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Decoding the Political Buzzwords of 2012

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg gives his analysis of this year's top political words.

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Another word I’ve been hearing a lot is “evil,” not simply as a description of what happened but as an explanatory hypothesis — evil as a force that will have its way in the world whatever we try to do to stop it. The American Spectator’s John R. Coyne, Jr. made a remark that went viral on the right: “There is evil in the world. It’s beyond mental illness, beyond gun control. It is evil.” It’s a counsel of helplessness: it kicks the whole problem upstairs to an insoluble theological mystery. But it’s a meretricious non-sequitur. “There will always be evil” — you could say exactly the same thing to demonstrate the futility of trying to curb child abuse or insider trading. There are always germs in the world, too.

Lauren Feeney is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and multimedia journalist.
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