Language Gymnastics in the Public Discourse By Christopher Hunt
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
By Christopher Hunt
Language Gymnastics Are Reaching New Heights
Words. Language. What is their purpose? The purpose of words and of language is the communication of truth, ideas, facts and emotions. It is not the purpose of words and language to deceive. Words should convey a clear meaning. There have always been people keen on deception that have misused words and language. We have the beautiful orators known as the Sophists. That is where we get the word “sophistry.”
Words are abused in myriad ways. The simple use of terms like “escort” to refer to a prostitute or “choice” to describe the termination of a biologically different life developing in the mother’s womb are examples of this abuse. The first is to make less shameful the act of procuring a prostitute (which could lead to trafficking underaged girls), the other to frame the debate over a supposedly prevailing right to terminate the life of the most vulnerable in our society, without any respect to the dignity of a developing human.
Lakoff and Dean talk about “framing the debate” in their book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” Debate frames can be honest (social justice) or dishonest (an invading army in reference to refugees at the southern border).
As a matter of historical context, Dr. Bella Dodd (Communist agent converted back to Catholicism) speaks about this ‘art’ of doublespeak in her book, “School of Darkness” as does Skousen (Former FBI agent tasked with fighting communist infiltration in the United States) in his book “The Naked Communist.” This technique functioned in such a manner that indoctrinated communists, when hearing a speech from a communist organizer or politician speaking to a crowd would hear a completely opposed message than what the uninitiated heard.
In our day we have such organizations as the New Pro Life Movement (NPLM) using the same method of co-opting and corrupting the language of the real prolife movement. The NPLM downplayed the old pro-life movement as people that do not care about the mothers and only want to force them to have unwanted babies. They have developed a misleading propaganda against the real pro-life movement, at least to the extent it is publicly known, and they are stealing and corrupting the language. The point here is not about religion but to the seeming deviation from the objective, intrinsic value and dignity of life.
As we peer in another direction of this language conundrum, we have the confusing of gender over biological sex. “Male” and “female,” “him” and “her,” these and other words are being made to be meaningless. Marriage no longer means a long-term commitment and bond between husband and wife. Soon it may be used to signify a bond between a gendered “they” with their cat. Indeed, the City Council of Sommerville, Massachusetts recently approved an ordinance with language inclusive of polyamorous domestic partnerships so at least they did not think marriage could be further expanded too, for now.
Death with dignity. Three words that have been corrupted beyond all imagination. These words mean accelerating the death of the aged and the infirm. What is dignified in helping, facilitating and accelerating the death of your parent, grandparent, spouse, child, sibling or patient? Yet, we have an organization with this as its name which has as its goal the legalization of assisted suicide across the entire United States.
The corruption of language subtly or grossly misleads and affects our ability to think clearly and concisely. The abuse of language opens up avenues of thought that are decrepit. Language, its use and abuse dictates much of our thought. The cultural relativism and twisted public discourse have reached heights in our society that are unfathomable.
Do you find yourself at wits’ end? We certainly do. Where do we go from here? A few suggestions to maintain a healthy, independent and critical mind. We must read and study sound philosophy. We must grow our vocabulary and learn to use words for good, for the common good. We must develop the skills of debate and rhetoric. Storytelling is one of the most popular practices in communication and so we must remain vigilant of its ethical and truthful use and certainly to lead by example.