It’s only extreme when the powerless notice it

James Bovard shows how the common use of the word "extremism" depends not on the acts to which the word is meant to refer, but to the authors of those actions. Interpreting Bovard's depiction of the word-referent relationship, no act will be extreme if the actor in question happens to be America's federal government. The federal government, it seems, is authorized to act as it pleases without also having to suffer this particular label. In other words, the act is not extreme when the American government spies on, tortures, frivolously incarcerates, crusades against, etc. an other. It does not mater if the other is American citizen or anyone else. The act is not extreme by definition. Yet, when a nongovernmental actor accuses the federal government of committing these very acts and when conclusive proof is lacking and even if compelling proof exists, those who make the claim are labeled extremists by responsible journalists, governmental officials, major party apparatchiks and others of this sort. The same derogatory label applies to those who advocate the use of these extreme actions by the federal government when that government wishes to use 'non-extreme' measures or wishes to deny their use.

Bovard did not state as much, but his short article depicts the corruption of the language and the political uses that a thus corrupted language makes possible. As Orwell once put the matter: A language "…becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." Bovard's article merely reaffirms Orwell's insight.

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