War by Any Other Name Would Still Be War

     Why is every news organization in the United States calling Syrian refugees “migrants”?
     Who made that decision, and why are all 30,000 U.S. news outlets – radio, newspaper, TV, Internet and magazines – calling them that?
     More than 10 million Syrians are living as refugees. More than 210,000 have been killed in the war – most of them civilians.
     Four million Syrians have fled their country and 6.5 million are “internally displaced,” refugees in their own land.
     That’s 46 percent of Syria’s 23 million people: more than the population of New York City and Dallas combined.
     These people are not “migrants.” They are refugees of war.
     Surely, the suffering Syrian people and the war they have fled are a more serious issue than why The New York Times and all the sheep that follow it are calling them migrants. But – pardon an old news guy – my question is important too.
     When I asked, “Who made that decision?” I did not propose a conspiracy. I do not believe that a cabal of (name your poison) is calling the shots for U.S. media.
     But in every news organization someone makes these decisions. Someone decides, “call them migrants,” or “call them illegal aliens,” or “call them the Democrat Party” instead of the Democratic Party. And reporters have to do it.
     I ask you: Why has every U.S. news outlet – 1,300 daily newspapers, 7,500 weeklies, 1,800 TV stations, 15,000 radio stations, hundreds of news magazines and thousands of Internet news sites – decided all at once to call Syrian refugees migrants, almost all the time?
     Perhaps one in 10 times they’ll call a specific guy or gal a refugee. But the other 10 million guys and gals are migrants.
     Isn’t that peculiar? Isn’t it odd that in a country like ours (and there are no countries like ours) all the bosses in 30,000 news organizations would decide the same thing at the same time? On such an apparently minor issue as vocabulary? On a specific word?
     The best explanation is in Orwell’s 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language.” I give you authorial dispensation to abandon me now and read Orwell.
     Back so soon? Then surely you remember Orwell’s statement: “the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.”
     Europe, despite its belated, pathetic response (“OK, we’ll take 4 percent of you”), has shown more class and humanity than the United States did for a decade during our own refugee crisis.
     Millions of refugees entered our country during our wars in Central America, and the Reagan administration never issued a single public statement, as European Union leaders did this week, that we had a responsibility to these people, that we should welcome them as refugees of war.
     All our real immigration policies were issued in secret government memos – lock up and deport all the Salvadorans and Guatemalans but let the Nicaraguans go; lock up the Haitians and Hondurans but let the Cubans go.
     We in the United States never faced the truth about our wars, never accepted responsibility for the refugees we created unless a federal judge ordered us to, and now, led by a racist billionaire who couldn’t tell a refugee from his own rectum with both hands and a flashlight, we are blaming the refugees’ children.
     Back in the day, Reagan and Edwin Meese claimed that the millions of Central American refugees who fled here were not refugees at all; they were just looking for work.
     The best response to that came from the warden of a U.S. immigration prison, who told me, “Of course they come here to look for work. They look for work here because there’s war there.”
     It is dishonest, ignorant and an error of fact to write day after day that 10 million Syrian people have decided to migrate. They are not birds. They are refugees of war.

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