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Picking Up The Pieces, Part VII: The Power Of Language

by Eric M. Blake January 21st, 2013 | Conservative Considerations
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unperceivedLooking over the past several articles written here ostensibly in response to my own, I can’t help but feel the same kind of bitter amusement I’ve felt every time I hear any common catchphrase of the Left— “common”, because they have sadly permeated pop culture.

Let’s be honest, folks: who doesn’t like “equality”?  A nice-sounding word— which is why terms like “income equality” and “marriage equality” resonate so effectively.  Dittos for “progress”— that’s why you rarely see Leftists refer to themselves as “liberals” anymore: nowadays, it’s “progressive”.

It all boils down to one simple word: propaganda.  Clever spinning of words, all powered by appeals to en masse emotion, can get you a heck of a lot further than rational argument.

Let’s be honest: much as millennials like to pride ourselves on “desire for authenticity” and an alleged ability to “smell BS”— a lot of us sure as heck are pretty susceptible to propaganda.  SEE: November 6.  Also, there’s the constant double-speak of those who promote such propaganda— and self-proclaimed “voices of the youth” can be the worst examples of this.  (That’s partly why I’ve never claimed to be such a voice— though to be honest, I wouldn’t really mind if my generation as a whole agreed with me on a lot more….)  One minute, they’re extolling the glories of Ron Paul— certainly no moderate.  Next… they’re extolling moderate Republicans, and trashing Conservatives as a bunch of “curmudgeons, rednecks, and old women”.  (Yeah… I’m sure actresses like Sarah Michelle Gellar and actors like Robert Downey Jr. would love to hear stuff like that.)

There’s also the following catch-22: when we see libertarians, Tea Party folks, old-time Reagan Conservatives, and moderates all speaking their minds and voting with their hearts, we hear gloats of “infighting!” and “lack of control!”  But when the GOP votes as one, we hear gloats of “hyper-partisanship” and “no independent voices!”

And then, there’s the constant dropping of “racist!” and “xenophobe!”  Gee, someone alert Tim Scott— the one African-American member of the U.S. Senate.  Or Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz—or Bobby Jindal, or Susana Martinez.  (Just wait for the cries of “Oh, they don’t count— they’re ‘tokens’!  They have Stockholm Syndrome!”)  Really— anyone who honestly believes that the Right is “racist” or “xenophobic” is a victim of emotion-laden propaganda— nothing more, nothing less.

But it “sounds” right— just like the common nonsense about how Conservatism and pop culture are somehow mutually exclusive.  There was a time when the traditional notions of rugged independence and good-old-fashioned honor and morality were “cool”— John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart, all the way to Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone.  The rousing success of the films of Sherwood Pictures give light to the lie that Judeo-Christian values have no appeal.  (By the way… as NARAL had to learn the hard way, the pro-life movement is making nice inroads into Generation Y— much to my delight.  Oh, and the first big-name hard-core pro-life advocate in America was Dr. Benjamin Rush…Founding Father.)

I will say this about Ron Paul— he proved that my age group does not have to be given up for lost.  His son is continuing that appeal— as is Senator Marco Rubio, whose air of positive charisma and optimism is nothing short of Reaganesque.

But back to pop culture.  As any analyst of cultural fiction will tell you— popular fiction reflects a society’s mindset.  And as the success of the Dark Knight trilogy (pro-Bush, anti-Occupiers) and the Pirates of the Caribbean films (anti-Big-Government, pro-freedom) indicates, Conservatism is alive and well in pop culture— just subtle, and mostly hidden.  The Right just has to realize it— and encourage it to grow.

The Left’s victories in our culture have nothing to do with “authenticity”— just the opposite.  They do it because they have long since fine-tuned the terms of the trade.  We need to do the same.

The quintessential poll-master, Frank Luntz, has noted that terms like “economic freedom” and “job creators” resonate far better than more “intellectual” terms like “capitalism” and “entrepreneurs”.  We need to study words, and their effect on people— and study them like heck.  Speaking with truth and reason only works if it “sounds cool”.  Ronald Reagan got this, speaking with wit and dropping catchphrases that we all remember with fondness.

We need to get it too, folks.  Win the words— and you win the argument.

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