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Conservatives Have Kidnapped Our Language


Conservatives Have Kidnapped Our Language

David Morris

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me.” A fine sentiment, but any child subjected to cyber bullying knows that words do indeed matter.

Language evolves. Sometimes a word that once was negative becomes positive, like “terrific” which originally meant terrifying. Sometimes a word that was once positive becomes negative, as when “awful” changes from awe inspiring to very bad.


The word 'demonize' is also interesting. Taking the 'de' (to divide) and 'mon' (an interestingly ubiquitous phoneme recognizing forms of identity that crosses innumerable language differences) one encounters a core struggle of human direct experience and expression of sound and meaning.
I'm reminded of the Buddhist chant of compassion, 'OM' to transcend the divisiveness and fragmentation arising from ego centered perception. Interesting to think of the clarity of the sound "mmm" as equally ubiquitous affirmative expression of shared meaning. Both reflect an internal architecture of integration with a scope of holistic being that is 99.9% of communication that dominating western societies dismiss and extract from and are in constant struggle to regain.


Orwell called it Newspeak. Goes with Doublethink and Thoughtcrime.


Perhaps today it should be termed bumper-sticker-speak.


Those interested in this topic and anyone contemplating running for office, reading "The Political Brain" by Drew Westen is a must. Then check the publications of George Lakoff to understand how to frame the message.


I wish there were people on the liberal-progressive side of things who had enough name recognition to have a platform of some kind who knew how to fight with words. The Right is vulnerable to satirical assault but nobody is effectively flinging their mean spirited stupidity back at them.

People whine when I say stuff like that and saying WE can't get an opposing point of view across because the media are too big and powerful and won't let an opposing point of view be heard. So WE are going to all die from being too "nice" to tell them what assholes they're being.


I don't know. I'm finding the comments so far non-combative and the subject of the article itself understated.

The plant saxifrage can break down boulders. The stuff that alters the fundament does seem to be verbal.

The question then becomes, "Why are the superficial persons of the right wing able to coin words that affect while others are not?"

It starts for me with Peggy Noonan's "thousand points of light." Peggy was an English major who had read Wordsworth's "Composed upon Westminster Bridge." She turned morning into night without having the ability to think her way out of a paper bag.

One time I was in a psychology class that toured a mental hospital. A student asked the inmates what card game they were playing. One replied: "Why, Crazy Eights, of course!"

I certainly will never forget that. The comment was giddy and off the wall-- much the way that right wingers talk.

One of my own tries at verbal coinage is "commentatoes" to describe overly passive announcers and journalists. It's caught on at the tennis website where I write but never has gone viral. Not crazy enough?

If the Keystone Pipeline is passed, the only logical reason will be its poetic name. I hate that name enough to have co-opted it for one of my forehands.

We liberals need to be much more pro-active in our invention and usage of language.

War. Good God. What is It good for? Absolutely nothing.


More generally and far more significantly, all the jargon around money has been twisting minds since the fiat variety replaced the gold and silver previously used. This is so deep it would need a book to document the history.

The result in any case is that almost all minds seem deluded into thinking that money can do something of its own - or at least, that's how their narratives go. Just think if all that money was diverted from X to Y! The money itself obviously does nothing and its huge importance in modern culture is precisely because it is a tool of inequality through the generation and perpetuation of debt. As the article points out in a different context, the rich get richer by virtue of already being rich at the same time as the poor are effectively charged for being broke. I doubt this will ever change as long as our dialogue and minds are tuned in to thinking in terms of money. How very convenient.


One of the big reasons the GOP and a lot of Democrats want to down size all entitlements is so they can give more to the military industrial complex this is why corporations seem to be interested in downsizing social programs they want to take money from the poor mooching class and give it to the rich mooching class..Both can be presumed to be a moocher by Conservative standards...But the rich moochers have politicians in their pocket bought and paid for with tax subsidy dollars...Thats right rich corporations take all them tax breaks and spend the money to further their interests in Washington NOT JOB CREATION....Make your profits nontaxable and turn therm into a slush fund.to sponsor elections and your favorite strawman and your ready for business...Now how is that for a moocher class....The poor take their meager subsidies and basically just try to live,eat,pay rent..you know stuff that keeps you alive(Not living high on the Hog like GOP rhetoric claims)..Yes they are mooching but I would rather see my tax dollars go to help these moochers and would love to see the upper moochers cut off......Politicians like to vilify moochers in their fiery campaign speeches to make them look good to their ignorant base..But they never cry about their real moocher friends.. Truth hurts dont it?


A thousand thanks to David Morris for this article. It has been a long time coming.

The 1% plays the 99% by hiring wordsmiths like Luntz, today's Goebbels. These fascists that call themselves conservatives can only stay in power by lies, deceit, bribes, murder and subterfuge. Liberal decency and egalitarianism puts liberals at a disadvantage. Liberals won't stoop to using conservative's dirty tricks.

The word "liberal" is often used in a derogatory way even by luminaries like Chomsky, Hedges and many that comment on CD, when the word that fits the crime is "neoliberal" or "conservative".

Jeb Bush is accusing Trump of not being conservative enough as if being more conservative was the ideal. Conservative enough in spite of all the wars, murders, financial crises, racism, lying, cheating, stealing, torturing, polluting, impoverishment, minority incarceration, voter suppression and all the misery we can trace back to conservative capitalists, communists, theocrats, militarists and other conservatives worldwide.

Conservatives may vary in degree, but most are greedy, anti-democratic and want uniformity and any cost. Psychological studies show conservatives are driven by fear:

Seldom if ever will we see a critique of conservatism by conservatives and less by tolerant liberals that now describe themselves as "progressives" as a result of conservative's success in demonizing liberals.

More words conservatives have changed:

Profits into Earnings
Wall Street Gambling into Wall Street Investment
Killing Civilians into Collateral Damage
The War Department into the Defense Department

...and many others....


The 'de' is from the sanskrit and is an Indo-European root which is the same as we use for deity.

'Di' is a different root as is used in division.


In some professional circles these kinds of terms are known as "thought-terminating cliches". This presumes that there is a thought to be terminated, which is an impossibility for a republican. I therefore conclude that that the use of such terms has entirely replaced thought, and that a republican can utter just a single word that to another passes as deep conversation. Newspeak indeed, though I doubt that any republican can ever get to thought number two once the keyword has been uttered. As for thoughtcrime, most here are repeat felons.


And don't forget the word conservative itself, which is defined by Merriam Webster as "Believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics or society." Like due process, collective bargaining, separation and church and state' the right to vote?


We don't have conversations - we have an exchange of sound bites and coded trigger words like liberal and entitlement. The erudite still retain the original usage and meaning of the words but everyone else uses them as they experience them i.e. as they are used in the media.

Politicians use them and the media quotes them when they do. We hear them and then the media's definition is the only definition we know.

Is there a difference in the way word usage evolves? You bet there is. Kids may jump on a new word they intentionally create (how cool to have the other kids use your word) but Politicians are more calculating about the process.

Politician will generally coin new usages for words not create new words. Politicians will avoid saying one thing by coming near to saying it without actually saying it. A skill they hone constantly. They will also take being snide to an art form, if given the opportunity.

Politicians love talking but they hate saying anything. They would much rather sound like they are saying something instead of actually pinning themselves down to a comment. On the other hand, the rightwingnut pundit says lots of things and tries to sound like they aren't really saying anything. Its all entertainment not news they say and then they continue on with their reporting.

I guess what I am saying is that we no longer think or speak in language as language - the old art of using words well.

We think and speak in sound bite words and understand them as they are perceived by others not by the dictionary.

Mr. Morris laments that it is so hard for us to have a conversation that speaks to the social, empathetic and altruistic side of humanity.

We define words by the lies they tell and find that when we look for the original meaning of the word it is too conflated with the lie to be useful. We then seek a new word... what is the new word for welfare? What is the new word for liberal? Progressives actually were ahead of the game on this one and started differentiating ourselves from the liberals early on so we get to keep the word progressive. Can people discuss the truth if they must use lies to do it? That is what has happened to us. Euphemisms r us.

The old usage of a word was direct. The new usage of the word is intended to deceive. Welfare as helping - faring well is not the meaning of the word any longer.

But it is and was the media that did this. Not people. Not 'WE" (ahem) ... the media taught us the new meanings of words mostly by associative context. Are you in favor of welfare queens riding around in Cadillacs and furs?

Neat thing to know about that google ngram thingie I think. I'll have to try using it... here at the end of the world.


True, etymologically, and thank you for pointing it out. In cognitive terms, in modern English, 'de' is associated with negation of an existing conditionality, that is, a taking from something that exists - similar to what you point out in your post about conversations and use of language today


Yes but that de is a derivative akin to di...a portion, division or negation of a portion as in devolve ...lol... or derivation.

Our devolved use of language ...yes...thanks for making the connection, I agree with you. English is a multiplicity of language which I am thankful for having been born into using it as my first language because the damned thing is impossible to learn otherwise...lol.

I love how the west pompously lauds the expansion of English as the koine or Lingua Franca of the modern age. Meanwhile dopey TV shows and blockbuster action films and movie stars did more to spread english than did literature ...lol.

That media education comes back on us as our language use devolves into the language as used by media.


Your comment along with that of "Stiffupper" (formerly posting as "Contrarian" I believe) either discount or pretend the significant fact of media operating as a corporate conglomerate. It holds this status (purchased for billions) in order NOT to grant equal access to visions and voices that compete with its Shock Doctrine values and corporate mission. It's not about having a groovy word. Whomever gets access CAN create trends. When viewers/the public sees a trend developing, the vast majority tend to conform to it.

Did anti-war voices have no message in the run-up to war against Iraq... or were they purposely SCREENED out?

Did those who opposed bailouts to the banks (during the 2008 crash) get much airtime?

How many citizens hear a narrative that explains Putin's position given Western encroachment upon Ukraine?

The frames heard are heard TO set agendas. Not challenge them.

Mass media is incredibly powerful and so much of its messaging escapes the screening process of the conscious intellect of the typical viewer. A lot of people who post here either don't recognize that, or bypass the significance of what it means.

The use of color, music, audience-tested sound bytes are all part of making the sale and setting the trend. Another word for it is mass mind control.

To purchase a part of ONE newspaper to run an ad can cost thousands of dollars. What do you think time in the spotlight--of a major TV station's showcase--costs? The networks KNOW the worth of airtime... so they only grant it to their political and economic (via ideology) allies.

The media promotes those word-manipulators and political stances (Tea Party) that resonate with the corporate owners' wishes, policy intentions, and long-term plans.

Until THAT is understood, all arguments are superficial.


I just viewed the following. This woman is BRILLIANT and doesn't pause between making profound statements.

If you really want to understand the state of our nation and how its economic implosion--planned--has global political implications, check this out: For impatient readers, listen around the 8 minute point and 17-23 minute points, in particular.


Good post.

Add, too:

  1. Stealing solid forest lumber = Healthy Forest Initiative
  2. Allowing corporations to buy political outcomes = Citizens, United
  3. Torture = Enhanced Interrogation
  4. Spreading Terror = War ON Terror
  5. Privatizing Schools and decimating public education = No Child Left Behind
  6. Turning health care into system of legalized extortion = Obama Care
  7. National Defense Authorization Act = Turning U.S. into a Fourth Reich by eviscerating Constitutional Protections

The list, tragically, goes on...


IF you are making a pro-Conservative case, you might wish to consider that today's Conservatives push campaigns to stop Blacks from voting, are the ones who manage to finagle in military no-bid contracts and enjoy the freedom to NOT have to prove where the money (frequently declared missing, or otherwise unaccountable for) went, and are 100% behind fusing church WITH state by lobbying for charter schools that more often than not push Christian-only curricula. They also seem to think they have some kind of Biblical right to tell women what to do with their bodies. It should be 100% clear now that abortion was just their first line of offense in a war against women's sovereignty. They ARE going after birth control vigorously right now.