March 19, 2007

Conspiracy theorists blame linguists for 9/11

Increased rumors and speculation are surfacing, encouraged by disgruntled leaders of what has come to be known as "The Only English Movement" (OEM), that American linguists are involved in a wide-spread plot to convince US citizens that the world needs other languages besides English. "Everyone knows that English is the dominant world language," said a Peoria, Illinois proud monolingual, gesturing to a full-color photo displayed on his living room wall showing the President flying in Air Force 1 over hurricane-ravished New Orleans. "He's doing a heck of a job spreading English throughout the world in spite of those free-thinking linguists who claim that we should be learning Arabic, Yoruba, and God only knows what other gibberish languages," he added.

Although most conspiracy theorists agree that linguists are responsible for the schools teaching more and more foreign languages, including Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, and Persian, the linguists' motives for doing this continue to be disputed. Some say linguists are incorrigible troublemakers. Others believe that the depressed job market for linguists has emboldened college professors to create more language teaching jobs for their graduates, since many of them are currently forced to seek employment as truck drivers and computer repair technicians. Still others say that it's part of a linguistic plot to destroy the very fabric of a correct and beautiful language with immutable rules that should never be broken.

But one group of conspiracy theorists has taken the criticism much further, blaming linguists for the series of recent setbacks experienced by our troops, beginning with 9/11. "We know one thing for sure," said one critic. "Those planes were piloted by speakers of a foreign language. If they had been speaking English, we would have stopped them in their tracks." Another conspiracy theorist complained that millions of messages intercepted by Homeland Security are undecipherable because they were not sent in English. According to one source who requested anonymity, the real reason why André Boisclair, leader of the Parti Québéois, so frequently denies being a linguist (see here), is to distance himself from blame for the war in Iraq.

Since these rumors began circulating, some conspiracy theorists are now saying that our continuing failures in the Middle East are the direct result of linguists allowing Arabic to exist. One returned US Army captain explained that he had spent several weeks trying to teach Iraqi Army officers the best military stragegy for defeating the insurgents: "They only looked at me stupidly when I spoke," he explained, adding that his English is "completely unaccented and very easy to understand." The general feeling of OEM is that US linguists are at fault for failing to see to it that English is the universal language in that part of the world "the same way it is in Europe."

Posted by Roger Shuy at March 19, 2007 03:58 PM