Posted by: quiscus | January 4, 2011

January 4, 2011

1.  “Don’t Accuse Me of Blaming America When I Blame the Government

In discourse about public affairs, words matter much more than most people appreciate. We live immersed in language so twisted and abused, in part by the design of interested parties and in part by the sloth of inattentive speakers and listeners, that we often fail to notice or object to linguistic miscarriages that pass for intelligent expression. The examples are legion, but here I have in mind a particular turn of phrase that American conservatives, especially neocons, have employed in recent years as a counterstrike against critics of U.S. foreign and defense policy:  They describe such critics as “blaming America” or sometimes as “blaming America first” for attacks against this country or its citizens abroad.

Thus, for example, those who fault U.S. Middle East policies for creating the conditions that caused Muslim fanatics to attack Americans, both at home and overseas, are said to be blaming America for what the policy’s defenders’ take to be the unprovoked acts of terrorists bent on imposing Sharia on the United States, destroying this country’s freedoms, or attaining another such farfetched objective.

Applications to earlier events and policies include use of the expression to fend off the arguments and evidence of those who maintain that the Roosevelt administration waged economic warfare in 1940-41 to provoke a Japanese attack that would justify and lead directly to full-fledged U.S. engagement in World War II; and use of the expression against those who argue that the Truman administration bore at least partial responsibility for the onset of the Cold War. People accused of blaming America are commonly called “America haters.”

Although this riposte to criticism is the rhetorical tactic of first resort for the more simple-minded, flag-waving species of self-anointed patriots, it is by no means their exclusive property. Neocons writing in such elevated outlets as the New York Times and the Washington Post have not been bashful about smearing their critics as people who “blame America.” I noticed this linguistic resort most recently in a commentary by an intelligent, reasonable economist and was shocked that he would embrace this trope while suggesting that “pacifists” and others who criticize U.S. foreign and defense policies are unrealistically imagining that international disputes and warfare can somehow be eliminated from human affairs.”

2.  “Food Emergency: Millions of Americans Are Heading to Foodbanks for the First Time in Their Lives”


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