Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weapon Words

We Americans have grown partial to what I call weapon words. The definition of a cliché is - a word or expression that has become trite and meaningless through over-use. Examples of clichés include:

Life as we know it
For the life of me
Off the top of my head
The time of my life
Little did I know

These expressions are virtually meaningless and carry little weight. We know what they mean, but we pay no attention to the meaning. Weapon words are different. Weapon words have extra built-in barbs. They are used to add potency to an assertion. I submit that their use is a form of DISHONESTY. Perhaps the traditional term for them is "loaded language".

Let me demonstrate. The twin towns of Hildale and Colorado city are home to a fundamentalist Mormon community. The media dubs it a "polygamist sect". This is dishonest because PEOPLE can be polygamous, but a sect cannot, right? Besides, it makes the community sound like a pack of crazies about to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. It is also dishonest because, no matter how much the Mother Church wants to demonize its own offspring, it cannot argue that their religion is a departure from its own origins.

Families in 14th-century Scotland formed clans (like tribes). The term "clan" is (and should be) emotionally neutral. The media talks of the Kingston "CLAN". This is now meant to be pejorative (see Brent Hunsaker). It evokes thoughts of weapons caches, fenced compounds, and antipathy for government. It feeds the public's appetite for disdain - for villainizing different communities so that it can feel guiltless when persecuting them. "Clan" has thus become a weapon word. I look back at the 2008 raid on the Yearning For Zion ranch. Many of the participating law-enforcement officers showed hubris and cynicism towards the peaceful residents. They forced young men to the ground and stood on their necks. Thankfully, weeks later, mental health workers wrote indignant, angry letters decrying the horrible abuses perpetrated by law enforcement against the mothers and children of the YFZ ranch.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, people often use weapon words to reinforce an argument. I just read a Canadian article titled, Polygamy Hearing: Evidence So Far Shows Polygamy Inherently Harmful. I can't help but think that "INHERENTLY" is a weapon word. Why? Because it is designed to summarily condemn. You could say, "Polygamy is harmful", but then you'd have to show evidence. If you say, "Polygamy is INHERENTLY harmful", you add a special dose of argumentative legitimacy. But what does it mean?

Arguing that polygamy is "inherently" harmful is fallacious. "INHERENTLY" is now a weapon word. I remember Flora Jessop ever chanting, "Polygamy is INHERENTLY abusive." What, exactly, does "inherently" mean in this context? It SOUNDS potent. Does it mean that, from the moment a man and a woman decide to enter a polygamous relationship, they have INHERENTLY plotted and inflicted harm? INHERENTLY because it is an INHERENT sin (in the eyes of a church)? - or INHERENTLY because it is an INHERENT crime (in the eyes of a politician)? - or INHERENTLY, because antagonist "experts" have carefully selected a set of grim anecdotes to catalog instances of harm perpetrated by rogue humans, then, when discovering that those humans happened to be polygamous, made the extrapolation that polygamy directly caused those humans to act like rogues? By that logic, BIN LADEN, the terrorist, is an ARAB HUMAN, so therefore all ARAB HUMANS are terrorists and must be killed !???!!

Using the word "inherently" in this way is an attempt to arrogate authoritativeness to a weak argument and intellectual dishonesty. I shall prove how disingenuous this is. If that broken logic is so scientific, then we should apply it to the human practice of divorce. DIVORCE is demonstrably harmful - INHERENTLY harmful, if you like. DIVORCE causes VAST devastation in all countries. Divorce NEVER fails to cause harm. Perhaps, if Canada is so deeply committed to international busy-body treaties calculated to minimize social harms, maybe it should blaze the U.N. trail and lead out with a law prohibiting/abolishing all DIVORCE. After all, isn't divorce inherently harmful?

The problem is - you could enact legislation to force legally married people not to divorce, and you could even try to force non-legally-married couples never to split, but:

a.) In practical application you won't succeed, and:
b.) that is way too much impermissible interference in people's INHERENT civil liberties. It will always BACKFIRE !!!

In truth, divorce is merely an abstract concept. It cannot commit a crime or injure someone. It is the DIVORCING spouses who perpetrate the harm (perhaps a harm whose genesis began on the day they committed monogamous marriage!).

I agree that some communities develop practices which are reprehensible. In India, some men have murdered their wives for sleeping (voluntarily or involuntarily) with another man. I disagree with such behavior, but should we abolish India or Hinduism to fix this problem?

I am sincerely baffled at the sheer volume of horse-pucky being shoveled out in the polygamy reference case. I would chalk it up to weird, liberal Canadians if it weren't just as rampant here in Arizona and Utah (forgive the clichés).

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