"Blowback": Writers' Cowardly Abuse of Language in Response to the Bombings at Boston


      The way we use and abuse language speaks to who we are at our cores.

     I'm put in mind of this as I read and re-read, tonight, a half dozen or more posts across a variety of writers' venues using the term blowback to describe, as a kind of karma, the bombing(s) at Boston.



     My thoughts:

. The term's being lobbed about by writers who have no evidence whatever but are nonetheless very much hoping the killers represent nations and/or organizations/movements with whom they have political sympathy, people who have, in their eyes, Justice on their side as they strike (civilians) here.

. The term's a political cliche that takes no thought or analysis or courage to hurl. It is, in fact, a giving-up on analysis on the part of a writer.

. Using it and terms like it make it simpler for left and right extremists to feel less sickened by mangled, dead, eight-year-old bodies who were two mornings back loved by families. They remain both loved by families and dead, while the less-than-they-ought-to-be sickened writers feel righteous about bloody political struggles with which they have no personal connection or risk whatever.

. It and terms like it are used by those who try to mitigate the deaths of innocents by implying that there are no innocents, including children, if their nation has committed bad acts. It's childish analysis, in fact a 'special-pleading' kind of analysis, illegitimate (as all 'special pleading' is) precisely because every government, very or just mildly globally powerful, commits very bad acts. And none of them can remotely justify or bring Justice to blown up eight-year-olds or to their families.

     Again, I say this about both left and right extremists and how they abuse language and so assuage their long-dysfunctional consciences, buffer their lost ethics from the distant and never-close-at-hand horror they not-so-secretely applaud. 

     They are cowards.

     Hell; even Malcom X understood at long last that his "chickens come home to roost" explanation of violence was inadequate and ultimately not worthy of himself and his Justice-Ideals.

     It should not be worthy of yours.




Views: 681

Comment by Jaime Franchi on April 16, 2013 at 4:29am

yes!!! I absolutely agree - although I understand the desire to try to make sense of something senseless, to cite a reason, a source, both to put it in perspective and to feel comfortable that by changing the causation, you can prevent it from happening again. That's a generous analysis of why people would do that. The other is not so: it's a version of I told you so, and it makes the person who said it a righteous asshole.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 16, 2013 at 4:32am

Jaime   yes; it does. 

We all, as you suggest, have a need to understand in these moments; yet using such terms and in the absence of facts, is as irresponsible as a writer can get.  Thanks!

Comment by Chicago Guy on April 16, 2013 at 4:35am

Even beyond the term, there is a point where analysis stops and there is only horror. I would understand any writer being offended at the cheap use of words. When we, as writers, stop thinking and only spout, all we are doing is filling space.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 16, 2013 at 4:37am

Yes, Chi, and we sully our craft as well. Thanks!

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 16, 2013 at 4:42am

steel   thank you, friend

Comment by Lyle Elmgren on April 16, 2013 at 5:50am

Those who write unfounded opinions just add to the culture of stupidity and violence.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 16, 2013 at 5:51am

Lyle   yes, they sure do.  Thanks!

Comment by Abrawang on April 16, 2013 at 6:02am

JW, isn’t the question when is “blowback” the right term to use?  At this stage there’s no way to say.  But I don’t think you mean to say that it can never be a fair characterization of terrorist acts.

I’ll have to give it more thought but unless the term is devoid of meaning (which I doubt), wouldn’t you agree that it pertains to some terrorist acts?

As for the term itself, I understand it as having a sort of neutrality in the sense that it doesn’t imply that a “blowback” terrorist act is morally justified.  It’s more like it’s an expected consequence of some other course of action.  Thought-provoking post and as I say, I’d like to give it more consideration.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 16, 2013 at 6:06am

Abra   my sense of it is that, as I say, above, is that it's used by those who consider themselves pretty hip politically to mean a kind of karma, something well-deserved. That 8 yr old didn't deserve this no matter who blew him apart, no matter the 'reason'.

Comment by Sheila Luecht on April 16, 2013 at 6:35am

It is a difficult time and how we express it becomes significant in measure to all else.


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