Verbal Subterfuges 2023-05-15

     The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. — George Orwell

     With the above, Orwell hit near but not quite on the mark. He crept closer to the bull’s-eye with his conception of Newspeak, in which a character posited that “thoughtcrime” could be made impossible simply by eliminating the words required to think it:

     “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it….The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak.”


     The perversion of language is critical to the destruction of a society. But there are discrete “fronts” in such an attack. The famous observation that appending “social” to any other abstract noun inverts its meaning is one such front. Here’s another: a clever one in which words that wear haloes are combined to destroy the meanings of both:

     During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki,” McGill Johnson told host Jen Psaki that the reason why she’s calling for changes to the nation’s court system is due to recent attacks “on our democratic rights and our democratic freedoms.”

     John Hinderaker, who cites this bit of verbal prestidigitation, has one focus: the attempt to defame the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision. I have another: the prefixing of “democratic” to the words “rights” and “freedoms.”

     There is nothing less “democratic” than a right. Rights arise from our nature as human beings. To call them “democratic” is to say that they depend on the willingness of the majority to tolerate them. The same can be said about “freedom.” If you are free by right, then “democracy” has nothing to do with it, except as concealment for the plans of those who seek to make you unfree.

     I know many of my Gentle Readers feel beleaguered by events. I know further that to be forever “on the lookout” for practices such as these is especially wearying. But at the very least, be ready to snort in contempt when one happens by. They’re more important to the “progressive” undermining of our country’s values than I could capture in any words of my own.