Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Right Language

For all those die-hard conservatives who think I'm a rabid, left-wing nutjob, here's a treat for you: I've gotta give props to the right wing. This isn't meant to be facetious -- I'm genuinely impressed with the Republican party and their ability to effectively use language to spin issues to their favour. It shows a true talent for appealing to the lowest common denominator in all of us, all the while keeping their influence so subtle as to leave the vast majority of us blissfuly unaware. Think about how even a simple change of language by the Right Shrub in Charge can greatly influence how, even downright tell mainstream America views an issue. Take the pro-life vs. pro-choice camps -- the Right is careful not to talk about people being anti-choice, but being "pro-life", which not only sidesteps the issue of civil rights coming out of the anti-choice camp, but also not-so-subtly paints pro-choicers as "anti-life" or "pro-murder". Meanwhile, the reverse is never true, how often have pro-choicers actually been called "abortion activists" or "pro-abortion"? The phenomenon is completely misleading, and with each success story, the Right becomes more bold with their hijacking of the English language to suit their political goals. What about Bush's 'Clear Skies' act which actually made it easier for companies to pollute the skies? Or the 'personal accounts' plan for Social Security rather than 'privitization' which is used only by the media? Or even Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- a name which not only invoked the word 'veteran' (thereby bringing to mind the sacrosanct position that war veterans rightly hold in this society) and Truth, though it was obvious that the SBVT were peddling stuff that was the truth only as far as you were saying how much it was anything but. Or how about the "Patriot Act" which is about as patriotic as a flag-burning. The Right's manipulation of language even extended so far as to the French-steria of a few years ago, with the Right's blatant attempt to rename French fries "Freedom Fries". And yet, on paper, all of these things sound great just from the language used. How do you vote against the "Patriot Act"? The "Real ID Act" (as if all ID has been fake ID until this point). You want to be upset at the Republicans, but really, you can only give them credit for their conniving manipulations. It's brilliant ... someone really should develop a Republican legislation name generator. Find a euphemism exactly opposite to what the act is intended to do, then sprinkle a few choice, patriotic words like "Freedom", "America", "Patriot", "Veteran", "Homeland", and then nickname the act after a recently missing or deceased white person/national hero. Speaking of language-hijacking, I was in Borders the other day when we started perusing the ever-expansive political writing section. Have you ever noticed how totally shameful the Right-wing book titles are? "Why the Left Hates America", "How to Talk to a Liberal", "Liberalism is a Mental Disease"... is there any wonder why people are terrified of being labelled left-of-center anymore? But there must be a way to fight against it without resorting to that kind of name-calling. Sure, calling Bush Shrub is fun, but at the end of the day, we're a) standing on the same moral low-ground and b) face it, we're just not as good as they are at it. Shrub is hilarious, but you gotta be somewhat educated to "get it" -- meanwhile, the Republican brand of language-hijacking appeals to all. I mean, come on "Lies! And the Lying Liars who Tell Them" is funny, but it's not exactly the kind of hateful and hurtful tabloid-esque material that sells. What the Left needs to do is grow its balls back and start tearing apart the hypocrisy of the names that Republicans give to acts. You can call it the Clear Skies Act all you want, but all it takes is a concerted effort from the Left to explain why the Clear Skies act is not to combat that effort. When did the Left become a bunch of dickless wonders, too desperate to play by the Right's rules than to do what we do best?


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