- - Sunday, October 2, 2016


Nobody understood the close association between language that intentionally misleads and ideology that deliberately oppresses like George Orwell, the early 20th-century Englishman who coined so much of our political vernacular, the very words Big Brother, newspeak, memory hole, thoughtcrime and doublethink. He even has a credible claim to giving the Cold War its name.

In modern times, he said seven decades ago, the “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” The great enemy of clear language is insincerity, and politicians instinctively resort to long words and stale idiom, “like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

One politician who recognizes attempts to disguise intentions with convoluted phrases is Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who is particularly contemptuous of the left’s campaign, so far successful, sad to say, of “rebranding” itself as “progressive” instead of “liberal.” Having stunk up the old and honorable “liberal,” they knew they had to do something, and they’re well on their way to ruining another perfectly good word.

Ironically, the word “liberal” was earlier misconstrued, too. A liberal was originally someone who welcomed vigorous debate, who respected those who disagreed with him, and above all worked to preserve the universal freedom of every man (and woman) to say what he thinks. What was not to like? Along came political correctness, a liberal invention, and thus the urge to hide behind euphemism. The First Amendment, as we all have seen, is not any longer universally held as the republic’s founding holy writ.

Conservatives, the congressman writes in an op-ed essay in Investor’s Business Daily, have succumbed to the habit of not only referring to liberals as progressives, but of calling the national media — the newspapers and radio and television outlets — as “mainstream.” He notes that a recent Gallup Poll finds that 6 in 10 Americans say they have little or no confidence in the national media, and that by a 2 to 1 margin they think the national media projects a liberal bias. “How can the media be considered mainstream when it doesn’t represent a majority of the American people?”

Changing his name from “liberal” to “progressive” hardly indicates a change in the liberal’s world view, he observes. “They claimed this new name because the American people associated the term with being weak on crime and national defense, a loser on Election Day. Their desire for a new label does not change the fact that their policies are detrimental to the country. Using the word ‘progressive’ to describe liberals causes confusion and misleads the public. Why should Republicans [and conservatives] deliberately let Democrats [and liberals] define the terms of engagement?

But they do, and it’s a sad day for it. Teddy Roosevelt, who invented the progressive movement in the early years of the previous century, would not recognize the word today. It’s enough to make a man want to take a big stick to the thieves who appropriated the word.

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