Words matter (2)

Dear President Trump,

One of the things you seem to know instinctively is that words matter. Although you’re certainly not one of the more verbally facile individuals on the planet, your ability to read situations and groups of people has enabled you to find and tune phrases that will worm their way into your supporters’ subconscious minds such that they likely don’t know whether an idea or perspective originated with themselves or with you. For someone like you who aims to weaponize words and to snuff out independent, critical thinking, you must take pride in this ability. I also think you are adept at throwing out verbal crap you know will piss off, and distract, liberals and congressional Democrats.

So words matter, and right now, the words I’m most focused on have to do with Russia’s actions involving the 2016 election and now the 2018 midterms. I’ve long been concerned that the words used to describe those actions have significantly downplayed the gravity of their offenses and that those soft-pedaling words have allowed you far, far too much latitude in framing what the hell is going on, including denying what is going on. “Meddling” and “interference” are the two most common words used and this morning I came across “Kremlin chicanery,” which while offering a nice alliteration, still massively downplays what is happening.

Did you and the US intelligence leaders, and maybe the Gang of 8, agree on the messaging in January 2017 when you were first briefed about Russia’s cyber attacks and information warfare? Were you somehow able to convince them that it was in everyone’s best interest not to use words that evoke war and a sense of violent attack and instead go with lower key words that telegraph, “hey, something happened, but don’t worry yourselves over it, we’ve got it under control, it’s just a bit of meddling”? All the major news outlets have stuck to this script nearly exclusively up until now. There was, however, a positive development this morning in that Paul Waldman (WP) used the phrase “comprehensive assault” in describing Russia’s attack on our election system. We need to see more of this. Lots more of it.

May we be clear and honest about attacks on our democracy even if it means we feel less safe.
May we be willing to stop using more comfortable phrasing that lulls us into complacency.
May we be healthy and strong enough to deal with reality.
May we see that we can’t have real peace if we can’t deal with naming acts of war properly.

Tracy Simpson

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