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The West's hypocrisy: language has the power to mask the truth

By Branko Miletic - posted Monday, 16 April 2007

Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. George Orwell

In the world of politics, George Orwell realised that language has the power to mask the truth and mislead the public, and he tried to increase public awareness of this power by placing a great focus on Newspeak and the media in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Demonstrating the repeated abuse of language by the government and by the media in his novel, Orwell showed how language becomes a mind-control tool, with the ultimate goal being the destruction of free will and imagination.

In Australia, this type of politically-hybridised language is increasingly being used by some sections of the media to propagate apathy. Just consider the use of the term “un-Australian” for every action deemed by our populist press to be against so-called “mainstream values” - another devious term in its own right.


Worse still, we have become immune to this misuse of language as a propaganda tool and blind to the potency of well-crafted diplomatic-speak as a “reality extinguisher”. This abuse of language is an extension of the human rights abuses it is designed to white wash.

Consider last month’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague clearing the Republic of Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide in the Bosnian war in the mid-90s. In what amounted to a mealy-mouthed legalese-infused response that reeked of diplomatic doublespeak and First World chauvinism, it could have been easily mistaken as the constitution of the League of Nations version 2.0.

According to the article “Timid Justice” by David Luban writing in the online journal, “The court's exoneration of the Serbian government nonetheless - and after the case dragged on for 14 years - undercuts the principle of state responsibility that it endorsed. If Serbia's actions don't amount to state complicity in genocide, it is hard to envision what would.”

Ironically it seems the only ones prepared to admit the truth about genocide are the perpetrators themselves. As Hannah Arendt famously complained 45 years ago at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, “international law had yet to come to grips with the notion of a criminal state”.

In 1944, Rafael Lemkin, coined the term “genocide”. Lemkin who lost 49 members of his family in the Holocaust, preferred to call it: “Genocide”, with a capital “G”. He believed that naming the crime of genocide was the first step toward forcing the world to commit to abolishing this horrendous practice.

An extremely persistent and relentless advocate whose passion finally lead him to an early grave, Lemkin was determined to establish genocide as an international crime and one that all countries were legally and morally bound to prevent. Language to Lemkin was an important precursor to facing the demons of reality.


Nowadays, it seems a lot easier on the Western political conscience to rebrand the term genocide as “atrocities” or “ethnic cleansing”: after all, it allows the West to abrogate any responsibility and to continue living in a state of perpetual denial. The language of the western political cartels is one of carefully orchestrated perturbation - you cannot condemn what you refuse to acknowledge. It is a bit like renaming Cambodia’s Killing Fields as “life annulment sectors” and claiming that you were totally unaware of the real intentions of the Khmer Rouge.

And speaking of the followers of Pol Pot, someone who went a long way to legitimising that foul regime was Gareth Evans. Now Evans, the former Australian Foreign Minister and Left road warrior is also the new head of the United Nations' Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention. According to a recent piece in The Age titled “Remaking the mistakes of East Timor” by Scott Burchill, “Civilian massacres that reached genocidal proportions were only ‘aberrant acts’, Indonesia's takeover of East Timor was ‘irreversible’ and it was ‘quixotic to think otherwise’ - all this according to [the newly-created UN ‘genocide czar’] Gareth Evans.”

But it is not just the sheer banality of Evans’ remarks hiding the true horrors of 24 years of Indonesian occupation of East Timor; it is also a clear and present example of Western cultural hypocrisy and overriding Anglo-centric political elitism - if you don’t belong to a certain group; if you are not connected enough to be able to write your own version of history; or if you are not a strategic asset to NATO, your net worth may as well be that of a single-cell microorganism.

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About the Author

Branko Miletic has been a professional journalist for the past 11 years, working for a number of publications both in Australia and overseas. He specialises in a range of subjects including security, current affairs and technology.

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