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to be or not to be (subhuman) that is THE question

by jonah jones / November 26, 2004 4:39 PM PST

a lot of people are geting very worked up over the use of the word 'subhuman'....

bill osler said #The terrorists are inhumane, uncivilized, dishonorable and evil. Never-the-less, they are still human#

my view is "human"? as in carbon based-oxygen breathing bi-peds? yes they are....

are they inhumane? (not possessing the qualities of a 'humane' person)...
humane=marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals... yes they are

are they uncivilised? (without looking up the meaning)
yes they are...

are they dishonourable?...yes they are... are they evil? yes they are...

and the crux of the matter?...the point that MarkG and others are making?

are they subhuman?...

i say that if Websters is good enough to define our usage of words such as inhumane, uncivilized, dishonorable and evil.(and lets be honest with ourselves, these are pretty 'cutting words' at the best of times.... then it's good enough for this particular word (and it's usage here IMO)...

are they subhuman?
less than human: as failing to attain the level (as of morality or intelligence) associated with normal human beings... yes! they are!...

jonah not looking for an argument,jones


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Re: to be or not to be (subhuman) that is THE question
by W2X3XP / November 26, 2004 8:21 PM PST

Thing of it is, you excuse the terrorists of conscientious wrong doing if you regale them to the level of a demented monkey or such. I don't think they should be excused of anything in any way, shape or forum. They are human beings doing murderous, horrendous, evil acts of their own free will against other human beings. And they should be held responsible as such.

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Ooops ...Relagate.....
by W2X3XP / November 26, 2004 8:42 PM PST
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when you come a cross subhumans and to kep them
by Mark5019 / November 26, 2004 10:00 PM PST

from spreading there will across new generations you destroy that link by any means possible.

you dont talk to it (evan though some here could talk them to death) :D.

you dont offer your hand to them as they will cut it off.

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While technically correct, there are other issues ...
by Bill Osler / November 26, 2004 10:08 PM PST

The label "sub-human" has some political baggage that complicates the situation. In my recent posts I focused on the primary meaning of the word rather than the secondary meaning you cited because I did not want to get too explicit about the political baggage.

One of the problems with labeling a group "subhuman" is that the label has historically been used to justify oppression of the alleged "subhumans". One of the most obvious examples comes from the Nazis and their use of the German equivalent: ("Untermensch")

I found it interesting that the use of the label "subhuman" here on the forum was recently justified as "calling a spade a spade." I'm not accusing anybody of anything, but it is curious to hear a phrase that has (to some) a racist connotation as a defense of a word that has a Nazi connotation. Language communicates a great deal at multiple levels and many words carry "baggage" that we would do well to leave behind.

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oh get a grip dr
by Mark5019 / November 26, 2004 10:41 PM PST

you dont like me calling the insurgants sub humans i really dont care, but when you insinuate that when i say call a spade a spade that theres more to it than that bugs me.

lts like when some one says the insurgants are human, makes me wonder where there loyalty is with them, or just a peacefull person

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perhaps your should have said
by JP Bill / November 26, 2004 10:49 PM PST
In reply to: oh get a grip dr
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your prolly right as no one here except tony h and jonah
by Mark5019 / November 26, 2004 10:55 PM PST

no me seems peeps would rather jump to conclusions.

if they bothered to ask me id gladly set them straight on my meaning . but thats ok if they disagree with me thats there rights that the combat vets. have given them

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That illustrates my point ...
by Bill Osler / November 26, 2004 10:56 PM PST
In reply to: oh get a grip dr

Language has meaning at multiple levels. It is quite possible to use bland words in a manner that insults or offends people.

I did not say that you meant anything in particular when you "called a spade a spade". I said (in effect) that some people would interpret it that way. The phrase "call a spade a spade" has a long history and some people believe it is racist because "spade" has been used as a label for people of African ancestry. That does not mean the phrase is always offensive, but it is potentially offensive.

Similarly, there are perfectly appropriate uses for the word "subhuman". Unfortunately, however, it carries a certain amount of political baggage. Some rather unsavory people (like the Nazis) used the word as part of their systematic efforts to oppress people. In effect, they poisoned the word for the rest of us. People who use the word "subhuman" to describe other people run a risk of being labeled because of the Nazi connotations of the word.

The problem comes up with other words. What is your interpretation if I say I went to a gay party? The word "gay" has been so corrupted by its association with sexual orientation that it is no longer reasonable to attempt to use its original meaning.

Words have meaning that go beyond the dictionary definitions. If you ignore those non-dictionary meanings you may find yourself saying things you did not intend and readers may interpret what you write in ways that had nothing to do with your message.

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well and if you rather i call those things humans
by Mark5019 / November 26, 2004 11:01 PM PST

as im a human i wont as it gives them creedence just because it walks up right( so does a osterage)i dont see them as that i see something that crawled out of the muck.
there non humans there fore sub humans

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Unfortunately, the PC theory has
by TONI H / November 27, 2004 12:15 AM PST

literally caused people to walk around on eggshells having to so carefully tiptoe around what they want to say that most quit trying to say anything at all. To my way of thinking, if somebody has decided to interpret what I've just said to suit THEM instead of grabbing the context and meaning of what I just said, I don't want to talk to that person anymore because they're more interested in arguing one word out of all of the statement and aren't interested in hearing the rest of it anyhow.

If I have to tapdance around my statement to the point that the person stopped listening once I got a specific word that didn't suit them, the conversation is a waste of my time because I'm dealing with a close minded person who doesn't want to really hear what I have to say in the first place.

The importance isn't in correcting every word the talker says....the importance lays/lies with are you even willing to listen to the whole statement? If you listen, you 'get it'.....and then you can ask questions about the 'meaning' of intent with words you question the use of.


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Mark said it.
by crowsfoot / November 27, 2004 6:04 AM PST

The thing about subhuman is you don't talk to them, you just kill 'em. They have no complaint. They ARE subhuman. "Give them NO voice!!!" Now you just went into a whole big spiel about talking and listening. Something about that just doesn't jibe for me. I myself, don't doubt for a second that there is no proportional justification in anything they have to say. Why the emphasis in silencing them? Is it SO important to not (na-nu!) review any errors on our part, that we continue to leave a festering boil among the very peoples we are supposedly trying to help?

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Re: Mark said it.
by Mark5019 / November 27, 2004 6:10 AM PST
In reply to: Mark said it.

your right i said it and i ment it those "sub humans "that beheaded those civvies, shot that woman in her head are only dead in my eyes.

they dont deserve a trial on capture shoud be shoot to kill on site.

you say there not sub human are they your equals? if so you have a low opinion of humans

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Re: Mark said it.
by crowsfoot / November 27, 2004 6:35 AM PST
In reply to: Re: Mark said it.

I'm only saying that they have half an ear of their fellow Muslims and Arabs. If we insist on not hearing their complaint, then we can't expect to be able to put it in any ordering of proportionality. We are not perfect in our motives or our actions. If we insist we are, we loose.

Our soldier's POV is properly different. "... reason why. ... do or die." A soldiers job is to be the sharpest tool he can be. There is nothing to be gained for him in understanding the details of the enemy's complaint. Subhuman is the correct and proper way to see him. I understand that.

I'm glad the English didn't carpet-bomb Ireland. etc. etc.etc.

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My spiel was related to
by TONI H / November 27, 2004 6:29 AM PST
In reply to: Mark said it.

words used in a discussion........and how they are interpreted by the listener rather than listen to the whole statement and understand the context of it.

I have NO idea what YOU'RE talking about.


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Those that would behead ...
by Evie / November 27, 2004 9:52 PM PST
In reply to: Mark said it.

... innocent civilian contractors, aid workers, and blow up innocent women and children DO NOT DESERVE A VOICE! It is THEY that have chosen the path that words won't solve. Sheesh! Wake up and smell the coffee!

Evie Happy

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Re: Those that would behead ...
by crowsfoot / November 29, 2004 4:35 AM PST

Please Evie, don't take that tone with me. Please don't imply that I don't hate murderers enough! 'Cause that's what the term has been used for 99% of the time in here. A sledgehammer against anyone who disagrees with Bush's handling of Iraq in any slightest way. And if you object to my walking and chewing gum at the same time... tough! Not everything is either / or. W stands for wrong! I believe Bush screwed up badly, and continues to. AND I hate the murderingass terrorists plenty enough. I wouldn't be quite so offended by "sub-human" in here, if it was used to describe ones own feelings only. BUT that hasn't been the deal, now has it.

At least some of the terrorist's complaints obviously strike a chord in the Arab world. They have a voice over there. I don't want to have to kill-'em-all and that being the case, we and the Arabs at some point are going to have to talk. (us listening included) We should be prepared for this in an asymmetric military world. Thus: The Powell Doctrine. (which W has thrown out the stained-glass window) When we don't do enough listening we end up with a bunch of Chalabi's one after the other. Or worse! As it is, the more we kill the more there are.


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Re: Those that would behead ...
by Mark5019 / November 29, 2004 5:34 AM PST

they havent talked yet

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What tone?
by Evie / November 29, 2004 9:08 AM PST

You keep intentionally misinterpreting the "with us or against us" doctrine, or is it that you genuinely don't understand it? We are talking about a specific group of terrorists here, and you keep talking about listening to them. Sorry, that's the point of terrorism. If you listen, you legitimize their tactics as a means to get attention. What does that say to the next person with a gripe? Why choose diplomacy when the squeaky wheel gets oiled by appeasers? Yes! Appeasers Sad

Evie Happy

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(NT) (NT) oh my.
by crowsfoot / November 29, 2004 9:32 AM PST
In reply to: What tone?
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Best post of the century!!
by W2X3XP / November 29, 2004 11:31 AM PST

Thank you, crowfoot!!!


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To be sure ...
by Bill Osler / November 27, 2004 6:38 AM PST

I'd rather avoid the PC nonsense to the extent possible.

There is, however, something to be said for not making deliberately inflammatory remarks.

Personally I'd rather not even focus on the specific label "sub-human" so much as on the tone of the posts.

Talking about giving no quarter, taking no prisoners, executing before an opportunity for trial, ... are part and parcel of the dehumanization of our enemies.

The terrorists we are facing are wonderful examples of why capital punishment is a perfectly reasonable response to certain crimes. That said, we dehumanize them at our peril.

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Re: To be sure ...
by Mark5019 / November 27, 2004 6:46 AM PST
In reply to: To be sure ...

what trial did they give the beheaded people, hassan who was in iraq 30 yrs helpping them?
i say give the insurgants the same trials we dont behead them we just exicute them.

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Re: To be sure ...
by Dan McC / November 29, 2004 4:24 AM PST
In reply to: Re: To be sure ...

In other words, you want us to act like who you call subhuman? Would that not make us subhuman in your eyes?


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Re: To be sure ...
by Mark5019 / November 29, 2004 4:29 AM PST
In reply to: Re: To be sure ...

no never said behead them read what i said shoot them not behead them there armed combantants noy unarmed civvies ok

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Re: That illustrates my point ...
by C1ay / November 27, 2004 5:03 AM PST
Words have meaning that go beyond the dictionary definitions. If you ignore those non-dictionary meanings you may find yourself saying things you did not intend and readers may interpret what you write in ways that had nothing to do with your message.

You've gotta point there. According to DK the word "theory" only has one correct definition regardless of what a dictionary says Devil

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Re: That illustrates my point ...
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / November 27, 2004 10:45 AM PST

Hi, Dr. Bill.

>>Words have meaning that go beyond the dictionary definitions. <<
precisely right -- it's the "connotation" of a wordf, apart from it's denotation (dictionary definition). One phrase that used to be quite common in scientific writing but is now rarely heard due to the bad connotation is "the data were manipulated by..." when discussing the statistical treatment of data, etc.

-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email semods4@yahoo.com

The opinions expressed above are my own,
and do not necessarily reflect those of CNET!

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I would join Mark in objecting ...
by Evie / November 26, 2004 10:54 PM PST

... to the insinuation that he meant anything other than the common use of the spade comment -- as in calling something what it is -- I've never seen Mark make anything that even resembles a racist remark!

I would also point out that there is a difference in the way the Nazi's used the "subhuman" label vs. how it is used now, and that makes all the difference in the world. The Nazi's used it to diminish/oppress a segment of the population. Those that are beheading people, and blowing themselves up to take along as many Israeli women and children with them as they can, are actively engaging in behavior to rightly deserve the title. They are certainly not being oppressed, and there is no intention to oppress in using the term.

It seems to me that some are really nitpicking on this issue. That is just my opinion. If it helps, realize that when he, or others, next use subhuman, they aren't intending to oppress Muslims ala the Jews under Hitler. Far worse racist and inflammatory Nazi references have been made here. No clarification has ever been given to dispell the meaning of such. But with subhuman, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what those that use it mean, and I have no problem with it. If others take the posters at their word for their intent, I don't understand how anyone can have a problem with it. But, then again, I could be missing something ...

Evie Happy

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eve thank you ill post it here im dateing my friends cousin
by Mark5019 / November 26, 2004 10:58 PM PST

shes a great person and omg shes black and i should her the post where i called "a spade a spade" her words were this you peeps need to think before you jump.

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Some of us do think before posting ...
by Bill Osler / November 27, 2004 6:53 AM PST

Some of us also try to carefully edit our posts. But I digress.

You are correct that my comment about the spade remark was not the strongest or most coherent observation I've ever made.

In my defense, I'll note that even though the phrase about "call a spade a spade" has ancient origins and has nothing to do with race, there are people of color who have been insulted by it. In our society the racial tensions sometimes run so high that rationality plays second fiddle to emotion.

Is it so hard to imagine that the situation would be even more volatile in a setting like this where there are people from a variety of cultures, where English may not even be the first language for some of the readers, where some of them do not share your innate assumption that the US is the bright spot of the known universe?

I don't feel like writing out the whole story right now, but a friend of mine learned that the hard way in Mississippi when he used a (to him) harmless slang term for "girl" while speaking to some Black women who he counted as friends. Words can mean different things to people from Yakima, WA than they do to people from Mendenhall, MS. He was not physically injured in the process, but he was rapidly educated and none too gently. If that can happen between friends, what kind of reaction will poorly chosen words have between strangers? Or rivals?

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It has not always been clear.
by Bill Osler / November 26, 2004 11:00 PM PST

I would not take so much offense at the word if its use here on the forum were quite so clear.

Thankfully, some of the most offensive posts have been deleted. Unfortunately, though, there have been instances in which some people used the word in a manner that suggested (for example) that all Muslims were dishonorable subhumans who should be treated mercilessly.

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