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30.4.03

John Derbyshire writes something that's both offensive and true:
The Santorum business brought to the fore an outfit called "The Human Rights Campaign." You would never know from its name that this is a homosexualist lobbying organization. I have no problem with HRC's existence — homosexuals have as much right to organize and lobby as the rest of us — but I do have a problem with that name — viz., it's dishonest. The name of an organization ought to give some clue as to what the organization is for. Why don't they call themselves "The Homosexual Rights Campaign," or "The Campaign for Tolerance of Alternative Sexuality," or something like that? If they want to be a little more in-your-face, they could go for something with a defiant or humorous twist: "The Sodomite Sodality," perhaps. Don't they understand that this straining at bland respectability just makes them look shifty?

Readers, I have decided to launch a movement for the legalization of dog meat as a marketable foodstuff. My movement will be named: "The Campaign for Truth, Justice, Harmony and Peace." Everyone OK with that?

On the one hand, I can understand why you would pick a broad name like "Human Rights Campaign" for a group that focuses on one particular human right. To call your group the "Homosexual Rights Campaign" makes it easy to think of gay rights as some special consideration that gays want, when what they're really after is equal rights for everyone -- eliminating the special rights that heterosexuals currently enjoy.

On the other hand, I share his frustration with uninformative names. But rather than single out a gay rights organization, why don't we start with the very organization that published Derbyshire's work: The National Review. I'm just starting to read the major political magazines, all of which have nice innocuous names like The Nation and The Weekly Standard and The American Prospect. All of them are decidedly partisan, but none of them contain any proclamation of their allegiance, which is quite confusing to the new reader trying to keep them all straight. Contrast that with the major libertarian publication, Reason. Now, "reason" sounds like a similarly uninformative name. But if you start reading libertarian stuff, you'll notice that they talk about reason all the time, treating it as the highest virtue (similar to the way social conservatives are always on about "values"). So if you know a bit about politics, you'll recognize that "reason" is a sort of libertarian linguistic tic and thus it serves as a code word for the publication's bias. So maybe Derbyshire can take some time off from complaining about the Human Rights Campaign and ask his editors to change their magazine's name to The National Conservative Review.

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