Oxymorons can be amusing. Self-contradictory phrases like "peace protest" and "workers' paradise" are inherently funny -- and instructive as well, alerting us to the two-sided nature of the thing described.
Misnomers can be entertaining, too, but they often can be deceptive as well.
Take "public interest group," for instance. Who could object to a group that represents the public interest? We're the public, after all. If a group is representing the public interest, it must be representing our interest, right?
Not often. In fact, when it comes to public interest groups, the only thing you can be certain of is that they do not represent every one's public interest.
The group might represent some portion of the public, maybe even a significant minority, but it almost never represents the majority. The interests of the public interest group are usually diametrically opposed to the interests of the majority.
A public interest group, in short, is a special interest group that seeks to gain an advantage by disguising its self-interest as public interest.
Though its full name may be misleading, the acronym for the public interest group (PIG) is accurate. A PIG feeds at the trough – the trough of donations from political, corporate, foreign, and foundation interests that seek to advance their agendas through innocuous-sounding front groups.
Two "public interest groups," the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Prairie Rivers Network, have asked U.S. District Court Judge J. Phil Gilbert to vacate a protective order covering documents in attorney Stephen Tillery's long-running suit against Syngenta, the makers of weedkiller atrazine.
Given Tillery's penchant for fighting his legal battles in the court of public opinion, this is a convenient "coincidence," indeed.
If you don't remember asking these so-called public interest groups -- the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Prairie Rivers Network -- to represent your interests, don't feel bad. Neither do we.