The Thursday Thesis - 06/07/2017
“Whoever Controls the Language Controls the Debate...”
WARNING: May Provoke Uncomfortable Thinking.
It’s a funny thing, language.
At one level it is capable of vividly expressing the core of who and what we are – this is the domain of poets, writers: those who are determined to be clear and direct.
At the opposite pole there is the language that is used to hoodwink, deceive, distort and steal: Weasel Words.
George Orwell knew all about Weasel Words and their ability to control the thoughts of others. In his best-know work Nineteen Eighty Four, the totalitarian regime overseen by Big Brother restricts dissent by restricting the words available to contain meaning. He expands his exploration of Weasel Words in the essay Politics and The English Language, which – when read today – seems remarkably prescient of our times.
Beware the Weasel Words!
Restricting which words can and cannot be used is a powerful way to restrict any exchange of ideas – that is the genius of Orwell’s Newspeak – a language so bland and impoverished the there are no words that can even contain the idea of dissent.
Today we see and hear euphemism in place of clarity: nice-sounding words that conceal a vile truth. Remember when we heard “ethnic cleansing” for the first time?
It sounds so hygienic, doesn’t it?
So much nicer than “mass slaughter of people on religious or racial grounds”, don’t you think?
Likewise the tidiness of the “West Bank”, rather than the “land illegally occupied by Israeli invaders and controlled by military force at the point of a gun”.
When resistance fighters are labelled “Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorists” we can easily lose sight of the reality of a frightened and desperate people fighting for the land they call home, their way of life, and the future of their families, can’t we?
If your homeland were invaded by an out-of-control, militaristic rogue state – say, Israel or the USA, backed up by a gaggle of fawning, compliant and gullible allies – what would you do?
If you work to repel the invaders, are you a Resistance Fighter or a Fundamentalist Terrorist?
When the good ol’ US of A adds to its tally of “interventions” by invading yet another sovereign state, it is a “regime change” – which sounds so much more civilised than decapitating another government that the US does not approve of.
In war, the first casualty is Truth. And you know we’re in trouble when “Post-Truth” is the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of The Year (2016), don’t you?
And if we are living in the era of “Post-Truth politics”, are we not thoughtlessly submitting ourselves to be governed by the scum and dross which remains after The Truth has been taken away?
Words are power – use them wisely.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2017
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