Either they are using euphemisms or I have been at university too long

Now, I know there are bigger issues out there, but this is just a little thing I could not resist chucking up here. Australia’s Attorney General Robert McClelland is credited with a blog post up on the Australian Labor Party’s website, ‘Partnering with communities to counter violent extremism’. Apparently he ‘today met with community leaders in Melbourne to discuss ways to prevent violent extremism.’

I wondered what exactly was being referred to by ‘violent extremism’ when the headline popped up in my Twitter timeline. Now, a blog post is hardly the style of writing where you expect the author to have provided clear definitions of all terms. However, I was a bit frustrated when the only clue came from the description of the forum as being where ‘…representatives from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds discussed issues of concern in their communities.’

Violence carries a much more general meaning in the arts faculty than it probably does in political discourse, so I am not going to go there. However, I think there is much to unpack in why ‘ethnic’, ‘cultural’, ‘issues of concern’ and ‘their communities’ are used. I imagine there was no Maltese bocce club represented, but of course that is not said here. Of course, a short post like the one I am talking about is never going to be an authoritative account, however why is it these gaps (i.e. religious politics being enacted through attempts to kill and injure) that the audience is expected to have the knowledge to fill in. If you do not mention religion then you do not have to reaffirm your acceptance of different religions as long as they are practiced in a certain way.

This not only demonstrates that you can say without saying. By using language in such a way you can exclude from discourse anybody who does not know how to read in the unsaid. However, you also elevate rather significant claims about how the political and social world works to the status of common knowledge.

I make deliberately vague choices when it comes to words and phrases all the time on my blog and I am sure that it is written in such a way that it is inaccessible (although I am sure it is inaccessible not only to non-students, but quite possibly anybody other than me). Still, it is interesting to see how such language and ideas are put to work in public policy. I think it is an important thing to watch because such language not only describes the social world, if used often enough it can change it.

Perhaps this particular approach to tackling ‘violent extremism’ will be something easy to watch unfolding as, ‘The Government will continue to meet with community leaders and representatives into future and is also examining a range of opportunities for further engagement, including an online forum to discuss and develop policies and projects to counter violent extremism.’ I wonder if the online forum will be part of Labor ThinkTank or not.



One Response to “Either they are using euphemisms or I have been at university too long”

  1. Bryonny G-H Says:

    It’s kind of like Stanley Fish’s interpretive communities, law and order politico version.

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