Some of the news reports related to the immigration bill in the Senate reminded me of a book I read maybe ten years ago. I can't remember the title, but it was about the rhetoric historically employed to de-personalize some despized class of human beings in order to legitimize some form of societal injustice. The author backed up his assertions with plenty of historical evidence about the way language was used against American Indians, black Americans, peasants in the Soviet States ("kulaks"), Jews in Nazi Germany, and the unborn. I've been seeing more and more of the same technique being employed in the immigration debates.
Here are the five typical "categories" of depersonalized language (the words can be noun, verbs, adjectives, etc.):
Persons as objects ("blob of tissue")
Persons as animals ("breeding like rabbits")
Persons as insects ("vermin"; "swarming")
Persons as a disease of society ("virus", "plague")
Persons as active agents of harm ("parasites", "scourge" )
Obviously, the examples are not exhaustive!
We can help foster a mentality of respect for human life by correcting similar abuses of language with regard to human beings in the immigration debate when we find instances on blogs and in the press.