Masha Gessen, on The Autocrat’s Language:
[We] have to become guardians of our language. We have to keep it alive and working. That means being very intentional about using words. That means, for example, calling lies, “lies.” I am talking to you, National Public Radio, home to the word “misstatement,” among others. The NPR argument is that the definition of “lie” involves intent—a lie is a statement made with the intention to deceive—and NPR does not have conclusive information on Trump’s intent. The problem is, the euphemism “misstatement” clearly connotes a lack of intent—as though Trump simply took an accidental wrong step. But words exist in time: the word “misstatement” suggests a singular occurrence, thereby eliding Trump’s history of lying. The word “misstatement,” as applied to Trump, is, actually, a lie—as it is the lie that there are neutral words.
Using words to lie destroys language. Using words to cover up lies, however subtly, destroys language. Validating incomprehensible drivel with polite reaction also destroys language. This isn’t merely a question of the prestige of the writing art or the credibility of the journalistic trade: it is about the basic survival of the public sphere.