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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dangerous Misleading Euphemisms

The other day before going to sleep, I emailed myself a reminder (information overload wreacks havoc with my memory) to blog about the use of the term פעילי טרור pi'ilei terror, terror activists.  I heard it on the news here in Israel.

Why couldn't they say מחבלים michablim, terrorists?

When I hear of "activists" I think of my past as a Jewish student activist in New York demonstrating for Israel and against the antisemitic policies of communist USSR.  By calling Arab terrorists "activists" the Israeli news editors are dumping me and my friends from SSSJ (Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry) in the same boat as Arab terrorist murderers.

Before I even got a chance to blog about it, I saw a new euphemism:
"homemade projectiles"
This is what the Arab terrorists themselves, on the Al Qassam website, call the deadly weapons they launch at Israel.

That brings me back to an old complaint, headlines like the following:
...23 missiles explode in southern Israel

They make me wonder if it's all just a matter of "spontaneous combustion."  Picture it.  missiles, bombs, weapons just suddenly appearing, exploding, "raining" on Israeli towns and homes, as if sent by some god...

It wasn't all that long ago when international politicians, leaders, professors and media were absolutely raving about the "Arab spring," as if it was a gentle, benign and beautiful carpet of wildflowers blooming.

Instead, it is being revealed that there aren't any real differences between the new "Arab spring" rulers and the ones they've replaced.  Ruthie Blum's most recent Israel Hayom article is about how the Arabs think of the United States and Israel.

The Arab springboard
It is not for nothing that jihadists refer to the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and to Israel as the “Small Satan.”

Words are very powerful.  We're not going to win the information war if we don't use the right terminology.


Leah said...

Yes, "terrorist" is also another one. "Gunman" is another. Why don't they call a spade a spade: "The murderer forced his / her child to be killed by physically strapping the bomb onto his/her innocent child. Then the mother or father guilted and shamed and forced their child to stand next to other innocent people-namely Jews and they forced the child to blow him/herself up. The mother and father celebrated - yes celebrated by handing out cheap garbage confections to other innocent children who will be forced by their parents to meet the same fate.Next, they will name a street after that child and cry for the cameras while they stick their hands out for benefits while providing murder and mayhem to the world. They will then continue to frequent their well stocked stores while complaining of lack of funds/aid/supplies.
Now THAT would be a headline, yes? Could you imagine?

Batya said...

Leah, terrorist is a murderer who uses "ideology" as an excuse.
another pet peeve is the use of the verb "perished" in Yad Veshem instead of "murdered."

Leah said...

Ahhh, yes the ole "perished" verbage. Not to be outdone, I offer you, "succumbed."
He succumbed to HIS injuries, as though somehow they were self inflicted. A truly insane time we live in.....

Alan said...

I see two separate forces at work.

One is the continuing actual straight importation by Sabras of English-isms was into the Hebrew language =as Hebrew=. We can't stop this by lecturing, as it happens for all kinds of reasons of inborn human psychology; and it's harmless. Unless you think that American English is "in danger" because it has adopted words like "sushi" or "felafel". Getting Aramaicized didn't "damage" Hebrew and neither will getting anglo'd. You probably don't get mad that "Country Band" is now a Hebrew word (I actually do because calling teenage Tzfonbon amateur garage rock bands "country bands"is an insult to Nashville pro musicians..... but whatever).

the second force at work, which perhaps isn't clear to idea-driven bloggers, is that "professional" journalists are NOT ALLOWED to ever admit: nothing remarkable happened in the last 24 hours, so today's edition has been cancelled to avoid printing/broadcast costs. Each individual medium exists to earn revenue for the owner by carrying advertising. That is why they exist. The "news" stories are only there to bribe the audience to read/watch. If there was, in fact, a "slow news day", then puffery will be performed to fill up the required space/time. If all the real news was too boring or to scary for the target audience to prefer to think about.... then celebrity love lives will be pulled out of a hat and gossiped about. Which of course, is why celebrities even exist. To write about when all else fails.

Israel isn't Bangladesh. There's money to be made by convincing Israelis that they NEED the latest Facebook gadget or variant on peanut butter, in order to feel validated and feel self-esteem. Therefore, a way will be found by run that message by them. That is media's job.

Batya said...

All living languages change and grow, but when idioms and phrasal verbs are translated, it grates on my ears. When my kids would say they were going to "lakachat miklachat*," I'd ask "to where?"

*to "take a shower" is an English phrasal verb. Proper Hebrew is "lihitkale'ach" reflexive of "to shower"