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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The War of Words

I've written on multiple occasions about the war on words that we see of late. Key concepts like "marriage", "love", "fidelity", even "Christian" are under attack and the fight is on to dismantle these and so much more in order to make them into something else. That struggle is ongoing. But I'm not writing about that here. I'm writing about the war of words.

It appears to be the standard these days. It is most obvious in the media outlets, but is absolutely clear in the public as well. People are using words to wage war on their opponents and take ground. "Oh, my!" you (hopefully) say in mock surprise. Of course they are. It's how things have always been. The words they're using, however, are wrong. They are, therefore, lies. Yet they are presented as honest and offered as genuine. But, you see, whoever frames the debate wins the debate, and whoever controls the language wins the debate. And we sit idly by and watch this happen.

Take, for instance, the ongoing fight in Arizona. The controversial SB1070 law was passed and the federal government sued over it. Why? "It's an 'immigration law'. That's illegal! Only the federal government can pass immigration laws." Yes, we know that. But ... it's not an immigration law. It's an immigration law enforcement law. The law requires law enforcement to enforce existing federal immigration laws. And that is offensive to the federal government, to those in other states, and to (get this) illegal immigrants in Arizona. "These things ought not be!" They don't, however, tell us that federal immigration laws should not be enforced. They call it an "immigration law", suggest to all who will hear that it is a new standard controlling legal immigration, and reap the benefit of the moral outrage that a state would claim the right to legislate immigration. It's a lie.

Take, for instance, the recent vote in North Carolina. They passed a law that didn't change a thing. Not one thing. It didn't make something legal that was not before, nor did it legalize something that was not before. It didn't change a thing. What did it do? This law simply affirmed the longstanding, traditional definition of marriage as that of a union of a man and a woman. If you were to name this sort of a law, it would be a "defense of marriage" or "definition of marriage" kind of law. What it is not is a law "banning gay marriage*". But try as you might to find a news story about this law, I suspect you will be hard-pressed to find one that didn't portray it as an "anti-gay", "anti-gay marriage" assault on the homosexual community. It's a war of words, you see. If you portray it as simply affirming what marriage has always meant, you'll not get much traction in outraging a community, a state, a country. "North Carolina boldly voted today to affirm that marriage means what it has always meant." Yeah, that's exciting stuff, right? No, not at all. But if it's an assault, a mean-spirited attack on a community that (tears welling up) only wants to love each other (fighting back the open weeping) and is hated unnecessarily by these bigoted, rightwing rednecks (brush back the tears for the sympathy effect), well, then, now you have something to use. The fact that the law didn't mention the homosexual community or change a single point of North Carolina law is irrelevant. It's an attack, pure and simple. And that's a lie.

Since I was a kid watching cops and robbers on TV (you know, before my parents got rid of the TV), I've been impressed with the fact that those who are supposed to be the "good guys" are at a disadvantage to those who are not concerned about "good". The fleeing felon could drive his car up on the sidewalk and run over people or drive right through the young mother pushing the stroller or whatever, but the "good guys" had to avoid killing innocent people and would inevitably screech to a stop, losing the "bad guy", when the unsuspecting mother wheeled her baby out in front of them on the street. Well, it has ever been thus. If we are going to deal with this war of words, we're going to have to do it limited by ethical concerns. The primary assault here is coming in the form of a lie constructed of misleading rhetoric. We don't have that option. We can only counter with truth. We can't construct heart-rending, sympathetic lies to get people to agree with our side. We only have the truth. And, let's face it, the truth isn't nearly as heart-tugging or exciting as the lie. But I said earlier "It appears to be the standard these days." I was wrong. The suppression of truth in unrighteousness and ungodliness has been the case since the days of Adam and Eve. Conversely, the Truth has always been a living entity with power beyond the mere use of lies and emotions. The lies rely on the father of lies; the truth relies on the Truth. Perhaps the "good guys" aren't at a disadvantage at all. I'd do well to remember that when I get discouraged.
* Note their problematic logic. If "marriage" = "the union of a man and a woman", there cannot be "gay marriage" and, as such, it cannot be a law banning "gay marriage". In order for this law to be a ban on what they are saying it's a ban on, they must first redefine "marriage" ... which this law already defined. Thus, if we are going to be fair in our use of words, anytime a state passes a law that allows "gay marriage", it is passing an "anti-marriage law", forceably redefining the word. The word already has a meaning. It requires a change to include "same-sex marriages".


Dan said...

Here is a link that I was looking at today in looking for something else. Your post came to mind and so I thought I'd share it. It'll take a minute to read, but it's fascinating and scary when you think of how easy it is to program the mind (redefining words) and then use the program you have installed to do great evil.

Dan said...

And this:

Stan said...

I'll have to read through that first one. Pretty long. But Tozer is a good read, and the words chosen do make all the difference.

Dan said...

Here's something from "The Road to Serfdom" by F. A. Hayek, pg 174

"The people are made to transfer their allegiance from the old gods to the new under the pretense that the new gods really are what their sound instinct had always told them but what before they had only dimly seen. And most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning.

continuing on page 175:

If one has not one’s self experienced this process, it is difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this change of the meaning of words, the confusion which it causes, and the barriers to any rational discussion which it creates. It has to be seen to be understood how, if one of two brothers embraces the new faith, after a short while he appears to speak a different language which makes any real communication between them impossible. And the confusion becomes worse because this change of meaning of the words describing political ideals is not a single event but a continuous process, a technique employed consciously or unconsciously to direct the people. Gradually, as this process continues, the whole language becomes despoiled, and words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, as capable of denoting one thing as its opposite and used solely for the emotional association which still adhere to them.

Interestingly enough, this was written years before Foucault.

Stan said...

You know, it just occurred to me. At the Tower of Babel, God confused their languages. It has seemed, in my lifetime, that this confusion has been slowly diminishing because, after all, English (between the the influences of the superpowers of the British Empire followed by the United States)is becoming a more universal language. However, if, as Hayek points out (and I agree), we continue to change definitions for words, it looks like we'll be right back where we started back at Babel. Of course, given some of the conversations I've had, I'd suspect we're already there.

Marshall Art said...

One aspect of your post points to the tactic of appealing to emotion to make the case. One needn't worry about facts and truth if one can tug at the heartstrings effectively. And it has often been said the the left/progressives/liberals/whatever act on emotion and the right acts on reason (though the left would appeal to emotion in rejecting this as an attack, the poor souls). If we are limited by our self-imposed restriction to only the truth, facts and reason, we must argue our point of view on an emotional level. It shouldn't be too hard to do since we ARE being victimized by the lies and distortions they use to further their agendas.

But it's just so darned sad that all we're trying to do is defend truth and fact, such as the real meaning of "marriage", and because of this we're falsely accused of denying rights to people. IT'S JUST NOT FAIR! *sniff*

Needs work, perhaps, but it might be worth considering.

Stan said...

Yeah, there is absolutely the emotional component at work here. "Anti-immigration bill" feels so much ... meaner than "law enforcement bill" and "banning gay marriage" feels so unfair when compared to "defining marriage". Dealing with truth isn't the issue in these cases. But I have to say you're emotional version for the truthful side is really going to need some work. ;)