Friday, 2 October 2009

False Equivalence Watch No.1

The first in a new series, in which this blog will seek out and expose attempts to suggest an equivalence between terrorist outrages and the actions (often in response to those outrages) of western governments. False Equivalence Watch is inspired by a belief that these rhetorical sleights of hand, however seemingly trivial, risk creating an unthinking consensus, and corrupting political discourse - if they go unchallenged.

First up is The Rough Guide to Washington DC (2008 edition), which I've been reading in preparation for a forthcoming visit. The section headed 'Visiting the Capitol', on page 108, begins with this sentence:
With all the terrorism and war-making of recent years, access to the nation's legislative body has become more restricted.
Say what? I can see how access to government buildings became restricted as a result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But as a consequence of 'war-making'? Presumably this refers to Iraq and Afghanistan. But how have those campaigns led to security restrictions at the Capitol? Oh, I see. We're supposed to think that all that 'war-making' (a choice of phrase that itself speaks volumes, don't you think?) has led to an enhanced terrorist threat - rather than vice versa. And of course we all know, don't we (knowing wink to right-on Rough Guide-type readers) that the terrorists were only responding to all that western war-making and imperialism in the first place...

You see how this works? By positing an equivalence between these two things, you also suggest a causal link between them. Except the causality is back to front. So this neat rhetorical device not only helps faux-liberals avoid the discomfort of having to condemn non-westerners, but it also makes it possible to pin the ultimate blame where they think it really belongs - on 'The West'.

I told you some of the examples would be apparently trivial. But nothing escapes the eagle eye of the F.E.W. Watch this space!

1 comment:

Bob-B said...

It could be worse. At least it recognizes that there is such a thing as terrorism and doesn't talk about 'militants'.