Hot News: Binge Drinking is prevalent on campus, Road Rage makes our highways dangerous, and Urban Sprawl is spreading throughout America.
Not News: College students drink, often with the express goal of getting drunk. Some drivers lose their temper on the road. Most people prefer the suburbs to the city.
Both paragraphs say the exact same thing - The only difference is the wording. The first paragraph is designed to raise the ire and concern of many, especially the easily manipulated. The second one, using common terms, is likely to invoke a common sense shrug and little more response than "So?" Activists, politicians and other miscreants have always gathered support for unneeded and invasive laws by repackaging the same old whine in new bottles.
Kids drink, especially in college. The only difference between them drinking now and drinking twenty or thirty or fifty years ago is the ill-conceived 21 year drinking age. It makes them all criminals for engaging in typical young adult behavior. Refer to it as college drinking, a perfectly accurate description, and no one gets excited. Re-label it Binge Drinking and the nannies come out of the woodwork, wagging their fingers and demanding more laws which, like the current laws, will be given the respect and attention they deserve – they will be ignored.
Road Rage is receiving lots of press and inspiring new, unnecessary laws for an old problem. Existing laws already make reckless endangerment and other vehicular misbehavior criminal. Aggressive driving reached its peak more than a decade ago, when motorists on California’s Santa Monica freeway started shooting each other. Things have calmed down considerably since then, but calling it Road Rage has revived interest and lead the sheep to clamor for more laws.
Living in a private home with a nice yard, shopping in comfortable malls with ample parking and a having a short commute to work used to be described as The American Dream. Now it is evil. Convincing people it’s evil requires a New Whine, of course: Urban Sprawl. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?
This is a dangerous whine. The Algore, who buys into every loony idea propagated by the spotted-owl tongue-kissers, wants to eliminate the internal combustion engine within the next twenty years. He can’t do it without convincing people to pack themselves back into the dirty, crime infested cities they’ve fled. The Urban Sprawl label is being used to justify massive federal intrusion on local communities, including buying up property to render it useless. Be very wary whenever you hear this buzz word – it’s a ploy to force you to radically change your lifestyle.
New Whine is an old technique. Its been around forever because it is so effective. The most successful New Whines become such common terms no one notices they’re loaded words.
For instance the EPA, one of our most hyperactive government agencies, doesn’t talk about swamps. Instead they talk about "wetlands." They’re the exact same thing, but "wetlands" sounds so much better, so deserving of special protection. Swamps are just foul water. Wetlands are home to water fowl. The EPA now wants a 100 yard buffer zone around swamps, er, wetlands, meaning many home owners will be expected to stop using their back yards because of an imagined interference with mud.
FDR didn’t call it a Massive Government Takeover of Retirement – he called it Social Security. Doesn’t that sound nice? We’re social. We’re secure. Mmmmmm.
We can’t predict what the next New Whine will be or what common, old thing it will define, but we know it will inspire millions to demand that someone (the government) do something (pass laws) to solve the "new" problem. We can also be fairly confident the solution will a) make people feel better and b) be worse than the original problem.
© 1999 Dave Hitt
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