If You Control the Language, You Control the Argument

On Forbes.com, Peter Schwartz looks at how public opinion is subtly influenced by language:

“Extremism” represents a far broader package-deal, designed to undercut the system of capitalism per se. This sham concept gained currency during the 1964 presidential campaign, when it was used to tar Barry Goldwater and his supporters. It is an attempt to package together antithetical ideologies by ignoring what one believes and stressing only how strongly one believes it—i.e., by equating the ardent proponent of freedom with the ardent proponent of slavery.

Of course, the smearers don’t really ignore ideological content, since the “extremism” label is applied only to advocates of a free market and not to, say, Occupy Wall Street or MoveOn. When House Republicans last month were willing to shut down the government unless ObamaCare was defunded, they were called “extremists” and likened to terrorists; when Democrats were willing to shut down the government unless ObamaCare was funded, they were called “moderates.” Unable to discredit capitalism by open argument, the smearers resort to subterfuge. They induce the public to associate pro-capitalists—like Tea Partiers– with the perpetrators of such evils as racist lynchings or Islamic jihadism simply by declaring them all “extremists.”

As a bonus, he backs up my opinion that insider trading is a totally made-up crime:

The same methodology underlies the notion of “insider trading.”Stock traders can take two very different actions. They can steal proprietary information by using it without the owner’s authorization. Or they can obtain information honestly—information that perhaps no one else has managed to acquire—and then trade based on their superior knowledge, The first is a crime; the second is not—or shouldn’t be. But the nebulous term “insider trading” deliberately blurs the distinction between the two, and tars the second with the sins of the first. Its premise is that whenever you trade based on information not possessed by the general public, you are stealing. Thus, for example, the research division of an investment bank may painstakingly analyze reams of data to determine some corporation’s future prospects. But it isn’t permitted to convey its findings to the bank’s trading division unless the public is informed as well. The private acquisition of unshared knowledge is smeared as theft.

Leave a Reply