“Words shape how we think; they color how we see the world,” Michael Knowles says in his latest book, Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds.
Indeed – the words we know and use have a direct impact on our ideas, our beliefs, and our ability to communicate potently. All three of these are crucial in the ideology war. We need the right ideas, we need the right beliefs about these ideas, and we need to be able to communicate these ideas and beliefs in a manner that is emotional, motivating, and clarifying.
An example of the power of language in the ideology debate can be found on page seven:
The history of ‘same-sex marriage’ offers a telling glimpse into the ultimate purpose of political correctness: to achieve political ends without having to engage in electoral politics. One cannot really speak of a debate over same-sex marriage in the United States because there never was any debate. Before any such debate could take place, politically correct wordsmiths had redefined marriage to include monogamous same-sex unions and in so doing redefined the central question of the debate from nature to rights. The question ‘what is marriage?’ passed quickly to ‘who has the right to get married?’ presupposing that the first issue had already been settled in the radical’s favor.
Because marriage had already been redefined, the question was settled, almost automatically, in favor of same-sex unions. Marriage was no longer between just a man and a woman, it could be between any number of any sort of people – and therefore, the right to be married isn’t just for a male-female union, but for any type of union. Rights are in the definitions.
Another example of this is self-defense. What is self-defense? The true definition can be found in the Book of Mormon: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.” The true definition includes choice and accountability, weapons, and justice. Inside of it, demanded by the very definition, is the right to keep and bear arms.
The new definition involves masks and hand sanitizer and social workers – and inside of it, demanded by the very definition, is the ‘right’ to obey the government. The ‘right’ to fear. The ‘right’ to a complete lack of responsibility and accountability.
But is language the means, or the end? The medium, or the finem?
Michael Knowles has something to say about that, too:
Most people recognize that language plays a role in leftist ideology. But the relationship goes further than that. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell describes the relationship between the politically correct lexicon Newspeak and the English socialist regime IngSoc. ‘Don’t you see the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?’ asks a member of the totalitarian party. ‘The revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is IngSoc and IngSoc is Newspeak.’ The same might be said of political correctness and leftism. A man who believes he is a woman must at all times be called a ‘trans woman,’ or better still just a ‘woman,’ because leftist ideology demands a liberation so radical that a man can become a woman simply by saying so. Language does not merely reinforce the ideology but actually constitutes it.
In other words, the constantly-changing vocabulary of leftism isn’t just their methodology, but their ideology.
At the same time, their ideology is a constant cycle of destruction. Amala Ekpunobi, a former leftist now employed by PragerU, says that leftism is in a constant cycle of self-consumption. The rules of what is accepted – required, even – in order to ‘be a good leftist’ is constantly changing. These rules are very strict, and if you deviate even 1%, or forget one time, or make one mistake, the left will come after you.
This can be seen quite clearly in the French Revolution. After the political right was destroyed following the death of Louis XVI, the left went through this cycle of radicalizing, splitting, and then killing the less radical portion – the new right.
This can explain why the vocabulary of the left must change so constantly – the old words get eaten. Steven Pinker said, “The euphemism treadmill shows that concepts, not words, are primary in people’s minds. Give the concept a new name, and the name becomes colored by the concept; the concept does not become freshened by the name, at least not for long.”
In other words – once a word is attached to an idea, the idea pollutes the word, not the other way around. The “bitter batter” can only “make [the] batter bitter.” A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – likewise, communism by any other name is evil, stupidity by any other name is just as foolish, and opinions by any other name are still biased and almost definitely false.
We can call Identity Fascism “social justice,” but it is still wrong, and will lead to the destruction of the United States as we know it – and the majority of people will take note and come to stand against it, however long it may take. However, there are three side effects to this renaming which can be quite advantageous to the left: first, it influences public opinion long enough that action can be taken; second, it makes it harder to stand against this renamed thing (who wants to be against social justice? It sounds like a good thing, right!?), especially for politicians interested in seeking reelection; and third, it isolates good people – a direct consequence of the second, for if people don’t want to be against social justice, they will stay silent, and that silence encourages others to remain silent too, until all that is to be heard is a screaming minority in favor of social justice and Identity Fascism.
This is likely a large factor in why “[c]onservatives quibble over procedure, but they largely leave the substantive issues alone, even when the public largely agrees with their beliefs.” The language illusion is powerful, intimidating, and isolating. It’s hard to fight when we (a) don’t know exactly what we’re up against; (b) think that we’re alone in our perception and disagreement; and, (c) are scared of what people – including the mainstream media – think about us.
This redefinition is also a powerful way to push an agenda. Even if the word and the agenda aren’t recognizably related, everything connects – and a belief in one subject can be extended to another subject.
Michael Knowles shared a fantastic example of this:
Woodrow Wilson, the most consciously progressive president in the history of the United States, explained the irreconcilable difference between these two political frameworks by way of scientific example. The Founding Fathers and framers of the Constitution, Wilson contended, established constitutional government because they lived under the sway of Isaac Newton, who believed that eternal and fixed laws governed nature. But now, Wilson explained, we live in the age of Charles Darwin, who has demonstrated that nature is never fixed but always ‘evolving,’ and therefore our politics must acknowledge this discovery, ditch the old fixed rules, and ‘evolve.’
As showed in that example, Woodrow Wilson extended a scientific belief – evolution – to politics. The result? Natural law and constitutional government are written off. It’s so simple, too – popular beliefs are popular beliefs, and ‘science’ is hard to stand against.
So are there any solutions? Can the language monster be defeated? Can natural law emerge triumphant from the ideology war?
‘Choice’ will not suffice to save the Western mind. Dithering conservatives must make choices themselves. Not only must they defend the cultural tradition that the revolutionaries ruthlessly and relentlessly criticize, but they must also actively oppose the radical curricula that those revolutionaries are installing in its place. Not only should universities teach classes on Shakespeare, but they should not offer courses on Cardi B or Underwater Basket Weaving or Lesbian Dance Theory, all of which have actually appeared in recent years at American activities. Such courses need not actively oppose the Western tradition to effect the radicals’ goals. Whether subversive or merely frivolous, these courses waste students’ time and keep them away from the great works that made the great cultures now fading before our very eyes.
We cannot allow leftist ideology to take over our institutions. Yes, we have rights! And yes, this is America! But something calling and actively for the destruction of our nation and way of life should not be tolerated.
Free speech cannot be an open plain, nor can it be a jungle; it must be a delicately manicured garden. As long as conservatives defend free speech as a neutral, natural state rather than as a substantive product of our culture’s keenest insight and best traditions, we will lose.
Speechless – if we lose the language war, we lose the ideology war.
“Speechles: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds” by Michael Knowles
Various episodes of Will & Amala Live (a PragerU podcast)
Book of Mormon, Alma 46:12
“United States of Socialism: Who’s Behind it. Why It’s Evil. How To Stop It.” by Dinesh D’Souza