A Kind of Speak

I was perusing FB the other day, going through the comments to a post about the Great Golf War. For the unenlightened in such matters, I will explain briefly:

America has always been the principal market for professional golf, so there’s an essentially American “non-profit” organization (PGA) that manages the tour, including media, sponsors and the players. The Saudi government, having a lot of time and money on its hands, wants in on that action, in the same way they’re going after world football and Formula One racing. So they’ve started a new tour and they’ve hired long-time-chip-on-shoulder golf icon Greg Norman to lure away golfers from the PGA with ridiculous contracts funded by a Saudi government slush fund ostensibly set up to improve the image of the tyrants running the show over there.

The jury is still out as to how far they’re going to get with this and just how many more hundreds of millions they’re willing to keep tossing away. Mostly, it has caused a deep rift between factions of golfers and fans, but that’s all a tempest in a teapot, as even this avid golf fan can admit.

So well down this column of mini-screeds I came across the inevitable. I will paraphrase for the grammar sensitive:

Just like the media fawned over Biden’s State of the Union address the other day, the golf media has an agenda to blindly praise the PGA…

I love words, as you might guess, and I hate this kind of word weaponization. Agenda just means plan. Everyone should have a plan now and then, so how did the word come to connote an evil conspiracy? The golf media, and for that matter the mainstream media, writes about things as they are currently organized, generally in a manner that doesn’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Guess what, genius–this doesn’t require a plan, or even intent. It’s just survival.

But “self-promoting” isn’t a juicy enough tag to hang on those insurrectionists lurking around every corner of Main and Elm in America. In the near past, the commenter might have said “conspiracy”, but ridicule of tinfoil-hat paranoia has by now rendered that label useless to the movement. Association with paranoia is the last thing they need.

Why? Because paranoia is the emperor’s new clothes. It’s the elephant in the room. It’s the ace up the sleeve. Take your pick.

Paranoia is the principal weapon of the extremist right. Always has been.

In 1964, Harper’s magazine published “The Paranoid Style of American Politics”, an essay by an anti-anti-intellectualism scholar named Richard Hofstadter. Here’s a quote:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point.

Now consider this quote from Ron DeSantis about the hottest weaponized word of the day, “woke”:

We have respected our taxpayers and we reject woke ideology. We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.

Fight who? Has Florida, for twenty-five years under the tight grip of a Republican trifecta of the governorship and both legislative houses, suddenly become a hotbed of racial, gender or any other woke activity? Where are these legions of pitchfork toting transsexuals? Where are the armies of Black History professors and their Molotov cocktails, desecrating those longstanding sacred Florida institutions like … I don’t know … the Serpentarium and Legoland?

It’s nonsense, and that’s intentional. It’s obfuscation. Polemics gone viral. It’s what Foucault called “… polemics as a parasitic figure on discussion and an obstacle to the search for the truth.”

Or, as Steve Bannon is said to have put it:

The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.

So how do we save the day from all these crazy nihilists? Maybe a little fire with fire.

In George Orwell’s 1984 we were introduced to “Newspeak” and “doublethink”. From these, “doublespeak” has slipped into our language as a way to define absurdly contradicting language, such as the Air Force using “service the target” for bombing. That’s not quite what I’ve been talking about here, but it is related in terms of using language to obscure truth. And it’s a catchy label.

That’s what we need. A catchy label. One that that both instantly identifies this garbage and shames whoever is responsible for it.

Something like “tinfoil hat” crazy.

A kind of speak.

One response to “A Kind of Speak”

  1. There’s a lot of divergent yet parallel topics going on here, clinging to the impact, absorbing the spoken written and oral speech takes on us. Sometime words sooth us, sometimes infuriate us. Other times, it’s just the jabberwok speaking or, the far right trash-talking droning that dominates the ratings. Seems everything has a crisis-induced lens or filter through which to analyse.

    Let’s agree to strip down the rhetoric to basic human needs and “build back better”-see I can’t escape it either–our basis of our relationships with each other. No gotcha, Catch-22, double-speak nor armed blue-uniformed control tactics enforcing our discussions.

    Need more of a sustainable mantra than a fleeting slogan.


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