The new congressional bill to ban the “crosshairs” symbol in political ads doesn’t go nearly far enough. We’ve become so acculturated to military metaphors in our public life that we seem to have forgotten that every aspect of our political scene is framed by militaristic terminology. Consider:
• The very term “campaign” as used in American politics is a metaphor; originally, “campaign” was a war term meaning “a military operation designed to defeat or kill a specific enemy or to capture a specific objective.” Thus, the phrase “I’m going to campaign against my opponent” can be legally deemed a death threat.
• The term “target” is all too common in American public relations parlance. “Target” as a verb was originally a military term meaning to aim your artillery at a victim you intend to obliterate. Thus, “We’re going to target the 18-29 demographic” is a coded call for genocide against twentysomethings.
• The real definition of victory is “a success or triumph over an enemy in battle or war,” a word dating back to ancient Rome and often used to describe and commemorate Roman military massacres against civilian populations. Yet how many times have you seen American politicians “look forward to victory on election day” or holding “victory parties”? If they so love the violent metaphors, why not celebrate by dressing up in battle fatigues and singing war chants?
• Don’t get me started on “campaign blitz,” “slaughtered at the polls,” “talking points ammunition,” and the rest.
Ban them all!
In fact, while we’re at it, let us ban all violent metaphors from the English language. Each generation internalizes the hidden message in our daily speech, which is why we remain a brutal species. We need a New Language for a New Man!