The Point: Thought-Shaping Words

Big Brother would be proud. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

In George Orwell’s “1984,” the totalitarian government manipulated words to shape peoples’ thoughts. “War is peace,” the Ministry of Truth proclaimed.

The way the left uses words these days would impress even Orwell. Killing babies in the womb or allowing men in women’s bathrooms are “progressive” causes. Abortion opponents are “against women’s health.” Reserving women’s bathrooms for women is “hating.”

In addition to these obvious examples, media bombards us every day with more subtle, idea-shaping words. Recently CBS news announced that Texas is considering a bathroom bill that would “target” transgendered people.

Margaret Atwood, author of another dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” recently said it’s a “form of slavery to force women to have children they can’t afford.”

“Progressive,” “targeting,” “forcing,” “enslaving.” All of these powerful words. And all of them powerfully misused.

As I say in my new book “A Practical Guide to Culture,” pay attention to the way words are used, and question their definition.


A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World
  • John Stonestreet, Brett Kunkle | David C. Cook Publishing | June 2017

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  • Joseph

    What you call the misuse of language is people expressing their opinion and framing an issue. You literally do it yourself, apparently un-ironically, in the middle of your critique! And I certainly don’t need to remind you how often conservative Christians talk of being “targeted” and “forced” to do things under certain laws. I’m all for litigating petty grievances, but let’s be a bit more self-aware, shall we?

    • gladys1071

      Yes i agree it goes both ways, both sides want to impose their values , whether it be progressive or conservative values, both sides are guilty as human beings we want to rule and control others it is part of our fallen nature.

      • Joseph

        Yes, Gladys, I agree. We need to do a better job of understanding people before rushing to judgment.

      • fred2

        What’s really scary are those who rationalize violence. A recent example is reporter Malcolm Harris (Washington Post) who cheered on the Bernie Sanders campaign worker who shot 5 people in Alexandria on Wednesday. Harris argued the shooter was acting in self-defense against Republicans who want to repeal and replace Obamacare. With guys like this in the press, is any wonder so many mentally unstable people are inspired to go on shooting sprees?

        • Joseph

          By “those who rationalize violence,” I assume you’re including the President, who spent his campaign inciting violence against the media, and the new Republican Congressman-elect who just pled guilty to physically assaulting a reporter, right? In light of that, I’d be careful about putting the blame on a no-name columnist whose ill-regarded tweet is the latest talking point for right-wingers to parrot.

          • fred2

            I don’t recall Trump suggesting supporters shoot or beat up news reporters.

          • Joseph

            In addition to Trump regularly slandering the media and calling them the “enemy of the American people,” he is currently being sued specifically for inciting violence at his rallies.

            Here’s a handful of his quotes from the campaign trail:

            “I’ll beat the crap out of you.”
            “I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself, or if other people will.”
            “Part of the problem…is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”
            “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
            “If you see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of him.”
            “Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, okay? Just knock the hell.”

            After the election, here he is talking to his supporters: “You people were vicious, violent, screaming…I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious…But now you’re mellow and you’re cool and you’re not nearly as vicious or violent, right? Because we won, right?

            Let’s not get started on Republican Congressional leaders joking about Greg Gianforte’s assault on a reporter.

            And keep in mind, on the conservative side, this isn’t a dumb tweet from some random columnist. This is Republican LEADERSHIP. The most powerful people in the country. Sounds like they’re pretty okay with the whole violence thing, as long as it’s directed somewhere else.

            Just saying.

  • jason taylor

    Joseph, by definition “certain laws” are used to force people to do things. The ultimate guarentee of law is public force. When you make “certain laws” you are not just saying it would be nice if people did such and such. You are saying they should be forced to.

    • Joseph

      and your point is….?

      • jason taylor

        Well you italicized “forced” when you used the phrase “certain laws.” Presumably you were claiming it to be a misuse of language to claim to be “forced” when the law tells you to do things. I was pointing out that this at least was the literal truth and hence not a misuse of language. If you are one willing to be referred to as “forcing” you should not pass “certain laws.”

        • Joseph

          Nah, I was saying if John Stonestreet wants to claim it’s a misuse of language to claim to be “forced,” then it works both ways. He’s getting upset when liberals use that language when conservatives use the same language all the time. Selective outrage. It’s just plain hypocrisy. If he wants to make a deal out of it, whatever, we just need to be consistent.