General Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

How much does language matter?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (26424points) 3 weeks ago

Is it possible people might be more open to the concept of “defunding” the police if it didn’t sound like a total abolition of law enforcement? Would some people be more likely to support that concept if it were framed as a reallocation of funding toward other programs that can provide services in a way that is both helpful to the police and the communities they (are supposed to) serve?

Do you think people might be more open to understanding the concept of systemic racism if it were not lumped in with the classic understanding of “racism” as actively hating people with a different skin color?

Of course, there will always been people who lean into extreme perspectives and would never accept these types of concepts, but isn’t it possible that not framing it in such a way might reach those who don’t? Does the language that we use to discuss these things have an impact on how receptive other people will be to new ideas?

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39 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Language matters a lot. How something is framed affects how well it is received, how much people are willing to consider a proposal.

I have had people who reacted negatively to “systemic racism” be open to considering “structural” or “Implicit bias”.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Yes, absolutely. I am surprised that everyone did not quickly realize that “reform” was an accurate description and “defund” will forever be used to whip up hysteria among the uninformed.

Jeruba's avatar

Somebody, perhaps the Moonies or a similar cult, said “Own the language and you own the mind.”

Jaxk's avatar

Defund means: “prevent from continuing to receive funds” (Oxford dictionary). So if you mean something else, say something else.

gorillapaws's avatar

Universal “access” to healthcare. It’s a different context, but illustrates the power of language. It’s the equivalent of saying we all have universal “access” to super yachts (assuming you have the money to buy it).

jca2's avatar

I find a lot of it to be sensationalistic, attention-grabbing headlines to get people to click.

LostInParadise's avatar

Words matter a lot. Think of all the connotations associated with the words life and choice when someone describes themselves as being pro-life or pro-choice.

hmmmmmm's avatar

Language does matter to some degree. But it’s very important not to “soften” language in order to appeal to the right. The right will see through this anyway, or go completely off the deep end and just accuse people of being ____ (whatever they want). Remember how Obama, who is a textbook capitalist, was called a “socialist” for years? Embrace the language so you can own it and get down the concepts behind the language.

People often get hung up about wanting the language to appeal to the most people that they end up watering down their actual positions and allowing the entire issue to be framed by their supposed opponents.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Defund means: “prevent from continuing to receive funds”

My guess is that is the quick way for a mayor and/or city council to take action. Just like Congress can cut funding (remember the “sequesters”) of executive agencies.

The goal is fundamental restructuring and restoring service. The immediate first step is defunding.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

It matters !

The mechanism the City Council is using is to take money away from units within the Police department, defund them.

They did that in Charlotte, North Carolina by taking the money away for tear gas and other chemical items. The Charlotte police spent $100,000 so far this year on tear gas and other chemicals like pepper spray; they are not getting any more.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, it matters. But it’s also important for people use their heads and not come up with idiotic ideas like we’re going to do away the the police forces all together just because of clumsy wording.

Yellowdog's avatar

You have to listen to what the politicians are saying, in order to understand that they mean what they say.

Lisa Bender, the Minneapolis City Council president, said we need to re-think living without police. Instead of calling 9–11. you can call a friend, or family member, or trusted social worker..

Don’t take my word for it—listen to what these politicians are proposing.

JLeslie's avatar

It matters a tremendous amount in my opinion. I have been saying this all along. To communicate your message well and influence people you need to use language that is understood by the masses.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

But it’s also important for people use their heads and not come up with idiotic ideas like we’re going to do away the the police forces all together

It is now accepted truth among conservatives that Democrats want police forces completely eliminated.

We are going to hear this again and again during the election.

Yes, it is idiotic. That is not any barrier to their beliefs.

Demosthenes's avatar

Yes unfortunately we are going to be hearing that Democrats want to completely abolish policing just as we hear that they want open borders. But ultimately I agree with @Yellowdog. Listen to the politicians to know exactly what it is they’re proposing. “Defund the police” is a protest slogan. Often politicians support something less drastic (or sometimes not). I’m for calling a spade a spade, not watering down and muddling things with euphemisms and doublespeak. If you mean “abolish police”, then say so.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Lisa Bender, the Minneapolis City Council president, said we need to re-think living without police. Instead of calling 9–11. you can call a friend, or family member, or trusted social worker..

Calling the police when a mentally disturbed person needs help has been ill-advised for a long time. They can get killed or beaten. I have personally had a crazed neighbor kid (24 years old and bigger than me) who was threatening me. I carried a bat and mace just to get my mail. Still, I was reluctant to call the police until his parents said go ahead when necessary.

And the same goes for black families – call the police and there is a good chance they will arrest or kill the crime victim.

gorillapaws's avatar

I certainly think they could create a mental health unit that would include mental-health professionals, police and people specially trained to handle mental illness, and deescalation techniques.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I’m more fascinated with the fact that whatever the language or intent on either side of any issue in this country, the one solid effect every time is a spike in gun sales.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s a good example of believing everything you read @Yellowdog. I can’t find any evidence that Lisa Bender said that. It would be a stupid thing to say.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know “it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.” From the AP.

Yellowdog's avatar

I’ve seen the sound clip over five tines, @Dutchess_III

I at first thought she was the mayor.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I can’t find any evidence that Lisa Bender said that. It would be a stupid thing to say.

It is reasonable if you read it as “we can use police less”.

But I think conservatives are leaping on it as “proof” confirming the cartoonish fantasies they have about “the Libs”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well post the sound clip here or I call BS @Yellowdog.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

B S I called it

She didn’t say that but @Yellowdog heard that !!

filmfann's avatar

Reorganize the Police or Unburden the Police communicates the movement plan better.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I can only imagine how different this discussion would be across the board if we were talking about “unburdening” the police.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m so old I remember when “Anti-abortion” groups changed their name to “Pro-Life.”
Language absolutely matters.

MrGrimm888's avatar

It’s interesting that I just saw this this thread.
I was in my local grocery store, today. In the meat department, I saw a sign, by the chicken. It said “all chicken meat, is grown, and ’harvested, in the USA.”

“Harvested,” was clearly chosen, over “slaughtered… I found this revealing…

Yes. Language, and/or context, plays a major role in many ways.

Many parts of government provided assistance, are underfunded. Public Education, Law enforcement, Fire departments, Mental health care, etc…

Many of these things, would benefit ALL communities, with better funding.
So. The terminology, should be more wisely chosen.

give_seek's avatar

This is an important question. Thank you for asking it. I do believe the discussion would be much different if the wording matched what is being proposed.

Yellowdog's avatar

@LuckyGuy Pro-life groups have always called themselves that, since 1973. It was a play on the word proliferation. When I was in journalism school in the 1980s, we weren’t allowed to use the word ‘pro-life.’ We had to say Anti-Abortion but never pro-abortion. We had to say “Pro-choice”. It never made sense that pro life / proliferation was forbidden, but pro-choice, a reaction to the pro-life adage, was standard in the Associated Press stylebook.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Yellowdog Since we agree that words do matter, can you think of any reason why “pro-abortion” and “pro-choice” may be communicating different ideas?

Yellowdog's avatar

I think people should be called what they want to be called (unless they steal someone else’s label(.

Pro abortion people want to be called pro-choice—emphasizing that they want to leave the option open. Pro life people believe the baby’s right to life is sacrosanct. Whichever side one choses, just call people want to be called. And represent their position fairly.

There are a lot of reasons one may not like the other person’s position. But state so with facts. Don’t make stuff up to persuade people.

I’m fine with calling ALL factions of the pro-life and pro-choice sides what they want to be called.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Yellowdog In 1970 I went to watch a protest between two groups: Planned Parenting and Anti-abortion. (I told you I was old.)
Everyone has learned the language lesson.

jca2's avatar

@Yellowdog: I’ve heard conservatives on Fluther refer to “Pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice.” It makes it sound like we’re gung-ho about abortions.

Yellowdog's avatar

Yeah, 1970 IS before anything I’d remember. I’ve just seen the word pro-life around since the mid-1970s, Was artificially-induced abortion ever referred to as “aborticide”? I heard that once on a radio program, but never found that word used in literature.

jca2's avatar

Here’s my May 2019 question regarding abortion, and you’ll see some discussion about the term “pro-abortion.” The question has over 300 responses.

https://www.fluther.com/214232/what-is-your-personal-opinion-on-abortion/

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Language manipulation has been and is still a powerful political and institutional tool. The pen is mightier than the sword holds weight.

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