Folks is many a politicians’ favored term for people. It’s class-neutral and gender-neutral. In a country that uses y’all, you guys, youse, and yinz, it is confidently American, but neighborhood-neutral. It is informal. It is cuddly. A politician represents his constituents. He thinks about the people. But he cares for folks — all you folks, including you there in the back.
But Barack Obama uses the term so often he sometimes uses it indiscriminately. Take today, when during a press conference he casually mentioned that “we tortured some folks” after the September 11 attacks. (A few folks — ahem — expressed surprise that he would describe “enhanced interrogation” as “torture,” but he’s done it before.)
As in so few things, he follows in folks-loving George W. Bush’s footsteps. Here’s Bush in 2006: “The United States of America is engaged in a war against an extremist group of folks bound together by an ideology, willing to use terror to achieve their objectives.” And Bush again in 2007: “Many of the spectacular car bombings and killings you see are as a result of al Qaeda, the very same folks that attacked us on September 11th.”
But it could have been worse. As started on Twitter, here are some other ways he could have put it:
- We brutalized some dudes.
- We put some of y’all in stress positions.
- We tormented some chaps.
- We sleep-deprived some blokes.
- We sexually humiliated some fellows.
- We isolated these bros for extended periods of time.
- We played deafeningly loud music for those fellers.
- We exposed these bucks to temperature extremes.
- We water-boarded some cats.
Then again, maybe it’s not the worst thing to remember that some of the folks the CIA tortured really were just folks.
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