Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that beneath the White House bunker is a secret chamber where men in black hoods use sharp instruments to chop words, dissect logic, and mince meaning. As one former linguistic inquisitor put it: “We have the tools to make language talk. We may have to get a little rough, but we’ll get those damn words to open up. When we’re through with them, they’ll tell us everything we want to hear.”
The Department of Informational Conformity and Kompliance (DICK), which was set up during the last days of the Nixon Administration by a zealous up-and-comer, remains one of the most secretive and sensitive institutions in the bowels of the government. Most officials refuse to confirm or deny its existence, but lawyers for Abdul Hominem, a French national of Arab descent, who was recently held incommunicado in DICK’s chambers for two years, and released only after successfully complying with the Bush Administration’s “Don’t talk, don’t torture*” program, has come forward to expose horrific examples linguistic abuse.
“They’re bending logic like a pretzel, meaning has been turned inside out, and they’ve had common sense tied up without a let up for more than six years. They picked me [A. Hominem] up around election time and flailed me until I was of no use to them anymore. I was putty in their hands. But you should have seen what they did with a couple of guys nicknamed Bait & Switch. They roughed them up so bad they switched sides and are now working for the administration. Talk about flip-floppers. One thing I know for sure, they [the administration] are not interested in the truth.”
President Bush has pointedly maintained that the United States adheres strictly to the Semantics Convention. But after signing Merriam-Webster, legislation that specifically bans tortured syntax, the president issued a signing statement, then winked, and said, “A word means just what the commander-in-chief says it means. Nothing more. Nothing less.” The so-called Humpty Dumpty clause, as critics are calling it, would allow Bush to continue mangling the English language with impunity. As noted linguist and language rights activist Nim Chimpsky puts it, “the Bush Administration War on Language metaphor has led to us an axis-of-clichés – tautologies, non-sequitars, and fallacies – whereby language itself is used to strangle thought.”
President Bush, however, steadfastly insists that he will leave “no slogan behind” on the battlefield of ideas. “Some say the War on Words is just a metaphor. They believe that if we cut and run the axis-of-evil – the grammarians, copy-editors, and smart-alecky satirists -- would leave us plain-speaking, hackneyed, cliché loving Americas alone. They would not; they would follow us home, both literally and figuratively. Which is why I made the decision to fight language abroad, in the realm of thought, rather than here at home, the land of truisms and platitudes. We shall fight to the last cliché.”