I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance earlier today. I was listening to a report on The World (PRI) about the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta, and a reporter (Stephen McConnell) was explaining the Australian political situation for an American audience. (Why? They’ve got an election coming up in a month. Comparisons to the Madrid bombing should be obvious at this point.)

He explained, “It’s a two-horse race. You’ve got the conservatives, who in this country are called the Liberals, and then there’s the Labor Party, which would be much more aligned to something like the Democrats…”

It’s a lot more complicated, of course, but the idea of conservatives calling themselves liberals just seemed bizarre, considering that the terms are opposites here in the US. For all practical purposes, conservative and liberal are swear words when used by someone of the opposite ideology!

3 thoughts on “Speaking of Oxymorons

  1. Yes, but in the USA, a lot of groups calling themselves stuff like “Freedom” or “Choice and Democracy” or “Christian Love” mean anything but.

    Then again, most racist parties in Britain call themselves stuff like “National Unity”

  2. I agree that the names are stupid. As far as elections go, though, if you’re born into the system, it’s not as hard to differentiate. Either you grow up equating one with evil and the other with all that’s good and precious; or you learn through family, acquaintances, news reports, and/or school activities–often slowly, every four years–what the basic policies are. I remember being confused as a kid about how we have a party not called the Democrats when we live in a democracy. I’m very glad that I didn’t have to figure out what “Whig” meant.

    And the phenomenon of naming groups contrary to their actual aims is about the same combination of amusing and annoying as giving restaurants and food services names like “Gourmet Café”–if you have to say it, you probably don’t live up to it. I mean, who’d eat at a place called “Only 3 Roaches per Salad,” or support an organization called “Blatant Disregard for Women’s Health?”

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