i find graham's points thought provoking, especially this passage:
No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.
i don't have to look far to find examples of these fear-induced taboos, and neither does tom engelhardt of tomdispatch.com (a national institute project). engelhardt intersects with paul graham's article concerning the need to repress dangerously different conversation using carefully devised bits of language, especially in times of war.
he has written on the topic of new, often orwellian rhetoric entering the english language. in his post, "'extraordinary rendition' and other terms of our times," engelhardt takes up terms created by the bush administration and other elements of what he calls "bushworld" that seep into daily use of a much wider population. his follow up to this is a post titled "the opposite of pax americana is..." in which he includes many of the "bushworld" rhetoric eagerly submitted by tomdispatch readers.
"bushworld" rhetoric is certainly a timely and public example of this tactic, but by no means the only one. i have been virtually silenced in conversation after being labeled "alarmist," and i have thrown many "ist" stones myself. practically everyone uses these devices at some point, no matter what their arguments. what i hope of engelhardt and graham readers is that we begin to observe such rhetoric so that we may question the motives behind its use, regardless of whom the speaker is.