Words Have Meaning, Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, we discussed how the use of words to describe a topic or problem can be misleading or confusing and cause people to ignore the larger issue at hand.  In this part of the post we will look at two current topics of concern and see how the words used to describe them are inadequate.  In the interest of fairness we will discuss a topic from both sides of the political spectrum to show that neither side is immune to the problem.

Many watched and followed on social media as Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination for CIA director and demanded answers for the administration’s policy on drone strikes.  Newspapers have recently begun covering drones and their capacity to strike at and spy on citizens.  Just google the term ‘drone strikes’ and you will be amazed at the number of results.  So let’s look at the term.

First, the sophisticated aircraft we are talking about are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), not drones.  Drones are actually a different type of system and are very simple machines usually used for target practice.

But more importantly, why is the concern about ‘drone strikes’ misleading?  First, drones or UAS do not strike on their own.  This is not the Terminator where Skynet has come on line and the machines are taking over.  Unmanned aircraft are controlled by someone so to be concerned about ‘drone strikes’ makes the situation impersonal and ignores the real actor involved.  Second, the government has had aircraft that could be used to strike at people for decades.  A Predator is not the first aircraft that could fire a missile.  Look into how the U.S. targeted Admiral Yamamoto during WWII, or how we targeted Qaddafi in the 1980s, Osama Bin Laden in the 1990s, or Saddam Hussein in the 2000s using aircraft or cruise missiles.  So, why now are people suddenly concerned about aircraft strikes, just because there is no pilot on board?

A better term to describe this problem would be extrajudicial killings, or more importantly extrajudicial killings of U.S. citizens.  That term sums up the real concerns, which is what authority does the government have to kill people, particularly U.S. citizens, without due process.  The term ‘drone strikes’ just confuses the process by focusing on an instrument and scaring people about a tool that is neither good nor bad and does not put peoples’ attention on the real problem.  Would we solve anything if we pass a law that addresses ‘drone strikes’ on U.S. citizens but leaves the door open to use helicopters, fighter jets, cruise missiles, B-52 bombers, slingshots, and poisoned blow darts to kill people without trial?

The same could be said about the calls to curb ‘gun violence’ or enact more ‘gun control’.  Like the drone strikes phrase, guns are inanimate objects that are not violent.  Guns are not good or evil by themselves, they are a tool or device.  If people are really concerned because of some of the recent, high profile events like Newtown, MA or Aurora, CO a better problem to tackle would be the connection between mental illness and violence.  Does anyone think that Adam Lanza would have stopped what he was going to do if he came upon a sign that said the school he approached was a gun-free zone?  Or do we think that James Holmes was not going to attack a theater until he discovered that there are high capacity magazines out there.  If Colorado had passed the law limiting magazines to just 15 rounds a year sooner, would that have stopped anything?  We have to be intellectually honest here.

The real problem is why are people reaching a mental state where violence by any means occurs, whether that be with a gun, knife, bat, or by pushing someone off of a subway platform.  Until we begin to address the connection between mental health and violence, we are just avoiding the real issue by making laws that limit magazine capacity or change the way a buttstock on a gun looks.

So now that you have seen two current examples of how the wrong choice of words, either intentionally or unintentionally, can affect how we approach problems, what other examples will you see in everyday life?

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About voxlogicae
Using logic and reason to examine current events.

One Response to Words Have Meaning, Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Associated Press and the end of Personal Responsibility (or Words Have Meaning 3) | voxlogicae

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