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Thursday, September 6, 2007

How the L-word became the N-word

One of the more successful attempts of the right wingnut faction into Orwellian tactics is what it did in purging the word liberal of its accrued historical meaning and turning it into a pejorative label that carries all the weight of prejudice, hatred, and contempt that can be loaded into it.

When you hear the word liberals in the mouths of wingnuts, it does not recall the history of human thought and experience that the word names, as Orwell conceived language to function, but it is merely a trigger sound that fires malevolence and hatred in brains of those who have been conditioned to respond in that way. Purging words of their history was the job of the protagonist in 1984. By cutting words from their historical contexts and sometimes elliminating words altogether, people could be cut off from human experience and knowledge and become dependent on whatever Big Brother determined for them. This process is a basic strategy in mind control.

The thesis-novel 1984 is very relevant to conemporary circumstances because with the advent of electronic media, and especially web logs, we can identify and track the attempts to redefine history and note where such attempts have succeeded. Some web logs are constant repetitions of the we-against-them cant that is generated by those more interested in power than in democracy.

The objective of redefinition is to define the opposition in the most odious terms so that the public will be led to believe it is a threat and scourge to humanity.

The word liberal became a target for redefinition led by Rush Limbaugh and his imitators who talk on radio through the dark hours of the night. He applied to the word liberal all those characteristics that those with racist tendencies once associated with the N-word: laziness, dependancy on Ol' Massa in the form of big government, perverse orientations, and an inabililty to ratiocinate. The imagery triggered in the minds of many has nothing to do with the long and complex history of liberalism in America. It has simply become a hate term used to identify an enemy in those conditioned minds.

The charge that liberals like big government is a telling case in point. I have never heard a liberl opt for big goverment. I have heard many advocate good government. And I have heard many suggest that government should step in when forces in the private the sector are not performing well and people are being damaged and hurt. The reason that people look to government to solve some problems is that as voters they have a voice in the solutions, whereas they have little say when giant corporations are wielding the power. One of the greatest myths in America is that the private sector does things better than the public sector. As a former business editor, I often marvel at how badly many private enterprises are run. Private znd public do not correlate with good and bad.
In order to avoid the mindless rage invoked by liberal in the souls of the indoctrinated, some left-leaning people have chosen to idenfity themselves as progressives. That, too, is a term with a long and complicated history, but it generally designates a political movement toward better conditions, new ideas, and new policies and methods. The use of the word has bunched up the panties and galled the anti-liberals. They see it as an attempt to evade the opprobriums created around the word liberal, and they have set to redefine the word progressiveby imposing very limited and selective definitions on it. Put simply, progressives are those who want to move forward to better things while regressives want to move backward into conditions and policies that are more germane to the feudal past.

It might be nice to think about returning to a time when liberal and political stances rather than a brand of enemy who has to be vanquished by hate rhetoric and the imposition of definitions that have little to do with fact and history. But Big Brother is stalking the land and manipulating the language to implant stereotypes and hate imagery.
Whether he succeeds or not depends on whether American education gives students the abililty to discern between the meaning of words and the attempts at mind control.

Cross posted at KELOland Blogs.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States