Friday, March 27, 2009

PC term for Terrorism: “Overseas Contingency Operation.”

A short person is "vertically-challenged", a liar is "truth-challenged", a beautiful woman suffers from "lookism", a bad person is "morally-challenged" ... and a terrorist is now an overseas contingency operative...

I. Norm of Normblog has been recording instances in which 'the struggle formerly known as the War on Terror' reveals itself to be what it actually is: war against terrorism, in spite of semantic and nominal contortions.

He first uses the ACRONYM here:

This is a bit of a puzzle. Barack Obama writes (and he also says):

Tomorrow, we'll gather at a new time of great challenge for the American people. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in turmoil.

Hmmm... What war is that, then? Wars, don't you know, are between states, and though the US is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan there's no war with either of those two countries. It must be the war we're repeatedly called on not to think of as a war or, indeed, to name as one. It's what a friend suggests we might now call 'the struggle formerly known as the "war on terror"'. Et tu Barack, oh, Barack - how you do let them down.

But it was a provisional title, to make do with until the "Struggle" gets officially baptized under a more suitable name.

II. We now have it:

The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration has renamed the Global War on Terror. Apparently it is no longer a war, nor is terror worth mentioning. It is now the “Overseas Contingency Operation.”

Or, I suppose, if you want something a little snappier, the OCO.

Claudia Rossett calls this renaming ceremony what it is: attempt to bury realities in bureaucratic blather. Its yet more of the engagement attempt, in which President Obama sits in a chair and wishes Happy New Year by webcast to Irans leaders. They respond by taking a break from their nuclear bomb program to rally a mob chanting Overseas Contingency Operation Death to America.

III. I have an example for this type of thinking, from my translation studies days. A rose, as the bard said, by any other name, is always a rose.

Final Solution or Total Solution?

In the Nurenberg Trials, Translation played a crucial role in communication, due to the large variety of nations represented in the proceedings. Skilled and professional translators were employed to try and help the judges get as close to the truth as possible. In spite of this, when the Nazi Propaganda Minister Goering was questioned, he managed quite successfully to cast doubts as to the way certain terms, quoted from official Nazi documents, were translated from the German. In seeking to mitigate the damage done to his defense by those documents, he kept arguing that many quotes were mistranslated, and that the correct translation would account for a different story than the one unfolded during the trials. I will describe one such attempt.

When cross-examination turned to the persecution of the Jewish population, the prosecution presented as evidence a short letter from Goering to Heydrich in which "the final solution to the Jewish problem" was the main issue. Goering challenged the translation, claiming that the correct term should have stated "the total solution" to the Jewish problem, and not the "final solution" as it came to be known in contemporary Western media. This example testifies to the complexity of an ethics of translation, which cannot apparently be divorced from the context in which it occurs. Goering the translator seems to have adhered to a principle of “resistancy”: He ostensibly wants to keep close to the authentic term supplied in his Native German in attempting to deal with the question of Jewish persecution. However, it is doubtful whether concern with linguistic accuracy guided him in this instance. It is more likely that he wanted to mutate the understanding of his target audience; aware of the heavy charge that had accrued to the term "final solution” he aimed at lessening the burden by suggesting that another term be used instead. A changed term such as “the total solution” would have divested the concept of its immediate connotations, blunting the sharpness of the allusion and thus maybe softening its impact, to Goering's advantage in court. In this case, the court may have conceded certain linguistic points to the accused, yet is there any question that in the context of historical evidence, any term selected to describe the genocidal plans would have eventually assumed the same charged meaning?

IV: Mind games.


At 5:20 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel better already!

What a great leader!

Newspeak is the wave of the future.


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