For instance, Bierce defines “optimism” as “the doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong.” This gives the flavor of how he turns meanings on their head, while providing insights into human nature.
Among his other definitions is “politics,” described as “a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” Similarly he defines “twice” as “once too often” and “truthful” as “dumb and illiterate.”
Nowadays we are being treated to an analogous reworking of the English language. This one is being perpetrated at the hands of liberal Democrats and is not intended to entertain, but to persuade. In short, familiar words are being given new definitions in order to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.
Typically crafted by being tested in focus groups, these definitions are more about connotation than denotation, more about atmospherics than substance. They are linguistic gymnastics that advertise, not inform. They are the equivalent of Madison Avenue’s use of “new and improved” to mean “a smaller quantity at a higher price.”
So let us start with a sample of familiar definitions. One of the more common involves the word “balanced.” Whenever a liberal Democrat utters this word it basically means “unbalanced.” It is tantamount to saying “the other side should do it our way.”
The recent usage has entailed depicting hugely increased taxes as exactly matching invisible spending cuts. Listeners can identify this sort of legerdemain whenever they encounter every Democrat who pops up on television spouting precisely the same language.
Incidentally, this mindless repetition is usually described as “remaining on message.” Moreover, politicians are proud of it. The more discipline they show, the more professional they apparently feel. This is probably because they understand that the endless duplication of misinformation transforms dross into gold, i.e., into a facsimile of truth.
Anyway, this process of turning the language inside out is proceeding at a breakneck pace. So for exhibit number two I present “bipartisan.” Once upon a time bipartisan meant that two parties worked together to produce a compromise satisfactory to both. Now it means they may not even be talking to one another.
Thus, when liberal Democrats assert that they are being bipartisan, they mean that Republicans “should do it the Democrats’ way.” As with “balanced,” the word always tilts to their side of the ledger. Evidently what Republicans want is partisan because they want it, whereas what Democrats want is not because it is in the interests of the public and therefore neutral.
Another word that has been twisted totally out of shape is “transparent.” Once upon a time transparent meant that you could see through something. With respect to politics, it implied that ordinary people would be allowed to witness government decision making first hand.
In fact, Barack Obama told voters they would be allowed into the room when important choices were being discussed. This became non-operative during the political machinations that led up to ObamaCare. The resultant horse-trading was too disreputable to open the doors for anyone.
What then is the liberal definition of transparent? Essentially, “We will let you see what we want you to see and not what we don’t want you to see.” Moreover, we liberals will certainly not provide accurate information about the Benghazi cover-up. That might make us look bad and so we won’t even permit you to talk with the survivors. And so the melody plays on. It’s the same old music, but with freshly mangled lyrics. Stay tuned. There is more to come.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.