Thursday, September 27, 2007

The L-word

An AP story in today’s Boston Globe covers a recent speech by Gorbachev. I have no quarrel with the story or its importance, except for the use of the word “liberal” as an umbrella term for those opposed to Putin. This is as inaccurate as it is commonplace:

His remarks, less guarded than usual, came amid growing concern among Russia's marginalized liberals that Putin's government is recasting Stalin's legacy to justify its own increasingly tight control.

Since the mainstream media insists on labeling Putin’s opponents as “liberals” and Putin as a “conservative”, I offer what might be the definition found in the reporter's usage guide:

Liberal 1) A Russian who favors market forces, private ownership of enterprises, reduced government interference in business, and decentralized political power. 2) An American who opposes all these things.

This illustrates the level of devaluation of such labels have reached in our discourse. They should be avoided.


Bill said...

Do you honestly believe that the Republican party, and Bush in particular, favor decentralized political power?

Harry said...

Where did I say anything about the Republicans, or about Bush?

Bill said...

You didn't but most people in America rightly or wrongly would still call them conservatives. The term has always meant different things in the European and American context. I don't think the usage here devalues the labels.

flymorgue2 said...

The socialists in Burma become a 'military junta' which may be defined broadly as a left-wing military junta everytime the word 'left-wing' is left off. That would be from the reporters 'non-usage guide.'

Swearenger said...

Originally, liberal meant somebody who believed in free markets and free minds. The Founding Fathers were liberals.

The meaning you ascribe to "Russian liberals" is more in line with the classic definition of liberalism.

Classic conservatism is about protecting tradition and precedent.