Episode 137: Thought-Terminating Enemy Epithets (Part I)


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"Hand-picked successor", "firebrand", "proxy" — In Anglo-American media, there are certain Enemy Epithets that are reserved only for Official Enemy States of United States and their leaders, which are rarely, if ever, used to refer to the United States itself or its allies, despite these countries featuring many of the same qualities being described.

Over two years ago, in a two-part episode entitled "Laundering Imperial Violence Through Anodyne Foreign Policy-Speak" (Episodes 70 and 71), we explored the euphemistic way American media discusses manifestly violent or coercive US policy and military action. Words like “engagement”, “surgical strikes”, “muscular foreign policy”, “crippling sanctions” obscure the damage being unleashed by our military and economic extortion regime.

Just as pleasant sounding, sanitized foreign policy speak masks the violence of US empire, highly loaded pejorative labels are used to describe otherwise banal doings of government or are employed selectively to make enemies seem uniquely sinister, while American allies who exhibit similar features are given a far more pleasant descriptor.

This and next week, we're going to lay out the Top 10 Enemies Epithets — derisive descriptors that are inconsistently applied to smear enemies without any symmetrical usage stateside, designed to conjure up nasty images of despotism and oppression, often pandering to racialized and Oriental prejudice and, above all, asking people to shut off our brains and have the label do the thinking for them.

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