Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blame the Victim, Rely on Doublespeak

Earlier this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the drug war raging through Mexico, claiming lives and threatening communities on both sides of the border, that the U.S. was to blame for this problem.

She said: "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the death of police officers, soldiers and civilians.

"I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility."

And I suppose a provocatively dressed woman is co-responsible for being raped?

Now, at least Ms. Clinton voted in favor of erecting a border fence between our two countries when she was in the senate, as did the president. Unfortunately, our new Secretary of Homeland Security, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, was not in favor of such a measure.

As she simplistically told the Associated Press when she was still governor, "You show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder at the border. That's the way the border works."

And she’s now in charge of keeping America safe.

Her first step in this direction is to play with words. Because, of course, if you do not use the word “terrorist,” terrorism itself will disappear. Or so must be her thought process.

In an interview with Der Spiegel last week, the reporter noted that in “your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

Napolitano replied, “Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

Well, I feel safer.

But Ms. Clinton's blame the U.S. and Ms. Napolitano's let's play with words pale in comparison to the blame the victims doublespeak that occurred in Oakland yesterday.

The victims there are four dead police officers, shot by Lovelle Mixon. Approximately 60 protesters held a rally in Oakland to condemn the police and pay their respects to Mixon, who was killed after he shot the officers.

The protest was organized by the Oakland branch of the Uhuru Movement for Economic Development who, not having received notice of the semantic change of Secretary Napolitano, hoisted signs reading “Stop Police Terror.”

"OPD you can't hide - we charge you with genocide," chanted the demonstrators. They were honoring Mixon, a fugitive on parolee who killed two motorcycle officers who had pulled him over in a traffic stop, then killed two more officers who tried to capture him when he was hiding out at his sister's apartment nearby.

Mixon had bought the gun he used to shoot the officers after being released from prison, in violation of his parole. He knew he had committed a felony that could send him back to prison. And this is who the protesters decided to honor?

One woman at the rally chanted, “Lovelle is a hero! Lovelle is a hero!" Others told reporters that Mixon was fighting back against an oppressive police force. A man summed it up thusly, “I don't condone what he did, but karma comes around. What goes around comes around."

Another protester, who claimed to be a cousin of Mixon said, "He needs sympathy too. If he's a criminal, everybody's a criminal."

If he’s a criminal, everybody’s a criminal? That is not just doublespeak, it's an outright lie. If we continue to blur the lines between good and evil, criminal and victim, we'll have no moral center. Where are our values?

There was justifiable outrage around the country at the AIG executives who took contracted bonuses -- I don't think you could find anybody who sided with them. But a multiple murderer can get 60 people to march and chant on his behalf? What is wrong with us?


  1. Though with regard to Clinton's statements, one has to wonder what other motives might be present, beyond the need to 'blame the victim,' which I'm sure is part of it.

    As the drug war has gained more publicity, talk of legalizing some subsection of the world of illegal drugs has certainly grown. I have to wonder how precisely Clinton is choosing her words and whether "insatiable" really means -- we can't do anything to diminish it, so we're going to start having to look towards other options. But that's probably not the case... I'm sure it'll be a while yet before the legalization movement becomes truly mainstream.

    And reproaching ourselves for failing to stop the illegal arms trade isn't really a bad thing, by any means. We can hope that a commitment by the administration to doing something about that will force Napolitano to take a more firm stance on the border in at least some respects. I can't conceive of a serious endeavor to halt the flow of weapons out that wouldn't at the same time help to halt the flow of illegal materials in the other direction too.

    But I hadn't heard Napolitano's other comments. That's really remarkable. I would not have imagined that a cabinet official could get away with ignoring the word 'terrorism.' I can't even imagine how Obama would tolerate that -- you'd think he'd be constantly vigilant to make sure to stay away from sounding 'soft on terror' when he can help it.

    -- Josh

  2. I like the idea that the Obama administration may move toward legalizing or decriminalizing some drugs (marijuana) so the focus can be on stopping the more serious drugs from coming into the country. They've already had the justice department stop interfering with California's medical marijuana shops, which is a start. And if the fear of weapons coming over the border will finally get the country focused on border security, that would be great.

    As for the end of the phrase "war on terror," Clinton, replying to a reporter's question last month on the way to The Hague, acknowledged that "the administration has stopped using the phrase, and I think that speaks for itself, obviously."

    Clinton went on to say "I haven't heard it used. I haven't gotten any directive about using it or not using it. It's just not being used."