Bob Franken: Topsy-turvy language

  • By Bob Franken
  • Sunday, April 5, 2015 11:40am
  • Opinion

I’m endlessly amazed by the continued success of Orwellian doublespeak, where propagandists — uh, excuse me, advocates — are able to shamelessly turn language upside down. Employing their rhetorical sleight-of-hand, the victimizer becomes the victim. The most egregious example these days is from those who try to impose their dogma on the rest of society.

Remember that religion already gets favored treatment in this country. Churches and other houses of worship are not taxed; billions of dollars are lost to the economy as a result. At the same time, various faiths try to force their version of cultural values on all of us, whether we share those beliefs or not. We certainly don’t need to look far for the evidence.

The battle against gay marriage and against long-overdue fair treatment for gays and the others with alternative sexual preferences continues as part of a bitter war waged by those who cling to their bigotry. A generation ago, they spewed their distorted theology as a toxic weapon against equality for racial minorities. While significant vestiges of that prejudice remain, the latest version of pious hatred shows up in the vitriolic campaigns against gay marriage and even acceptance of anyone who shares his or her love in nontraditional ways.

And yet, these very same ignorant haters have the audacity to loudly whine that they are the ones under assault, that there is a “war against religion.” What they mean is that their desire to discriminate runs afoul of changing mores and even legal prohibitions. In states like Indiana and Arkansas, their perverted logic is even turned into legislation. Those two are just the latest states to try to pass measures that attempt to justify discrimination in the name of religious freedom. So suddenly their right to worship as they please is endangered. The widespread popular resistance their ideas are getting and the ridicule are just further evidence to the theocrats’ way of thinking that their beliefs are under siege, not vice versa.

I mentioned minorities a moment ago and the fact that prejudice is still a stain on our nation. Yet whenever anybody dares to bring up race, to challenge a vitriolic comment, for instance, he or she is immediately accused by the racist of “playing the race card.”

Still another personal favorite has to do with the gross economic inequity in the United States. We’ve all seen the numbers about how the great bulk of our nation’s riches is controlled by just a few people. We sometimes call them “the 1 percenters,” but it’s really just a small percent of them. The disparity worsens with each passing year, choking off opportunity for everyone else. But dare to challenge these obese cats about the ways they avoid fulfilling their responsibilities as citizens by controlling the politicians who make the laws, or dare to question their huge campaign contributions, otherwise known as bribes, and you are dismissed as a troublemaker who is conducting “class warfare.”

It doesn’t matter that the real class war is the one waged by the uppermost classes against everyone else. They control of every facet of our system. They can shrug off and marginalize those who object. Ah, the power of language, particularly when it’s turned inside-out.

The super-wealthy can hire professional wordsmiths to debase debate with their convoluted semantics. Most of us have become too disgusted to pay attention, and they get away with their subterfuge.

So those who attempt to override our beliefs or nonbeliefs with their own suddenly paint themselves as the injured party. Calling out a bigot is treating him or her unfairly. Taking on those super-rich who hoard desperately needed wealth is anti-American, somehow.

Wrong is right. War is peace. Up is down. It’s been more than 30 years since the fictional “1984,” but the reality today is that seeking fairness is successfully denigrated as unfair. And unfairness prevails.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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