Let’s not gloss over the harsh truths of controversial opinions

PUBLISHED: 16:39 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:39 02 November 2017

Up to 700 Catholics march through Norwich to mark the 'tragedy' of the 1967 Abortion Act. Photo: Keith Morris

Up to 700 Catholics march through Norwich to mark the 'tragedy' of the 1967 Abortion Act. Photo: Keith Morris


Opinion: It’s better to say what you really mean rather than hide behind a veil of euphemisms, says Andrew Fitchett.

A story which I thought would stir controversy appeared to slip by this week with hardly a mention.

It involved 700 Catholics having a candle-lit procession in Norwich to mourn 50 years since the Abortion Act was passed in Parliament.

MORE: 700 Catholics march silently through Norwich to remember ‘tragedy’ of 1967 Abortion Act

The story bothered me - but probably not for the reason you might think.

The group - who also had an all-night vigil at St John’s Cathedral - will have angered some with their view that the act has caused ‘untold spiritual wounds’.

While I don’t agree with their stance, I have no issue with them making their views known.

The issue I do have is with the language they used. And it is not something specific to them.

My problem is with doublespeak.

The clergyman quoted speaks of the ‘tragic consequences’ of abortion, the aforementioned ‘spiritual wounds’ and a ‘civilisation of love’.

While he may feel this language is being sensitive or diplomatic, I just find it irritating.

Let’s be honest - this vague language is an attempt to skirt around some controversial opinions.

But if you believe in something, just come out with it.

It’s not an issue confined to the Catholic church, of course.

It all started with Edward Bernays, the father of PR.

His experiences working for the US government during the First World War showed him propaganda could work just as well at peacetime as during war.

But while he was clever enough to create what has been called the foremost artform of the 20th century, he left us with a horrendous fork-tongued legacy.

This terrible affliction - a disease, really - has seeped into and warped our language and lives to a terrifying degree.

We see its insidious hallmarks everywhere.

In the workplace we hear of ‘downsizing’, ‘restructuring’ and ‘termination by mutual consent’ - otherwise known as people being sacked.

In sport, we hear of ‘gamesmanship’ (cheating), ‘street-smarts’ (cheating) and ‘kidding the ref’ (cheating).

It’s probably best not to even start with politics.

Sometimes a euphemism can be useful, if its intent is good. Describing someone as being curvy, rather than ‘fat’, for example, could save some upset.

But in general, doublespeak is about using vague terms which avoid the painful truth - not to save our feelings, but to dodge backlash, or to confuse.

It’s best to just say what you mean. Even if some people don’t like it.

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