“Control orders” could be called “secret detention directives”. “Tax exiles” could be called “tax fugitives”. “Extraordinary rendition” could be called “government-sponsored kidnapping”.
In all three cases a fairly benign phrase has been adopted by both sides of the debate, despite the phrase very much favouring one. Having a bit of order doesn’t instinctively sound too bad. Exile even has a whiff of the honourably martyr about it. And “extraordinary”? Well, that’s usually a good thing, isn’t it? Especially if we’re talking about “rendition”, i.e. a word that is well outside common usage.
Does it matter? Not if an issue is at the centre of public attention. But when an issue only gets brief interest from the public, or minimal media coverage that gets little beyond naming the issue and quoting two different politicians disagreeing, then yes it does – as it frames the way in which people judge the issue.
That, of course, is one of the reasons why the Yes campaign for the forthcoming referendum on the alternative vote is Yes To Fairer Votes rather than Yes To An Acronym You’ve Not Heard Of.