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linguaphile's avatar

What do you think of this article on 'weaponized language?'?

Asked by linguaphile (13242 points ) March 29th, 2012

I got this article from another forum, found it immensely interesting, and was wondering what the Fluther collective would say about this article

What do you think?

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12 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

This reminds me of a memo Newt Gingrich wrote for GOPAC, a Republican political training organization. The title was “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”. In it, he offered a list of words that he considered especially effective in attacking political opponents, and advocated using them liberally (so to speak). Here is his list:

abuse of power
anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
betray
bizarre
bosses
bureaucracy
cheat
coercion
“compassion” is not enough
collapse(ing)
consequences
corrupt
corruption
criminal rights
crisis
cynicism
decay
deeper
destroy
destructive
devour
disgrace
endanger
excuses
failure (fail)
greed
hypocrisy
ideological
impose
incompetent
insecure
insensitive
intolerant
liberal
lie
limit(s)
machine
mandate(s)
obsolete
pathetic
patronage
permissive attitude
pessimistic
punish (poor …)
radical
red tape
self-serving
selfish
sensationalists
shallow
shame
sick
spend(ing)
stagnation
status quo
steal
taxes
they/them
threaten
traitors
unionized
urgent (cy)
waste
welfare

6rant6's avatar

Well, yeah, we use language tricks to legitimize our position and demonize others. Duh.

“Stay the Course” “Mission accomplished” “DARE” “Moral Majority” “The 1 Per Cent.” “NORML” “Fur is murder” “Abortion is murder” “Meat is murder”

Nothing new here.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Interesting. Very. It reminds me of “new speak” from 1984.

linguaphile's avatar

What I find fascinating is how the history from that time, from Darwin’s theory to eugenics to the Holocaust still impacts us today. Darwin didn’t intend for his ‘survival of the fittest’ to become eugenics, but neither did Einstein expect his theory to help build bombs. Nevertheless, we still use weaponized language, but today it is far more subtle, i.e. genetic modifications, photoshopping models, etc. It’s almost like today’s weaponized language is negativity wrapped up in false positivity.

@6rant6 It says “History of…” so yes, I would expect it would be nothing new. Just because it’s ‘nothing new’ doesn’t mean we should give up being concerned about it, calling attention to it and doing something about it.

@thorninmud—that’s scary and many of his listeners have fallen for that. I bet many advertising and public relations agencies and other pundits have their own lists as well.

augustlan's avatar

Very interesting! I don’t know what to do about it, mind you, but it’s definitely interesting to think about.

ETpro's avatar

Ugh. Not a proud legacy—nor is it one that has abated a bit in this day. I’d like to stay above such a fray, but when attacked with weaponized language, I admit that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law comes to mind and often to the words I write in response to the attack.

ratboy's avatar

We must eradicate this plague of cunning linguists before our language is irreversibly contaminated!

flutherother's avatar

It is no coincidence that the word ‘spell’ which means to say the letters of a word is also a magical incantation.

ETpro's avatar

@flutherother Wow! I had never thought of that. Had I known, I would have taken far greater interest in learning proper “spelling.”

linguaphile's avatar

@flutherother I never thought about that either! Umm… There are so many words whose etymologies really bring out what the word means— matrimony for example. This is one of my favorite web sites.

This is not exactly about weaponized language, but an interesting occurrence along the same lines of discussions about power… Yesterday, we had an assembly where the purpose of different organizations was shared with the students. One student (one that planned to bomb our school, actually) turned to me and said, “It’s sad that we have to have organizations to advance our causes. We have to depend on organizations?!?” I explained to him that minorities often have to have organizations because of their positions in society, that women outnumber men, but because of the lack of political power, they have organizations and that the political systems look at numbers before listening. He got really upset and said that was completely stupid—why is a group’s voice more valid than an individual’s?? I could only reply, “Good point.”

Then he said, “Umm… so… if all of us got together, would that mean all the white men who are Protestant, rich and have nothing ‘wrong’ with them would be way outnumbered?” Yep.

6rant6's avatar

I don’t think it’s correct to say that the mystical power of words caused people to use the word spell. Rather, I believe that “spell” meant the series of steps one must take to arrive at a sought after ending. Come to think of it, it’s surprising we don’t refer to software as “spells” instead of “programs.”

Salem88's avatar

@listen to Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” oh, so down right moist, sweaty, change-the-sheets sexy. And I’m a “White Magic Woman.

Also, give a smile for “Cinnamon Girl”! Who wouldn’t want to be driving down the road in a ‘69 MGB – classic – full volume with that! Oops, been there done that.mmmmmmmmmmmm

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