Stuart Kaufman: Controlling the ‘Conversation’
“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is, ‘said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
“…[I]f thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
— George Orwell, 1984
Language shapes our very thoughts. The manipulation of language can affect what we frequently (and mistakenly) call our “personal opinions.” These are often not our own considered opinions, but are someone else’s views that have been subliminally inserted into our collective cerebra. As the British philosopher Alan Watts stated: “We seldom realize … that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
During the past 50 years, we have accepted the gradual reworking of our language as we have succumbed to “political correctness” and the requirement that nothing we say (or do) offend any other individual or group.
These changes in our language came about subtly and at first seemed to have a benign, if not positive, motive — that of substituting pleasant words for ones that might possibly have a negative connotation, to make people feel better about themselves and, more important, not feel excluded from the norm. Where once, a person who was physically unable to walk or use a regular public restroom was described as “handicapped,” he became “disabled,” and when that was deemed insufficiently inclusive, he came to be referred to as “differently abled.” A child born with a devastating brain injury that impacted his or her intellectual growth and ability to learn used to be called “slow” or “retarded”; now we say that child has “special needs.” Since all of these changes seemed harmless, if not positive, we readily and enthusiastically accepted these euphemistic changes.
But as with all things liberal, our ready acceptance of those benign changes quickly resulted in constant and ever-increasing pressure for additional modifications to the way we express ourselves. Once the left saw that they could change how things were described, they began to focus on co-opting our opinions. Throughout the years, we have allowed our freedom of expression to be restricted and in so doing, have similarly restricted the way we think.
The goal of those who would change our language is to create a psychological reaction in the minds of those at whom the euphemisms are aimed. I believe that today’s molders of political “conversation” have adopted “newspeak” (as used in George Orwell’s 1984) as a method of limiting the freedom of thought — personal identity, self-expression and free will — of the members of the public who are too busy living their lives and feeding their families to do more than read the summaries published in the media as “CliffsNotes” for the events of the day.
It was George Orwell’s thesis that he who controls the language controls the debate. According to Orwell, political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” By injecting magic words into the subconscious of the voters, a politician can effect subtle changes in the thought process and therefore “frame the issues” in language specifically designed to mold public opinion. As a society, we are willingly surrendering control concerning language to the radicals who are thereby framing and directing the debate.
Let us consider some examples of these “euphemisms” that have been used to direct public opinion.
The vast majority of United States citizens are descended from immigrants: persons who came here from somewhere else. They came legally, having agreed to abide by the laws of our land and their entrance to these shores was properly documented. They sought first to qualify for permanent residency and then for citizenship in this country; they belong here. On the other hand, persons who sneak over our borders or overstay their licit entry are not in the U.S. legally. They are “illegal aliens.” An “illegal alien” does not belong and has no right to be within our borders.
When Charles Schumer or Nancy Pelosi emotionally catalogue the difficulties of “undocumented immigrants” at the U.S. borders or living among us (whether in sanctuary cities or elsewhere), they are actually talking about “illegal aliens.” Referring to an illegal alien by the euphemism “undocumented immigrant” completely whitewashes the fact that this citizen of another country intentionally and willfully broke the laws of our country and continues to do so each and every day he remains here. If we start thinking of him as an “undocumented immigrant,” we psychologically buy in to the attempt by the left to negate the idea that the government of the U.S. has the obligation to defend our borders and regulate those who are entitled to enter and leave this country.
The simple acceptance of the term “undocumented immigrant” is accompanied by a complicated cocktail of values and issues that negate the concept that the U.S. actually has borders. Indeed, it inevitably leads to the idea that “citizenship” no longer has importance in our society and that all that matters is “residence.” The next inexorable step is the justification of voting rights for illegal aliens. After all “they live here too.”
Another one of these charged euphemisms is the replacement of the word “abortion” with the term “women’s health.” This innocuous and even laudatory phrase has been effectively substituted by the left for infanticide — the murder of infants. After all, who can argue with protecting a woman’s health? It matters not at all that no one can, except in the rarest of instances, justify the destruction of a living baby in a woman’s womb by claiming that it somehow protects a woman’s health. The term abortion cannot be manipulated by the left (it raises its own spectres), so they have simply substituted this benign phrase, “women’s health” and, through incessant repetition, implanted in the public an entirely misleading (and ghoulish) enthusiasm for infanticide — to the point where, after passing legislation legalizing the murder of infants at any time up to the moment they are born, members of the New York legislature broke into prolonged cheers.
After all, how could anyone not want to support “women’s health?”
A third euphemism adopted by “newspeakers” is the substitution of the term “radical Islam” for the word “Islam” to mask the fact that there is actually no such thing as “radical” Islam. Sharia adherence is normative Islam (without Sharia there is no Islam) and it is Sharia that is the enemy of Western civilization. However, if you accept the term “radical Islam,” you automatically accept the false idea that “non-radical” Islam actually exists and that adherents of normative Islam want to coexist with and among Western civilization. So, the term “radical Islam” has become a staple in modern political discourse, again whitewashing the reality of Islam.
Other loaded phrases that have passed into our collective subconscious as a result of intentional manipulation by the political class include “toxic masculinity,” “gun violence,” and “gender neutrality.” The term “fair share” is frequently used by leftists as a substitute for what a thinking individual would recognize as coerced governmental theft. “Common-sense gun control” is a substitution for gun confiscation and the deletion of the Second Amendment from the Constitution. The “gun lobby” is the phrase used to describe lawful American citizens who support the Second Amendment and belong to the NRA.”
“Progressive change” is the euphemism for advocating big government control over the individual. When one hears about government “investment” in the future it actually denotes increased taxes, thereby “reallocating unjust profits” from the “rich” to the “less fortunate among us.”
If you hear someone referring to “extremists” or “haters,” you can be absolutely certain that he is referring to political conservatives. When Beto O’Rourke, or Kamala Harris, or Corey Booker, or Kirsten Gillibrand or Bernie Sanders — or any of the other clowns who are racing to the bottom of the barrel of rational civil “conversation” (another euphemism) — talk about “accepted facts,” you may be absolutely assured that “accepted facts” is a euphemism for bull****!
Liberty without responsibility is worthless. By failing to challenge newspeak, we fail to live up to the obligation of a free people. We descend to the same level as sheep milling around in a pen. I readily acknowledge that political conservatives can also be guilty of newspeak, but any attempt to compare its use between left and right becomes almost laughable — the left have raised (or lowered) political discourse to a high (or low) art.
George Orwell underscored the connection between totalitarianism and the corruption of language. He recognized this: In twisting the description of issues or people, you could paint a distorted picture that would ultimately result in the destruction of individual liberty. We are almost at that point. As a prime example, at this moment we have present in the Congress a squad of harpies who engage in newspeak on an industrial scale. They twist, lie and distort in an attempt to pervert the view that Americans have of their own country and of their own countrymen. These women are America-haters, Jew-haters and Israel-haters and they use newspeak as their instrument of subversion.
It is my (perhaps overly optimistic) belief that they have gone too far. They have begun to outlive their welcome and their distortions of political language are beginning to work against them. They have themselves become the face of the Democratic party and the Democrats are beginning to squirm like dung beetles impaled on a pin. The newspeak has been turned upon the newspeakers and the dung beetles are cannibalizing each other.
The ultimate goal of newspeak is that no person should be capable of conceptualizing anything that might question the political elite, i.e., those who practice newspeak. President Trump has completely changed the paradigm. He has exposed the nakedness of the elites and ordinary Americans have come to recognize that the bull**** (or newspeak) of the elites is not something they must accept. The result is that the elites are increasingly being deprived of the primary tool that they have used to manipulate public opinion. Because of President Trump’s plain speaking, ordinary Americans can well imagine a future where the practitioners of newspeak will be relegated to the Smithsonian Museum for Political Losers.
This article was originally published in the Charleston Mercury.