The Danger of Euphemistic Language

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A terrified Jewish child being rounded up by Nazis. Warsaw, 1943.

Euphemistic language is the most dangerous weapon facing civilization. It is the destroyer of culture, the silencer of truth, and often, it is a historian’s greatest opponent in unraveling the past. It was a tool implemented by nazis to deport and murder millions of Jews, homosexuals, those with disabilities (mental/physical), political opponents, Roma, and countless other innocent people.

Source: IMDB.com
Conspiracy, 2001. Source: IMDB.com

In Frank Pierson’s 2001 HBO film Conspiracy, euphemistic language is used throughout a dinner which catalogues the events of the Wannsee Conference, a meeting of high ranking Nazi officials in which the groundwork of the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Question” was established. This film is successful in portraying the metamorphosis of nonsensical ideology into mass murder, all under the guise of “friendly” language. It is evident that the Nazis are aware that the world will hate them for eliminating a race, unless, according to them, they can somehow disguise their actions under new terminology. Scientific terminology.

The first method of genocide discussed was by means of mass sterilization, in which Jewish women would walk through a giant x-ray beam that would radiate and destroy their eggs.

Screen Shot: Conspiracy, 2001
Screen Shot: Conspiracy, 2001

“We could call it, social…. re-experimentation.” – Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart, Conspiracy, 2001.

Instead, it was decided that exterminating the Jews in giant gas chambers was much more cost effective. The gas chambers were disguised as showers. Euphemisms and disguise go hand in hand.

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“When ignorance and bigotry are alive with power, it is a dangerous force in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.”

– U.S. Senator Cory Booker, 2018.

Unfortunately, euphemistic language didn’t die with Hitler. It exists everywhere, and it does not always have to be something terrible. Euphemisms simply imply that the real meaning has been hidden for some reason. Life isn’t always 100% literal. “Ice cream” is fairly literal, it describes what it is: iced cream. But what does it mean to “pass away” or that someone has “departed?” Well, it’s a nicer way of saying someone is dead. But it’s still hiding the truth to those who don’t understand the real meaning. And that’s where things can get dangerous.

Right now, immigrant children are being held across the U.S. in “detention centers.”

What is a detention center? It’s a room gated up like an outdated dog pound, locking them in like animals behind metal gates.

Children’s detention center in McAllen, Texas. Photo: RGV-FCB/Center for Border Protection SOURCE: https://www.thecut.com/2018/06/immigrant-children-detention-center-separated-parents.html
Children’s detention center in McAllen, Texas. Photo: RGV-FCB/Center for Border Protection

In fact, I have been to animal shelters that are in FAR better shape than these facilities imprisoning children.

Trump’s oligarchy has been using euphemistic language before he even became president. Now it has become an everyday occurrence, usually in the form of a tweet. From Kellyanne Conway to Sarah Huckabee, they have become masters of disguising truths behind euphemistic language.

However, I think Michelle Wolf put it best at 2018 White House Roast:

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“I actually like Sarah [Huckabee], I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it, maybe its lies…. It’s probably lies.” – Michelle Wolf, 2018.

(Watch the full clip here: Michelle Wolf White House Roast 2018)

 

 

Brrr…. Did it just get colder in here? Oh, never mind. Kellyanne just entered the room.

 

 

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Kellyanne Conway, master of deceit

In 2017, Kellyanne Conway used the term ‘alternative facts’ to describe the inflated numbers White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lied about regarding the attendance numbers at Trump’s inauguration. That’s like throwing a party, having no one show up, and lying about how awesome it was to make yourself feel better.

Fun fact: In the 1980s, alternative facts were called “newspeak.”

Watch how masterfully Kellyanne Conway dodges questions with euphemisms and changing the subject:

Now here is where I loop this all back to the environment.

 

Euphemistic language is destroying our planet.

 

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Photo Source: https://countercurrents.org/

The following is the example of “Complex or Confusing Language” from the Purdue OWL website, which is a writing guide for students. This site has nothing to do with environmental causes, and yet this was the example they chose to describe euphemistic language:

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Screen Shot: Owl.english.purdue.edu

Only it’s much, much worse.

In 2014, Jason Mark wrote an article called, “Eco Euphemisms Confuse Our Understanding of Environmental Destruction” and provides a fantastic list of euphemistic language that is harming the environment, he calls them eco-euphemisms.

Take for example, “municipal solid waste.” That’s just a fancy way of saying landfill, or trash. How about an “Ozone Non-attainment Area”, which means a place that’s smoggy from ozone (bad ozone, not good ozone).

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Here’s the EPA’s explanation of an Ozone Non-attainment Area:

 This web site provides information on the process EPA, the states, and the tribes follow to designate areas as “attainment” (meeting) or “nonattainment” (not meeting) the ground-level ozone standards established in 2015. – EPA.gov

What the actual fuck?

So an ozone ‘nonattainment’ area means that ozone is not meeting ‘ground level ozone standards’ (again, what the fuck?) that were established around the same time the white house turned orange, in 2015.

So, again, what does this mean? It means its a smoggy area that you probably shouldn’t breathe in.

And let’s not for biosolids, which is a lovely term for humane waste, or poop. B.S. now stands for two things, yet have virtually the same meaning.

Covering up the truth with technical terms is creating an ignorant society and amplifying our throw away culture. So how to you recognize it?

How to Identify Euphemistic Language

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1.) Does it sound too good to be true? Follow your instinct, there’s no harm in fact checking.

2.) Who is the author? As in, did someone real put their name to this statement or slogan? And who are they? Anonymity is an indication that something might be awry. So is a blonde woman in Minnesota preaching about the separation of students in America based on race on her ‘history’ webpage, (she exists!) If someone is trying to hide the truth, they often don’t reveal their name. If you can’t locate the source, or if someone simple is not credible, it’s probably not reliable information.

3.) Where are these people getting their information? Where does Kellyanne Conway get the cob-webbed wads of insanity she pulls out of her ass and calls ‘alternative facts.’ Anything alternative to a fact is called a “lie.”

4.) What are they actually saying? Remember, euphemistic language isn’t necessarily “bad,” but it does imply that the truth has been hidden.

5.) Is the language complex? Using complicated terminology can be a way to confuse people, and thus hide the truth. Don’t be embarrassed to look words up.

So, if a statement falls under any of these categories, you should look more closely to determine whether you are being duped or not.

And remember, alternative facts = lies.

 

Resources:

The Historical Origin of “Alternative Facts”

Deceitful Language and Euphemisms

Eco Euphemisms Confuse Our Understanding of Environmental Destruction

Nazi Language and Terminology

The EPA is harming the environment

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