I’ll be the first to admit that I’m unhappy to even consider wading into the ugliness swirling around the media’s role/lack of role in last weekend’s assassination attempt of Arizona congresswoman Giffords. She and the other victims of this mentally ill man deserve better that to have their personal nightmare trotted around on cable news as a symbol of America’s vitriol. Its unseemly in almost every way. We have a psychotic who was obviously triggered by something, but the freedom to say what we think can’t be interrupted by the fear that some paranoid schizophrenic will use it as a springboard to murder.
It is curious to see the media fumble with what to do with language in this circumstance. The term assassination isn’t being used widely.Recently, we had this same semantic brain freeze around the term “torture.” In the final tally, only a handful of people refer to water boarding as torture and those reporters or commenters are shunted to the side in favor of the more antiseptic phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Which I personally find spineless.
I’m afraid that this is happening again. This man is an attempted assassin. His attempted murder was politically motivated or else he would not have chosen a politician, regardless of ideology. Admittedly, attaching motives to a deranged man is not a simple task. But if we are able to assign motivations to Charles Manson’s murders there should be little reason not to in this case.
If the media is unable to speak in plain language and allows its word choices to be twisted on the grounds that it may offend or portray an agenda, then the battle may already be lost. Forced sex IS rape. Post traumatic stress disorder is shell-shock. Murdering a political figure IS assassination. Muddying the water only makes the message weak, not more fair.