Control the Words, Control the Culture
The culture war is first and foremost a war of words - and the left is winning. The consequences can be seen everywhere: in politics, in education, in media. In this video, Michael Knowles, host of the Michael Knowles Show, explains why we should not cede another syllable.
Words matter—they shape how we view the world. No one understands this better than the Left, which increasingly seeks to police speech.
- Words shape how we think; they color how we view and understand the world.View Source
- A lack of clarity in language can have catastrophic consequences. Politically motivated control of language is detrimental to seeking and expressing the truth. This sort of agenda-driven policing of language can be seen in the Associated Press banning politically charged terms, like “illegal immigrant” and “Islamic terrorist.”View Source
- No one understand the power of words better than the Left, which twists old words and invents new ones to promote a political and ideological agenda.View Source
- Related reading: “Politics and the English Language” – George OrwellView Source
The Left has a special gift for euphemisms—soft words selected to sugarcoat harsh realities to make those realities easier to swallow.
- When warming trends began to plateau, global warming was replaced by the conveniently vague “climate change.”View Source
- During the Obama presidency, what had been the war in Afghanistan transformed into the far less ominous “overseas contingency operation.”View Source
- According to progressives, minors who have been arrested are no longer “juvenile delinquents” but actually “justice-involved youth.”View Source
- The use of racial discrimination in hiring practices and college admission decisions has been retooled as the nicer sounding “affirmative action.”View Source
- Mandates and taxes have been refashioned into the more palatable “individual shared responsibility payments.”View Source
The Left is increasingly using the law to control speech. NYC imposes huge fines on landlords & employers who use “incorrect” pronouns.
- The Left doesn’t just recommend using “correct” pronouns, they want to enforce the practice through law. New York City is already imposing fines of up to $250,000 against employers and landlords who do not use the proper pronouns.View Source
- Related reading: “Canadian gender-neutral pronoun bill is a warning for Americans” – The HillView Source
- Related reading: “Chelsea Manning and the Problem with Pronouns” – David FrenchView Source
- WATCH: “The Left Dominates Culture By Perverting Language” – Michael KnowlesView Source
In the name of “diversity” and “tolerance,” the Left enforces intellectual conformity by censoring opposing views and policing speech.
- Companies like Google use words like “diversity” and “inclusion” while censoring opinions they don’t like.View Source
- While college campuses promote diversity in race and gender, free speech-censoring actions by largely progressive administrations, faculty and students stifle intellectual diversity.View Source
- The Associated Press forbids reporters from using the phrase “Islamic terrorist.”View Source
- Related reading: “The Hate-Speech Temptation” – Douglas MurrayView Source
In the name of political correctness, the AP Stylebook banned the terms “pro-life,” “Islamic terrorist,” and “illegal immigrant.”
- The AP Stylebook, the world’s most influential journalistic guideline, instructs reporters not to use several terms that might offend progressive sensibilities, including “pro-life,” “Islamic terrorist,” and “illegal immigrant.”View Source
- “The problem here is that if we don’t express ourselves clearly, we don’t think clearly and then we can’t act with purpose to fix our problems,” writes the Heritage Foundation’s Mike Gonzalez. “If we can’t ever say that there are Islamic terrorists in the world or people who are in our country illegally then we can’t articulate real solutions to these problems — whether efficient or compassionate ones.”View Source
- WATCH: “Leftists Deny the Free Speech Crisis” – Michael KnowlesView Source
Sometimes the Left uses one simple adjective to change or even negate the entire meaning of the word it describes, like “social justice.”
- Justice means getting what you deserve without favor. “Social justice” means getting what you don’t deserve because you are favored.View Source
- Truth is reality regardless of any individual’s feelings or perceptions. “My truth” is how one perceives things regardless of how they really are.View Source
- The inclusion of “same-sex” before “marriage” made the marriage debate about marriage equality rather than about the what defined the term “marriage.”View Source
- WATCH: “What is Social Justice?” – Jonah Goldberg, PragerUView Source
Due to AP’s policing of speech, it is now impossible for an AP reporter to refer to “Islamic terrorists who were illegal aliens.”
- The AP Stylebook, the world’s most influential journalistic guideline, instructs reporters not to use some terms that might offend progressive sensibilities, including “pro-life,” “Islamic terrorist,” and “illegal immigrant.”View Source
- Related reading: “Cleansing our Language Muddles Our Thoughts” – The Heritage FoundationView Source
- WATCH: “Does Free Speech Offend You?” – Greg LukianoffView Source
In an increasingly politically correct culture, use “the wrong words” and you might lose your job, your home and your reputation.
- In Canada, bill C-16 protects “gender identity” and “gender expression” as a human right. Thus, failing to refer to someone as the gender they ascribe to themselves can be illegal.View Source
- In New York City, employers and landlords can be fined up to $250,000 for using the wrong pronouns.View Source
- When language and words are controlled, censorship quickly becomes compelled speech, which violates the conscience of the individual.View Source
- At its worst, as George Orwell famously illustrated, the politically driven imposition of speech codes can lead to totalitarianism.View Source
What’s in a word?
Why does it matter whether we call someone who breaks the law to enter the country an “illegal alien” or an “undocumented immigrant”? What’s the difference between a Christmas tree and a “holiday tree”?
It’s just semantics, right?
It is just semantics, but “semantics” means “the meaning of words.” Words exist so that we might discriminate one thing from another. Without words, we have chaos. And it starts with the first words—a baby says “mama” to distinguish mommy from daddy. Words shape how we think; they color how we view the world.
No one understands this better than the left. They are the masters of words. Because they know that words matter.
The left has a special gift for euphemisms—soft words selected to sugarcoat harsh realities so as to make those harsh realities easier for us to swallow. But these soft words are insidious. Their sole purpose is to deceive.
Race discrimination in hiring and college admissions is refashioned as the much nicer-sounding “affirmative action.” Who would ever oppose an affirmative action?
Global warming, which can be measured and challenged, has morphed into “climate change,” which means essentially nothing because the climate is always changing.
When Barack Obama became president, George Bush's war in Afghanistan suddenly transformed into the far less ominous and threatening “overseas contingency operation.” That’s one way to try to end a war: just rename it.
The examples are endless. There’s a new euphemism every week.
In the make-believe world of leftist language, young criminals have become “justice-involved youth.” Mandates and taxes are “individual shared responsibility payments.” Government spending becomes an “investment.” Wanting to keep more of your hard-earned money becomes “greed”; taking more of someone else’s money is them “paying their fair share.” Opposing a Democrat in the White House is “obstruction.” Opposing a Republican in the White House, “resistance”!
In the name of “diversity,” the left enforces intellectual conformity. It censors opposing views in the name of “tolerance.” And it labels all non-left views “hate speech.”
Consider the ongoing battle over pronouns—whether to call a man who thinks he’s a woman “he” or “she.” Very few people in the country suffer from gender confusion, and we should have compassion for those who do, but the left has invested countless funds, time, and energy to make everyone refer to some men as “she” and some women as ”he.”
Why? Is it because the left is so compassionate? Or, is it more likely because so much of the left’s cultural agenda is about blurring—even denying—the natural distinctions between men and women?
Sometimes it’s just an adjective that can change or even negate the entire meaning of the word it describes.
Take “social justice.”
Justice means getting what you deserve without favor. “Social justice” means getting what you don’t deserve because you are favored.
Here’s one we hear a lot these days: “my truth.” Truth is reality regardless of any individual’s feelings or perceptions. “My truth” is how I perceive things, regardless of how they really are.
And how about “same-sex marriage”? Let’s not get into the politics; let’s just look at the language.
Throughout history, in every culture, marriage has been the union of husbands—men, and wives—women. “Same-sex marriage” is the union of men with men or women with women, but it is most certainly not the union of husbands and wives.
Once the phrase “same-sex” was placed before the word marriage—that is, once the definition of marriage changed, the debate changed. It became about “marriage equality.” It was suddenly an act of bigotry to limit marriage to husbands and wives.
All this manipulation of language has paid off for the left, because whoever controls the words controls the culture.
Don’t believe me? Just try using plain language instead of the left’s politically-correct jargon. But be careful. Use “the wrong words” and you might lose your job, your home, and your reputation.
The culture war is largely a war of words. Right now, the left is winning. You can see the consequences everywhere: in politics, in education, in media.
It’s time to fight back. We should not cede another syllable.
What’s in a word? Everything.
I’m Michael Knowles, host of the Michael Knowles Show, for Prager University.