Twisting Words into Doublespeak
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 6, 2013 on The Washington Times website.
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.
Another word often abused by doublespeak is “tolerance.” It once meant living peaceably with those who might disagree. It grew out of the biblical conception of humility before God and the command to love one’s neighbor. Now it means waging war on the moral order in pursuit of faux “equality.”
“Tolerance,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “is the virtue of the man without convictions.” The people today who wield “tolerance” like a commissar’s bloody ax actually do not lack convictions; they just want to punish anyone who does not share theirs.
When pro basketball player Jason Collins “came out,” the media went nuts. He was toasted from coast to coast, received congratulatory phone calls from President Obama and Bill Clinton, and made magazine covers.
On May 1, Washington Post sportswriter Mike Wise joined the parade by bashing “Old Testament moral certainty” and denouncing anyone who “trumpeted their bigotry under the guise of ‘religious beliefs.'” There’s no hint in Mr. Wise’s vitriolic column that someone could possibly hold sincere, faith-based moral beliefs. Bullies like the oxymoronically named Mr. Wise are types that the Age of Tolerance is spawning by the truckload.
This brings us to our final word, which is “brave.” Mr. Collins was widely hailed as brave, but it’s the few people who dared question the wisdom of his volitional behavior who are brave.
A lynch mob is chasing ESPN the Magazine writer Chris Broussard because he reiterated classic Christian doctrine to an interviewer: “If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be — not just homosexuality, [but] adultery, fornication, premarital sex, whatever it may be — I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize him as a Christian.”
Another brave soul is Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who on April 30 tweeted: “In a land of freedom, we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness.”
Like openly devout quarterback Tim Tebow, Mr. Griffin and Mr. Broussard are the brave ones — rocks in a flood tide of insanity and cowardice.
As we watch word after word twisted into doublespeak by corrupt elites, it brings to mind George Orwell’s observation: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”