Ta-Nehisi Coates reacts to news that American newspapers stopped describing waterboarding as torture when the United States started engaging in the practice:

Some years ago, I heard a linguist jokingly assert that the difference between languages and dialects, was that languages had armies. I am not convinced that this holds in every case. Nevertheless his point was that the labels we affix to things have a direct relationship to power. Throughout the 20th century, unpleasant regimes have made use of waterboarding. But they lacked the power of proximity, and thus could not cleanse their acts with the white words of "enhanced interrogation." If you're really going to the dark side, make sure to bring your flack.

Bill Keller and Cameron Barr note that they changed their minds after the term "torture" became the source of an argument. The substance of the argument is irrelevant to them, it was the mere presence of a dispute that gave them pause. One is reminded of a married couple, in which a spouse yields to an argument, not because they are convinced of some error, but because they no longer have the stomach for the fight. These moments are likely essential to a marriage. Romantic, and otherwise.

Read the rest here.