The Words We Use
This is the first of several columns, to be written from time to
time, on the topic of words. Language both reflects a people's way
of thinking, and exerts a powerful effect on it. Whereas for centuries
our language transmitted the kind of thinking that represented America's
Founders, the past three decades have seen changes invariably dictated
by an agenda that seeks to transform the ways of this country from
top to bottom.
The impetus for this article comes from a lengthy report in the
March 5 edition of the Washington Post, entitled "Right-Wing
Violence on Rise in Eastern Germany." The impetus for the report
was an attack by shaved-head thugs on the fast-food stand of a Turkish
immigrant who, we are told, defended himself quite effectively with
a carving knife, and currently sports three bodyguards to "stand
watch at his establishment."
But the incident seems merely to provide an opportunity for the
real purpose of the report, revealed in the title and most of the
text. If the Washington Post intended to draw attention to a disturbing
trend in another country, the title would read "Attacks on
Foreigners in Eastern Germany." The title the editors came
to choose has little to do with Germany and everything to do with
an ongoing campaign in the United States.
The words "Right-Wing violence" are clearly aimed at
the American readership, evidenced also by the extraordinary length
of the "report." That length serves to hammer home time
and time again the key words at the heart of the article: "right-wing"
appears ten times, "violence" nine, and "extremist"
eight times. The words "xenophobic" and "neo-nazi"
are invariably coupled to assist skillful political operatives who,
as we know only too well, make the leap from "patriotic"
to "xenophobic" in one easy step.
What is being accomplished by these simple means is truly impressive.
First of all, calling thugs who practice gang violence "right-wing"
upgrades them to persons with a political philosophy. Next, every
American who may be described as "right-wing" is subliminally,
and not so subliminally, connected to thugs who practice gang violence.
Finally, everyone who defends American interests, and can thus be
made to appear xenophobic, is equated with "neo-nazism."
Of course, "right" and "left" have been around
a long time. But, increasingly since the 1960's, "left"
has been deleted from the vocabulary of those who seek to control
our vocabulary. For them, there are two forms of existence: "normal"
and "right-wing," witness the customary way of reporting
events, or the introduction of guests on talk shows. As one example
among thousands, CNN would introduce Susan Estrich as a "law
professor" and, opposite her, Michael Reagan as a "right-wing
talk show host."
The inference is that being "right-wing" is at best an
affliction, at worst a pathology.
Who today are the people of the "right wing"? As we survey
the political landscape of our country, we find the designation
applied to those who believe in the rule of law, in individual rights,
in the unobstructed acquisition, enjoyment, and disposition of property,
and in a common American identity. In other words, "right-wingers"
are those who believe in, and adhere to, the principles of the American
The fall of the Soviet Union, the commercialization of China, the
growth of conservative radio programs, and all the lip service President
Clinton pays to the conservative agenda, amount to an insignificant
side show as long as generation after generation grows up bombarded
with the insinuation that duly elected members of the Congress of
the United States, and grass-roots organizations, and philanthropies
that assist them, and ministers of the Church, and Americans who
honor the flag may be called "extremist" at the drop of
a hat, and are lumped together with thugs who live by gang violence.
How did we get here, and what do we do about it?
Contemporary usage of right and left is a product of the Communist
(Bolshevik) Party of the Soviet Union-1930's vintage-branding everyone
right-wing who deviated from, or disagreed with, its tenets. At
that time, all Americans, except for outright communists, were declared
right-wing. Since, at that same time, Nazi Germany considered Americans
to be on the left, "right" and "left" are clearly
devoid of intellectual integrity. Rather, they function as a tool
to stifle all opposition to socialist ideology.
Consequently, those who wish to oppose the spread of socialist
practices would do well to abstain from using both "right"
and "left." Moreover, anyone characterized as "right-wing"
has an opportunity to reject the designation on the spot, and to
challenge those who employ it. The latter ought to be called upon
to explain what they mean by "right-wing," then asked
how they would describe themselves. While such a discussion may
leave less time for the issue of the day, that is a price well-worth
paying. Potential long-term benefits outweigh most any statement
likely to be made on specific issues.
And what of giving up the useful political short-hand of right
and left, so handy in a world of sound bites? Liberating ourselves
from the increasing tyranny of a destructive vocabulary may well
be our only salvation in a world where monumental decisions are
made-not based on substance, but on the words we use.
"American" could be one of them; "socialist"