t want us to understand their agenda, so they hide behind pretty words. They’re Euphocrats.
UPDATE: One of my favorite authors/bloggers, Gene Edward Veith, touched upon this topic this morning. In his piece, he refers to an essay by George Orwell, titled “Politics and the English Language“. In it, Orwell states:
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
“While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.”
The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer…
That “gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims” is precisely what we are dealing with regarding the Euphocrats and the hiding of their agenda. While I don’t completely share Orwell’s cynicism about politics as “…itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly hatred and schizophrenia”, there certainly is plenty of that going on when it comes to Obama’s “federal family”.