Yes, the title has been used by others. But the motif is critical to political combat in our time.
Words are weapons. Words are tools. Define or be defined! — Michael Emerling
I read in this morning’s news sweep that a Republican Congresswoman, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), has introduced a “Women’s Rights” bill. The Left and its Congressional stooges are outraged at this. First, the Democrats feel that “women” are one of their proprietary constituencies, so the Republicans are “trespassing.” Second, Lesko’s bill has the unmitigated audacity to give a definition for a woman! While this should be a great help to future Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will henceforward have a handy reference point should she ever again be questioned on the matter, the Left and its evangelist-transgenderist cadre are up in arms over it.
The Left’s misuse of words, and its insistence that their original meanings no longer apply, is one of their more effective weapons against normality. It exploits the reluctance of normal persons to enter into a confrontation with them. In ceding the field to their distortions, we cede the battle as well, for he who defines the terms of the debate can guarantee himself a victory.
This has been going on for some time, of course. The list is fairly long: “climate change,” “hate speech,” “racist,” “I identify as,” “speech is violence,” and other nonsense phrases have been wrapped around our discourse with a strangling intensity. Putting appropriate meanings to the important ones (and dismissing the rest with prejudice) is vital. The process cannot begin until we resolve to take up rhetorical cudgels in our own defense.
I recently read of an encounter between a conservative and a leftist in which the following concluding exchange occurred:
Leftist: You’re a racist!
Conservative: (smiles broadly) Why, thank you!
The leftist was apparently completely flummoxed by the reply. I can easily understand why. To him, the insult was mortal. It should have elicited either a cringing defense or a resort to blows. Upon getting an expression of gratitude in reply, he was disarmed. He had no way to proceed from that point.
There’s a trick buried in there. Whether sincerely or otherwise, the conservative chose to interpret being called racist as praise. Perhaps in his reply he was saying “That means that I understand and accept the differences among the races, and that you’ve acknowledged the fact.” he did what the Left habitually does to us: he redefined the term to suit himself. And in that case at least, it worked beautifully.
There are probably other pejoratives – “sexist,” “homophobic,” “transphobic,” and so forth – to which the same reply would function equally well.
Note that the Left has completely replaced the old shibboleth, “global warming,” with its new bludgeon “climate change.” This one is insidious, for the climate is always changing. Indeed, it changes from district to district and person to person within each district, for a simple reason that requires only six words to express: “Climate” is just weather we expect.
A leftist tried to trip Senator Ted Cruz with this one, but Cruz was too smart for him:
Leftist: Senator, do you believe in climate change?
Ted Cruz: The climate’s always changing. What’s your point?
Once again, the leftist was disarmed. He had to bare the blade concealed within the undefined term “climate:” the suggestion that the changes are catastrophic in nature, in large measure due to human activity, and must be halted if not reversed by altering human activity, probably through coercive means. He did, but he was equally unprepared for Cruz’s reply, and the conversation soon lapsed.
I could go on from here, but the core of the thing is uniform: We must not let the Left get away with changing or twisting the meanings of words. Even if the only response you can make to one engaged in rhetorical distortion is “You’re an idiot,” it should be made. Reclaiming the language, such that what we say to one another can be clearly understood, isn’t just an important political tactic; it’s also a moral obligation. Some years ago, in a column at Townhall.com, Maggie Gallagher captured the reason:
Then all our statements are mere instruments of manipulation:
Attempts to use one another, or to avoid being used.
And of course our only avenue for expressing the truth is language: the words we use, expecting (if not hoping) that they will be understood as we understand them.