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Weasel Words & the Domination of Public Narrative

Weasle croppedWords have a lot more than just a definition. Words have associations. Words have rich emotional content. That emotional content is a powerful tool in communication.

Choosing the right word at the right time can take a sentence from blah to TADAH!!!! And just to prove that I can proof-text with the best of them, doesn’t Proverbs 15:23 say, “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!”? Hmmmmm…. I expected that to hurt, but I feel okay. Seared conscience, no doubt.

Words carry connotations that have a far more powerful effect on people than any definition can explain.

If I am preaching and want to talk about sexual relationships, (Please don’t tell me no one should ever preach about sexual relationships) I have a wide variety of words from which to choose. Some are so vague as to leave the youngsters in our midst completely ignorant of what I am saying… they will just go on their merry business doing whatever it is that youngsters these days do during sermons. I know what I used to do… if I wasn’t battling the slow slippage into a coma, I was pretending my fingers were a gang of roughians at war… I got in trouble a lot as you can imagine. I could choose other words for sex that would peal paint from the walls and give old women heart palpitations. I could be forensic, or crude, or hip, or allusive, positive or negative all in the choosing of a single word to reference the same exact thing.

Weasel words are usually classified as those words that one deliberately chooses in order to prejudice an audience for or against a thing… they are deliberately selected for their ability to manipulate the emotions, in order to adjust the mind.

Christians use weasel words when they describe anything even remotely sexual as PORNOGRAPHIC. Those of a more liberal frame of reference use weasel words when they describe even the most obscene things as “Adult Content.” The one seeks to vilify the other seeks to normalize.

The debate over “Illegal Immigrants” is colored alternately by “Undocumented Workers.” We might discuss certain actions in terms of “reverse discrimination” or “diversity.” The same person may be called “Fat” or “Plus Sized” or “Full-figured.”

Weasel words are used by many to intimidate people. “Sexist” or “Patriarchal” or “Misogynistic” is applied to anyone holding any opinion not supported by the national organization of women.

“Racist” is hurled at any white person who even attempts to do anything but champion every aspect of a minority communities life or desired public policies. Is there anything worse this side of slavery and Jim Crow laws than being racist? “But all I said was that I favored welfare reform.” “Too bad, you racist!”

“Pro-life” becomes “Anti-abortion.” Nobody wants to be AGAINST… that’s not positive and uplifting. What might be properly termed “Pro-death,” however, becomes “Pro-choice.” Nobody wants to say they favor death or killing… but who doesn’t love options.

If you think homosexuality is a sin then you call your position “moral” but those who favor homosexuality as a legitimate and even wonderful option will call you, “homophobic.” Yes, that’s right. If you don’t support the homosexual “lifestyle” you have a mental disorder.

Another function of weasel words is to take terms that have a lot of positive emotional clout with a community and to adopt those words for your positions even though your definitions are radically different.

“Equality,” “Freedom,” “Justice” & “Democracy,” when alternately defined radically change everything one hopes to achieve by employing them. The confusion helps shift old perceptions to new ones… after all who isn’t in favor of all of these things? They are the foundations of our society. Once we successfully transform a generation’s sense so that these hallowed terms DO mean what those who hijack traditional language mean by them, the work is half finished.

“Equality” can focus on equal process or equal results. Those who deem it to focus on making everyone come out the same after the fact radically change their sense of freedom and justice. “Freedom” becomes to these not a limiting of government to maximize the choices of individuals, but the enlarging of government to limit those deemed to have “advantage” and “privilege.” The government needs to limit freedom in order to promote an equalizing of freedom for those whose “accidents of birth” robbed them of the inclination or opportunity to make equal use of the processes once deemed equal by older definitions.  “Justice” only becomes justice when, regardless of input, everyone comes out the same… inequality of result is itself proof of “injustice.” Those who have are deemed to have because they have unjustly treated those who don’t have. Any system that has unequal results is a system in need of radical transformation (which is to say, every system) since the equality they seek is impossible.

“Democracy” is the new Socialism. I talk with people whose every political pulse is Socialist or Marxist or Anti-colonial Marxist, or even Communist, who all shun the labels that actually define them in favor of the label “Democratic.” Nobody from the cold-war era wants to be associated with these other rascals, but who doesn’t want to be democratic, who doesn’t want to be Progressive. Seriously, what’s the alternative to being progressive? Stagnant? Stuck in the mud? Digressing?

The point is this. Pay attention to the meanings of words and be aware when you are being manipulated. Recognize that everything you hear is saturated with weasel words meant to move your emotions first and your opinions thereafter.

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