George Orwell once said that, “Political chaos is connected with the decay of language,” and the decay of language is one of the primary methods radical leftism uses to gain power, through a process that I call the ‘War on Words.’
Words have, essentially, two meanings. The literal definition of a word is called it’s ‘denotation,’ but words also can convey feelings and emotions, and we call the sense of feeling or emotion a word evokes, it’s ‘connotation.’
Some words evoke a positive connotation. If I say, ‘love,’ for example, one is apt to apply a positive feeling to it. That’s true in spite of the fact that I can use the word ‘love’ in both positive, as well as negative ways. If I say, ‘I love puppies,’ that carries a very different message than does the message, ‘I love killing puppies,’ but if I take the word ‘love’ all by itself, it is generally looked at in a positive light.
Some words evoke a negative connotation. If I say, ‘racist,’ or ‘Nazi,’ for example, the feelings and emotions brought out are negative.
Connotation can be a positive force. If my wife does something really nice for me, and I say, “I LOVE it when you do that,” the feeling of joy that is conveyed is appropriate and comforting. Conversely, if someone says or does something that is actually racist, and someone says, “Hey – that was racist,” the sting the word ‘racist’ carries can provide a necessary rebuke, which hopefully the person who did that racist thing can learn from.
Connotation, however, can also be weaponized, and doing so is far easier than most people think.
My first lesson on the power of connotation came from a television show in which Phil Donahue was interviewing Milton Friedman. Donahue asked Dr. Friedman “Don’t you ever have a moment of doubt about Capitalism, and whether greed is a good idea to run on?” Milton Friedman replied by saying, “What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy. It’s only the other fellow who is greedy.” You can see the whole clip here, and if you have never watched it before, it’s about a two minute clip, and well worth the time.
I think it was the laughter of the audience that really caught my attention. Phil Donahue had just asked Milton Friedman a very pointed, leading question. The question implied that capitalism is based on greed, and since greed is a bad thing, the question implied that capitalism, too, must be bad.
Milton Friedman was a master at disarming people, and in this case, he did not simply answer the question. Rather, he dissected the question, and very deftly attacked the connotation behind it, with a two minute discussion based on “What is greed?” The audience was completely disarmed by Friedman’s humor and charisma. It was a masterful moment.
Capitalism is, of course, not based on greed at all. Capitalism is what emerges when the government, more or less, stays out of the way of the economy, and allows each individual to pursue their own interests, as they see them, based upon each individual’s own values.
The word ‘greed’ was not a description of ‘capitalism,’ but a smear – a word with a negative connotation being thrown around to project a negative feeling about another word: ‘capitalism.’ This particular smear has been thrown around so pervasively that many people today really do think capitalism runs on greed, and that those who support capitalism are, thus, greedy.
Is it greedy to live your life in pursuit of your own interests, based upon your own values, as you see them? Is it greedy to allow everyone else to live their lives in pursuit of their own interests, based upon how they see them?
Let me ask a separate set of questions to expose just how off-base the smear against capitalism really is… Is it greedy to deny others the right to live their own lives, in pursuit of their own interests, based upon their own values, as they see them? Is it greedy to force other people to live their lives in pursuit of YOUR interests and values, rather than in pursuit of their own?
I think that if we ask the full range of questions, the vast majority of people would agree that it is not greedy to allow everyone to live their lives in pursuit of their own interests, based on their own values, but that it is terribly greedy to force others to live their lives based on the interests and values of whatever group happens to be in charge.
Those who do not want capitalism fit an axiom: everyone wants to be free – it is everyone else they want in chains.
Let us look at another word. I have an entire article on how the left uses connotation as a weapon with the word ‘racism,’ which you can read here, and if you have not read it already, I encourage you to do so.
The definition of the word ‘racism’ is, “1. The notion that one’s own ethnic stock is superior. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on racism.” That definition comes from the American Heritage Dictionary, a copy of which I keep on my desk.
Progressives have an alternate definition of the word ‘racism.’ Progressives say that ‘racism’ is ‘prejudice plus power,’ and furthermore, progressives say that we all have at least subconscious prejudice, and as a result, prejudice can always be assumed. If we assume prejudice, then the definition of ‘racism’ progressives use is simply, ‘power.’ The racists, then, are the group in power, which in our case, we are told, are ‘white people.’
Note that by changing the definition of the word ‘racism,’ progressives have also completely changed who can be called ‘racist.’ Note too that by linking conservatives to the values our country was founded on, and calling those values ‘white values,’ progressives use their ‘new’ definition of racism to claim that conservatives are all racist – that conservatism is by definition racist. Note also that by linking America’s values with the word ‘racism,’ progressives are committing the same smear against those values that they committed against the word ‘capitalism.’
We can, of course, make anyone anything we want them to be, if we allow ourselves to change the definitions of words, based upon whatever we may find convenient. But if racism is evil (and we all agree that is it), than isn’t the question of what racism actually is, somewhat important?
If we want to stomp out actual evil, we would want to use words with precision, and the stronger the connotation a word carries, the more precision we would want to use, based on the actual definition of the word. If we want to stomp out our political enemies, on the other hand, we’ll play fast and loose with definitions, in order to smear our opponents with the most evil words possible.
The DNC has gone all in on weaponizing connotation, and they are increasingly not only ignoring definitions, but becoming all of the very things they purport to hate.
Another word with a negative connotation is ‘fascism,’ and if you look at the kinds of political platforms actual fascists in the 1930s ran on, they look eerily similar to the platform moderate Democrats support today.
I have an entire article dedicated to Fascism, that you can read here. If you have not already read that article, I encourage you to do so. For this article, suffice it to say that fascism was designed to ‘fix the flaws’ inherent in socialism, and that today’s moderate Democrats support actual fascism. The heart of the DNC today is somewhere between fascism and communism.
I cannot tell you the definition of the word ‘fascism’ that the left uses, as frankly – they don’t really have one. The left simply calls conservatives ‘fascists’ without bothering to define that word. The closest Democrats seem to come to any definition of ‘fascism’ are ‘characteristics of fascism’ they will put together into memes, that are carefully selected and worded to make them look as similar to Republican policy positions as possible. This is in spite of the fact that the definition of fascism involves total state control (with private ownership) over the means of production, as well as total state control over every aspect of human life. You want state control? I give you the Green New Deal. There is nothing Republican about fascism at all.
I wish I could tell you that Republicans never play a ‘War on Words.’ Unfortunately, I cannot do that. One of the primary reasons the political left hates Donald Trump so much is that he plays many of the same stupid games they do, and that includes the use of a War on Words. Trump, by the way, deserves the criticism he gets for that, and it is one of the reasons I call Trump an ‘anti-hero’ when other conservatives often call him a ‘hero.’
The political left, however, has control over our mainstream media, as well as our education system. The vast majority of journalists, entertainers, teachers, and professors, are firmly on the left, and because of that, the left is in a far better position to weaponize connotation, than is the right.
I cannot justify the War on Words, when utilized by either political party. Common, agreed upon definitions are a central plank in civil discourse. When we all agree on the connotation of words (and particularly evil words like ‘racist’), but we cannot agree on what the definitions of those words are, the commonality of our language breaks down. Agreeing that ‘rasim’ is evil, while using competing definitions that, collectively, paint virtually everyone as a ‘racist,’ is a recipe for disaster.
Before closing, allow me to demonstrate just how important words are. I would like you to close your eyes for a moment, clear your mind, and then try to think, but without using words. Try it, and you’ll find out that it cannot be done. When the left changes what words mean, they also change how people think, and by weaponizing connotation, they are essentially trying to weaponize thought. If such things sound like they come out of George Orwell’s book, 1984, that’s because they do (as does the quote I opened the article with). I would not be surprised if 1984 is where progressives got the idea.
If you want the War on Words to fail, simply share this article. The antidote for propaganda is knowledge…