Fixing the Word Lies

Republicans have become masters at framing the political conversation to their own beliefs. This has lead to huge falsehoods, as voters accept their distortions and half-truths without examining them, an effort greatly aided by right wing bloviators who regularly spout outright lies with no apparent shame. This has gone far past any honest attempt to present the conservative position in favorable terms. The public pronouncements of the current Republican presidential hopefuls are beyond reality. Much of what they say is not just distortion. It is lies on top of ignorance on top of intellectual failure.

The terms the right uses do not arise organically from their commonly accepted meanings. The terms they use are the result of careful decisions by the party that crafted them. They are consciously decided upon and distributed to the party faithful, who pound them into the public consciousness by endless repetition. (George Lakoff has written a number of important books and articles on the subject.)

Democrats must use the same tactics to return the political sphere to reality. Consider the environment. It is impossible for “the environment” to be something that Democrats are trying to foist on poor, unsuspecting citizens, yet that is exactly what conservatives claim. Nobody owns the environment. The environment is not, and cannot be, a special interest group, as the previous president claimed. “The environment” cannot steal your job. The very term has been so distorted by the right, that people don’t even understand that the environment is actually where we live, all of us. It is our life-support system. But it is too late to correct the distortion, so Democrats should always speak of “our life-support system” when referring to the natural surroundings in which we live. It is easy to be “against the environment” when one is told it is a “special interest” that irresponsible Democrats are using to get rich, or is “killing jobs”, or “crippling business”—all of which are false. It’s much more difficult to be against a natural system that allows you to live.

Likewise, an accurate term must be found and used for every single deformed meaning the right has concocted. In each case, the very terms they use should be avoided entirely, because the public understanding of them has been led completely astray from what the term actually signifies.

Conservatives have given much effort to demonizing public monies, even for things like education and transportation, but especially monies that are used to assist individuals citizens who need them. Their followers are apparently convinced that nobody actually needs such assistance, and most of it is simply mooching off the public dime. They don’t even realize that most people make extensive use of this government assistance (see here, for examples).

Therefore, Democrats must use terms that accurately reflect the true purpose and need for such money. And they must consistently use these terms, so that right wing distortions are countered. The same is true of virtually all of the terms the right has distorted by misuse, many of them fundamental to the functioning of a mature society.

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