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Not My Quote: Charged Phrasing

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

"Fuzzy language leads to fuzzy thinking" -David Gerrold via Professor Whitlaw

I have here two tweets. And, believe it or not, they both have a lot in common. Both are views of very politically charged topics. Both are supporting stances of major political parties. Both actively change the topic at hand. Both are wrong. I've put them up to establish the value of understanding the language we use. More importantly, to show you the danger of not understanding the language other people use.

As is the case with these two tweets, people will often use incorrect words simply because they offer the connotation they desire. They offer charged arguments as opposed to real arguments. They shape the discussion. They force it away from a forum of logic an fact towards an argument of good vs evil. And, far too many of them are quite good at it. If you look at the comments to these two tweets you will not see one person pointing out the problem. You see many people who, at the very least agreed with the argument beforehand, but could likely have been swayed by this charged phrasing.

We'll start with what's wrong with the top tweet, mainly because I'm glomming off of the current popularity of that particular topic. First, the author asks how many people will die before a set date. Then he asks how many of those people will be minorities. He rounds this up by suggesting that those deaths are akin to genocide. Now, the fact that this supposed doctor of epidemiology offers not one fact, but simply likens a country having a disease to a country murdering Jews should be a red flag for anyone reading this. Sadly it does not.

Now, each of these statements is in fact charged in some way, so I'll take them in order.

1) How many people will die? This suggests that people wouldn't have died if something (Note: supporters of this statement are very vague as to what that something would be) had been done, or hadn't been done. But sadly, people die every day. They did before Covid-19, and they will after. According to the CDC, in 2018 we lost an average of 316,000 people every month. And, people will die no matter what we do here. The choice seems to be between Covid-19 or famine. But, by just asking this question we suggest that all of these deaths could have been prevented.

2) How many will be minorities? This suggests some racial motive. Every crime needs three things: motive, means, and opportunity. So, now we have all three. Motive: Racism, because anyone that opposes the DNC is apparently racist. This is a disease. It does not target via race. It does not care.

And, yes, different diseases hit different races with differing rates. This is not news. Different races have always reacted differently to the spread of disease. But the idea that anyone would set about the extermination of a species of humans with a random disease that affects everyone is asinine. In fact, the only reason for asking this question is to set up the following statement.

3) Likening those deaths to 'Genocide by Default'. Before we move on I'm going to give the actual definition of genocide. This is from Merriam Webster's website:

In other words: singling people of a specific subgroup out for death. So, which subgroup are we singling out? The tweet's previous question is meant to suggest that it singles out minorities. But, the truth is all races have died from this disease. It's not like the Germans circa 1944 tossed mostly Jews, with a few Catholics and Hindus, just for spice, into their gas chambers. They singled out one specific group: Jews.

But, no subgroups are being singled out here. So, why make the statement? Simply put, this tweet was nothing more than a masterfully crafted attempt to liken the person its author didn't like to Hitler. Does it fit? No. Does it charge the topic? Yes.

Now, on to the second tweet. And, I'll give this guy credit for at least being able to form a thesis statement: Abortion is murder!!!!! (Don't forget the exclamation marks). He then goes on to point out that an unborn child is alive. All good, although a trifle obvious. Then he states that if you purposely abort the baby it is murder. Nice and succinct.

Once again, language is being used incorrectly, simply because it contains the connotation the author is looking for. In this case: Murder=Bad. The problem arises when you examine the definition of the word 'murder'.

In this case I'm going to link the legal definition of murder. I'm only linking the first line of the definition, because, as anyone whose ever read the end user licence agreement for, well . . . anything can tell you, lawyers are the wordiest bastards out there. They make a first grader telling you about his day seem succinct.

Murder n. The killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent, malice aforethought (prior intention to kill the particular victim or anyone who gets in the way) and with no legal excuse or authority.

Note that one of the requirements for the charge of murder is that you must have killed a human being. It does not apply to having killed a living thing. And this is a good thing. If killing a living thing counted as murder we'd all be in jail. First degree, second degree, third degree . . . accomplice.

Think of just how many flies you've sent to a flatter plane in your life. MURDERER! We hire people to exterminate rodents (ironically called exterminators) and insects. ACCOMPLICE! We kill farm animals by the droves for their tastiness. Hell, technically even Vegans thrive off of death; how many heads of lettuce have given their lives to fill their salad bowls? Seriously, don't try to count it.

Hell, your body actively kills bacteria by the scores. In fact, its so set upon this train of death dealing that it goes overboard sometimes and makes you feel like shit just because it thinks you might have something!

So, in short, killing a living thing is not murder. While this statement is false, it does neatly sidestep the actual issue: at what point is a fetal human considered alive? I'll not delve into that sticky wicket here; it'll take to long. Suffice it to say that I think both sides have gone too far, primarily because they have become confused by their own charged phrasing. But, the true issue at point is not whether killing a living thing is murder, but at what point is a fetus considered to be a human living thing?.

Two different views from two opposing groups, and both using charged wording in lieu of making actual points. It does not matter which side you come down on in an issue, always be willing to question a person's choice of words. Else, you allow them to manipulate your world view and that is the quick road towards having a belief system as opposed to rational thought and fact.

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