Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Catchy Sloganeering Gets Ink, Costs Lives

During the run up to the War in Iraq, did the oft-heard phrase “weapons of mass destruction” ever strike you as propaganda, or sophistic sloganeering; like the catchy tag line in an overexposed advertising campaign?

Talk about over exposed, that phrase eventually became a mindless mantra, a solemn chant, a “collective cognitive imperative” that spawned a false consciousness in the body politic, dutifully midwifed by a doting press. But the fatal damage had already been done, as many prominent press personages nursed this grotesque offspring to full term, treating it as if it had earned legitimacy in the language. Thus, the Rubicon was crossed; the rest is tragic history (or, for the war’s stubborn advocates, perhaps I should say, the rest is a glorious history, a proud advance in the march for freedom).

Can it really be this simple?
“Just look back at the original conception and the language foreplay that preceded it. What we really have to ask ourselves is whether this impregnation was deliberate; was it the willful action of mutually consenting ‘adults’, or linguistic rape? Was the willing portion of the press that partnered this action a clueless collaborator, or a willful fornicator (a government agent, if you will), sowing its seed by deliberate design in the womb of a naïve but receptive host, the mainstream press?”

Who can say?

But I’ll say this much, the phrase never rang true with me, but maybe I’ve been toiling in the marketing vineyards too long. Anyone who has covered the business beat for any period of time would have known better. They’ve learned how to recognize a shallow, flimsy, “marcomm” slogan – made of whole cloth – when they see one. “Weapons of Mass Destruction”: Notice its vivid imagery, its pregnancy of meaning, its phonetic and syllabic resonance. All the earmarks are there. Can that be coincidental?

No, it was no accident, these telltale qualities are the result of deliberate phraseology – “1984” anyone?


Anonymous said...

I agree WMD is all hype. Perhaps they should be called "Non-U.S. Approved WMD" to distinguish them from the wmd that we employ. Some statistics from the last 25 or 75 years might also be helpful.. How many people have been killed or maimed by WMD and how many have been killed by weapons that are outside the definition of WMD? If the WMD tally is substantial, then subtract out the US atomic bombs on Japan, and do a new comparison. Also, what research and testing of WMD has the US done and why did we choose not to make Chem and Bio weapons a key part of our arsenal?

E-RM: Your Research Resource said...

Yes, thanks for your comments. I basically concur, except that I'm not sure that chemical weapons have not been a key part of our arsenal. What about the fire bombing of Toyko in WWII or the use of napalm in Vietnam?

And, how about those bunker buster bombs our military is so proud of, aren't they WMDs?