14 July, 2017

Language front: from which all wars really begin.

The relations between rhetoric and ethics are disturbing: the ease with which language can be twisted is worrisome, and the fact that our minds accept these perverse games so docilely is no less cause for concern. ~ Octavio Paz

To handle a language skillfully is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery. ~ Charles Baudelaire

Less is always more. The best language is silence. We live in a time of a terrible inflation of words, and it is worse than the inflation of money. ~ Eduardo Galeano


 In spite of the historical precedence dictating the fighting a war on multiple fronts almost always leads to disaster, nearly every war we are in is fought this way.

The culture war is no different. The New Wave Fascists have been at it for longer than most of the centrist Left realizes... and only now,  when it looks like the Nazis popped out of the closet all of a sudden to attack anything they consider liberal -- whether it's funding for the arts, free speech, higher education, or the previously sacred privacy of the voting booth -- do they decide that maybe, just maybe, something ought to be done.

Back when there were rumblings of a budget proposed by then newly elected Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin that would de-fund the Kentucky Arts Council, I reached out to artists groups online, asking if it wasn't the time to begin organizing a response.

I was called a reactionary and told that the then Democratically controlled legislature would protect the arts. Then the mid-term election came and the Republican Party, with it's New Wave rejuvenation, took the legislature away from the Kentucky Democratic Party. Then, the people who previously called me reactionary, who said there was nothing to worry about, were suddenly faced with the realization that MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, THEY OUGHT TO PAY ATTENTION.

By then, national politics were on everyone's minds, and the thought of a Tin Pot Fascist in Frankfort and a Fascist Godhead in the White House was just too much. And we saw how that worked out.

But the truth is that Bevin didn't win because of a sudden surge of conservatism in Kentucky. Except for Louisville, Lexington, and Frankfort -- and, thanks to Kim Davis, my heart's home Rowan County -- Kentucky is largely a conservative state. It has been for years.  The reason Bevin won, other than the KDP's decision to run a cardboard cut out for Governor, is because he embraced a language and a rhetoric that was already in place. That language and that rhetoric was established by early right wing culture war veterans like Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon, Dick Armey, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell, and Rush Limbaugh... language that later picked up and funded by the Koch Brothers, spread by the likes of Bill O'Reilly Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Richard Spenser, and others.

The same is true of Trump's election win. I have written before that Trump did not create the New Wave Fascism that carried him into the White House. I'm not sure that Trump is particularly ideological -- as opposed to Bevin and Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom walk the social conservative culture war that they talk. Trump has been successful not because he's an innovator, but because he's had a good nose for where the trends are. He saw his chance and took it, and in the process took the GOP, the electorate, and the entire country for a ride.

Neither Bevin nor Trump invented the language of nationalism. Neither one of them invented the rhetoric used by creationists, anti-choice activists, or those opposed to marriage equality, LGBTQIA rights, racists, and other bullies.  To suggest they somehow crafted their messages in some For White Men Only vacuum gives them entirely too much credit and ignores history. It also lets everyone else who insisted that these folks were too marginal to ever impact the larger culture off the hook.

The ugly has always been there. And now we have to face it on every front before it consumes everything.

Part of this means that those of us who are word workers -- writers -- have to start taking the language back. We cannot speak of democracy, equality, peace, and love if we do not have the words.

from libcom.org



If you like what you're reading here, check out my work for sale on Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/mickparsons You can also throw a little in the tip jar:

Post a Comment