The Devil's Dictionary

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The
Republicans have become adept at redefining words to suit their
purposes, relabeling people and events, shuffling people around
to slip out from under inconvenient words or laws, or simply inventing
new phrases to suit their purposes.

For example, the Bush administration people say that the prisoners
they’ve captured in the so-called "War on Terror" can
be treated any way the U.S. military chooses – including ways
that international law would define as torture. The Bushies say
the Geneva Convention doesn't apply to these captives because they
aren’t prisoners of war, they’re "enemy combatants."

Yes, but what about U.S. laws prohibiting the government from using
torture on anyone? Well, they’ve slipped out from under that restriction
as well. They say that U.S. criminal laws don't apply because the
prisoners are not on American soil – they're in Afghanistan,
Iraq, and Guantanamo, where U.S. laws obviously have no authority.

So
all you have to do is invent new labels or move people around –
and the laws don’t apply.

These
"War on Terror" linguistic techniques are inspiring similar
tactics elsewhere. As you may have heard, the Constitution says
that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging
the freedom of speech." You might gather from this that Congress
can make no law abridging the freedom of speech. But Senator Ted
Stevens (R-AK) is pushing legislation to restrict what cable TV
channels can show on their networks.
Senator Stevens says
this isn’t "censorship" (which,
of course, would be unconstitutional), it’s simply establishing
a "standard of decency."

Pretty
soon they could start passing legislation that would imprison you
for criticizing the administration, praying, sweating, having sex,
doing crossword puzzles, leaving your home after 7pm, or maybe even
watching anything other than Fox TV News.

If anyone complains that such laws are unconstitutional, they’ll
simply tell you that these aren’t laws; they’re "directives,"
and so they’re not bound by the Constitution.

March
14, 2005

Harry Browne [send
him mail
], the author of Why
Government Doesn’t Work

and many other books, was the Libertarian presidential candidate
in 1996 and 2000. See his website.

Harry
Browne Archives

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