I recently purchased the worst smelling garbage bags yet, emitting what can only be described as an overpowering stench of portaloo liquid throughout the kitchen. As this Guardian article notes, around 4,000 chemicals are used in fragrances, the details of which remain “trade secrets” and are therefore unregulated. EWG adds that even products labeled “unscented” may contain fragrance to cover up other odors. Many are derived from petrochemicals, contributing to urban air pollution in the form of VOCs. So in addition to irritating those of us who are sensitive to smell, they’re actually bad for air quality.
In the case of present-day America I’m afraid this has become a weasel word — a way for political commentators to safely bemoan our sad state of affairs without actually saying anything that could be construed as “partisan.” The term “polarization” erases differences in power, places dominant and marginalized groups on the same plane, and implies a false equivalence between violent movements and vulnerable people trying to defend themselves. It is an intellectually dishonest way of looking at our current situation, one that has been ruthlessly exploited by those very extremists who would destroy the press that insists on normalizing them.