Friday, February 08, 2008

Controlled Drowning?

Previously, this blog has addressed our country's use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. We've looked at various euphemisms employed by the press and the government for the technique, and marveled at the claims by our new Attorney General, and a candidate for President of the United States, that they didn't know what waterboarding was.

In particular, I took offense to the mainstream press's pet euphemism - "simulated drowning." There is in fact nothing whatsoever "simulated" about it. Waterboarding is drowning.

Meanwhile, some news media continue to use this "simulated drowning" abstraction to refer to drowning interrogations, including ABC and the Washington Post. However, a new euphemism has appeared in some newspapers and NPR, perhaps in an effort to get a little closer to the truth. We begin to see waterboarding referred to as "controlled drowning."

It acknowledges the drowning aspect - good. Still, coupled with "controlled," the expression is meaningless. We KNOW it's controlled. We figure Khalid Sheikh Muhammad didn't fall asleep in the bathtub while special forces agents sat by rapping with him about the Q'ran.

If waterboarding is "controlled drowning," what the hell is execution in the electric chair? "Controlled microwaving?"

1 comment:

MT said...

Maybe you'd prefer "P.O.D.-ing"? As in "plain old drowning"? You'll like "controlled drowning" if it becomes common currency. The potency "waterboarding" has now is stigma, which comes from the discourse and what the word refers to, not from language mechanics. It's probably especially pure because it's a unique name, like "Nazi" and "Hitler." Notice how we've imperiled ourselves by never coining neutral descriptive terms for a kind of movement like Naziism or a kind of political figure like "Hitler." There's no comparison of current controversies to the now obvious evils and mistakes of the past, because the words are so stigmatized and prejudicial.