Language as a political weapon
20 de agosto de 2019
Por Fundación Civismo

Less than a month and a half ago, the brand-new go-to socialist and the second most talked about politician in the United States, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, called the immigrant centers of the US border with Mexico as «concentration camps». The answers soon arrived. Millions of people supported their comparison, and millions rejected it, highlighting within this group a Polish deputy who formally invited the congresswoman to visit several of these camps with him.

It is irresponsible to banalise the meaning of «concentration camp», referring to centers that, whether or not we agree with their existence, do not resemble, or by such means, those of Nazi Germany or Soviet gulags. Unfortunately, the use of terms with serious connotations to refer to not-so-extreme events is not strange in politics. In fact, it is an increasingly used populist resource.

The use of words like the ones chosen by Ocasio-Cortez confuses citizens and makes them forget the real nature of these expressions. And it will produce the effect of the story of Peter and the wolf. If we believe that the threat comes from time to time but has never just arrived, when it is really here, nobody will believe it. If we accuse all men who explain something to a woman —mansplaining, according to some people— of sexists, citizens will get used to using such serious words for everyday situations, so that, when a sexist situation really does occur, they cannot identify it and treat it with the proper severity. If everyone is a macho, nobody is. Moreover, it is not only serious that Ocasio-Cortez resorts to these words, but, in some way, with her action, she legitimises others to use such disproportionate terms against her rivals.

There are many overexcited politicians, and of all ideological sorts. In addition, they are often helped a great deal by the media. Recently, a University of Cambridge study found that the growth of the UKIP Eurosceptic Party in the United Kingdom had had media attention as one of its main causes. Media did not focus on it because it was a great party, but it was a great party because media paid attention to it in a disproportionate way. Could the same thing happen with the words we use every day? Do mass media influence our everyday language? Recently, researcher David Rozado published a compilation of graphs on the frequency of use of certain words by the New York Times from 1970 to 2018. It is shocking to see them, but not surprising. The use of expressions such as «patriarchy», «mansplaining» or «toxic masculinity» has experienced a tremendous increase in recent years, despite the fact that we live in the best moment of history (thus far) for women. Nor there have been left behind terms like «offended», «inequality», or «hate crime», although some have such as «duties» —this last fall may be related to the growing irresponsibility of the average citizen, who asks the State that controls your life in exchange for being unable to worry about the difficult task of deciding— or «ultra-liberal» —which we could translate as ultra-leftist in Spain.

One repeats what he reads, and the language used by the media is, in part, that adopted by citizens. Political journalism is more and more like sports, where reporters and presenters themselves give their opinion on the facts, instead of just reporting them. The difference is that the sports journalist does not express his opinion or opts for a certain language with the purpose that the aforementioned examples pursue: to use the audience to achieve an end, which implies that the public is considered a mere object, a tool to achieve a goal.


Language is a valuable instrument of manipulation and political control


The growing acceptance of a language that matches with a certain political sector is unquestionable, and it may surprise but a few. What is truly shocking (and disturbing) is the inability to report the abuse of those attacked by this language —those who defend responsibility and, therefore, duties in addition to rights, who do not believe that we live in an era of extreme machismo, and even those who simply believe that women are not inferior to men and that, therefore, something can be explained to them unknown without being, therefore, accused of sexist. If they bow their heads to this kind of manipulation, those being attacked leave alone those anonymous civil society members and organisations —very different from the sectarian anonymous that torment them— who have the courage to challenge the feeling or impression —but not reality— of consensus.

An example of this cowardly attitude is that of the European People’s Party, which, instead of condemning the strategy of harassment and demolition of radical feminist groups towards the parties that are part of it, decides to follow the game and crawl to get the votes they will never have, accepting also, how it could not be otherwise, its harmful —especially when it influences legality— worldview, and falling into the same moral deficiencies as its rivals. Some impose their dogmas with the precious help of a self-censoring society, and others allow them to do so without disturbing at all. And the one who does not do anything does a lot.

Language, in addition to an excellent tool for communicating, is also a formidable and valuable instrument of manipulation and political control. The perversion of language for social engineering purposes is increasingly frequent, which denigrates those being controlled and represents one of the great threats of our time. Even more serious is the fact that those who are normally attacked by this vulgar use often try to copy their adversaries in the opposite direction. Action-Reaction. There is no real opposition to such snares in politics. This all will be paid by ordinary citizens, including those who support it.

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