War of Words
One of the best arenas in which to observe the assertion of one’s Worldview on others is the realm of politics. During the recent national campaign, we were bombarded to such an extent with semantic illusion as to be almost benumbed to the subtle presentations of the Worldview content served up by the Political Pundits. It was just this fact that caused me a bit of internal chuckling as I read a recent book review.
The book review was written by Thom Hartmann in regards to a book penned by George Lakoff. The book was titled, Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Mr. Hartmann begins his review with these words:
“During the 1988 presidential campaign, Republican partisans began employing an unusually skillful use of language and advertising technique. The Willie Horton ads, for example, used an old NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) technique of ‘Anchoring via Submodalites,’ linking Dukakis, at an unconscious level in the viewer’s mind, to Willie Horton by the use of color versus black-and-white footage, and background sound. After a few exposures to these psyops ads, people would ‘feel’ Willie Horton when they ‘saw’ Dukakis.”
(For those who are unfamiliar with Willie Horton, he was a convicted murderer who was released in June of 1986 from the Northeastern Correctional Center in Concord, MA, for a 48 hour furlough. He did not return. Later, he assaulted a man in his home and raped his wife. Michael Dukakis was the governor of Massachusetts at the time of Horton’s release. While the furlough program was signed into law by Governor Francis Sargent in 1972, Governor Dukakis vetoed a bill to ban furloughs for first-degree murderers in 1976). Mr. Hartmann goes on to report on a memo, purported to be “secret,” produced by Newt Gingrich for GOP leaders suggesting they use certain words when addressing certain issues or people, thereby forming pictures that the leaders desire their constituents to have.
This information was a commentary laid down as a positive basis for the subject of Mr. Lakoff’s book. The review describes the book as beginning with “discussions of the views of government that are held by conservatives and liberals (‘strict father’ vs. ‘Nurturing parent’), and points out how debates are won by conservatives even before the discussion has begun because they were first to seize control of the language.”
The content of this review reminds me of a portion of Scripture found in Proverbs 18:17: “He who states his case first seems right, until his rival comes and cross-examines him.” (Amplified) The whole idea of “political correctness” has become well established in our nation, to the point that it has gained entrance into dictionaries. The web-site Dictionary.com defines “politically correct,” as: 1) Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation; 2) Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.
The very definition implies a “redefining” of history. There is a quote that has been attributed to various tyrants throughout history which states, “ He who controls the language rules the world.” What an interesting concept! Do you suppose that 8-year-old children of the United States have the same understanding of the word “liberty” as did our parents who fought on the beaches of Iwo Jima?
Another quote attributed to Hitler is: “If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it.” Today, we have taken both of these and synthesized them into one colloquialism: spin. And lest I be accused of the very thing with which Mr. Hartmann was accusing the Republicans, Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “In time of war, when truth is so precious, it must be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” The bottom line is: “political correctness” is simply another designation for the reshaping of truth via the redefining of the meaning of words.
But, is what Mr. Hartmann telling us regarding the Republican’s use of “guiding” the voters thought patterns by using selective words, the first use of this concept? Is this practice found in Scripture? I dare say that this tactic is as old as the father of lies, himself. However, there are some who would trace the modern usage of this method to a man named Edward L. Bernays, sometimes called the “Father of Spin.” Bernays was a student (and nephew ) of Sigmund Freud, but instead of using Freud’s hypotheses to probe hidden secrets of the mind, he put his theories to use in the manipulation of how one thinks. He began his professional career in the 1920’s, where he took on cases of how to create a public perception about some idea or product.
It was Bernays who set up the stunt of having women dress like Lady Liberty and march in the Easter Parade smoking cigarettes, thus legitimizing women smokers. He is credited with introducing bacon to breakfast. He was also the driving force behind the AMA’s promotion of cigarettes being beneficial to one’s health!
Bernays learned that the best way to create credibility for a product or an image was to have that product or image verified by a “third-party” endorsement. Thus began the inundation of corporate sponsored “think tanks.” He, along with others, also began to formulate rules and guidelines for creating public opinion. Bernays and his fellow “experts” felt that “important decisions should be left to the experts,” and “when reframing issues, stay away from substance; create images.”
So, when the Republicans were accused of recently resorting to unfair and underhanded practices to sway voters, I would venture to say that this is akin to the pot calling the kettle black – both parties should both be ashamed.
This has probably gone on long enough; so, how does this apply to Worldview? In just this way: one of basic premises of Biblical Worldview is that the Word of God is the only reliable source of truth. In the world of politics, (at least as we see it here), there is no party who represents the Creator; our His Will all parties are guilty of the same tactics. In this war of meanings, it is imperative that one be well founded in the Word of God, in order to perceive the truth of any given matter. “The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.” Proverbs 14:15