Andrew Robinson - Theory Blog

Monday, November 15, 2004

OPPRESSIVE DISCOURSE

The only formulation at the time of writing (Nov 04) of my general theory of oppressive discourse, these papers were produced for a couple of colloquia in 2001 and 2002 I think. Ignore the references to cartoons, which referred to visual aids I used on the overhead projector. The first version formulates the general theory. The second is a rewrite of the same paper, plus an application to post-911 militarism based on "Killing with Words".




OPPRESSIVE DISCOURSE

The experience of oppression is almost universal in the contemporary world. Feelings of frustration, alienation and pointlessness are widespread, and many people continue to find their desires and aspirations blocked by forces apparently outside their control. Much of this frustration results from entirely human-made phenomena such as the systems of production and consumption, elitist and statist politics, war, police repression, and prejudice. Many people feel directly oppressed by the existing social system. Others feel a generalised sense of alienation, frustration, depression or anger, which is probably an expression of oppressions which they have not conceptualised as such. Oppression is a multi-layered, self-reinforcing phenomenon which is reproduced across a range of different relationships (*). Human life is structured through discourse, which can take the shape of language, symbolism, imagination, narrative-construction, practice, and other shapes. It is my thesis, therefore, that oppressive relations between people arise from the existence of forms of discourse which are widely accepted and used, but which are fundamentally oppressive. It is not enough simply to state that people are swindled or controlled; as Marx explains, it is also important to explain how and why they are. And as Reich puts it, it is important not only to explain resistance, but also to account for its frequent absence. I believe that an understanding of oppressive discourse is crucial to answering both of these questions.

Oppressive discourse arises when one person or group establishes a conception built around, or leading to, the discursive exclusion of another person or group. In other words, it involves an inconsistency in which one posits one's own right to speak, at the same time as imposing a condition of voicelessness on others. As Paolo Freire argued, human autonomy depends on the ability to name the world, individually and in dialogue with others. Oppressive discourse operates to block this capacity, thereby constructing an asymmetry between an in-group, who have the right to speak, and an out-group, who are silenced and left vulnerable to other forms of oppression and exploitation. Those rendered voiceless become means to an end within someone else's discourse. Oppressive discourse turns language from being a means of intersubjective expression into being a component part of structures of hierarchic power. Language ceases to be actively constructed by all speakers, and most people are reduced to being bit-part players in someone else's narrative. The social system operates as what Sartre terms a "counter-finality", frustrating all consistent conceptions of the good by stealing people's goals before they can be realised. Further, oppressive discourse places constraints, hurdles, and threats in the way of anyone who manages to break with dominant conceptions of the world and begin to conceive of alternatives.

My concern is mainly with the oppressive character of discourse as a concern in its own right, although I would add that oppressive discourse is usually illogical and self-contradictory, and that it usually involves non-falsifiable claims. Even when oppressive statements appear empirical and logical, they operate to preclude the assessment of empirical and logical claims by others, and so undermine empirical and logical argument in general. The oppressive form of a discourse is often also in stark contradiction with the discursive content (*).

Oppressive discourse is, I would suggest, fundamental to oppressive practice. Therefore, if one can expose and overcome oppressive discourse, oppressive social relations should become unthinkable. This may be inadequate to the task of overcoming oppression, but it is a necessary prerequisite for identifying oppressive practices and beginning a process of overcoming them. Rejecting oppressive discourse does not magically dispel it, but it does make it impossible to hide, and it insulates the analyst from appeals based on oppressive discursive forms. A critique of oppressive discourse is therefore, in Gramsci's term, a "peak inaccessible to the enemy", from which attempts to change the world can be launched.

Although I hope eventually to examine oppressive discourse from a variety of perspectives, for this thesis I intend to look mainly at the ways in which existing theorists have begun to formulate conceptions of oppressive discourse and strategies for overcoming it. Much political theory is irrelevant to this purpose or even counterproductive. Analytical philosophers frequently rely on supposedly commonsensical claims which reproduce oppressive discourse, while the speculative approach common in Continental political philosophy is inappropriate for dealing with beliefs and practices as they operate in everyday life. Theory is too often concerned with speculation and interpretation, when the point, as Marx put it, is to change it. There are, however, a few theorists who have begun to examine the issue of oppressive discourse.

Gramsci's work is particularly significant. For Gramsci, philosophy and politics are not the sole preserve of specialists; everyone engages in philosophical activity since everyone holds some conception of the world and of life, which underlies their practice, and everyone engaged in politics since their practical activity promotes some ways of thinking and acting over others. Ordinary people have their own philosophies and world-views, which Gramsci terms "common sense". This is often confused, contradictory, manipulable, neophobe and prejudiced. Therefore, according to Gramsci, one should aim to develop a critique of common sense, similar to critiques of particular philosophies but directed against everyday beliefs. This critique should be undertaken by 'organic intellectuals', who should aim to encourage more critical and coherent beliefs through a political, cultural and pedagogic practice which draws on immanently critical elements within common sense to overcome common sense as a whole.

Oppressive discourse is, I suspect, historically effective because it is built into, and draws on, common sense. It occurs in actual social relations because it is reproduced in everyday life. This is shown by studies such as those of Roland Barthes, who demonstrates the mythical structure of many conceptions in politics, the media and everyday life, and Wilhelm Reich, who shows how the mass appeal of fascism is based on psychological preconditions built into everyday world-views. According to Reich (*), for instance, identification with a fhrer results from the triggering of a character-structure built around the repression of sexual and other desires and drawing on situations in supporters' childhoods. A transformative politics which aims to overcome oppression must, therefore, aim to overcome existing everyday beliefs and psychological alignments.

Oppressive discourse operates at the level of the form of discourse, not usually at the more obvious level of content. It operates, not mainly through what is said, but through how it is said, that is, through the ways in which statements are made and backed. The medium, as McLuhan puts it, is the message, and a practice such as imposing a label directly carries or constructs relations of oppression, regardless of the content of the label. In the case of mental asyums, for instance (*), it is not the specific psychological categories which are oppressive, but the act or gesture or imposing them onto people whose own understanding of a situation may be very different. As Trevor Pateman puts it about one type of oppressive discourse, such forms operate by commenting on what someone says, rather than replying to it. In mental asylums (*), an inmate's statements are re-classified, not as communicative statements, but as "symptoms", and inmates are rendered unable to communicate for this reason. Labels such as "mad" become a substitute for replying to specific claims or engaging with particular people's systems of belief and meaning. The content of labelling, and similar forms, is a secondary and largely arbitrary issue. For instance, psychological experiments about prejudice have reproduced it in laboratory situations, with arbitrarily selected characteristics such as eye-colour and membership of assigned groups as the defining features.

For ease of explanation, and to aid attempts to overcome it, I have divided oppressive discourse into a number of distinct forms, and discussed each in terms of its own specific logic. It should be remembered, however, that this is a conceptual division introduced for analytical purposes. In actual social relations, oppressive discourses operate within complex interrelations with each other. Oppressive situations usually include at least three groups, an oppressor, an oppressed group, and bystanders, and an effective oppression usually has to acquire self-justification in the oppressor group, submission of the oppressed group, and ignorance or acceptance from bystanders. This can require more than one form of discourse to operate simultaneously, and there are cases where oppressive forms of discourse coexist with other forms. Furthermore, oppressive discourses are not automatically effective. They spread their reach into particular social spaces only by means of a constant struggle with other discourses which resist them (*).

In general, oppressive forms of discourse, which may or may not be consciously used, operate at the level of access to language, and regulate speaking and listening to the disadvantage of some categories of people. Such forms operate by refusing a voice to particular listeners or by making particular kinds of statement a priori "un-sayable".

My concept of an oppressive form of discourse is not simply a label for ideas I dislike, as is sometimes the case in theories of ideology. There are definite criteria (to do with an imposition of voicelessness at the level of form), which are necessary for a discourse to be termed "oppressive" by my standard.

The purpose of a transformative project to overcome oppressive discourse is not the construction of some kind of ideal discourse, as it is for Althusser and Habermas. The critique of oppressive discourse is about opening socio-discursive space, not closing it. That this critique discredits most existing institutions does not at all make it a discourse of closure. It is no more prescriptive than, for instance, formal logic. Furthermore, it does not involve reducing social relations to language, since the concept of "discourse" also covers non-linguistic practices.

I shall proceed to demonstrate a few examples of oppressive forms of discourse; I'm also making available a fuller list and demonstration of these forms.

(*) This cartoon demonstrates the substitutionist form of discourse. Substitutionism occurs when a member of one group or institution claims to be acting for, or as, some other category which is not identical with it. As is clearly shown here,l substitutionism leads to a situation where the institution equals the represented group and the actually-existing represented group therefore equals its own enemy.

(*) This is an illustration of phatic discourse. Phatic discourse arises when language fulfils a function of preventing silence, and does not have a communicative function. Phatic discourse has a ritualistic role of establishing an appearance of consensus or agreement without any actual communication taking place. Phatic discourse tends to foreclose or repress challenges to its own content. This case also shows again the possibility of radical contradiction between form and content.

(*) This cartoon shows the role of the figure of a folk-devil in a moral panic or anathematising form of discourse. The broader discursive form of anathematisation, which is used to close the discursive space by prohibiting identification with particular labels and categories, sometimes slips over into the more spectacular form of the moral panic, where members of anathematised groups are targetted as a result of a general panic about the growth of some, usually mythical, danger. Moral panics close discursive space by creating a climate of fear, and tend to drown out other forms of discourse.

(*) This illustration shows an example of the principle of self-alterity. Self-alterity occurs when someone adopts a role, mode of action, or position of enunciation which directly or indirectly goes against her or himself. In particular, it involves an application of signs, especially mythically-loaded ones, in a context where they are not synchronised with actual subjective states. Entire pseudo-communities can be constructed on the basis of discourses of self-alterity, which, however, leads to frustration and disappointment. Discourses of self-alterity are an implicitly repressive use of language which involves uncritical submission to the existing order of signs.

The project of criticism of oppressive discourse is relevant to political science, in relation to questions of the role of the political science as well as to the study of political institutions, propaganda and power. It is also more directly relevant to political theory, since it involves a re-thinking of normative conceptions and an evaluation of existing and alternative ways of thinking and acting. Finally, it should be noted that the critique of oppressive discourse is not a purely academic concern. It is potentially of relevance to each of us, in terms of how we speak, act, interrelate, and communicate. It is a tool for identifying the sources of oppression in our own lives, as well as for ensuring that we do not ourselves act oppressively. Therefore, it is a step in the right direction in relation to the project of taking the study of politics into the world, and of finally addressing Marx's imperative to change it.




OPPRESSIVE DISCOURSE, COMMON SENSE AND LIBERALISM
A critique of the functioning of oppressive forms of discourse in everyday life and in political theory

(*) The purpose of my current research is to provide an original theory to explain the existence of oppression. In contrast to the speculative nature of much contemporary political theory, I rely on a phenomenological starting-point. A grouping of experiences which I refer to as "the experience of oppression" can be seen to exist across a wide range of different situations in the modern world. Feelings of frustration, alienation and pointlessness are widespread, and violence and abuse by dominant groups are more widespread than is often recognised. There is a great deal of empirical evidence for the existence of such experiences - for instance, Jim Scott's studies of the "hidden transcripts" of subaltern groups and David Matza's analysis of the discourse of so-called delinquents in America. Experiences of oppression, as distinct from other kinds of frustration, emerge from entirely human-made sources such as war, police repression, and systems of production and consumption, and I would suggest that there are important structural differences between experiences of oppression and other forms of frustration and fear such as those experienced by an elite unable to impose its agenda. While the range of experiences vary in intensity and include, for instance, experiences of extreme violence, the characteristic common to them is that they all involve a particular person or group being rendered voiceless, due to an asymmetry between an in-group permitted voice and an out-group who are silenced (*). The out-group is usually able to gain a voice only through various forms of resistance. The construction of voicelessness occurs prior to specific arguments, and in some cases it may be very well-hidden beneath a superficially rational exterior. Since human action can only be understood as motivated by and operating through discursive systems meaningful to and inscribed in the symbolic systems of human actors, the actions which generate oppression should be understood through discourse analysis.

Oppression is a multi-layered, self-reinforcing phenomenon which is reproduced across a range of social relationships (*). Victims of oppression find themselves confronted in the first instance by a discursive system, which projects violence onto others and/or which imposes silence on its victims. However, my thesis is that oppression is generated by particular forms of discourse which are embedded in oppressive systems but which are relatively arbitrary in terms of content. In other words, oppression operates not so much through what is said as through how it is said: the medium is the message, and the two may be in sharp contradiction (*). This is why oppressive discourse is often able to disguise itself as universal rather than exclusionary: a discourse with emancipatory, libertarian or egalitarian content may nevertheless operate oppressively because it incorporates oppressive discursive forms. Relations of oppression are often repeated against different groups or in different ways, while retaining their basic form. For instance, practices of anathematisation and labelling (*) carry oppressive relations regardless of the specific content of the label and of the group which is targeted for labelling. The figure of the scapegoat may remain fixed in a dominant discursive system even while the particular groups occupying this position change. The structure of anathematisation operates as a recurring myth, a drama or narrative which particular people are included in as villains regardless of their own understanding of the situation.

Furthermore, the same form of discourse may be used by a variety of actual and potential oppressive systems. Oppressive forms generate oppressive actions by particular social agents or allow victims of oppression and bystanders to be deceived and swindled into supporting oppressive systems. It is, I would suggest, impossible to engage in or to defend oppression without relying on oppressive forms of discourse. However, (*) oppressive systems often manage to wriggle out of criticisms by superficial changes which alter the content of their discourse while retaining the oppressive form.

It should be possible to produce a list of forms of discourse which structurally produce voicelessness. The validity of this general theory, and of the classification of any specific form of discourse as "oppressive", depends on both structural and empirical aspects: on the one hand, it should be possible to show why particular forms of discourse lead to voicelessness by examining their implications; on the other, if my theory is accurate it should be possible to demonstrate the operation of oppressive forms of discourse wherever experiences of oppression occur.

I have completed a provisional list, which is one of various pieces of work I shall make available at the end of the session. An example of an oppressive form of discourse is invalidatory discourse, which arises when a prohibitory statement or silence is used to avoid responding to the substantive content of a statement. For instance, the common psychiatric practice of treating patients' claims and requests as "symptoms" and therefore as not deserving a response is an example of invalidation (*). The same form arises when an adult replies to a statement by a child by saying "don't be cheeky"; a politician criticises an opponent's claim as "extremist" and therefore unworthy of response; or a colonial regime ignores the protests of those it deems too "primitive" to belong to a political community. Though occurring in different situations, these examples share a basic form. They all involve a powerful person commenting on, rather than replying to, statements made by others, in such a way as potentially to silence the others.

There are other examples, such as (*) substitutionism. This occurs when a member of a group or institution claims to be acting for, or as, some other category of people - in this case, the dinosaurs are claiming to act on behalf of Wildcat. As this cartoon clearly shows, substitutionism produces a situation where the institution equals the represented group and the actually-existing represented group therefore equals its own enemy. This renders the actually-existing represented group voiceless. A more subtle kind of oppressive discourse is (*) self-alterity. This arises when someone adopts a role, mode of action or position of enunciation which is alien to her or his actual or experienced self. For instance, mythically-loaded variants of signs which signify subjective states may be used in a context in which they are not synchronised with actual subjective states. Entire pseudo-communities can be constructed on the basis of self-alterity which, however, lead to frustration and disappointment, and which often rely on being imposed regardless of the actual alignments of participants. Discourses of self-alterity involve an uncritical submission to the existing order of signs. Another example is (*) doublespeak. This constructs voicelessness by fixing the identity of opposites within a system and denying possible linguistic space to anyone outside this system. It is one of several forms of discourse which can be used to empty ethical concepts of specifiable content. Other examples include (*) phatic discourse, where the possibility of dissent is cut off by an illusion of obviousness and a ritualistic repetition of superficial verbal formulae, and (*) naturalisation, which attaches the signifier "natural" to phenomena in such a way as to place them beyond criticism. By reducing oppressive relations to outgrowths of "human nature" or "natural laws", supporters of oppression can conceal their specifically discursive character and insulate them from criticism.

Basically, I am claiming that, wherever experiences of oppression exist, there is an identifiable oppressive form of discourse which generates these experiences, and that, therefore, one can eliminate oppression by refusing to use and by consistently opposing oppressive forms of discourse.

In formulating my theory of oppressive discourse, I draw on a range of existing theoretical approaches, including Gramsci's critique of common sense, Barthes's analyses of myths and everyday discursive systems, Reich's work on mass psychology, and Deleuze's critique of repressive forms of desire. The crucial point in all these analyses is that oppression is rooted in the discourses of everyday life, so that a transformative politics should include a pedagogic praxis directed at overcoming existing beliefs and existing psychological and semantic alignments. Theory therefore needs to open onto the world, both in terms of a more careful analysis of empirical material about everyday life than theorists usually attempt, and in terms of linking into a political practice which aims to transform the world. Reich, for instance, suggests (*) that a psychological desire to submit arising from relations in the family and elsewhere provides the dynamo behind the rise of fascism.

My insistence that oppression operates as a discourse is not a denial either of the importance of structures of the material world and organised social practices in constructing oppressive systems, or of the fact that violence resulting from oppression is often directed against people's bodies as well as their minds and their speech. Discourse is not merely a synonym for language but includes all meaningful practices with a communicative component or a function of blocking communication (regardless of whether they are solely symbolic). Therefore, an attempt to impose a conception of the world by assaulting anyone who questions it or by locking opponents in prison cells is as much an instance of oppressive discourse as, for instance, using an invalidation. (*) Repressive territorialisation, in which a dominant group limits physical spaces in such a way as to prevent the emergence of uncontrolled forms of life, and terror, in which a group uses physical violence to exterminate others or in an attempt to intimidate them into silence, are important instances of oppressive discourse. The use of force for non-defensive purposes, for instance to deter or to break the will of opponents, is clearly a practice which is both meaningful and oppressive, and it is no coincidence that it is often referred to via metaphors such as "sending a message" or "teaching a lesson". I also include character-armour, which is constructed within the body as a means to repress desire, as a form of oppressive discourse which involves the internalisation of oppression.

My critique of oppressive discourse is still a work-in-progress consisting of two stages: firstly, a demonstration of the validity of the claim that oppression can be traced to oppressive forms of discourse, and secondly, the use of this theory to expose oppressive elements in theories, such as analytical liberalism, which are not usually associated with oppression. Crucially, however, this theory can be used to critique everyday discourse and the discourse of the media, politicians and other elites, to show how oppressive elements operate within it. Discourse used by supporters of the recent war in Afghanistan, for instance, is awash with oppressive aspects. In the paper "Killing with words", I provide a detailed account of instances of oppressive discourse used in pro-war commentaries.

In particular, the mythical form of discourse (as exposed by Roland Barthes in Mythologies) is widespread. (There is a full discussion of myth in the list of oppressive forms; its basic structure is that a "first-order" sign is used to carry or connote a second meaning which is independent of its signified). Variants occurring in pro-war discourse include a reliance on the pseudo-concrete significance of photojournalism, assertions of the immediate and privileged reality of pro-war rhetoric, tautologies, the externalisation of "war" as something which ostensibly "just happens" and is articulated in phrases such as "war is...", and so on. Militarists inscribe pro-war positions, not in relation to actual or empirical concerns, but in a mythical narrative imported into events from the outside. Through this narrative (formulated around themes such as good and evil, "action" versus "doing nothing", and claims to immediate knowledge of truth), myth creates a situation where an emotional reaction is taken to prove the truth of claims stemming from it and where this reaction in itself justifies a particular kind of action, i.e. war. The emotional reactions are those stemming from a particular kind of character-structure, and are structured around themes with authoritarian libidinal implications.

Meanwhile, ethical concepts are being emptied so they can be identified with pro-war positions. Words such as "justice", "freedom", "civilisation", "violence", and so on are arranged within pro-war discourse so as to be identified directly with agents, thereby stripping them of their critical and referential potential. This device, which is typical of the hurrah- and boo-word" form of discourse, reinforces the "us and them" binary. Since negatively-loaded terms have become empty anathemas connected directly with the figure of the enemy, the in-group can commit any act without violating these anathemas. The mythical structure of war enables oppressive practices to develop by motivating and legitimating acts of violence and terror, such as the saturation bombing of Afghanistan and the prison camps in Guantanamo Bay. Instead of being defended in specific ways, such attacks are legitimated by a mythical structure which puts victims and critics outside the discursive space in an asymmetrical manner. Thus, both the possibility of and the motive for concrete oppressions can be traced back to oppressive forms of discourse, and show themselves as such even when the direct violence of militarist practices is disavowed.

I am making available copies of a number of my previous papers which deal with issues relating to oppressive discourse. These are: a list of specific oppressive forms of discourse; "Killing with words", my paper on discourse since September 11th; a critique of some variants of poststructuralism for their failure to engage with everyday life and to critique "common sense"; and two papers dealing with the subject of resistance. I am also making available a number of short articles (which are not my own) on related subjects.

Andrew Robinson
OPPRESSIVE DISCOURSE: MILITARISM SINCE SEPTEMBER 11th: EXAMPLES

MYTHS: Photojournalism
When Kabul was "liberated", Time magazine ran a photograph of a woman with her face unveiled, with the headline "Hello Sunshine". In another instance, it ran the message "The Mask of Death" with a picture of an al-Qaeda fighter. The direct connection between the words and the image connotes a mythical meaning (women are free, al-Qaeda are evil) which is not strictly derived from the image itself. (It is highly questionable whether women have really been freed in post-war Afghanistan. Afghan women's group R.A.W.A. denies this claim fervently). Readers are encouraged to jump to conclusions and to see a particular ideological image of the "war on terror" as immediately, self-evidently and visibly real, above and beyond any arguments for or against it. Some readers receive this connoted signal. For instance, Misook Kim wrote to Time letters: "When I saw the photograph of the similing Afghan women with their uncovered faces in the sun, I knew that America and its allies had done the right thing", and Norman Sattar wrote: "It is heartening to see normal life on the streets of Kabul, women unshackled and smiles on the faces of the people". Notice how the one woman in the photograph has become multiple women in both readings, how broad the inferences are, and how themes such as "normal life" are introduced in a manner clearly exceeding the evidence available to readers.

MYTHS: Privileged reality-claims
Time magazine columnist Lance Morrow, writing immediately after September 11th, tries to claim a privileged status for particular signifiers. For instance: 'Asymmetry is a concept. War is, as we see, blood and death'. As a result, he encodes the New York massacre as a 'moment of clarity' which sweeps away uncertainty and forces 'messily tolerant' America to act. Because of this claim to immediacy, war becomes merely a 'practical matter'; anyone who disagrees with him unfit for decent company, he claims. The claim to immediacy is a handy way to silence critics, whose views are not answered but merely assigned a priori an inferior status (as mere "semantics" or "messiness", rather than as a real issue). Tony Blair also refuses to define what he means by "treason", but he thinks everyone will know it if they see it; also, he said a few days after September 11th that 'the fact is that we are at war with terrorism' whatever the 'technical and legal issues'. And G.T., in a letter to Teletext, accuses opponents of Camp X-Ray of being 'bogged down in semantics', contrasting this to the supposedly privileged position of 'how our troops feel'. I suspect the confusion involved in such discourse is that the emotional "reality" of strong feelings of horror, disgust, fear, etc. are mistaken for characteristics of the world as such, and therefore are used to play the role of facts. Hence, Morrow is not really referring to "blood and death", either as a defining feature of war, or in terms of the extra-linguistic characteristics of war (since these characteristics would not set it aside from other concepts), but rather, uses the words "blood and death" to mythically connote particular emotional states which are then used to justify particular actions. Notice how supporters of war feel issues about civilian casualties in Afghanistan, which clearly involve "blood and death", to be on the "unreal" side of their binary. (Frank D'Angeli's letter to Time uses similar discourse to justify nuclear attacks, with no apparent concern about what this 'means', and Tony Gallo refers to anything short of 'immediate annihilation' as 'exaggerated sensitivity').

MYTHS: Tautologies
Lance Morrow again: 'enemies are enemies'. Hence, Morrow does not need to define an enemy, or say how one can tell who is an enemy. Barthes calls tautology 'a minor ethical salvation, [giving] the satisfaction of having militated in favour of truth... without having to assume the risks which any somewhat positive search for the truth inevitably involves' (Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, pp. 59-61; Mythologies, 152-3).

MYTHS: "War just happens"
Anurag Bahadur, letter to Time, defending the killing of civilians: 'Life is not fair. Neither is war'. Jim Kontilas, letter to Time, defending military tribunals: 'The terrorists need to understand the consequences of attacking the U.S.'. The actions of western agents are not defended but transmuted. War - a series of human actions, which human actors could refrain from committing - is treated as an external category which operates of itself, as a fact.

HURRAH- AND BOO-WORDS
Lance Morrow says September 11th will 'separate the civilised from the uncivilised', while advocating rage, retribution and "fatwa". David Held calls September 11th an attack on justice, even while listing 'gross inequalities of life' and the lack of a 'just peace' among its causes. Bush calls on nations to 'respect the rule of law' while breaking international conventions on the treatment of prisoners. In all these cases and others, the positively-loaded (hurrah- or hooray-) word has been appropriated without any consideration of its referential meaning.

For more on this subject, see my paper "Killing with Words".

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