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On torture, from around the blogosphere

November 14, 2008

It is a topic of distraction, in part because of the news, and in part because of my most recent piece.

Here’s an insightful look at what the bureacratization of language does to experience, from William’s Dispatches

The danger of bullshit euphemisms is that they actively obscure meaning. Common usage can’t afford to beat around the bush because most people rely on language to accurately convey concepts and observations, whereas euphemisms are intended to disfigure our understanding of reality. So when some odious Bush Administration spokesperson mouths the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” in place of the word “torture,” the effect is to fundamentally shift our perception of what’s being done to detainees. This, of course, isn’t an organic cultural transition towards a more popular or aesthetically pleasing or powerful term of art. It’s a deliberate attempt on the part of a few bad people to prevent the public from understanding exactly what’s going on.

And there’s a great conversation about language and ethics going on at John Schwenkler’s Upturned Earth.

Meanwhile, EcuProphets, an ecumenical group in New York, has a great note about the religious roots of waterboarding, laid bare by William Schweiker of the University of Chicago.

There’s more, but I’m out of time.

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