Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Redefining Terms

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”

(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

Clarity and simplicity are the hallmarks of truth.  This tends to be universal regardless of domain.  For example, in programming, there is the concept of elegance.  Elegant code is clean and precise, adheres to standardized naming conventions for variables and function, and, in consequence may be apprehended more quickly by subsequent coders who may need to augment and review.

In contrast “spaghetti code” refers to inconsistent hackery that might work sometimes, but is prone to error, hard to maintain, and hard to follow.

In a programming language like any other language, there are keywords that have specific meanings.  These are understood as givens which will not vary.  For example, the terms integer, character, string, float, boolean, and bit are immutable concepts which carry across practically all programming languages.  Even the particular syntax or terminology of the language doesn’t violate these precepts, eg character -> char, string -> cstring, boolean -> bool, etc.   Programming would become an impossibility if suddenly a string became boolean, an integer a string,  and so forth.  Confusion would reign.

In the political world, terminology is no less important than in the world of the programmer.  However, there has been a systematic effort to obfuscate and confuse terminology in order to usurp hitherto positive meanings and put them in the service of ideals which, in many cases, are opposite to the word’s original meaning.  Thus, the language of politics is twisted into a form of spaghetti code, intelligible only to those diligent enough to unravel its etymological history.

To be clear, this is not the doublethink that Orwell refers to with such phrases as “black is white”, “right is wrong”, “good is bad”, etc.  Instead this obfuscation is an effort to capture the positive aspects of a word like “liberal,” give it a new meaning, and repeat it often enough until the old meaning is completely forgotten.

F. A. Hayek comments on this in his forward to the American edition of The Road to Serfdom.

But there is one point of phraseology which I ought to explain here to forestall any misunderstanding.  I use throughout the term “liberal” in the original, nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain.  In current American usage it often means very nearly the opposite of this.  It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country, helped by the muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that “liberal” has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control.  I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium.

So ingrained into common usage is this bastardized  meaning, that the contemporary reader of Hayek’s seminal work must constantly fix the original and accurate meaning of the word in his mind as he makes his way through the book.

The term “liberal” is not the only word to undergo such a metamorphosis.  The Department of Justice’s refusal to prosecute the Black Panthers who stood in front of polling places wearing paramilitary garb, brandishing billy clubs, and threatening white voters, provides another example of  subversion of the language for political ends.  In a recent article in the Weekly Standard, the leftist (liberal in the current sense) Department of Justice definition of discrimination is summed up this way:

Liberal civil rights lawyers argue that because “a history of official discrimination” can be one subsidiary factor in voting cases it “wipes out every other factor” and prohibits cases from being brought against blacks. And further, that since “socio-economic” factors can be considered in determining whether voting discrimination has occurred, these cases cannot be brought against black defendants until there is economic parity between blacks and whites. Such attorneys use phrases like “traditional civil rights cases” and “traditional civil rights victims” to signal that only minority victims and white perpetrators concern them. Justice sources tell me that career attorneys have been “assured” that cases against minority defendants won’t be brought.

In other words, Obama’s Justice Department believes the civil rights laws exist only to protect citizens of certain races.

This is part of the leftist argument that persons of color cannot be racist.  One such advocate of this meaning summed up her definition this way:

People of color cannot be racist. As far as i understand things, racism emerges when the color of one’s skin becomes a way of controlling them through power instilled by the social hierarchy of race and color. I believe that there is a social hierarchy of race, with white/Euro folk on top (this is true worldwide) and black/African folk on the lowest tier. Yellow/Asian and brown/Latina This hierarchy has been defined and maintained by those in power, primarily the white folk. I believe that the black community has no power to control these definitions or hierarchy, but i also feel as though those in the middle of the hierarchy have the ability to define and control other folks based on race. For example, in Asian or Indian contexts i feel as though there is a racist society without the control of white folk, based on certain people of color controlling other people of color who they feel are “lesser.” Wouldn’t this be racism? I do feel as though people of color can be prejudiced, but this is different. In order to be racist, you have to have power afforded by your race and then use that power to control people who are socially viewed as less racially valuable.

This diverges from the traditional meaning of color blind justice that people should be judged “by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.” According to Obama’s Justice Department, we have now come full circle to the belief that race accounts for differences in character, ability and intention, and that a particular race is therefore entitled to advantages under the law not merited by others.

For instance, the activist group La Raza, (which means The Race) has a controversial slogan which, while contradicting the contention that people of color can’t be racist, confers special treatment: Por La Raza todo, Fuera de La Raza nada [“For the race everything, outside the race nothing”].

The concept of “rights” is  another term that the left is reinventing.  It is being changed from  individual protections against government interference, guarantees of freedoms which are worded in the Bill of Rights as prohibitions…

  • … shall make no law respecting …
  • … shall not be infringed
  • No Soldier shall, …
  • No person shall be held …

to a term meaning entitlement to benefits conferred by the government.

This is not an academic exercise in semantics. This is about truth, and about a threat  as real as any terrorist attack and more immediate because it is covert. If  “words can be made to say many different things,” reality changes, laws change. Think about children growing up today. Will they know the true meaning of the Founders words? Or will they be guided by a new lexicon. If that is the case, American will be transformed and who will know what has been lost?

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”

Think about that when you vote in November.

2 comments

1 Terrell AronSpeer { 10.31.15 at 1:33 pm }

The Founders would, of course, be appalled and so am I. A little stuffy, but nice work on the concept and the content. Keep up the good work.

[Reply]

2 Martin { 11.01.15 at 2:18 pm }

Thank you. I suppose 🙂

[Reply]

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