Semantics and Equivocation in the Culture War

This page is about the controversy over redefining and/or prohibiting certain words for political purposes, just like in "1984", and other arguments about free speech versus political correctness.  More and more words are being essentially banned from public speech because a few people have an emotional aversion to them.

For example, vagrants who might have been called "drunks" or "hobos" in 1960 would probably be called "homeless" today, implying that they're exactly the same as anyone else except for their lack of a permanent address.  No, in almost every case, homeless people are homeless for very good reasons.  Words are important tools, and when useful tools are outlawed, an entire society suffers.

You may also be interested in my handy translation table, for converting liberal doubletalk into plain English.

The Missing Word in the Immigration Debate.  Of course, liberals are famous for chanting catchphrases, such as "war on women" or "equality", so incessantly that it takes an effort to remember their falsity.  (They have even tried to brand opponents of illegal immigration as "nativist", which they hoped would be equated to "racist".)  But there's a deeper and subtler way by which words can breed bias.  Liberals choose words that convey subconscious meanings, which they hope will become universally accepted. [...] Note the strident insistence with which liberals demand that we say "reproductive rights" instead of "abortion", "gender" instead of "sex", and "undocumented" instead of "illegal".  Each of these word choices hides some aspect of an issue that liberals want to keep hidden.

3 Problems with Today's Obamacare Excuse.  The latest, and probably most durable defense of Obamacare's launch trouble appeals to the ancient liberal urge to redistribute.  Pushed by semi-official Obamacare spinner Jonathan Gruber, this line most recently suffused a piece by John Harwood on the New York Times front page.  The idea is basically that Obamacare is secretly redistributive.  Obama can't use the term lest he scare the right, says Harwood.

Modern Sophists, Ancient Trade.  [Scroll down]  Similarly, nowadays government spending is termed investment, illegal racial preferences are called affirmative action, abortion is about reproductive justice and the right to privacy, stealing from one person and giving to another is justified as public welfare or redistribution of income, brainwashing is called sensitivity training, leadership is from behind, wanting to improve your own lot and that of your family is selfish greed, amongst an endless parade of Orwellian nonsense that assaults us on a daily basis.

Environmental Rules Delayed as White House Slows Reviews.  The White House has blocked several Department of Energy regulations that would require appliances, lighting and buildings to use less energy and create less global-warming pollution, as part of a broader slowdown of new antipollution rules issued by the Obama administration.

Semantics alert!
Global warming is not pollution.  Neither is global cooling.  Global warming is merely an excuse to expand the federal government -- even though global warming stopped sometime around 1998.

Gore: Global Warming a 'Threat to Our Survival' Just Like World War II.  Comparing "global warming" to World War II, former Vice President Al Gore said America should "mobilize" to combat climate change and put a "price on carbon pollution." [...] "We can save 90 percent of the energy saved being used in most buildings — 25 to 30 percent of all the global warming pollution in the world comes from poorly insulated, poorly constructed buildings.  The retrofitting of our buildings and our infrastructure, that's the way to create jobs and the installation of the renewable energy systems."

The Editor says...
There's "global warming pollution" canard again.

A Gender-Neutral Army.  Political language exists to destroy meaning and to make unpopular policies seem popular by associating them with the very opposite of what they are.  Taxes are opportunities.  Spending is stimulus.  Amnesty is reform.  The left is as good at language as it is bad at governing.  It can't change reality, but it excels at changing the description of reality.  Common sense is the enemy of the left and the left defeats common sense by corrupting language so that nothing makes sense and common sense can never come into play.

The Collapsing of the American Skull.  One of the most ingenious and effective strategies of the Left on any number of topics is to frame the debate and co-opt the language so effectively that it becomes all but impossible even to discuss the subject honestly.

It's the Language, Stupid.  Those who follow politics and government know that progressivism is just warmed-over Marxism.  But because Marxism never became a big seller in the United States, its proponents have had to sugarcoat the language they use to promote their ideological bent.  As it turns out, they for a second time turned to the past for help and, knowingly or unknowingly, borrowed the phrase "social justice," which was coined in 1840.

From Dehumanizing Word Games to Gosnell.  It starts with the perversion of language.  It starts when the icons of a dissipated culture reduce a baby to a "fetus."  From there, Yeats's blood-dimmed tide rolls rapidly in.  Before long, a baby is not a person but a punishment, as President Barack Obama framed the matter in his familiar off-the-cuff iciness.  Of course, to describe newborn children in their boundless possibilities and wonder would be to acknowledge, foremost, their humanity.  That is why, instead, abortion enthusiasts must grope for words when circumstances force them to speak publicly about their gruesome business.

On Abortion, the 'Gruesome' Is Only to Be Done, Not Spoken Of.  As we've seen in countless contexts (abortion becomes "choice," marriage becomes "[hyphenated-]marriage," tax becomes "revenue," spending becomes "investment," etc.), the Left is simply better at the language game than we are.  That is the nature of the beast.  Progressives are trying to transform, we are trying to conserve; they are forever thinking of strategies to move the culture away from its traditions, we are standing athwart, yelling, "Stop!"

Kerry: 'We Call It Earth, but It Could Well Have Been Called Ocean'.  Describing himself as "a child of the ocean," Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the "fragile ecosystem" is threatened by climate change.  "We call this beautiful planet that we are privileged to inhabit for a short period of time — we call it Earth, but it could well have been called Ocean because three-quarters of it is ocean," Kerry told a gathering at the National Geographic Society in Washington on Monday [3/18/2013].

The Editor says...
We call it earth, because that's what the Bible calls it.  It comes as no surprise that Mr. Kerry doesn't know that.

Warning: If There's 'Nuance,' You're Being Had.  Clear speaking and clear writing are foundational to clear thinking.  These concepts do not imply a crude command of language or understanding, but rather a solid command of thought.  Unfortunately, clarity of expression is too often confused with primitiveness, and obscurity (or even gibberish) is too often confused with sophistication (or the dreaded nuance).  These confusions are especially common in liberals and so-called intellectuals.

Denver Post: Aborting Our Children Will Save the Planet.  For decades, the term "family planning" has been a euphemism for "abortion" to abortion proponents.  Echoing Humpty-Dumpty, when the left "uses a word, it means just what [they] choose it to mean, neither more nor less."  So, with twists in language, "homosexual behavior" is called "gay lifestyle," "sex outside marriage" is termed "freedom," and "killing babies" is called "family planning."

The Gray Area Between Black and White.  Euphemisms are going to be the death of us because their usage tends to transmogrify reality.  If you are a citizen of this country, the United States is your home!  When someone breaks into your home, he should be referred to as a lawbreaker, not stroked and coddled like a lost pet that strayed into your yard.  Would a burglar, walking along the street with your television on his shoulder, be called an undocumented shopper?  By what stretch of the imagination is the word "illegal" a term that describes hatred for an ethnic group?  Let's get real!  The fact is that these are red herring tactics used by those trying to defend an indefensible position.

Obama and the Call for 'Economic Justice'.  Historically, social justice has meant different things to different people, and equally so today, where the term remains as frustratingly elusive as ever — an ambiguity to the left's advantage.  Like the progressives who champion the term, the definition seems to evolve based on progressives' ever-evolving purposes.  Like progressivism itself, "social justice" is hard to pin down.  Most exasperating is that many who speak the language of social justice really mean "economic justice."

The 'Progressives' Are Really 'Oppressives'.  [Scroll down]  Never adopt your opponent's use of the word "choice."  Instead, use the word "abortion" — or better yet, "no choice."  Certainly the unborn gets no choice.  Never let them use "fairness," as in "fairness doctrine"; instead, use the word "unfairness."  Never let them use the term "social justice"; instead, use the term "social control."  Never let them use "working poor" because that assumes that only poor people work.  Never let them use "climate change"; instead, say "climate hoax."

Why Doesn't Communism Have as Bad a Name as Nazism?  Why is it that when people want to describe particularly evil individuals or regimes, they use the terms "Nazi" or "Fascist" but almost never "Communist?"  Given the amount the human suffering Communists have caused — 70 million killed in China, 20-30 million in the former Soviet Union, and almost one-third of all Cambodians; the decimation of Tibetan and Chinese culture; totalitarian enslavement of North Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Russians; a generation deprived of human rights in Cuba; and much more — why is "Communist" so much less a term of revulsion than "Nazi?"

Speaking Obama.  In order for us morons on the right to understand the newspeak of the Obama administration I offer this glossary of terms before and after being "Obamized."  Feel free to add to my list while you are still able.

Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesaurus.  The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is "global warming."  The term turns people off, ... [so] Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about "our deteriorating atmosphere."  Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up "moving away from the dirty fuels of the past."  Don't confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like "cap and cash back" or "pollution reduction refund."

This is an original compilation, Copyright © 2013 by Andrew K. Dart

Democrats' Unconstitutional Plot to Invent New Congressmen.  Right now, in the guise of a civil rights issue, the new Congress is attempting one of the most brazenly unconstitutional power grabs in our nation's history.  The move aims to create a new class of congressman and simply add the first of these to the 435 existing members of the United States House of Representatives.

Abortion and Orwell:  "War Is Peace."  "Freedom is Slavery."  "Ignorance is Strength."  These slogans are spoken in Newspeak, the fictional language of George Orwell's twisted utopia in 1984.  By removing meaning from words and increasing state control over speech-and thought-Newspeak is designed to manipulate those who hear it.  In California, Newspeak is now spoken fluently by those who seek to advance a political agenda in healthcare by avoiding scrutiny.

What Kind of Person Calls Himself 'Progressive'?  The word Progressive first became popular in the late 19th century, but has now been adopted as a popular synonym for "socialism."  Americans tend not to like socialism, associating it with the Soviet Union and other bad characters.  But "Progressivism" sounds fine.  So it is a euphemism for something people fear; a cover-up label.  The odd thing, of course, is that real progress in the world is almost never achieved by self-proclaimed "Progressives."  They generally make things worse rather than better.

Obama's Amerikkka Corps:  [Scroll down]  On the Obama campaign page devoted to the fellowships, Obama himself appears on a brief video saying the program will "train a new generation of leaders that will not only help us win this election but help us revive democracy in communities all across the country."  Hold on a moment there.  America may have its faults, but does Obama really believe it doesn't have enough democracy already?  The answer is both yes and no, because left-wing extremists like Obama don't use the word democracy the way other Americans do.  To radical leftists, democracy is a coded word for socialism.

Capturing the Language to Assure Liberal Dominance.  A misleading recent headline in the New York Times demonstrated the way that the left abuses the language to cement its continued control of our public discourse.  Under the banner "EVOLUTION OPPONENT IS IN LINE FOR SCHOOLS POST" reporter Cornelia Dean declared:  "The National Association of State Boards of Education will elect officers in July, and for one office, president-elect, there is only one candidate:  a member of the Kansas school board who supported its efforts against the teaching of evolution."

The Bobbie Jo Stinnett case:
From fetus to baby.  This is a horrific crime that, like the Scott Peterson case, opens an uncomfortable window into our culture's tortured reasoning on anything related to unborn life.  During the coverage of the crime, the status of the Bobbie Jo Stinnett's unborn girl steadily changed. … [A] "fetus" — something for which American law and culture has very little respect — was somehow instantly transformed into a "baby" and "infant" — for which we have the highest respect.  By what strange alchemy does that happen?

On the use and abuse of labels.  Liberals don't usually call conservatives merely "conservatives."  That's because the term, standing alone, is not a pejorative.  Instead, we are "extremists," "bigots," "homophobes," "racists" and "intolerant."  And these labels, unlike the conservatives' general invocation of "liberal," are usually gross distortions.

Awash is euphemisms.  Educationese continues to favor words that cloak failure; so as not to impair self-esteem "Negative gain" sometimes appears as a description of falling test scores.  A number of schools have eliminated "F" as a mark, and "suboptimal outcome" means failure.  In Britain members of the Professional Association of Teachers suggested that schools drop the word fail.

Labour kills off 'husbands' and 'wives' .  Labour has removed the traditional terms "husband", "wife" and "spouse" from a wide range of official forms, and replaced them with the word "partner".  Civil servants at Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, which is responsible for tax collection, yesterday [11/17/2007] admitted the new term was a convenient "catch-all" and a part of "modern language".  The move is said to take into consideration the range of relationships that now have a legal standing.

Leftist Terminology For The Next Two Years:  We all know that the one thing Democrats can never do is be honest about their agenda.  To make the items in their liberal agenda more palatable, they have to couch their true intentions in weasel words that attempt to mask the true liberalism that lies beneath.

Pelosi:  Just Forget the Word 'Earmark'.  The more than 32,000 earmarks requested in the Homeland Security spending bill have roiled the House this week, and now Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) wants the word 'earmark' to just go away.  In a Tuesday press conference about appropriation bills, Pelosi said, "Why don't we leave here today forgetting the word earmark?"  She said they should be called "legislative directives" instead.

Why Liberals Spread Poverty:  It's called a "surcharge."  You and I would call it a tax increase.  One more way and reason for the political class to take even more of the money that you and I slave for by slugging it 9 to 5 everyday.  In their funny little semantic sideshow this "surcharge" would be their answer to resolving the problem of the "alternative minimum tax."

Lawmaker wants to ban 'illegal alien'.  A state legislator whose district is home to thousands of Caribbean immigrants wants to ban the term "illegal alien" from the state's official documents.

Bill To Outlaw the Term "Illegal Alien".  The prominent state senator who vigorously fought to restore felon voting rights and later hosted a fundraising event for a convicted fellow lawmaker has introduced legislation to ban the term "illegal alien" because she finds it offensive.

Liberal use of language:  Officials of that great bastion of liberalism — the European Union — reportedly want to replace the term "Islamic terrorism" with "terrorists who abusively invoke Islam."

S.C. closer to eliminating 'retarded' from law.  South Carolina law is on its way to becoming more up-to-date in the way that it refers to individuals who have special needs.  On Thursday [4/14/2011] the Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee voted to get rid of references to the "mentally retarded" and use instead "persons with intellectual disability."

Bills would remove 'idiots' from Ohio code.  Bills introduced in both the House and Senate would remove outdated terms once used to describe the mentally ill from the Ohio Revised Code.  Ohio Advocates for Mental Health came across the word "idiot" while researching state law 18 months ago, chief executive Doug DeVoe said.  A search of an electronic version of the law revealed other words now considered to be offensive.

The Editor says...
Political correctness requires that dictionaries must be scrubbed, filtered and sanitized to avoid hurt feelings.  The word idiot used to be a perfectly legitimate term to describe a person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years.*  The offensiveness has resulted from the chronic misuse of terms like idiot, imbecile, and moron by people with limited vocabularies.  (I regret that some of the blame goes to the Three Stooges.)

How to Speak Liberal:  Start by obfuscating.  The most striking recent example is Democratic representative John Murtha's plan to "redeploy" American troops from Iraq.  His idea, of course, is to pull all the troops out as soon as possible.  But "redeploy" makes it sound like a tactical maneuver rather than a move to retreat, to give up, to cut and run.  Other Democrats have adopted the word.

A secular-to-English dictionary.  Secular speak is a way of making nasty things sound nice, rather like applying lipstick to a pig.  After the application, the pig is still ugly and smells bad.  So it is with secular principles supporting immorality and the culture of death.

The Fascists Among Us.  It's no secret that hurling names about is as common in the political world as it is in a grammar school playground.  One oft-used pejorative is "fascist," which, along with racist, sexist, homophobe and others, tends to be least understood by those who utter it most.  And because these damning terms are used wantonly, more to discredit than describe, they tend to be misapplied.

The Left hurts the battle against torture, rape and other evils.  In the past, when I heard that a woman had been raped, I recoiled in horror.  Not any more.  Now, my first reaction is, "What happened to her?"  One has to ask that question because the feminist left has redefined the word "rape" to the point where, unless you know the specifics, you don't know if a woman was violently forced into sexual intercourse or had engaged in sex that she regretted the following morning.  For the latter is one of the definitions of "rape" that the feminist movement uses and has disseminated.  That is how the figure "one in four" women having been raped was derived.

Culture of Deceptive Words.  I'm an 82-year old World War II vet, and retired university professor.  In the course of my lifetime I've witnessed and continue to see increasing manipulation of words, word games, in order to deceive, influence and control the public.

The left's vocabulary:  A recent angry e-mail from a reader said that certain issues should not be determined by "the dictates of the market."  With a mere turn of a phrase, he had turned reality upside down.

Eco-terrorists are indulging in class warfare by another name.  Somebody should write a doctoral thesis about the sort of language that terrorists use when they try to justify what they have done.  The thought occurred to me yesterday, when I read the threatening letter sent to golf clubs in and around Somerset by the bunch of fanatics who have just ripped up five greens at the Park course near Bath.

Guests or gate crashers:  Immigration is yet another issue which we seem unable to discuss rationally — in part because words have been twisted beyond recognition in political rhetoric.  We can't even call illegal immigrants "illegal immigrants."  The politically correct evasion is "undocumented workers."  Do American citizens go around carrying documents with them when they work or apply for work?  Most Americans are undocumented workers but they are not illegal immigrants.  There is a difference.

NOW's View on Free Speech?  It's intended only for those who parrot their leftist agenda.

Clinton Rule Attempted to Alter Definitions of "Fetus" and "Child"The regulation, which was cleared by the Clinton administration on January 17, but then postponed by the Bush administration, states that a newborn is still considered a "fetus" until it is determined the baby will live by "independently maintaining a heartbeat and respiration."  Only when this determination is made is the baby considered a "child," according to the rule.

Homosexual Orwellian Newspeak:  Activist homosexuals have done an effective job of destroying the real meaning of "discrimination."  Every day you see the word "discrimination" in your local newspapers, mainstream magazines, and on television.  And every time this word is used in association with homosexual activism, it is used in a negative context.  We are being repeatedly told that it is wrong to "discriminate" against homosexuals who are typically compared to blacks as a persecuted minority.  Anyone who attempts to criticize homosexuals for their deviant sexual practices is compared to a member of the KKK, or a Neo-Nazi group.

From the "Leftspeak Dictionary," here is Sen. Barbara Boxer on partial-birth abortion:  "That this Constitution as it currently is -- some want to amend it to say life begins at conception. ... I am not willing to amend the Constitution to say that a fetus is a person. ..."  Sen. Barbara Boxer on trees: "We are talking about God's creations that we have a responsibility to protect.  This is Mojave National Preserve's Joshua trees.  We have to move to protect them."

The New Language:  Like bums and hobos, jungles and swamps have disappeared as well.  Today's political agenda has given them new names.  They're now rainforests and wetlands.

None Dare Call It Fascism.  Fascism places the responsibility for the economy on business, which is rendered seemingly private, with the facade of private ownership.  The result of both socialism and fascism is the same:  the destruction of economic freedom, replacing the individual's choice of how to make a peaceful, honest living with state edicts.

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself:  By raising the hint of an unpopular consequence — be it increased drug use or 'monopolization' of industry — government officials are able to expand their control over society without having to rationally defend their premises and ideas.

Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones, But Words Will Send You to Jail.

"Master" and "slave" computer labels unacceptable, officials say.  Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive.

The Case for Being Insensitive:  It is curious that Americans, who with each passing year become less concerned about good manners and etiquette, become ever more concerned with sensitivity in speech.  It is okay to be a slob at the dinner table.  It is okay to go out in public half dressed.  It is even okay - some would have us believe - to use four-letter words in mixed company.  But never, never say something political that will hurt the feelings of another human being.

How Poor Are America's Poor?  According to the US Census Bureau, 36 million Americans are "living in poverty."  Can this alarming claim really be true?  The simple answer is: No.

Rather Than Censor "Archie," Let's Face Facts:  An undiscussed danger of political correctness is that when we censor our speech, we censor our thoughts.  And if we refuse to think about the problems and root causes of the ills of our society, rather than merely attempting to smooth-over their manifestations, we'll never face and cure them.

Judge rules against driver who wanted "Irish" on plates:
"IRISH" license plate seen as racist!

The Virtue of Individualism:  The committee gave me an ultimatum:  change the speech topic completely and write about what the committee wanted me to write about, or "resign" from the speaking position.  I remained firm to my decision not to change the idea of my speech.

Hate Speech from the Left:  "It's hard not to notice that political discussion over the last decade has increasingly degenerated into name-calling," Brian Anderson wrote in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal last year.  "The insults most often come from the left: 'racist,' 'homophobe,' 'sexist.'… It has become a habit of left-liberal political argument to … redefine mainstream conservative arguments as extremism and bigotry.  Close-minded and uncivil, this tendency betrays what's liberal in liberalism."

Official says the Bible "exposes homosexuals to hatred".  Canadian tribunal rules paper can't run ad with critical scriptures.

Broadway Play Ruffles PC CrowdToday's politically correct atmosphere means it would be impossible today to produce films today that were made as recently as the 1970s.  "The Producers" is a case in point.  People today object to it, but it is an update of a Mel Brooks 1968 release.

Back to News from the Culture War
Back to the Home page

Bookmark and Share

Document location
Updated November 25, 2014.

©2014 by Andrew K. Dart