The Right Needs to Take Language Seriously

The Left’s ideas receive a major boost in ubiquity and apparent credibility because progressives control nearly all of the America’s major taste-making institutions: Hollywood, the universities, K-12 education, and the media. Such control allows progressives to set the terms of national debates, demarcating the range of acceptable opinions on any given subject. It gives rise to another ability: the power to (re)define terms by fiat. After all, when the vast majority of the most credentialed people in virtually all of the most influential organs of civil society are saying X, the average person is hard pressed to meaningfully push back and say Y. The sheer saturation of the information space is a formidable hurdle for even the most savvy to overcome.

Take immigration, for example. The Left insists, night and day, that true Americans should be perfectly happy to accept virtually unlimited migrant flows through our southern border. Not only that, but compassion demands we accept virtually all comers. Only bigots could want controlled immigration. As for the national interest, surely it’s in our interest to open our country to strivers and Dreamers. See what just happened?

Our historical practice of accepting large numbers of immigrants, contingent on the need to build up a young America, has been perverted into a suicidal posture: anyone who wants to immigrate—whether they hate or love America, want to assimilate to our national, Declaration-sourced self-understanding or not—gets to immigrate, no questions asked. Compassion is twisted to mean that you have to outstretch your hand even to the MS-13 member who would chop it off given the chance. Wanting a functional immigration system that promotes the interest of we, the American people, is equated with the KKK’s vile worldview. Sound familiar?

“War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, and Ignorance Is Strength.”

And the Left gets away with it because the Left controls the debate. Progressives decide what’s worthy of debate, and what’s acceptable to be said within the limits they set unilaterally.

More examples abound. Former FBI Director James Comey is fêted for his higher loyalty and then invited to teach a class on ethical leadership. In fact, Comey is an ignoramus who insanely compares himself to former Secretary of State James Mattis; at a minimum, the comparison is inapt because the latter chose to resign, while the former was fired by President Trump. “Higher loyalty” is really just code for (ahem) colluding with the permanent bureaucracy to undermine the duly elected president of the United States. It’s a vain, self-serving distortion of the venerable natural law tradition on civil disobedience and conscience, classically expressed by Saint Augustine and restated for modern ears by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

One may well ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Nowadays, a racist is someone who wants a colorblind society and an end to universities’ race-based admissions practices, both of which are in keeping with the original public meaning of the 14th Amendment and only possible because Christianity revolutionized our view of human moral equality and dignity. An anti-racist, if you can believe it, demonizes all whites just because they’re white and is happy to see the return of all-black (i.e., segregated) dorms.

Social justice means recognizing group rights, tossing out the presumption of innocence (recall l’affaire Kavanaugh), and affording special privileges to people based on the unchosen circumstances of their birth. What was wrong with plain old justice—rendering to each his due?

Tolerance means that Christians play their assigned role: meekly accepting secular subservience and social ostracization while the Left beats the war drums, fanatically pushing abortion on demand until the moment of birth and beyond, sexual chaos, and socialism.

Inclusion means, “You’re only part of the in-group if you swallow hook, line, and sinker progressivism’s dreary historical materialism”—not, “All are welcome.”

Many of these concepts are sourced in Christianity, but their traditional meanings have been manipulated into oblivion. The terms themselves are the same, but they’ve been hollowed out by cynical activists eager to commandeer the venerable traditions of an ancient faith and culture for their own godless purposes.

The Right needs to get wise to this—and quickly.

Politics is about rhetoric. It’s about persuading the public to hew to and support your plan for individual human flourishing and vision of the common good of the nation. The Left’s “megaphone”—it’s stranglehold on cultural “soft power”—is loud, and it makes it very difficult for the Right to be heard. Difficult, but not impossible, as President Trump’s 2016 election victory proved. Regardless, we have to do better because we’re living in Clown World; if left unchecked, it will only get worse.

Consider an example: A mere five years ago, transgenderism was a fringe phenomenon. Back then, many Americans would have scoffed at the idea that a biological male could be a woman simply because he declared himself to be one, and vice versa. They would have been right to scoff. Because it’s patently absurd.

And yet, just three years ago, Caitlyn Jenner catapulted transgenderism into the public’s consciousness, where it has remained ever since. What to make of transgenderism was once an open question; perhaps even a sensible debate could have been had about it. But in a few short months, we went from groping for the beginnings of a discussion on the topic to fighting a desperate rearguard action: defending the validity of sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms (so that girls aren’t exposed to male genitalia or violated in other ways) and impotently lamenting that a trans man broke a female UFC fighter’s skull during a fight (there’s more where that came from at the rate we’re going, sadly).

Men run faster, jump higher, hit harder, and physically outperform women as a general rule; they have now invaded female-only athletics, and we’re expected to cheer it. We debate the people pushing this delusion. We accept them as conversation partners who are engaged in a good-faith pursuit of truth. That’s the power of the megaphone. It forces us to take nonsense seriously. It’s the, “When did you stop beating your wife?” question on a mass scale, a series of traps—heads the Left wins, tails we lose.

It doesn’t get more ridiculous than that. Until the Right wises up, and starts challenging this rigged game, the Left will keep control of the megaphone. And we’ll deserve it.

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About Deion A. Kathawa

Deion A. Kathawa is an attorney who hails from America’s heartland. He holds a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He is a 2021 alumnus of the Claremont Institute’s John Marshall Fellowship. Subscribe to his “Sed Kontra” newsletter.