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« The Past is Future: | Main | The Ambivalence of the Laity »

Unrecognizable Language of Political Propagandists

Want to totally twist the language of the day to an unrecognizable form?  There are lots of new ways to do it, admittedly creative although Hitleresque in their evil overtones.  Take a moral value—or even a neutral term—and couple it with a pejorative modifier.  Competition, for example.  Simply pair the word up with something like wasteful.  Voila!  Wasteful competition!  Of course!  Everybody knows that competition is wasteful, right?  Suddenly, you have transformed something of value into a hideous negative.  This works wonders!  I’m so impressed.  Let’s try some more. 

  • Stupid generosity.
  • Manipulative honesty.
  • Calculated truth-telling.
  • Abnormal chastity.
  • Questionable goodness.
  • Frightening freedom.
  • Lop-sided liberty.
  • Unfair security.
  • Childish morality.
  • Problematic stability.
  • Restrictive constitutionality.
  • Oppressive patriotism.
  • Spinning facts. 

The genius of this technique is that an inept speaker or writer can’t just utilize these terms as though everyone understands plain English.  These days, using a word out of grade school vocabulary lists makes one seem unschooled in popular usage.  “Hey, dunce!  How stupid are you anyway?  Don’t you know that he was just telling the truth in a very calculated way?”  Language is not what it used to be.  Naïve communicators will get steam-rollered. 

There are other variations of  this same methodology.  Take a bad term and soften it up with an innocent adjective or adverb, or even an antonym modifier.  It eliminates the sting.  In fact, many people will register a noticeably altered emotional impact by seeing or hearing these phrases. Try saying the second word by itself.  Then, add the modifier.  They will make you feel differently about the word! 

  • Understandable lie.
  • Forced cover-up.
  • Fair redistribution.
  • Moral amnesty.
  • Justifiable  loss.
  • Legal abortion.
  • Contrived scandal.
  • Appropriate taxation.
  • Reasonable compromise. 

Amazing, isn’t it?  In addition, we have become used to politically correct terminology as a part of our everyday speech.  Formerly called euphemisms, they are simply innocuous substitutes for offensive words.  We have also accepted words and phrases that take the edge off of threatening terms that have been considered negatives in the past.  Examples: 

  • Revenue enhancements, not taxes.
  • Legislatively directed expenditures, not pork.
  • Affirmative action, not preferences.
  • Diversity guidelines, not quotas.
  • Planned parenthood, not abortion.
  • Sexual orientation, not perversion.
  • Special needs persons, not handicapped—certainly not crippled.
  • Small people, not midgets.
  • Ethnic cleansing, not genocide.
  • Negative patient care outcome, not death.
  • Undocumented workers, not illegal aliens. 

Let’s analyze this.  While there are a finite number of actions in the realm of human activity, there are an infinite number of euphemisms that can be generated to describe or label these actions.  These substitute words can mitigate the impact of the actions temporarily, but people soon catch on and the substitute term loses its value.  Retarded used to be the word of choice to describe a mentally slow person.  Yeah.  Try calling someone retarded today!  Same is true for idiot, imbecile or insane.  Now, we say that a person has mental health issues.  

Political propaganda will eventually be exposed as mere euphemisms.  But, guess what?  A brand new list of substitute words will find their way into the vocabulary to muddy the waters again.  The best solution for these developments is to keep asking, “What does this really mean?  What are they trying to say, and what are they trying to hide?”  You can never rest.  The truth may hurt, but the truth is also the only thing that will heal.  Regardless of whether it hurts or heals, truth is the ultimate goal anyway.  Why?  Because only the truth will make you free!  The people who tell you that you can’t handle the truth are usually those who have a vested interest in falsehoods.  Let the buyer beware!

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