Friday, May 02, 2008

Opposites Attack

Why are so many things in modern life named the very opposite of what they actually mean? Do modern PR flacks think we are all stupid, or do they just not even try anymore?

There's a long tradition of countries, for example, doing this: if a country renamed itself "The People's Popular and Democratic Republic of Wherever", it was pretty much equivalent to putting a sign over the door saying "Tin Pot Third World Military Dictatorship/Police State". Countries that are *actually* democratic republics with popularly-elected governments don't actually need to tell you that. Nor do they need to force-feed preschoolers with oaths of allegiance, or sing their national anthem three times a day, or put up flags on every post office, bank, and used car lot. Oh, wait...

Another political example that is more overtly cynical is pressure groups calling themselves "Citizens for XYZ" or, in local elections, "Residents for ABC". Anytime you see a name like, you can pretty much guarantee that the "Citizens" or "Residents" in question are actually a faceless company or industry lobby with a vested financial interest.

On a smaller scale, I noticed that my son's Disney DVDs have a "feature" that will automatically plod through minutes and minutes of previews and trailers before showing the main feature, taking far longer than just pressing "Menu" and "Play". I guess it's a good feature for parents that want to just be able to put the disk in and walk away... but it takes a disturbingly cynical mind to call that feature "FastPlay".

But what got me started on all this was a friend who called me up because he had an "ethical dilemma". After listening to him it struck me that whenever somebody uses that expression, its never about a choice between two ethical options, or even an ethical and an unethical option. What he really had was an "unethical dilemma"...

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