Unspeak from the readers: They find it everywhere.

Media criticism.
Jan. 23 2007 5:34 PM

Unspeak From the Readers

They find it everywhere.

(Continued from Page 1)

Paul W. Westermeyer diagnoses anti-war as unspeak because it declares "that everyone else is 'pro-war,' implying no distinction between supporting a war of defense and a war of aggression." Progressive also deserves our attention, he writes, because it "implies improvement."

"The term not incorrect is almost always favored over 'correct' because it, while acknowledging undisputed facts, still casts doubt on whatever the opposition is trying to get across, and implies that the fact is a technicality," writes Robin Snyder.


Terrorist surveillance program is "the preferred term of the Bush administration towards their illegal, warrantless, unsupervised spying of American citizens. It was also the phrase used by Fox News, right wing pundits, and right wing blogs," writes Joshua Fletcher, calling it a "safe, innocent, sanitized phrase which implied no wrongdoing."

Linda McIntyre recalls an article from long ago in the New Republic "about the Children's Defense Fund," which casts "those not in agreement with CDF's policy prescriptions as anti-child, a strategy that worked well for the group in terms of politics and fundraising."

Mass casualty event really describes mass slaughter, writes Michael Billips. "Heritage has become a code word for race," writes Jeremy Voas. "Since the '80's being against deficits means being for something that cannot be said: taxes," offers Robert Cunningham. Joe Keohane and Tom Stephens find unspeak in the vague phrase support the troops, Ashley Masset nominates smart growth, and Alec Mcausland wants to know where the eggheads get off calling themselves the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Interrogation techniques sanitizes torture, writes Donald DiPaula, and anything that contains the word agenda(homosexual agenda, left-wing agenda, and right-wing agenda) qualifies because it implies the homosexuals, lefties, and righties are "homogenous and in complete internal agreement." Similarly, about a dozen readers drew their unspeak revolvers whenever encountering the word family anywhere near values, oriented, pro-,or -friendly. Beth Prather brings up the rear with one of my hobbyhorses, the war on drugs, and Carol Kania with the cringe-making stakeholders.

Many readers nominated such unspeak as unlawful combatants and climate change, which are analyzed in Poole's book. To my great disappointment, nobody finds the phrase net neutrality an example of unspeakableness. Can I get a second out there?

Finally, Keith Benoit suggests that readers listen to the State of the Union address tonight and e-mail me examples of Bush's unspeak. Excellent idea. If you have the stomach to listen, send your examples to slate.pressbox@gmail.com and I'll post the best of the lot.


(E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.