The 1. Introduction
The importance of language has been recognised for centuries in academic, philosophical and social literature. Hundreds and hundreds of papers and books have been written on this topic. So, you may wander ask is new here?
My focus is on an area which has been perhaps less explored in recent times: the practice of changing the language of highly questionable ideas to make them acceptable to naïve and less well-informed people. This was of course well understood during the 20th century. After all, the propaganda machines of Mao and Stalin used language effectively to promote the ‘wonders and the joy’ of socialism and hiding the brutal nature of their regime.
The brutality is gone in most parts of the world, but the practice of changing the language to promote bad ideas and making them palatable to people remains. Let me give you some examples below.
2. Relabeling Neo-socialism as progressive capitalism
I highly respect American people and their achievements. But I do not understand, how some Americans can think of ‘liberal’ politicians as progressive when these politicians are promoting the idea of ‘progressive capitalism.’ After all progressive capitalism is just relabeling neo-socialism(https://www.aier.org/article/why-neo-liberalism-is-really-neo-socialism/). In the ‘progressive capitalist’ world, the central allocation of resources would ever increase, the production and supply of goods and services would be determined by some central authority and the allocations of goods and services would be determined by some bureaucracy. These features are the classical hallmarks of socialism.
Bernie Sanders is a Neo-socialist. He may have just pulled out of the Presidential race and is highly unlikely to run again, but as one of the commentators observed it, his legacy and socialist ideas will be carried on by the next generation of closet socialists(https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52230979).
It is sad, but understandable, that Bernie Sander’s support base has been high school kids and the young generation. They have never experienced socialism as previous generations have. Many of them may not appreciate how socialism and the Russian block (USSR) folded in the last decades of the 20th Century. Socialism failed as an economic and political model. Furthermore, many youngsters may not have heard of the atrocities of Stalin, Mao, the Khmer Rouge and other, still existing, socialist regimes, were and underpinned by brutal secret police to support the centralised decision makers.
One can only hope that young Americans will not be fooled by the change of language in the long run and will reject Neo-socialism just as Eastern Europeans did in the late 20th Century.
3. Relabeling illegal arrivals as refugees
The world has often had to cope with refugees. Many people were displaced after the two world wars in the last century. Also, many people escaped from their homeland after different civil wars and became refugees. Western countries have invariably accommodated refugees through different refugee programs.
There are well established procedures for refugees to arrive to their new ‘home land’ by the UN refugee program (https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/resettlement.html). Avoiding these procedures and breaching the borders of a country is an illegal, criminal activity. Just like it is a criminal activity on the streets of New York (or any other city as far as I know) to rob shops, to harm people etc. If the offender has an under age child with him or her whilst that person is being arrested for his/her crime, the child will be taken away from them.
But of course, the left leaning politicians and media relabeled illegal arrivals as refugees to create public sympathy for them and to decriminalise their illegal action in the public’s mind. But the public can only be fooled for so long by relabeling illegals as refugees. The European countries are ever increasingly objecting to the arrivals of these illegals and demand their governments to stop this process(http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/the-european-migration-crisis-in-2020-deja-vu/), just like President Trump aims to stop illegal arrivals on the southern border of the USA.
3.Relabeling Global warming to Climate Crises and Emergency
Initially there was global warming. The debate leading up to the 1997 Kyoto Agreement was about the environmental and social impact of global warming without using any dramatic language (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1009.2843&rep=rep1&type=pdf).
Leaving the scientific debate of global warming aside, proponents of global warming felt that their position and arguments are not getting enough ‘traction’, hence they changed their language. Global warming has been relabeled as climate change. All of a sudden, any significant weather events, such as seasonal hurricanes or bush fires, have been attributed to climate change regardless of whether historically those events were extremes or not.
As the public and many politicians were still not convinced about climate change caused by humans, the climate warriors changed the language again. Climate change has been relabeled as climate crises or climate emergency. Now we have climate emergency and crises although most Western countries will meet or exceed their Kyoto commitments on emissions.
I hope that public opinion will not be fooled by the change of language. Yes, we have to look after our planet, but we do not have a climate emergency. Scientific and technological developments will help us find solutions to global warming, even without hysterical language.
4. Key takeaways
Language is a powerful tool to influence people’s perception of ideas.
The label of progressive capitalism can not hide the fact that it is Neo-socilism.
Criminal activities can not be relabeled to make them palatable to society, like for example relabeling of illegal arrivals as refugees.
Relabeling global warming as global emergency does not make it a crisis.