When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.‘ Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
We All Do It
We all manipulate words to explain, to persuade, to deceive, to modify the behavior of others. When a Mommy says “Yummmm….carrots” to her baby, she is doing all of the above. It is unlikely that she believes unseasoned mushed carrots are yummy, but she manipulates words and changes behavior in order that her child will eat. Mommy’s success is aided by her child’s innocence and gullibility.
The same principle holds true for politicians, be they benevolent or tyrant, wishing to perpetrate an agenda upon a gullible populace.
…the story is told from the perspective of the common animals as a whole. Gullible, loyal, and hardworking, these animals give Orwell a chance to sketch how situations of oppression arise not only from the motives and tactics of the oppressors but also from the naïveté of the oppressed, who are not necessarily in a position to be better educated or informed. Animal Farm by George Orwell
So true, except for the part about the gullible not being in a position to be better educated or informed. Some of our nation’s most willing receivers and spreaders of manipulated speech reside in our universities.
The university is a vast public utility which turns out future workers in today’s vineyard, the military-industrial complex. They’ve got to be processed in the most efficient way to see to it that they have the fewest dissenting opinions, that they have just those characteristics which are wholly incompatible with being an intellectual. Mario Savio, founder of the Free Speech Movement at U.C. Berkeley.
Besides politicians and our supposed intellectual elite, special interests ranging from the nation’s war industry to compassionate advocates of all sorts are also receivers and spreaders of manipulated speech. The manipulated speech becomes part of mainstream vocabulary.
* “Racist” has become a catch-all description of anyone who disagrees with any prevailing agenda. Don’t want to spend taxpayer money on removing statues from parks? You are a “racist.” Want your children’s school to focus on reading, writing and computing? You are a “racist.”
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president, argued in a fiery speech Thursday to 1,400 union members that school-choice programs such as vouchers and tuition tax credits are rooted in segregation and racism. The Washington Times, July 21, 2017.
* “Immigrant” now describes those who arrived in the U.S. via formal immigration or refugee channels and those who simply crossed borders.
Between May 7 and June 20, the Trump administration instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to place any adult immigrants who crossed the border illegally in federal custody. Merriam-Webster, word example.
Fundraising efforts are going on around the country to support organizations that are working to protect immigrants and bring families back together. Merriam-Webster, word example.
* “Abortion” has disappeared from public discourse, and has been replaced by the cryptic codes “A woman’s right to choose,” or “reproductive control.”
The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
(Perhaps the emphasis should be on the fact that men cannot develop preeclampsia or hemorrhage during pregnancy or childbirth.)
* “Liberal” has been replaced by “progressive.” Democrats no longer call themselves “liberal.” Maybe because the new focus is on changing the structure of society rather than on making what we have better.
It seems to me that traditional ‘liberals’ in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A ‘progressive’ are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules. David Sirota, Political Commentator
From Manipulating Words to Manipulating Events
It is only a short hop between manipulating words and manipulating events in order to achieve a desired outcome. California is particularly good at speaking eloquently of a multitude of crises that demand intervention, compassion, fortitude, resistance, and/or money. Climate change and sanctuary, along with housing and homelessness, are at the top of the state’s crisis list.
* California Greening
California takes pride in its draconian efforts to lower green house gas emissions by declaring vast areas of the state protected land where no development is allowed, passing legislation that requires cities and counties to build their “fair-share” of dense housing, and discouraging the use of private automobiles. California also has a “cap and trade” program, under which companies pay penalties if they exceed pollution limits, but can trade for pollution credits with companies that emit less pollutants.
Whether California’s Herculean efforts to reduce emissions arise primarily from environmental or economic concerns remains a secret locked in legislators’ minds. The fact remains that dense populations, where businesses and housing are clustered into tight spaces drive economic growth, and cap-and-trade-produces revenue for the state.
As an aside, California’s greening comes with costs that event manipulators don’t like to talk about. Density has caused construction and housing costs to skyrocket, the middle class to flee the state, and legislators to embark on a constant quest for funds to build subsidized housing. Cap and trade, touted as a way to help poorer communities disproportionately affected by pollution, has instead given the more polluting industries located in such communities the ability to pollute even more.
* Prisons and Private Profit
In a video op-ed that appeared on MSN.com on June 25, 2018, U.C. Berkeley Professor Robert Reich spoke, eloquently as always, of private contractors that run detention centers “profiting from family separation.” In the video, Reich condemns the “money, influence and cruelty” behind Donald Trump’s border policy that enriches these private contractors.
Nowhere in the video does Robert Reich mention that private contractors have been part of the U.S.’s detention system since the 1980s, profiting substantially from the U.S.’s vast native and immigrant prison population.
In response to the broader prison overcrowding that accompanied the rise of mass incarceration during the 1980s and 1990s, several states entered arrangements with private companies for their ability to build prisons quickly—and without the need for voter approval … The private prison industry has long considered immigration detention an opportunity for gain. In 1984, CoreCivic established its first privately owned detention facility in Houston to hold immigration detainees. Migrationpolicy.org
The Imaginative Progressive Mind
Although manipulation of words and events is done by just about everyone, those who hold today’s progressive ideas of what government and society should look like seem to be infinitely more imaginative than conservatives.
The laundry list of words progressives have succeeded in embedding into the public conscience is impressive: equity, social justice, sustainable/unsustainable, capitalist greed, global warming/climate change, diversity, child-free, entitlements, renter’s rights, food security, body shaming, living Constitution, fair share, regional governments.
Along with words come world views of how things should be!