Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Politics, press shun language of peace

In the last post I mused over why we never put political power in the hands of those following the path of non-violence and over-arching love.

Here's one reason: The bellicose language so widely used in political discourse.

"War rooms," "air wars" (broadcast ads), "political strongholds," "attack ads," "knock-out blows."

You've heard them all, particularly in the run-up to elections.

The media eat this stuff up. Nothing sells like conflict—so play it BIG.

Even so minor a political story as the one on the front page of today's Oregonian makes the news sound like a dispatch from Iraq. The story is about former Mayor Bud Clark's opposition to current Mayor Tom Potter's charter revision proposal.

Here, in the sub-head of the story about the wonkish measure: "The fight over a proposal to change Portland's form of government pits two old friends: Tom Potter and the man who used to hold the job."



On to the caption next to the photo showing Clark comfortably recuperating from an appendectomy: "Former Mayor Bud Clark...is battling again to preserve the city's unusual form of government. His foe this time? Mayor Tom Potter, who served as police chief under Clark."



Gimme a break.

These two old friends disagree. It's been know to happen. I disagree with a lot of my friends.

Headlines to the contrary, Clark and Potter are not clawing at each other in the trenches.

In fact, if you scan past the big print hype and read into the story itself, you find it is subdued, although "battling" is repeated and a "wound" analogy is wheeled out (remember that appendectomy?). The two men openly compliment each other. Says Potter of Clark: "He's one of the sweetest people I know." Clark, while opposing the charter revision, proclaims his personal trust of Potter.

But like most political stories, this one is packaged in martial terms. Politicians and the press are saying, in effect, the language of peace and reconciliation are not spoken here. "Don't even think about it. We don't."

Well, its time the public, politicians and the press all thought about it and started changing the language—which is the beginning of changing the way we think...and act.

What hope for unity and understanding and peace can their be if we don't?

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Anonymous Amanda Fritz said...

When I ran for Council last year, I lost count of the number of times I had to ask my campaign staff and volunteers to take out war words from press releases, flyers, and other statements. It's part of the jargon, the language of politics. "I will fight for..." instead of, "I will work for...". I agree with you, Rick, we need to resist and change the norm. But not fight for it.

9:32 PM  

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