Tim Giago: America wanders away from ideals

I don’t know about you, but I am having a hard time distinguishing between “spin” and “euphemism.” For example, the Bush Administration calls the rise in the number of troops in Iraq a “surge” and the mainstream media falls in line with this spin to parrot what is clearly an “escalation.” And then when another 20,000 troops are sent in at a later date they are referred to as “non-surge troops.” Should the MSM have called this what it really is; further escalation? Does this mean that the “non-surge troops” are not in harms way?

The initial attack against the sovereign nation of Iraq was called a “pre-emptive strike.” Wasn’t this really an act of military aggression? If the press had been doing its job shouldn’t it have asked the all-important question, “What was pre-empted?”

Now the Bush administration is saying that the surge is working. Did they determine this because fewer American soldiers and Marines were killed in the month of July than in the previous seven months of 2007? News stories report that 25, 50, or 100 Iraqis are dying by suicide bombers, or are dragged from their homes in the middle of the night and executed nearly every single day. According to an article in Newsweek, 1,652 civilians died in July alone. No matter how many Iraqis die is the surge still working?

The Bush Administration and the MSM call those attacking the American troops “insurgents.” I believe that in any other war they would have been called “guerillas.” And the mayhem they wreak on each other is called “secular violence.” Shouldn’t “secular violence” be called a “civil war?”

Americans have a strange way of using metaphors or euphemisms that are often racial in content. For instance, when someone does something outlandish they are said to be “off the reservation.” As the American troops waited to start the attack against Saddam’s troops in the first Gulf War, they looked out into the night at the vast desert in front of them and called it “Indian country.”

When covering up a lie a white person puts his hand behind his back, crosses his fingers, and says, “honest Injun.” The inference here is that all Indians are dishonest. When a white man lived with an Indian woman he was known as a “squaw man.” If he lived with an Irish woman he wasn’t called an “Irish man.” I’ve seen the word “squaw” and “squaw man” used over and over in Western movies. To nearly every Native American woman in this country the word squaw is the equivalent of whore or worse. Squaw was often used by the white man as a reference to the private parts of an Indian woman.

The point I am trying to make here is that language can be used as an honest spin to cover a dishonest act, it can be used to make something that is a disaster appear to be a winning proposition or it can be used to make an escalation in warfare appear to be a push forward, a surge.

I think it is important for the mainstream media to look at the words presented to them by any administration, words often intended to put a spin on truth or reality, and analyze those words to determine their true meaning and then once that is done, totally refrain from using them in news stories because when you do, you are lending credence to words of deception.

If a surge is an escalation, or secular violence is civil war and a pre-emptive strike is an unwarranted attack upon another nation, say so and please stop being a tool for those who would use words to promote an unjust cause. Get some spine. I think the word “spin” was created by the advertising agencies, but its method was too readily picked up by politicians looking for ways to bend the truth. Its continued use and growth casts a bad reflection upon this country. What does America stand for? In the movie Judgment at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy, in the role of the judge describes America as a land that honors, “Justice, truth and the value of a single human being.” How far has America wandered from those ideals in the name of spin?

(I have a new email address for those that have not noticed and it is najournalist@msn.com)

Tim Giago is an Oglala Lakota born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He was the founder and publisher of Indian Country Today newspaper and the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. His latest book “Children Left Behind, The Dark Legacy of the Indian Missions,” is now available at: order@clearlightbooks.com. The book just won the Bronze Star from the Independent Publishers Awards. He can be reached at najournalist@msn.com.

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