KNIGHT: Twisting words into doublespeak

Confusion replaces clarity, and it’s no accident

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America is awash in doublespeak.

Words such as “marriage,” “conservatism,” “bigotry,” “tolerance” and “brave” no longer have universal meaning, and this is no accident.

When confusion replaces clarity, the devil breaks out the champagne. It’s so much easier to push people toward the abyss when the stop signs are edited to say “whatever.”

Doublespeak is “language which makes the bad seem good, the negative seem positive, the unpleasant seem unattractive, or at least tolerable,” wrote William Lutz, author of the 1996 book “The New Doublespeak.”

Washington Post reporter Theresa Vargas gave a perfect example in her recent article lauding benighted Maryland parents who are pushing for open homosexuality in the Boy Scouts. As for opponents, well, they’re only concerned about “legal liability” and “how Scout leaders will prevent same-sex dating during overnight trips.”

Yeah, that’s it — two boys sipping on straws from the same soda. Ever-vigilant to fight prudery in a debauched age, liberal journalists are utterly puritanical when it comes to this topic. Perhaps they don’t want people to think about it too much.

The prize for doublespeak goes to the Post’s “Right Turn” columnist Jennifer Rubin. Her hot buttons are “social conservatives” and the Tea Party. She frequently urges the Republican Party to throw them overboard or face oblivion.

Why stop there? In the Post’s Sunday Outlook section, she redefined conservatism itself in a full-page screed entitled “Tear Down This Icon: Why the GOP Has to Get over Ronald Reagan.” Ms. Rubin says the Gipper was in a time warp and should be discounted. “The old guard has become convinced that Reagan’s solutions to the problems of his time were the essence of conservatism — not simply conservative ideas appropriate for that era,” she writes.

Funny, you never hear Democrats disowning Franklin Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy. Republicans, on the other hand, are supposed to abandon their principles, their most reliable voting bloc and their heroes if they know what’s good for them.

Which of Reagan’s conservative views were ephemeral? Opposition to socialism and communism? Belief in American exceptionalism? Market-based economics? Belief in the sanctity of life? Suspicion of big government? Reverence for the Almighty?

Reagan’s lodestars were his faith in God, the Constitution and the strengths of a free, industrious people. Ms. Rubin urges us to cast him aside and replace him with, uh, whatever the cool people think is cool right now.

“The public face of the GOP can no longer be aging, ill-tempered Reaganites such as John McCain and Jim DeMint,” Ms. Rubin scolds, “but must give way to a diverse, media-savvy generation that understands the America we actually live in. Only then can the essence of conservatism — the promotion of personal liberty — survive, and the GOP along with it.”

It’s not surprising that someone who throws John McCain into the same basket with Jim DeMint would reduce “the essence of conservatism” to “personal liberty.” The latter is the product of a society built on God-given, unalienable rights that governments cannot create and can only secure.

Personal liberty, while profoundly important, is not an end in itself. Personal responsibility is just as important. Without it, conservatism becomes a shallow quest for self-fulfillment, a sort of New Age Conservatism. At that point, it’s a short trip to discovering one’s navel as the source of meaning.

Ronald Reagan championed industriousness, capitalism, personal sacrifice, patriotism, faith, kinship and community spirit. These things often interfere with one’s “personal liberty.” So do children, who help us to grow up and out of ourselves.

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