Name calling has always been a part of American politics. One merely need consult the newspaper battle between Presidential candidates President John Adams and his Vice-President Thomas Jefferson. The election of 1800 is often considered the beginning of the Negative Campaign. These past two presidential elections have shown us nothing new from either political party.
However, the lion share of abuse seems to be coming from the Democratic side of the aisle. These past few elections have only served as a backdrop to a larger and a more hideous movement to eliminate all forms of criticism under the rubric of hate speech and the subversion of democracy. This Democratic tactic wants to censor all free speech and any ideas that do not follow their autocratic party line. People who disagree on man-man made climate change, evolution or abortion rights are labeled as deniers and ultimately banished from the marketplace of ideas. Democrats also feel justified in tampering with the United States Constitution because they believe hateful speech is psychologically harmful to the self-esteem of the target.
I think it would be beneficial for all partisans to take a deep breath and consult an old Scottish nursery rhyme that patently suggests in a more general sense, while sticks and stones may break bones, words can never really hurt me. The real danger to the censorship of words and ideas is government control of such debates that are undemocratic and contribute to their centralization of power, adding more bricks on the road to serfdom and slavery.
Such censorship also underscores the point that language can be carefully and unilaterally crafted to control, and manipulate an entire nation into a state of social conformity. This can have disastrous consequences for any country. British historian, A. J. P. Taylor echoed this viewpoint when he wrote Power over words leads easily to longing for power over men.
It is an oft used truism that whoever controls the language controls the people. The same can be said of those who rewrite history to suit their ideology. Every student should read George Orwell’s prophetic vision as outlined in his 1948 classic, 1984. The book depicts a future society, where an autocratic government controls the thoughts, feelings and minds of its subjects by not only managing the language but by deliberately distorting it.
Orwell called this tyrannical language Newspeak. This neologism ushered in the use of blatant contradictions and arbitrary changes in word meaning, which gradually reduced the people’s thinking to unmitigated mush. As his Minister of Truth proudly proclaimed, It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words…Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. While Orwell’s ultimate vision is encapsulated in the book’s final image, that of a boot stomping on a human face, the author places more weight on the importance of language manipulation than he does the threat of brute force. War is Peace! and Freedom is Slavery, has a more devastating effect on the human spirit than all of Big Brother’s thought police.
The inherent dangers to a Democracy are immediately apparent. The reduction of a people’s ability to reason clearly and think critically lays the bases for a despotism, which relies more on sensations than logical arguments. The late Canadian educator and technology expert, Marshall McLuhan, accurately predicted this phenomenon when he wrote, the medium is the message. In McLuhan’s global village, which was an exercise in communal group-consciousness, society was based on a more primitive tribal way of thinking. A society with limited skills in verbal communication will echo Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac adage that warned against a mobocracy, which had many heads and no brain.
Nazi Germany in the thirties and early forties serves a good example of where the Democrats may be leading us. Adolph Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels can provide Americans with an excellent example of this manner of controlled language. It was Goebbels who perfected the Big Lie. Germans were much more inclined to believe a horrendous distortion of reality than they were a series of minor fibs. A good example of this was Hillary Clinton’s use of Fusion and the mainstream media’s fake news to create the Big Lie of Donald Trump’s collusion during the 2016 presidential election.
The Nazis wanted to produce a citizen who could never exert himself to think critically about the regime. They effectively used the language to manipulate their people’s emotions and distort their understanding of the inherent evil of Nazis policies. According to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the only thing that this national brainwashing had to do, was to unforgettably brand the Nazi way of thinking in each individual’s mind. A recent book from Oxford Press by Emily Finley calls this The Ideology of Democratism offers an interesting parallel about such the after affects centuries of ideological brainwashing.
To understand fully what has happened to language in the United States, it is prudent to consider the philosophy of the late French intellectual Michel Foucault. Foucault is considered the Patron Saint of Deconstructionism. He defined it as a form of literary analysis that breaks down the text of a document to the extent that exact word meanings get lost in a creative stream of linguistic relativity. The best political example was when President Bill Clinton fudged on the exact meaning of the copulative verb is during his grand jury testimony on his relationship with his intern, Monica Lewinsky in 1998.
While a professor at the prestigious College de France in 1961, Foucault published Madness and Civilization. He believed that insanity was a modern invention. He thought the world was a richer, a more interesting place before doctors tried to separate the insane from the sane. Foucault’s revolutionary notion implies that there is no such thing as madfacts. The mad are just another example of the variety of the human species, like an alternate life style, in an historical context. Could this country’s remaining sane people, not refrain from labeling such conditions as transgendered, multi-sexual distinctions and even homosexual behavior as lost somewhere within the gulf between insane and mentally ill?
Foucault’s nihilistic disdain for linguistic rules and regulations subverted the old social order without having any idea with what to replace it. His followers believe that all information carried ideology and that there was no absolute knowledge. Foucault’s thinking lay at the heart of the shift from logic, consistency, factual accuracy and absolute truth to emotional and subjective feelings. In dismissing an independent reality, Foucault and his apostles, not only rejected but also undermined the founding principles of the West.
Deconstructionists foster a pernicious type of relativity, which argues that standards have no objective truth but only serve to perpetuate the preferences of the power structure. The traditional Western standards they contend, such as a concentration on success, achievement, and objectivity, are masculine in origin and merely perpetuate the subjugation of minorities in this country. They feel it is their turn to call the shots and the white power structure should step down and get out of the way. This is far deeper than moral relativity. It is the overt annihilation of the transcendent moral and intellectual order.
It is not surprising that Foucault turned to Prussian general and chief World War I strategist, Phillip von Clausewitz’s dictum for inspiration for his Revolution when the Frenchman wrote that revolution, not politics, was war by other means. Despite its disclaimer, revolution almost always turns to violence to achieve its aims. Violence is the end result of a movement with such a widespread following.
Foucault’s revolutionary ideas were successfully transplanted in the United States, thanks to America’s most progressive colleges and universities. Professors and the intelligentsia have enlisted and encouraged generations of students, politicians and even members of the clergy to tailor facts and events to suit their purposes, first with opposition to the Vietnam War, followed by the ensuing Culture War.
American educational ideology has been a willing contributor to the country’s moral and intellectual subversion. Some call this the dumbing down of American students. It is a mental downsizing that bodes ill for this nation’s future. When schools devalue education and standardized testing by replacing the traditional disciplines of science, math, foreign language, history, literature, religion and government with self esteem, value clarifications, and a kind of feel-good about myself curricula, students will be much less able to critically discern the nuances of conflicting words and ideas.
An uneducated public will find itself easily swayed by the emotionally-laden jargon of the teachers, the media and politicians. The country is fast becoming a nation of mindless robots who put more faith in the rote distortions of a TV anchor than they would after an afternoon at the local library.
As a result, Americans are losing sense of the language. There was a Babylonian town, called Shinar in the book of Genesis, which degenerated into a land of noise and confusion. When verbal distortions and feelings reign, how long will it be before America is like Shinar’s Tower of Babel, where no one is able to communicate because there is no common language? Personally, I think we have already passed its early stages.
The most sinister agency in this battle for the language is the abortion lobby, which has expropriated several traditional American ideas and perverted them to support a hidden agenda of social disruption and family breakdown. No greater abuse is evident than the perversion of the word choice. Everyone is pro-choice when it comes to marriage, work, food, or recreation. In this twisted metaphysics of choice, the pro-abortion lobby says that the child has the right to be born into a welcoming family. Where does the child get this right? Humans can not confer rights on other human beings. They are either with them from the moment of their being or they do not exist. Sadly, reason has lost its exalted place at the dinner table of debate since Progressive ideas capture the feelings of the growing mobocracy.
The abortion debate has influenced the way Americans perceive the elderly. The language of the culture of death has already infiltrated the national discussion. It is reported that the comatose, the sick and dying, and people with long, yet not terminal diseases, are not living full and productive lives. It is only a matter of time until the death with dignity lobby constructs a word such as senilitus, to depersonalize the elderly. Then it will be much easier to terminate them, as in an unwanted pregnancy.
Americans used to refrain from public displays of profanity. The movie culture from Hollywood has changed all that. In place of clever dialogue, Hollywood has gratuitously incorporated a stream of mindless and tedious profanities that has robbed many movies of any intellectual content. These filmmakers have desensitized the American public to the vulgarity of such language that it has become virtually part of the cultural mainstream. When mixed with the violence of such films, as director Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Inglorious Bastards actual violence is often just a step away and civilization is back on the road back to the caves or even a gulag.
As America has trended toward favoring all racial and moral minorities as victims, tolerance and sensitivity are being touted as substitute core values. According to its moral underpinnings, words that hurt, so-called hate speech, are more dangerous than actions that maim and even kill. A new nomenclature of words and expressions that were thought to be playful, cute, innocuous and devoid of any double meaning, have now been singled out so as not to offend people who may be fat, short, bald, or ugly. All of these words, which are implicitly negative value judgments, have been said to cause social pain, distress, and embarrassment.
PC, as political correctness has become known, refuses to impose any judgment on people’s abilities or their behaviors. Tolerance of a host of pathologies, such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, and homosexuality has reigned as the cardinal virtue in the PC morality.
For example, obese victims are horizontally-challenged, while short people are vertically-challenged. An ugly person is cosmetically different. Drunks are known as sobriety-deprived. Thieves and con men are ethically disoriented. There is no such thing as evil in this amoral utopia, only morally different. Drugs addicts are readily referred to as those with a pharmacological preference. Promiscuity means sexually active. Illegal immigrants are now undocumented refuges. Prostitutes are sex-care providers. A murderer in PC argot is someone who engages in the arbitrary deprivation of life or as defined by a CIA pamphlet life alteration. These are no more than distortions of truth or what we used to call lies.
The walls of academia have not been immune from this artificial tampering with the language. In fact, many teachers have been willing participants in the abuse of language. An Orwellian thought police reigns that report any university code violations against minorities, women, and gays. According to author Charles Sykes, the heart of this totalitarian disregard for the First Amendment, is the fact that PC is Marxist in origin, in that it is attempting to redistribute power from the privileged class (white males) to the oppressed minorities, women and people of color. It is a spurious form of linguistic corruption where everything is seen through the prism of race, gender, or sexual orientation. It is not surprising that cultural Marxists seem to be on the scene whenever an important pillar of American society is under assault.
I do not know if the historical pendulum can swing back to simpler times in our lifetimes when there was a clear distinction between the cowboys and the Native Americans. Lucid and objective language can still bridge the communications and culture chasm that Deconstructionism and Political Correctness have created. But all rational-minded people have to refuse to join the party of the insane.
Amid an angry populist counter-revolution, can people stop the name-calling and revert to the truth of their solid positions? To do so, they need leadership and not anger or grudges. They need leaders who understand all of the above. The country needs to first go back to the libraries or bookstores and read the real history of Russia, China and even Cuba to learn what is in store for their country.
Should they fail to open a book, the only scenario possible will be a nation that chose the insanity of feelings over the sanity of truth. At that point, the ideas of 1984 will have prevailed and a new, larger version of the Tower of Babel will be erected in New York City or Washington.