Dangerous Words Matter

 

Have you noticed how the word choice and hyperbole of the Left has ramped up since the January 6 incident? And have you noticed how weak the protest has been from the Republicans to refuse to accept language like “insurrection” and “coup”? I don’t know about you, but I feel deeply the dangers of this language, and I predict that not only will it worsen and intensify, but we are all personally going to be vulnerable to these attacks and the actions that may follow them.

Sen. Chuck Schumer established the lexicon to describe this event:

On 6 January, presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the Capitol protesters ‘rioters and insurrectionists, goons and thugs, domestic terrorists.’ The US left-leaning mainstream media echoes the narrative, running stories claiming that the president was up to nothing short of a coup and that he ‘should be criminally indicted for inciting insurrection.’

For this discussion (at least initially) I’m not going to talk about President Trump’s role in this event, except to establish my basic beliefs: He didn’t intend to incite violence; a small group of protestors got carried away and others were drawn into the drama; there was no intention to incite an insurrection, nor take over the government. You are free to disagree, but I think it’s more valuable to look at the hyperbole used by the Left and the reason it is so threatening to our country, although the language is intended, in part to shame and discredit Trump. Professor Joseph Siracusa, a US politics expert from Curtin University, Australia made the following comments:

​‘They want him arrested, they want him shamed, and they want to attack all of his supporters,’ Siracusa notes. ‘In short, they want to cancel his career. And Twitter people have followed suit. You know, they cancelled his Twitter account, which had 88 million followers. They cancelled his Facebook account. So what they’re trying to do is to destroy his legacy.’

But there’s much more going on here than destroying Trump’s future. One writer stated the following regarding the goals of the Left:

What they are doing is methodically intentional, and the reason is crystal clear. They want to paint a dark, ominous picture of the American political landscape, one that firmly places anyone who questioned the 2020 election or even supported former President Donald Trump as not just political adversaries, but enemies and even outlaws who want to overthrow a democratically elected government.

It’s worth noting that where the most extreme language used against the Right in the past were words like Nazi and evil—words that describe ideas and philosophies—but now we are hearing words like insurrectionists, coup, outlaws and thugs—words that are identified with brutality and violent action. We are no longer simply nasty people; we are literally a physical threat to the country and to democracy.

The same writer points out his concerns for this rhetoric:

If they can paint the right as insurrectionists and coup plotters, they can then justify any method to stop and/or punish the insurrection and coup plotting. If you think they’d never do it, consider all the ways the world has changed because of a virus with a 99.87% survival rate. This is why it’s so important to push back against that narrative. Indeed, what happened that day was stupid, tragic, and completely unnecessary, but it was NOT an insurrection, nor was it a coup attempt. It wasn’t even close.

The media made a half-hearted and feeble effort to explain how their language escalated in their description of January 6. And then there was this comment from the AP:

News organizations have been careful not to use words like rebellion, revolt or uprising, which could cast those who stormed the Capitol in a heroic light, he said.

In its coverage, the Times has called it a ‘mob attack,’ ‘deadly riot’ and ‘violent assault,’ and said Trump supporters ‘laid siege’ to the Capitol. The Post has talked of a ‘horde of rioters’ and ‘terrifying attack.’

‘It’s hard to overstate what happened,’ said Al Tompkins, a faculty member at the journalism think tank Poynter Institute.

Seriously? Are none of these descriptions “overstated”? Does Mr. Tompkins think that the “attack” was so horrendous that there is no way to exaggerate what happened or its implications?

Then NPR provided an assessment of their coverage:

At 3:44 p.m., Managing Editor for Enterprise and Planning Gerry Holmes issued a newsroom-wide directive to call them ‘pro-Trump extremists’ not ‘domestic terrorists.’ This was the first decision that steered the language away from ‘protest.’ A half-hour later, he expanded that language to authorize the use of ‘mob’ and ‘insurrection. Two hours later, ‘rioters’ was added to the list.

I wonder what Mr. Holmes learned in a one-half hour that justified his insisting the protestors be called extremists and not terrorists, to deciding that the appropriate language was “mob” or “insurrection.”

He didn’t. He probably was following the Leftists and the rest of the media to figure out how extreme he could be. He discovered that he could call the event just about anything that he wished.

*     *     *     *

So what can we learn from all this word-smithing and hyperbole? First, it’s clear that once the media and legislators mostly agreed among themselves that they could use extreme language, they did just that. In part, it was an attack on President Trump. But more than that, they wanted to make sure that Trump’s followers—in fact, anyone on the political Right–would be tarred with the ugliest, violent, and dangerous descriptors possible. We are all dangerous—guilt by association. We all have the potential of being thrown in jail, just like those who were arrested on January 6, and were held indefinitely. Not only our words will make us vulnerable, but our “reputations” as insurrectionists and leaders of coups.

And what are the Republicans doing? They chose to vote for awarding the Capitol Police medals for their response to January 6, in a bill that included the “insurrection language.” Few people refused to vote against the bill:

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert said he opposed the bill because it mentioned ‘armed insurrectionists,’ although the legislation itself made no mention of ‘armed’ rioters.

‘I was concerned about language preceding the honoring of the Capitol Police because some of it was neither true nor accurate, including saying we had an armed insurrection,’ Gohmert said. ‘Because we found out, no one that came in the Capitol was armed. So rather than having false information being voted for, I preferred to have a build [sic] that honored the Capitol Police without having false statements in it. That’s why I took that out and honored the police.’

I’m glad the Capitol Police stepped in, in spite of being ill-informed in advance about the potential dangers of stepping in. But I have one question for the Republicans who voted for the medals bill and kept silent—

Who will protect the nation, when the Left finally decides the next time there’s a crisis, to call those on the Right insurrectionists?

What will you do then?

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  1. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I admire your patience in putting this post together. I am far too angry about the use of that term, which I will no longer dignify by repeating in print, to write about it calmly.

    I want every Republican in the House and Senate and their staffers to unite forcefully against the use of that term to describe the events of that day.

    Let us just call it the January 6 Protests. That would be accurate. The people involved were part of a protest that was lawfully organized and permitted properly. This was a small group that broke off from the larger group. They behaved badly. They were not armed, they did not intend to overthrow the government, and they were dispersed quickly–not as quickly as some wanted but quickly nonetheless.

    I have seen what these people do to the truth. When the Gulf War of 1990 occurred, for years afterward it was described as a war about oil, mostly the Bush family’s great oil reserves. One day I was in my husband’s office and I saw a chart he had on his wall from the Wall Street Journal that tracked the Dow Jones Industrial Average against world events. On that chart was a label “Iraq Invades Kuwait.” I took that chart from my husband’s wall and put it on mine, just to save my sanity.

    Republicans throughout Washington and the entire country need to unite on this issue.

    The Democrats are framing this event in civil war terminology. It has to stop.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Republicans throughout Washington and the entire country need to unite on this issue.

    The Democrats are framing this event in civil war terminology. It has to stop.

    It’s probably obvious, Marci, that I couldn’t agree more. What are Republicans thinking?? Do they not realize that they are also smeared with these terms, whether they supported Trump or not? At this point I don’t care about their making partisan bargains; the cost is far too high. Thanks for sharing. I hope your blood pressure goes down. ;-)

    • #2
  3. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    As I recall, the now-familiar epithets of “Nazi” and “Fascist” were hurled at the members of the Tea Party when they held a rally in D.C. (this was the same rally in which Rep. John Lewis claimed he was spat on and called the “N” word even though video showed that he was a complete liar).  Also, I believe the same language was used against the Covington kids.

    For some reason, Leftists become very defensive when anyone other than they decide to protest publicly.  Evidently, only they have that privilege.

    • #3
  4. Vince Guerra Inactive
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    Susan Quinn: And what are the Republicans doing? They chose to vote for awarding the Capitol Police medals for their response to January 6, in a bill that included the “insurrection language.”

    And not just Republicans in congress:

    Ben Shapiro, who previously advocated for the compulsory vaccination of American citizens, and has been “shadow-boosted” by Facebook, called the January 6 prisoners who are reportedly facing torture “evil,” adding that they will “all end up rotting in prison as they should” while debating Malcolm Nance on Bill Maher’s show. https://nationalfile.com/ben-shapiro-calls-1-6-prisoners-evil-says-they-should-end-up-rotting-in-prison/

    And a few prominent people on this site have agreed.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    For some reason, Leftists become very defensive when anyone other than they decide to protest publicly.  Evidently, only they have that privilege.

    That’s why cancel culture is alive and well. They have no interest in exchanging ideas; they prefer to erase us.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Vince Guerra (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: And what are the Republicans doing? They chose to vote for awarding the Capitol Police medals for their response to January 6, in a bill that included the “insurrection language.”

    And not just Republicans in congress:

    Ben Shapiro, who previously advocated for the compulsory vaccination of American citizens, and has been “shadow-boosted” by Facebook, called the January 6 prisoners who are reportedly facing torture “evil,” adding that they will “all end up rotting in prison as they should” while debating Malcolm Nance on Bill Maher’s show. https://nationalfile.com/ben-shapiro-calls-1-6-prisoners-evil-says-they-should-end-up-rotting-in-prison/

    And a few prominent people on this site have agreed.

    I like Ben Shapiro but he’s wrong. I’m a big believer that people are responsible for their behavior, but from everything I’ve read, only a handful of people were rioting and the others were caught up in the act. Stupid, but not the same level of guilt as the instigators. 

    • #6
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    As I recall, the now-familiar epithets of “Nazi” and “Fascist” were hurled at the members of the Tea Party when they held a rally in D.C. (this was the same rally in which Rep. John Lewis claimed he was spat on and called the “N” word even though video showed that he was a complete liar). Also, I believe the same language was used against the Covington kids.

    For some reason, Leftists become very defensive when anyone other than they decide to protest publicly. Evidently, only they have that privilege.

    AND. McCain smeared the Tea Party movement in the WSJ (corporatist mouthpiece) as “hobbits.” McConnell and Lyin’ Ryan colluded with Obama and the IRS in crushing the Tea Party for their personal power and profit. It is no surprise that McConnell and his gang have colluded with Schumer on smearing all of us. It is no surprise that Kevin McCarthy has not enforced party discipline, forcing party line votes against the radical leftist Democrat majority on every issue. McConnell,  McCarthy and their gangs want the power now being exercised by the left in their hands by very narrow margins, so that their con(man)servative media enablers can peddle the RepubliCAN’T line of too hard to do. We saw this with Obamacare and with the Republicans’ IRS/Tea Party long con.

    • #7
  8. Vince Guerra Inactive
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I like Ben Shapiro but he’s wrong.

    Another day, another one bites the dust. 

    • #8
  9. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    The correct term for the event is “hubbub” and the correct term for participants is “rabble”. 

    • #9
  10. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    We have no representatives (sigh). I withdraw my consent to be governed.

    • #10
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Rodin (View Comment):

    We have no representatives (sigh). I withdraw my consent to be governed.

    Quote Cromwell at them.

    “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” 

    • #11
  12. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’ve consistently used the word riot, which I think is accurate.  It was worse than a protest, although there were many peaceful protesters who did not riot.

    I don’t mind the use of the word mob.

    I think that the use of words like insurrection, coup, and terrorist are hysterical and wrong.

    I do agree with Susan that the Democrats and the media are peddling a false narrative, as usual, but this one is worse than most.

    • #12
  13. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Percival (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    We have no representatives (sigh). I withdraw my consent to be governed.

    Quote Cromwell at them.

    “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

    As if those Republicans would ever leave; except for nice cushy lobbyist jobs.

    (Paging John Boehner)

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    I do agree with Susan that the Democrats and the media are peddling a false narrative, as usual, but this one is worse than most.

    Thanks, Jerry. I think we are mostly in agreement.

    • #14
  15. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    I agree and disagree. 

    The word “insurrection” goes too far, and after a discussion on March 15, 2021, I agreed with D.A. Venters and Henry to not use that word as to the Capitol Rioters.  https://ricochet.com/913313/okay-lets-reason-together-and-see-what-we-can-agree-with-first-up-was-january-6-2021-an-insurrection/

    However, upon reflection, it appears that what Trump did was actually to try to stage a coup.  I suggest that you read this timeline of 23 events by Trump between the election and 1/6 which suggests that “coup” is an accurate word.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/08/06/trumps-brazen-attempt-overturn-2020-election-timeline/ 

    • #15
  16. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    We just spent twenty years arguing over the meaning of the word marriage. That’s how influential language is.

    • #16
  17. kidCoder Member
    kidCoder
    @kidCoder

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I like Ben Shapiro but he’s wrong.

    I think he walks a line to avoid getting his company deplatformed. It is not too unreasonable to call the protests on Jan 6th evil, just as it’s not unreasonable to say a lot of people were caught up in it, or that the protests are actions by patriots symbolizing a country that will not stand by if abuses of power go too far.

    These are all reasonable positions. We can debate them back and forth, but only one of those positions avoids getting deplatformed.

    • #17
  18. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    As I recall, the now-familiar epithets of “Nazi” and “Fascist” were hurled at the members of the Tea Party when they held a rally in D.C. (this was the same rally in which Rep. John Lewis claimed he was spat on and called the “N” word even though video showed that he was a complete liar). Also, I believe menthe same language was used against the Covington kids.

    For some reason, Leftists become very defensive when anyone other than they decide to protest publicly. Evidently, only they have that privilege.

    Valerie and I were in the crowd that day and watched the Congressmen walking through it. No one shouted anything. But the lie has been repeated so often it’s now history. 

    Susan, home run post. By controlling the meanings of the words, the left has won the debate before it even starts. 

    • #18
  19. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Good article.  Dead on in my view. What bothers me about all of this is how easily some folks, supposedly on the side of the Republic, go along with the Democrat narrative.  Let’s face it, we don’t know exactly who did what nor why because there is so much false information, and false actors out there.   The only thing we know, and even that by exercising common sense and some historical perspective, is that it was minor, but its exploitation to use it against the Republic was major and preplanned.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I Walton (View Comment):

    Good article. Dead on in my view. What bothers me about all of this is how easily some folks, supposedly on the side of the Republic, go along with the Democrat narrative. Let’s face it, we don’t know exactly who did what nor why because there is so much false information, and false actors out there. The only thing we know, and even that by exercising common sense and some historical perspective, is that it was minor, but its exploitation to use it against the Republic was major and preplanned.

    Thanks, @iwalton. The Right’s willingness to cave in to the Left’s narrative is beyond disturbing.

    • #20
  21. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    Still waiting for Durhams report on the permanent bureaucracy 2016 coup attempt 

    I won’t hold my breathe 

    • #21
  22. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):
    Susan, home run post. By controlling the meanings of the words, the left has won the debate before it even starts. 

    “When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find – this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify – that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship. But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.[7]

    7] Orwell, George (17 June 1946). “Politics and the English Language”. New Republic. 114 (24): 872–874.

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):
    Susan, home run post. By controlling the meanings of the words, the left has won the debate before it even starts.

    “When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find – this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify – that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship. But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.[7]

    7] Orwell, George (17 June 1946). “Politics and the English Language”. New Republic. 114 (24): 872–874.

    Excellent, @rodin. Frighteningly true.

    • #23
  24. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Trump did not try to stage a coup. He is largely oblivious to process.  Like many Americans he was frustrated and surprised that some glaring irregularities were allowed to determine outcomes without the slightest official intervention or correction. The “rioters” were embarked on a poorly conceived last-ditch effort to keep open the possibility that these issues would be rightfully addressed.  

    It is bizarre that not even minimal security measures were in place and that the Capitol Police seem confused about what to do.  Shooting an unarmed woman coming through a window because she stupidly followed the example of others was beyond unprofessional.  A cop who did something similar in Seattle, Portland, or Minneapolis would already be in jail.

    DC Metro Police have a great deal of sophisticated crowd control methods and a lot of experience.  That they were not deployed is baffling–gross incompetence?  Conspiracy? Turf?  All we know is that the head of the Capitol Police did in fact want to make such a request well in advance of the incident and somebody told him not to do so.  We need to know who did that and why.

    But the effort to use this incident to silence all those who object to the new regime as insurrectionists (Trump voters in particular) is obvious.  “Racist” “Insurrectionist” and “Hater” are the default labels for non-lefties to exclude us from public discourse.

    Naturally, the lemming wing of the GOP thinks it is merely a polite philological debate about whether to use “insurrectionist” or “rioter” as if any of this is being done in good faith. 

    • #24
  25. Jager Coolidge
    Jager
    @Jager

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Trump did not try to stage a coup. He is largely oblivious to process.  Like many Americans he was frustrated and surprised that some glaring irregularities were allowed to determine outcomes without the slightest official intervention or correction.

    Yeah, this is the oddest “coup” in history. The goal was not to install a new government.  The goal was to stop one vote until irregularities could be investigated and everyone (the public and the people doing the voting) could be sure that they had the right information before voting. 

    For our coup we would like this vote delayed a month and have some clarity. 

     

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    All we know is that the head of the Capitol Police did in fact want to make such a request well in advance of the incident and somebody told him not to do so.  We need to know who did that and why.

    It so disturbs me that we don’t have the answer to this question and that it very likely will be covered up, at least by Nancy’s committee. Let’s hope all those other committees investigating will have answers. Thanks, @oldbathos

    • #26
  27. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    Susan Quinn:

    Who will protect the nation, when the Left finally decides the next time there’s a crisis, to call those on the Right insurrectionists?

    What will you do then?

    The fortunate thing about this is that they will rob this word of all meaning by then.  They have already managed to do this with the words Nazi, Fascist, and racist.  They are fast on their way to achieving this with respect to white supremacist.   Very soon I suspect insurrectionist will be the same.  The worry I have is that there are still Nazis, Fascists, racists, white supremacists, and  insurrectionists around.  How will we be able to identify the real thing when we have to confront it.

    • #27
  28. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    If we didn’t have a bunch of spineless lizards representing the Republican Party in the Senate and House, they would be blocking every Democrat spending bill until the prisoners were released on bail and the shooter of Ashli Babbitt was identified publicly. Nancy Pelosi does not own the video surveillance and the digital recordings produced by that surveillance. The Republicans, with every sentence publicly stated should be demanding the release of the video. Instead we have 30 or so Republican Senators, including the leader, voting with the Dems for a trillion plus dollar bill that will spend more on securing Democrat control then infrasture.

    Good post, Susan.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):

    If we didn’t have a bunch of spineless lizards representing the Republican Party in the Senate and House, they would be blocking every Democrat spending bill until the prisoners were released on bail and the shooter of Ashli Babbitt was identified publicly. Nancy Pelosi does not own the video surveillance and the digital recordings produced by that surveillance. The Republicans, with every sentence publicly stated should be demanding the release of the video. Instead we have 30 or so Republican Senators, including the leader, voting with the Dems for a trillion plus dollar bill that will spend more on securing Democrat control then infrasture.

    Good post, Susan.

    Thanks, @cdor. Maybe twiddling their thumbs just takes too much of the Reps. tine. Sigh.

    • #29
  30. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    It is part of the raising of the heat. The goal is to make conservatives and Trump supporters un-people or non-people. Once you are in that category, any level of abuse is OK because you are not a person. 

    • #30
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