Outside the box: The United States Press Release

All press releases share one very specific trait: they put a positive spin on information before it is released to the public, and if it can’t be made positive, they aren’t released at all.

I find our government no different than a giant public relations department-a well-rehearsed automaton looking to put a positive spin on the tidbits of information it feeds us through such press releases.

Government spokespeople make up words for things that already have names-calling people “detainees” even though they are not much different from prisoners, as if it is only a matter of hours before they’ll be released.

Take the two 16-year-old girls currently being held in Pennsylvania. Both were arrested for allegedly posing an “imminent threat to the security of the United States,” according to the FBI. What does that mean?

One girl dropped out of school and after her father feared she would elope with her boyfriend, he called police in order to stop her from running away. That began an investigation during which police discovered an essay about suicide bombers written by the girl, and consequently arrested her. Little is known about the other girl-only that she waved to the first, making police believe they were friends. So they arrested her, too.

Those are the only facts we have. The FBI did not offer any evidence as to why they believed the girls were an “imminent threat.”

And what about that word, imminent? Can’t argue with that, can we. The FBI does not have to provide evidence or explanation. They only have to throw out the words “imminent threat,” and the press picks up on them because it’s easy-easier than having to demand further explanation or, better yet, truth.

But it’s not just the media’s fault. Readers are comfortable with those undefined words like imminent and detainee. That way, Americans can pretend the danger was so great that holding two children prisoner without answers to the questions of Why? and For how long? isn’t a problem.

I’ll define the words, however. Imminent would be an unavoidable threat; an action that is about to, and no doubt will, take place. An essay would not be classified as an imminent threat.

Detainee is the word our government uses to get around the justice system our forefathers established centuries ago. There is no set time limit on how long the girls can be held prisoner, and the burden is on them to prove they don’t pose an imminent threat to the country, regardless of whether they can afford attorneys.

So next time you read these and other words in the paper, ask yourself what they really mean and who they really represent, and then think of our governmental talking heads telling us, or not telling us, what is going on in our country on a daily basis.

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