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Be careful of ‘catchwords’

“A good catchword can obscure analysis for 50 years” (John Huisinga).

It is the emotional impact of the words that gives them the power to seriously distort judgment. The verdict in the O. J. Simpson trial is a good example. The sequestered jury in the O. J. simpson trial reached the verdict of not guilty because by “playing the race card,” the jury was made to feel bad if they would have come back with a guilty verdict.



The phase “war on terrorism” is also a “catchword,” if that term can be applied to more than one word. Playing the war card against terrorism in general, rather than simply al-Qaida and the Taliban – the only target of the actual war on terrorism – meant that the war would be a war of good against evil. Now, the whole rest of the world could become the enemy.

The unquestioned acceptance of the phrase “war on terrorism” was because, after the national trauma of 9/11, it made Americans feel good again. In fact, it made them feel so good that the opinion of the rest of the world no longer mattered.




All this because of the blind acceptance of a catchword.

Robert Eli

Nevada City


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