Monday, 12 August 2013

Extreme Distortion

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In today’s age of widespread doublespeak, probably one of the most illuminating examples is the use of the word “extremist.” The painting of various individuals, groups, or ideas with the brush of “extremism” has given a new loaded and negative connotation to the word, in contrast to its clear and precise definition. The word has at least six definitions according to Wiktionary, all boiling down to drastic, severe, radical, or fundamental. Yet, none of these meanings are loaded or negative as is the sense in which the word is widely used in media or common language.

For example, the use of extremism in “extremist Islamist terrorists” gives the strong impression that not only terrorism but extremism too is wrong. Otherwise, the use of extremism in that sentence would have been a redundancy: one could condemn terrorists by calling them such without adding the label.

Before you read the rest of the article here, please set aside a couple of minutes to listen to Barroso, the president of the European Commission, as an example of a frequent abuser of the word "extremist" (in various forms): 

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