Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Tyranny of Language

 

The efforts to slur, silence and punish people who refuse to kowtow to the Leftist agenda are increasing. With the talk of socialism, the Left continues to try to control our thinking, stop our discussions and attack any ideas that differ from their own. Recently I noticed a use of language that surprised and alarmed me. I’d like to briefly summarize their actions to date, and then share the most recent attacks on what we say and do.

One of the earliest efforts to control the language, and in particular to castigate people who disagreed with them, appeared as political correctness:

Professor Frank Ellis at the University of Sheffield noted the term ‘political correctness’ was first used in the late 19th to the early 20th century when Vladimir Lenin began his rise to power. Ellis said that Marxist-Leninists and Maoists placed a heavy preeminence on being ideologically correct, both politically and theoretically. Essentially, a ‘forum for discussion,’ as Ellis described it, would impede the revolutionary spirit needed to upend the social order.

Consider 20th century Europe, where the Frankfurt School was born in Germany. As pointed out by author William Lind, it was the intellectuals, such as Georg Lukacs, who believed culture needed to be rooted out before it could be replaced by a Marxist one. To do so, ‘critical theory’ came to fruition with the goal of destroying what it perceived to be old ways of thinking.

Today’s attempts to silence conservative speakers on college campuses are ubiquitous. A database for “disinviting” speakers who might offend college students is online. The universities have convinced students that they are threatened by conservative ideas, need safe spaces with cookies and milk and stuffed animals; effectively the students who buy into these ideas are being crippled in their abilities to be self-sufficient and critical thinkers. Attacks on social media toward those who disagree with the Leftist agenda are well-known.

A second area of propaganda and ostracism are personal attacks. Words like racist, white supremacist and phobic such as islamophobia and homophobia are used to marginalize people who take exception to Leftist ideas. These slurs actually have no specific meaning, nor does the Left care about being precise: it only cares about denigrating those who disagree with them. To show the absurdity of these slurs, Ben Shapiro has been called a white supremacist of late. One description of white supremacy is a hatred of minorities, particularly blacks and Jews. Ben Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew.

But the most recent move to control our language is just as insidious. The Left is now resorting to transforming terms that they once despised into laurels of pride. Recently Nancy Pelosi embraced the word “patriotism” in a speech:

‘The Republicans are in denial about the facts,’ she said. ‘If the Republicans do not want to honor their oath of office, then I don’t think we should be characterized as partisan in that way because we are patriotic.’

Rep. John Sarbanes from Maryland used the term patriotic as well:

In the Washington Post, Pelosi and Sarbanes wrote, ‘We will confront discrimination with the Equality Act, pass the Dream Act to protect the patriotic young undocumented immigrants who came here as children, and take the first step toward comprehensive immigration reform.’

I wonder why he assumes these illegal aliens are patriotic, since they have broken our laws to enter this country?

One last example from Speaker Pelosi made me cringe:

‘Our first responsibility is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ said the speaker.

Seriously?

Given the amount of lying, manipulation, disdain for procedures and fairness that the Left/Democrats have shown recently, I find this comment lacks credibility.

So the Left is now taking language that they hated and resented, and turning these words and phrases around to meet their political agenda. These steps are intended to further their goals to control the thinking of American citizens. As paranoid as this proposition may sound, it is just one more move toward socialism and government control.

The following description on the tactical use of language is frightening and disheartening:

Percy Shelley wrote in Prometheus Unbound that God ‘gave man speech, and speech created thought,/ Which is the measure of the universe.’ Shelley’s remarks demonstrate how powerful language is in how humans think. Since a human’s stream of consciousness is essentially just words, an individual’s vocabulary greatly influences the thoughts he or she can have. While no one can know every word representing every idea, let any restriction on the words that one knows imposed by an outside body represent a curtailment of thought. While any mutations of language may seem insignificant, totalitarian leaders truly believed that ‘by controlling language, … [they] could control their subjects.’ Since their intention was not to merely use brute force to subject citizens to their will, the best way to make people follow them was to alter language and deeply convince the populace that their rule is legitimate.

What is your reaction to this distortion of language?

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There are 43 comments.

  1. Brady Allen Member

    I wonder why he assumes these illegal aliens are patriotic, since they have broken our laws to enter this country?

    Perhaps he is referring to the illegals photographed waving Mexican flags.

     

    • #1
    • November 24, 2019, at 8:40 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders from four years ago:

    To my mind, if patriotism or love of country means anything, it means that we do not now, or ever, turn our backs on those who defended us, it means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us.

    Does anyone want to guess what this might mean? Surely he doesn’t mean the founders . . .

    • #2
    • November 24, 2019, at 8:44 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Brady Allen (View Comment):

    I wonder why he assumes these illegal aliens are patriotic, since they have broken our laws to enter this country?

    Perhaps he is referring to the illegals photographed waving Mexican flags.

     

    Good one, @bradyallen! That must be it! ;-)

    • #3
    • November 24, 2019, at 8:45 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Brady Allen Member

    I don’t agree with Shelley that thought arises from speech. Speech is an (imperfect) expression of the underlying mental process. A corrupt culture spews polluted vehemence. As is always the case – those that seek to dominate others use whatever tools are at hand. Force is less politically expedient so we now live with the Alinsky paradigm.

    • #4
    • November 24, 2019, at 8:48 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Brady Allen Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders from four years ago:

    To my mind, if patriotism or love of country means anything, it means that we do not now, or ever, turn our backs on those who defended us, it means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us.

    Does anyone want to guess what this might mean? Surely he doesn’t mean the founders . . .

    Veterans (?)

    • #5
    • November 24, 2019, at 8:52 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Brady Allen (View Comment):

    I don’t agree with Shelley that thought arises from speech. Speech is an (imperfect) expression of the underlying mental process. A corrupt culture spews polluted vehemence. As is always the case – those that seek to dominate others use whatever tools are at hand. Force is less politically expedient so we now live with the Alinsky paradigm.

    I don’t disagree with you. But I think that speech is intricately linked with thought, and is very powerful. For example, a baby can’t express its thoughts without speech, unless you count crying as a way to express itself. Perhaps he means how the speech of others affects the way we think, too.

    • #6
    • November 24, 2019, at 8:58 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Brady Allen (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders from four years ago:

    To my mind, if patriotism or love of country means anything, it means that we do not now, or ever, turn our backs on those who defended us, it means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us.

    Does anyone want to guess what this might mean? Surely he doesn’t mean the founders . . .

    Veterans (?)

    Maybe. Although he has record of attacking military spending and saying the military is bloated. I’ve no doubt that military money is not always well-spent, but I question his support of veterans.

    • #7
    • November 24, 2019, at 9:01 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Jimmy Carter Member

    The next thing You know They’ll start listening very carefully to the words and sentences of the politicians, and They’ll decide that there isn’t one of Them worth voting for anywhere on the ballot. There’s no knowing where this will end. The day will come when a President is elected only because those few feeble-minded Citizens who still vote just happened to bump up against His lever . [..] A President, of course, doesn’t care how He gets elected, but He might lose clout among world leaders when They remind Him that He owes His high office to the random twitchings of thirty-seven imbeciles.

    Less Than Words Can Say, Richard Mitchell

    Brady Allen (View Comment):
    I don’t agree with Shelley that thought arises from speech. Speech is an (imperfect) expression of the underlying mental process.

    If Y’all want a brilliant read on language and its affects, I can’t recommend the book mentioned above enough. 

    • #8
    • November 24, 2019, at 9:05 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Miffed White Male Member

    Susan Quinn:

    The following description on the tactical use of language is frightening and disheartening:

    Percy Shelley wrote in Prometheus Unbound that God ‘gave man speech, and speech created thought,/ Which is the measure of the universe.’ Shelley’s remarks demonstrate how powerful language is in how humans think. Since a human’s stream of consciousness is essentially just words, an individual’s vocabulary greatly influences the thoughts he or she can have. While no one can know every word representing every idea, let any restriction on the words that one knows imposed by an outside body represent a curtailment of thought. While any mutations of language may seem insignificant, totalitarian leaders truly believed that ‘by controlling language, … [they] could control their subjects.’ Since their intention was not to merely use brute force to subject citizens to their will, the best way to make people follow them was to alter language and deeply convince the populace that their rule is legitimate.

    Appendix of 1984 should be required reading for everyone around age 12 or so:

     

    https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/n/1984/summary-and-analysis/part-3-appendix

    Newspeak was designed to diminish thought rather than help expression, as is the goal of other languages. Again unlike other languages, Newspeak regularly loses words instead of gains them.

    Newspeak is a brilliant device on Orwell’s part and serves his political agenda well: If a government can control language, it can also control thought. If there is no word for the concept of freedom, how can a person think about freedom? By limiting language, the people who speak that language are limited to what concepts exist in words.

    Orwell was convinced that language deteriorated under totalitarian rule and that literature was impossible under totalitarian circumstances. 

    • #9
    • November 24, 2019, at 9:09 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  10. Brady Allen Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Brady Allen (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders from four years ago:

    To my mind, if patriotism or love of country means anything, it means that we do not now, or ever, turn our backs on those who defended us, it means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us.

    Does anyone want to guess what this might mean? Surely he doesn’t mean the founders . . .

    Veterans (?)

    Maybe. Although he has record of attacking military spending and saying the military is bloated. I’ve no doubt that military money is not always well-spent, but I question his support of veterans.

    One of the benefits of having a D next to one’s name is that no-one looks for consistency – especially while pandering to special interests.

    • #10
    • November 24, 2019, at 9:12 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    The next thing You know They’ll start listening very carefully to the words and sentences of the politicians, and They’ll decide that there isn’t one of Them worth voting for anywhere on the ballot. There’s no knowing where this will end. The day will come when a President is elected only because those few feeble-minded Citizens who still vote just happened to bump up against His lever . [..] A President, of course, doesn’t care how He gets elected, but He might lose clout among world leaders when They remind Him that He owes His high office to the random twitchings of thirty-seven imbeciles.

    Less Than Words Can Say, Richard Mitchell

    Brady Allen (View Comment):
    I don’t agree with Shelley that thought arises from speech. Speech is an (imperfect) expression of the underlying mental process.

    If Y’all want a brilliant read on language and its affects, I can’t recommend the book mentioned above enough.

    Gosh, I thought I was cynical about the average citizen!

    • #11
    • November 24, 2019, at 9:13 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. Rodin Member

    Remember that in 1984 the people who were most free did not seek to be party members or consequential in any way. They were not free and they did not thrive. But their lives were marginally better that the lower level party functionaries constantly seeking favor with upper party functionaries. But whatever way you slice it, letting progressives control the language is the end of freedom.

    • #12
    • November 24, 2019, at 10:01 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Brady Allen (View Comment):

    I don’t agree with Shelley that thought arises from speech. Speech is an (imperfect) expression of the underlying mental process. A corrupt culture spews polluted vehemence. As is always the case – those that seek to dominate others use whatever tools are at hand. Force is less politically expedient so we now live with the Alinsky paradigm.

    I don’t disagree with you. But I think that speech is intricately linked with thought, and is very powerful. For example, a baby can’t express its thoughts without speech, unless you count crying as a way to express itself. Perhaps he means how the speech of others affects the way we think, too.

    Perhaps language shapes and limits thoughts, and channels them as a river’s banks limit where the water can go. Thoughts can seep elsewhere or cut a new course, but mostly they follow the path laid out for them. 

    • #13
    • November 24, 2019, at 11:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Brady Allen (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders from four years ago:

    To my mind, if patriotism or love of country means anything, it means that we do not now, or ever, turn our backs on those who defended us, it means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us.

    Does anyone want to guess what this might mean? Surely he doesn’t mean the founders . . .

    Veterans (?)

    Maybe. Although he has record of attacking military spending and saying the military is bloated. I’ve no doubt that military money is not always well-spent, but I question his support of veterans.

    Agreed, but it’s kind of like when conservatives want to cut welfare and leftists conclude that we hate black people. 

    Still, dude is not a paragon of patriotism. 

    • #14
    • November 24, 2019, at 11:28 AM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    TBA (View Comment):

    Agreed, but it’s kind of like when conservatives want to cut welfare and leftists conclude that we hate black people. 

    Still, dude is not a paragon of patriotism. 

    Fair point, but his positions are mixed. He supports Veterans health care, but is against privatizing it; privatizing would conflict with his socialist message.

    • #15
    • November 24, 2019, at 11:37 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Gary Robbins Reagan

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Here’s a quote from Bernie Sanders from four years ago:

    To my mind, if patriotism or love of country means anything, it means that we do not now, or ever, turn our backs on those who defended us, it means we keep our promise to those who kept their promises to us.

    Does anyone want to guess what this might mean? Surely he doesn’t mean the founders . . .

    Bernie Sanders sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. I am guessing that he is referring to Veterans. In the world of odd bed-fellows, McCain and Sanders co-sponsored a bill to expand the ability of Veterans to obtain services if a VA facility was unavailable.

    • #16
    • November 24, 2019, at 12:34 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. The Reticulator Member

    They use the word patriotism not because they care about patriotism, but because they think, with some plausible justification, that the people they hate will honor that word. Something similar was going on with Russia. They don’t care about Russia, but they know that a certain segment of the people they hate will have strong feelings about that word and can be manipulated by their use of it. It’s a game they have been playing for a long time.

    • #17
    • November 24, 2019, at 1:58 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. tigerlily Member

    Susan Quinn:

     

    One last example from Speaker Pelosi made me cringe:

    ‘Our first responsibility is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ said the speaker.

    I always find it risible when progressives make this assertion. Recall that when it suits their case, this is nothing more than a document created by racist slaveholders. To get into specifics for a minute – they want to abolish or evade the Electoral College, they hate the Second Amendment, they don’t have a much higher opinion of the First Amendment either – in 2014, 44 Democrat Senators voted to abolish the free speech provision of the First Amendment while their disdain for the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment is palpable. I could go on, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Although, with a Republican currently in the White House, they are fond of the impeachment provisions in the document. Finally, recall Speaker Pelosi’s disdainful response to a question about the constitutionality of Obamacare back in 2010.

    That is not the response of someone with respect of and reverence for the Constitution.

    • #18
    • November 24, 2019, at 2:01 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  19. Full Size Tabby Member

    The Left has been twisting language to mean the opposite of its normal meaning for over a century, when they adopted the term “progressive” to describe their regressive system of government that was (is) to return to the historic systems in which power is concentrated in a small aristocracy (which they called the “technocrats”) to rule over the great unwashed masses who were incapable of running their own lives. Twisting language is how the Left makes their ugly ideas look palatable.

    • #19
    • November 24, 2019, at 2:14 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    They use the word patriotism not because they care about patriotism, but because they think, with some plausible justification, that the people they hate will honor that word. Something similar was going on with Russia. They don’t care about Russia, but they know that a certain segment of the people they hate will have strong feelings about that word and can be manipulated by their use of it. It’s a game they have been playing for a long time.

    Indeed they have, @thereticulator. But at a time when we are hearing people actively support socialism (Communism), I think we need to pay attention. The stakes are becoming real.

    • #20
    • November 24, 2019, at 3:35 PM PST
    • 1 like
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    The Left has been twisting language to mean the opposite of its normal meaning for over a century, when they adopted the term “progressive” to describe their regressive system of government that was (is) to return to the historic systems in which power is concentrated in a small aristocracy (which they called the “technocrats”) to rule over the great unwashed masses who were incapable of running their own lives. Twisting language is how the Left makes their ugly ideas look palatable.

    As I said a little earlier, I completely agree. We know what’s going on, but not everyone has read 1984 or will recognize what is going on. When we hear them co-opting phrases that they are distorting for their own purposes, we need to at least point out to the people on the lift that they need to resist their strategies, or the cost will be great.

    • #21
    • November 24, 2019, at 3:37 PM PST
    • Like
  22. The Reticulator Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    They use the word patriotism not because they care about patriotism, but because they think, with some plausible justification, that the people they hate will honor that word. Something similar was going on with Russia. They don’t care about Russia, but they know that a certain segment of the people they hate will have strong feelings about that word and can be manipulated by their use of it. It’s a game they have been playing for a long time.

    Indeed they have, @thereticulator. But at a time when we are hearing people actively support socialism (Communism), I think we need to pay attention. The stakes are becoming real.

    I like to make fun of them for pretending to care about patriotism/Russia/whatever. They’re cute when they play pretend.

    Here are my younger brother and sister in 1958, after they got into some of their parents’ old clothes. I think they’re cute. And leftwingers are cute when they pretend to care about patriotism or the constitution. The pretense doesn’t really fit, but it’s fun to watch them try.

    • #22
    • November 24, 2019, at 5:23 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  23. Barfly Member

    Brady Allen (View Comment):
    I don’t agree with Shelley that thought arises from speech.

    I’m close to that view but not completely. Concepts exist in the mind in a network, each jointly activated by a few (or a few thousand) “prior” concepts and contributing to the activation of as many others. Thought is the evolution of that network. Not every concept is part of speech, but speech-relevant concepts are entwined throughout large portions of the network (but not all of it.) So thought, even giving generosity to however Shelley tailors his notion of it, can arise from mental speech, but certainly not exclusively.

    • #23
    • November 24, 2019, at 5:34 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Zafar Member

    It started with ‘right sizing’…

    • #24
    • November 25, 2019, at 2:41 AM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    It started with ‘right sizing’…

    Clarify please, @zafar. . . ?

    • #25
    • November 25, 2019, at 5:43 AM PST
    • Like
  26. Full Size Tabby Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    It started with ‘right sizing’…

    Assuming by “right sizing” you mean the corporate euphemism for layoffs, no it did not start there. People and organizations have been using euphemisms for a long time – probably almost as long as we’ve been using language. What I think is relatively new (slightly over a century, and older than corporate PR-speak), and I read as the thesis of the OP, is the concerted political effort to force words to take on meanings the opposite of their existing understood meanings. 

    • #26
    • November 25, 2019, at 6:07 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  27. Zafar Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    It started with ‘right sizing’…

    Clarify please, @zafar. . . ?

    The corruption of language. (Okay it didn’t start with that, but it’s part of the latest wave of corruption.)

    I believe language defines how we understand reality and give it meaning -it’s what makes us human, ‘in the beginning was the word’ etc – so manipulating language manipulates how we define and understand reality.

    If I say ‘rightsizing’ but what I‘m really talking about ‘downsizing’ I slip in a very self serving definition of what is right. Amirite? Accepting the term at some level accepts that redefinition – or at least allows space for it.

    ‘Alternative facts’ similarly redefines fact. Is fact truth? Is fact an opinion? Is fact a wish or an opinion? In fact what’s real and why?

    What’s a woman? What’s a man? If there’s a debate it’s because we’ve become habituated to a certain (mis)use of language – because convenient – and hence we lost our natural defenses when it is in fact (!!) inconvenient.

    Australia is a proud signatory to the Refugee Convention, but in some circumstances (basically arriving by sea) an asylum seeker becomes an unlawful alien. Even though seeking asylum is not, technically, unlawful.

    So what’s unlawful? (Or, indeed, the law?) What’s a refugee? Suddenly ambiguous – and what, inevitably, is next?

     

     

    • #27
    • November 25, 2019, at 6:16 AM PST
    • 1 like
  28. Front Seat Cat Member

    Your quote from Percy Shelley is where we are today: “While any mutations of language may seem insignificant, totalitarian leaders truly believed that ‘by controlling language, … [they] could control their subjects.’ Since their intention was not to merely use brute force to subject citizens to their will, the best way to make people follow them was to alter language and deeply convince the populace that their rule is legitimate.” Both mutation and control of language have taken place in a way I’ve never known. The meaning of simple words are now inverted or condemned, like male and female, woke, gender. Rules are being written on what language you can use and not use (not referring to profanity) for the medical profession, schools, libraries. 

    I also find it alarming to be seeing the rise of hate towards the Jews again both in Europe and America. It started with language, perception of how things are interpreted. We are also in a point in history of group think, thanks to social media, even journalists recite talking points using “trigger words” and don’t research their topics. This results in grouping together, like you said, labeling i.e. white supremacy, of which obviously Ben Shapiro is not. Great post Susan – we need to talk and write about these topics – so important!

    • #28
    • November 25, 2019, at 6:18 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: What is your reaction to this distortion of language?

    It is a primary means to move their agenda forward. One only needs to compare “illegal alins” with “undocumented workers” (even if most go on welfare).

    They sometimes use what I call “adjective absorption”to change the playing field. The best example of this is “gay marriage”. Marriage was originally defined as being between a man and a woman. The left added an adjective and created the term “gay marriage” to begin the change of the base word “marriage” (the term “same-sex marriage” was also used). Now the definition of marriage is a union of any two people, not a man and a woman.

    • #29
    • November 25, 2019, at 6:32 AM PST
    • 1 like
  30. The Reticulator Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What is your reaction to this distortion of language?

    It is a primary means to move their agenda forward. One only needs to compare “illegal alins” with “undocumented workers” (even if most go on welfare).

    They sometimes use what I call “adjective absorption”to change the playing field. The best example of this is “gay marriage”. Marriage was originally defined as being between a man and a woman. The left added an adjective and created the term “gay marriage” to begin the change of the base word “marriage” (the term “same-sex marriage” was also used). Now the definition of marriage is a union of any two people, not a man and a woman.

    Well, I add an adjective to “fascist” when I say “leftwing fascist.” It’s to call attention to the similarity of modern leftwing progressivism to fascism while allowing that there are some differences in the leftwing version. I don’t care to drop the adjective.

    We all try to use novel terminology and novel combinations of words to communicate our agendas. It’s good to call attention to what people are doing when they do it, and mock it when it deserves mockery, but there is no point in expecting it to stop. 

     

    • #30
    • November 25, 2019, at 6:41 AM PST
    • 3 likes