Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Redacted Report.

Of all the vileness of our current dystopia, one of the foulest, at least to my sensitive eyes and ears is when language is manipulated in such a way as to obscure meaning.

We witness these manipulations so often, so every day that unless your metaphorical antennae are fully-extended, most people scarcely notice them at all.

I first started paying attention to linguistic autocracy back in the '70s when America began engaging in its 50 Years War over the right to choose.

The radical right won that linguistic fight. According to their nomenclature, you were either "pro-life" or "pro-abortion." Had the left (or even the center) won, our sides would be labeled "pro-choice" or "anti-choice." 

Yesterday, on hearing that "a redacted version" of the Mueller Report would be submitted to Congress on Thursday. As the "Washington Post" reports, "Attorney General William P. Barr has nearly finished redactions of the special counsel's report on the investigation into Russian interference and possible obstruction."

That sentence, the likes of which we've been hearing for weeks now brought to my mind a simple question. 

What is the difference between a "redaction" and a report that's "censored."

Redaction has a contemporary feel, of course. In fact, while it's not a new word, it has only recently come into favor. In fact, it was seldom if ever used when I was a kid, while censored has had a pretty long run.

That's probably because the word censored is charged with meaning, while redacted has a clinical and surgical feel. Censored, to my eyes, says something has been found that's dangerous, and we're keeping it from you. Whereas redacted implies less we're keeping bad things from you and more we're protecting national security.

I don't know if I have any readers who are philologists or even lawyers who can explain the nuanced differences in the meaning of these two words.

My gut says that, if asked, most people will say "censorship is bad." And will correspondingly say "redaction is necessary."

The ACLU defines censorship this way: "the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional."

The Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School defines redaction as, "The act of going over a document with a fine-toothed comb in order to find any ambiguities or areas that are not to your advantage." Further "Duhaime's Law Dictionary" says, redaction is to "cut out, white-out or black-out parts of a document. In legal proceedings, this is generally justified for reasons of privilege."

In other words, Attorney General Barr has the privilege to keep information from Congress and the tax-payers who paid for it.

I'd like to know why.

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