My friend Vern Wuensche has penned a timely essay on the corruption of words and how the Democratic Party makes use of this corruption in its political propaganda, successfully, I might add (see “Democrats Use Words as Weapons”, 8-27-21).
This essay reminded me of one of a few years ago by Michael Knowles of Prager University, “Control the Words, Control the Culture”, in which he describes how the political left makes good use of semantics because they know that words matter and he notes that “The left has a special gift for euphemisms–soft words selected to sugarcoat harsh realities so as to make harsh realities easier for us to swallow. But these soft words are insidious. Their sole purpose is to deceive.”
Of course, we know that the master analyst of this trade is George Orwell, whose very name became identified with this phenomenon–Orwellian–with his 1949 classic novel, Nineteen Eighty Four, and who left us an expansion of our vocabulary dedicated to it. Who hasn’t encountered his terms “newspeak”, “memory-hole”, and “doublethink” to describe his concept of “political language designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”?, and who hasn’t experienced his rule of thumb that “…if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”?
Now fast forward to today when we are witnessing a major expansion of this vocabulary and, greatly enhanced by the social media, this corruption of our political discourse. Euphemisms abound in this “wokeness” that is metastasizing into every corner of our culture and its institutions. It’s the language of the totalitarian state. A few examples:
- Social justice. While justice means getting what you deserve without favor, “social justice” means getting what you don’t deserve because you are a member of a favored group.
- Anti-racism. We are called upon to teach initiatives like “critical race theory”, which favors more racial discrimination to cure racism.
- Equity. The President issued an executive order on Advancing Racial Equity, an ambitious government equity agenda catering to “historically underserved groups” which emphasizes inequitable treatment to achieve equal outcomes and has nothing to do with equality under the law.
In June, President Biden issued an order to “advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal workforce” and I challenge you to find one member of the Fortune 500 companies that has not already pre-emptively followed suit with training programs and the usual consultants. This is the battleground of our generation and the next, with the key buzzword being “equity” because of the fact that social activists believe it can be measured, if not by standardized methods, at least by perceived “disparate impact” of policy on certain groups. We had better move from “woke” to “awake” pretty soon, folks–Orwell’s vocabulary is alive and well.