Euphemisms of deception are expressways to degradation
Euphemisms often help express distressing truths sensitively. But sometimes they are abused as tools of deception, as verbal sleights-of-hand to make evil sound good.
Consider, for example, the advertising of strip clubs as “gentlemen’s clubs.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines a gentleman as “a well-mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behavior.” The gentlemen’s club is no place for gentlemen – except for those who want to gently deny the reality that they are no longer gentlemen.
The gentlemen’s club is no place for gentlemen – except for those who want to gently deny the reality that they are no longer gentlemen.
Or consider the rephrasing of pornography as “adult entertainment.” The word makes indulgence in it seem like a welcome rite of passage: When we become adults, we get the right to vote and the right to enjoy adulterous entertainment sanitised as adult entertainment.
Once the perverse is thus legitimized by deceptive word jugglery, it soon perpetuates far beyond any limits. Today most adult TV channels or Internet sites allow entry by a single click on the “I am an adult” option without actually verifying the viewer’s adulthood. Thus children get unfiltered access to some of the most depraved products of the most perverted human imagination. Such exposure can psychologically scar even adults, what to speak of children with their highly impressionable minds. Repeated exposure can slaughter the viewers’ conscience, desensitizing them to not just morality but even humanity. When society witnesses some barbaric crimes, done by people who seem to have no conscience at all, the media often expresses shock – while conveniently forgetting its own role in making the shocking mainstream.
If a culture lets euphemisms of deception make the reprehensible seem respectable, it builds and broadens the expressway for people to slide down to degradation. The Bhagavad-gita (18.32) cautions against such deceptive and destructive misuse of intelligence when it declares that seeing things as opposite to what they actually are characterizes intelligence in the mode of ignorance.
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