The most effective way of making people accept the validity of the values they are to serve is to persuade them that they are really the same as those which they, or at least the best among them, have always held, but which were not properly understood or recognized before. The people are made to transfer their allegiance from the old gods to the new under the pretense that the new gods really are what their sound instinct had always told them but what before they had only dimly seen. And the most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning. Frederich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom.
As we Americans look out across the political and societal landscape, we are constantly made aware of one threat after another to our well-being and liberty. This website and many other conservative news outlets brim with warnings of threats like climate change hysteria, ever-expanding state power, deterioration of morals, etc. However, there is one resurgent tendency of the Left that I find more dire than all the others combined: the willingness and success with which modern day liberals change the meaning of our language.
A recent example was when President Obama used the words “unprecedented” and “extraordinary” to describe the Supreme Court merely doing its job reviewing Obamacare.
In another example, during a speech at an Associated Press luncheon, President Obama called Paul Ryan’s budget plan, with its modest spending cuts, “thinly veiled social Darwinism” and “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity.” He said the plan would “impose a radical vision on our country” and was a “prescription for decline.”
What??? So let me get this straight: Passing a 2000 page health care bill during the dark of night by which the federal government would force citizens to buy something merely as a function of being born and seize control of one-sixth of the economy is not “social Darwinism,” “antithetical” to our heritage, “radical,” or a “prescription for decline”—but attempting to balance the budget is!
More recently, Obama attempted to justify his proposed tax increase known as the “Buffett Rule” by stating: “That means we can’t afford to keep spending more money on tax cuts for wealthy Americans…” So according to the President whatever the government doesn’t take from you it “spends”.
Hayek described a tactic of the totalitarian Left. Obama’s statements about the Supreme Court and the Ryan budget are more of the same. Not only does he try to make the terms mean the opposite of what they really do, but also, ironically, his accusations fit himself. Psychologists might call it “projection”: assigning to others what he himself is doing.
Government control over your healthcare decisions, not freedom to choose, is a “prescription for decline”; out of control government social programs are “spending” not refusal to increase the tax rate; having a sitting President threaten and scold the third branch of government is “antithetical” to the Constitution, not the third branch’s doing its job.
The brilliant Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, speaking after his years in the Gulag, said that the most difficult thing about living under Soviet oppression was the “non-stop bombardment with lies, lies, lies .…” How can we have a discussion of the issues when the opposition plays fast and loose with language? Conservatives must be ever diligent to ensure that they are not worn down by this perversion of language.